Libyan Premier resigns during live TV interview

While being interviewed on TV on Tuesday, Libya's Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani faced angry questions from citizens who held his government responsible for the lack of basic services, such as poor security.
While being interviewed on TV on Tuesday, Libya's Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani faced angry questions from citizens who held his government responsible for the lack of basic services, such as poor security.PHOTO: REUTERS

Surprise move comes after country's rival factions restart peace talks

TRIPOLI • The Prime Minister of Libya's internationally recognised government, Mr Abdullah al-Thani, has announced his surprise resignation live on television, hours after fraught peace talks between the country's rival factions restarted.

During a talk show on Tuesday, Prime Minister Thani faced a barrage of angry questions from citizens who blamed his government for the lack of basic services such as electricity and poor security in areas it controls.

"If my exit is the solution, then I announce it here," Mr Thani said during the show, adding that "my resignation will be submitted to the Parliament on Sunday".

The Prime Minister, who escaped an assassination attempt in May when gunmen opened fire on his car, was also hit with accusations of government corruption in the television interview.

Libya, which plunged into chaos after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, has two rival parliaments vying for power as well as several militia groups battling for control of the country's vast resource wealth.

THE ANSWER

If my exit is the solution, then I announce it here.

PRIME MINISTER ABDULLAH AL-THANI, announcing his resignation live on TV

Mr Thani's elected government has been working out of a small eastern city near the border with Egypt since an Islamist militia alliance captured the capital Tripoli last year.

Earlier on Tuesday, the two rival factions started a new UN-sponsored round of peace talks in Geneva aimed at creating a unity government, with representatives of the powerful Tripoli Parliament joining the negotiations after boycotting them last month. United Nations special envoy Bernardino Leon, who is brokering the talks, is urging the camps to reach a political deal in the hope that a unity government could enforce a durable ceasefire.

Libya is gripped by spiralling insecurity, with Benghazi, the main city in the country's east, caught in a daily war between pro- and anti-government militias and forces.

The international community recognises the Parliament that sits in the eastern port city of Tobruk, which installed the controversial General Khalifa Haftar as its army chief in March.

A partial peace deal aimed at restoring stability was reached last month, but leaders of the Islamist-backed General National Congress (GNC) Parliament in Tripoli boycotted the pact, calling it "unsatisfactory".

The GNC - which took power after an Islamist militia alliance captured the capital last year - will not sign any deal that safeguards a senior military post for Gen Haftar, according to Mr Mohammed Ali Abdallah Addarrat, who sits in the Tripoli Parliament and is the head of the National Front party.

"There will not be an agreement if Gen Haftar is still expected to lead an army in Libya," he said. "Those who were involved in escalating the political and military crisis in Libya cannot be the ones who lead the solution. This is a given."

The 72-year-old general served under Gaddafi before relocating to the US, where he worked at times with the CIA, US media reports say.

Mr Leon on Tuesday laid out an ambitious timetable, calling for a comprehensive deal that installs a new unity government to be concluded before the next UN General Assembly meeting in September, although he warned the process would be complex.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2015, with the headline 'Libyan Premier resigns during live TV interview'. Print Edition | Subscribe