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Libyan Economy Faces Possible Collapse, Diplomat Warns

  • Margaret Besheer

FILE - An anti-government rebel sits with an anti-aircraft weapon in front an oil refinery in Ras Lanouf, eastern Libya, March 5, 2011. The United States, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain have called upon forces loyal to a Libyan general to withdraw from three eastern oil terminals seized earlier this week, in a statement, Sept. 13, 2016.

FILE - An anti-government rebel sits with an anti-aircraft weapon in front an oil refinery in Ras Lanouf, eastern Libya, March 5, 2011. The United States, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain have called upon forces loyal to a Libyan general to withdraw from three eastern oil terminals seized earlier this week, in a statement, Sept. 13, 2016.

The U.N.’s top diplomat in Libya warned Tuesday that the oil-rich country’s economy “is on the road to collapse.”

Martin Kobler, head of the U.N. Support Mission in Libya, told the Security Council that oil production was down to about 200,000 barrels per day, compared with 1.4 million barrels after the 2011 revolution that ousted former dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

“The country is running a 75 percent budget deficit,” Kobler added.

He said Libya would not be able to rely much longer on its foreign reserves. “Oil production must resume and expenditure must be commensurate to the needs of the country,” he said. “To do so, it is imperative that the pipelines open, Libyan financial institutions become unified, and a national budget is approved.”

Libya has been mired in political infighting among militias in Tripoli and the country’s west, as well as the effects of territory seized by Islamic State.

Kobler said the country also has become a “launchpad” for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 so far reaching Italy’s shores this year from the North African country.

“Both the fight against terrorism and the flow of migrants are symptoms of Libya’s lack of unified and effective security institutions,” Kobler said.

On a positive note, Kobler said the Libyan military offensive against Islamic State in the city of Sirte had paid off. “Very soon, ISIS will no longer hold territory in Libya,” he said, referring to Islamic State by one of its acronyms.

But he noted that the terrorist threat to Libya would not disappear with the defeat of IS in Sirte, saying continued vigilance was necessary.

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