Libyans hope to export from oil terminals seized by general

By Rami Musa, Associated Press

Libya's state oil company says it hopes to resume exports from three terminals seized this week by forces loyal to a powerful general based in the east.

In this March 18, 2015 file photo, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, Libya's top army chief, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in al-Marj, Libya. The National Oil Corporation says it hopes to resume exports from Ras Lanuf, al-Sidra and Zueitina oil terminals seized on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, by forces loyal to Hifter, who is allied with the internationally recognized parliament. (AP Photo/Mohammed El-Sheikhy, File)

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — Libya's state oil company says it hopes to resume exports from three terminals seized this week by forces loyal to a powerful general based in the east.

Mustafa Sanalla, chairman of the National Oil Corporation, said in a statement late Tuesday that teams have begun assessing damage to the facilities in Ras Lanuf, al-Sidra and Zueitina, and plan to carry out immediate repairs if needed.

Forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who is allied with the internationally recognized parliament, seized the terminals on Sunday. The parliament does not recognize the recently formed, U.N.-backed government, in part because of differences over Hifter's future role.

The militia that had previously controlled the facilities is allied with the U.N.-backed government, which is based in the capital, Tripoli, in western Libya.

The United States and other Western nations have called on Hifter's forces to withdraw from the terminals, saying the Tripoli government is the "sole steward" of Libya's natural resources.

The parliament backed the seizure of the terminals, with Speaker Agila Saleh saying Hifter's forces "liberated" the terminals from "occupiers" who had hindered exports.

The oil-rich North African country slid into chaos after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Moammar Gadhafi, and is split between rival authorities based in the east and west.

The conflict has crippled Libya's once vibrant oil sector, denying it an estimated $100 billion in revenues over the past three years. Libya exported 146 million barrels of oil in 2015, down from 531 million three years earlier, according to official figures.

Sanalla said the three terminals could handle up to 600,000 barrels per day within four weeks and 900,000 by year's end.

"I hope this will be the start of a new phase of cooperation and peaceful existence between Libyan parties as well as an end to the use and closure of ports and oilfields for political purposes," he said.

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