Future of Libya recognised government in doubt as PM announces resignation
TRIPOLI - The future of Libya's internationally recognised government was uncertain Wednesday after Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani said he would resign, as fraught peace talks were set to enter a second day.
It was unclear whether Thani planned to follow through on his resignation vow, made during an emotional live television appearance where he faced a barrage of angry questions from citizens.
The move added to the political chaos in Libya, as the country's rival factions were to meet for a second day of UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva.
Thani faced questions in the programme Tuesday from Libyans blaming his government for the lack of basic services such as electricity and poor security in areas it controls.
"If my exit is the solution, then I announce it here," Thani said during the talk show. "My resignation will be submitted to the parliament on Sunday."
The prime minister, who escaped an assassination attempt in May when gunmen opened fire on his car after a parliament meeting, was also hit with accusations of corruption against his government in the television interview.
Libya, which plunged into chaos after the fall and killing of its leader Muammar Gaddafi in a 2011 revolution, has two rival governments and parliaments vying for power, as well as several militia groups battling for control of the country's oil wealth.
The country is gripped by unrest with Benghazi, the main city in the east, caught in a daily war between pro- and anti-government forces.
Thani's government has been working out of a small eastern city near the border with Egypt since an Islamist militia alliance captured the capital Tripoli last year.
The international community recognises the parliament that sits in the eastern port city of Tobruk, which installed the controversial General Khalifa Haftar as its army chief in March.
A partial peace deal aimed at restoring stability was reached last month, but leaders of the Islamist-backed General National Congress (GNC) parliament that sits in Tripoli boycotted the pact, calling it "unsatisfactory".
The rival factions started a new round of peace talks in Geneva on Tuesday, with representatives of the Tripoli parliament this time joining the talks.
UN special envoy Bernardino Leon urged the camps to reach a deal in the hope that a unity government could enforce a ceasefire.
He laid out an ambitious timetable, calling for a comprehensive deal to be concluded before the next UN General Assembly meeting in September, although he warned the process would be difficult.
He told reporters Tuesday that he was meeting with the two camps separately and hoped to eventually get them in the same room.
"I think it would be very important that they all get together," Leon said.
"I am not sure whether it will happen today or tomorrow but I really would like to see them getting together in the coming days."
The GNC, however, will not sign any deal that safeguards a senior military post for Haftar, according to Mohammed Ali Abdallah Addarrat, who sits in the Tripoli parliament.
"There will not be an agreement if General Haftar is still expected to lead an army in Libya," Addarrat said.
"Those who were involved in escalating the political and military crisis in Libya cannot be the ones who lead the solution."
The 72-year-old Haftar served as a general under Kadhafi before relocating to the United States, where he worked at times with the CIA, according to reports in US media.
He returned to Libya last year and took charge of the army, vowing to crush the Islamist militias while urging the West to support his forces.
Leon said a separate dialogue was ongoing with military and militia leaders but that progress on that track was slower.
"There has to be more convergence," he said, stressing that without the participation of those fighting on the ground, a political deal was unlikely to hold up.
Addarrat conceded that militias linked to Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State group would almost certainly reject any unity government, but said that Libya's best hope to combat extremism was through a single, recognised central authority.
"There are always extremists and others who don't want a political solution," he said. "The solution is a national unity government that can confront them."