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Refusing mandate to form new government, interim Libyan PM to step down

| Sunday, April 13, 2014, 7:42 p.m.

TRIPOLI — Libya's government said on Sunday that the interim prime minister had declined a parliamentary mandate to form a new government and will instead step down, in a move likely to compound the difficulties facing a government divided and contending with widespread unrest and militia violence.

Interim Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani announced on the interim government's website that he was leaving his post but would stay on as head of the cabinet until a replacement could be found. He is the second Libyan prime minister to leave his post in as many months, underlining the North African nation's instability three years after the ouster and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

He said that he had made his decision “to protect the interests of the country and so as not to drag different sides into fighting when there can be no winner.” He said his decision was related to an armed attack against him and his family on Saturday night in a residential neighborhood that, according to him, put the lives of its residents at risk.

He did not want to be the cause of any fighting or bloodshed because of his position, he explained.

Officials at Libya's nascent security forces could not be immediately reached to comment on al-Thani's claim.

Al-Thani served as defense minister under the previous prime minister, Ali Zidan, and was detained several times under Gadhafi's rule because of his brother's criticism of Libya's intervention in the internal affairs of neighboring Chad.

The Libyan government has been in turmoil in the three years since the overthrow of Gadhafi.

The Western-backed Zidan was pushed out of office in a no-confidence vote by parliament on March 11. The vote followed a standoff between the central government in Tripoli and powerful militias in eastern Libya over oil sales, as well as a power struggle within parliament between Islamists trying to remove him and anti-Islamist political factions.

Zidan was Libya's first democratically chosen leader who struggled for 15 months to halt the country's descent into chaos in the face of formidable obstacles.

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