Armed protest in Libya prompts congress to postpone sitting

TRIPOLI Mon Apr 29, 2013 3:49pm EDT

Adel Al-Ghiryani (C), spokesperson of the Supreme Council of Libyan Revolutionaries, speaks to the media in Tripoli April 28, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Adel Al-Ghiryani (C), spokesperson of the Supreme Council of Libyan Revolutionaries, speaks to the media in Tripoli April 28, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya's foreign ministry remained surrounded on Monday by heavily armed protesters, a tense demonstration of militia force that prompted the legislature to postpone its next sitting.

Militiamen surrounded the ministry on Sunday with pick-up trucks loaded with anti-aircraft guns and armed groups also tried unsuccessfully to storm the interior ministry and the state news agency, posing a challenge to state control of key parts of the capital.

The General National Congress (GNC) said its lawmakers would not now meet as scheduled on Tuesday but would postpone their next sitting until Sunday.

A spokesman said this would give them time to study the legislation that the protesters are calling for - a law banning former regime officials from senior government posts.

"The resolution came from the presidency of the GNC. Tomorrow's session will be postponed until Sunday, so all the parties have time to prepare their proposals for the political isolation law," said GNC spokesman Omar Hmaidan.

The sitting was postponed "to avoid friction with the protesters who are calling for the law to be passed tomorrow," he said.

The political isolation law - which has already been proposed - would ban officials who worked for Muammar Gaddafi holding senior positions in the new administration.

Protesters said they had targeted the foreign ministry because some officials there had worked for the dictator who was deposed in 2011.

The law could force out several ministers as well as the congress leader, depending on the wording adopted.

Tensions between the government and armed militias have been rising in recent weeks since a campaign was launched to dislodge the groups from their strongholds in the capital.

(Reporting by Ghaith Shennib; Writing by Jessica Donati; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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