Sudan summons Libyan ambassador over consul's arrest

KHARTOUM/BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Sudan’s foreign ministry said on Thursday it had summoned the Libyan ambassador in Khartoum to protest against the arrest of a Sudanese consul in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

Sudanese diplomat Abdelhalim Omer was detained and then released, after making visits to sites in eastern Libya without permission, an official with Libya’s internationally recognized government told Reuters.

“The Sudanese consul ...has been freed. He was detained because he visited a military prison without a permission to see Sudanese prisoners who are detained for different reasons,” Hatem Al-Oraibi, the Libyan government spokesman said.

Relations between the two governments have soured since September when Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, Libya’s internationally recognized leader, accused Khartoum of trying to airlift weapons and ammunition to a rival government in the western city of Tripoli.

Khartoum denies that charge, saying the weapons were meant for a joint border force under a bilateral agreement.

Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadiq said the ministry had summoned the Libyan ambassador on Wednesday and was contacting Libyan authorities to secure the consul’s release.

In January, the official Libyan government banned Sudanese citizens, Syrians and Palestinians from entering the war-torn nation, accusing their countries of undermining Libya’s security.

The conflict in Libya has intensified, with two rival governments, each backed by loose coalitions of ex-rebels who once fought together to oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, battling for control of the North African OPEC producer.

Thinni’s government was forced to relocate to Tobruk in the east after Islamist-leaning militias captured Tripoli in August.

Writing by Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Stephen Kalin and John Stonestreet