February 24, 2015 / 6:54 PM / in 3 years

Libyan PM criticizes U.S., UK and EU for failing to supply weapons

Libya's internationally recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni speaks during an interview with Reuters in Bayda February 15, 2015. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

CAIRO/TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya’s official Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni on Tuesday criticized the United States, Britain and European Union for failing to supply arms to his forces as they battle those of a rival government.

The tough comments come a day after Libya’s elected parliament, allied to Thinni, suspended its participation in U.N.-sponsored talks to try to end the power struggle between the two rival administrations and assemblies.

Thinni has been confined to a rump state in the east since a rival faction called Libya Dawn seized the capital Tripoli last year, reinstating an old assembly known as the GNC and setting up a rival government.

Thinni and the House of Representatives, also based in the east, enjoy the recognition of world powers but anti-Western sentiment has been building up. Many normal people demand military support in the power struggle with Tripoli, four years after the NATO-backed ousting of Muammar Gaddafi.

“Unfortunately, the international community and especially the United States, Britain and the European Union have refused to arm the Libyan army,” Thinni told pan-Arab channel Al-Arabiya.

“Libya Dawn is part of militant Islamists which get weapons, ammunition and supplies from all over the world,” he said. “But America and Britain have other ideas against the interest of the Libyan people.”

Libya is still under a U.N. arms embargo dating from the 2011 uprising, though the country is awash with weapons and dominated by armed factions.

Thinni has been facing pressure from army general Khalifa Haftar who has merged his forces with army troops in the east to fight Islamist groups. While the alliance has managed to win back some territory in Benghazi, Haftar has drawn criticism for calling in air strikes on civilian airports and seaports.

Frustrated with hardships in the east, where the conflict has made petrol, electricity and medicines scarce, protesters have demanded Thinni quit and hand power to a military council headed by Haftar.

In another sign of pro-military sentiment, a committee of the House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to create the position of top military commander, its spokesman Farraj Hashem said.

Lawmakers did not name anyone but analysts expect Haftar to get the job. Some of his senior officers have already received official positions.

In Tripoli, the rival General National Congress (GNC) urged all parties to join the U.N. talks, its second deputy speaker Saleh Makhzoum told reporters.

The United Nations had planned to hold a new round in Morocco this week, after several sessions inside and outside Libya made little progress.

Additional reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli and Ahmed Elumami; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Andrew Roche

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