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US accuses Libya separatists of oil theft

Company employees picket outside the Oasis Libyan Oil headquarters in Tripoli after the government threatened to bomb a North Norean-flagged tanker, which is suspected of trying to load an illegal oil, at its Al-Sidra oil terminal, on March 9, 2014/AFP

Company employees picket outside the Oasis Libyan Oil headquarters in Tripoli after the government threatened to bomb a North Norean-flagged tanker, which is suspected of trying to load an illegal oil, at its Al-Sidra oil terminal, on March 9, 2014/AFP

WASHINGTON, Mar 10 – The United States accused Libyan separatists of theft Sunday after they loaded oil onto a North Korean tanker for a second consecutive day, warning would be buyers of possible liabilities and sanctions.

The separatists are former rebels who have turned against the interim authorities in the restive north African country after toppling veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi in the 2011 uprising.

“The United States is deeply concerned by reports that a vessel sailing under the name ‘Morning Glory’ is loading a cargo of illicitly obtained oil at the Libyan port of As-Sidra,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

“This action is counter to law and amounts to theft from the Libyan people.”

Separatists have been blockading oil terminals in eastern Libya that they had been entrusted with guarding, seeking autonomy and a share in lucrative oil revenues.

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan ordered them to stop or else the tanker would be bombed, while Oil Minister Omar Shakmak accused the separatists of an “act of piracy.”

“The oil belongs to the Libyan National Oil Company and its joint venture partners,” Psaki said, noting the partners include US companies.

“Any oil sales without authorization from these parties places purchasers at risk of exposure to civil liability, penalties and other possible sanctions in multiple jurisdictions.”

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