Head of Tripoli authority refuses to cede power to Libya unity govt

Khalifa Ghweil said he was refusing to hand over power to a UN-backed unity government

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The head of Libya’s unrecognised authority in charge of Tripoli said Wednesday he was refusing to hand over power to a UN-backed unity government, contradicting an earlier pledge by his administration.

Khalifa Ghweil, chief of Tripoli’s so-called National Salvation Government, issued a statement calling on ministers not to stand down and threatening to prosecute anyone who cooperates with the new government.

“Given the requirements of public interest... you are requested to continue your mission in accordance with the law,” Ghweil said.

The announcement is a setback to UN-backed prime minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj who arrived last week in Tripoli and has gained support from key power holders including the Central Bank and the National Oil Corporation.

A statement released late Tuesday bearing the logo of the militia-backed Tripoli authority had said its prime minister, deputy premiers and cabinet ministers were all stepping aside in support of the unity government.

That statement, published on the website of the Tripoli authorities’ justice ministry, said the decision was taken to “preserve the higher interests of the country and prevent bloodshed and divisions.”

Ghweil’s administration had made several attempts to block Sarraj’s arrival, including closing airspace around the capital, and called for him to leave Tripoli or “surrender” to the authorities.

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