Protesters in Tripoli delivered a firm ‘no’ to a breakaway region in eastern Libya, echoing the reaction of the country’s leadership. The announcement by a group of civic leaders that they intend to push for autonomy has been condemned as a foreign plot by the head of the ruling National Transitional Council.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil said: “We are surprised at these voices calling for division in Libya. We call on all Libyans to gather round the internationally legitimate Council.”
Some 3,000 delegates in Benghazi announced they were setting up a council to run Cyrenaica, the province which is home to Libya’s biggest oil fields.
It reflects long-standing discontent in the east over perceived neglect and marginalisation by the rulers in the capital, 1,000 km to the west.
However, even within the region there is opposition to the idea. One man, who was among several hundred demonstrating in Benghazi said: “No to federalism; no to regionalism; yes to a unified Libya; no east or west – Tripoli is the capital and Benghazi will never divide the country. Unity, unity forever.”
Advocates for the split said they want the east to remain part of a united Libya, but that they need autonomy to end decades of discrimination.