Sharp splits are already emerging in the ranks of Libya's new rulers between Islamic conservatives and more secular figures competing for power even as the leadership begins to settle in Tripoli.

The rising tensions, which have become increasingly public, could jeopardise efforts to rebuild the country and form a cohesive state after six months of civil war.

Each side accuses the other of trying to monopolise a new government. On one side stand more secular technocrats, some of whom have long lived abroad or once had ties with Gaddafi's regime. On the other are conservatives, including the Muslim Brotherhood, who opposed Gaddafi for years on the ground in Libya and suffered during his rule.

"There are fears that these tensions could hamper reconstruction or just cause it all to unravel," said one Western official in Tripoli who deals with members of the leadership of all stripes.

The two sides are wrestling over a fundamental question facing Libya's new leaders since the uprising began in mid-February - how to divvy up the powers of the nation after the downfall of Gaddafi's 42-year rule.

Caught in the middle is Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the head of the National Transitional Council, the closest thing the former rebels have to a functioning government. Abdul-Jalil is the sole figure in the leadership who enjoys almost universal support, earning the deep respect of many Libyans for criticising Gaddafi's regime even while serving as its justice minister.

The disputes for now appear to be primarily over personnel, and not deeply rooted in ideology, although the dividing line is increasingly stark.

The more secular camp is headed by Mahmoud Jibril, the US-educated acting prime minister who has found favour among the revolution's Western backers. But Jibril, like a handful of others falling on this side of the fault line, also served briefly in the Gaddafi regime, and spent much his time during the civil war abroad, trying to drum up international support.

One of the most prominent Islamist figures at the moment is Abdel-Hakim Belhaj, a former fighter in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group - a militant organisation that long opposed Gaddafi - and now the commander of the Tripoli military council.

The Islamists, who control the main military force in the capital, the Tripoli Brigade, have tried to ramp up the pressure on Jibril, calling for his resignation.

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