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Libyan PM: oil crisis is over after deal with separatists

Libya's acting Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said the government had reassumed control of the country's two eastern oil terminals. Eastern militias had held the terminals for a year, crippling Libya's economy.

Libyen Premierminister Abdullah al-Thinni Rücktritt

Libyan acting Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni

Libyan television reported on Wednesday that Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni had confirmed that the government now controls the ports of Ras Lanuf and al-Sidra, which export about half of Libya's oil.

The takeover came after an agreement with separatist rebel leader Ibrahim Jathran, the prime minister said. "We have taken control of Ras Lanuf and al-Sidra oil ports ... thus ending the oil crisis," al-Thinni told the broadcaster.

Eastern Libyan militias seized control of four oil infrastructure sites last July, effectively holding the country to ransom by cutting it off from its main source of revenue. The disruptions have cost the government and economy billions of dollars.

Another deal with the rebels in April returned control of two of the oil terminals to the government, but Ras Lanuf and al-Sidra remained under rebel control.

Goodwill gesture

Jathran declared that he had handed over the ports as a "goodwill gesture" to the new parliament, elected last month, but Libyan society remains volatile.

Disputes over vast oil resources have been among the many triggers for conflict between rival brigades of former rebels and allied political factions since civil war ended four decades of Moammar Gadhafi's dictatorship in 2011.

Over the last two years, armed militias have seized ministries, attacked the congress, kidnapped diplomats, and even briefly abducted a prime minister from his hotel room to pressure the government to meet their demands for autonomy.

Many former rebels are on the government payroll to co-opt them, but their loyalties are often stronger to tribe, political faction, region, or rebel commander than to the new Libyan state.

The end of the blockade could be the final chapter of a crisis that included failed negotiations, threats to bombard rebels and even an attempt by Jathran to dispatch an oil tanker that was later boarded on the high seas by US commandos.

bk/jr (Reuters, dpa)

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