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Libya parliament decides to hold direct presidential polls


Libyans stand outside a heavily damaged house at a former Libyan army camp known as Camp 27, in the capital Tripoli, on August 11, 2014 following reportedly clashes between rival militias. Since mid-July, Libya has seen clashes between rival militias in Tripoli and in the eastern city of Benghazi. Violence in those cities has killed more than 220 people, wounded around 1,000, and prompted an exodus of foreign nationals from the oil-rich North African nation. Poto: AFP/MAHMUD TURKIA


Benghazi: Libya's new parliament agreed on Tuesday that the next president would be elected by popular vote as lawmakers sought to overcome a confrontation between two armed factions.

Western partners hope the new parliament will open space for negotiations between rival militias and their political backers and return Libya to stability after a month of clashes that have turned Tripoli and Benghazi into battlefields.

The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly for the new president to be directly elected by the Libyan people as it seeks to put the country back on track towards democracy, three years after Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown.

No date has been set for the election. Libya is caught in its worst violence since the civil war ousted Gaddafi, with armed factions clashing in the capital Tripoli with rockets, artillery and mortars.

"We have made the decision on electing the president directly, but we have not set a date for the vote until we discuss the current crisis and see how stable the situation is, lawmaker Fatthallah Saiti said.

Libya's fragile government has been caught in political infighting that paralysed the last parliament and empowered rival brigades of heavily armed ex-rebels.

Those factions have clashed in the past, but last month their rivalries erupted into heavy street battles that are part of a wider struggle over the spoils of post-Gaddafi Libya.

Most Western diplomats have pulled out of Libya and closed their embassies, fearing the North African oil-producing state is edging closer to another war.

The United Nations mission in Libya, known as UNSMIL, called on both sides to respond positively to efforts to end bloodshed.

"UNSMIL strongly condemns the continuing battles in Tripoli despite the repeated official and international calls for an immediate ceasefire and to refrain from the use of force to resolve political differences," the mission said in a statement.

On one side are former rebels from the western town of Zintan and their anti-extremist Qaaqaa and Al Sawaiq militias, including some ex-Gaddafi forces. Against them are more extremist-leaning brigades allied to the town of Misrata who are closer to the extremist political factions.

Misrata and Zintan brigades fought together against Gaddafi, but after the war their rivalries have grown, and each side has competing political factions vying for control. Misrata brigade commanders say they are cleaning out remnants of Gaddafi's forces; Zintan and its allies present themselves as fighting extremists.

Meanwhile,Colonel Mohamed al-Suissi, chief of police in Tripoli, was gunned down by unidentified attackers in the Libyan capital's eastern suburbs yesterday, a security source told AFP.

"Colonel Al Suissi was assassinated by a group of unknown hooded, armed people. Two men with him were kidnapped in the attack," said the source, who asked not to be named.
Suissi had taken part in a meeting of Tajura municipal council in the eastern suburbs and was on his way back to Tripoli city centre when the attack took place, the source said.


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