Receive Breaking News updates as they occur
By Ulf Laessing and Feras Bosalum TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Armed protesters controlling ports in eastern Libya said on Saturday they had started independently exporting oil, bypassing the central government in a major escalation of their blockade to demand a share of the nation's petroleum wealth. In the distance, a tanker could be seen at what the station said was Es Sider port. "We tried to reach a deal with the government, but they ... were too busy with themselves and didn't even discuss our demands," Abb-Rabbo Albarassi, self-declared prime minister of Libya's eastern autonomy movement, told the station. The oil standoff is one part of deepening turmoil in the North African OPEC member, where the government is struggling to control militias who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but kept their weapons and are challenging state authority.