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Libya’s east-based lawmakers name new PM, fuelling divisions

CAIRO (AP) – Libya’s east-based Parliament on Thursday appointed a new prime minister, a development that counters United Nations (UN) efforts to reconcile the divided country and will likely produce two parallel administrations.

The House of Representatives said its decision followed the incumbent premier’s failure to hold national elections in December, something that was agreed to under a UN-mediated peace process. The delay has been a major blow to international efforts to end a decade of chaos in the oil-rich North African nation.

East-based lawmakers named on Thursday former interior minister Fathi Bashagha to replace Abdul Hamid Dbeibah as head of a new interim government, according to the Parliament spokesman, Abdullah Bliheg.

In an television interview late on Thursday, Dbeibah maintained that his government would not leave power without first overseeing national elections. He repeatedly warned against what he called attempts to reignite the country’s conflict.

At the UN, reporters pressed spokesman Stephane Dujarric, about the appointment and which Libyan prime minister the UN recognises. Dujarric confirmed that it was still Dbeibah but that UN special advisor on Libya Stephanie Williams was “back in Tripoli, where she is engaging with critical stakeholders in Libya to facilitate an agreement on a path forward”.

Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha at a news conference in Tunis, Tunisia. PHOTO: AP

“We are trying to get details of the decision made by the other legislative body,” Dujarric said.

Thursday’s appointment is expected to deepen divisions between rival factions in the country. Libya has been wrecked by conflict since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-backed uprising toppled then killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

The country has for years been split between rival administrations in the east and west, each supported by militias and foreign governments.

Arriving at Tripoli’s Mitiga Airport late on Thursday, Bashagha thanked Dbeibah for having taken “responsibility in sensitive times”.

“Today we begin a new national page titled peace and love, there is no place for hatred,” he said.

A former air force pilot and businessman, Bashagha submitted his candidacy for the presidency last year. The 59-year-old politician stands as a powerful figure in Libya.

During his tenure as interior minister from 2018 until early 2021, he cultivated ties with Turkey, France and the United States, but also with Egypt and Russia, which backed his nominal rivals in the intra-Libyan conflict.