Libya's presidency council tells ministers to start working

AP News
Posted: May 16, 2016 9:31 AM

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — Libya's U.N.-established presidency council on Monday effectively gave the go-ahead for 18 government ministers to start work, even though they have not received backing from the parliament based in the country's east.

The development, announced in a council statement, is an effort to bypass political deadlock that continues to grip this North African country, five years after the ouster and killing of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Since 2014, Libya has been torn among rival militias, tribes, governments and parliaments.

The council was created under a U.N.-brokered unity deal struck in December to reconcile Libya's many political divisions. It won the support of a former powerbase in the country's capital, Tripoli, but failed to secure a vote of confidence by the country's internationally-recognized parliament, based in Tobruk, a city in eastern Libya.

The U.N. deal also created a de facto Cabinet to administer the country under Prime Minister-designate Fayez Serraj and the 18 ministers will answer to him.

Divisions in the Tobruk parliament between boycotters and supporters of the new government have prevented the house from reaching a quorum to endorse the council.

Fathi al-Majbari, one of Serraj's deputies, told The Associated Press that the council's move was the result of "stubbornness of some of the parliament members" in Tobruk who "created a political vacuum."

"We know that the road to unity will be rocky but we have the support of the people," al-Majbari said.

In Vienna on Monday, foreign ministers or their deputies from more than 20 nations, including the United States, are to discuss Libya.

Western nations hope Serraj's government can unite the country in order to combat an increasingly powerful Islamic State affiliate there. As Libya sank into chaos over the past years, IS militants gained a foothold, taking over the central city of Sirte and carrying out deadly attacks across the country.