TRIPOLI Oct 15 A Libyan faction opposed to the
U.N.-backed government has taken over a parliamentary
headquarters in Tripoli and called for a new government, in a
challenge to Western plans to bring together competing armed
Libya's internationally backed government, which has
struggled to impose its authority on rival factions, condemned
the takeover as a bid to scuttle its attempts to end the power
struggle over the North African OPEC member.
Since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has been
caught up in factional fighting between various groups of former
rebels who battled against Gaddafi and then steadily turned
against each other in a struggle for control.
A presidential council of the Government of National Unity
(GNA) arrived in Tripoli in March in the latest attempt to bring
together rival factions who have operated competing governments
in the capital and in the east of the country since 2014.
Late on Friday, leaders of a former Tripoli government said
they had taken over the Rixos Hotel in the capital, where part
of the U.N.-backed government is supposed to operate. The hotel
was already controlled by an armed group loyal to them.
"The presidential council was given chances one after
another to form the government, but it fails... and has become
an illegal executive authority," former premier Khalifa Ghwail
said in a statement.
Ghwail called for a new government to be formed with the
former Tripoli government and its rival in the east, where
hardliners also oppose the U.N.-backed administration.
The capital was calm on Saturday morning and there appeared
to have been no fighting during the takeover of the Rixos, which
was supposed to be the base for the State Council, a legislative
body made up of Tripoli's former parliament as part of
U.N.-backed unity government deal.
"The seizure of state council is an attempt to hinder the
implementation of political agreement by a group which rejects
this deal after it has proved its failure in managing the
state," the presidential council said in a statement.
Tripoli is controlled by various armed brigades some loyal
to the GNA and others who backed the former National Salvation
government when its forces took over the capital in 2014 in
fighting that destroyed the international airport.
Challenging the GNA's authority in the capital poses a risk
to Western government plans for the unity government to
stabilise Libya, and help fight Islamist militants and migrant
Eastern factions led by former Gen. Khalifa Haftar are also
opposed to the U.N.-backed Tripoli government. But they fought a
conflict with rivals for control of Tripoli in 2014. Haftar's
forces have taken over four key oil ports and now are
cooperating for the moment with the GNA in allowing oil exports.
(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami; writing by Patrick Markey Editing
by Jeremy Gaunt)