Libya says will secure Tunisia border after clashes

TRIPOLI/TUNIS Sun Dec 4, 2011 9:09am EST

Libya's Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur speaks at a news conference in Tripoli December 4, 2011. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

Libya's Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur speaks at a news conference in Tripoli December 4, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Ismail Zitouny

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TRIPOLI/TUNIS (Reuters) - Libya said on Sunday it would secure the area near its border with Tunisia after Tunis closed all of its crossing points, blocking Tripoli's main supply route, after clashes between militiamen and border guards.

Tunisian officials have said the closure of the second of the two crossings on Saturday was necessary after armed Libyans had exchanged fire with border guards and had also attempted to enter Tunisia undetected.

The incidents highlight Libya's lawlessness three months after the fall of Tripoli. The provisional government has yet to disarm and make a single national army out of militias that still roam the country and clash with each other.

"The ministers of the interior and defense are putting in place a plan in order to secure these two border crossings and also to ensure that this will not happen again," Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur told a news conference.

Speaking through an interpreter, he added "irresponsible individuals" were to blame for "incidents" at the border over the past two days.

Most goods entering Tripoli come through the Tunisian border. It is also a key point of transit for many people travelling to and from the Libyan capital.

Tunisian officials said their border guards and other citizens were coming under attack by armed Libyan men.

"Imagine rebels who are drunk and high on drugs who try to threaten us with their weapons," a Tunisian policeman who works at Ras Jdir, a crossing which was closed over a week ago, told Reuters.

"They think we can't respond. That's not true," he added.

A security source at the Dehiba crossing further to the south, which was shut on Saturday, said there had been a firefight with the militiamen.

"Last night we exchanged fire with Libyan cars that tried to enter clandestinely," the source said, adding: "There must be security before we can reopen this border crossing."

(Reporting by Francois Murphy in Tunis and Tarek Amara in Tunis; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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