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SUNDAY, 20 APR 2014
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Libyans protest at ministries, seek PM’s resignation
A man shouts during a demonstration against what the protesters said was the decision of the National Congress to extend the period of their stay in power, in Benghazi December 27, 2013. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori
A man shouts during a demonstration against what the protesters said was the decision of the National Congress to extend the period of their stay in power, in Benghazi December 27, 2013. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori
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TRIPOLI: Protesters gathered Sunday outside ministries and major institutions across Libya’s capital, state news agency Lana reported, and those at the Foreign Ministry said they wanted Prime Minister Ali Zeidan to quit.

Zeidan’s government is struggling to assert control over the North African state, which is in turmoil and has been awash with arms since the 2011 uprising that ousted Moammar Gadhafi.

A witness said dozens of unarmed protesters, who placed a cement block in front of the Foreign Ministry’s gate in Tripoli and attached banners accusing Zeidan and his Cabinet of failure, were preventing staff from entering.

“They don’t let us in the building,” said a senior ministry official, standing outside.

Lana also reported protests at the entrances to Zeidan’s office, the Oil, Finance, Transport and Justice ministries, as well as the central bank and supreme court.

The protests come days after an armed militia blocked the entrance to the central bank for some hours to demand that Zeidan quit. 

Many Libyans are unhappy that the government seems unable to provide better public services or end frequent power cuts.

The government, meanwhile, blames political opponents in parliament for blocking budget payments needed to upgrade infrastructure.

Western powers worry that Libya will slide further into instability as Zeidan’s government struggles to rein in militias and tribesmen who helped topple Gaddafi but kept their guns.

Four U.S. military personnel were released Saturday after being detained briefly by the Libyan government, the U.S. State Department said.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who hours earlier had announced the Americans’ detention, did not say why they were held, though the New York Times reported that the incident unfolded following a confrontation at a checkpoint where gunshots were fired.

“All four U.S. military personnel being held in Libyan government custody have been released,” Psaki said in a statement just after midnight.

“We are still trying to ascertain the facts of the incident.”

According to Psaki, the four “were operating in an area near Sabratha as part of security preparedness efforts when they were taken into custody.”

The Times, citing a witness and an unidentified Obama administration official, said a vehicle was damaged when the shots were fired.

A U.S. official told AFP on condition of anonymity that the four were released just two hours after the State Department announced their detention.

The military staff were attached to the security team at the American Embassy in Tripoli and may have been scouting escape routes for possible future use by diplomats, the Times reported earlier, citing unidentified U.S. officials.

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