In Libyan capital, nerves behind the normality

Tue Mar 1, 2011 2:18pm EST

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* Tripoli normal on surface but some speak of fear

* Business as usual in capital

* "Look around: do you see any problems?"

By Michael Georgy and Maria Golovnina

TRIPOLI, March 1 (Reuters) - A widespread revolt may be closing in on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi but there is little sense of panic in the capital.

As they queued for bread and shopped at Tripoli's vegetable markets on Tuesday, some residents dismissed suggestions their leader might soon be toppled and and were keen to tell foreign reporters that everything was fine.

"Look around: do you see any problems? Life is normal in Tripoli," said Abdel Karim Abdel Ghani, an oil company employee pointing to a music and DVD store.

"Everything is cool," added a friend with gelled hair and sunglasses.

Gaddafi has despatched forces to a western border area in defiance of Western military and economic pressure, stirring fears that the bloodiest in a series of Arab revolts may grow more violent.

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More on Middle East unrest: [nTOPMEAST] [nLDE71O2CH]

Western leaders call for Gaddafi to go [ID:nLDE71Q0L4]

Western forces in region link.reuters.com/jen38r

Who controls Libya towns link.reuters.com/men38r

Latest graphic: r.reuters.com/fug38r

Interactive factbox link.reuters.com/puk87r

Breakingviews on Libya sanctions [nLDE71R0SO]

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Behind the insistence on business as usual, there were some signs of strain in Tripoli.

"The situation is nervous," said Salah, a 35-year-old doctor at one bread shop where about 15 people were queuing outside.

"Of course I am worried. My family is afraid. They are waiting at home. We have been hearing gunfire.

"But the people are together. I hope the situation calms down. I am 35 and this is the first time I saw something like this in Libya. It is very scary."

One man who identified himself as a military pilot said of Gaddafi: "One hundred percent of Libyans don't like him. Forty-one years (of his rule) is too long. Tell Britain and the United States they must help Libya very fast."

Along one road, armed supporters of Gaddafi with green bandanas sped by in four-wheel-drive vehicles and honked their horns.

Some seaside shops were closed. Anxiety was spreading over rising food prices brought on by the crisis. In an attempt to calm nerves, state banks have been handing out cash to Libyan families.

"Now the main problem is high food prices. The government is giving 500 dinars ($400) to everyone. That is enough. It's the television channels that are creating the problems. But as you can see everything is okay," said Khalifa, a 45-year-old airport employee.

Men relaxed at coffee shops overlooking Tripoli's Green Square, where Gaddafi last week vowed defiantly to triumph over his enemies and urged his supporters to protect Libya and its oil.

At a Tripoli market, women in veils stuffed fruits and vegetables into plastic bags. Few people seemed too concerned with Libya's turmoil.

"Why do the Arab and Western media say there are protests? There are no protests," said one man who insisted he be identified as "all Libyans".

"These events are not happening in Libya. People just film them on their telephones and pretend they happen here. Gaddafi will not lose. This is all talk."

Tripoli residents might believe that, or they might be too scared to join efforts to end Gaddafi's rule. Either way, there were no signs that Libya's uprising would engulf Tripoli, at least for now.

(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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