Forces holding Libya oil fields threaten to cut off exports

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

CAIRO (AP) — The forces that control most of Libya's oil fields on Wednesday threatened to cut off exports if foreign companies do not start wiring payments to the internationally recognized government in the country's east.

Until now foreign companies have paid the Central Bank in the capital Tripoli, which is controlled by Islamist-allied militias who back a rival government.

The internationally recognized government, which is based in the country's far eastern city of Tobruk, recently set up its own Central Bank and National Oil Company.

Ali al-Hassi, spokesman for the Oil Fields Guard, told The Associated Press that foreign companies must transfer funds to the new authorities.

The petroleum-rich North African country slid into chaos following the 2011 toppling and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Oil production has dropped to less than 25 percent of normal levels, to 350,000 barrels per day, according to the newly established NOC.

The U.N. said Wednesday it has appointed German diplomat Martin Kobler to be its envoy to Libya after months of failed peace negotiations between the country's two rival governments.

A statement said Kobler had been selected to replace Spanish diplomat Bernardino Leon, without providing further details. As recently as last week, U.N. officials had expressed confidence in Leon and dismissed media reports that he was on his way out.

Last month, the Tobruk government rejected a power-sharing arrangement proposed by Leon. Both sides had expressed criticism of his handling of the negotiations.