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Total, other foreign firms seek to renew Libya licenses

The Address | Benghazi – Libya

TRIPOLI – France’s Total and other foreign firms have started to renew their business licenses with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) to keep operating in the country, GNA economy minister told Reuters.

The comments by Ali Abdulaziz Issawi could appease Western concerns the Tripoli government will try to suspend oil and other firms as it fights for survival against the Libyan National Army (LNA).

In May, GNA economy ministry suspended Total and 39 other foreign firms, saying their licenses had expired, before granting a grace period of three months to seek new ones.

Some diplomats and analysts saw the move as political pressure aimed at shoring up support abroad against an assault against LNA, which has been trying for more than two months to liberate Tripoli terrorist groups and criminal militias allied with GNA.

Issawi denied a political motive, saying some firms had operated without a license for a long time.

“There are companies working now on renewing their licenses in Libya,” he said, adding Total was among them.

He added that if a license did not get renewed, “there are several oil companies to take (over) the oilfields in 24 hours. There is a lot of competition.”

Other firms required to renew their licenses include French aerospace firm Thales, German engineering firm Siemens, telecoms equipment firm Alcatel-Lucent, now owned by Finland’s Nokia, and Microsoft. Total is most exposed, with oil operations on the ground.

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