Libya 'takes control' of North Korea-flagged oil tanker

Former rebels started loading oil onto the Morning Glory after it docked at Sidra port on Saturday as Rana Jawad reports

Libyan officials say they have taken "complete control" of a North Korean-flagged tanker that loaded crude oil at a port occupied by rebel forces.

It was stopped as it tried to leave Sidra port but has not yet reached a government-controlled port, they add.

But the rebels, who planned to sell the oil independently of the Libyan state, denied losing control of the tanker.

Libya's parliament earlier ordered a special force to be deployed to "liberate" all rebel-held oil ports.

Separatist militants have occupied three major eastern ports since August seeking a greater share of the country's oil revenues, as well as autonomy for eastern Libya.

'No damage'

Government officials said the vessel, named the Morning Glory, was intercepted by Libyan navy ships as it left Sidra port, which lies to the east of Tripoli.

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan told the Reuters news agency that the vessel had not yet arrived at a port in western Libya, and was still around 20 miles from the port.

"It stopped due to darkness and won't move tonight but is under complete control and secured. Tomorrow it will move," he said.

Officials earlier said the ship was already en route to a state-controlled port in western Libya.

The BBC's Rana Jawad, in Tripoli, says there is a lot of confusion over the fate of the tanker, with the rebels saying it is still docked at the port in Sidra.

The former rebels have described the latest claims as "government lies," she adds. The BBC has not been able to independently verify either claim.

Map of Libya

On Saturday, rebels began loading crude oil onto the tanker in a move described by the Libyan authorities as "illegal".

The Libyan prime minister later threatened to bomb the tanker if it tried to export oil from the rebel-controlled port.

Earlier on Monday, the head of the Libyan parliament, Nuri Abu Sahmein, ordered the formation of a force made up of regular soldiers and allied militias to take back the rebel-held ports, which previously handled a total of more than 700,000 barrels of oil per day.

The operation is to start within one week, officials say.

Libya's government has tried to end a wave of protests at oil fields and ports, which have slashed vital oil revenues, but there has been little progress in indirect talks between the government and former militia leader Ibrahim Jathran, who is now leading the protests.

His demands include an independent commission representing the three regions of Libya. He wants the commission to supervise the sale of oil and ensure the east gets a fair share of the revenue.

Libya is also struggling with armed groups and tribesmen who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but who have kept their weapons.

Libya's oil output has slowed to a trickle since the protests started in July last year, depriving the OPEC producer of its main budget source.

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