Bloomberg News

Libyan Fighting Continues as U.S. Sets Plan to Reopen Embassy

September 20, 2011

Sept. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Libyan fighters battled to oust Muammar Qaddafi’s loyalists from Bani Walid and his hometown of Sirte as the National Transitional Council prepared to form a government.

The U.S. will reopen its embassy in Tripoli this week, U.S. President Barack Obama said yesterday after meeting with NTC Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil in New York.

“Our ambassador is on his way back to Tripoli, and this week, the American flag that was lowered before our embassy was attacked will be raised again, over a reopened American embassy,” Obama said at a meeting of nations that supported the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-backed campaign in Libya.

NTC-allied forces have struggled to overrun the coastal city of Sirte, 400 kilometers (250 miles) southeast of Tripoli, the capital, and the mountain town of Bani Walid, 140 kilometers (90 miles) south of Tripoli.

Sirte may fall in “two or three days,” according to the former rebels’ military council in Misrata, a coastal city to the west. At least 44 fighters have been killed and 213 wounded in the area since Sept. 15, according to the council, which has been leading the assault.

Qaddafi loyalists have been shooting at residents of Bani Walid who attempt to revolt, Ahmed Bani, a military spokesman for the NTC, said Sept. 19 at a news conference in the capital. Anti-Qaddafi units deployed around the town after talks for a peaceful surrender collapsed on Sept. 4.

‘Fighting Continues’

Members of the NTC are in talks to form a Cabinet, interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril told reporters on Sept. 18. Since moving to Tripoli from its eastern base in Benghazi, where the uprising began in February, the council has been working to establish its authority over different factions that rebelled against Qaddafi, including the opposition council in Misrata, which was the main rebel stronghold in western Libya during the seven-month conflict.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking at the New York meeting, said that a UN “support mission” will help “consolidate peace and democracy” in the nation.

“Fighting continues in some parts of the country,” he noted. “Elsewhere, however, we are encouraged that so many Libyans, from so many communities, have laid down their arms and are working together to build their nation. We urge those that have not done so to join them.”

Tolerance, Moderation

Ban applauded statements by Adel Jalil and other leaders who have “repeatedly and publicly embraced essential principles -- the principles of tolerance, moderation, reconciliation, human rights and the rule of law, and in particular the rights of women and migrant workers.”

The NTC has established diplomatic and commercial ties abroad, hosting the leaders of the U.K., France and Turkey in the past week in Tripoli. The African Union yesterday became the latest body to recognize the council as the representative of the Libyan people, according to a statement on the website of the South African president’s office.

Libya’s Arabian Gulf Oil Co. will be ready to export 1 million barrels of crude within one week as its marketing department evaluates several offers for shipments, Hassan Bolifa, a management committee member, said yesterday in a telephone interview from Benghazi. The crude will be loaded at Marsa El-Hariga export terminal in the eastern city of Tobruk.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, oil for October delivery rose $1.19 to settle at $86.89 a barrel. The contract expired yesterday. The more actively traded November future climbed $1.11, or 1.3 percent, to $86.92.

Companies Returning

Several foreign companies, including BP Plc and Total SA, have said they are also preparing to return to Libya. Qatar National Bank Group said yesterday in an e-mailed statement that it is reopening its representative office in the North African nation, six months after it closed due to the conflict. PT Medco Energi Internasional, an Indonesian energy company, also plans to resume operation of its Area 47 oil block next month, Director Lukman Mahfoedz said in Jakarta yesterday.

Three of the five oil refineries in Libya, holder of Africa’s largest crude reserves, have restarted operations, according to local officials. The Tobruk, Sarir and Zawiya facilities are producing a total of about 60,000 barrels a day. Libya’s five plants have a total production capacity of 378,000 barrels of crude a day, according to the International Energy Agency.

In New York, 66 delegations, most represented by a head of state, discussed Libyan developments and pledged support for the new leadership, said Derek Chollet, senior director for strategic planning on Obama’s National Security Council.

Weapons Issues

Chollet said that Obama raised with Abdel Jalil the U.S. concerns about security of Libya’s chemical weapons stocks and conventional weapons, such as shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles able to be used by terrorists. Obama met with Abdel Jalil and Jibril for about 30 minutes, he said.

“The TNC has actually requested U.S. support in their efforts, and we’re providing that support,” Chollet said.

On democracy, he said, Obama and Abdel Jalil “talked about the importance of elections, the importance of writing a new constitution and the importance of seating a new cabinet, which Chairman Jalil promised the President that they would be doing very soon.”

--With assistance from Yoga Rusmana in Jakarta, Inal Ersan in Dubai, Margaret Talev and Terry Atlas in Washington, Nidaa Bakhsh in London, Ola Galal in Cairo and Mark Shenk in New York. Editors: Terry Atlas, Jim Rubin.

To contact the reporters on this story: Christopher Stephen in Misrata, Libya at cstephen9@bloomberg.net; Robert Tuttle in Doha at rtuttle@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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