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Libya: PM and ex-interior minister spar over allegations - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zaidan speaks during a press conference with Interior Minister following a rocket attack on a building located in a residential area on July 24, 2013 in Tripoli, Libya. AFP PHOTO MAHMUD TURKIA

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zaidan speaks during a press conference with Interior Minister following a rocket attack on a building located in a residential area on July 24, 2013 in Tripoli, Libya. AFP PHOTO MAHMUD TURKIA

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—The interim Libyan prime minister, Ali Zeidan, played down the resignation of the interior minister, Mohamed Al-Sheikh, who left his position Sunday, saying that the minister’s decision was the incidental, and that it will not affect the security situation or the government’s performance.

Zeidan clashed with his former interior minister during a media appearance in which the two exchanged public accusations about the circumstances of the sudden resignation. Speaking Sunday evening during a televised address, Al-Sheikh described the government as “weak, incoherent, and dependent on the agendas of political entities and regional powers, and it relies on their feedback and flattery.”

During his unprecedented criticism, he added: “the cabinet is tantamount to staff that carry out administrative tasks that are issued to them through instructions—without having any authorities as ministers.”

Responding immediately to these accusations, Zeidan also held a press conference Sunday evening in the capital of Tripoli, where he claimed that the minister’s health had prevented him from participating in many of the cabinet meetings since he took office last May.

“I have said since the beginning that I am able to change ministers at any time. The possibility of changing any minister is not contempt of individuals—everyone has their own powers and these are what determine their employment,” the prime minister said.

“We wish him luck and healing, because we heard that he was ill. Even though he was rarely present at ministerial councils, some matters are pending, and his absence was not discussed with us, we will only have good memories of him.”

Zeidan also responded to accusations that he had interfered in the retired ministers work, saying that “it is not a defect or a fault for a prime minister to careful with his cabinet, and to inspect it seriously.

“The interior minister submitted a long memorandum, and I was surprised by his resignation. It talked about things that are entirely incorrect.”

Zeidan also denied that his government was unduly influenced by regional interests, saying “this government is in touch with members of the General National Congress, especially those from remote areas. It consults with them about their constituencies, and when we want to decide on an issue, whether it is an appointment or a decision, we consult with those members.”

He expressed that this too had been governmental policy since the beginning, and that the current government enjoys a harmonious relationship with the Council.

In other political developments, Libya’s foreign minister, Mohammed Abd Al-Aziz, announced that it had agreed to revive a ministerial joint committee with Saudi Arabia. A meeting, headed by economic ministers from both countries, is to be held in November.

Abd Al-Aziz, who attended a meeting in Tripoli between Ali Zeidan and Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Libya, said that it had been agreed to take advantage of Saudi Arabian expertise in the fields of defense and security.

In remarks broadcast by a local news agency, the minister said that the Saudi ambassador had expressed his country’s preparedness to cooperate on security matters. This would be conducted through the Naif Arab University for Security Sciences, with the aim of training Libyan security officials.

This declaration came amid continuing unrest and acts of violence in Libya, which has struggled to restore order and bring different militias under central control since the overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

On Monday, unidentified gunmen assassinated a judge, Muftah Al-Khafify, after he attended morning prayers at a mosque in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Colonel Abdullah Al-Zaidi, a security forces spokesman, said that the preliminary investigation did not reveal any political motives behind the assassination. The official considered it was likely to have been linked to court orders previously issued by the retired judge.

It was the latest assassination to be carried out in Benghazi, and came as part of a series of attacks that have targeted politicians, journalists, and officials within the military, security and judicial apparatuses over the past few months.

These developments also came after the Libyan authorities threatened to intercept any oil tanker approaching the country’s shores without an official contract with the National Oil Corporation, in an attempt to prevent the unofficial sale of oil.

A military source within the army’s general staff said that Libyan naval forces had prevented an oil tanker from entering Libyan territorial waters near the port of Sidra. The official explained that patrol boats had spotted the oil tanker hovering near Libya’s maritime border, and responded from the port when its transporter signal indicated it was attempting to access Libyan waters.

The general staff said in a statement published on its official Facebook page that the tanker—named A Whale—had tried to enter Libyan territory more than once. The detention of an Egyptian dredging vessel in Libyan territory was also announced, although the circumstances of the arrest were not clarified.

Libyan authorities have formed an official committee to verify the procedures in place for measuring oil exports from Libyan ports. An official statement said that in a decision made by the committee, which is comprised of five individuals, the government approved the right to employ whoever they saw fit to accomplish its tasks. The committee should submit a report of their findings in no less than two weeks.