News / Middle East

US, Britain Withdraw Some Diplomats From Libya

Protesters wave a Libyan flag as they demonstrate in Martyrs' Square demanding that Gadhafi-era officials be banned from taking up political posts, in Tripoli, Libya, May 5, 2013.
Protesters wave a Libyan flag as they demonstrate in Martyrs' Square demanding that Gadhafi-era officials be banned from taking up political posts, in Tripoli, Libya, May 5, 2013.
The United States and Britain are withdrawing some of the staff from their embassies in Tripoli, Libya because of a standoff between the government and heavily armed militias blockading parts of the capital, embassy officials said Friday.

The move to evacuate non-essential diplomatic personnel comes after a bombing at the French Embassy last month that injured two security gendarmes. In a joint statement issued Wednesday, the United States, Britain and France called on Libyans to “refrain from armed protest and violence during this difficult time in the democratic transition.”

The statement came as heavily armed militias refused to ease their blockade of key government ministries, even after forcing the government to give in on their main demand – getting the General National Congress to ban from public office associates and employees of the late Libyan dictator, Moammar Gadhafi. The militias have maintained their siege of government ministries for more than a week.
 
That exclusion law was passed last Sunday and will go into effect next month. But the hardcore militias have added additional demands, including the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan. They say they won’t release their chokehold on the government until they are sure the cleansing of the government of Gadhafi-era officials goes ahead.
 
Small number of diplomats involved
 
The evacuation of the non-essential U.S. and British diplomatic staff involves small numbers of personnel. The embassies had not been fully staffed since last September when militants attacked U.S. consulate in Benghazi, killing U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
 
In Washington, the State Department issued a travel warning for Libya on Friday, advising that it had ordered a number of diplomatic personnel to leave Tripoli.
 
The evacuation is being seen as an indication of serious anxiety in Washington and London about the security situation in Libya.

“The non-essential staff withdrawal, which is temporary, is to do with the continuing political volatility,” a British diplomat told VOA. “The numbers are small and mainly involve staff who have not been able to do very much because of the political flux involving the ministries. They have not been able to gain access to the ministries because of the militia blockades of the buildings.”
 
The British Foreign Office announced in London that the evacuation is taking place because of the heightened political tensions in Libya.
 
“In light of this political volatility, there is a potential for violence and clashes between rival armed groups,” the Foreign Office said on its website. It is urging all British citizens to avoid all but essential travel to Tripoli and other key cities, and not to travel at all to Benghazi and the rest of the country.
 
Additional militia demands
 
The additional militia demands now include not only Zeidan's resignation, but also the freezing of the state budget for this year and the right of the militias to form a committee to take over the Foreign Ministry.

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan tried to rally support after militiamen surrounded the Foreign Ministry in Tripoli.Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan tried to rally support after militiamen surrounded the Foreign Ministry in Tripoli.
x
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan tried to rally support after militiamen surrounded the Foreign Ministry in Tripoli.
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan tried to rally support after militiamen surrounded the Foreign Ministry in Tripoli.
Prime Minister Zeidan has promised not to use violence in the current standoff, although it isn’t clear what official security forces he could call on in the event he decided to use force.

The Defense Ministry has few soldiers under its direct command and relies operationally on the militias. The Interior Ministry has few forces of its own able to confront well-armed militiamen.

In recent days, members of the Libyan Shield Force, a coalition of militias that officially come under the defense ministry, have been spotted supporting the blockades. And the blockading militiamen, who mainly come from the town of Misrata but also include a sprinkling of mainly Islamist militiamen from other major towns, have been demanding that the chief of staff of the armed forces, Major-General Yousef Mangoush, be replaced.

Militia leaders have said they are trying to correct the “course of the revolution,” a phrase they often use when asked about their overall strategy.
 
Zeidan has urged Libyans to rally behind the government, but pro-government protests have attracted small numbers of demonstrators -- never going above about 200 -- not enough to help swing the struggle in the government’s favor.
 
Population divided
 
Libya’s population appears divided. The Zeidan government has not been popular because of the slow pace of improvement in the everyday lives of Libyans. But there is growing impatience with the tactics of the militias as well.
 
“They are acting as though they own the country,” shop owner Ahmed Tawashi says of the militias. “We didn’t elect these people.”
 
Western diplomats warned earlier this week that the way the government was forced to pass a law excluding former Gadhafi associates amounted to a “legal coup” that would help strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood and smaller Islamist parties.
 
Fault lines are beginning to appear within the militias. Earlier this week, some militias not involved in the blockades came out in support of the government. The pro-government militiamen warned that if the current crisis isn’t resolved soon, they would form a national force to deal with the anti-government militias and dislodge them from Tripoli.

"If you do not respond to our demands, we will form a common national force from all the cities of Libya to handle this situation," the group said Wednesday. Its members included federalists from the eastern part of the country and some militia leaders from Benghazi.

“The most powerful and influential militias appear to be against the government,” said an American security official.

The sieges have been organized by the Higher Council of the Revolutionaries that has among its leaders members of the Muslim Brotherhood and smaller Islamist parties that failed to do well in last July elections.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Mse from: Tripoli
May 12, 2013 2:44 AM
What is happening in libya is very serious issue , using force to implement political isolation law will create more uprising , simply the brotherhood , fundamentalist, wants to role the country, and not capable.
It is estimated that more than 1.5 millions Libyans afraid to come back home mainly in Egypt ,Tunisia .


by: MUSTAFA from: PAKISTAN
May 10, 2013 11:45 PM
WEST must learn from Libya. The same fate is waiting for Syrian peoples after departure of current Govt. If any body is dreaming any bright,peaceful and secure future for Syrian peoples, let him give him or them time to dream. I can predict a horrible future for Syrian peoples. Future will tell us who is right or wrong. I can just add one thing that Killer of innocent peoples will not live in this world and next world in comfortable manner. Some body is watching our activities and intention very closely which no body can deny.


by: Dorean from: USA
May 10, 2013 1:19 PM
in yet another victory for the Islamists... i don't mind the British capitulating - they have never been our allies... but for the US to retreat? in the face of the Islamic barbarians??? Obama, something is wrong with you...

In Response

by: Rusty Shackleford from: Lorain, OH
May 11, 2013 10:59 AM
Good lord you are the exact same pesron who, if something like Benghazi were to happen, would turn on a dime and cry about how Obama didn't get our guys out of there fast enough.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid