Libya cabinet calls for new government within week, turmoil deepens

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 08, 2014 9:13 AM

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya's parliament has urged Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni to form a new government within a week, an assembly spokesman said on Tuesday, apparently rejecting a cabinet request for more powers to tackle the disorder crippling the OPEC country.

A weak central government in Tripoli is locked in confrontation with parliament and unable to control militias that helped oust dictator Muammar Gaddafi in a 2011 uprising but kept their guns and carved out autonomous fiefs.

"The General National Congress (GNC) has appointed Abdullah Al-Thinni as the prime minister under a condition of forming a government within a week," parliamentary spokesman Omar Hmeidan told Reuters.

Once a cabinet had been formed, the congress would decide whether Thinni and his minister could stay until a general election expected for later this year, he said.

Thinni's had earlier written to parliament asking for more powers and a longer mandate but denied media reports that it had resigned at a time of deepening turmoil that has hit the North African state's lifeblood oil exports.

In a typical sign of chaos and often contradictory information in Libya, the state news agency LANA as well as Libyan and Arab television stations said the cabinet had quit.

Asked about this, cabinet spokesman Ahmed Lamim told Reuters: "The government is working normally but there was a letter sent to the General National Congress saying the government needs more authority to work."

Last month, after sacking Ali Zeidan as head of the government, parliament gave al-Thinni a temporary mandate which needs to be renewed every two weeks. The latest mandate expired on Monday. "A few days of extensions don't help," said Lamim.

But LANA quoted parliamentary spokesman Hmeidan as saying the cabinet "had submitted a conditional resignation" - refusing to continue work without more power. Hmeidan did not answer calls to his mobile phone seeking comment.

Lawmaker Najah Salouh Abdulsalam said the GNC had written first to the prime minister's office to inform Thinni that his cabinet was just a caretaker government with no right to make any decisions.

Thinni had then written back asking for more powers so they can run the country, otherwise they would resign, she said.

Bowing to public pressure, the GNC has agreed to call new elections later this year but no date has been set. Many Libyans blame factional infighting for Libya's bumpy transition since the NATO-backed uprising against Gaddafi in 2011.

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing, Ahmed Elumami, Omar Fahmy and Julia Payne; Editing by Mark Heinrich)