Magharebia (Washington DC)

16 December 2013

Libya: Fuel Crisis Hits Tripoli

Tripoli — The Libyan capital saw a fuel crisis last week as protestors disrupted oil flows and insecurity forced the closure of some petrol stations.

Motorists across Tripoli could not fill their tanks. Some service stations were closed due to the lack of security, others because vandals had cut off hoses at the pumps.

The areas surrounding Tripoli also saw congestion, as people travelled to refill their tanks in the suburbs.

The petrol problem began with power outages caused by protestors. The Ruwais power plant near Nalut was blocked by Amazigh activists demanding the inclusion of Tamazight as an official language.

The Toubou also want Tamazight to be considered an official language and are complaining of marginalisation and exclusion. In addition, the oil crescent is suffering blockades due to federalist claims in Cyrenaica.

On Sunday (December 16th), Ibrahim al-Jadhran, head of the Political Bureau of Cyrenaica, vowed to keep the oil terminals in the east shut, citing unmet demands, Libya Herald reported.

Prime Minister Ali Zidan said last week that gas was available in all stations but some did not have power while others had both fuel and power.

"There are elements that came and wanted to interrupt the distribution of fuel and made several attempts to damage gas pumps and tried also to assault gas stations' owners," he explained.

Zidan said that they were trying to disrupt citizens' life in order to settle scores with the government. "This is unacceptable," the prime minister said, adding that the interior ministry would provide security at stations.

"There was petrol available for weeks," Oil Minister Abdul Bari Laroussi said. "Our inventory, even if Zawiya refinery remains closed and even without import, is enough for weeks and weeks."

"Fuel is available in sufficient quantities and there is no justification for the congestion," the minister said, rejecting rumours of a shortage.

He added, "Security forces were deployed to protect gas stations. Companies will take care of the stations that need maintenance."

He emphasised the seriousness of the dangers associated with the transfer of oil derivatives in barrels, smoking inside stations and the use of arms.

"There are 45 gas stations in the city of Tripoli and if there are clashes and they catch fire then it will be a catastrophe," said Culture Minister Habib Lamine.

As the minister responsible for civil society, he called for self-control until the crisis passes.

"The reason behind the worsening of the fuel crisis in the capital Tripoli is the slow response of the government in dealing with this crisis," said Nasser Kriwi, president of the Committee for the Security and Stability of Tripoli. "Finally, it realised that it had made a mistake and began to deal with it seriously in order to solve it."

He pointed out that the council would seek to cover any shortfall in the government's plan and called on residents of the capital to help the police and military forces in maintaining the security of petrol stations.

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