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Libya's former military chief calls for suspension of government

CAIRO – Libya’s former army chief posted a video statement on Friday calling for the suspension of the government, parliament and constitution, but the nation's prime minister dismissed the remarks as a failed attempt to engineer a coup.

Reflecting the continued political chaos in the country since his rebel forces helped to overthrow Moammar Kadafi in 2011, former Maj. Gen. Khalifa Haftar called for the formation of a presidential committee and a temporary cabinet to lead Libya until new elections could be held.

In the video that was posted on YouTube, Haftar appeared in his military uniform in front of a flag and a map of Libya and said the army was forced to move toward "rescuing" the country from its upheaval.

"The national command of the Libyan army is declaring an initiative to introduce a [new] road map that will be announced within a few days after discussing it with various political forces," Haftar said, adding that the move is "not a coup in the traditional sense."

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan later declared the government was safe and the capital was under its control.

Zeidan described Haftar’s statement as "laughable," telling Reuters news service that "Libya is stable. The [General National Congress] is doing its work and so is the government."

"The army is in its headquarters, and Khalifa Haftar has no authority,” he added. “No military units have moved to touch any institutions.”

Haftar, who served as military chief under Kadafi before defecting prior to the 2011 revolt, commanded militias that helped overthrew the strongman. He was reappointed head of the military following Kadifi’s ouster but was dismissed soon after.

It was not clear what influence Haftar might still have over the army, but he claimed later Friday that his forces were backed by popular support and that his move was known among political forces in Libya.

Since the fall of Kadafi, the army has shown neither the expertise nor the ability to control the chaotic situation in Libya, relying instead on armed and independent militias to maintain security in various parts of the country.

On Tuesday, Defense Minister Abdullah Thani said an attempted coup has been foiled but did not say whether Haftar was involved.

Hassan is a special correspondent.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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