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Libya's deputy oil minister to stay, despite tendering resignation, as ministry seeks stability

Highlights

Refaat al-Abbar had abruptly resigned Sept. 28

Oil minister Mohamed Oun rejects resignation

Libya grappling with East-West rift, ministry-NOC rivalry

Libyan oil minister Mohamed Oun has rejected the resignation of his deputy, Refaat al-Abbar, as the government seeks to heal the rift between rival factions vying to control the country and its critical energy sector.

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Oun asked Abbar "to continue to work and perform his job duties normally and to exercise his responsibilities and competencies in accordance with the legislation in force," according to an official ministry statement Sept. 30.

A spokesman for Abbar confirmed that the deputy oil minister would remain in his position but declined to comment further.

Abbar abruptly resigned Sept. 28, citing "special circumstances," with sources saying he appeared to be a casualty of the protracted struggle between the Benghazi-based Libyan National Army and the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity to control the country.

Tensions are also still simmering between Oun and Mustafa Sanalla, chairman of the state-owned National Oil Corp., in a power struggle over Libya's energy policy, leaving its oil flows vulnerable to disruption.

Abbar, who hails from Libya's east and has maintained close ties with the LNA, had found the infighting within the ministry and NOC to be untenable, sources working in the country had said.

Just prior to his resignation, S&P Global Platts had interviewed Abbar, who said Libya would redouble its efforts to attract international financing to boost crude and gas production that had suffered in recent years from war, sabotage and underinvestment.

"We are working hard to raise the level of coordination between the higher authorities and between the National Oil Corporation and the ministry in order to create harmony ... implement strategic projects and provide the necessary requirements to maintain the flow of production of oil and gas," he said.

Holder of Africa's largest oil reserves, Libya is currently pumping about 1.2 million b/d of crude, according to official figures, and the ministry is aiming to hit 1.4 million b/d by December and 1.6 million b/d in 2022.

That would be dependent on NOC receiving government funding from the still unpassed national budget.

Even if that target is hit, it would still be well below Libya's peak crude production of about 1.75 million b/d in 2008.