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Libya's tensions hike amid standoff between parliament, retired general

English.news.cn   2014-05-21 14:29:19

TRIPOLI, May 21 (Xinhua) -- Tensions in Libya, especially the capital city of Tripoli, have hiked over the past few days amid an escalating standoff between retired Major General Khalifa Haftar and the parliament, which has sparked concerns in its neighboring countries.

Haftar, who played a key role in toppling the country's former leader Muammar Gaddafi, is now waging a war against Libya's parliament forces in Tripoli and trying to force the General National Congress (GNC) to abandon its power.

The most violent clashes were witnessed Sunday afternoon, when the militant group loyal to Haftar assaulted Libya's parliament building and the airport road in an attempted "coup" as accused by the GNC, leaving two dead and more than 60 injured.

On Friday, the militants, claiming the country can't be a hotbed or an incubator of terrorism, had entered Libya's second largest city of Benghazi at dawn, leaving at least 79 dead and around 140 wounded, local media reported.

Haftar claimed he intended to purge "terrorists" from the parliament and the city while the interim government and parliament condemned him for trying to stage a "coup".

The tensions have escalated since Sunday as many army officials and militias pledged loyalty to Haftar.

In response, GNC President Nouri Abu Sahmain on Monday called a militia from Misrata for help, asking them to confront the "attempts to take over power" in Tripoli.

Militias loyal to the parliament were deployed in key areas in Tripoli on Tuesday.

Soldiers piled sandbags on key roads and armored cars were seen shuttling on the streets. Xinhua photographers saw checkpoints were set up around the city.

To solve the crisis between the interim parliament and Haftar, Libyan electoral committee on Tuesday proposed an early general vote.

According to the country's political transition plan, Libyans will elect a House of Representatives later this year to substitute the current interim parliament GNC, but the schedule has been delayed several times due to political upheavals.

The committee raised four dates for the election and the final decision will be announced at a formal news conference, UN High Commissioner Abdul Hakim told Xinhua.

Libya's tensions have sparked concerns in its neighboring countries.

Tunisian Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi on Tuesday expressed his concerns over the current situation in Libya, and urged the Libyan authorities to help secure a quick release of the Tunisian diplomats kidnapped in Tripoli.

During a meeting with Libyan Consul in Tunis Abdelrazzak Boussnina, Hamdi said the current situation in Libya would have an inevitable impact on Tunisia's security and economy.

Tunisia's ministry of defense has reiterated that the Tunisian-Libyan borders remain safe and under control, while admitting its concerns over the rising number of Libyan refugees and potential security threats such as terrorist activities.

On Tuesday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry warned citizens against traveling to Libya.

"The Foreign Ministry warns Egyptian citizens not to travel to Libya due to the ongoing security conditions and for the safety of their own lives," spokesman Badr Abdel-Atty said, adding those Egyptians already in Libya should exercise "utmost caution."

He added that the ministry's operation room and the staff in Egypt's embassy and consulate in Tripoli and Benghazi are currently receiving calls from Egyptians in the country, allowing citizens to make inquiries or appeal to the government.

On Monday, the Algerian Interior Ministry announced it had temporarily closed all of its borders with Libya, citing the recent surge in instability.

Algeria has deployed some 50,000 troops along its 1,000-km border with Libya, due to fears of potential attacks by armed groups linked to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, according to sources.

Algeria has been scattering troops on its eastern border and intensifying air reconnaissance operations to thwart potential intrusion of militants and weapons from strife-torn Libya.

Saudi Arabia closed its embassy in Tripoli on Monday over security concerns, Saudi ambassador Mohamed Mahmoud Al Ali was quoted by Saudi Press Agency (SPA) as saying.

"All members of the diplomatic mission have left Libya on board a private plane due to the current security conditions in the capital," the Saudi ambassador said.

He said the departure was made in coordination with the Libyan side and that the mission would return when the situation becomes stable in Tripoli.

Since the downfall of Gaddafi in 2011, different interest groups have been scrambling to fill the power vacuum in Libya.

Related:

Date of Libya's new parliament election unsettled: UN commissioner

TRIPOLI, May 20 (Xinhua) -- The UN High Commissioner at Libya's electoral committee on Tuesday denied that the date for the new parliament vote has been set.

Earlier reports said that the date for Libya's House of Representatives election has been set on June 25. Full story

Libyan parliament suspended after assault on lawmakers

TRIPOLI, May 19 (Xinhua) -- Militants have announced the suspension of the Libyan parliament after they assaulted lawmakers.

Col. Mukhtar Fernana, speaking on behalf of assailants loyal to a retired general, announced on Sunday night that the country's constitutional assembly should take over the parliament and that acting Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni's government would serve as care-taker cabinet until new general elections are held. Full story

 

Editor: chengyang
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