Gunmen keep Libyan foreign ministry under siege

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Dozens of gunmen kept Libya's foreign ministry under siege for a second straight day on Monday demanding it sack officials from the previous regime of Moamer Qaddafi, an AFP correspondent said.

Around 30 vehicles, some mounted with anti-aircraft guns, and armed men have encircled the ministry since Sunday.

On Monday, placards calling for the adoption of a law aimed at political expulsions of Qaddafi-era officials hung on the gate of the ministry building.

“The ministry is closed,” Aymen Mohamed Aboudeina, part of a group of protesters, told AFP, adding that “talks will be initiated in the coming hours with the concerned ministries”.

He said the “siege” will be lifted when the protesters' demands are met through a vote in the General National Congress -- the highest political authority in Libya -- on a bill calling for the expulsion of former regime employees.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan denounced the encircling of the foreign ministry and other attacks targeting the interior ministry and the national television in Tripoli.

He appealed to the people to support the government in resisting armed groups “who want to destabilize the country and terrorize foreigners and embassies,” but added that the government would “not come into confrontation with anyone”.

The Congress is studying proposals for a law to exclude former Qaddafi regime officials from top government and political posts.

The proposed law could affect several senior figures in the government and has caused waves in the country's political class.

In March, demonstrators encircled the assembly itself, trapping members in the building for several hours as they called for the adoption of the law.

After the siege was lifted, gunmen targeted Congress chief Mohammed Megaryef's motorcade without causing any casualties.

Libya's government is struggling to assert its influence across the country, where former rebels who fought Qaddafi in the 2011 uprising still control large amounts of territory.