Libya says halts tanker outside rebel port, plans military offensive

Libya says halts tanker outside rebel port, plans military offensive

Libya on Monday stopped a North Korean-flagged tanker that had loaded oil from a rebel-held port, after naval forces briefly exchanged fire with the rebels, officials said, Reuters reported.

They also said the government will assemble forces to "liberate" all occupied ports, raising the stakes over a blockage that has cut off vital oil revenue.

The conflict over oil wealth is increasing fears that the OPEC producer may slide deeper into chaos or even splinter as the fragile government fails to rein in dozens of militias that helped oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but now defy state authority.

The rebels, who have seized three ports and partly control a fourth in the North African country, said they had dispatched forces to central Libya to deal with any government attack.

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan told Reuters naval forces had seized the North Korean-flagged tanker outside the eastern Es Sider port controlled by rebels and were taking it to a government port in western Libya.

"The ship is around 20 miles from Es Sider," Zeidan said. "It stopped due to darkness and won't move tonight but is under complete control and secured. Tomorrow it will move."

Naval forces had halted the ship after a brief firefight with the rebels, Culture Minister and government spokesman Habib al-Amin later told reporters. Nobody had been wounded, but he warned opening fire again might damage nearby oil facilities.

A spokesman for the rebels denied several times throughout the evening that they had lost control of the ship.

Even without any major military action, the escalation kills any hope of restoring oil exports soon. A wave of protests at oilfields and ports has reduced Libyan output to a trickle, undermining state authority because oil is the main revenue source supporting the budget and basic food imports.

The head of parliament, who has quasi-presidential powers, ordered the formation of a force made up of regular soldiers and allied militias to take back the occupied ports, which previously handled more than 700,000 barrels of oil per day.

The operation will start within one week, parliament head Nuri Ali Abu Sahmain said in a decree published by spokesman Omar Hmeidan. "The force will be set up to liberate the ports and end the blockage," Hmeidan told Reuters.

Zeidan, who said on Saturday the tanker would be bombed if it tried to export oil, said military action was only one of several options.

"What is confirmed it that all ports will be liberated from the occupiers with all means possible," he said. "We prefer talks but if talks fail then the state will act."

Zeidan said authorities would unload the crude from the tanker once it reached a western port and then launch legal measures against the potential buyers.

DEFIANT REBELS

Libya has been trying to rebuild its army since Gaddafi's ousting, but analysts say it is not yet a match for battle-hardened militias that fought in the eight-month uprising that toppled the dictator.

Still, the force will be drawn from cities such as Misrata that are home to fighters who saw battle in the civil war, according to the decree. Misrata forces were sent earlier this year to fight in clashes deep in Libya's south.

Abb-Rabbo al-Barassi, the self-declared rebel prime minister, called on "all honorable men" in the east to join his forces, a rebel television station reported.

The rebels, made up of former oil security guards, said they had sent forces by land and sea to central Libya to confront any government attackers.

FULL CONFRONTATION UNLIKELY

While the navy did open fire on a Maltese-flagged tanker trying to approach Es Sider in January, analysts say a full military confrontation with the rebels would be unlikely.

The protesters are led by a former anti-Gaddafi commander, Ibrahim Jathran, who was in charge of protecting oilfields and ports until he turned against the government in the summer.

Jathran's campaign to seek more rights for Libya's underdeveloped east has won him some sympathy, but many people dismiss him as a tribal warlord with no political vision.

Libya's top Islamic clerics urged militias who had helped topple Gaddafi to help the government in trying to stop the tanker, according to a statement read on television.

The United Nations' special envoy to Libya, Tarek Mitri, told the U.N. Security Council on Monday that the loading of oil onto the North Korean-flagged vessel "constitutes an illegal act and violates Libya's sovereignty over its ports and natural resources".

On Sunday, Tripoli said the navy and pro-government militias had sent boats to stop the 37,000-tonne tanker from leaving. The vessel had arrived at Es Sider on Saturday.

It is unusual for a tanker flagged to secretive North Korea to sail in the Mediterranean. Shipping sources said it was a flag of convenience to keep the ship's ownership secret.

In a rare bright spot, state National Oil Corp managed to restart the southern El Sharara oilfield after a protest ended there, a spokesman said. It is now pumping 150,000 barrels per day and might reach full capacity at 340,000 bpd by Tuesday afternoon.

Representatives of Kyrgyzstan take part in XVIII meeting of CSTO ICMEC
Representatives of Kyrgyzstan take part in XVIII meeting of CSTO ICMEC
Group of German medical experts arrives in Kyrgyzstan to fight COVID-19
Group of German medical experts arrives in Kyrgyzstan to fight COVID-19
China, Kyrgyzstan to boost pragmatic cooperation
China, Kyrgyzstan to boost pragmatic cooperation
Loading Bars
Latest
Pope installs new cardinals, including first African-American
WHO reports new daily record high of over 747,000 COVID-19 cases
UK police arrest 155 in anti-lockdown protests in London
Assistant to Azerbaijani president posts footage from Tartar, Aghdam cities
UK, France sign new deal to stop illegal migration across Channel
Iran discloses electricity generation at Iran's Bandar Abbas TPP
Turkey reports 6,714 new COVID-19 cases, 487,912 in total
Zarif: Iran at forefront of fighting terrorism
Georgia takes necessary steps to avoid increase in bread prices
Ethiopian military has taken 'full control' of Tigray capital, government says
Iran’s Bahar Azadi gold coin price continues to fall
Weekly review of Azerbaijani precious metals market
Kazakhstan raises import of grain, legumes from Turkey
Buy/sell operations at Iran Mercantile Exchange revealed
AP publishes article covering Armenian missile attack on Azerbaijan’s Ganja on Oct.17 (PHOTO/VIDEO)
OIC adopts resolutions in connection with Armenia's aggression against Azerbaijan
President, members of Board of European Muslim Forum send letter to President Aliyev
Aghdam district of Azerbaijan after 27 years of Armenian occupation (VIDEO)
Kazakhstan to bring waste processing level to average European level
UK appoints minister in charge of COVID-19 vaccine rollout
Number of blocked malware in AzStateNet network drops
Airport in Uzbekistan to buy auto parts via tender
Iranian Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale November 29
Azerbaijani team takes third place in group exercises at 36th European Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships
At least 6 killed in Somali capital suicide bombing
Microsoft Azerbaijan to support all initiatives in liberated territories of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan shows footage of Kalbajar's Vang village (VIDEO)
Police fire tear gas at Paris protest against police violence
Electricity imports growing in Georgia
Cargo, passenger traffic via Turkish Sabiha Gokcen Airport slumps amid pandemic
Uzbek-Korean JSC Uz-Dong Won Co. announces tender for steel pipes supply
Cargo transportation at Turkish Antalya airport reduces
Austria records nearly 1,000 COVID-19 deaths over past 10 days
State Employment Agency of Azerbaijan opens tender on supporting start-up projects
Results of Azerbaijan's junior national team performance at 36th European Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships announced
Details of Iran’s exports to Iraq declared
Azerbaijan reports 4,212 new COVID-19 cases, 1,760 recoveries
Four citizens dead as result of mine exploding in Fuzuli - Azerbaijani Prosecutor General's Office
Kazakhstan's export volumes to China surge despite COVID-19
Assistant to Azerbaijan's president, diplomats, Garabagh FC representatives visit Aghdam Mosque (PHOTO)
Turkmenistan committed to promoting socio-economic development of Afghanistan
Georgian oil companies seek to avoid price increases
Tender for maintenance of elevators, escalators launched in Turkey
Azerbaijan's ten-month output of oil products declines
Turkey's export of grain and legumes to Turkmenistan up
Turkmenistan, Belarus discuss program of cooperation
Iran reveals its COVID-19 data for November 28
Azerbaijani president's assistant, diplomatic corps reps arrive at liberated Aghdam city
Rural digitalization project successfully underway in Kazakhstan
Missile fired to Tartar by Armenia delivered to local museum - president's assistant (VIDEO)
Number of enterprises put into operation in Iran's Ardabil Province up
Water problems center to be created in Uzbekistan’s Khorezm region
Khazar Consortium opens tender for purchase of lubricating oil
Azerbaijan’s Baku Telephone Communications opens tender
Georgia sees increase in COVID-19 cases
Number of shells fired at Tartar district by Armenian Armed Forces revealed
German minister says partial lockdown could last until Spring 2021
Kazakhstan doubles export to Afghanistan
Price of apartments in Iran’s Tehran rising
Autumn grain sowing carried out on large area of land in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan’s Baku Metro to buy inert materials through tender
Weekly review of Azerbaijani currency market
Azerbaijani president's assistant, diplomatic missions visiting Tartar (PHOTO)
Turkish soldiers to soon begin their missions in Azerbaijan - Turkey’s VP
Georgian Basisbank launches service for purchase of government securities
Azerbaijan shows footage of Kalbajar's Istisu village (VIDEO)
Uzbekistan reveals its COVID-19 data for November 28
Turkey issues 10M2020 data on cargo, passenger traffic in Adnan Menderes Airport
Assistant to Azerbaijani president, Karabakh football club to visit Tartar, Aghdam cities
Azerbaijani oil prices reaching $49 per barrel
Tesla could widen release of 'self-driving' software in two weeks
Iranian currency rates for November 28
Kazakhstan’s Intergas Central Asia opens tender for equipment modernization
Turkish municipality to rent vehicles via tender
Turkmenistan, EU discuss prospects for developing bilateral contacts
Iran seeks to cooperate in auto sector with foreign countries
Azerbaijani flag raised in liberated Kalbajar city after 27 years (VIDEO)
OPEC+ likely to roll over its current production cut at least until end-March 2021
Brazil's COVID-19 death toll nears 172,000
826 new coronavirus cases in 24 hrs, total at 130,039
Georgian Poti FIZ plans to implement production of high-tech electrical devices in 2021
Chinese mainland reports 6 new imported COVID-19 cases
British, Irish prime ministers discuss EU trade negotiations
Kazakhstan increases exports to Georgia multifold despite COVID-19
France reports 957 new COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations down
76 more coronavirus patients die in Moscow in past day
OPEC+ monitoring committee postpones meeting on oil production cuts deal in 2021 to Sunday
Brexit goes down to the wire: EU and UK say big differences remain
Iran expected to reduce potato production
Azerbaijan national team won silver and bronze medals at 36th European Championship in Ukraine
Diesel fuel production down in Azerbaijan
Кazakhstan Electricity Grid Operating Company opens tender to buy batteries
Export of grain and legumes by Turkey to Iran down
Turkey registers nearly 30,000 new coronavirus cases as recoveries surpass 390,000
Kazakhstan has high hopes for homegrown COVID-19 vaccine - Minister
Georgia expect stabilization of pandemic with the expansion of restrictions
Iraq reports 2,545 new COVID-19 cases, 547,215 in total
Resolution adopted by French Senate is gross violation of int'l law - Honorary Member of French Parliament
Erdoğan urges public caution against COVID-19 in Turkey amid violations
76 Iranian professors among world top 2% scientists
All news