Libyan General seizes key oil terminals from rival militia | world-news | Hindustan Times
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Libyan General seizes key oil terminals from rival militia

world Updated: Sep 12, 2016 21:40 IST
Libya unrest

Heavily damaged buildings are seen after they were captured by Libyan forces allied with the UN-backed government in Sirte, Libya.(Reuters File Photo)

Libyan forces loyal to a powerful general say they have seized a third oil terminal from a rival militia in the east, giving the divisive leader a bargaining chip in negotiations with rival UN-backed authorities in the capital, Tripoli.

Forces led by General Khalifa Hifter said late Sunday that they had seized the Zueitina terminal from a militia known as the Petroleum Facilities Guards, hours after capturing the nearby terminals of Ras Lanuf and al-Sidra.

Most of Libya’s oil exports went through the three terminals before the militia seized them more than two years ago.

Hifter’s army units urged the state-run oil corporation, which is based in Tripoli, to resume oil exports.

Libya drifted into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed long-time dictator Moammar Gaddafi, and today is split between rival parliaments and governments in the east and west, each backed by a loose array of militias and tribes.

Hifter enjoys the support of the internationally-recognised parliament, which meets in the east. The parliament has refused to approve the formation of a UN-backed government in Tripoli, in the west, in part because of differences over Hifter’s future role in Libya.

The capture of the oil terminals could strengthen Hifter’s hand, making it more difficult to ignore demands from him and others in the east for more clout in a power-sharing government.

The UN-brokered presidency council — which is tasked with forming a unity government — said late Sunday that the takeover by Hifter’s forces is “contradicting the path of reconciliation and frustrating Libyans”.

The nine-member council is divided between supporters and opponents of Hifter. Martin Kobler, the UN envoy to Libya, expressed concern over the general’s seizure of the terminals.

Libyan forces loyal to the UN-backed government are currently battling a powerful Islamic State affiliate in the central city of Sirte with the help of US-led airstrikes.

The US and other Western nations view the UN-backed government in the capital as the best hope for unifying Libyans and defeating the extremist group.

Italian foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni told reporters on Monday during a visit to Cyprus that Rome had agreed to a request from the Libyan unity government to send a military hospital, “which obviously will have its protection,” the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Asked about media reports that some 200 Italian paratroopers could be deployed to protect the hospital, Gentiloni replied that more details will be announced later by the Italian defence minister.