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Vol. 75/No. 32      September 12, 2011

Libya: Imperialists rush
to line up oil profits
(front page)
August 31—A week after taking Tripoli, Libya’s capital, rebel forces are seeking to consolidate their hold over the country by advancing on Sirte, a strategically located city still controlled by Moammar Gadhafi’s forces. Meanwhile, European imperialist powers are in a “Dash for profit in post-war Libya carve-up,” as a headline in the August 24 Independent put it.

The U.S.-led NATO military alliance is launching air assaults around Sirte. Securing that city would give rebel forces control of Libya’s coastline from their de facto capital in Benghazi to Tripoli. It would allow the National Transitional Council to extend its power into the desert interior in the south where most oil fields and the oases that supply the country with fresh water are located, a senior rebel commander told the Wall Street Journal.

Many of Tripoli’s 2 million residents have faced deteriorating living conditions as rebel forces pushed Gadhafi loyalists out of residential neighborhoods. A week later, power outages affect large parts of the city, as well as a shortage of water. Prices for bottled water are skyrocketing. The main water facility supplying Tripoli and other Libyan cities is located in Hasouna, 400 miles south, which Gadhafi forces still control. Many working people are trying to cope by sharing water stored in neighbor’s wells.

After taking control of the Abu Salim neighborhood, a last refuge of Gadhafi supporters, residents freed some 1,500 people from the notorious prison there. Ali Matouk, 41, imprisoned there from 1991 to 2001, revisited his old cell block. “I never thought I’d be back here as a free man,” he told the Journal.

The Gadhafi regime massacred 1,200 Abu Salim inmates in 1996 after they revolted over conditions in the prison. This past February the arrest of a lawyer for families of those killed in 1996 sparked the uprising against Gadhafi and the six-month civil war.

Rebel forces have freed more than 10,000 prisoners, but nearly 50,000 arrested in recent months are unaccounted for, reported Al Arabiya.

The National Transitional Council is beginning to relocate from Benghazi to Tripoli. The 31-member council released the names of its members for the first time August 27. Mustafa Abdel-Jalil is chairman. But dissent over the council’s composition is growing. In Misrata, protesters “say the old guard of the Gadhafi regime are far too prominent in the list of people issued so far,” reported Al Jazeera.

On August 26 the 15-member council of the African Union refused in a close vote to recognize the National Transitional Council as Libya’s legitimate government, even though 57 nations have already done so. Among the reasons, said the organization’s chairman, is that the council is doing nothing to stop mistreatment and killings of black migrants from sub-Saharan Africa who are being falsely targeted by rebel forces as Gadhafi mercenaries.

Abdel-Jalil has made clear his priority is stabilizing capitalist rule. He told the media he supported bringing police forces from Arab and Muslim states into Libya.

He also made clear that those governments that have led NATO’s airstrikes will get priority for lucrative contracts. “We promise to favor the countries which helped us,” he said. Giant oil companies together with their governments in imperialist centers are jockeying for position.

Aiming for the biggest share of the pie, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for a special “Friends of Libya” conference to be held in Paris in early September.

“Thanks to our historic presence in the country, I do not think France will want to replace us,” Pablo Scaroni, head of the Italian energy group ENI, told the media. Libya was an Italian colony from 1911 to 1942. ENI is already working with rebels in Libya’s eastern oil fields.

“I believe we should be trying to make sure we can get whatever business we can,” chimed in Lord Trefgarne, chair of the Libyan British Business Council, according to the Independent. BP is already making preparations to return.  
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