- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Libya’s defense minister agreed to remain in his post hours after he had resigned in protest, accusing armed militias who laid siege to several government ministries in Tripoli of committing an “assault on democracy.”

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s office issued a statement Tuesday evening saying that Defense Minister Mohamed Barghathi’s resignation was not officially presented to the prime minister.

“The prime minister has asked the defense minister to renounce it and [he] has confirmed that he will continue his work and expressed his understanding of the present circumstances in the country,” Mr. Zeidan’s office said.

The armed militias who laid siege to ministries, including the Foreign and Justice ministries, demanded that Libya’s General National Congress pass legislation to bar from public office those officials who worked for the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s regime. The law was passed on Sunday.

Mr. Barghathi, who commanded the air force in the eastern city of Benghazi before he retired in 1994, would lose his job under the new law. He had accused the gunmen of committing an “assault on democracy.”

“I will never be able to accept that politics [can] be practiced by the power of weapons,” Mr. Barghathi said, according to Reuters.

SEE ALSO: John Bolton: Benghazi could bring down Obama administration

The new law could affect several senior officials, including Mohamed al-Megariaf, president of the General National Congress, who served as Libya’s ambassador to India at the time of his defection in the 1980s.

Human Rights Watch criticized the law as sweeping and vague.

“Libyans have a right to expect that officials who abused their positions under Gadhafi to commit crimes or violate human rights will be removed and never again allowed to hold public office,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “But this law is far too vague — potentially barring anyone who ever worked for the authorities during the four decades of Gadhafi’s rule.”

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