Libya's NOC chief Farhat Bengdara rejects challenges to his leadership

Most of the company's major subsidiaries have publicly acknowledged new chairman's authority

Farhat Bengdara, the new chief of Libya's National Oil Corporation, was appointed by the Tripoli-based Prime Minister Abdulhamid Al Dbeibah. AFP
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Libya's new National Oil Corporation (NOC) chairman Farhat Bengdara rejected challenges to his appointment on Tuesday as work at some shuttered fields and ports resumed.

Prime Minister Abdulhamid Al Dbeibah of the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU) appointed Mr Bengdara last week to replace veteran NOC chief Mustafa Sanalla.

Most of the company's major subsidiaries have publicly acknowledged Mr Bengdara's leadership.

But Mr Sanalla and the eastern-based Parliament rejected the decision.

The Parliament does not recognise the GNU and analysts say the standoff over control of government could become a dispute over NOC that might lead to splits in a company globally recognised as the sole legitimate producer of Libyan oil.

"I am aware that questions have been raised over the legal basis for my appointment," Mr Bengdara said in a statement. "The Libyan government has the right to appoint the chairman and the board of NOC. I was formally appointed as chairman by the Government of National Unity.

"The GNU's decision to appoint me as NOC chairman does not represent any change in the legal position of the NOC, nor in its relationship with the government."

Libya's eastern-based Parliament, which does not recognise the GNU, has said Mr Sanalla remains NOC's legitimate chairman. Mr Sanalla has said he will challenge Mr Bengdara's appointment in court.

Mustafa Sanalla, former chairman of Libya's state oil firm National Oil Corporation, has rejected the appointment of the new chief. Reuters

Zallaf Libya Oil and Gas, Zueitina Oil, Jowfe Oil Technology Co, Akakus Oil Co and Mellitah Oil and Gas Co all released statements on Tuesday welcoming or recognising the new NOC board.

The statements were either on verified social media pages for the companies, or were confirmed to Reuters by company officials.

Arabian Gulf Oil Company (AGOCO) issued a statement welcoming the new board last week.

However, Al Waha Co, which issued an identical statement to that of AGOCO but then deleted it, has not yet put it back up or publicly commented. Sirte Oil Co and Ras Lanuf company have not publicly commented. Reuters said it could not immediately reach their officials.

Analysts say Mr Bengdara is considered close to eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar, long an ally of the eastern-based Parliament. They say Mr Dbeibah's appointment of Mr Bengdara may represent an effort to court Mr Haftar's support for the GNU.

Last week, Mr Bengdara said NOC was lifting force majeure on oil exports after groups linked to Mr Haftar agreed to end an oil blockade that had reduced total Libyan output by 850,000 barrels per day.

On Tuesday it said output was restarting at El Feel field, reaching 40,000 bpd as production gradually increases to the field's usual 70,000 bpd.

It also said four tankers were due to dock in the ports of Zueitina, Es Seder and Ras Lanuf between Tuesday and Thursday to start loading crude.

Updated: July 19, 2022, 5:54 PM
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