UN-backed cabinet seen as illegal by Libya’s government

Prime minister of Libya’s government urges UN-backed cabinet not to come to capital, saying it would be illegal

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A Libyan man waves the national flag in Libya, February 24, 2016.

The prime minister of Libya’s government has urged Libya's UN-backed cabinet - based in Tunis - not to come to the capital, saying such a move would be illegal and suggesting ministers could face arrest.

Two rival administrations within Libya are fighting for control, one in Tripoli, and one in the east, while the United Nations has interfered with a deal for a national unity government.

Responding to a request by the UN-backed Presidential Council and Western powers for an immediate transfer of power, Khalifa al-Ghwell told Reuters late on Tuesday he will not hand over authority to a government he said did not enjoy the support of Tripoli's parliament, the General National Congress (GNC).

The UN was criticised by analysts on social media in a similar manner, asking for democracy rather than a selection government.

The US chose to recognise the unity cabinet as the oil rich countries only government on Sunday and are forcing it to move to Tripoli and start work.

Ghwell said the UN-backed cabinet lacked the legitimacy to govern from the capital.

"If they want to enter Libya as individuals they are welcome, because they are Libyans. We don't advise them to enter Libya as a government, as to do so would be a violation to the law," he said.

Western powers assume the UN-backed designated government represents the best chance of ending the chaos that has destabilised Libya since Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in an uprising five years ago, and to tackle a security vacuum that has allowed DAESH terrorist group to thrive.

Only some major armed brigades in western Libya and some GNC members or former members have allegedly pledged to support the designated government.

The Presidential Council and the unity cabinet it nominated last month have faced opposition in Tripoli and in the east, where Libya’s initial government is based.

Under the UN-backed plan for a political transition, the parliament in the east was expected to vote to adopt the plan and approve the unity government but has chosen not to do so.

Ghwell said such decisions were taken by judicial authorities, but warned that members of the cabinet could face the same fate.

"We are a sovereign state and must secure our city and safeguard the security of our people, and if they try to come illegally they will create unforeseen consequences in Tripoli and we don't agree with this," he said.

Ghwell backs parallel talks between members of the two governments in Libya, which he said were preparing an alternative plan for a political transition that he said would be presented in the next two weeks.

Eastern opposition to a transfer of power is centred on concerns over future military leadership among allies of powerful commander Khalifa Haftar, whose Libya National Army has been leading battles against militants.

In a statement condemning a recent attack by suspected DAESH terrorists, the eastern government on Wednesday urged Libyans to fully support the army and "not count on the international community, which is still delaying in its support for Libya's legitimate institutions".

Libya has a lot of interest from the West since it holds the largest oil reserves in Africa and are among the ten largest globally.

TRTWorld and agencies