(Adds speaker deputy says PM was illegal, background)
By Feras Bosalum and Ahmed Elumami
TRIPOLI, May 8 (Reuters) - 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 concern.
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 the ports.
“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 added.
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 arms.
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)