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Protests erupt in Libya’s Benghazi

Scores of protesters have filed out into Libya’s second city, Benghazi, blaming authorities for persistent power cuts and poor living conditions.

 A Reuters report on Thursday said the protesters set tyres ablaze and blocked some roads, in what it noted as an unusual display of public dissent in the eastern Libyan city.

Benghazi is the base of General Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA), which is fighting in a civil war against the internationally recognised Government of National Accord in Tripoli, in the country’s west.

Electricity supply has dipped this year, leading to protests last month in Tripoli and adding to poor living standards amid a surge in cases of the novel coronavirus.

The most immediate cause of the worsening power supply is a lack of fuel for electricity plants. The LNA has accused the Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation (NOC) of not importing enough fuel to operate the plants.

Last month, the NOC warned of worse blackouts in eastern Libya, saying the shortage was caused by the LNA’s months-long blockade of oil and gas facilities.

It said imports of diesel to operate the plants were causing it “severe financial difficulties”.

The NOC has appealed for the LNA to end the blockade, which began in January and has drastically cut production, leading to a near total eclipse of energy revenue – Libya’s main source of foreign currency – this year.

General Haftar’s LNA is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt, while The GNA is supported by Turkey and several other UN member-states.

Earlier on Thursday, the European Union said its naval mission in the Mediterranean had stopped a ship heading from the UAE to Benghazi carrying jet fuel on suspicion of breaking an arms embargo.

Peace efforts in Libya have accelerated since a major armed clash earlier this year ended in June with the frontlines solidifying near the city of Sirte.

Parliamentarians from the two warring sides have been meeting this week in Morocco. On Thursday, they reported they had agreed criteria for appointing senior figures in sovereign institutions.

The reported deal, analysts say, represents a step forward in talks between two camps, whose violent clashes have kept Libya on the brink of collapse for the better part of nine years.

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