Divisions sap credibility of Libyan rebels

Wed May 11, 2011 2:16pm GMT

By Deepa Babington and Alexander Dziadosz

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - One day last month Wahid Bugaighis arrived at the offices of eastern Libya's main oil company with plans to reorganise the major source of funds for the struggling rebel movement.

But things did not go as smoothly as the freshly appointed rebel oil boss might have hoped.

After he announced a management reshuffle at Agoco, the company which runs some of Libya's most important oilfields, disaffected staff promptly held a meeting and voted to reject the changes.

"It's the wrong time, it's the wrong guy, everything is wrong," an Agoco manager told Reuters. "The people didn't accept this and they kicked him out. He can't come here now to Agoco."

The episode was just one example of the kind of disharmony that has emerged among Libya's rebels in the east in the three months since they threw off decades of authoritarian government under Muammar Gaddafi.

Divisions among the rebel leaders are blunting their challenge to Gaddafi and could unnerve foreign powers banking on them as a credible alternative government for the war-riven country.

Public relations gaffes, foot-dragging on naming officials and confusion over who controls crucial policy areas have led some observers to wonder if the rebels can stay united after their hopes for a quick overthrow of Gaddafi were dashed.

"When things are not going well, people start to quarrel," said David Hartwell, IHS Jane's North Africa and Middle East analyst. "It's not surprising given the fairly disparate nature of the opposition."   Continued...

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