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Rival Libyan PM to set up government in Sirte after clashes in Tripoli
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CAIRO — One of Libya’s rival prime ministers said on Wednesday he would set up his government in the central city of Sirte, after clashes forced him to abort his bid the day before to bring his cabinet into the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha announced that he had chosen the city of Sirte, along Libya’s Mediterranean coast and halfway between the east and west of the country, to act as a link between them.

Oil-rich Libya has been wracked by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and has for years been divided between rival administrations in the east and in the west, each supported by different militias and foreign governments.

Bashagha, a former interior minister, was named prime minister by the country’s east-based parliament in February. But his rival, Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, based in Tripoli in the west of the country, refused to step down, insisting he would hand over power only to an elected government.

Dbeibah was appointed last year in a UN-led process, mired in allegations of corruption and bribery, to lead the country in an election in December that never ended. occurred.

Bashagha attempted on Tuesday to seat his government in Tripoli, in a move that sparked clashes with allied militias in Dbeibah just hours after Bashagha and his ministers entered the Libyan capital. At least one man was killed and five others injured in the clashes, authorities said.

The two prime ministers blamed each other for instigating the violence, sparking fears the country could slip back into civil war again after more than a year of tense calm.

“Libya will not be stopped by one city or one region,” Bashagha told reporters in Sirte on Tuesday night, describing Tripoli as a “kidnapped city” held by rival Dbeibah. Bashagha said he would return to Tripoli once he made sure “there will be no bloodshed”.

Sirte is also the gateway to the country’s major oilfields and export terminals. The crucial and strategic city is controlled by the eastern-based forces of military commander Khalifa Hifter, an ally of the Bashagha.

Bashagha’s move to Sirte is likely to deepen political division in the already divided country and intensify the crisis.

The idea of ​​installing the Libyan government in Sirte was launched during the 2020 talks which ended the last major fight in Libya. More recently, the influential Speaker of Parliament, Aguila Saleh – also an ally of Bashagha – called on him to operate from Sirte rather than attempt to set up his government in Tripoli.

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