Libya’s NTC backpedals on using force on seperatists

Libya’s NTC backpedals on using force on seperatists

Libyan leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil said he cannot use force against tribal leaders who are moving toward semi autonomy for their oil-rich eastern region, Cyrenaica, just hours after suggesting national security units should use force to defend national unity.

Recent events have raised fears that Libya is splitting, with Abdul Jalil saying his National Transitional Council (NTC) doesn’t have enough forces to confront the advocates of semi autonomy. Speaking to the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network late March 7, he also said he didn’t have the firepower to deal with militias refusing to allow the army and police to take over vital border crossings and airports.

Earlier on the same day, Jalil said he would defend national unity “with force” if necessary, after tribal leaders declared autonomy in the eastern region of Cyrenaica. “We are not prepared to divide Libya,” he said as he called on leaders in Cyrenaica to engage in dialogue and warned that there were remnants of the regime of slain leader Moammar Gadhafi in their ranks. “They should know that there are infiltrators and remnants of Gadhafi’s regime trying to exploit them now and we are ready to deter them, with force if necessary,” he said in televised remarks at a conference held in Misrata.

Jalil’s remarks came a day after a gathering of major tribes declared the eastern region, known as Barqa, as semi autonomous. Organization of Islamic Cooperation chief Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu also urged Libyans “to preserve national unity and territorial integrity of Libya” and “renewed his call for all Libyans to rally around the NTC.”

Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff