(Adds speaker deputy says PM was illegal, background)
By Feras Bosalum and Ahmed Elumami
TRIPOLI May 8 Libya's government is committed
to implementing an agreement with rebels occupying the eastern
ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider and hopes the export terminals
will reopen soon, a minister said on Thursday.
On Wednesday, rebel leaders had accused Tripoli of not
fulfilling its part of an agreement struck in April to reopen
four seized ports, two of which have been already reopened.
The struggle over energy wealth is part of the growing
political turmoil in Libya three years after the NATO-backed
overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.
"Both sides are committed to the agreement ... Two ports
have been reopened, Hariga and Zueitina. God willing, Ras Lanuf
and Es Sider will reopen soon," Justice Minister Salah
al-Merghani said in the first official reaction.
Ras Lanuf and Es Sider used to export more than 300,000
barrels of oil per day (bpd). Libya's oil output has shrunk to
around 250,000 bpd from 1.4 million bpd since protests at oil
facilities started across the OPEC member, depriving the
government of its main source of revenue.
Merghani acknowledged there was an "administrative slowness"
in implementing the deal but said that was no reason for
The government was committed to its obligations such as
paying salaries to the rebels who are being integrated into a
government force from which they had defected when they seized
"Some people are trying to exploit this politically," he
told reporters, without naming anyone. "The implementation is on
a good path."
The rebel leaders said on Wednesday they would boycott the
new Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq and keep Ras Lanuf and Es Sider
ports shut for now. They even warned they would take action if
Tripoli did not fulfill the agreement, a veiled threat to close
the Hariga and Zueitina terminals again.
Maiteeq's predecessor, Abdullah al-Thinni, had reached the
agreement with the rebels to reopen the four ports.
Both sides agreed to hold further talks over the export
terminals that remain open.
A leader of the rebels said they would not deal with
Maiteeq, however, claiming he had not come to power legally. The
businessman was sworn in on Sunday after a chaotic election in
parliament that was disputed by many deputies.
PM VOTE "ILLEGAL"
Parliament's first deputy speaker, Ezzdin al-Awami, said the
election was illegal because Maiteeq had received only 113
votes, short of the quorum of 120, contradicting speaker Nouri
Abu Sahmain who had declared the election legal.
"It would have been better for the head of Congress Abu
Sahmain to meet his two deputies, me and Saleh Makhzoum, before
taking any action," Awami told a televised news conference.
Parliament had also violated its rules by allowing Maiteeq
to take the oath before he had even formed a government, he
When asked about local media reports that the vote had been
legally challenged, Justice Minister Merghani said he had no
knowledge about it.
The divisions in the assembly highlight the growing
political turmoil in Libya, where the government and parliament
are unable to assert their authority in a country awash with
Since the civil war that ended Gaddafi's one-man rule,
Libya's nascent democracy has struggled as its parliament has
been paralysed by rivalries and brigades of heavily armed former
rebels have challenged the new authorities.
The prime minister's post became vacant after Abdullah
al-Thinni resigned last month, citing an attack by gunmen on his
family just a month into his term as head of the government.
(Reporting by Ulf Laessing, Feras Bosalum and Ahmed Elumami;
Editing by William Hardy and Jane Baird)