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TRIPOLI: A new chief took office at Libya’s National Oil Corporation on Thursday in place of veteran technocrat Mustafa Sanalla, prompting the United States to warn against any “armed confrontation” over the vital sector.

Oil is often at the heart of political rivalries in Libya, which has two governments, one in Tripoli led by Abdulhamid Dbeibah, appointed last year as part of a United Nations-backed peace process aimed to end more than a decade of violence in the North African country.

Dbeibah appointed former central banker Farhat Bengdara to replace Sanalla as NOC head, in a decree made public on Wednesday.

In a defiant video message, Sanalla told Dbeibah that “this institution belongs to the Libyan people, not to you or the Dbeibah family” adding that “the mandate of your government has expired”.

On Thursday morning, Bengdara took up office.

“It’s vitally important under the current conditions that Libya regains its oil and gas export capacity as quickly as possible,” Bengdara told reporters in Tripoli.

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