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Cyrenaica autonomy can be first step towards split of Libya

March 26, 2012, 15:14 UTC+3

“If Cyrenaica declares autonomy, Libya ceased to be,” the Russian expert said

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MOSCOW, March 26 (Itar-Tass) — Cyrenaica’s autonomy can become the first step towards the split of the country, Russian former ambassador to Libya and Tunisia Alexei Podtserob told Itar-Tass on Monday.

“If Cyrenaica declares autonomy, Libya ceased to be,” the Russian expert said.

“At present, the country is facing the threat of fragmentation. One of the regions of Libya, Cyrenaica, declared autonomy. But their representatives said they would not seek to proclaim independence,” Podtserob said.

At the same time, he did not rule out that the situation could aggravate. “Then the armed fight for oil may begin because the population of Cyrenaica numbers 20 percent of the country’s population. About 80 percent of oil reserves are in this area,” he explained. In his view, the conflict can arouse around oil reserves in the district between Cyrenaica and Tripolitania.

“It was rather easy to predict the situation in Libya that we are watching now. It is unclear for me why Americans and Europeans did not defer to experts’ opinions,” the Russian former ambassador said.

Commenting on who can benefit the disintegration of Libya, Podtserob said, “Oil companies would benefit such state of affairs because it is easier to deal with several weak governments than with one strong government.” “Leader of the Libyan Revolution Muammar al-Gaddafi was a difficult partner for oil monopolies. He dictated his policy and relied on the well-organised country. Thus, al-Gaddafi made France’s Total to pay 500 million U.S. dollar forfeit. He said the agreement on production sharing had been changed so that foreign oil companies got not more than 20 percent. This was one of the key reasons for backing ‘freedom fighters’ from the West,” the Russian expert said.

“The disintegration of the country has begun. I’d like to hope that this process will be stopped because the disintegration will create many problems for the Libyan people,” he stressed.

On March 6, Cyrenaica elected a regional congress and declared semi-autonomy from Libya’s capital, Tripoli. The congress appointed Ahmed al-Zubair Ahmed, a member of National Transitional Council (NTC), as the leader of its governing council, who pledged to protect the rights of the eastern region. Thousands of major tribal leaders and militia commanders attended the ceremony in the region’s capital, Benghazi. Cyrenaica, where the country’s popular revolution against Gaddafi’s four-decade-long rule erupted last year, stretches from the central city of Sirte to the Egyptian border in the east. The NTC has protested the autonomy as a “blatant call for fragmentation.”

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