Tripoli, Libya (4E) – The Libyan government has ordered naval ships to stop and seize a North Korea crude oil tanker in a rebel-held port and strike the ship if it refuses to surrender.
A “force” consisting of “qualified” naval officers and “revolutionaries” or former rebels will try to enforce the order of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan for the rebels in the eastern Barqa region to surrender the Morning Glory in Es Sider port, Culture Minister Habibi al-Amin told reporters on Sunday.
The tanker arrived at the port on Friday and reportedly loaded with $38 million worth of crude oil. The ship has a capacity of 350,000 barrels of oil, according to the state-run National Oil Corp.
The government wanted to regain control of oil exports now under Barqa rebels. Zeidan on Sunday ordered an airstrike on the vessel after the ship’s captain told him by telephone that he could not make the ship depart because militias on board did not allow them so.
The Air Force, however, refused to follow Zeidan’s order on concerns that civilians could be killed and an oil spill could occur.
Barqa militia leader Ibrahim Jadran and his men seized nine crude-exporting ports in eastern Libya and blocked oil exports in July to force the government to heed their demand for more autonomy and oil revenue sharing. The seizure of the ports caused Libya’s oil exports to decline from 1.6 million barrels per day to 200,000 barrels per day. The government is said to be losing $130 million a day from oil sales.
Zeidan said he could not agree with the rebels’ demands until a new constitution is in place.