TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Libya’s government said 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 already internally divided and facing 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 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 also was related to an armed attack on him and his family Saturday night in a residential neighborhood that put the lives of its residents at risk. He added that he did not want to be the cause of any fighting or bloodshed because of his position.
Officials with Libya’s nascent security forces could not be immediately reached Sunday about al-Thani’s comments.
Al-Thani served as defense minister under the previous prime minister and was detained several times under longtime dictator Moammar 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 since Gadhafi’s overthrow in 2011. Al-Thani’s predecessor, Ali Zidan, was pushed out of office in a no-confidence vote by parliament on March 11. The vote of no confidence 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 Zidan and anti-Islamist political factions.