Libya’s ousted PM calls his removal invalid
Libya's ousted prime minister Ali Zeidan - AFP/File

TRIPOLI: Libya’s ousted prime minister gave his first interview since he left the country, saying in the televised appearance aired Saturday that he does not recognize parliament’s dismissal of him and will contest the decision he called invalid.

Ali Zeidan blasted his Islamist rivals in the more than one-hour-long interview with the private television station Libya Ahrar, saying they worked against him from the time he was sworn in in November 2012.

“For them, Zeidan was rejected in every way. From the first day, they tried to get me to quit or dismiss me,” Zeidan said. “Since the prime minister is not a member in their political group, regardless if he is a success or a failure, he must be finished.”

He also said “they want no one else with them.”

Zeidan said he didn’t flee Libya, but that he was advised by allies in the parliament to leave the country over concerns about his safety and to avoid getting arrested after he was voted out of office Tuesday.

A member of parliament told him that “they have no fear and they don’t fear God. I think they are plotting something bad,” Zeidan said.

Zeidan also said Islamists miscounted the votes in parliament to oust him, including “yes” votes after the ballots were counted to say they secured the need two-third majority. He also said his government was not notified before the vote, nor questioned in parliament.

Zeidan’s defense minister, Abdullah al-Thinni, has been named interim prime minister. Zeidan left the country for Europe after parliament’s vote, though it’s unclear where he is now. He said he’ll only return to Libya when his safety is guaranteed.

He said he will contest the parliament vote before the country’s Supreme Constitutional Court, but urged the parliament to reconsider its decision. He said he will not give up his political career.

However, Zeidan acknowledged he had a tough time running the country, with its battered institutions, security agencies and army after 42 years of the rule of dictator Muammar Gadhafi.

Islamists led by Muslim Brotherhood and ultraconservatives in the Gratitude to the Martyrs Bloc have been trying to oust Zeidan for several months but were always blocked by the non-Islamist bloc. The rivalry is rooted in Zeidan’s opposition to the militias, which proliferated after Gadhafi’s fall, and which are mostly led by Islamist commanders. Under Zeidan, an Al-Qaeda wanted militant was nabbed from Tripoli, and Islamists accused Zeidan of handing the West a list of extremists he wanted arrested.

The rivalry is also over powers between the government and parliament. The parliament speaker is the supreme commander of the armed forces who has the authority to order troops to battle.

But Zidan said there was no military to speak of in Libya. His ouster comes after a major standoff with an autonomy-minded militia in the country’s east that has seized most of the country’s oil facilities. The militia succeeded last week in exporting a tanker of oil from a port it holds in defiance of the central government. Naval forces failed to stop the shipment.

“I thought there was an army, but through practice, I realized there is none,” Zeidan said.

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