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Libya’s Tobruk-based parliament approves new rival cabinet

Libya’s eastern-based parliament has approved a new cabinet, in a challenge to the unity government of Abdulhamid Dbeibah in the capital Tripoli in the west.

The new administration, to be headed by former interior minister Fathi Bashagha, won the confidence of the House of Representatives with a majority of 92 members, speaker Aguila Saleh said on Tuesday.

Bashagha had been tasked in early February with forming a government to replace that of Dbeibah, deemed by the parliament as having outlived its mandate.

But Dbeibah, the interim prime minister based in Tripoli, has repeatedly said he will only cede power to an elected government.

The construction tycoon Dbeibeh had been appointed a year earlier, as part of United Nations-led efforts to draw a line under a decade of conflict following the 2011 revolt that toppled late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

He was to lead the country to elections in December, but they were indefinitely postponed and Saleh, a rival presidential candidate, argued that his mandate was finished.

The House of Representatives, elected in 2014, is based in the eastern city of Tobruk while Dbeibah’s administration is western-based in Tripoli, reflecting the deep and complex divisions that have plagued Libya in recent years.

Violence feared

The appointment of Bashagha last month, a powerful former interior minister from the western city of Misrata, is part of a roadmap that also involves constitutional amendments and sets the date for elections within 14 months.

The rise of Bashagha’s government once again gives the country two prime ministers, and experts have warned it could spark violence.

The move deepened divisions among Libyan factions and raised fears that fighting could return after more than a year and a half of relative calm.

Bashagha has said he will “reach out to everyone”.

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