Libya PM-in-waiting accuses rival of blocking swearing-in

AFP , Thursday 3 Mar 2022

The Libyan parliament's pick for prime minister has accused his rival in Tripoli of blocking ministers-in-waiting from travelling to the eastern-based assembly to be sworn in.

Fathi Bashagha
File Photo: Former Libyan interior minister Fathi Bashagha was appointed prime minister last month by the war-torn country s parliament in the eastern city of Tobruk. AFP

Former interior minister Fathi Bashagha was appointed last month by the war-torn country's parliament in the eastern city of Tobruk, and his administration was to be sworn in on Thursday.

But Abdulhamid Dbeibah, the head of an interim government appointed in February last year with a mandate to lead the country to elections, has refused to cede power except to an elected government.

In a letter to the prosecutor seen by AFP on Thursday, Bashagha accused "the outgoing government (of) closing Libya's entire airspace".

"This is a violation of the right to movement and an attack (on his government) which is prevented from carrying out its duties," he said in the letter dated Wednesday.

Libya's parliament has been based in the eastern city of Tobruk, hundreds of miles (kilometres) east of Tripoli, since an east-west schism in 2014 following the revolt that had toppled leader Muammar Gaddafi and thrown the country into chaos three years earlier.

Bashagha's appointment leaves Libya once again with two governments, as was the case amid deep east-west divisions from 2014 until 2021.

News channel Libya al-Ahrar on Thursday cited sources close to Bashagha as saying two members of his cabinet, approved by the parliament on Tuesday, had been "detained by an armed group".

It did not name the group, but said Hafed Gaddur and Saleha al-Toumi, Bashagha's nominees for the foreign affairs and culture ministries, respectively, had been "detained as they headed by land towards Tobruk".

Also on Thursday, Basghagha's choice for economy and trade minister Jamal Salem Shaaban announced he would no longer take part in a government "that would bring war and destruction".

He also said Tuesday's vote of confidence had not been transparent and had bypassed parliamentary procedures.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres' office also said Wednesday he was "concerned over reports that (the vote) fell short of the expected standards of transparency and procedures and included acts of intimidation prior to the session."

Dbeibah's government came to power as part of UN-led efforts to turn the page on a decade of violence, and was to lead the country until elections in December -- but the polls were indefinitely postponed amid bitter wrangling over their legal basis and the presence of divisive candidates.

On Tuesday, after parliament passed a vote of confidence in Bashagha's proposed cabinet, Dbeibah condemned what he said was a "blatantly" fraudulent procedure with no quorum and with some MPs counted as voting in favour even though they were absent.

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