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Miitig poised to tackle Benghazi crisis amid leadership dispute

'Prime minister-elect' Miitig pledges strong stance against extremism, while MPs accuse him of storming parliament by force
Libya's parliament building in Tripoli after it was stormed by gunmen on 29 April (AFP)

On Monday night, newly elected Libyan Prime Minister Ahmed Miitig held his first meeting with his cabinet in the prime minister’s office of Tripoli’s parliament building.

Miitig has held a number of meetings with his cabinet in luxury Tripoli hotels, but Monday marked his first use of the building since the disputed vote in parliament on 25 May that he says gave him a mandate.

The emergency meeting came ahead of a high court decision regarding the legitimacy of the vote and Miitig’s claim to power, expected on Thursday, reports Libyan news site al-Wasat.

According to al-Wasat, several members of parliament reported that Maiteeq had entered the parliament building by force late on Monday night, accompanied by an armed guard.

The state news agency reports that “prime minister-elect Miitig” held a brief press conference outside parliament after his meeting to report its results.

Maiteeq pledged to “restore security and combat terrorism and extremism, with determination and strength”.

He said that any attempts to “target terrorism outside the framework of the state” would only worsen the situation.

His comments came after a bloody day in Benghazi that left 22 people dead, in the latest round of fighting in renegade General Haftar’s campaign against militants in the city.

Miitig also confirmed that his government will work to facilitate the upcoming parliamentary elections, set for 25 June.

Miitig’s cabinet is to hold a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss the security situation in Benghazi, reports the Libyan state news agency.

However, the first deputy speaker of Libya’s General National Congress, Izzedine al-Awami, wrote on his official Facebook page that the outgoing prime minister Abdullah al-Thani had not handed over power to Miitig.

According to the post, Miitig’s entry to the parliament building “was done unofficially”.

Thani met with the head of the UN delegation in Libya on Monday to discuss recent events in the stricken city, with Thani reporting that his government will take all necessary steps to safeguard Benghazi citizens.

According to a statement on the Facebook page of Thani’s cabinet, his interim government has “no personal dispute” with Miitig, but rather legal differences.

Thani has previously said he is launching a judicial challenge to Maiteeq’s government, alleging that the parliamentary vote that brought him to power was illegitimate.

The legal department of the Ministry of Justice announced on Monday that the 25 May vote was illegitimate, reports news site al-Omah.

According to reports, the ministry sent a letter to the head of parliament stating that since only 93 ballots were cast, the vote was not binding according to parliamentary rules.   

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