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New Libyan cabinet to be formed “within a week”: parliamentary speaker - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Members of the Libyan Dawn Islamist militia gather at the US diplomatic compound in the Libyan capital Tripoli, on August 31, 2014. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Turkia)

Members of the Libyan Dawn Islamist militia gather at the US diplomatic compound in the Libyan capital Tripoli, on August 31, 2014. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Turkia)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—The formation of a new Libyan government is imminent, the country’s interim speaker of parliament, Faraj Bouhashem, told Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday.

Speaking via telephone from Tobruk, where the interim parliament is currently based, Bouhashem said the country would have a new government “within about a week,” adding that the parliament would be moving to Benghazi once the fighting there had stopped.

This development follows weeks of fierce fighting in the capital Tripoli and the city of Benghazi between army forces and a number of rival militias formerly involved in the fight against late dictator Muammar Gaddafi. On August 23, pro-Islamist militias hailing from Zintan—and calling themselves “Libyan Dawn”—announced they had taken over the capital’s main airport, declaring a rival parliament in Tripoli in defiance of the interim, newly elected parliament based in Tobruk.

Last Wednesday, the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on a number of these militias, blocking funding and weapons to groups and slapping travel bans on some individuals. Bouhashem welcomed the decision, saying it was a “clear and positive” step in helping block the flow of funds to the groups and curbing the influx of weapons into the country, as well as helping legitimize the interim parliament in Tobruk.

He said the interim parliament had also taken steps to cut off funding to the militias. Libyan militias currently receive their salaries from the state in return for their maintaining security and protecting the country’s borders, government buildings and state property following the overthrow of Gaddafi in the fall of 2011.

But Bouhashem said the parliament had “made a decision regarding breaking up these militias.” The Libyan ID system will now be used to screen out those earning two salaries—since most militia members originally held other jobs. “Salaries will continue to be paid out only until the end of 2014, on the understanding that . . . the national ID system will be applied, which will be able to show that each possessor of a [unique] ID can only earn one salary. Meaning that whoever is part of these militias, but also works [for example] in the medical or teaching or security professions and has a salary, will not receive their [militia] salary from this month onwards. So each person will have one salary, the one they earned before they joined this militia or that,” Bouhashem said.

But not all MPs are supportive of the parliament in Tobruk. Some have refused to attend the meetings, with 25–30 members absent in protest over the location, according to Bouhashem. He added that a new set of rules would be drawn up during the discussions to increase the minimum number of parliament sessions MPs needed to attend in order not to lose their posts.

Bouhashem said the parliamentary meetings had been supportive of the role of the nascent Libyan army in the conflict currently raging in the country. “We are supporting the army and the army’s chief-of-staff [Abdul Razzaq Madhuri] has asked us to oversee its affairs. He is the one we are dealing with now,” he said.

Speaking of the involvement of other countries in Libya’s current crisis, he said: “We call on neighboring and Gulf countries to help Libya become stable . . . We ask everyone who has worked with us since the beginning of the [2011] revolution to continue their role with us; we know they won’t abandon us. We also call on the international community in general [to help us].”

But Bouhashem also criticized the “suspicious” stances of a number of other nations such as Turkey and Qatar. “We do not allow the interference by other countries into Libya’s affairs,” he said. “[Recently], [Turkish President-elect] Mr. [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan spoke very clearly [during his inauguration as Turkey’s president on August 28], and what he said amounted to interference in Libyan affairs. It would have been better for him to speak about things limited to his own country, especially since we and Turkey have joint interests, and we do not wish to jeopardize these relations.”

He added: “If we were to allow things to escalate, this would affect Turkey more so than Libya. As would be the case with Qatar, whose support for the February 17, 2011 revolution [against Gaddafi] we very much appreciate. But we do not allow anyone to interfere in our affairs, especially since this kind of interference can cause the deaths of innocents and the violation of the country’s sovereignty.”