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Archive for November, 2011

Libyan rebels gear up for oil shipment

BENGHAZI, Libya, July 27 (UPI) — The rebel-backed Transitional National Council in Libya is gearing up to load 800,000 barrels of crude oil onto a tanker for shipment Monday, an official said.

Oil production in Libya is shuttered by conflict, prompting the International Energy Agency to call on its member states to release petroleum from strategic reserves to offset the shortage.

Oil tanker Captain X Kyriakou arrived at the Zuetina oil terminal during the weekend to load crude oil stored at the port west of the rebel capital Benghazi. The tanker could leave port by Monday.

Mazin Ramadan, a TNC energy adviser, told the Platts news service the buyer was Vitol but declined to indicate the destination of the crude.

“The oil tanker should leave once the 800,000 barrels are lifted,” he was quoted as saying. “The shipment is going to Vitol.”

Libya’s national oil company is under economic sanctions. The U.S. Treasury Department authorized sales from operators working on behalf of the rebel leadership in Libya, however.

A TNC official told the news agency on condition of anonymity that security was the main inhibitor of oil shipments from rebel-held oil fields.

“There is no damage to the oil facilities and fields and all the equipment and installations are ready for production. Our main problem is security,” he said. “We can start pumping once security is guaranteed.”

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Hezbollah to defend oil, gas reserves

BEIRUT, Lebanon, July 27 (UPI) — Hezbollah respects Beirut’s authority on border demarcation, though reserves the right to avenge attacks on oil and gas installations, its leader said.

Noble Energy announced a “significant” natural gas discovery last year at the Leviathan field about 80 miles off the coast of Haifa in the deep waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The company estimated there are around 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves there.

Lebanon contends that a portion of Leviathan lies within its maritime borders.

In a speech marking the anniversary of the 2006 war with Israel, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said border demarcation was something for state officials.

“We, in the resistance, don’t interfere in the border demarcation process and we will deal with the situation as approved by the Lebanese state,” he was quoted by Hezbollah’s al-Manar news station as saying.

Hezbollah has told Israel not to touch its resources, however, spurring threats of retaliation from the Israelis.

Nasrallah added that Lebanon would rely on support from the military and the resistance to defend the country’s natural resources.

“I tell the friends and the foes that Lebanon will rely on all the elements of strength in order to regain its natural resources,” he said.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Iran pres. nominates 4 new ministers

Wed Jul 27, 2011

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has nominated four candidates to receive the Majlis (parliament) vote of confidence before running four ministries.

In a letter to the Majlis on Wednesday, President Ahmadinejad named Mohammad Abbasi, Abdolreza Sheikholeslami, Mehdi Ghazanfari and Rostam Qasemi respectively for the posts of ministers at the Ministry of Sports and Youth, Ministry of Cooperative, Labor and Social Welfare, Ministry of Industries, Mines and Trade as well as Ministry of Oil, IRIB reported.

Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said that the parliamentarians will discuss the subject of candidates during a session on Tuesday.

On June 29, Iranian lawmakers approved the merger of the three ministries of Welfare and Social Security, Labor and Social Affairs as well as Cooperative into the new Ministry of Cooperative, Labor and Social Welfare.

The legislators also passed a bill to merge the ministries of Industries and Mines and Commerce to institute the new Ministry of Industries, Mines and Trade.

The announcement came after the Iranian chief executive declared the establishment of the new Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, following the Majlis’ vote of confidence to Ali Nikzad, the candidate to run the ministry.

The Majlis has also rejected Hamid Sajjadi as the proposed candidate for the new Ministry of Sports and Youth.

Under Iran’s Fifth Five-Year Development Plan from 2010 to 2015, the government had to reduce its ministries from 21 to 17 to improve the efficiency of the country’s administration.

Source: PressTV.

UK recognizes Libyan rebels, expels Qaddafi envoys

Jul 27, 2011

LONDON: Britain has officially recognized Libya’s main opposition group as the country’s legitimate government, and on Wednesday expelled all diplomats from Muammar Qaddafi’s regime.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain is unfreezing 91 million pounds ($150 million) of Libyan oil assets to help the National Transitional Council, which the UK now recognizes as “the sole governmental authority in Libya.”

“This decision reflects the National Transitional Council’s increasing legitimacy, competence and success in reaching out to Libyans across the country,” Hague said.

He said the council had been invited to send an ambassador to London, adding that “we will deal with the National Transitional Council on the same basis as other governments around the world.”

The Libyan charge d’affaires was summoned Wednesday morning and informed that all eight remaining staff and their dependents must leave the country within three days, the Foreign Office said.

Qaddafi’s ambassador, Omar Jelban, was sent home in May after an attack on the British ambassador’s residence in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

A handful of demonstrators gathered outside the embassy in London, with a rebel banner, heckling the diplomats outside and threatening to climb onto the balcony and tear down Qaddafi’s green flag. They were shooed away by police, who stood guard outside the four-story stone and brick building across from the city’s Hyde Park.

Abdelatif Kleisa, a Libyan emigre now living in Sheffield, was among the demonstrators. He said any defections would be welcome but the defectors themselves wouldn’t be treated as heroes.

“It’s too late for them to defect,” said the 48-year-old businessman, who wore a rebel flag pin over his heart. Asked if any of the diplomats could win a place in the rebel movement, he let out an expletive.

“No way,” he said. “They have to get normal jobs like anyone else. We struggled for 42 years. Now it’s their turn to struggle.”

Britain’s diplomatic moves implement a decision made at a July 15 meeting in Istanbul during which the United States, Britain and 30 other nations recognized Libya’s main opposition group as the country’s legitimate government.

A popular uprising seeking to oust Qaddafi broke out in February, but the front lines in the civil war have remained largely stagnant since then. Rebels, backed by NATO air bombings, control much of the country’s east and pockets in the west. But Qaddafi controls the rest from his stronghold in Tripoli, the capital.

Hague said London would invite the council to replace Libya’s diplomats in Britain and free up some funds currently blocked due to an asset freeze on Libyan funds.

“At the request of the Arabian Gulf Oil Company, a Libyan oil company, the United Kingdom is ready to make available 91 million pounds of the company’s assets in the United Kingdom.”

The rebels have long called on nations to give the administration in Benghazi access to Libyan assets frozen abroad so they can cover the daily costs of running the east of the country, which they now control.

They won $1.1 billion at a donor conference in June and received a further boost this week when Turkey dispatched the first cargo of fuel in a multi-million dollar supply deal.

Big boost

The Libyan opposition saluted Britain’s decision. Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the head of the National Transitional Council, said Britain’s recognition “gives us a political and economic boost.”

“We will try through this recognition to get our frozen assets,” Abdul-Jalil told a news conference in Benghazi in eastern Libya. “This means Qaddafi and his followers are no longer legitimate.” He added that the new Libyan ambassador to Britain would be Mahmud Nacua, who he described as a Libyan exile in Britain.

In a sign of Qaddafi’s defiance, the Libyan man convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing attended a pro-Qaddafi rally. The Libyan state TV images showing the bomber in a wheelchair in a crowd in Tripoli on Wednesday revived criticism in Britain of the decision to grant him early release on medical grounds.

Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi was convicted in the 1988 downing of a Pan Am plane that killed 270 people, most of them Americans, over Lockerbie, Scotland. He was released from a Scottish prison in 2009 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, and at the time was given three months to live. Al-Megrahi returned to a hero’s welcome in Libya later that year.

“The appearance of Mr. Al-Megrahi on our television screens is a further reminder that a great mistake was made when he was released,” British Foreign Secretary Hague told reporters.

Meanwhile, Libyan expats have become the first to take a stab at forming a political party in Benghazi. “We call ourselves the New Libya Party because everything was destroyed,” said Ramadan Ben Amer, 53, a co-founder of the party, which is the offshoot of an online news website that he helped launch in late February to support the revolution.

“Qaddafi says he has built Libya brick by brick but, especially Benghazi, he has destroyed brick by brick,” Ben Amer said hours before presenting his party at the Uzu Hotel.

Rebels revoke offer to Qaddafi

Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court, which has issued an arrest warrant for Qadaffi and two of his sons, said “justice must be done” irrespective of any political agreement.

The ICC comments follow Britain and France dropping their calls for Qadaffi to quit power and leave the country — seemingly part of a new diplomatic push to end the war as the rebels struggle to make significant gains on the battlefield, despite four months of NATO bombing of Qadaffi’s forces.

This week Hague said for the first time that Qaddafi might be able to remain in Libya, as long as he is not in power.

He said that “Qaddafi is going to have to abandon power, all military and civil responsibility,” but “what happens to Qaddafi is ultimately a question for the Libyans.”

France and the United States have made similar suggestions.

But Libya’s rebel leader said on Wednesday that his council had offered a month ago to allow Muammar Qaddafi to stay in the country provided he step down first but that this offer had now expired.

“This offer is no longer valid,” Mustafa Abdel Jalil told reporters in the rebel-held eastern city of Benghazi.

Abdel Jalil said the offer was made about a month ago through United Nations envoy Abdel Elah Al-Khatib with a two-week deadline attached. The two weeks had passed and the offer was no longer valid, he said.

Despite four months of NATO air strikes on pro-Qadaffi forces, the rebels have failed to make a big gains toward Tripoli and appear unlikely to make a breakthrough before the start in early August of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Source: Arab News.

Iran president proposes Guards commander as oil minister

Jul 27, 2011

TEHRAN: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposed to parliament on Wednesday a Revolutionary Guards commander as his choice for oil minister, state radio reported.

“I introduce Rostam Qasemi as the oil minister nominee to the parliament,” Ahmadinejad said in a letter to lawmakers.

Qasemi is head of the Khatam Al-Anbia construction base, an engineering and construction company controlled by the elite Guards. Parliament will debate a vote of confidence for Qasemi on August 3.

The Guards has played a growing economic role in the Islamic Republic since Ahmadinejad first took office in 2005.

The UN Security Council in June blacklisted 15 firms belonging to the Guards Corps. for their alleged role in Iran’s nuclear activities, which the United States and its allies say is a cover to build bombs.

Iran denies this, saying it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity.

Ahmadinejad took control of the ministry in May as he sought to merge it with the Energy Ministry in an effort to slim down the government. The merger plan has since been put on hold.

By law the president has three months after removing a minister — in this case Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi — to introduce a new candidate to parliament. During that period he can act as caretaker himself or appoint someone to the post.

Ahmadinejad came under fire by critics in parliament after he relinquished the role of caretaker oil minister himself — a role both parliament and Iran’s constitutional watchdog said was illegal — and appointed Mohammad Aliabadi, one of his close allies, to the post in June.

Lawmakers said Aliabadi, former head of Iran’s Olympic Committee, lacked experience and knowledge.

Source: Arab News.

Villagers flee Iranian clashes with Iraq Kurd rebels

Jul 26, 2011

SWUNE, Iraq: Iranian shelling in clashes with Kurdish rebels on the border with Iraq’s northern region has killed two civilians and forced hundreds to flee their homes, local officials and aid agencies said on Monday.

Iranian troops have in the past fought along the frontier with Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region with rebels from the PJAK, an Iranian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Kurdish group which fights for an ethnic homeland in Turkey.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Monday it was providing assistance to more than 800 displaced people in northern Iraq, all driven from their homes by the recent shelling in the mountains of Qandil.

Local Iraqi Kurdish officials have blamed Iranian bombardments for the displacements.

Ali Muhammad Ibrahim, general manager of local Sidakan Hospital, said two civilians had been killed by shelling.

Fleeing residents had settled in makeshift tents along the roadway near their abandoned villages near the Iranian border, leaving behind farmland, livestock and homes.

“There were bombs inside the village. It could happen any time. Sometimes the bombardments were at 3 a.m., sometimes in the dawn and sometimes in the evening,” said Muhammad Abdullah, 26, who escaped the village of Swune near the Iranian border.

The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration said it had also supplied a temporary clinic and relief supplies to the displaced on the border region.

Iran said on Friday a commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards was killed in an explosion during clashes with Kurdish rebels in northwestern Iran. In April, Iran reported four Iranian border guards were killed by a grenade attack.

PJAK, which stands for the Free Life Party of Kurdistan, is branded a terrorist organization by both Tehran and Washington.

Iran has pledged to step up military action against the group, which is seeking greater autonomy for Kurdish areas in the country. PJAK has bases in the mountains where the borders of Iran, Iraq and Turkey meet.

Source: Arab News.

Bulgaria to expel Libyan diplomat

Jul 26, 2011

SOFIA: Bulgaria will proceed with plans to expel Libya’s consul after Libyan rebel forces denied he had joined their ranks in the Transitional National Council (TNC), the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

The foreign ministry asked consul Ibrahim Al-Furis to leave Bulgaria on Monday, prompting him to storm the embassy with a small group of diplomats and staff, and to declare that it had joined the rebels.

The ministry declined to give the reason for the expulsion.

“We will proceed with the expulsion once he leaves the embassy,” a foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

The rebels, based in the eastern city of Benghazi, are fighting Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s troops to try to end his 41-year rule in the north African country.

Al-Furis has refused to leave Bulgaria, saying he is waiting for confirmation from the rebel forces of his new position as their legal representative in Bulgaria.

But deputy foreign minister of the TNC, Salaheddin Bishari, told Sofia the consul did not belong to the council and should be expelled.

“The TNC would like to inform (you) … that the person mentioned in your e-mail does not belong to the TNC. Furthermore we recommend that he should be deported according to the decision taken by the Bulgarian government,” he said in a letter to the foreign ministry.

Sofia, which recognized the TNC last month, has said it will suspend links with the embassy until it is clear who is in charge.

Source: Arab News.

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