East Libya leaders declare autonomy, call for federalism
AFP BENGHAZI TRIBAL and political leaders at a meeting on Tuesday attended by thousands in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi declared the oil-rich Cyrenaica region autonomous and called for a return to federalism. “A federal system is the choice of the region” of Cyrenaica, which stretches from the central coastal city of Sirte to the Libyan-Egyptian border in the east, the leaders said in a joint statement. More than 3,000 people attended the Benghazi summit where the decision was made, an AFP journalist at the scene said. Ahmed Zubair al Senussi, a member of Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council, was elected leader of the region, according to the summit’s closing statement, which was posted online. “The interim council of Cyrenaica was established under the leadership of Sheikh Ahmed Zubair al Senussi, to manage the region’s affairs and defend the rights of its population,” read the statement. The newly created body will work within the framework of Libya’s interim government, which it considers to be “the symbol of the country’s unity, and its legitimate representative in international forums.” Senior Libyan officials in Tripoli, including interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil and interim Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al Kib, have rejected the federalist project, promoting a programme of decentralisation instead. Tribal and political leaders in eastern Libya say their decision derives its legitimacy from the 1951 constitution, which was adopted under the monarchy of Idriss al-Senussi. Ahmed Zubair al-Senussi is a relative of the late king and was the longest-serving political prisoner during the regime of slain leader Moamer Qadhafi.