12 March 2014

Libyan Parliament Dumps PM Over Oil Dispute

Photo: Al Jazeera
Libya has threatened to attack a North Korean ship over seized oil.

Washington — Libya's parliament has voted to remove the country's prime minister after a tanker loaded with crude oil from a rebel-held port escaped the navy and made it to international waters. The episode was the final straw for Ali Zeidan, who faced criticism from the country's Islamist politicians and a public that blamed him for failing to rein in eastern militias following the 2011 overthrow of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

A spokesman for Libya's General Assembly said the no-confidence measure was approved by 124 of the 194 members of parliament.

"The General National Assembly has decided to dismiss Mr. Ali Zeidan from his post as prime minister, and instate the Minister of Defense, Mr. Abdullah al-Thinni, in his place until a new prime minister is elected," said Omar Hmeidan, speaker of the assembly.

Lawmakers said they arranged for Tuesday's vote after a North Korean-flagged ship took a cargo of oil from a rebel-held terminal in the east, escaped naval ships deployed to intercept it, and made it to international waters.

Zeidan's government had threatened armed action, including an air strike, to prevent the tanker from getting away. But a rebel commander said the ship moved to international waters after a brief firefight with naval vessels.

"The tanker was secured and protected by rebel forces while in Libyan waters and until it reached international waters, at which point the accompanying boats retreated into the port," said Faraj Mismari, a rebel commander.

The tanker Morning Glory obtained the oil from rebels controlling the Al-Sidra terminal, one of three ports in eastern Libya and occupied since July by rebels demanding more autonomy and a greater share of the country's oil wealth.

The government said it has ordered special forces to deploy, within a week, to bring all rebel-held ports back under government control.

The standoff has cut Libya's oil exports by more than 80 percent.

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