Tripoli - Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan announced on
Wednesday a cabinet reshuffle "in the coming days," against the
backdrop of the country's latest political crisis, sparked by former rebels
besieging two ministries.
"There will no doubt be a ministerial reshuffle in the
coming days," he told a press conference.
The announcement comes days after the National General
Congress adopted a law that would bar collaborators of ousted and slain
dictator Muammar Gaddafi from holding government posts.
The draft law caused a stir among the political elite, as
senior members of the government could be affected, among them Zeidan himself
and GNC president Mohamed Megaryef.
Both were diplomats under Gaddafi before joining the
opposition in exile.
At least four ministers and 15 lawmakers also risk losing
their jobs once the GNC's legal commission ratifies the law.
Zeidan did not say whether the reshuffle would be to apply
the new law or to give posts to members of the militias, who claim to have been
promised five portfolios, including those of defence and interior.
On Tuesday, Defence Minister Mohammed al-Barghati actually
resigned, but rescinded his decision at the urging of the prime minister.
Zeidan defended the gunmen as "thowars"
(revolutionaries), who fought to oust Gaddafi in 2011, but he insisted that the siege of the
ministries must be lifted soon.
"In Libya, we don't have militias, we have the
thowars," said the premier, whose resignation some of them have demanded.
The gunmen surrounded the foreign ministry on April 28 and
the justice ministry two days later to demand that the exclusion law finally be
passed after repeated delays.
Some of the fighters have pulled back, Zeidan said,
referring to the fact that earlier in the day militiamen withdrew pick-up
trucks mounted with machineguns and anti-aircraft weapons from outside the
foreign and justice ministries.
"Some of them are now trying to correct and repair what
has taken place," he said, adding that he hoped for "a total
withdrawal very soon" and reiterating that force would not be used.
But protesters in military uniform were still outside the
two ministries after the pullback on Wednesday.
The withdrawal came a day after residents living around the
foreign ministry in central Tripoli protested in front of the building against
the presence of weapons in their area.
Mohamed Soula, who had come from the western town of
Sabratha and claimed to have fought to oust Gaddafi, said "we want to
cleanse the foreign and justice ministries in Libya. There are no more weapons.
From now on, it will be a peaceful protest."
After the end of the conflict in Libya, the former rebels
were hailed as heroes for their part in toppling Gaddafi.
Since then, they have formed militias with different
ideologies and motivations. Today they stand accused of many of the country's
ills, notably the instability that still plagues parts of the north African
They received salaries and perks from the transitional
government, in addition to reportedly benefiting from smuggling and extortion
The government regularly promises to be firm with
"illegal militias" but, to "save lives," has avoided any
use of force.
Politicians often manipulate the former rebels, although no
political party or group has openly claimed responsibility for the armed
However, some observers and politicians have pointed the
finger at the Muslim Brotherhood, which was behind the controversial exclusion
They have also sought to bar their rivals, particularly
Mahmud Jibril, who heads the liberal National Forces Alliance that dominated
last July's elections.
Concerned by the continuing instability, the US, French and
British embassies issued a joint statement on Wednesday calling on "all
Libyans to refrain from armed protest and violence during this difficult time
in the democratic transition."
"It is vital that the country's institutions operate
free from armed intimidation," the statement added.
"The international community is observing the country
with concern during this critical time in the transition," the embassies
noted, urging Libyans to support their democratically elected leaders.