Libya has threatened to bomb a North Korean-flagged tanker if it tries to export oil from a rebel-controlled port east of Tripoli, in a major escalation of a standoff over the country’s petroleum wealth.
The rebels in control of Libya’s eastern ports are attempting to export oil with the tanker that docked at gunpoint on Saturday.
“We reaffirm that we do not accept any threats towards any tanker or ship that we are dealing with or are contracted with. We are not making threats and we do not want the use of force, however, if anyone attacks us, we will be prepared to defend ourselves,” al-Barassi said.
In the distance, a tanker could be seen at what the station said was al-Sidra, one of Libya’s biggest export terminals.
It would be the first shipment of exported oil under the self-declared government of Barqa, which calls for greater autonomy in the oil-rich east of the country.
The oil crisis erupted in July, when security guards at key terminals shut them down, accusing the authorities of corruption and demanding a more equitable distribution of oil revenues.
Protesters at the eastern oil ports are demanding a restoration of the autonomy the eastern region was granted in the first decade after Libya’s independence in 1951.
Plagued by lawlessness, Libya’s interim government is under mounting pressure to control armed militias and restore order.