Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rebel fighters, civilian protesters storm Libya's parliament

Rebel fighters, civilian protesters storm Libya's parliament

Mohammed Dabbous / Reuters, file
Libya's national assembly elected Ali Zeidan as prime minister on October 14. His transitional government would replace an interim administration appointed in November after Moammar Gadhafi's death.
TRIPOLI, Libya -- Protesters stormed Libya's national assembly on Tuesday, forcing the cancellation of a vote on a proposed coalition government named by the country's new prime minister just hours earlier.
Fewer than 100 people, made up of civilians and former rebel fighters, charged into the meeting hall of the General National Congress as it voted on Prime Minister Ali Zeidan's cabinet line-up, which was drawn from liberal and Islamist parties.
In chaotic televised scenes, congress members negotiated with the protesters, who were unhappy with some of the nominations, to leave. Voting then briefly resumed before being interrupted a second time, leading congress president Mohammed Magarief to announce the session was postponed to Wednesday.
"Let it be known to all Libyans and to the whole world in what conditions we are working in," Magarief said.
For Zeidan to take office, the congress has to approve his transitional government, which will focus on restoring security in the oil-producing country where many militias have yet to disarm since Moammar Gadhafi's overthrow last year.
Libya's new president, Mohammed Magarief, tells NBC's Ann Curry that the recent trouble in Libya is the unfortunate price of creating a democracy after decades of dictator-rule. Magarief lived in exile for 20 years in Atlanta before returning to Libya and becoming president.
Zeidan's transitional government would replace an interim administration appointed in November after Gadhafi's death.
Some ministers come from the liberal National Forces Alliance or the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing, the Justice and Construction Party, the two biggest parties in the 200-member congress. Others are independents.
Aware of Libya's sharp regional tensions, Zeidan said he had tried to strike a geographic balance among his 27 ministers.
"No region has been favored over any other," he told congress earlier on Tuesday. "We don't want to repeat mistakes or provoke the street."
Congress elected Zeidan as prime minister this month after his predecessor, Mustafa Abushagur, lost a confidence vote on his choice of ministers, criticized inside and outside the assembly.
Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS
An uprising in Libya ousts dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
A former career diplomat who defected in the 1980s to become an outspoken Gadhafi critic, Zeidan will govern the country while the congress, elected in July, passes laws and helps draft a new constitution to be put to a national referendum next year.
Security challengesOutgoing Defense Minister Osama al-Juwali exposed the scale of the security challenge facing Libya's new rulers when he said on Monday the government had no control over Bani Walid, a former Gadhafi stronghold captured by militia forces supposedly loyal to Tripoli on October 24.
Patrick Kovarik / AFP - Getty Images
A look at the life and times of Libya's mercurial and flamboyant leader
Al-Juwali said he had tried to visit the town, but troops accompanying him had been denied access. This, he said, showed that "the chief of staff has no control over the town, and this might mean armed men won't allow civilians to go back."
More Libya coverage from NBC News
Five days earlier, the army chief of staff had announced the end of military operations in Bani Walid, one of the last towns to fall to rebels in last year's war, but which some militias had accused of still sheltering Gadhafi supporters.
Last year's fight that ended in Gadhafi's ouster and death after 42 years in power was largely carried out by regional militias that amassed weapons. But long after the civil war ended, the militias continue to serve under their own leaders and wield significant power even though they have nominally come under the control of the state's military and police forces.
The lack of control of the government over the militias it relies on was brought home in the starkest terms on Sept. 11, the day of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, the eastern city where last year's uprising against Gadhafi began. The Islamist group Ansar al-Shariah, one of the biggest militias in Benghazi, is suspected in the assault that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Officials in Libya say they have arrested four suspects in connection to the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in which U.S. ambassador Stevens and three embassy staff were killed. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports from Tripoli.
The killings in Benghazi fueled popular anger against the militias. Just a week after the assault, tens of thousands of Benghazis attacked the headquarters of Ansar al-Shariah and another militia in Benghazi and drove them out.
The government took advantage of the public anger. In the days after the attack, authorities carried out high-profile weapon hand-ins in Tripoli and Benghazi and issued ultimatums for all militias to submit entirely to government control.
Friends and family members of the victims of the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, recall loved ones' bravery and courage. TODAY's Savannah Guthrie reports.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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