September 19, 2019 / 4:23 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-Libyan state oil firm rejects eastern parallel board for oil firm

(Adds officials, details, background)

CAIRO/BENGHAZI, Libya, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Libya state oil firm NOC rejected on Thursday a decision by the country’s eastern parallel government allied to commander Khalifa Haftar to name a new board for a state fuel distribution firm in the east.

State oil firm NOC in Tripoli, which is home to the internationally recognised government, strongly condemned the move as an attempt to divide the country and to set up an illegitimate entity to export oil, a statement said.

NOC has sought to stay out of a conflict between rival factions vying for control of the OPEC oil producer in chaos since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

But relations between NOC and the east have worsened since the Libyan National Army (LNA) started an offensive to take Tripoli in April, with NOC warning in April of a “militarization” of its infrastructure after the LNA briefly sent a warship to an eastern port.

The eastern parallel government appointed Khairallah al-Obeidi as new head for the Brega Petroleum Marketing Company (BPMC) unit in the east, eastern officials said, confirming a decree posted online.

BPMC is headquartered in Tripoli and in charge of fuel supplies for the whole country.

The eastern administration had acted because Tripoli authorities were not sending sufficient fuel supplies to areas under its control, Abdel-Salam al-Badri, a deputy prime minister in the eastern parallel government, told Reuters.

NOC Tripoli strongly rejected this.

“National Oil Corporation (NOC) condemns attempts to divide its subsidiary Brega Petroleum Marketing Company (BPMC), and rejects false allegations that fuel supplies to the Eastern region are inadequate,” it said in a statement.

“The NOC Board rejects the establishment of a parallel board of directors for the BPMC by the so-called Interim Government,” NOC said, referring to the official name of the eastern government.

Foreign buyers of Libyan oil and gas have been dealing for decades with NOC Tripoli but the east has set up a parallel entity also called NOC.

Last year, the LNA briefly tried taking over oil export ports under its control.

The eastern parallel government has since then worked with NOC Tripoli but some Libyan oil sources and diplomats have said they have had indications the east was trying to set up a firm to sell oil. (Reporting by Ulf Laessing, Ayman al-Warfalli and Maher Chamytelli; Editing by Howard Goller)

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