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Top Libya minister quits

22 May 2013, 07:31

Tripoli - Libya's interior minister has submitted his resignation, two official sources said on Tuesday, after months of efforts to curb armed groups who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi but have since stalled the transition to democracy.

Two years after the popular uprising that ended Gaddafi's 42-year rule, the Tripoli government still exerts little control over brigades of former fighters in the oil-producing country who often take the law into their own hands.

Ashour Shuail, former police chief in the eastern city of Benghazi, was named interior minister late last year to tackle Libya's most formidable domestic policy challenge - establishing a legitimate, effective national police force.

However armed violence persists in wide areas of the North African state.

A ministry source said Shuail had handed in his resignation to Prime Minister Ali Zeidan.

"He has been asked by the prime minister and state television for the reason why and on both occasions he said it was for personal reasons."

A source in Zeidan's office confirmed the premier had received a resignation letter from Shuail.

Local media quoted interior ministry spokesperson Majdi al-Ourfi as saying Shuail would remain on duty until Zeidan accepted his resignation and chose a successor.

Two members of the national assembly told Reuters Zeidan had nominated police Colonel Mohammed Khalifa Sheikh to replace Shuail and asked the congress for approval.

"We expect to start voting on this [soon]," one member said.

Awash with weapons in private hands, armed attacks have increased in the last few weeks, especially on police stations in Benghazi.

Last month a car bomb devastated France's embassy in Tripoli, wounding two French guards in the Libyan capital.

Shuail has not publicly spoken about leaving but his move would come after the national assembly passed a law banning anyone who held a senior post under Gaddafi from government, regardless of their part in toppling the dictator.

Shuail worked with the police authority under Gaddafi but defected in the early days of the 2011 uprising.

In December he won an appeal clearing him of close ties to Gaddafi's regime.

Politicians debated the new law for months but the issue came to a head this month when heavily armed groups took control of two ministries during a nearly two-week siege, demanding immediate passage of the bill.

It remains unclear who will be affected by the legislation.

Sheikh, who previously worked in various Tripoli police stations and taught at a training academy, became an adviser on security matters to the national assembly leader.

He has also worked at the interior ministry.

- Reuters


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