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Libya forces seize tanker loaded with rebel oil

Libyan government forces have taken control of a tanker that rebels had filled with crude oil which they'd hoped to sell. The North Korean-flagged vessel was seized, but blockades remain in place at ports and oilfields.

Authorities in Libya on Monday evening said they had stopped the tanker as it attempted to leave the Al-Sidra oil terminal in the eastern port of Ras Lanuf with an "illegal" cargo of crude aboard.

"The ship has been seized by government forces," lawmaker Abdelwahab al-Qaim told Reuters. "There are no damages to the ship."

The navy intercepted the ship as it left the terminal, with orders to "escort it to a port controlled by the state," a military source said.

Libya's state owned oil firm NOC confirmed that the vessel was under government control and said the ship was on its way to western Libya.

The Libyan navy and loyalist "allied" militia surrounded the Morning Glory tanker, carrying crude oil worth $30 billion (21.6 billion euros), as it was preparing to leave port. The 350,000-barrel-capacity vessel

had been loaded on Sunday

with 234,000 barrels of crude.

'Liberation force' to be sent

Warships had been deployed to block the exit of the ship, with Libyan Culture Minister Habib al-Amin warning the ship would be "turned into a pile of metal" if it tried to exit the port.

Meanwhile, the Libyan parliament ordered a special force to be sent to "liberate" rebel-held ports in the east of the country. Rebels have seized three ports outright and partly control a fourth. Dozens of groups that helped topple former leader Moammar Gadhafi have since split from the government they helped bring to power, and claim they have a right to a portion of oil revenue.

There has been a wave of protests at oilfields and ports across the country - particularly in the east - with output being reduced drastically. Separatists in the eastern region of Cyrenaica, who accuse the post-Gadhafi regime of corruption, say they want control of oil revenue and independence from Tripoli. Oil is Libya's major source of revenue, with production plunging from 1.5 million barrels a day to about a sixth of that amount since the wider blockade began.

rc / rg (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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