Libya’s Fathi Bashagha, appointed as prime minister in a challenge to a unity government in Tripoli, plans to take office in the capital “in the coming days,” he said.
Libya’s parliament picked the former interior minister in February to lead a government to replace that of interim Premier Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, appointed last year as part of a United Nations-backed peace process to end more than a decade of violence in the North African country.
But Dbeibah has refused to hand over power before elections, setting up a showdown with Bashagha, named by the eastern-based legislature elected in 2014 and backed by Khalifa Haftar.
In May, Bashagha arrived in the capital Tripoli in the country’s west and attempted to take office there, sparking pre-dawn clashes between armed groups supporting him and those backing Dbeibah.
He backed down, he told AFP, to avoid bloodshed, but said he has since received “positive invitations” to enter the capital.
“All the roads are open into Tripoli and God willing we’ll be there in the coming days,” he said in an interview, speaking via Zoom from his temporary base in the central city of Sirte.
“Some armed forces have changed their position and have nothing against us entering the capital.”
Both Bashagha and Dbeibah come from the western city of Misrata and are backed by different forces in Tripoli.
Bashagha, a 59-year-old former fighter pilot trainer, was interior minister between 2018 and 2021, when he worked to reduce the influence of militias and bring fighters into state-run forces.
He has been seen as one of the few major Libyan actors to have good relations with foreign powers backing rival sides in the country.
But the emergence of two rival administrations — as was the case between 2014 and 2020 — has sparked fears of a return to an armed struggle for power. Bashagha said he did not believe there would be a return to war.
But, he warned, “there might be chaos because of demonstrations.”