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Libya’s Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation (NOC) is asking for U.N. sanctions against 48 individuals and others they accuse of trying to sell oil illicitly in a struggle over the country’s oil wealth.

In a letter circulated to foreign embassies and the United Nations, and seen by the Media, NOC Chairman, Mustafa Sanalla, described a “surge” in attempts by eastern factions to market oil ahead of them.

By so doing, they are taking control last month of key fields and export terminals.

Since 2014 Western powers and United Nations Security Council resolutions have backed the NOC in Tripoli, the capital, as the sole legitimate producer and seller of Libyan oil.

It warned that illicit exports could lead to further fragmentation of the divided country.

Such an act has deterred buyers and banks wary of dealing with an unrecognised entity.

But Sanalla’s letter and copies of contracts that NOC Tripoli says were passed on by people, involved in oil trading.

Such people alleged that a parallel NOC in the eastern city of Benghazi has stepped up its campaign to market oil under Faraj Said, head of the firm since last August.

“This ‘NOC Benghazi’, headed by Faraj Said, is pursuing a combined strategy, focussed on destabilising NOC, including via illicit exports, contracts and blockades, to ultimately gain control of Libyan oil,’’ Sanalla wrote.

The letter was sent in mid-June, about 10 days before forces loyal to the eastern-based commander, Khalifa Haftar, announced that they would hand east Libyan ports and fields to the Benghazi NOC.

This information raised the stakes over the contest for the sparsely populated country’s oil.

Production has plummeted by about 850,000 barrels per day (bpd) from little more than one million bpd, as eastern officials have blocked tankers booked by NOC Tripoli from loading, effectively.

They shut Zueitina and Hariga ports.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) has also prevented NOC Tripoli from reopening Ras Lanuf and Es Sider, after fending off an armed attack against the ports last month.

The standoff is part of a wider conflict that developed after the NATO-backed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi seven years ago.

Factions aligned with rival governments in the east and west have competed for power since disputed elections in 2014.

About three-quarters of Libya’s oil production is based in the east, but oil sales and revenues have been processed through Tripoli, home to an internationally backed interim government.

Some in the east have long complained that they receive too few oil revenues, though officials in Tripoli dispute that.

The LNA said this week that it was seeking replacement of the central bank governor in Tripoli, who it also blames for funnelling money to its armed opponents — a charge that central bank officials in the capital deny.

Said and his office could not be reached for comment.

Sanalla called for travel bans and asset freezes under a U.N. sanctions regime to be imposed on Said and other senior NOC Benghazi officials and energy companies allocated contracts by the eastern NOC.

Failure to act could have “grave consequences for peace and security in Libya’’, Sanalla wrote.

“I am concerned that these efforts may accelerate ahead of the elections planned for December.

“They may create conditions that interfere with the acceptance by certain segments of the Libyan population of election results.’’

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