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Clashes Break Out In Tripoli, Drive Rival Libyan PM Fathi Bashagha Away

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CAIRO, May 17 (AP): An attempt by one of Libya’s rival prime ministers to seat his government in the capital of Tripoli triggered clashes Tuesday between competing militias, forcing the newly appointed premier to leave the city.

The development underscored the fragility of the situation in the war-wracked country while the two rival prime ministers traded accusations for the escalation.

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Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha’s office said he had arrived in Tripoli with a number of Cabinet ministers early Tuesday — three months after his appointment to lead an interim government.

The move was likely to fuel more tensions between Libya’s rival administrations and in the morning, local media reported clashes between different militias and rival forces in central Tripoli and elsewhere in the city.

The Tripoli-based government of embattled Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah slammed his rival, describing Tuesday’s developments as an armed group’s “desperate attempt to spread terror and chaos” in the Libyan capital — a reference to Bashagha.

Residents reported hearing heavy gunfire across the city. “There was shooting and gunfire everywhere,” said Salim Ahmed, a schoolteacher. Some Tripoli schools suspended classes.

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Bashagha’s office said he and his ministers later left Tripoli “for the sake of the security and safety of citizens and to stop the bloodshed.” Bashagha tweeted that they had entered the city “peacefully, without using violence” but were met with a “dangerous military escalation” from armed groups loyal to his rival.

The UN special adviser on Libya, Stephanie Williams, urged calm and for rival parties to engage in talks to resolve their disputes.

“Conflict cannot be solved with violence, but with dialogue and mediation,” she tweeted, adding that the United Nations is ready to host all parties “in helping Libya find a genuine, consensual way forward towards stability and elections.”

Bashagha, a former interior minister, was named prime minister by the country’s east-based parliament in February. But Dbeibah, a wealthy businessman, has refused to step down, insisting he will hand over power only to an elected government. Both hail from the powerful western city of Misrata.

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Jalel Harchaoui, a Libya researcher, said the violence that unfolded during Bashagha’s “brief presence inside Tripoli” reflected his “clear failure.” Dbeibah enjoys the support of well-financed armed groups — not only in the capital but also in Misrata — that are fierce opponents of east-based military commander Khalifa Hifter, with whom Bashagha is now aligned, said Harchaoui.

The latest violence is likely to undermine ongoing talks in the Egyptian capital between east-based parliament and the High Council of State, an advisory body from western Libya, on constitutional amendments for elections.

The US Embassy urged Libya’s rivals to agree on a “constitutional basis leading to presidential and parliamentary elections in a realistic but aggressive timeframe.”

“The only viable path to legitimate leadership is by allowing Libyans to choose their leaders. The constitutional talks underway in Cairo are now more important than ever,” it tweeted.

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The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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