Ousted Libyan PM Flees Country After Tanker Escapes Rebel-Held Port

Posted by Michelle Howard
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Libya's now ousted Prime Minister Ali Zeidan (AFP file photo, Mahmud Turkia)

By Ulf Laessing, Reuters

Former Libyan prime minister Ali Zeidan has fled to Europe after parliament voted him out of office on Tuesday over his failure to stop rebels exporting oil independently in a brazen challenge to the nation's fragile unity.

Zeidan was in Malta for two hours late on Tuesday on a short stop before going to "another European country", Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told state-owned television TVM.

Government sources in Malta said he had left via a private plane bound for Germany, but the German authorities could not confirm he had arrived.

The standoff over control of oil exports runs across dangerous regional and tribal faultlines in Libya where rival militias with powerbases in the east and west back competing political factions in the transitional government.

Western powers, who supported the NATO campaign that came to the aid of the anti-Gaddafi rebellion, fear the OPEC member state could slide into greater instability or even break apart, with rival groups laying claim to power and vast oil reserves.

Parliament acted after rebels holding three key ports in the east disobeyed government orders and loaded a North Korean-flagged tanker with oil at Es Sider port as part of their drive for a federal state in their eastern region.

Although Zeidan had threatened to use force to stop the vessel leaving, the tanker managed to reach international waters and flee, undermining the prime minister's credibility.

Malta's Muscat said he spoke briefly to Zeidan, who lived for many years in Europe before the 2011 uprising encouraged exiles like him to return to a North African country still struggling to shake off four decades of Gaddafi's one-man rule.

Libya's state prosecutor Abdel-Qader Radwan had issued a travel ban on Zeidan because he faces an investigation over alleged irregularities involving misuse of state funds.

The General National Congress (GNC), Libya's transitional assembly, named Defence Minister Abdallah al-Thinni acting prime minister for two weeks. Deputies plan to pick another replacement in the interim ahead of a parliamentary vote expected later this year.

Whoever is chosen will face a mammoth task trying to unite and cajole a country deeply divided along tribal, regional and political lines, where hardline Islamists oppose more liberal leaders such as Zeidan.

"We are new to this political game. We are still learning," said Salah Elbakhoush, a Tripoli-based political analyst.

"But we hope that there will be an improvement after Zeidan left," he said.

No Army, No Credibility
Libya has lurched from crisis to crisis since the fall of Gaddafi nearly three years ago, and many Libyans are frustrated by the slow progress in their transition to democracy.

The country still has no effective army or police, and the government is in danger of running out of money because the rebel activity at oilfields and ports have dried up vital oil revenue. Oil output has fallen to a trickle.

That has left powerful groups of former rebels and militiamen to often step into the vacuum in a country still awash with arms from Gaddafi's days and the revolt that ended his rule.

The Misratan militia, based in the port town of Misrata and loosely allied with Islamist parties in the GNC, has already been gathering forces to support the government and face off with fighters loyal to the eastern federalists who seized the ports.

But analysts said their main rivals, the Zintanis in the mountain town of Zintan near the northwest border with Tunisia, are unlikely to want the Misratans take a larger role in the country's security without reacting themselves.

How far those rivalries will erupt is unclear, with alliances often shifting in the complex network of interlacing disputes. Clashes broke out on Tuesday between rebel gunmen and pro-government forces in Sirte, a central coastal city dividing western and eastern Libya.

"With control of the central government and Libya's oil at stake, all of these groups, rivalries, and alliances of convenience are coming to the fore," said Geoff Porter, North Africa specialist at West Point's Combating Terrorism Center.

"One of the reasons that Libya has reached this impasse is that dialogue had failed, not least because there was no one in Libya that could speak authoritatively and had the capacity to translate words into action."

Mystery Tanker

There was no still word on the whereabouts of the tanker which sparked the crisis that led to Zeidan's ouster.

A military spokesman said on Tuesday that Libyan gunboats chased the tanker along Libya's eastern Mediterranean coast and opened fire, damaging it, and said Italian naval ships were helping move the tanker to a Libyan government-controlled port.

But Italy denied any of its vessels were in the area at the time and the reported incident of a naval ship opening fire could not be confirmed. The navy and defence ministry have not been available for comment since.

The eastern rebels are made up of former oil security forces who defected with their leader Ibrahim Jathran, a former Gaddafi fighter, in the summer and took over the oil terminals to claim more autonomy for their self-declared Cyrenaica region.

Zeidan's government tried for months to mediate an end to the ports seizure, and Cyrenaica leaders had claimed an agreement was close.

Support had seemed to be waning for Jathran after the six-month ports closure, and the navy had already opened fire on a Maltese-flagged tanker trying to approach Es Sider in January.

(Additional reporting by Chris Scicluna; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

Maritime Reporter October 2014 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

People & Company News

NAVCENT Commander Recognizes Journey of Hope Sailors

Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, Vice Adm. John. W. Miller, recognized the accomplishments of three special-needs sailors from the Kuwaiti ship,

NYK Holds 8th Environmental Management Conference

NYK welcomed about 60 environmental supervisors from 47 NYK Group companies to the group’s annual Environmental Management Conference in Tokyo. NYK holds this

W&O, LESER Partner to Deliver Safety Relief Valves

W&O, a global supplier to the marine and upstream oil and gas markets for pipe, valves and fittings, valve automation and engineered solutions, has partnered with

Energy

MHI Completes Development of "Sayaringo STaGE"

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) has completed development of the "Sayaringo STaGE," a next-generation LNG (liquefied natural gas) carrier. The Sayaringo

Drillsearch Discovers Gas at Varanus South-1

Drillsearch Energy Limited announced a new wet gas discovery on the Western Cooper Wet Gas Fairway of the Cooper Basin. The Varanus South-1 well in PEL 513 (Drillsearch

Gazprom to Partner Turkey to Supply Gas

Moscow hosted today a working meeting between Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee and Taner Yildiz, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of the Republic of Turkey.

Maritime Security

Subsea Defense & the Changing Paradigm of Submarine Programs

Technology and dynamic mission profiles have driven change in the defense industry, Hydro Group Plc Managing Director Doug Whyte, explores the changing paradigm of submarine programs,

Bollinger Delivers 11th FRC to the US Coast Guard

Bollinger Shipyards, Inc. has delivered the William Trump, the 11th Fast Response Cutter (FRC) to the United States Coast Guard.   The announcement was made by Bollinger Chief Operating Officer,

US Navy Evaluating SEWIP for LCS

The U.S. Navy is evaluating a scaled-down version of the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) system for potential incorporation on future Littoral Combat Ships (LCS),

News

USCG Suspend Search for Crabber Near Anacortes, Wash.

The Coast Guard has suspended the search for a crabber reported overdue near Anacortes, Wednesday. Dean Harvey, 48, of Bremerton, remains missing. Search

Third Strike, Mansour Is Out

The M/V "MANSOUR M" with IMO number 7600586 has been banned for the 3rd time after subsequent detentions after the second refusal of access order in the Paris MoU region.

MHI Completes Development of "Sayaringo STaGE"

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) has completed development of the "Sayaringo STaGE," a next-generation LNG (liquefied natural gas) carrier. The Sayaringo

Government Update

WRRDA: Clearing the Channel for P3 Projects

A Creative Combination for Financing Inland Waterways Infrastructure Earlier this year, the U.S. maritime industry in general, and the inland waterways industry in particular,

EU: Ships Will Measure CO2 Emissions

Shippers to begin monitoring from 2018; Environmental groups say law is weak, shippers favorable. The shipping sector will for the first time have to monitor

Melbourne Box Pot Lining Up Bidders

Three of Australia's largest infrastructure funds plan to bid for the country's largest container terminal in a sale expected to fetch about A$5 billion ($4.27 billion) for Victoria state,

Middle East

NAVCENT Commander Recognizes Journey of Hope Sailors

Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, Vice Adm. John. W. Miller, recognized the accomplishments of three special-needs sailors from the Kuwaiti ship,

HMAS Success Deploys to Middle East

After months of preparation, HMAS Success departed Garden Island in Sydney today for a six-month deployment to the Middle East Region to provide logistic support

DGS Marine Advises Fixed Premium P&I Cover

DGS Marine, a leading global P&I management provider and exclusive manager for the British European and Overseas (BE&O) P&I facility, has highlighted the benefits

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Contracts Maritime Standards Navigation Pipelines Pod Propulsion Salvage Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction Sonar Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | terms and conditions | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.2062 sec (5 req/sec)