Libyan Islamist says interim council should quit

Sun Sep 4, 2011 1:22pm GMT

By Emma Farge

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - A Libyan Islamist military commander who helped defend Benghazi against Muammar Gaddafi's forces has called on the interim cabinet to resign because they are "remnants of the old regime".

In an early sign of divisions among the victors in Libya's six-month civil war, Ismail al-Salabi also took a swipe at secular groups he said were trying to give Islamists a bad name and create political strife that would only benefit Gaddafi.

Salabi leads the February 17 brigade which many Libyans credit with the successful last-ditch defence of Benghazi, where the uprising began on that date. Only later did NATO air power tip the balance in favour of the largely untrained rebel forces.

"The role of the executive committee is no longer required because they are remnants of the old regime. They should all resign, starting from the head of the pyramid all the way down," Salabi told Reuters in the eastern city.

He was referring to the National Transitional Council's de facto cabinet, which is headed by Mahmoud Jibril, who once headed Libya's state economic think-tank under Gaddafi.

The 40-member NTC is a disparate mix of former officials in the Gaddafi administration, businessmen, academics, lawyers and exiles.

Salabi commands at least 3,000 fighters and reports to the interim interior ministry in Tripoli, according to an NTC spokesman. He accompanied NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil to a NATO meeting in Doha last month and said he fully supports him.

Abdel Jalil resigned as Gaddafi's justice minister after violence was used against the protests that erupted on February 17.   Continued...

Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.