The Libyan government has threatened regional militants loading a large oil tanker that it could be bombed by air force and naval units. Eastern Libyan activists say they will share revenues from the seizure.
Separatists loading a tanker in eastern Libya were warned on Saturday by Prime Minister Ali Zeidan that the vessel would be bombed if the rebels failed to respect the orders of the fragile central government.
Zeidan said the captain of the North Korean-flagged tanker had been told to leave Libyan waters, but he was being hindered by armed gunmen on board.
The tanker Morning Glory, which docked at the al-Sidra oil terminal in eastern Libya on Saturday, can carry up to 350,000 barrels of oil.
A Libyan government security official quoted by the German news agency DPA said “air force and naval forces are on standby to destroy the North Korean oil tanker.”
Deputy Defence Minister Khaled al-Sherif told AFP that lawmakers had demanded that the ship depart al-Sidra.
“If the ship doesn’t comply, it will be bombed by the air force or intercepted at sea by the navy,” he said.
Eastern separatists ‘assert’ rights
A leading figure of eastern Libya’s self-declared Cyrenacia region Abd Rabbo al-Barassi said the separatists were “asserting” their rights to oil revenues needed by the “Libyan people” because the central government had “failed” to do so.
He said the oil revenue from al-Sidra would be “shared” among Libya’s three main regions.
Separatists in eastern Libya want the restoration of autonomy first granted when Libya gained independence in 1951.
The region was the starting point of the revolt that toppled the late-strongman Muammar Gadhafi in 2011.
Sanctions warning from US
The US ambassador in Tripoli, Deborah Jones, said any cargo deemed to have been loaded illegally would face international sanctions.
“The only entities authorized to sell Libya’s oil are the Libyan National Oil Corp. and its subsidiaries,” she said.
The crisis over Libyan oil exports began last July when security guards at key terminals shut them down and accused authorities of corruption.
In January, the navy prevented two tankers from docking at al-Sidra to take on crude.
The dispute led to a fall in Libyan oil exports, with the economy ministry estimated the loss of more than $9 billion (6.5 billion euros) in revenue.
Government under pressure
Since 2011, Libya’s interim government has struggled to impose order amid various regional militia groups who initially helped topple Gadhafi.
Assassinations and intimidation of public figures and security officials has become frequent.
ipj/mr (dpa, AP, AFP)