Chaos over premier's post as Libya slides into uncertainty

Thu May 29, 2014 12:41pm EDT
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By Patrick Markey and Ahmed Elumami

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya stumbled deeper into chaos on Thursday uncertain over who runs the country after rival prime ministers both claimed legitimacy in a confrontation threatening to turn into violence among rival factions.

Even by Libya's tumultuous standards, the North African oil producing state has veered closer to its most dangerous crisis in the three years since a NATO-backed uprising helped rebels put an end to Muammar Gaddafi's one-man rule.

After a contested vote in parliament three weeks ago, businessman Ahmed Maiteeq was appointed as Libya's third prime minister in two months with backing from Islamists and independents in the splintered General National Congress (GNC).

On Wednesday, his predecessor acting Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni refused to hand over power after questioning the legality of Maiteeq's appointment by a parliament that many Libyans blame for their slow democratic advance.

That political standoff is part of a broader and potentially more explosive confrontation among the rival Islamist, anti-Islamist and regional factions vying to shape Libya's future.

The two prime ministers were waiting for further decisions from the GNC or a high court ruling on the election while a special commission mediated between the two parties on Thursday, officials and advisors said.

Addressing the country late on Wednesday, Thinni, a former defense minister who weeks ago announced his resignation because of an attempted attack on his family, dramatized the risks of a failure of negotiations.

"Our government warns of the dangers facing our homeland with political differences that may lead to a split in the country, a resort to arms and even foreign intervention," he said in a broadcast statement.   Continued...

Libya's new Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq talks during an interview with Reuters in Tripoli May 26, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah