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Libyans threaten gas pipeline over wages

TRIPOLI, Libya--Oil security guards in central Libya have threatened to block a gas pipeline to the capital Tripoli unless the government meets their salary demands, oil sources and local media said on Sunday.

If confirmed, the protest would mark an escalation of a wave of strikes at oilfields and export terminals gripping Libya, reducing its lifeline oil exports to a trickle.

The OPEC producer is facing turmoil as the government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan struggles to control heavily armed militias who helped topple Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 but kept their weapons to press for political and financial demands.

A mix of tribes and militias have seized for months four export ports in the east alone to demand regional autonomy and a greater share of oil revenues from the central government.

In a new sign of protest, members of the Petroleum Protection Force, in charge of guarding oil facilities, working in central Libya said they might block a gas pipeline running from the east to Tripoli, oil sources said.

“They said they would interrupt the gas pipeline to Tripoli in 48 hours unless the government paid their salaries,” said an engineer at Sirte Oil Co., the main state oil firm in central Libya.

“They say they have not been paid for three months,” he said, citing a statement which was also posted on social media and quoted by Libyan media.

It was not immediately clear where the group of protesting guards was based and how many members it had. A spokesmen for the PFG in Tripoli said the force had nothing to do with the group.

Tripoli and other major cities have been hit by outages blamed by the government on ageing technology and previous blockages of power stations and a gas pipeline in the west.

The former head of the oil protection force, Ibrahim Jathran, defected with his militiamen in summer to seize the eastern Ras Lanuf, Es-Sider and Zuweitina oil ports to demand Tripoli shares oil revenues with the east.

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