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Libyan militias call on parliament to hand over power in five hours

Source: Reuters - Tue, 18 Feb 2014 17:46 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Refiles with full name of parliament)

TRIPOLI, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Two armed Libyan militia groups called on the country's parliament to hand over power in five hours on Tuesday, according to a statement read out on television that added to tensions in the volatile OPEC producer.

Libya is facing turmoil as the government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan is struggling to control armed militias who helped overthrow the former dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and have retained their weapons to make financial and political demands.

Many Libyans blame militias and infighting inside the GNC for a lack of progress in the transition towards democracy since the ousting of Gaddafi in 2011.

The General National Congress (GNC), which is deadlocked between Islamists and nationalists, had on Monday announced new elections as soon as possible but gave no date.

The al-Sawaiq and Qaqa militia brigades called the GNC to hand over power within five hours as its original mandate had expired on Feb 7. Both group are among the most experienced ex-rebels groups that helped topple Gaddafi.

"In our view the GNC stands for a return of dictatorship," a militia spokesman read out a statement to journalists, surrounded by fellow fighters shouting "God is great".

GNC President Nouri Abusahmain rejected the statement as a coup attempt.

"The GNC has given instructions to the chief of staff to take the necessary steps to deal with this group," he said. "The GNC received confirmation from the head of the army and revolutionaries that they would defend its legitimacy."

Tensions have increased over the GNC's own role after its initial mandate ran out on Feb. 7. Deputies agreed to extend their term in office to allow a special committee time to draft a new constitution but their move has sparked protests.

The GNC is deeply split between the nationalist National Forces Alliance party and the Islamists of the Justice and Construction Party tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Al Wafaa bloc.

Oil production, Libya's lifeline, has slowed to a trickle as armed protesters and tribesmen have seized oil ports and fields across the vast desert nation to press political and financial demands. (Reporting by Ghaith Shennib, Feras Bosalum and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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