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Libya oil minister suspends head of oil corp again

Mustafa Sanalla,(C) Chairman of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) of Libya, condemns the kidnapping of workers in oil fields during a press conference in the capital Tripoli on 16 July 2018. [MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP via Getty Images]
Mustafa Sanalla,(C) Chairman of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) of Libya, condemns the kidnapping of workers in oil fields during a press conference in the capital Tripoli on 16 July 2018 [MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP via Getty Images]

Libya's oil minister has again suspended the head of state-run National Oil Corporation (NOC), Mustafa Sanalla, over alleged administrative offences, the ministry said today, in a dispute that may undermine efforts to rebuild the oil industry, Reuters reports.

Libya's oil production, a vital source of revenues for the North African country, has been hammered by a decade of conflict and political chaos, but production has slowly been recovering as a semblance of order and stability has returned.

Oil Minister Mohamed Oun is part of a UN-backed government of national unity, approved by parliament in March. Sanalla, who worked for years at NOC and its subsidiaries, has been NOC chief since 2014.

READ: Libya wants foreign oil companies to return

Analysts see the dispute as a tussle for influence over the industry and policy. It is the second time Oun has sought to suspend Sanalla since August.

The oil minister said Sanalla had been suspended due to "non-compliance with procedures and controls for obtaining prior permission when undertaking an official mission," the ministry wrote on its Facebook page, without elaborating on the mission.

Oun said Sanalla had not transferred sovereign administration affairs from NOC to the ministry, the statement said, adding that Sanalla's actions would be investigated.

The NOC media office told Reuters in a statement that the corporation "operates in accordance with the correct law" and under government supervision.

"This issue has happened before and the government of national unity took the right decision that protects the NOC and the Libyan economy," it said.

READ: Libya's National Oil Corporation to build new oil refinery

Oun had announced Sanalla suspension in August. In September, NOC said the prime minister had cancelled that decision, referring to "efforts to address differences between the two parties".

Industry sources said the NOC chief had continued working at his post throughout that period.

Sanalla and Oun did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment about the latest incident.

Libya's oil output has reached 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd), Libyan TV reported on Monday, close to the 1.6 million bpd the country had pumped before the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.

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