|Libya leader vows to halt autonomy bid|
Mustafa Abdel Jalil accuses Arab countries of funding effort to carve out eastern state and threatens force against it.
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2012 12:03
"We are not prepared to divide Libya," Jalil said on Tuesday night, calling on eastern leaders to engage in dialogue and warning them against remnants of the former regime in their ranks.
"They should know that there are infiltrators and remnants of [Muammar] Gaddafi's regime trying to exploit them now, and we are ready to deter them, even with force," he said in televised remarks.
A meeting on Tuesday attended by some 3,000 tribal and political leaders in the main eastern city of Benghazi declared that the eastern region, historically known as Cyrenaica, would run its own government while leaving certain matters in the hands of national authorities.
Foreign policy, the national army and oil resources would be left to the central government in the capital Tripoli, in western Libya.
"Some Arab nations, unfortunately, have supported and encouraged this to happen,'' Jalil said. "These nations are funding this kind of unacceptable strife ... What happened today is the beginning of a conspiracy against Libya and Libyans."
Jalil declined to name which nations he believed were organising the effort.
He said the push for autonomy raised the danger of breaking up Libya but that it was understandable, since the east played a pivotal role in the uprising that ended 41 years of Gaddafi's rule. Protests first broke out in Benghazi on February 15, 2011, and quickly led to the fall of the city's military garrison and the withdrawal of regime forces from the east.
Libya was a federal union from 1951 to 1963 during the monarchy of Idris Senussi, which split the country into three semi-autonomous states: Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan.
Though others in Jalil's interim administration have previously criticised Gulf nations for meddling in Libya's affairs, Jalil has praised countries such as Qatar, which heavily funded and armed the rebels fighting Gaddafi but has been accused of favouring certain factions in the revolt's aftermath.
Jalil appealed to Libyans for patience and resolve in the face of the country's mounting problems.
Political prisoner made leader