Libya: Tobruk assembly tells PM Sarraj to abide by law

Speaker calls for confidence vote. Tripoli refuses to cede power

16 March, 19:20

    Libya's rival Governments sign UN backed peace deal in Morocco on December 17, 2015 Libya's rival Governments sign UN backed peace deal in Morocco on December 17, 2015

    CAIRO - The speaker of the Tobruk assembly, Aguilah Saleh, on Wednesday urged the national unity government under prime minister-designate Fayez Al-Sarraj to wait for his parliamentary body to approve a confidence vote prior to begin working. He said that only by doing so would Sarraj be complying with the law.

    Two days prior, the Libyan presidential council had met under Sarraj in Tunis and approved the government. Saleh also accused the international community of pushing Libya into chaos. On the late evening of March 12, the Libya presidential council under Sarraj declared the national unity government operative - despite not yet having passed a Tobruk parliament confidence vote - and asked all other Libyan authorities to ''get in contact immediately with the unity government to implement a handing over of powers in a peaceful manner''. Afterwards there was also an appeal to the international community - naming the UN, Arab League, EU and African Union - to ''cease all relations with authorities that do not depend directly on the unity government''.

    The initiative was backed by EU nations and the US, who assured that they would ''fully support'' the government, from which they expect stabilization of the country as well as a possible request for external intervention in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS). Support that includes possible sanctions at the EU level against those opposing the UN-backed Sarraj government. 

    The Tripoli-based National Salvation Government on Wednesday refused to hand power over to the national unity government under prime minister-designate Fayez Al-Sarraj. The de facto authorities in the Libyan capital made the announcement in an official statement that said that the Sarraj government had been imposed from abroad and that ''Libyans will never accept it''. ''We will not barter away the blood of our martyrs and we will not sell off the freedom that we have gained'' after the anti-Gaddafi uprising, it said. The Tripoli government, the statement continued, ''is dealing with political, economic and social problems despite difficult conditions, as well as internal and external pressures that constitute a conspiracy against the February 17 revolution that aim to restore the former regime to power''.

    The Tobruk-based government has instead in a statement called on Libyans to ''rally around the Libyan army, support it and do not count on the international community which is still hesitant about supporting the legitimate institutions in Libya, giving baseless excuses''. The statement stressed that jihadist groups and the Islamic State (ISIS) ''are spreading and have become a danger not only for Libya but also for the entire region and for international peace and security.'' 

    UN special envoy to Libya Martin Kobler arrived in Cairo on Wednesday for a two-day visit, airport sources say. The diplomat will reportedly be meeting with several high-level Egyptian officials and representatives of Libyans living in the country to take stock of the situation and to ensure support from the Tobruk parliamentary body for the national unity government.

    Meanwhile, violent clashes between fighters answering to the Tobruk government and jihadist ones were reported on Wednesday in Benghazi, Libya. Military sources say that intense artillery shelling was conducted on soldiers' positions, injuring at least 7. Some are in serious condition.

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