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Libyan rebels’ finance minister says they are out of money, West is failing them

Rebels waging a drawn-out war to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi have run out of money, their oil chief said Saturday, and he accused the West of not meeting promises to deliver urgent financial aid.

Ali Tarhouni’s comments came as cracks were appearing in the NATO alliance over its three-month bombing campaign against Gaddafi, with some allies showing mission fatigue and the United States accusing some European alliance members of not pulling their weight.

The rebels have made several gains in the past few weeks but remain far from seizing their ultimate prize — Gaddafi’s power base of Tripoli and its hinterland — despite air support from the world’s most powerful military bloc.

“We are running out of everything,” Tarhouni said in an interview. “It’s a complete failure. Either [Western nations] don’t understand or they don’t care. Nothing has materialized yet. And I really mean nothing.”

Also Saturday, NATO confirmed that its aircraft had carried out an attack on a column of military vehicles this week that Libyan opposition forces said injured 16 of their fighters.

Rebel spokesman Farag al-Moghraby said Thursday that the airstrike took place near Ajdabiya, in eastern Libya, and that six rebel pickup trucks fitted with anti-aircraft guns had been destroyed. NATO’s statement said the alliance regretted injury or loss or life.

At least eight rebels were killed in fighting Saturday near the northwestern town of Nalut, a rebel source said, as insurgents sought to press an advance into Gaddafi’s heartland.

Tarhouni’s remarks highlight the insurgents’ struggle to make ends meet, with war damage to energy infrastructure in their eastern territory having knocked out oil production there.

Western powers have pledged to expand aid by tapping into Libyan assets frozen abroad. But Tarhouni, also the insurgents’ finance minister, said they had not followed through.

“All of these people we talk to, all of these countries, at all these conferences, with their great grand speeches — we appreciate [them] from the political side, but in terms of finances they are a complete failure,” he said. “Our people are dying.”

The European Union has pledged financial infusions, and the United States, which took a leading role in securing a U.N.-backed no-fly zone over Libya, has promised more aid.

— Reuters


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