Libya tells oil tankers to avoid seized ports

PM's strong warning follows invitation by pro-autonomy groups to international firms to lift crude from their terminals.

Last updated: 08 Jan 2014 16:06
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Several oil fields and ports in Libya have been taken over by pro-autonomy groups in recent months [Reuters]

Libya's prime minister has warned oil tankers to stay away from ports captured by armed protesters or else be sunk by the navy.

Ali Zeidan's warning comes as pro-autonomy rebels who have disrupted the OPEC member-nation's crude production continue to challenge Tripoli's government.

Zeidan made the statement on Wednesday after the Libyan navy fired warning shots to ward off a tanker that the National Oil Corporation (NOC) said tried to load crude at a terminal held by protesters, who say they opened ports under their control for business.

"Any country or company or gang trying to send tankers to take oil from the seized ports without coordinating with the NOC, we will deal with them, even if we are forced to destroy or sink them," Zeidan said.

"We warn all countries there will be no leniency."

Zeidan is facing mounting pressures and a potential parliamentary bid to withdraw confidence from his government.

Libya is reeling under mounting disorder as pro-autonomy groups and armed rebels who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi from power are now demanding more political independency and a bigger share in the country’s vast oil wealth.

These groups, which claimed control of eastern oil terminals six months ago, have invited international companies to buy oil from their ports in defiance of the central government.

Earlier on Wednesday, Zeidan said he would reshuffle his cabinet this week or next to dodge a parliamentary no-confidence vote against him.

"The cabinet will be appointed, not based on parties and political groups, but will be formed with technocrats and independent experts," Zeidan said, flanked by his cabinet members who were giving accounts of their respective ministry's performances. 


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