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May 28, 2017

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Libya PM ousted after tanker escapes with rebel oil

ROME/TRIPOLI--Libya's premier was ousted by parliament Tuesday after a tanker laden with crude oil from a rebel-held terminal broke through a naval blockade and escaped to sea, underscoring the weakness of the central government.

A no-confidence motion was approved by 124 of the 194 members of the General National Congress, four more than the majority required, MPs said.

The ousted prime minister, Ali Zeidan, was temporarily replaced by Defense Minister Abdullah al-Thani, who was sworn in as caretaker premier until a permanent replacement can be chosen within two weeks, a GNC statement said.

Zeidan has flown to Germany in defiance of a travel ban after changing planes in Malta, Maltese government sources told AFP Wednesday.

Zeidan arrived in Malta on a Libyan state plane Tuesday evening but then switched to a private jet after a brief stopover before departing for Germany, they said.

That version of events differed slightly from the account given by Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in a television interview.

"The plane stopped in Malta for two hours to refuel before proceeding to another European country," Muscat said.

Libya's top prosecutor late Tuesday slapped a travel ban on Zeidan because of his suspected involvement in the embezzlement of public funds, according to a document published on his office's Facebook page.

Zeidan, an independent who had been supported by liberals, proved incapable of bringing to heel former rebel militia that carved out their own fiefdoms after the 2011 uprising that ended Moammar Gadhafi's four-decade rule.

The beleaguered prime minister was even briefly abducted by former rebel militia in the heart of the capital last October.

Earlier Tuesday, in a final humiliation for Zeidan, a North Korean-flagged tanker that had taken on oil from a rebel-held terminal in the east slipped by naval vessels deployed to intercept it.

The Morning Glory, which docked in Al-Sidra Saturday and is reported to have loaded at least 234,000 barrels of crude, is the first vessel to have done so from a rebel-held terminal since the challenge against the Tripoli authorities erupted last July.

Zeidan's government had threatened armed action, even an air strike, to prevent the tanker getting away with the oil bought from the rebels' self-declared autonomous government without the authorization of state-owned Libyan National Oil Corporation.

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