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Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Awad Ibrahim Elbarasi has said the country plans to invest 400 million dinars (US$314 million) this year on developing stadiums for its staging of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.

Elbarasi’s comments come after the Libyan government this month revealed plans to develop a new 60,000-seat stadium in the Tripoli suburb of Tajoura as part of its efforts to host the Cup of Nations. A second stadium for the tournament, seating 23,000 fans, will be developed in Misrata, while games will also be played in Benghazi. “Just like Nelson Mandela unified South Africa, we hope to unify Libya under this cup,” Elbarasi told Reuters. “We will resume construction of these stadiums in June and have asked the government for a budget of 400 million dinars to build 11 stadiums this year.”

Libya was originally scheduled to host this year’s edition of the Cup of Nations before the Confederation of African Football (CAF) took the decision to switch the event to South Africa in September 2011 amid security concerns. With South Africa due to the host the 2017 tournament an agreement was reached to swap the hosting rights. Following the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has continued to be affected by civil unrest. Indeed, the country staged its first continental club match in two years this month after CAF in March gave the green light for its games to be hosted in Libya. In further good news for Libyan football, the country’s football federation on Thursday said FIFA has lifted a ban on it hosting national team games. “They (FIFA) only informed us yesterday that the ban on Libya stadiums was lifted,” said Anwar al-Tashani, president of the Libyan Football Federation. He said the first game would be played in Tripoli between Libya and Democratic Republic of Congo.

The country hosted its sole edition of the Cup of Nations in 1982 and Elbarasi added that Libya’s interior ministry is taking all necessary measures to ensure safety and security in the country, following the 2011 uprising. He added: “The security situation is exaggerated from reality. We’re actually in a much better position than many of our neighbours.”

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