Tripoli — Libya's government is threatening military action to put an end to disruptions of oil production and exports.
The additional security crisis comes as Libyan Interior Minister Mohamed Khalifa Sheikh resigned on Sunday (August 18th).
Ministry spokesman Rami Kaal told Libya Herald that according to the minister, he decided to quit because Prime Minister Ali Zidan had not supported his "solutions to activate the police and the interior ministry".
The minister "said he did not have sufficient prerogatives to carry out his policies", MP Abdallah al-Gmati also told AFP.
Khalifa is the second government official to resign in the last two weeks. On August 3rd, Deputy Prime Minister Awadh al-Barassi resigned, citing the deteriorating security situation and the inability of the government to end a wave of violence.
A stern posture was adopted by Zidan last week, however, regarding the oil strikes and port disruptions.
"If the blockade of the oil terminals continues, the state will be obliged to use all means at its disposal, including those of the army," AFP quoted Prime Minister Ali Zidan as saying at a press conference last Thursday. "This is a warning."
"In the last few days, a group of Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) in the central region, commanded by their leader, shut off Brega, Zueitina, Ras Lanuf and Sidra ports," Zidan explained.
According to the premier, the group "prevented tankers under contract with NOC from loading or unloading any imports or export". They wanted to "bring other tankers to load oil" for their own benefit that were "not contracted by NOC".
"Not all guards are involved in this, but just a group of them," Oil and Gas Minister Abdulbari al-Arusi said at the joint press conference. "The leader of those guards has recently been replaced, and we believe he's suitable."
The prime minister also addressed the issue of sit-ins at oil facilities and attacks on state institutions.
"We won't use the army only, but all means available to the state," he added. "Anyone desiring to do this will have to deal with the entire Libyan people and the people of oil crescent and Benghazi."
An agreement was reached to form a committee to examine allegations made by protestors, Zidan noted.
Al-Arusi also warned of the consequences of shutting off oilfields and ports on the country's economy.
"Since July 25th, we've lost about $1.6 billion as a result of such closures and the bad relations in market," he said. "We've lost many clients and found out that many of the contractors go for other markets, and that they have even filed complaints and legal actions."
"If this situation continues, we may not be able to pay salaries, won't be able to execute the projects we have signed with contractors, and won't also be able to meet our obligations towards wounded people," al-Arusi added.
Defence Minister Abdullah al-Thani pledged to have "the defence ministry and the Libyan army's general staff at the disposal of the Libyan people to protect their resources".
For his part, Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdul Aziz called for building trust between the government and the people.
"There must be a unified message we send to the outside world, to the effect that we're standing up against rogues," he concluded.