Libya's National Oil Corporation backs unity government

2 min

Tripoli (AFP)

Libya's National Oil Corporation has thrown its support behind a UN-backed unity government, a key pledge to a cabinet rejected by rival forces who seek to control the country's oil wealth.

Founded in 1970, the NOC is based in the capital Tripoli where Libya's Central Bank -- the depositor of the country's oil wealth -- also has its headquarters.

Both institutions have remained neutral and continued to operate independently despite the chaos that engulfed Libya since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Libya has had two governments since the Libya Dawn militia alliance overran Tripoli in mid-August 2014 and set up its own administration which is not recognised by the international community.

The Tripoli government is refusing to cede power to the unity cabinet of prime minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj, who arrived Wednesday in the capital.

"We have been working with Prime Minister Sarraj and the Presidency Council to put this period of divisions and rivalry behind us," NOC chairman Mustafa Sanalla said in a statement.

"We have been looking to the future, and now we have a clear international legal framework in place," he added in the statement published Saturday on the NOC website.

Oil is Libya's main natural resource, with reserves estimated at 48 billion barrels, the largest in Africa.

The North African nation had an output capacity of about 1.6 million barrels per day before the uprising, but production has slumped amid violence as rival forces battled for control of oil terminals.

Control of the oil industry is essential for the new government, which not only needs to unite the divided country but also shore up its battered economy.

On Friday, guards in charge of securing installations in Libya's so-called eastern "oil crescent" said oil terminals under their jurisdiction were now placed under the authority of Sarraj's government.

Sanalla welcomed that development and hailed a UN Security Council resolution passed Thursday which says oil exports from Libya must be placed under the authority of Sarraj's Government of National Accord.

Resolution 2278 stated that it was the GNA's "primary responsibility" to take "appropriate action to prevent the illicit export of crude oil from Libya".