Libyan Premier Dismissed Over Oil Port Standoff With Rebels

March 11, 2014

Libya’s prime minister lost a vote of confidence and has been dismissed after his government was unable to stop a North Korean-flagged tanker from loading oil at a rebel-held port and reportedly breaking through a naval blockade.

Ali Zeidan was replaced temporarily by the country’s defense minister, Abdallah al-Thinni, parliamentary spokesman Omar Hmeidan said.

Reuters reports that Libya’s navy opened fire on the tanker as it tried to leave Sidra, one of three ports that has been in the hands of separatist forces since August.

NPR’s Leila Fadel reports that:

“The militia bypassed the central government and made its first oil sale last weekend.

“Meanwhile militias that support the [central government] are reportedly mobilizing to take back control of the ports.”

The BBC says that the rebels “are seeking a greater share of the country’s oil revenues, as well as autonomy for the historic eastern region of Cyrenaica.”

According to the news agency:

“The tanker – named Morning Glory – was reported to have taken on at least 234,000 barrels of crude at Sidra’s oil terminal.

“It was the first vessel to have loaded oil from a rebel-held port since the separatist revolt against the central government in Tripoli erupted in July.

“Earlier, the government had claimed to have control of the vessel, but the militia denied that controls Sidra denied the reports.”

The Associated Press says:

“There was no word immediately available from [Zeidan] on his ouster, which raises anew the potential for armed conflict. Most politicians in Libya are backed by militias with regional or ideological allegiances, and many are not likely to accept his removal.”

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