UK's Cameron calls for tighter sanctions on Libya

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, May 3 -- UK Prime Minister David Cameron, following reports that the Libyan government has been illicitly importing gasoline from Italy, called for tightening sanctions on oil and products against the North African country.

“We actually think there are opportunities for tightening sanctions over things like oil and oil products to make sure this regime comes to its senses and realizes it cannot go on terrorizing its own people,” Cameron told Parliament.

“So we are going to be looking in the coming days to stepping up the action we are taking as well as encouraging others to enforce what has already been put in place,” he said, calling it “unacceptable” for countries to help Libya’s embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi get around sanctions.

Cameron’s statement follows recent reports the Libyan government, exploiting an apparent loophole in United Nations’ sanctions, imported gasoline in early April from Saras, Italy’s third-largest refiner, which has the 300,000 b/d Sarroch facility on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia.

The cargo of gasoline was delivered by means of a ship-to-ship transfer in neighboring Tunisia before it was carried on to Libya, according to shipping sources with direct knowledge of the transaction.

The Italian-flagged tanker Valle di Navarra arrived at Tunisia’s port of La Skhira on Apr. 3, then transferred its cargo onto the Libyan vessel Anwaar Libya for shipment on Apr. 4 to western Libya, now under the control of forces loyal to Gadhafi.

Navigazione Montanari SPA, which owns the Valle di Navarra, said the tanker had been chartered by Saras for the voyage from Italy to Tunisia, leaving Sarroch with a 40,000 tonne cargo which was delivered to La Skhira on Apr. 3.

The shipment is considered legal under current UN sanctions against the Gadhafi regime as Libya’s General National Maritime Transport Co. (GNMTC), which owns the Anwaar Libya, is not on any UN blacklist.

Doing business with GNMTC is legal provided that there is no evidence of any benefit for the transaction for Gadhafi’s son Hannibal, who is subject to the UN blacklist but thought to have control of GNMTC.

The US, UN, and European Union imposed sanctions on the Libyan government and selected Libyan companies in late February and in March.

Meanwhile, rebels who now control eastern Libya said they have no plans to resume oil exports. "The top priority is to protect the installations, not to produce," said Ali Tarhoni, who holds the economy and oil portfolios in the rebels’ Interim National Council (INC). "I'm waiting for an assessment on all of the oil installations,” he said.

However, Italy is to host a meeting of the international contact group on Libya, which also will discuss ways of helping oil sales from rebel-held eastern Libya.

Last month, Qatar acknowledged marketing 1 million bbl of oil on behalf of the INC and delivering four shipments of petroleum products to the country’s eastern port of Benghazi.

“One million bbl of Libyan crude oil [has] so far been marketed,” said a report by Qatar’s state news agency QNA, which further said, “Two other shipments were also shipped from Tobruk the main oil hub in the east of Libya” (OGJ Online, Apr. 13, 2011).

However, the rebels had to stop oil production and exports after forces loyal to Gadhafi attacked the Misla field in early April, damaging its power generation system, an oil tank, some smaller diesel tanks, and other equipment (OGJ Online, Apr. 7, 2011).

Absent revenues from sales of oil, Tarhouni said INC expects foreign powers to lend it $2-3 billion secured against frozen Libyan state assets held abroad.

“I need about $2-3 billion and we are hoping to get most or all of this,” Tarhouni said, adding that the rebels were spending between 50-100 million Libyan dinars ($43-86 million) per day.

“At every single moment another need arises in terms of food, medicine, and in terms of people who are injured,” he said, noting also that supplies of fuel are also tight.

Tarhouni’s statement came as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization dismissed claims that the fighting between pro- and anti-Gaddafi forces in Libya has reached a stalemate.

"I personally don't think there is a real stalemate. Let's say we are going slowly but steady," said NATO Vice-Admiral Rinaldo Veri, brushing off concerns that Gadhafi's forces continued to lay siege to the oil port of Misrata, bombing the town and mining the harbor.

"This is a job that needs patience, needs determination," said Veri, who claimed that the port of Misrata is open and that NATO ships are still searching for a floating mine laid by Gadhafi's forces to prevent supplies from reaching the rebels.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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