Libyan official: Tripoli is restricting our oil revenues

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — The head of Libya’s parallel government in the east said rival, U.N.-backed authorities in Tripoli have restricted oil revenues to areas under its control, as eastern-allied militias battle to seize control of the capital.

Libya remains split between two governments — one based in the eastern city of Benghazi, the other in the historical capital of Tripoli — after descending into chaos in 2011, when an international military coalition helped rebels overthrow longtime autocrat Moammar Gadhafi.

Benghazi-based Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani told The Associated Press Tuesday that the country’s eastern regions were receiving only about $126 million monthly for public salaries, despite holding most of Libya’s oil facilities.

However, he said the Tripoli-based government, which controls Libya’s Central Bank, has continued to give oil revenues to “outlawed groups and militias.”

He said his government resorted to loans to carry on with its administrative tasks such as providing health and other services in its region.

He said the U.N.-supported government is “lying” when it says it is “spending on all of Libya.”

Hassan al-Huni, a spokesman for the Tripoli-based government, dismissed al-Thani’s allegations, saying the eastern government has no legitimacy. Libya’s National Oil Corporation has said it is neutral in the conflict.

Al-Thani’s interim government emerged from Libya’s House of Representatives in September 2014.

His government is backed by the self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who has led a campaign to take Tripoli since April.

“The political situation has forced us to have the change by force, because the opposing party still sticks to its irrational orientations,” al-Thani said about the assault, adding that the Tripoli government’s Islamist allies want “to control everything or nothing.”

The battle for Tripoli has killed hundreds of people, mostly combatants, and displaced tens of thousands of civilians.

In recent weeks, the battle lines have changed little, with both sides dug in and shelling each other in the southern reaches of the capital. Fighters have also resorted to airstrikes and attacks by drones. An airstrike last month killed over 50 people — many of them migrants who died when a hangar collapsed on top of them.

Since the 2011 uprising, Libya has seen armed groups proliferate and emerged as a major transit point for migrants fleeing to Europe.

The Libyan National Army is the largest and best organized of the country’s many militias, and has the support of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia. But it has faced stiff resistance from fighters aligned with the United Nations-recognized government, which is aided by Turkey and Qatar.

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