Libyan Prime Minister says he will resign if the people want him to, during angry TV interview

A file picture taken on April 15, 2015 shows Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani attending a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister in Moscow.
A file picture taken on April 15, 2015 shows Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani attending a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister in Moscow. PHOTO: AFP

TRIPOLI (AFP/REUTERS) - Libya's internationally recognised Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said in a television interview that he would resign, after the station's host confronted him with questions from angry citizens who criticised his Cabinet as ineffective.

But in a move typical for a country in chaos where accurate information is hard to get as officials often contradict each other, government spokesman Hatem al-Arabi told Reuters Thinni would stay on, adding that the Premier had only meant he would quit if the people demanded it.

"If my exit is the solution, then I announce it here," Mr al-Thani said during the talk show, adding: "I officially resign and I will submit my resignation to the House of Representatives on Sunday."

He was speaking to "Libya channel", a private TV station in an interview broadcast late on Tuesday.

However, the spokesman said on Wednesday that Mr-Thinni will not resign. "The Premier has not resigned officially," he told Reuters.

During the TV interview, Mr Al-Thinni became angry when the host presented him with questions collected from viewers who criticized him for a lack of security, government services and handling of aid for displaced people.

When the presenter asked Mr Al- Thinni what he would do if there were protests, he said: "People do not need to protest against me because I officially resign from my position."

"They can bring a new prime minister with magic to solve all the problems," he said. But when Reuters reached cabinet spokesman Arabi he denied that Mr Al-Thinni will resign.

"The prime minister has not resigned officially. He said during the television interview that he would resign if the street demands it."

"A resignation needs to be handed in writing to the House of Representatives, which would accept or reject it," Mr Arabi said.

Mr Al-Thinni has been based in eastern Libya since his government fled Tripoli a year ago after the capital was seized by an armed group that set up a rival administration, part of chaos four years after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi.

Mr Al-Thinni has been in office since March 2014.

He had said in April 2014 he would resign, saying his family had been attacked but later changed his mind and stayed on.

His Cabinet, working out of hotels, has struggled to make an impact in the remote eastern city of Bayda, while citizens complained about shortages of fuel and a worsening security situation.

Ministries and key state buildings in Tripoli are under the control of the rival administration with its own premier that has not been recognised by world powers.

Earlier on Tuesday, the rival Libyan factions started a new United Nations-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.

Mr Al-Thani's recognised government has been working from the eastern port city of Tobruk since an Islamist militia alliance captured the capital last year.

Benghazi, the main city in the east, is also facing a non-stop daily war between pro- and anti-government militias and forces.

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