16 December 2013, Tripoli – The leader of a movement pushing for greater autonomy in eastern Libya said on Sunday he would not end the blockade of several oil-exporting ports, dashing hopes of a resolution to a three-month standoff with the Tripoli government.
The announcement was a blow to Prime Minister Ali Zeidan who had said he expected the blockage to end on Sunday after almost two weeks of negotiations with eastern tribal leaders to free up the vital trade.
Western powers worry Libya will slide into chaos as the Tripoli government struggles to rein in militias and tribesmen who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but kept their weapons and control parts of the OPEC producer.
On Tuesday, the eastern autonomy group said it would release three ports – which had previously handled 600,000 barrels of oil exports a day – if Tripoli let it take a share of oil sales and investigated reports of corruption in the industry.
“We have failed to reach a deal on these conditions with this (Tripoli) government,” autonomy leader Ibrahim Jathran told reporters at his group’s home base in Ajdabiya, west of Benghazi. “I therefore confirm that we will not reopen the ports for this corrupt government,” he said in brief statement.
He accused Zeidan’s government of letting down Libyans after the revolt that ended four decades of Gaddafi rule.