October 19, 2018 / 5:41 PM / a month ago

Libya's Hariga oil port operating normally following protest -workers

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Libya’s eastern oil export port of Hariga was on Friday working normally a day after a protest at its gate, port workers said.

Late on Thursday, dozens of tribesmen staged a demonstration at the port’s gate in protest against the appointment by the internationally recognized government in Tripoli of a government minister, a member of the powerful Obeidat tribe told Reuters.

A port worker confirmed the protest at the gate saying the tribesmen had not entered the port compound made up of an export terminal and storages in the eastern city of Tobruk.

Hatem al-Oraibi, spokesman for a parallel government based in eastern Libya, had on Thursday alerted reporters in a news chat room to “reports of a closure of the Hariga oil port by a protest of the Obeidat tribe”, according to a screenshot.

State oil firm NOC, to which the port belongs via its AGOCO unit, denied in a statement that a protest had taken place at the port.

The port, which is linked to the Sarir oilfield, has been hit by closures in the past caused by protests such as guards complaining about delays in receiving their pay.

The tribesmen had protested against a decision by Tripoli to appoint Ali Essawi as economy minister, the member of the Obeidat tribe, Tareq Abdel-Fattah, said.

Libyan prosecutors had in 2011 named Essawi as the main suspect of the killing of Abdel Fattah’s father, Abdel Fattah Younes, a former top rebel commander during the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The Obeidat tribe now plans to organize a gathering of tribes to discuss “decisive measures” against Essawi’s appointment, Abdel-Fattah said, without giving details.

A Libyan court in 2012 had dropped the case against Essawi and other suspects. But he re-emerged into the spotlight when Tripoli-based Prime Minister Fayez appointed him as economy minister this month.

Khalifa Haftar, a top commander whose troops control the east, this week ordered a new investigation into the killing of Younes which caused deep rifts in the rebel camp which later took over the oil producing country.

Libya is divided into rival governments. The internationally-recognized one is based in Tripoli. The east is run by a parallel administration which set up its own central bank and NOC branch.

Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli, writing by Ulf Laessing; editing by Jason Neely and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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