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Protesters halt vote for Libya govt list
Protesters halt vote for Libya govt list

Protesters stormed Libya's national assembly, forcing the cancellation of a vote on a proposed coalition government named by the country's new prime minister just hours earlier.

World Bulletin / News Desk

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 G eneral National Congress as it voted on Pr ime Minister Ali Zeidan's cabinet line-up, whi ch was dra wn from liberal and Islamist parties.

In chaotic televised scenes, congress m embers negotiated with the protesters, unhappy with some of the nominations, to leave. Voting then briefly resumed before being interrupted a second time, l e ading cong ress leader 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 t ransitional government, which will focus on restoring security in the oil-producing country where many militias have yet to disarm since Gaddafi's overthrow last year.

Zeidan's transitional government would replace an interim administration appointed in November after Gaddafi'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 favoured over any other," he told congress e arlier on Tuesday. "We don't want to repeat mistakes or provoke the street."

Congress elected Zeidan prime minister this month after his predecessor, Mustafa Abushagur, lost a confidence vote on his choice of ministers, criticised inside and outside the assembly.

A former career diplomat who defected in the 1980s to become an outspoken Gaddafi 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.

No access to town

Outgoing Defence 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 Gaddafi stronghold captured by militia forces supposedly loyal to Tripoli on Oct. 24.

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".

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 Gaddafi supporters.

Zeidan nominated Ali Aujali, Libya's ambassador to the United States, as foreign minister; Mohammed al-Barghathi, who served in the Libyan air force, as defence minister; and Abdelbari al-Arusi as oil minister.

Libyan oil industry sources said Arusi, in his 50s and from the western town of Zawiyah, studied chemical engineering and is said to have worked in several Libyan oil companies. He has a Masters and PhD from Britain.

Ashur Shuwail, nominated interior minister, was chief of police in Benghazi last year. Alikilani al-Jazi, with a background in accounting, banking and finance, was proposed as finance minister. Salah Marghani was named justice minister.

Zeidan said his nominees for the defence, interior, justice, foreign affairs, international cooperation and finance portfolios were independents. The list included two women to head the social affairs and tourism ministries.

 



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Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland
Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said Monday he hopes to clinch a reunification deal laying out a new security blueprint for the divided island during a crunch summit in Switzerland this week. Anastasiades will attend United Nations-backed talks at the Alpine Crans-Montana ski resort Wednesday with "complete determination and goodwill... to achieve a desired solution", he said in a statement. He said he hopes to "abolish the anachronistic system of guarantees and intervention rights", with a deal providing for the withdrawal of the Turkish army. The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece. Turkey maintains around 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus. The so-called guarantor powers of Turkey, Britain and Greece retain the right to intervene militarily on the island. Greek and Turkish Cypriots are at odds over a new security blueprint, but their leaders are under pressure to reach an elusive peace deal. "I am going to Switzerland to participate in the Cyprus conference, with the sole aim and intent of solving the Cyprus problem," Anastasiades said. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is also set to attend the summit, which is expected to last at least 10 days. Greece, Turkey and Britain will send envoys along with an observer from the European Union. UN-led talks on the island hit a wall in late May after the sides failed to agree terms to advance toward a final summit. Unlocking the security question would allow Anastasiades and Akinci to make unprecedented concessions on core issues. But they have major differences on what a new security blueprint should look like. Anastasiades's internationally recognised government, backed by Athens, seeks an agreement to abolish intervention rights, with Turkish troops withdrawing from the island on a specific timeline. Turkish Cypriots and Ankara argue for some form of intervention rights and a reduced number of troops remaining in the north. Turkish Cypriots want the conference to focus on broader issues of power-sharing, property rights and territory for the creation of a new federation. Much of the progress to date has been based on strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But that goodwill has appeared frayed in the build-up to their meeting in Switzerland. The Greek Cypriot presidential election next February has also complicated the landscape, as has the government's search for offshore oil and gas, which Ankara argues should be suspended until the negotiations have reached an outcome.