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.
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 Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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 .

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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs