Libya asks U.N. Security Council for help protecting oil, airports

UNITED NATIONS Thu Jul 17, 2014 5:30pm EDT

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Libya asked the U.N. Security Council on Thursday for help protecting its oil installations, oil export ports and civil airports, warning that without more international assistance the North African oil producer could become a failed state.

Libya's Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz appealed to the council "to take the case of Libya seriously before it is too late," making it clear that Libya's central government is too weak to control the militias that helped oust late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Tripoli International Airport has been a battlefield since fighters attacked it with heavy guns on Sunday to wrest control from a rival militia, while months of protests at oil fields and ports caused government revenues to collapse last year.

"Lack of protection of oil fields and the ports through which we export our oil remain to be a serious problem," said Abdelaziz, adding that the government had lost $30 billion in revenues while rebels controlled the ports.

"We are not asking for military intervention to protect the oil but we need teams - experts, trained people - to work with Libyans ... so the Libyans can learn how to protect these strategic sites," he said.

A group of eastern rebels recently agreed to clear two major ports they had seized almost a year ago in a drive for regional autonomy, while a separate group agreed to end its blockade of a southern oil field. But more protests could erupt at any time, with militias potentially seizing oil facilities at will in pursuit of political leverage and petroleum revenues.

"The Libyans themselves are not trained to the level that they are capable of ensuring the protection of those sites," said Abdelaziz. "We're calling for stabilization and institution building initiative on the part of the Security Council."

"Should Libya become the failed state, kidnapped by radical groups and warlords, the consequences will be far reaching and perhaps could be beyond control," he said.

Rwanda's United Nations Ambassador Eugene Gasana, president of the Security Council for July, told reporters that the 15-member body noted Abdelaziz's request for assistance.

In a statement, the U.N. Security Council condemned the recent violence in Libya "noting that this follows a deeply concerning prolonged pattern of politically motivated and inter-militia violence, making it even more difficult for the Libyan authorities to govern effectively."

U.N. special envoy to Libya, Tarek Mitri, head of the world body's political mission in the country, told the Security Council that all 160 international U.N. staff had been evacuated, most to Tunisia.

"As the number of military actors mobilizing and consolidating their presence within the capital continues to grow, there is a mounting sense of a probable imminent and significant escalation in the conflict," Mitri told the council.

"The stakes are high for all sides," he said.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Tom Brown)