Libya’s government Sunday rejected a decision by the country’s presidential council to suspend the foreign minister over allegations of monopolizing foreign policy.
The standoff between the two bodies is likely to increase political tensions in the North African county less than seven weeks before planned elections. It also comes a few days ahead of an international conference in Paris to push for holding the vote as scheduled Dec. 24.
The Government of National Unity said in a statement that the presidential council doesn’t have the right to suspend Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush and hailed the minister’s efforts as the county’s chief diplomat. It pointed to her work at an international conference held in the capital of Tripoli last month with the aim of resolving the country’s thorniest issues ahead of general elections
The government said that naming members of the government and suspending or investigating government officials are duties exclusive to the prime minister.
The presidential council, a three-member body serving as the country's president until one is elected, late Saturday suspended Mangoush and barred her from traveling abroad. It accused the minister of not coordinating foreign policy decisions with the council. The council did not elaborate on the circumstances behind the decision.
The long-waited vote still faces other challenges, including unresolved issues over the country’s elections laws and occasional fighting among armed groups. Other obstacles include the deep rift that remains between the country’s east and west and the presence of thousands of foreign fighters and troops.
Libya has been engulfed in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Muammar Gadhafi in 2011. He was captured and killed by an armed group two months later.
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The oil-rich country was for years split between rival governments, one based in the capital, Tripoli, and the other in the eastern part of the country. Each side is backed by different foreign powers and militias.
The interim government now in charge was appointed in February after months of UN-backed negotiations to lead the country through elections. It includes the presidential council and a Cabinet of ministers that runs the day-to-day affairs.