Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Libyan rebels, hoping for one state, prepare for two

Conflict and chaos in Libya: As international airstrikes continue
against forces loyal to Moammar Gaddafi, rebels face difficult battle.

(Washington Post) - BENGHAZI, Libya — “One Libya, with Tripoli as its capital” is spray-painted on walls around this rebel city and glides off the tongues of opposition leaders. Moammar Gaddafi will fall in a week, they predict, two at the most, and they’ll build a new country then.

But as weeks stretch into months and progress on the battlefield stalls, this rebel-held area of Libya is settling into its status as a de facto separate state.

Since the February uprising that ended Gaddafi’s rule here, schools and many businesses have remained closed. But police are back on the streets, hospitals are functioning and shops are slowly reopening. Behind the scenes, opposition leaders are feverishly courting international partners as they work to set up a political and economic system for a period of division that some quietly admit may stretch on indefinitely.

A tanker arrived in the rebel-held port of Tobruk on Tuesday to load oil for export, the first time that has happened in nearly three weeks. Although it is unclear whether the rebels will be able to export enough oil to keep the east afloat economically, the tanker’s arrival marked a symbolic step in the rebels’ journey from accidental revolutionaries to governors and statesmen.

Also on Tuesday, rebel leaders for the first time welcomed to Benghazi an official U.S. envoy, who is here both to meet opposition leaders and provide assistance to the fledgling council that runs affairs in the east.

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