Libya’s interim prime minister-designate calls for mercenaries to leave | Libya News

Acting Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah called for the departure of some 20,000 foreign fighters in the country as he placed his cabinet composition proposal in parliamentary discussions.

“The mercenaries are stabbing our back – they have to go,” Acting Prime Minister Dbeibah told parliament on Tuesday, adding that he would coordinate with the United Nations and the fighters’ home countries to organize their withdrawal.

“Our sovereignty is violated by their presence.”

Libya, a major oil producer, has been mired in conflict since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi. The sometimes chaotic war drew several outside powers and a flood of foreign arms and mercenaries.

Since 2015, Libya has been divided between the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and its House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk, allied with the renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.

Dbeibah’s remarks came during the second day of a parliamentary debate on his proposal for a new interim government, where he denounced a “fierce campaign” led by “those who want to destroy our country, who want to occupy it” .

A UN-supervised process aims to unite the country after an October ceasefire between the two rival administrations.

Last week, a forward team from a UN observer mission arrived in Libya tasked with monitoring the ceasefire and verifying the departure of thousands of foreign fighters.

In December last year, the UN said about 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters were still in Libya and that the January 23 deadline for their withdrawal had passed without any sign of withdrawal.

Proposed government

Dbeibah, who submitted his government plan to parliament for approval last week, has pleaded for lawmakers to vote in favor.

“We have no choice but to come to an agreement, for the future of our children,” said Dbeibah, to Parliament’s applause.

Dbeibah was selected in February in UN-sponsored talks, in which a cross-section of Libyans participated, to steer the country towards the December 24 elections.

The process was marred by vote-buying allegations, but the interim prime minister defended the makeup of his proposed government.

“My first goal was to choose people I could work with, no matter where they came from,” said Dbeibah.

Members of his government “must be able to work for all Libyans across Libya, not just for their region or their city,” he insisted.

Economic crisis

More than 130 lawmakers out of a total of 188 began meeting in Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown, on Monday to debate the proposed cabinet. The Mediterranean port city sits halfway between Tripoli, where the western government is based, and the east, where parliament has sat in recent years and is home to the rival administration.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya, or UNSMIL, called the parliament meeting “historic” and hailed the convening of a “reunited session after many years of division and paralysis.”

Dbeibah, 61, a billionaire businessman from the western city of Misrata, was selected alongside a three-member interim presidential board to lead the new unity administration.

If approved, the interim government will face the daunting challenge of responding to Libyans’ many grievances, from a dire economic crisis and skyrocketing unemployment to crippling inflation and miserable public services.

Lawmakers will continue the debate on Wednesday for a third day in order to “finalize deliberations before the vote,” politician Ismail al-Sharif told AFP news agency.

The government proposed by Dbeibah comprises two deputy prime ministers, 26 ministers and six ministers of state, with the main portfolios of foreign affairs and justice being handed over to women, a first in Libya.

But the strategic defense post remains deeply contested.

“All parties are fighting over this portfolio,” Dbeibah said.

The native of Misrata has until March 19 to get approval from his cabinet.

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