OTTAWA Jan 7 Libya's self-declared eastern government of Cyrenaica has hired a Canadian-based lobbyist to help it sell the region's oil, according to documents filed in the United States.
Protesters seized three eastern ports last year to demand a greater share of Libya's oil wealth. Tripoli vows to stop any efforts to sell oil independently and said the Libyan navy had prevented a tanker from loading crude at the port of Es Sider on Sunday.
The pro-autonomy movement in Cyrenaica signed a deal on Dec. 5 with Dickens & Madson, a Montreal firm run by veteran lobbyist Ari Ben-Menashe whose previous clients include the government of Zimbabwe. Ben-Menashe has said he is an Iranian-born former member of Israeli military intelligence.
"We shall strive to provide you with economic aid by soliciting buyers for your oil when the need arises as well as tankers for the transport of oil," the firm said in the document, which was filed with the U.S. Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
The self-declared government of Cyrenaica said on Tuesday it would ensure the safety of tankers using Es Sider.
Dickens & Madson also said it would try to gain political recognition from Moscow, strengthen the Cyrenaican movement's military forces and boost the region's private sector. The $400,000 deal will run for one year.
Reuters was not immediately able to contact Ben-Menashe on Tuesday.
Dickens & Madson also informed the U.S. Department of Justice that it would lobby governments in the United States and other nations "with respect to stability, security and the governance of Libya and Cyrenaica."
Among those it said it would be representing were the Cyrenaica Transitional Council, the Political Bureau of Cyrenaica and Ibrahim Jathran, leader of the autonomy movement.
In 2001 Ben-Menashe secretly videotaped a meeting he had in Canada with Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Ben-Menashe - whose firm was working as a consultant to the Zimbabwean government - told Reuters in early 2002 that the tape showed Tsvangirai discussing a plan to "eliminate" President Robert Mugabe.
Tsvangirai subsequently went on trial in Zimbabwe charged with treason but was acquitted. He later served as prime minister in a unity government with Mugabe's ZANU-PF party. (Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)