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Libyan renegade forces seize control of 'entire' oil region

Forces loyal to general Khalifa Haftar say they seized port of Brega without firing a shot, the fourth to fall into their hands
Forces loyal to Haftar said they controlled the entire 'oil crescent' of Libya (AFP)

Forces loyal to the Libyan renegade general Khalifa Haftar have seized a fourth oil facility in a matter of days, reports say.

Colonel Muftah al-Muqarief said his forces, which are loyal to Haftar, seized the port of Brega "without any fighting" days after taking control of Ras Lanuf, Sidra and Zuwaytina.

"The entire oil crescent region is now under our control," Muqarief told AFP.

Haftar controls military forces loyal to the Tobruk parliament, which is in dispute with the Tripoli based, UN-backed "unity government" the GNA.

Libya has been in chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, with rival authorities and militia vying for control.

Control of Brega will be a fresh blow to the unity government which has been struggling to assert its authority. 

The Tripoli-based GNA is opposed by an internationally recognised parliament based in Libya's remote east near the border with Egypt.

Haftar, 73, who sees himself as Libya's saviour after battling militants out of most of second city Benghazi in the east, backs the parliament which has refused to grant the GNA a vote of confidence.

The Brega takeover comes hours after the United States and its major European allies - which back the GNA - condemned Haftar's offensive, echoing remarks by UN special envoy Martin Kobler.

"I call for the respect of UN Security Council Resolution 2259 which recognises the Government of National Accord... as the sole executive authority in Libya," Kobler said on Monday.

Oil is Libya's main natural resource with reserves estimated at 48 billion barrels, the largest in Africa, but production has plummeted since 2011 as the country plunged into chaos.

On Sunday, Haftar's forces took al-Sidra and Ras Lanuf ports before attacking Zuwaytina to the east.

It was the first time that Haftar's forces and fighters loyal to the GNA clashed directly since the unity government started working in the capital in March.

Kobler said oil installations must remain under the authority of the GNA's presidential council and stressed that Resolution 2259 "contains a clear prohibition on illicit oil exports".

The unity government, for its part, has called on loyalist forces to "protect and defend" the ports, while the head of the rival government in the eastern city of Bayda said it would work on reopening the ports as soon as possible.

"We will work on the oil ports resuming work as soon as possible so as to guarantee all Libyans a decent life," Abdullah al-Thani said.

Haftar's forces have said they would hand over management of the ports to the National Oil Corporation to resume oil exports.

The NOC is split into two rival branches, however, one allied to the GNA and the other to the administration that Haftar supports.

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