North Korea has denied responsibility for an oil tanker that loaded crude from a Libyan rebel-held port and escaped the government's attempt to seize it, saying the vessel that carried its flag was linked to an Egyptian company.
A senior official from North Korea's Maritime Administration said Thursday the tanker had violated its laws and a contract with the Alexandria-based Golden East Logistics company by carrying contraband cargo.
Jon Ki Chol said Pyongyang had notified Libya and the International Maritime Organization and severed all association with the ship.
He said the North had temporarily allowed Golden East Logistics to use its flag under a six-month contract signed in late February, and the company ignored its demand to leave the rebel-held As-Sidra port without loading oil.
North Korea offers its flag to ships owned by others, in the same way as a number of other countries do.
A Libyan government spokesman told a news conference Wednesday in Tripoli the tanker was proceeding eastwards into Egyptian waters. He said Libya had asked Egypt and other countries to help stop the ship.
There is no independent confirmation of the tanker's location, destination or ownership.
Meanwhile, the whereabouts of ousted Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan remained a mystery after he fled the country late Wednesday, despite a prosecutor's order he not leave after his removal from office.
The former Libyan leader reportedly sought refuge in Europe, after parliament voted him out for failing to stop anti-government rebels from independently exporting oil in a challenge to the country's fragile unity.
The tanker Morning Glory obtained the oil from the militia that controls the Al-Sidra terminal, one of three ports in eastern Libya and occupied since July by rebels demanding more autonomy and a greater share of the country's oil wealth.
The government said it has ordered special forces to deploy within two weeks to bring all rebel-held ports back under government control.
The standoff has cut Libya's oil exports by more than 80 percent.