The newest claimant to be prime minister of Libya has said that his country could help make up the shortfall of Russian oil if the West helps the country recover from years of war.
Fathi Bashagha, 59, was declared prime minister by the Tobruk-based Libyan parliament in March. It came after the interim administration of Abdul Hamid al-Dbeibah failed to organise elections as promised in December.
Mr al-Dbeibah, 63, has so far refused to step down.
Libya’s oil production has recovered from a collapse caused by the revolution against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and the subsequent civil war, but it remains significantly below its pre-war peak.
“With trading links established we can enhance the lives of the Libyan people and supply resources which we know Europe and the wider world needs,” he told The Telegraph in an exclusive interview.
The country’s largest oil field reportedly shut down this week because of protests linked to Mr al-Dbeibah’s refusal to leave power.
‘Stability and democracy’
Mr Bashagha, who hopes to replace Mr al-Dbeibah peacefully, also said that he wanted to expel Russian mercenaries from Libya, including the Wagner Group, and “bring peace, stability and democracy to Libya”.
However, the Wagner Group and Russian diplomats have expressed support for Mr Bashagha.
The administration of Mr al-Dbeibah resulted from UN-backed efforts to restore a national government for Libya and end the civil war between rival governments in the east and west of the country.
But the failure of the unity government to hold elections pushed the parliament in Tobruk to elect Mr Bashagha.
The former minister of the interior has been critical of the UK, calling Britain “lazy” for its apparent failure to help Libya after taking part in a 2011 intervention against Gaddafi.
However, he told The Telegraph that the UK could still help to rebuild Libya. “Give us hope and give us a chance,” he said. “Give us the necessary investment and support and we can transform Libya into an outstanding nation-state and a pillar of the international community.”
He rejected the idea of peacekeepers but said that the West should provide technology and expertise to help secure Libya’s land and sea borders, suggesting this would help prevent the flow of migrants to Europe.
Mr Bashagha also called on the UK to use its economic and diplomatic clout to ensure Libya’s reconstruction. “Britain can do a lot for Libya,” he said.