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Libya ex-PM to hand over power in 'a week or two'

Libya's outgoing premier his government was 'still responsible for the daily management of the state', delaying end to crisis
Libya's Thani said he had a problem with the General National Congress (AFP)

Libya's outgoing premier said Tuesday he would hand power to his rival and successor in "a week or two," after deadly fighting between a rogue ex-general and Islamists in their Benghazi stronghold.

Abdullah al-Thani had refused to recognise the new government of Ahmed Miitig, who convened a cabinet meeting Monday despite his objections.

Thani had previously said he would let the judiciary decide whether he should hand over power, citing appeals filed by MPs against the chaotic General National Congress vote in May that elected Miitig.

But on Tuesday he appeared to strike a conciliatory stance, saying he was ready to yield power.

Speaking at a press conference, Thani said he had "no dispute with Miitig's government," but that his "problem is with the General National Congress."

Even so, he stressed that, for the moment, his government was "still responsible for the daily management of the state," ending prospects of an immediate end to the crisis.

Former general Khalifa Haftar has exploited the confusion to rally support among the public, politicians and the army, analysts say, after he unleashed an offensive in the eastern city last month to purge Libya of Islamists.

"When the state is absent, whoever emerges will be considered the country's last hope," said Othman Ben Sassi, a member of the now-disbanded Transitional National Council, the political arm of the rebellion that overthrew Moamer Gaddafi in 2011.

Haftar claims he has no political ambitions and insisting, after thousands of Libyans rallied behind him, that he has a mandate from the people to pursue his offensive to crush "terrorism."

New Libya PM vows to bring order, combat terror

However Miitig, who has vowed to restore order and combat terrorism, dismissed Haftar's military campaign as "illegitimate," warning that it "further complicates the turbulent situation" in the country.

He vowed that his government would step up security.

"Libya will not tolerate seeing its land being used to threaten its neighbours," he told reporters late Monday.

"This will be the government's priority in the coming stage," he added.

On Monday, as clashes raged in Benghazi between militants and forces loyal to Haftar, Miitig convened his ministers.

The authorities have accused Haftar of launching a coup and denounced him as an outlaw.

Reflecting doubts about Haftar's real intentions, Ben Sassi said the rogue general had already been preparing his campaign before the latest political crisis erupted in Tripoli.

"The division within the ruling elite and the total absence of the state in Benghazi has given him more influence and support, allowing him to replace the state using the regular army and even the air force," which has sided with him, he said.

Miitig, a 42-year-old businessman without political affiliations, is Libya's fifth prime minister since Gaddafi was toppled and killed in the NATO-backed uprising.

Miitig is due to lead the country to legislative elections on June 25, with the new parliament replacing the GNC and forming a new cabinet.

Observers say he is backed by the Islamists in parliament.

"The face-off between Miitig and al-Thani illustrates the showdown between the Islamists and the liberals," said Iyad Ben Omar, a Libyan analyst.

Libya ex-chief of staff slams 'rebellion' against army

On the ground, schools and banks were shut in Benghazi Tuesday and the streets deserted after the worst fighting there since 76 people were killed in mid-May, when Haftar launched his "Operation Dignity."

Meanwhile, Libya's former chief of staff has criticized 'rebellion' against the national army, but denied taking any role in the ongoing military operation against Haftar.

"I've retired from all military activity, given my social condition and the fact that I live outside Libya," general Yousef Mangoush told Anadolu Agency Monday by phone.

Some local media had recently claimed that Mangoush planned to launch a new military campaign to defend the GNC.

Mangoush regretted that some Libyan generals had joined the operations led by Haftar, dismissing the move as "rebellion against Libyan army."

He underlined the need to respect legitimacy and the ballot boxes.

But general Mangoush ruled out any contacts between him and the Libyan government.

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