- Associated Press - Sunday, May 8, 2011

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Cars sat abandoned in miles-long fuel lines, motorists traded angry screams with soldiers guarding gas stations, and many shops were closed Sunday on what should have been a workday.

In ever-multiplying ways, residents here in the Libyan capital are feeling the sting of shortages from uprising-related disruptions of supplies.

The shortages are a dramatic sign of how Libya‘s nearly 3-month-old rebellion — and the resulting chaos — is affecting daily life in Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s stronghold and other western areas of Libya still under his rule. International sanctions have begun to bite, many supply routes are unstable, and there are shortages of skilled people in some sectors to keep the city running smoothly.

Yet the deprivations — however irksome — pale in comparison to the situation in the port city of Misrata, the only rebel stronghold in western Libya. It has been under siege by land for two months, with hundreds of civilians killed, and Col. Gadhafi’s forces are now trying to block access to the port that is Misrata’s only lifeline.

In Tripoli, the shortages were obvious, even to Western reporters who may leave their hotels only with a government minder and guard. It is less clear what the eventual impact might be on Col. Gadhafi’s ability to rule.

An engineer based in Tripoli said Libyan TV blames the shortages on NATO, which is providing military muscle against Col. Gadhafi, while average residents blame hardships on the regime. The engineer requested anonymity, saying he did not want to provoke the government.

The spokesman for the rebel administration in the eastern city of Benghazi, where there is no fuel shortage, blamed Tripoli’s shortages squarely on Col. Gadhafi.

“He takes all the gasoline for his forces, and that is why there is none left for anyone else,” Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga told journalists.

In some ways, Tripoli appeared to be divided into those with government perks and those without.

In an hours-long tour of the capital, cars decked with pictures of Col. Gadhafi — his arms raised and streaks of light emerging from behind him — muscled into miles-long lines for gasoline. A minivan carrying Western reporters also pushed in.

A young black-uniformed attendant clutched a thick wad of Libyan currency, suggesting that black market rates for fuel were running far higher than the government’s set price of 150 dirhams (12 cents) a liter.

Shortages were apparent in other ways. A few dozen people crowded around a bakery in central Tripoli, unsure if its good were being depleted. A minder said most of the bakers were Egyptian laborers who fled the country as unrest worsened.

One translator for the foreign reporters looked frustrated when, soon after he lit a cigarette, a driver told him to extinguish it and rejoin reporters in their vehicle.

“Do you know how much these cost?” he shot at the driver.

He later explained: A pack of Marlboros — a fancy brand in Libya — now cost six dinars, up from 2.5 dinars before unrest began three months ago.

Story Continues →