Clashes break out in Tripoli as rival Libyan premier arrives

Cairo: Clashes erupted Tuesday between rival militias in the Libyan capital of Tripoli following the arrival of one of the country's rival prime ministers there with the expectation to seat his government.

Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha's office said in a terse statement that he arrived in Tripoli with a number of ministers from his Cabinet three months after his appointment to lead an interim administration in the crisis-stricken nation. The statement did not provide further details.

There was no immediate comment from the government of embattled Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, who is based in Tripoli.

The development is likely to fuel more tensions between Libya's rival administrations. Local media reported clashes between different militias and rival forces supporting the two sides in central Tripoli and elsewhere in the city.

We arrived in the capital peacefully and safely. The reception was excellent, Bashagha said in video comments, adding that his government was ready to work with all Libyans, including those opposing him. He made no reference to the clashes.

Bashagha, a former interior minister, was named prime minister by the country's east-based parliament in February. But Dbeibah, a wealthy businessman, has refused to step down, insisting he will hand over power only to an elected government. Both prime ministers hail from the powerful western city of Misrata.

Over the weekend, rival militias also clashed in Tripoli's neighborhood of Janzour. No casualties were reported but local authorities said there was damage to infrastructure, including a power plant.

The U.N. mission in Libya has condemned the clashes, and said they involved indiscriminate fire and the alleged use of heavy weapons in the densely populated neighborhood.

Lawmakers have argued that Dbeibah's mandate expired after Libya failed to hold presidential elections in December as planned under a U.N.-brokered agreement.

The failure to hold the vote was a major blow to international efforts to end decade of chaos in Libya. It opened a new chapter in Libya's long-running political impasse, with rival governments claiming power after tentative steps toward unity in the past year.

The oil-rich country has been wrecked by conflict since the NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Libya has since for years been split between rival administrations in the east and west, each supported by different militias and foreign governments. (AP)

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