By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 4 August:
Last week’s official government press conference was held at 2 pm on Thursday 3 August conducted by . . .[restrict]official spokesperson Nasser Al-Mana.
The press conference was dominated by the news of the abduction of the Iranians, the explosion in Benghazi, Egyptian-Libyan relations and Libyan prisoners in Iraq.
Other topics included decentralization policies, housing plans, road projects, aid flights, Kufra airport and airbase and subsidies for Hajj.
The Benghazi explosion
The spokesperson confirmed the explosion at the front entrance of the ex-military intelligence building in Benghazi last week. He stressed that although it was used during the war, it was currently not in use or occupied – except for a number of guards. It is in a residential area and there is a demand by local residence that it is no longer used for such a purpose.
Al-Mana confirmed that the explosion was probably locally made, but that no one was injured in the explosion.
Could Benghazi be declared a military zone?
It was put to spokesperson that there are plans by the government to declare Benghazi a military area, in effect under martial law, due to the numerous recent security incursions? Al-Mana denied that this is about to happen, but said that since Libya was already divided into 10 distinct military areas, it was still an option.
Al-Mana confirmed the abduction of the 7 Iranian Red Crescent personnel in Benghazi by unknowns. He, however, denied that any state actors had any part in the abduction. He admitted that there was some local resistance to the presence of Iranians in Libya on the bases that there is suspicion by some members of the public of their real activities. (Iran has been accused of spreading Shiite Islam in Libya by Libya’s Grand Mufti).
However, he confirmed that there has been no government intention to arrest them. He called upon all to respect and keep to the law. He called upon anyone who has any complaints against the Iranians, or Libyans or anyone else to forward their complaints to the authorities and not to take the law into their own hands. Al-Mana stressed that the government does not support any actions that impact negatively on Libya.
Libyan prisoners in Iraq
The official spokesperson confirmed that none of the Libyan prisoners in Iraq had been released yet, contrary to conflicting media rumours.
He confirmed that there are more than 80 Libyans unaccounted for in Iraq. However, only 18 have been officially sentenced to imprisonment in Iraq. He confirmed that the government was quietly negotiating their release and that Libyan government representatives, including himself, have visited Iraq or the Libyan prisoners numerous times.
Most of the imprisoned Libyans had been accused of illegally entering Libya or of the use of force.
The Libyan government is in contact with its Iraqi counterparts on an almost weekly bases, the last of which was yesterday, Al-Mana revealed.
He hoped that they would be released soon and hoped that no good meaning third parties interfered any further with the process and falsely raised the prisoners’ families’ hopes.
For more details on this see: http://www.libyaherald.com/?p=12165
Egypt asks Libya not to allow foreign bases on its land?
Spokesperson Al-Mana denied that the Egyptian government had asked the Libyan government not to have foreign bases on its territory.
A-Mana denied that they had received any such official communication from Egypt and that Libya will not allow any foreign bases in Libya. He condemned these media reports as ‘irresponsible’.
Egypt asks Libya for 2 billion in compensation for losses by its workers
The spokesperson also denied the media allegation that the Libyan government had received any requests from the Egyptian government demanding 2 billion’s worth of compensation for losses suffered by its workers in Libya as a result of the Revolution.
Meanwhile he announced that contacts with Egypt continue and that bilateral meetings are expected soon, to negotiate numerous matters regarding improving relations.
Any drones flying over Libya?
The spokesperson could not confirm nor deny that unmanned drones were still flying over Libya.
Libyan Oil production stable
One of the routine weekly announcements that the official spokesperson likes to make is to confirm Libya’s oil production. A-Mana confirmed that it was still at 1.5 million barrels per day.
Schools books ready for 2012-13 academic year
The spokesperson confirmed that the Libyan authorities had successfully imported all the necessary books needed for the forthcoming 2012-2013 school academic year.
Exam results out soon
Al-Mana confirmed that the final exam results for the school academic year 2011-2012 will be out shortly, without giving a precise date.
The Misrata diary factory to be rebuilt
The Misrata Dairy Factory which was destroyed by fire during the Revolution is being renovated and should be ready at the end of this month.
More decentralization policy implementation
In an effort to appease the calls for federation by the federalist movement in eastern Libya, the government has been announcing a series of decentralization policy initiatives. To this end, spokesperson Al-Mana announced that the Ministry of Industry has announced regional offices.
Local Government Inspectors
The government has also announced the creation of 51 regional local government inspectors as part of its decentralization policy. These will also help maintain standards and control as there has been a complete absence of government control over quality, standards, healthy and safety etc since the collapse of the state apparatus at the end of the Revolution.
Ministry of Defence to open branch in Sabha
The government also announced that it will be opening a Ministry of Defence office in Sabha, further to its Cabinet office there and as a continuation of its decentralization efforts.
Drinking water for all Libyan cities
The Ministry of Housing and Utilities has announced the start of the implementation of a comprehensive plan to provide drinking water for all of Libya within the next 6 months.
Urban plan land survey
There is also a project in operation by the Urban Planning Department to carry out a nation-wide survey of all available land fit for building on. This is to stop construction in land and areas that are not fit for building in.
Over 50,000 housing units ready in 18 months
The spokesperson also announced that over 50,000 housing units all over Libya will be ready in a period ranging from 6- 18 months. These will include many old projects that were not complete as a result of the revolution. The spokesperson gave no names of projects or the companies executing them, nor the contract values.
The Local Government Law is subject to GNC ratification
The official spokesperson, on the eve of the handover by the National Transitional Council (NTC) and his government to the newly elected General National Congress (GNC), was eager to explain that the recently NTC-passed Local Government Law is subject to GNC ratification. However, the bylaws of this law were being prepared in the meanwhile.
For more on this story, see: http://www.libyaherald.com/?p=12136
Displaced of Murzig return to their homes on Sunday 5 August
A-Mana announced that on Sunday 5 August there will be a reconciliation celebration ceremony at Murzig to celebrate the return home to the town of many of its displaced citizens as a result of the revolution.
850 km of roads projects to be implemented
The spokesperson announced that the Ministry of Transport has approved the implementation of 5 sectors of the 850 km Ajdabya – Kufra road.
It also approved the execution of the Ajela-Mizda road.
Work to commence on Kufra civilian and military airports
Work will also commence soon on the renovation of Kufra airport. The airport is important as the only means of fast and direct contact with the outside world for the civilian inhabitants of isolated Kufra.
The Kufra airbase and airport will also be renovated so as to activate the Libyan airforce. This is a key strategic airport some 1,300 km south east of Tripoli and 900 km south of coastal Benghazi.
It is also an important post deep in the Libyan desert on the Sudanese border, to guard both Libya’s isolated south eastern borders and prevent illegal migration.
The National Center for Translation & interpretation in Derna
The National Center for Translation and Interpretation is to be established in the eastern city of Derna in an attempt to activate and localise these modern skills, the spokesperson announced.
Cultural Center in Sabha to be established
Equally, a cultural center will be established in the southern city of Sabha in order to help preserve local culture and support specialists in this field.
7,000 Hajj places allocated this season
The spokesperson revealed that 7,000 individuals will have the opportunity to visit holy Mecca for the annual pilgrim of Hajj this season. Continuing the policy of last season, 25 percent (1,750) of these places will be reserved specifically for martyr’s families who will travel free of charge.
The balance of the places will be allocated by the usual method of a draw, and these will receive only a 25 percent subsidy – due to the harsh financial situation that many people face in Libya as a result of the Revolution.
For more on this story see: http://www.libyaherald.com/?p=12139
Overseas students will be paid by Ministry of Higher Education
Al-Mana announced that overseas students that have received approval for the 2012-13 academic year will be paid via the Ministry of Higher Education.
Review of overseas students
The spokesperson revealed that the Ministry of Higher Education has been asked to review the whole process of sending of overseas students and provide a vision and a plan. It is to report on the number of students being sent abroad and propose an optimum number of students that is ideal for Libya and that should be sent abroad for studies.
Subsidies on imported live cattle and camels
The spokesperson has announced that there will be no customs duty levied on the importation of live cattle and camels.
Smugglers captured by border guards
Eight heavy goods trucks packed with subsidized food and fuel destined for neighbouring countries were caught by border guards last week.
There has been a concerted effort by the government to stem the flow of Libya’s subsidized foods and fuels from continuing to flow into neighbouring states. It is estimated that a third of Libya’s food and fuel subsidies do not reach the Libyan public. This has resulted in calls for a review of the subsidies regime by many critics – with calls for direct targeted cash subsidies to the most needy instead, as a more efficient means of subsidies.
Aid air flights to Amman and Chad by MOD
The Ministry of Defence has supplied free air flights to Amman in the humanitarian effort to help the Syrian people displaced to Jordan as a result of the revolution in Syria.
It has also provided flights to deliver humanitarian aid to Chad.
Zawya and Misrata soldiers graduated
The spokesperson announced that further recruits to the army graduated in both the cities of Zawya and Misrata. The Libyan army has been struggling to graduate recruits to fill the void caused by the Revolution and subsequent collapse of the old army. Ramping up numbers is vital for Libya with its huge landmass if the official army is to impose its footprint on the country and impose safety and security.
An MoU on agriculture and fisheries signed with Tunisia
Libya has signed a memorandum of understanding with Tunisia on agriculture and fisheries.
Review of fishing trawlers
Al-Mana also announced that the government has set up a committee to review Libya’s fishing trawlers. It is to study how many trawlers Libya owns and how many are feasible for Libyan waters – without harming the fishing stocks in Libya’s waters.
This is an area that it is hoped Libya can develop further in its efforts of income diversification and job creation. For example, much of Libya’s fish is exported to neighbouring Tunisia for re-export at greater added-value to Europe. It is hoped that in future the local infrastructure and know-how would be improved to the extent that Libya can export to the higher value area of Europe directly.
With the present government possibly in its last days of office, asked by the media if we would see him again, Al-Mana answered confidently inshallah (god willing)! [/restrict]