East Libyan forces clash with rivals near oil ports

Libyan Army Forces belonging to Libya's rival government, that are part of the Alshorooq (Libya Dawn) operation to free oil ports, are seen on the outskirts of Al Sidra oil port, in this December 14, 2014 file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 04 March 2017
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East Libyan forces clash with rivals near oil ports

BENGHAZI: East Libyan forces said they carried out airstrikes and clashed with rival factions on Friday close to major oil terminals as they sought to fend off the latest challenge to their control of the ports.
The strikes were carried out south of the coastal town of Nawfiliya in response to an attack by the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB), according to spokesmen for the eastern air force and for the local Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG). A military spokesman said the attack had been repelled.
Nawfiliya is about 50 km west of the oil port Es Sider and 75 km west of another terminal, Ras Lanuf.
An oil official at Ras Lanuf said the port was under PFG authority but that there was fighting close to Es Sider. A second port source said operations at the ports had not been affected.
Es Sider and Ras Lanuf are among four ports that the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) took control of in September.
It allowed the National Oil Corp. (NOC) to reopen three of the ports, which had long been blockaded, allowing a sharp boost to Libya’s oil production.
The LNA’s opponents have made several attempts since then to recapture the ports, but have been pushed back by airstrikes.
The Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB) are composed partly of fighters who were ousted from Benghazi by the LNA, where LNA commander Khalifa Haftar has been waging a military campaign for nearly three years against radicals and other opponents.
The LNA brands its opponents as extremists, and both sides accuse the other of using mercenaries from Libya’s sub-Saharan neighbors to the south.
“The armed forces have repelled in these moments the attack by the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda supported by Chadian ground forces against the Oil Crescent ports,” said LNA spokesman Ahmed Al-Mismari.
Libya has recently been producing about 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil, more than double its output early last year but still far less than the 1.6 million bpd the member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was pumping before the 2011 uprising.
But production remains vulnerable to political turmoil and continued insecurity, with factions based in the east and west of Libya repeatedly clashing in recent weeks in desert areas southwest of the Oil Crescent whose ports suffered major damage in previous rounds of fighting and are still operating well below capacity.
The NOC has been lobbying foreign firms to return to Libya and invest in the oil and gas sector as it tries to push production to 1.2 million bpd later this year. Es Sider and Ras Lanuf have a potential combined production capacity of about 600,000 bpd.


Iran lawmakers authorize firm action against US ‘terrorist’ acts

Updated 1 min 36 sec ago
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Iran lawmakers authorize firm action against US ‘terrorist’ acts

  • President Donald Trump on April 8 designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps a foreign terrorist group
  • Tehran reacted to the designation by naming the US Central Command a terrorist organization
DUBAI: Iran’s parliament passed a bill on Tuesday requiring the government take firm steps to respond to “terrorist actions” by US forces, state TV reported, retaliating against Washington’s blacklisting of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
President Donald Trump on April 8 designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist group, in an unprecedented step that drew Iranian condemnation and raised concerns about retaliatory attacks on US forces.
Tehran reacted to the designation, which took effect on April 15, by naming the US Central Command (CENTCOM) a terrorist organization and the US government a sponsor of terrorism.
“The bill authorizes the government to take firm and retaliatory measures against terrorist activities of American forces that endangers Iran’s interests,” TV reported.
“The government should use legal, political and diplomatic measures in response to the American actions.”
Highly loyal to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the IRGC is a powerful force which controls much of the Iranian economy and wields political influence in the country’s faction-ridden clerical establishment.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency said some 168 lawmakers out of 210 present at the parliament voted for the bill.
Tensions have been on the rise between Tehran and Washington since last year, when Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers and reimposed sanctions on the country.
In recent years, there have been periodic confrontations between the IRGC and US military in the Gulf.
The new chief commander of the IRGC Hossein Salami, appointed after the US blacklisting, has warned in the past that Iran could use its cruise and ballistic missiles and drones, mines, speedboats, and missile launchers in the Gulf area to confront the United States.
The Trump administration, which has taken a hard line on Iran, said in a statement on Monday that the president has decided not to reissue waivers in May allowing importers to buy Iranian oil without facing US sanctions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the heightening economic pressure on Iran showed that Washington was in panic.
“Escalating #EconomicTERRORISM against Iranians exposes panic & desperation of US regime — and chronic failures of its client co-conspirators,” Zarif Tweeted on Tuesday.
A commander of Iran’s IRGC said on Monday that Tehran would block all exports through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if Tehran is barred from using the waterway, where a fifth of global oil consumption passes on its way from Middle East producers to major markets.