Libyan ex-rebels blockade oil refinery
13 November 2013, 13:46
Tripoli - Former rebels demanding medical care are blockading a Libyan oil refinery that produces around a fifth of the country's fuel, a spokesman for the facility said Wednesday.
"Men wounded in the revolution (that toppled Moamer Kadhafi in 2011) have stopped all production at the refinery" at Zawiya, Ihab al-Hmidi told AFP.
He said the protest at the facility that produces 18 percent of the North African nation's domestic fuel needs began late on Monday.
"They have blocked two entrances with mounds of sand and posted men outside a third, who are preventing anyone from coming in or leaving," he added.
The Zawiya refinery produces some 120,000 barrels a day of fuel and derivatives. In addition to its national role, its output also covers some 70 percent of western Libya's needs.
Production "is currently halted", Hmidi said.
The ex-rebels, who are demanding ongoing medical care for wounds they received in battles against Kadhafi's forces, had already staged similar protests at the refinery twice last year.
Queues began forming on Wednesday at petrol stations in Tripoli and its suburbs amid fears of fuel shortages because of the protest.
But Mohammed al-Hrairi, a spokesman for the National Oil Company (NOC), said Libya had enough reserves for 20 days and said the Zawiya dispute "will be resolved rapidly".
Libyans often seek medical treatment abroad because of the poor state of services at home.
A government programme to provide medical care outside the country to former rebels was halted after it was abused on several occasions.
On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund warned that Libya's economy was expected to contract by 5.1 percent this year because of oil output disruptions triggered by protests.
Current output is estimated to have dropped to 250,000 barrels per day, from 1.5 million barrels per day before the protests erupted in July, an NOC official told AFP last week.