Libya could fall into 'bottomless pit', leader warns
Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the head of Libya's ruling National Transitional Council, warned on Sunday the country could be heading towards a "bottomless pit" after protesters stormed a government office in Benghazi when he was inside.
A crowd demanding the resignation of the Libyan government smashed windows and forced their way into the NTC's local headquarters late on Saturday, in the most serious show of anger at the new authorities since Moammar Gadhafi was ousted.
The NTC has the support of the Western powers that helped force out Gadhafi in a nine-month conflict, but it is unelected, has been slow to restore basic public services, and some Libyans say too many of its members are tarnished by ties to Gadhafi.
Abdul-Jalil later suspended the six representatives to the NTC from Benghazi, the main city in eastern Libya. They can continue to serve only if approved by the local city council.
He also said he appointed a council of religious leaders to investigate corruption charges and identify people with links to the Gadhafi regime.
The body's deputy head, Abdel-Hafiz Ghoga, resigned in protest over the suspensions. Ghoga, known for his polished language and expensive suits, was a prominent spokesman during the eight-month civil war that ended with Gadhafi's capture and killing in October.
Another delegate, Fathi Baja, called the move "illegitimate" and said he would stand down only if the people of Benghazi asked him to. Baja, a well known critic of Gadhafi even before the uprising, also criticized the appointment of religious leaders, saying that when he was criticizing Gadhafi, "they were calling on people to obey the leader."
Also Sunday, the head of the committee tasked with preparing the country's election law said its release would be delayed for one week. The final law, which was set to be announced Sunday, will be made public on Jan. 28, said Othman al-Mugherhi.
The committee published a draft law earlier this month and said it would solicit comments from Libyans. Al-Mugherhi said the delay will allow the committee to consider these comments while drafting the final law.
The law will spell out how Libyans will elect the 200-members national congress, which will oversee the drafting of a constitution. The body is supposed to be elected before June 23.
Al-Mugherhi also announced the formation of a 17-member electoral commission to oversee the vote. The body contains professors, judges, lawyers and men and women representing non-governmental organizations, he said.
Under Gadhafi's rule, Libya had no working parliament for four decades.
Abdul-Jalil warned the protests risked undermining the country's already fragile stability.
"We are going through a political movement that can take the country to a bottomless pit," he said. "There is something behind these protests that is not for the good of the country."
"The people have not given the government enough time and the government does not have enough money. Maybe there are delays, but the government has only been working for two months. Give them a chance, at least two months."