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
"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
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.