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Libyan rebels out of money: oil chief
BENGHAZI (Libya), Jun 18 (Agencies):
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Published on 18 Jun. 2011 10:20 PM IST
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Rebels waging a drawn-out war to oust Libyan leader Moamer Gadhafi have run out of money, their oil chief said on Saturday, and he accused the West of not meeting promises to deliver urgent financial aid.
His appeal came as fissures were appearing in the NATO alliance over its 3-month bombing campaign against Gadhafi, with some allies showing mission fatigue and the United States accusing some European allies of failing to pull their weight.
The rebels have made important gains on various fronts the past few weeks, but remain far from seizing their ultimate prize — Gadhafi’s powerbase of Tripoli and its hinterland, despite air support from the world’s most powerful military alliance.
At least eight rebels were killed in fighting near the northwestern town of Nalut, a rebel source said, as insurgents seek to press an advance into Gadhafi’s heartland that has proven slow despite weeks of NATO air strikes on their behalf. The gun battles in the village of Takut, just outside Nalut, on Saturday followed exchanges of heavy artillery fire near the city of Zlitan, on the other side of Tripoli, as the insurgents tried to take government-held territory to the east of the city.
The remarks by rebel oil chief Ali Tarhouni in an interview with Reuters highlighted the insurgents’ struggle to make ends meet with war damage to energy infrastructure in their eastern territory having knocked out oil production there.
Western powers are assisting the rebels through daily air strikes on forces loyal to Gadhafi and have pledged to expand aid by tapping into Libyan assets frozen abroad.
But Tarhouni, also the insurgents’ finance minister, said there had been no follow-through on such promises.
“We don’t have any (cash). We are running out of everything. It’s a complete failure. Either they (Western nations) don’t understand or they don’t care. Nothing has materialised yet. And I really mean nothing,” he said in the main rebel city Benghazi.
“All of these people we talk to, all of these countries, at all these conferences, with their great grand speeches — we appreciate (them) from the political side, but in terms of finances they are a complete failure. Our people are dying.”
The economy in eastern Libya, where much of the oil that once made Libya a major OPEC exporter came from, is in shambles. Rebel leaders are struggling to find cash to pay for military operations and salaries in a society where, thanks to the legacy of Gadhafi’s centralised rule, most people rely on state wages.
The European Union has pledged financial infusions and the United States, which took a leading role in securing a U.N.-backed no-fly zone over Libya, has promised more aid and offers of loans to keep the rebels afloat.
Asked why he thought it was taking Western nations so long, Tarhouni said: “No idea. ... I am tired of asking them.”
He had earlier estimated the rebels were spending up to 100 million Libyan dinars ($86 million) per day.

 
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