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Libya's army tells militias to free up oil ports or risk 'disintegration and lawlessness' - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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For Libyan militia leader Ibrahim al-Jathran, shutting down half the country's oil production with an armed militia is not a crime, it is the start of a just battle for a fair share of country's petroleum wealth. From his base near the Mediterranean oil terminal of Brega, the 33-year-old war hero from the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi has taken control of the main oil ports to demand more autonomy and oil for his eastern region from faraway Tripoli. (REUTERS/Esam Omran al-Fetori)

Libyan militias have shut down half the country’s oil production and are demanding a larger share of the petroleum wealth. (REUTERS/Esam Omran al-Fetori)

Tripoli, Reuters—Libya’s army has told former militia fighters and protesters to end their occupations of oilfields and ports and allow crude exports to restart, saying the OPEC country risked sliding into lawlessness.

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has so far failed to negotiate an end to a series of sit-ins and strikes by security guards, civil servants, militiamen and other groups calling for everything from security and autonomy to a greater share of oil wealth.

Two years after the NATO-led uprising ousted the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s new military has struggled to control militias who helped topple the late Gaddafi and also continue to fight over territory and political feuds.

Analysts estimate that months of shutdowns at ports and oilfields have caused an estimated USD 6 billion in losses.

The army did not say what it would do if its warning was not heeded.

“End your strikes without condition so the oil flows to the ports and the economy recovers so we can build up the state and the armed forces,” the chief of army staff said in a statement posted on the defense ministry’s website late on Saturday.

“Our country is threatened by disintegration and lawlessness,” it added.

The army repeated Zeidan’s warnings that militias who did not join the regular armed forces by December 15 would be removed from the government payroll.

Many of the former fighters have been put on government pay in an attempt to co-opt them. But most remain loyal to their tribal or regional commanders.

The prime minister appears to be counting on rising popular anger against the militias since clashes in Tripoli killed more than 40 people this month and forced several powerful militia groups to withdraw from the capital.

He has warned the government will not be able to pay civil servants if ports strikes continue.

Last week, Libya’s oil workers union also asked an autonomy movement leader to reopen the eastern Ras Lanuf oil port, Libya’s second-biggest which used to export more than 200,000 barrels a day.

Analysts estimate oil exports are down to a fifth of the more than 1 million barrels per day Libya used to export until the summer, when the protests began.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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