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TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Protests outside western Libya's main oil refinery could shut down operations, causing a shortage of petrol in the country's capital, the deputy oil minister said.

Omar Shakmak said that while the Zawiya Oil Refinery Company was still operational, protests by wounded veterans demanding government compensation could cause a stoppage in fuel distribution.

Panicking Tripoli residents formed long queues at petrol stations on Wednesday night as they anticipated a possible gasoline shortage.

(Reporting By Ali Shuaib; Writing by Hadeel Al-Shalchi; Editing by David Gregorio)