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New Libya Oil Chief Digs In

FILE: Farhat Bengdara, newly appointed as chairman of the Libyan state National Oil Corporation (NOC), looks on during a news conference in Tripoli. Taken 7.14.2022

Libya's new National Oil Corporation (NOC) chief Farhat Bengdara on Tuesday rejected challenges to his appointment as most of the company's major subsidiaries publicly acknowledged his leadership and the new board.

"I am aware that questions have been raised over the legal basis for my appointment. 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," Bengdara said in a statement.

"The GNU's decision to appoint me as NOC chairman does not represent any change in the legal position of the NOC or in its relationship with the government," he added.

Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah of the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU) appointed Bengdara last week to replace veteran NOC chief Mustafa Sanalla, prompting Sanalla and the eastern-based parliament to reject the decision.

The parliament does not recognize the GNU and analysts say the standoff over control of government risks morphing into a dispute over NOC that could lead to splits in a company globally recognized as the sole legitimate producer of Libyan oil.

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

Last week Bengdara said NOC was lifting force majeure on oil exports after groups linked to Haftar agreed to end an oil blockade.

Most of NOC's major subsidiaries and affiliates have publicly recognised Bengdara's leadership.

Zallaf Libya Oil and Gas, Zueitina Oil, Jowfe Oil Technology Co., Akakus Oil Co. and Mellitah Oil and Gas Co. all put out 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 also not publicly commented and Reuters could not immediately reach their officials.