Last updated: 10 September, 2014

Libya PM says “only 7” citizens held in UAE

Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani acknowledged Wednesday that the United Arab Emirates has arrested seven Libyans, denying reports that the Gulf state had detained 30.

“Only seven people” are being held, Thani told reporters in Abu Dhabi, without saying why they had been arrested.

Pro-Islamist Libyan media reported on September 1 that some 30 Libyans had been detained by UAE authorities.

The arrests reportedly came after air raids last month on Islamist fighters in Libya that US officials said were carried out by the United Arab Emirates.

Thani, who arrived in Abu Dhabi Tuesday as part of a delegation led by the head of Libya’s parliament, Aqila Issa, added that the Libyan embassy had “taken measures to ensure their rights.”

But he added that “if they had committed a crime against UAE laws they will certainly be put to a fair trial… and if they are innocent… they will be released.”

Media said that, among those arrested, were businessmen with long-standing ties to the UAE, including some from Misrata in eastern Libya.

The oil-rich Gulf monarchy looks upon Islamist militants in the region as a serious threat.

Thani also “strongly” denied that the UAE or its ally, Egypt, conducted bombing raids in Libya and urged “the international community as a whole to support us in fighting terrorism.”

Last month, it toughened its anti-terrorism laws and has jailed dozens of Emirati and foreign Islamists in past months.

The Libyan delegation met Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, who affirmed UAE support for Libya’s “elected parliament,” which has been rejected by Islamist militias, Emirati news agency WAM reported.

Libya has been sliding into chaos since Moamer Kadhafi was overthrown and killed three years ago, with interim authorities confronting powerful militias that fought to oust the veteran dictator.

Thani insisted that “all oil companies and fields are under the government’s complete control” and that oil production is expected to reach one million barrels per day in October.

That echoed a forecast earlier Wednesday by Libya’s National Oil Co.

Libya’s economy took a heavy hit after rebels blockaded four export terminals in July 2013, forcing a reduction in output and slashing all-important oil revenues.

Under a deal with he government, the rebels returned control of two terminals in April and the remaining two in July.

Since then, output and exports have soared, despite unrest rocking the country.