SEOUL, March 13 North Korea denied on Thursday
any responsibility for an oil tanker that loaded crude from a
Libyan rebel-held port and fled the OPEC member state's attempt
to seize it, saying the vessel that carried its flag was
operated by an Egyptian firm.
The incident marked the first sale of Libyan crude bypassing
the government and was a huge humiliation for Tripoli as it
struggled to rein in armed militias who helped oust dictator
Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but want to grab power and oil revenues.
Libya's parliament ousted Prime Minister Ali Zeidan on
Tuesday after rebels loaded crude on the North Korean-flagged
tanker that later fled naval forces amid reports of a gunfight
as it sailed off along Libya's eastern Mediterranean coast.
North Korea said the tanker violated its laws, and a
contract with the Alexandria-based company by carrying
contraband cargo, and it had notified Libya and the
International Maritime Organization of severing all association
with the ship.
"Therefore, the ship has nothing to do with the DPRK at
present and it has no responsibility whatsoever as regards the
ship," the North's Maritime Administration said in a statement
carried by the official KCNA news agency.
DPRK is short for the North's official name, the Democratic
People's Republic of Korea.
The agency said it had temporarily allowed the Egyptian firm
Golden East Logistics to use its flag under a six-month contract
signed in late February. The firm ignored its demand to leave
the rebel-held Libyan port without loading oil, the agency said.
It was unclear where the tanker had planned to sail. Libyan
officials said the ship was flagged in North Korea, a flag of
convenience to keep the ownership secret.
It was unusual for an oil tanker flagged in secretive North
Korea to operate in the Mediterranean, shipping sources said. It
had changed ownership in the past few weeks, a source said.
Western diplomats worry the conflict over oil might
dismember Libya as rebels demand autonomy for the east, which
was neglected under Gaddafi as he concentrated power and wealth
in Tripoli as well as his home region of Sirte.
(Reporting by Jack Kim)