Tripoli - The US Navy handed over to Libyan authorities on
Saturday an oil tanker it boarded after the vessel took to sea with crude
illegally loaded at a rebel-held port, the American embassy said.
"Earlier today, US forces turned control of the M/T
Morning Glory over to the government of Libya," a statement said.
"The handover took place in international waters off
the coast of Libya, and the government of Libya and its security forces are now
in control of the vessel."
The embassy said the transfer of the Egyptian-owned
tanker had taken place "smoothly and as planned," with the US and
Libya in close co-operation.
"We have been assured by the government of Libya that
the captain, crew members and Libyan nationals who were aboard the stateless
tanker will be treated humanely in accordance with internationally recognised
standards of human rights," it said.
US navy Seals captured the Morning Glory off Cyprus in
the eastern Mediterranean on Monday.
The weak Tripoli government's failure to halt the tanker
had plunged Libya into one of its biggest crises since Muammar Gaddafi was
toppled by a Nato-backed uprising in 2011.
No one was hurt when US forces, at the request of both
Libya and Cyprus, "boarded and took control" of the tanker operated
by three armed Libyans, the Pentagon said.
Last week, the Morning Glory slipped through a Libyan
naval blockade off the eastern port of Al-Sidra - controlled by rebels seeking
autonomy from Tripoli - after reportedly being loaded with some 234 000 barrels
Its escape after Libyan authorities had repeatedly vowed
to take all measures to stop it underscored the weakness of the central
government, which has struggled to rein in heavily armed former rebels from the
Rebels pressing for autonomy for Libya's eastern
Cyrenaica region - epicentre of the revolt against Gaddafi - have been
blockading eastern oil terminals since July. That has led to a decline in
exports from 1.5 million barrels a day to just 250 000.
The Morning Glory incident marked a major escalation and
triggered the ouster of liberal-backed prime minister Ali Zeidan.
The Morning Glory was originally a North Korean-flagged
ship, but Pyongyang said it had "cancelled and deleted" its registry
on the grounds it was carrying contraband material.
The US has viewed the chaos in Libya with growing alarm
since an attack on its consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi in September
2012 that killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.