Just when it seemed the power struggle in Libya was over, one of the parties involved has further muddied the situation.
Barely a day after Ghweil Khalifa, leader of the Tripoli-based government announced that he would cede power to the UN-back government of Fayez al-Sarraj, the former has changed his mind.
According to the AFP, Khalifa released a statement on Wednesday saying he would not step down.
He also asked his ministers not to leave their posts, threatening to prosecute anyone who worked with the UN-backed administration.
Khalifa’s National Salvation Government had on Tuesday published a statement on the Justice Ministry’s website indicating that it had ceased exercising executive authority. It explained in the statement that the decision was taken “in view of political developments in Tripoli” and the desire of the government to “end the bloodshed and prevent partitioning” of the country.
Wednesday’s announcement by Khalifa came as the UN’s envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler met with Fayez al-Sarraj, leader of the UN-backed government.
Sarraj’s administration had indicated it was ready to assume control of the country’s finances and other government institutions as part of restoring the country to normal.
Members of the UN-backed administration arrived in Tripoli last Wednesday, defying warnings by rival factions that it should not move there.
Western powers view the unity government as the best hope for ending Libya’s chaos and uniting all factions against the powerful Islamic State militants who have seized the central city of Sirte.
Libya has been overrun by militias and the Islamic State since the ouster of its long time leader, Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011.