Khelil Takes Over As Interim Chairman Of Sonatrach
Algerian Oil Minister Chakib Khelil took over as interim chairman of state oil firm Sonatrach on February 28th, replacing Abdelhak Bouhafs.
There were contradictory reports about Bouhafs’ departure, with an oil ministry source reportedly saying that the Sonatrach chief had stepped down for medical reasons, while the local El Watan newspaper wrote that Khelil had fired Bouhafs.
The outgoing chairman is a close advisor to Algerian President Abdellaziz Bouteflika and was named to head the state oil firm in January 2000.
He had held the same job from 1989-1995. Khelil, OPEC’s current president, praised Bouhafs for his “integrity and intelligence” at an official handover ceremony on February 28th and said he hoped his own tenure at the helm of Sonatrach “will be temporary because we absolutely need to restructure the [energy] sector.”
Lending credence to speculation that Bouhafs had been sacked were suggestions by industry and political sources that the two men differed over how to reform the sector.
International investors had been hoping that the recent trend of personnel changes within the Algerian oil sector had ended, as it added another degree of nervousness in considering opportunities in the North African country.
Khelil said last week that Sonatrach was not one of the state firms that would be privatized, despite the widespread opening up of other government-controlled companies.
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)