Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Following reports that ousted Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan fled the country for Europe on Wednesday, a day after he was removed from office by a non-confidence vote in the Libyan General National Congress, Libyan Defense Minister and acting Prime Minister Abdallah Al-Thinni pledged to stop the illegal export of oil from Libya.
Thinni took the oath of office in parliament on Tuesday, becoming the country’s acting prime minister after Zeidan was voted out of office following a crisis that saw a North Korean-flagged tanker load crude oil from a rebel-held port in eastern Libya. Asharq Al-Awsat spoke with him on Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the controversial vote and his appointment as Libya’s acting prime minister.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from Tripoli in his capacity as Minister of Defense, Thinni pledged to secure the return of the oil tanker, but subsequent reports on Wednesday indicated that the oil tanker had managed to evade Libyan warships and reach international waters. He had said that Tripoli has every right to intercept and fire on any oil tanker that aims to illegally enter Libyan waters, adding that this was a sovereign right.
“If somebody breaks into your home, are you supposed to welcome them? Of course not, and the same thing applies to us. We have the right to defend the sovereignty of our territory,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Zeidan was in Malta for two hours on Tuesday before traveling to “another European country,” Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told state-owned television on Wednesday. Libyan state prosecutor Abdel-Qader Radwan had issued a travel ban on the former prime minister, who is facing an investigation into the alleged misuse of state funds.
Thinni also sought to play down the recent coup attempt by former Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar following Libya’s General National Congress decision to extend its term in office until a new constitution can be drafted.
He said: “There can never be a military coup in Libya after the February 17 revolution. He [Haftar] has no support or control over the army . . . whoever wants to market themselves as a political leader must respect the legitimacy of the ballot box and enter civilian life.”
Thinni asked: “Where are the forces that support him? He has nothing. He is just a person who appeared on television with a delusional statement, and this is completely unacceptable. Nobody can carry out a coup against the Libyan people.”