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

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border From Mexico

    In remote areas of the Sonoran Desert, which straddles the US-Mexico, thousands of migrants face arid desolation

    Video Recycling is Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    It's an ancient craft that stretches back millennia - but despite Lebanon’s trash crisis providing a lifeline, remaining glass blowers face an uncertain future

    Meet the Alleged Killer of Cambodia’s Kem Ley

    What little is known about former soldier, troublesome Buddhist monk and indebted gambler, raises more questions than answers

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora