UK unit choked off Gadhafi's fuel supply

AP News
Posted: Sep 01, 2011 8:12 AM
UK unit choked off Gadhafi's fuel supply

A previously unknown team of British diplomats and military officials aided Libya's rebels by helping to cut the supply of oil to Moammar Gadhafi's military, an official confirmed Thursday.

The team, based in London's foreign ministry, liaised with both NATO forces and the Libyan opposition, helping to coordinate effective tactics to choke off supplies of crude oil, shutter refinery facilities and stem the flow of fuel to the regime.

"Over many months, the unit played an important role in restricting the supply of oil to Gadhafi's war machine," the government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the previously undisclosed unit.

Britain said the team helped identify a major refinery in Zawiya, 19 miles (30 kilometers) from Tripoli, as a key facility for Gadhafi's war effort, and encouraged NATO to use ships to blockade the town's port.

Officials in London were also able to provide information on an important oil supply route from the Nafusa mountains, and help to locate smugglers aiding Gadhafi by illicitly importing oil.

The Zawiya refinery has a capacity of 120,000 barrels per day, the second largest in the country after an eastern complex in Ras Lanouf.

Officials said the unit was formed after Prime Minister David Cameron, who is traveling to Paris on Thursday for talks on Libya, vowed to hit Gadhafi using all "diplomatic, military and economic" tools.

Junior development minister Alan Duncan, previously an oil trader, is credited with highlighting the importance of choking off Gadhafi's energy supplies.