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Libya’s oil exports plunge amid troubles

Output below 10 percent of pre-war levels

TRIPOLI, Libya – Libya’s prime minister faced increasing calls for his ouster on Saturday as strikes by government employees at oil export terminals cost the North African country more than $5 billion in losses.

Bilqasim Shindeer el-Shibany, a board member of Libya’s National Oil Corp., told the Associated Press that oil exports almost entirely have stopped. Late last month, officials said exports were around 300,000 barrels per day, down dramatically from pre-war levels in early 2011.

Adding to the government’s woes, the capital, Tripoli, has been hit with water cuts for three days and electricity outages for the past few months that last around four hours daily.

Prime Minister Ali Zidan has struggled to rein in the combustible mix of tribal feuds, disgruntled employees and renegade militias fueling the crisis. The country’s nascent police and army have been unable to secure the country following the eight-month-long civil war in 2011 that toppled dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

The closure of onshore oil facilities has driven down production to just 130,000 barrels per day, Libya’s Deputy Oil Minister Omar el-Shakmak told reporters last week. An official in the National Oil Corp. said Saturday that figure had risen slightly by the end of the week to 150,000 barrels per day, less than 10 percent of its pre-war levels.

Zidan’s government has been pressed to provide basic services, unify the country’s tribes and restore security. Lawlessness in Libya last year led to an attack on the U.S. Consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi that killed the American ambassador and three others.

On Friday, Libya’s top cleric, Mufti al-Sadiq al-Ghiryani, called on the prime minister’s government to be sacked for “incompetence.”

The prime minister, who was not the Islamists’ first choice to lead the government, is also under fire from the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction Party, which called on parliament to investigate Zidan’s performance, a move that could lead to a no-confidence vote.

The party said hundreds of thousands of security personnel, many of them members of militias aligned with the government, are on government payroll, but that insecurity remains rampant.

The party also condemned Zidan’s visit to neighboring Egypt last week, where he met Cairo’s new military-backed leaders.


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