|Date: May 10, 2019|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Tripoli government suspends operations of 40 foreign firms|
TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI: Libya’s internationally recognized government has suspended the operations of 40 foreign firms including French oil major Total, a government official said Thursday. A decree that appeared online said the firms’ licenses had expired.
Its authenticity was confirmed by a government official.
Ties between the internationally recognized government and France have been strained because Paris has ties to Tripoli as well as to Khalifa Haftar, a commander whose troops have been trying to take the capital in a monthlong battle.
The government has struggled to exert its authority beyond the capital in a country that has lacked a centralized administration since the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi by NATO-backed rebels in 2011.
Total, with large-scale oil and gas interests in Libya, is the only firm on the list known to have extensive dealings there. Others include French aerospace firm Thales, German engineering firm Siemens and telecoms equipment firm Alcatel-Lucent, now owned by Finland’s Nokia.
Total, the French government and the French Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Last month, the Tripoli-based Interior Ministry suspended security cooperation with France, accusing Paris of backing Haftar, a commander from the east of the country where a rival government holds sway.
Tripoli Premier Fayez al-Sarraj had visited Paris Wednesday, part of a tour to European capitals to drum up support.
After meeting Sarraj, President Emmanuel Macron had called for a cease-fire in the battle for Libya’s capital Tripoli.
In Tripoli, three rockets hit a western suburb overnight close to the heavily fortified U.N. compound but otherwise there was less fighting than last week as life slowed down with the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The United Nations has failed to broker a cease-fire after the offensive took it by surprise. Its special envoy Ghassan Salame has mostly stayed on the ground but his mission has reduced staffing levels, U.N. officials say.
One senior health worker was severely wounded as he traveled in an ambulance car in a southern Tripoli district that was reportedly attacked by Haftar-affiliated fighters, the U.N. humanitarian agency OCHA said in a statement.
European countries including Italy and France have taken a strong interest in Libya, both because of its natural resources and because of its status as the main departure point for migrants attempting to enter Europe across the Mediterranean. European countries have backed Libyan efforts that have succeeded in reducing the numbers attempting the journey.
Two boats carrying 214 migrants were intercepted by the Libyan coast guard late Wednesday and taken back to the shore, the U.N. migration agency said.
“As clashes continue in the capital, we are concerned about the return and arbitrary detention of migrants in #Libya,” the International Organization for Migration said in a tweet.
IOM spokesperson Joel Millman said the 107 people on the first boat included 12 women and seven children, while the 107 people on the second boat were all men, 92 of them Sudanese, and there had been no reports of missing people or bodies retrieved.
In the south, three people were killed Thursday in a suspected hit-and-run attack by Daesh (ISIS) on the town of Ghadwa, residents and a military official said, the second such attack within days.