TRIPOLI, March 27 (Reuters) - A Libyan politician campaigning for greater
autonomy for the country's east said his movement could resort to blocking
oil supplies if the central government failed to meet its demands for more
seats in the national assembly.
Civic leaders from the east of Libya, known as Cyrenaica, launched a push to
create a several federal states in Libya earlier this month, posing a
challenge to the country's fragile cohesion after last year's overthrow of
Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed rebellion.
The proposal has provoked an outcry in the capital Tripoli, where many
people fear it could lead to the break-up of Libya, especially as the ruling
National Transitional Council (NTC) has struggled to assert its authority
over the whole country in the aftermath of the revolution.
NTC chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil visited Benghazi, Libya's second largest city
and the capital of the east, on Tuesday where he met with a representative
of the Congress of the People of Cyrenaica, the driving force behind the
campaign, to try to defuse the row.
Bubaker Buera, a founder of the Congress, told Reuters on Tuesday that the
meeting was "general" and represented the start of a dialogue but that
nothing concrete had been decided. NTC officials were not immediately
available to comment on the meeting.
Asked what his group might do if its demands were not met, Buera said: "We
may be forced to stop oil flow."
Beura said that there were enough oil technicians who supported calls for
greater autonomy in the east to successfully stop the flow of oil, the
mainstay of government income.
The east of Libya is home to more than 80 percent of the country's oil
wealth, and has been given 60 out of 200 seats in the national assembly,
whose representatives will be elected in June in the first nationwide polls
since Gaddafi's ouster.
The Congress has called for a third of the seats to be reserved for the
east, assuming Libya would be devolved into three broad regions.
"We are asking for a balanced representation," Buera said. "You divide the
number of seats by the number of regions."
Libya was ruled for about 10 years after its 1951 independence as a
federation of three devolved provinces, Cyrenaica in the east, Tripolitania
in the west and Fezzan in the south.
That system gave way to a more centralised government over the years, but,
in the aftermath of Gaddafi's removal, myriad militias and local councils
have been largely running their own cities, towns and sub-regions on a
Some complain that the NTC has done little to stabilise the country. The NTC
complains that myriad local militias, who are jostling for power and
resources post-revolution, have been slow to lay down their arms and join
the national armed forces.
Buera said he wanted fairer representation for the eastern region which is
home to about 2 million of Libya's 6 million people and was the birthplace
of the revolution in February 2011 and the NTC's base until after the fall
of Tripoli in August.
Residents of eastern Libya say Gaddafi had marginalised the region and have
also demanded a greater share of oil wealth.
Plans to grant more autonomy to Libya's oil-rich east were already laid out
this month in Italy's oil and gas summit held in Rome after months of unease
among international oil companies over the uncertainty. [ID: nL6E8EM2UN]
A new system in place will devolve power to subsidiary firms previously
controlled by Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC).
The east's Arabian Gulf Oil Company (Agoco) was first in Libya to restart
production after the uprising and for a period marketed its own oil to
international firms. Agoco said earlier this month a federal system would
not affect its operations. (Writing by Hadeel Al-Shalchi; Editing by Lin
Noueihed and Karolina Tagaris)
TRIPOLI, March 27 (Reuters) - Three days of clashes between rival militias
in southern Libya spread to the centre of the country's fourth largest city
Sabha on Tuesday despite the deployment of army troops trying to stop the
violence which has so far killed nearly 50 people.
The clashes highlight the problems the government faces in imposing its
authority following the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi last year.
Fighting between gunmen from Sabha and those from the Tibu ethnic group had
reached the centre of the city, said Ibrahim Misbah, a doctor at the main
An Interior Ministry official said the army had sent 300 soldiers stationed
in southern Libya to help calm the situation on Monday. Another 300 soldiers
left Tripoli on Tuesday to assist, he added.
Sabha fighter Oweidat al-Hifnawi said government forces had arrived in Sabha
and were "in the middle of the clashes".
"We know that they are here to try to solve the problem and not fight," he
said. "There are unconfirmed reports that they have retreated out of the
The ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) is struggling to assert its
authority across Libya, where rival militias and tribal groups are jostling
for power and resources after the revolution that ousted Gaddafi.
Hampered by a lack of a coherent national army, the NTC has struggled to
persuade the many militias who fought Gaddafi to lay down their arms and
join the armed forces and police.
Abdulmajid Saif al-Nasser, an NTC representative for Sabha, said he was
resigning in protest because he said the Council was not doing enough to
stop the violence.
"I have not seen any reaction from the Council to what is happening now in
Sabha. The air force has not been sent out, there was only a plane from the
health ministry carrying medicine," he told Libyan television. "The state is
supposed to intervene in these cases ... but there is no state."
CLOSE TO 50 PEOPLE KILLED
Fourteen people were killed on Tuesday and 30 people wounded, Misbah said,
giving numbers for the Sabha side. Around 20 people were killed in fighting
by Monday, he said.
"The hospital crew has been working around the clock since Monday night and
the injured keep coming in," he told Reuters.
Ali Galama, a Tibu representative on the NTC from Murzuq, south of Sabha,
said 15 people were killed on the Tibu side and 18 were wounded. While he
was speaking from Benghazi, he said he was in touch with Tibu in the area by
The fighting broke out on Sunday after a Sabha man was killed in a dispute
over a car.
A fighter called Hifnawi said the clashes had moved from around the airport
to the downtown area. "There are Tibu snipers all over the Sabha city centre
and the number of the wounded keeps going up," Hifnawi said.
Mousa al-Koni, a Tibu representative on the NTC, said by phone from Tunis
that the clashes had escalated after Tibu former fighters tried to steal a
car from a member of the Sabha militia. He said a reconciliation committee
was being formed to help stop the violence.
Last month, dozens of people were killed in clashes between tribes in the
far southeastern province of Al Kufra. Armed forces eventually intervened to
stop the fighting, in a rare example of the Tripoli government imposing its
authority. (Writing By Hadeel Al-Shalchi and Marie-Louise Gumuchian, editing
by David Stamp)
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Received on Tue Mar 27 2012 - 16:45:44 EDT