Libyan PM ousted after Korean ship escapes with crude

The Libyan parliament ousted Prime Minister Ali Zeidan yesterday and named the defence minister as caretaker premier until a permanent replacement has been approved, MPs said.

The vote of no-confidence in Zeidan came after a tanker laden with oil from a rebel-held terminal in eastern Libya broke through a naval blockade and escaped to sea despite his government’s threats to block it by force if necessary.

“The Congress voted to withdraw its confidence in the prime minister by 124 votes,” MP Suleiman al-Zubi told AFP.

Defence Minister Abdullah al-Thani was named interim premier for the two weeks that General National Congress now has to agree on a permanent replacement, he added.

Previous attempts to bring down Zeidan had failed to win the required majority of 120 of the GNC’s 194 members.

The tanker had docked on Saturday at Es Sider, one of three ports controlled by rebels who want to sell oil independently to get a greater share of Libya’s mineral wealth.

The Libyan navy and oil-related government officials declined to comment.

Mohammad Hitab, spokesman for the state-run al-Waha Oil Company operating the Es Sider port, said: “The tanker left and is now in international waters.”

He said he did not know the destination of the tanker, which Libyan officials have said is owned by a Saudi company.

A reporter at the port said there was no sign of any tanker. Several rebels and port workers sympathising with them said the ship had left early in the morning, with boats escorting it into international waters.

“We escorted the tanker out of the port at 3 a.m.,” said one rebel fighter at the harbour. He said he had been on board one of five armed rebel boats which, according to him, accompanied the tanker out of the port area.

The conflict over oil wealth is increasing fears that the OPEC member country may slide deeper into chaos or splinter as the government fails to rein in dozens of militias that helped oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but now defy state authority.

The rebels also demand autonomy for the east, which had been neglected under Gaddafi as he concentrated power and wealth in Tripoli as well as his home region of Sirte.

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