Eastern Libyan forces said they had reestablished control over two oil ports where an ousted faction launched a counter-attack on Sunday, briefly seizing one of the terminals.
The ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf were among four seized by forces loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) on Sept. 11-12 from a Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) faction led by Ibrahim Jathran.
The fighting came as the state-run National Oil Corporation (NOC) prepared to restart oil exports from the ports, blockaded for several years.
The NOC said the Maltese-flagged Seadelta, which had been loading from storage at Ras Lanuf had withdrawn to a safe distance, but that it hoped normal operations would resume by Monday morning. The Seadelta was the first tanker to dock there for some two years.
LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said pro-Haftar forces had repelled an attack at Ras Lanuf with the help of air strikes, and were pursuing Jathran forces fleeing from Es Sider, where they had taken control earlier in the day.
A Libyan oil industry source confirmed that the LNA controlled both oil ports.
The clashes raise fears of a new conflict over Libya's oil resources. Jathran's PFG had aligned itself with a UN-backed government in Tripoli, while Haftar is a divisive figure whose opponents accuse of trying to establish military rule.
Fighting and political disputes have reduced oil output in the North African country to a fraction of the 1.6 million barrels per day the OPEC member produced before a 2011 uprising.
The NOC said Sunday's clashes had set a previously damaged oil storage tank in Es Sider alight, but that firefighters had extinguished the blaze and no other damage to oil facilities had been recorded. Pictures from Ras Lanuf showed black smoke billowing from residential areas.
The clash over the oil ports has helped push oil prices higher. Brent crude for November delivery rose 1.14 percent to $46.28 a barrel.