Protesters seeking anti-Gaddafi bill barricade lawmakers

TRIPOLI Tue Mar 5, 2013 6:01pm EST

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan speaks during a joint news conference with other government ministers in Tripoli March 3, 2013. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan speaks during a joint news conference with other government ministers in Tripoli March 3, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Ismail Zitouny

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TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Protesters demanding that ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi's former associates be barred from power blocked members of Libya's national assembly from leaving a meeting for several hours before letting them go, officials said on Tuesday.

Speaking on national television, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said around 300 protesters had gathered at a building on the outskirts of Tripoli "to put pressure on members to vote on this bill".

Proposed in December, the bill would ban officials from Gaddafi's regime and their associates from politics.

In the latest example of volatility plaguing the North African country, Zeidan said the protesters refused to allow the General National Congress (GNC) members to leave. He said he had ordered security forces to surround the area but not use force.

After several hours, GNC member Abdelrahman al-Shatter said the approximately 100 politicians were let out.

"We are finally all going home now. The protesters have gone," he told Reuters, adding that congress leader Mohammed Magarief was inside the building.

The congress members had been due to vote on the bill before deciding to postpone it, as the protesters gathered outside demanding it be adopted.

The bill is controversial as it could ban politicians such as Magarief, a former Libyan ambassador to India before he defected in the 1980s, from office.

Government buildings as well as oil installations have become a focal point of protests in Libya as the government struggles to impose order on a vast and divided country still awash with arms.

(Reporting by Ali Shuaib; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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