Libyans protest in Benghazi against new leaders
TRIPOLI - Reuters
Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi today to show their frustration with leaders who came to power after Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown.
In the biggest demonstration in Benghazi since the revolt against Gaddafi started in the city, between 20,000 and 30,000 protesters filled the central Shajara square and nearby Abdel Nasser Street, a witness told Reuters.
They chanted "The revolution started in Benghazi" and demanded changes to Libya's interim leadership, the National Transitional Council (NTC), and the removal from government of anyone associated with Gaddafi's rule.
Gadhafi was forced from power by a rebellion against his 42-year rule which began with protests in Benghazi and escalated into civil war. The NTC is now trying to get the oil-exporting country back on its feet and build democratic institutions.
But it faces intense pressure from ordinary people impatient for improvements, and from regional interest groups reluctant to hand over to an unelected central government the power they won during the fighting against Gaddafi.
NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil on Monday appealed to Libyans to give the new authorities time.
"All that we want from you all is to bear with this transitional government and to be patient. We have been patient for 40 years and I believe that being patient for a while longer with this government is not a long time," he told reporters.
He outlined plans to help people who fought against Gaddafi lay down their arms and find roles in civilian life, to beef up border security, and to redistribute central government funds to allow regions and cities more autonomy.