Libya’s government has demanded the suspension of parliament until the next general election, as the security situation in the country goes on a downward spiral, fuelled by growing tensions between two armed groups.
In a statement issued on Monday, the cabinet said it requested that the General National Council be suspended after an impending vote on the 2014 budget, a day after the legislature’s building came under attack by rebels loyal to retired general Khalifa Qassim Haftar.
|Al Jazeera’s Omar Al Saleh reports from Tripoli|
The proposal, submitted by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, was made to parliament as a solution to Libya’s political chaos and violence, Reuters news agency cited the cabinet’s statement as saying.
Allies of Haftar have been staging a campaign against the government which they accuse of backing “terrorism” and using unofficial armed groups to impose laws. His fighters demand the suspension of parliament.
They staged an attack on the parliament in Tripoli on Sunday, after an assault on Friday on religious armed groups in the eastern city of Benghazi that authorities said killed 70 people.
The Associated Press news agency reported that the parliament’s chief has deployed an al-Qaeda-inspired armed group, the Lions of Monotheism Group (LGM), in the capital Tripoli on Monday, in response to the Sunday attack. The reports lend credence to Haftar’s claims that the government is reliant on militias.
Meanwhile, a Libyan air force unit based in the eastern city of Tobruk has decided to back Haftar’s troops, Reuters reported.
“The Torbuk air force base will join … the army under the command of General Khalifa Qassim Haftar,” a statement read. Staff at the air base confirmed its authenticity.
A commander of Libyan special forces in Benghazi also announced that his soldiers had joined “operation dignity” lauched by Haftar, Reuters reported.
There were reports that an airport in Benghazi had come under rocket attack early on Monday and that the airport had been ordered closed until May 25.
The European Union said it was “deeply concerned” over the recent bout of violence in Libya.
A spokesman for foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton said the EU was concerned about the “continuing deterioration”.
“The EU renews its commitment to support the Libyan people … and calls on all parties to build consensus so as to ensure a transition to a stable democracy,” spokesman Michael Mann said.
|Al Jazeera’s programme Witness joins a group of Libyan rebel fighters defending the frontline in Misrata|
Saudi Arabia announced on Monday that it was closing its embassy and consulate in Tripoli and withdrawing all of its diplomatic staff, citing security concerns, the state news agency SPA reported.
Al Jazeera’s Omar Al Saleh, reporting from Tripoli, said that the United Arab Emirates also withdrew its diplomatic envoy from the embattled country.
Algeria has also imposed restrictions on border crossings with Libya, allowing only Algerian citizens to cross from Libya and only Libya citizens into Libya, Reuters reported.
Turkey temporarily closed its consulate in Benghazi due to a threat of an attack, Tanju Bilgic, spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry, was quoted as saying.
Officials believe members of the al-Qaaqaa and Sawaaq militias, the largest in the capital, backed Hafter even though they operate under a government mandate. Al-Qaaqaa posted a statement on its official Facebook page saying it attacked parliament with Sawaaq because politicians supported “terrorism”.
Parliamentary head Nouri Abu Sahmein earlier told Libyan television station al-Nabaa that parliament would convene on Tuesday.