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Libya deploys special forces to protect petrol stations

Source: Reuters - Mon, 16 Jun 2014 13:30 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Power cuts worsening, state electricity firm lacks fuel)

TRIPOLI, June 16 (Reuters) - Libya has deployed special forces to protect petrol stations in the capital Tripoli packed by angry motorists trying to refill their vehicles, the government said, as the state oil firm struggles to bring in fresh supplies.

In another sign of chaos gripping the major oil producer, power cuts worsened in the Tripoli and other parts of the country after the state electricity firm said it lacked fuel for several power stations.

Petrol stations across Tripoli have for almost two weeks seen queues stretching for kilometres at times, adding to the frustration of Libyans exhausted by chaos and violence.

Libya's state oil firm says it has sufficient supplies but a lack of security at petrol stations makes it difficult to bring in fresh supplies. Residents say some of the fuel is being sold on the black market.

The government said in a statement late on Sunday it had agreed with Tripoli's security headquarters to deploy the interior ministry's special forces to protect petrol stations.

In the up-market Gargaresh district, trucks with mounted anti-aircraft guns were seen protecting two petrol stations and marshalling long queues of motorists.

Libya is in turmoil as the government struggles to control militias who helped oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but now defy state authority.

It has struggled to keep the 120,000 barrels a day Zawiya refinery that supplies western Libya running after protesters closed the El Sharara oilfield which supplies it.

The lack of fuel is also hitting power supplies for two power stations in western Libya, the state electricity firm said in a statement carried by the official news agency LANA.

"There is a serious lack of fuel at the power stations in Misrata and western Sarir," the statement said, adding that power capacity would fall by 600 megawatts (MW).

In central Tripoli, power was cut off by four hours on Monday.

The government has been forced to use its two offshore fields to keep Zawiya running. But this will further reduce exports, which have fallen to less than 200,000 barrels per day from 1.4 million bpd when the protests started in July, eroding public finances. (Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by William Hardy and David Evans)

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