News / Middle East

Libyan Autonomy Group Will Not Reopen Oil Ports, Challenges Tripoli

FILE - A general view shows pipelines at the Zueitina oil terminal, about 120 km west of Benghazi.
FILE - A general view shows pipelines at the Zueitina oil terminal, about 120 km west of Benghazi.
A movement pushing for greater autonomy in eastern Libya said on Sunday it would not end the blockade of several oil-exporting ports, dashing hopes of a resolution to a three-month standoff with the Tripoli government.
The announcement was a blow to Prime Minister Ali Zeidan who had said he expected the blockade to end on Sunday after almost two weeks of negotiations with eastern tribal leaders to free up the vital trade.
Western powers worry Libya will slide into chaos as the Tripoli government struggles to rein in militias and tribesmen who helped topple Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 but kept their weapons and control parts of the OPEC-member country.
The port blockades, along with strikes by oil workers, civil servants, tribesmen and other protesters at oilfields across the desert country, have cut vital oil exports to 110,000 barrels per day from more than 1 million in July.
On Tuesday, the eastern autonomy group said it would release three ports - which had previously handled 600,000 barrels of oil exports a day - if Tripoli let it take a share of oil sales and investigated reports of corruption in the industry.
Ibrahim Jathran, Cyrenaica province's autonomy leader, speaks to the media in Ajdabiya December 15, 2013.Ibrahim Jathran, Cyrenaica province's autonomy leader, speaks to the media in Ajdabiya December 15, 2013.
Ibrahim Jathran, Cyrenaica province's autonomy leader, speaks to the media in Ajdabiya December 15, 2013.
Ibrahim Jathran, Cyrenaica province's autonomy leader, speaks to the media in Ajdabiya December 15, 2013.
“We have failed to reach a deal on these conditions with this [Tripoli] government,” autonomy leader Ibrahim Jathran told reporters at his group's home base in Ajdabiya, west of Benghazi.
“I therefore confirm that we will not reopen the ports for this corrupt government,” he said in brief statement.
Jathran said Zeidan's government had let down Libyans after the revolt that ended four decades of Gadhafi rule.
“We want a decent life, rights, security, an army, police and security forces which protect citizens,” said Jathran, who was a rebel commander during the NATO-backed uprising.
Jathran used to head a force protecting oil installations until he defected with his heavily armed men in the summer and seized the Ras Lanuf, Es-Sider and Zueitina ports to boost his campaign for more regional autonomy and a greater share of oil sales.
The oil blockades have dried up the main source for the dollars needed to import wheat and other basic foodstuffs. The government has warned it will not be able to pay public sector workers if oil strikes continue.
Oil officials said on Sunday Libya was increasing fuel imports to ease shortages gasoline stations.
There was no immediate comment from Tripoli on Jathran's statement. Deputy Oil Minister Omar Shakmak declined to comment when asked by reporters at a news conference on fuel imports.
Officials have refused to recognize the self-declared eastern government and warned that Tripoli would attack any tanker trying to load oil at seized ports.
Jathran selling oil?
Zeidan and other officials had expressed confidence that Jathran would be persuaded to lift the port blockades, which raised hopes on international markets that three months of oil strikes would end.
Jathran, who is in his early 30s, is popular among many in the east demanding a political system to share power and the oil wealth equally between the eastern Cyrenaica, the west and the southern Fezzan, as was the case in the pre-Gadhafi era.
Many also agree with Jathran that the central government has failed to provide security. In Benghazi, the east's main city, gunmen killed an army officer on Sunday, a security source said, the latest in a series of assassinations. Three soldiers were also wounded by a bomb, the source added.
Tribal leaders have put pressure on Jathran to end his port action because many ordinary Libyans are tired of power cuts and fuel shortages.
Richard Mallinson, geopolitical analyst at Energy Aspects consultancy in London, said Jathran felt confident enough to rely on his forces' strength but he risked splitting the tribesmen and militias in the east.
“Struggles within power bases in the east could become significant,” he said.
Jathran did not repeat an earlier threat to start selling crude, bypassing Tripoli. When asked later by Reuters whether he would go ahead exporting oil from seized ports, he said this was up to his self-declared government.
“We gave them (the government) all powers to do its job,” he said, without elaborating.
Zeidan has been trying to get the ports reopened but has been weakened by political conflicts with parliament and Islamist opponents.
The government also has to deal with a mix of different protesters. A separate set of tribal leaders has blocked Hariga port in the far east. Members of the Amazigh and Tibu, two minority groups, have also blocked gas or oil supplies in the past.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs