Tripoli air controllers end strike, flights to resume

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 16, 2012 2:55 PM
Tripoli air controllers end strike, flights to resume

By Ali Shuaib

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Air traffic controllers at Tripoli's international airport have agreed to end a strike that halted most flights in and out of Libya on Sunday, officials said.

Airport staff gave differing explanations of the reason for the stoppage - some said it was over pay while others said it was for better equipment to improve security.

Tripoli airport director Milad Maatouq said the striking workers and civil aviation authority officials had met Libya's new Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagour.

"They went to meet the new prime minister and he promised to look at their demands," Maatouq said. "They have agreed to end the strike, air traffic will resume."

An official at Abu Shagour's office confirmed the meeting had taken place, adding: "The strike is over."

Air traffic was suspended in the late morning and the strike hit airports in other cities such as Benghazi in the east, where some flights take directions from controllers in the capital.

A Qatar Airways plane bound for Benghazi in the early afternoon was diverted to Alexandria in Egypt. The plane's pilot told passengers it would return to Doha as Libyan air space was closed.

At Tripoli's international airport, hundreds of passengers waited in the main hall for hours, angry that controllers had failed to give airlines the required 72-hour notice of the strike.

"I had my boarding pass, I was waiting to board and then this happens. Everything is delayed," said Libyan passenger Salah Ashour, hoping to travel to Morocco.

In December air traffic controllers walked out because they were unhappy about the appointment of new management.

Libya has been trying to return to business as usual after last year's war that toppled Muammar Gaddafi. But the country remains chaotic.

On Friday, air space over Benghazi airport was closed temporarily because of anti-aircraft fire by Islamists at U.S. reconnaissance drones flying over the city, days after the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in an attack.

The closure prompted speculation the United States was deploying special forces in preparation for an attack against militants involved in the assault on the U.S. consulate.

(Additional reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Peter Graff; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Andrew Roche)