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Militia warning as Libyan PM forms Govt

18 November 2011, 10:11

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - A commander of Libyan former rebels has warned that his men could overthrow the incoming government if it fails to meet their demands for representation.

The credibility of the threat, made by Tripoli militia leader Abdullah Naker in a Reuters interview, was hard to assess in a city where the balance of forces, three months after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, is obscure and fluid.

Critics dismissed it as posturing. But it highlighted the tensions, and the high stakes, on Thursday as Abdurrahim El-Keib, the U.S.-trained engineering professor nominated as interim prime minister by the National Transitional Council, tries to agree a cabinet line-up by a Tuesday deadline.

"We are still here on the ground and the final decision will be ours," said Naker, speaking late on Wednesday at his base in the headquarters of a state-owned construction company as some of the thousands of armed men he says he has at his disposal prepared for night-time security patrols in the city.

Demanding Keib appoint ministers who would represent the young rebels who ousted the old order, Naker, leader of the Tripoli Revolutionary Council said his men would protest nationwide, peacefully "at first" if they did not like the new cabinet, as they did against Gaddafi.

"If we find we have the same dictatorship, we will respond in the same way," he said, showing off video of his men firing Grad missiles and driving Soviet-build T-72 tanks during the war. "It will not be an armed movement at first, but it might develop into that. There's a strong possibility that it will."

NTC officials and fighters from other units played down the influence wielded by Naker, an engineer from the mountain town of Zintan who vowed to return to civilian life once democracy and security were assured.

But in a state with no police or army, forming a government to satisfy the competing interests of tens of thousands of armed men is a fraught process. 

On Thursday, Naker met a delegation of fighters from the eastern city of Benghazi, seat of the revolt. They issued a joint declaration in Tripoli demanding Keib meet their demands for a say in government and over a new military leadership.


Tags libya

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