UPDATE 1-Protesters threaten operation of Western Libya's main oil refinery

TRIPOLI, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Protests outside western Libya's

main oil refinery on Wednesday could shut down operations,

causing a shortage of petrol in the country's capital, the

deputy oil minister said.

Omar Shakmak said that while the Zawiya Oil Refinery Co was

still operational, protests by wounded war veterans demanding

government compensation could cause a stoppage in fuel

distribution.

"We have enough fuel stored in Tripoli to last us 25 days

but the problem is that protesters are not allowing trucks in or

out of the fuel storage areas of the refinery which could cause

a shortage," he said.

Panicking Tripoli residents formed long queues at petrol

stations to fill up their tanks on Wednesday night as they

anticipated a possible gasoline shortage.

Refinery spokesman Essam al-Muntasir said that he expected

the protests to end by the next day.

"Refinery operations are fully functioning for the moment

but we will know more on Thursday morning," he said.

A similar demonstration in early November by the same group

of wounded veterans of the war which ousted Muammar Gaddafi last

year caused the refinery to shut down operations for two days

and led to a shortage of fuel in gas stations in Tripoli.

The continuing refinery protests are another reminder of

volatile security conditions in Libya, where a new central

government has yet to control militias or meet its people's

needs.

The Zawiya refinery, about 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli,

has a capacity of 120,000 barrels per day and provides 40 per

cent of western Libya's oil needs.

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