French warships in Libya to train navy, demine oil ports

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 31, 2012 12:54 PM
French warships in Libya to train navy, demine oil ports

By Oliver Holmes

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Two French warships arrived at Tripoli's port on Tuesday carrying navy crewmen who will train the Libyan navy and help demine oil ports, a Libyan defense ministry official said.

Foreign states are worried about the Libyan interim government's capacity to secure its Mediterranean coast, which could be used as a gateway into Europe for arms traffickers, al Qaeda insurgents and illegal migrants.

"The military ships arrived today to Tripoli to train our officers in the Libyan navy and to help us in equipping our navy in order to maintain the security of our shores," defense ministry spokesman Ahmed Bani said at Tripoli's military port.

"These minesweepers arrived from France to help our officers clear the oil ports because they have been heavily mined by the former regime to prevent people exporting Libyan oil," Bani said.

Tripoli's military port is a graveyard for Libyan warships, which were bombed by NATO during the 2011 civil war in which longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in a pro-democracy revolution.

Now the Libyan government is trying to rebuild its navy and make sure that it ports are safe to export oil, the country's main earner.

Libya holds Africa's largest oil reserves. Before the uprising, Libya pumped some 1.6 million bpd, but civil war brought flows to a standstill, cutting off exports of around 1.3 million to the international market.

Oil output has now risen to 1.3 million bpd.

In December, French army chief of staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud said that France was ready to offer military training to Libya and is examining ways to boost its co-operation with the new government.