TRIPOLI: The president of Libya’s highest political authority sus–pended on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) plans to assault rebels blockading oil terminals, giving them a two-week ultimatum to stand down or again face the prospect of military action.
On Monday, General National Congress (GNC) head Nuri Abu Sahmein had ordered an assault on rebels demanding regional autonomy in the east and who began exporting oil this week in defiance of the central government.
But on Wednesday, he said “we have decided to give an ultimatum of two weeks at the most” to lift the blockade.
He said military action was being suspended.
If the ultimatum is not respected, he said “the decision of the chief of the armed forces [Abu Sahmein himself] will be put into action by the Libyan army.”
The developments came as Islamists, buoyed by parliament’s ouster on Tuesday of liberal-backed premier Ali Zeidan, moved to consolidate their newly found power.
Zeidan fled to Germany via Malta, government sources in Valletta said.
The GNC named Defense Minister Abdullah al-Thani caretaker premier.
But as Zeidan complained repeatedly while in office, real power over the armed forces lies not with Thani but with Abu Sahmein.
Ali al-Hassi, a spokesman for the eastern rebels, said an offer for dialogue was made on Wednesday.
But “we will not accept unless Abu Sahmein withdraws his decision to attack,” he said.