Libya's Bashagha says he will not use force to take office

Fathi Bashagha, designated as prime minister by the parliament, delivers a speech at Mitiga International Airport, in Tripoli, Libya February 10, 2022. REUTERS/Hazem Ahmed/File Photo

TRIPOLI, March 2 (Reuters) - The man chosen by Libya's parliament as the new prime minister told Reuters on Wednesday that he expects to take office in Tripoli peacefully despite the incumbent's vow to hold onto power.

The parliament will swear in Fathi Bashagha as prime minister on Thursday but the head of the current interim government, Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, has refused to cede control, raising the prospect of fighting.

"There will be no use of force, neither by us nor the existing government," Bashagha said in an interview.

"Tomorrow the oath will be taken before the House of Representatives and then I will go to Tripoli," he said, adding that there would be arrangements to ensure a "normal and smooth" transition.

The struggle over control of Libya's government after the collapse of a scheduled election in December threatens to return the country to the conflict and division that have prevailed for much of the period since a NATO-backed revolution in 2011.

Interim Prime Minister Dbeibah was installed a year ago through a U.N.-backed process and says his government remains valid and he will only cede power after a rescheduled election that he says he will hold in June.

In a televised speech on Wednesday, he accused parliament of seeking to sabotage the election and said "what they called a government will never work in reality and will not have a place".

The parliament has declared that Dbeibah's term expired when the December election did not take place as planned, and the chamber has instead chosen Bashagha to lead a new transition with elections to follow next year.

The parliament's position is backed by the eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar who waged a 14-month war on Tripoli from 2019 TO 2020. Armed factions in the capital and western regions appear divided over the crisis, with some saying on Tuesday they opposed the parliament's move to install a new government.

Bashagha, a former interior minister, said he was committed to holding elections within the timeframe next year set out by parliament, adding that he wanted to achieve agreement between rival political institutions on the issue.

Disputes over basic rules for the election led to the collapse of the planned vote in December.

Reporting by Ahmed Elumami; writing by Angus McDowall; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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