* Sieges at two ministries over, govt minister denies deal
* BP withdraws some Tripoli staff on security grounds
* Benghazi police stations attacked for 2nd time in three
By Jessica Donati
TRIPOLI, May 12 Gunmen have ended a siege of
Libya's foreign and justice ministries but the two-week
standoff has left many unresolved questions about the
government's ability to impose its authority in the capital, let
alone the restive east of the country.
The episode heightened security concerns that prompted oil
group BP, one of the biggest foreign companies active in
Libya, to announce on Sunday it was withdrawing an unspecified
number of employees from Tripoli. The U.S. and British
governments had already pulled out some diplomats temporarily.
In a separate development, two more police stations were
attacked in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi in the early hours
of Sunday, the local council said. The suspected grenade attacks
caused "small explosions" but no damage or casualties, and
followed bomb blasts outside two other stations on Friday.
More than 18 months after the fall of dictator Muammar
Gaddafi, Libya's new rulers have yet to impose a firm grip on a
country awash with weapons. Rebel groups that helped to
overthrow him are still refusing to disband, and remain more
visible on the streets than the state security forces.
The siege of the Tripoli ministries was launched on April 28
by self-styled 'revolutionaries' demanding a law to ban anyone
who held a senior position under Gaddafi from serving in the new
Parliament bowed to the demand and approved the legislation
a week later, despite criticism from rights groups and diplomats
who said it was sweeping, unfair and could cripple the
Justice Minister Salah Marghani denied on Sunday there had
been any deal with the gunmen who left the ministries late on
Saturday. They have also demanded the resignation of Prime
Minister Ali Zeidan.
"I am not aware of any deal, they just left and they have
handed over the place back... they left a bouquet of flowers,"
he said in an interview with Radio France Internationale.
Ahmadi Al Deli, head of a committee including members of
parliament which had negotiated with the gunmen, denied any
agreement to let them set up an office inside the foreign
ministry. He said certain "unacceptable" requests, like access
to the ministry's secret archives, had also been rejected.
A political risk consultant said the outcome was likely to
encourage armed groups to pursue demands by force.
"What is clear is that sieges and the implicit or explicit
threat of force delivers results. So it is likely that armed
groups will continue to flex their muscles to achieve their
political objectives in the medium term at least," said Anthony
Skinner, Middle East and North Africa director at risk
Outside the foreign ministry late on Saturday, the
revolutionaries had been replaced by a security force known as
the Supreme Security Committee (SSC), made up of former rebel
fighters now subordinate to the interior ministry.
An commander at the gates said control of the ministry had
been handed over to a committee made up of members of parliament
and leaders connected to the armed protests.
It was not clear how this arrangement would work in
practice, or whether the gunmen would withdraw from the capital.
By Sunday morning the ministry appeared to be returning to
normal. Staff were coming and going freely, as police and a
couple of SSC cars provided security outside.
The government's inability to guarantee security throughout
the country has prompted some local and tribal leaders to take
matters into their own hands.
In the oil-rich east, hundreds of leaders agreed on Saturday
to join forces to defend their territory against armed attacks.
"We are not satisfied with the performance of the Ministry
of Interior," said Osama Al Sharif, Benghazi's local council
spokesman. "And especially with the leadership of Benghazi's
Benghazi, Libya's second city, was the birthplace of the
uprising that toppled Gaddafi. Four Americans including
Ambassador Christopher Stevens were killed in an attack on the
U.S. mission there last September by suspected Islamist