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After Qaddafi, Libya's east tires of Tripoli too

Oil-rich eastern Libya is looking for greater autonomy after playing a major role in deposing Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

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When the western city of Misurata came under siege during Libya's revolution last year, Adnan al-Baghathi grieved for his countrymen. After Misurata residents fled to his town of Benghazi – 20 hours to the east by boat – he arranged lodging for them and organized food deliveries.

Today, however, he has no love lost for Misurata's residents, claiming they have monopolized top posts in the new Tripoli-based government and sidelined easterners, who spearheaded the uprising against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

"Everyone sacrificed during the revolution," Mr. Baghathi grumbles. "It doesn't belong to any one town or region."

So now, eastern Libyans like Baghathi who chanted "no east, no west, Libya is one" during the revolution are backing a nascent eastern political movement that is moving to break away from Tripoli. On March 6, about 2,800 political and social activists gathered in an old soap factory near Benghazi to announce the formation of an interim council that would pave the way for the creation of an autonomous government.

Return to federalism?

Easterners hope that such a return to federalism, which prevailed here before Mr. Qaddafi took over, could provide them with better community services and a greater share of the spoils from Libya's oil industry, which is largely concentrated in the east and south.

"We see none of our country's great oil wealth," laments Mukhtar Jabir of Benghazi. "All we know is oil is pumped from under our feet and goes to pay for health and education somewhere else."

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