BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Libya’s cash-strapped rebels have received $100 million in financial assistance from Qatar but need more money urgently to avert an energy and humanitarian crisis, a rebel official said on Wednesday.
Mazin Ramadan, a senior rebel finance and oil official, told Reuters in the insurgent stronghold of Benghazi that $100 million had been received from Qatar over the weekend and was been spent on fuel and humanitarian needs.
“There is a financial frontline and we are losing that battle. So far from all the announced contributions we have only received $100 million from Qatar,” he said. “Otherwise you would not have had lights here today.”
Benghazi was plunged into darkness on Monday night when a fuel shortage caused a city-wide blackout. Supplies in most parts of the city have now been restored.
Asked how long the Qatari money would tide over the rebels, Ramadan said:
“I don’t know how to answer that without causing a panic. We are out of money and everybody knows that... It’s not enough for anything. We need a lot more than that.”
Western powers are helping the rebels by conducting daily air strikes against forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and have promised to unblock Libyan assets abroad for use by the forces opposing Gaddafi.
But the rebel leadership in Benghazi has accused Western powers of being too slow in putting a legal mechanism in place to make that happen.
“They always say legally they can’t do anything. We have people dying here and they can’t figure out some legal mechanism to solve this problem?”
Libya, an OPEC country, is not producing or exporting oil any more due to damage to its oil installations. With the war dragging into a fifth month, it is unclear when and how quickly production can be restored.
The rebels in Benghazi have been approached by foreign oil companies about future cooperation, but Ramadan said the rebel council was in no rush to sign deals.
“We are not doing any business deals. We are just focusing on getting things moving,” he said.
“Any business deals, any oil deals, it’s for the future government, for the future elected government. We are just here for the transitional period. We are not doing deals.”
Editing by Michael Roddy