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Rival cabinets meet in Libya political chaos

30 May 2014, 07:30

Tripoli - Libya's contested new cabinet convened for the first time on Thursday, defying the outgoing administration, which refuses to hand over power and held its own session.

Amid the political chaos in the largely lawless North African state, the High National Elections Commission (HNEC) announced that Libya is go to the polls on 25 June as planned.

A source in new Prime Minister Ahmed Miitig's office said his team met in a Tripoli luxury hotel.

The seat of government is still occupied by the outgoing cabinet, which said it also met Thursday.

The incoming team's agenda covered security issues and ministerial programmes, the source said, asking not to be named.

The governmental crisis adds to security chaos at a time when state coffers in the oil-rich country are being drained and a 2014 budget has yet to be adopted.

Libya's first ever free polls

At a news conference, HNEC president Imad al-Sayeh urged Libyans to register on electoral lists by a midnight deadline, noting that only 1.4 million of the 3.4 million eligible voters had signed up so far.

The date for polling remains 25 June, as announced earlier this month, "and Libyans living abroad will vote on 21-22 June", he said.

The elections are to replace the General National Congress, the interim parliament that became Libya's highest political authority after the ouster and killing of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The GNC was elected in July 2012, in Libya's first ever free polls. But its legitimacy was challenged after it unilaterally prolonged its mandate, due to expire this February, until December.

Under the pressure of street protests, it announced new elections.

But Libya's political crisis deepened Wednesday when outgoing premier Abdullah al-Thani submitting a request for a court ruling on whether he must hand over power to his GNC-elected successor.

Critics have charged that Miitig was "illegally elected" as prime minister at a chaotic session of the GNC in a vote manipulated by Islamists.

Governments at loggerheads

Thani resigned last month after claiming he and his family had been attacked, but Thani's outgoing team and the Miitig administration remain at loggerheads.

Several politicians and armed groups, which hold the balance of power in Libya, have warned they will not recognise the Miitig government, although it won a vote of confidence in the GNC last Sunday.

On Wednesday, gunmen attacked an interior ministry team in Tripoli tasked with protecting the outgoing government, while a rogue ex-general resumed air strikes on jihadists in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Air forces units loyal to former general Khalifa Haftar attacked a jihadist camp on the outskirts of Benghazi, cradle of the 2011 uprising.

Haftar, who returned to Libya from American exile to join the revolution, launched an anti-jihadist campaign in Benghazi on May 16 when his forces also carried out air strikes.

Subsequent fighting killed at least 79 people.

Amid the ever-worsening insecurity, Washington has urged US citizens there to leave "immediately" and has sent a warship to deploy off the Libyan coast with 1 000 marines in case the embassy needs to be evacuated.



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