Monday, May 5, 2014

Libya: Jordanian Envoy to be Released in Exchange for Mohamed Bersi Sent Home to Complete Sentence

According to Reuters, Libyan businessman Ahmed Maiteeq was sworn in as Libya's new prime minister on Sunday (May 4) amidst chaotic voting in Parliament, but hours later the deputy speaker declared the election invalid as a power struggle erupted in the assembly.

The divisions in the General National Congress highlight growing turmoil in a country that remains on the verge of chaos, after so many abductions and executions of foreigners. Even as this posting is filed, the Libyan government and Parliament seem impotent to rule.

Officials gave contradicting versions of the Parliamentary election outcome, with First Deputy Speaker Ezzedin al-Awami initially saying Maiteeq had failed to obtain the necessary quorum even through he had emerged as front-runner in prior votes.

Seemingly a power struggle over who controls the Assembly broke out when Saleh Makhzoum, second deputy speaker, rejected al-Awami's assertion and said Maiteeq had won the necessary support.

"Ahmed Maiteeq is officially the new prime minister," Makhzoum told a televised session interrupted by shouts from lawmakers challenging Maiteeq's win. He asked the businessman to form a government within two weeks.

Hours later, al-Awami declared the vote invalid and instructed Abdullah al-Thinni, who had resigned three weeks ago, ostensibly because his life had been threatened, to continue ruling. 

COMMENT: BREAKING NEWS: Jordan has agreed to handover a Libyan Islamist to Tripoli to secure the release of its ambassador kidnapped in the North African country two weeks ago, Libya's state news agency LANA said on Monday (April 5).

Jordan has agreed to handover a Libyan Islamist to Tripoli to secure the release of its ambassador kidnapped in the North African country two weeks ago, Libya's state news agency LANA said on Monday.

Jordan's ambassador to Libya, Fawaz al-Itan, was snatched by gunmen who demanded the release of Mohamed Dersi, a Libyan Islamist militant jailed for life in 2007 for plotting to blow up the main airport in Jordan.

Sohar Banun, an undersecretary in Libya's justice ministry, said both countries had agreed that the ambassador would be released in exchange for Jordan reducing Dersi's sentence and allowing him to complete his jail term in Libya, LANA said.

"The Jordanian authorities expressed their total readiness to solve this crisis, confirming that the ambassador will be released in exchange for reducing the term of the Libyan prisoner and sending him home to complete his sentence," he said according to the agency.

"The crisis will be solved according to a memorandum of understanding between the two countries," said Banun, who heads a department taking care of Libyans jailed abroad.

Analysts have said agreeing to the kidnappers' demand could set a dangerous precedent for Jordan, which is an important US ally in the fight against al-Qaeda.

Libyan extremists have also seized two Tunisian diplomats to demand the release of fellow militants jailed in Tunisia for attacking security forces there in 2011, according to the Tunisian government.

Banun hinted at progress in efforts to get the Tunisian diplomats released.

The weak interim government has been unable to disarm former rebels and Islamist militants who fought in the uprising that deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and who have formed increasingly powerful and violent militias.

Two weeks ago the interim prime minister resigned after just a month into the job, saying gunmen had tried to attack his family.

Tribal groups, militias and even local citizens are also resorting to road blockades as a negotiating tactic. Some rebel groups have also shut down the OPEC member's oil facilities, raising supply concerns on global oil markets.

My advice for all foreign entities operating in Libya, don't believe you can't be touched by the continuing lawlessness. You can!

All foreign entities should do the following:

1. Trust no one;

2. Control your schedule yourself, leaving no Libyan with such information;

3. Predictably vary your travel and appointments so that no one knows where you are;

4. Cancel scheduled meetings at the last minute and reschedule at a later time;

5. Keep everyone guessing as to where you are; and

6. Leave Libya briefly for the purpose of learning how to counter a vehicular kidnapping or assassination at a reputable driving school.

Abdullah al-Thinni strangely agreed to temporarily serve as PM, despite the fact that he and his family had been threatened one month into his position as PM, which prompted his resignation as PM. 

Ahmed Omar Maiteeq failed to reach the quorum of 120 votes necessary according to the law to elect a new PM," al-Awami wrote in a letter to al-Thinni posted on the cabinet website.

Since the civil war that ended Gaddafi's one-man rule, Libya's nascent democracy has struggled, with its Parliament paralyzed by rivalries and brigades of heavily armed former rebels challenging the new state.

Parliament began voting on his successor on Wednesday (April 30), but that session was postponed after gunmen linked to a defeated candidate stormed the building and wounded several people.
Al-Thinni's short-lived tenure followed that of Ali Zeidan who fled the country after he was fired by deputies over his failure to stop attempts by rebels in the volatile east to sell oil independently of Tripoli's government.

Libya's Parliament, the General National Congress, is deadlocked between Islamists, tribes and nationalists, as the country's fledgling army tries to assert itself against unruly ex-rebels, tribal groups and Islamist militants.

Assembly president Nouri Abu Sahmain was absent from the vote. He has disappeared since the attorney general launched an investigation into a leaked video revealing him being questioned over a late-night visit by two women to his house.

A wave of protests by militias, tribesmen and state security guards at oilfields and ports has reduced oil output to a trickle from 1.4 million barrels per day in July 2013.