Voice of America (Washington, DC)

11 March 2014

Libya: Tanker With Libyan 'Rebel' Oil Heads to Sea

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

A North Korean flagged tanker that illegally loaded crude oil at a rebel-held port in Libya is reportedly in international waters.

Three members of Libya's highest political authority, the General National Congress, say the tanker took advantage of poor weather conditions to escape naval warships escorting it to a government port.

A spokesman for the rebel militia that sparked the crisis by loading the oil without government permission at As-Sidra port said the tanker had reached international waters. Essam Jehani said he would post a video of the ship leaving port.

Libya's state-run al-Waha Oil Company, operating the As Sidra terminal, also said the vessel, Morning Glory, had safely left port.

If confirmed, the news would be an embarrassment for the government after top officials, including Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, said late Monday the navy had seized the tanker.

Although Morning Glory is North Korea-flagged, Libyan officials say it is owned by a Saudi company.

The Libyan government Monday ordered special forces to deploy within a week to "liberate" all rebel-held ports in the country's volatile east.

The head of parliament, Nuri Ali Abu Sahmain, ordered the formation of a force of regular soldiers and allied militias to take back the ports, which previously handled a total of more than 700,000 barrels of oil per day.

Rebel militias have controlled three of Libya's major eastern ports for the past eight months, causing a sharp drop in the country's oil exports. Output has fallen from about 1.5 million barrels per day to about 250,000 barrels per day.

Analysts say the Libyan military would likely struggle to overcome rebels battle-hardened in the 2011 uprising that toppled Mr. Gadhafi. The rebels have kept their weapons and now challenge state authority.

Bringing Libya's factions and heavily-armed militias together under one flag continues to pose a great challenge. Analysts say the consequences of failure would affect the entire region.

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Libya has threatened to attack a North Korean ship over seized oil.

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