TRIPOLI May 25 Libya's parliament on Sunday
prepared to vote under heavy security to approve a new
government a week after forces loyal to a renegade former
general attacked the congress to demand lawmakers hand over
Libya's legislature is at the centre of a standoff between
anti-Islamist forces claiming loyalty to former general Khalifa
Haftar and the pro-Islamist parties and militias he has promised
to purge from the North African country.
The crisis over the parliament has deepened Libya's struggle
to assert authority over the heavily armed brigades of former
rebels and militias who have become the main powerbrokers three
years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
Lawmakers were scheduled to meet in a former royal hall in
Tripoli because the regular parliament building was closed
following an attack by gunmen claiming loyalty to Haftar, a
congress statement said.
Parliament, split between Islamist and more nationalist
political blocks, are to decide whether to approve a government
of new Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq, whose appointment was
opposed by anti-Islamist militia groups.
"Congress members will hold a vote of confidence for the
newly appointed prime minister ...if there is a quorum of 96
members," said lawmaker Mohamed Al-Kilani.
Troops from a Tripoli brigade in armoured vehicles and
trucks mounted with anti-aircraft cannons guarded the
white-walled royal hall and surrounding roads in the capital.
Three years after a NATO-backed revolt toppled Gaddafi,
Libya still has no national army, no new constitution and its
parliament is caught up in infighting.
Powerful rival brigades of former rebel fighters often make
demands on the fragile state, each loosely allied with competing
Islamist and anti-Islamist forces tussling for control of the
OPEC oil producer.
Haftar, a former Gaddafi ally who broke with the long-ruling
leader in the 1980s and spent years in U.S. exile, is the latest
player to enter Libya's militia fray.
Last week, Haftar started what he claimed was a military
campaign against Islamist militants in Benghazi in the east and
also claimed responsibility for the attack on parliament.
His self-declared Libyan National Army has since called for
parliament to hand over power to a commission of judges until
elections later this month.
"If you attempt to meet tomorrow, you will be a considered a
legitimate target for arrest," Haftar's group said late on
Several regular army brigades have pledged their support to
him. But he is opposed by powerful Islamist-leaning brigades and
units of former rebels in the capital, setting the stage for a
Many Libyans are fed up with parliament's political
squabbling delaying a transition to democracy. In the east,
Haftar gained support among Libya's tired of Islamist militants
operating with impunity.
But it is not clear how much of a unifying force the former
general can be or how much broad support he can garner in a
country split along regional, tribal and political lines after
40 years of Gaddafi's one-man rule.
Maiteeq was named as the new prime minister two weeks ago in
a chaotic vote disputed by many lawmakers. He comes from
Misrata, a western city with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood -
fiercely opposed for anti-Islamist militias.
(Writing by Patrick Markey; editing by Jason Neely)