Libyan prime minister Ali Zeidan fled to Europe in a private jet March 12, in defiance of a travel ban, after the General National Congress (GNC) ousted him in a vote that many members said did not follow legal procedures. The Islamist-led GNC took the move over Zeidan's failure to prevent a North Korean tanker loading oil from a port controlled by rebels in the eastern region of Cyrenaica. Zeidan had threatened to bomb the tanker at al-Sidra port, demanding that "All parties must respect Libyan sovereignty." Replied Rabbo al-Barassi, who heads the Cyrenaica executive bureau formed in August by "federalist" rebels: "We announce to Libyans and to the whole world that we have begun exporting oil. We are not defying the government or the Congress. But we are insisting on our rights." There were reports of a fire-fight at the port as the vessel departed March 12, but it succeeded in slipping through a Libyan naval bloakcde and getting away. Tripoli has asked other countries to try intercept the ship.
The Cyrenaica rebels have stopped short of declaring independence, but are demanding a restoration of the autonomy the eastern region exercised in the first decade after Libya's independence in 1951. North Korean authoriites, for their part, said the ship belonged to an Egyptian firm which was using the DPRK flag improperly to transport contraband. (The Guardian, Tripoli Post, BBC News, March 13; Al Jazeera, March 12; AFP, March 8)
Cyrenaica has played heavily in neocon schemes for a balkanization of the Greater Middle East, beginning with Libya. Nearly all of Libya's major oil and gas installations have been occupied or shut down by rebels or protesters in recent months.
Note: al-Sidra is also rendered es-Sider