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Libya premier accuses NTC of hampering poll timetable

By Dominique Soguel

TRIPOLI (AFP) - Libya's interim prime minister accused the ruling National Transitional Council on Wednesday of hindering his government's efforts to hold elections for a constituent assembly on time.

"In this historic moment, we find ourselves shackled by members of the National Transitional Council (NTC), who continue to attack the government and threaten to cast a no confidence vote," Abdel Rahman al-Kib said.

"This blocks our efforts to carry out our duties in the service of the February 17 revolution -- chiefly, holding elections on time," he told journalists in Tripoli.

"The interim government will not accept under any circumstances a delay of elections, so we cannot shoulder that historic responsibility," he said, warning that failure to hold the vote on time "could derail the revolution."

Kib's unprecedented display of anger highlighted for the first time the differences bubbling between his interim government and the NTC, which appointment him as prime minister and which oversees the work of his cabinet.

Kib issued a vigorous defence of his government's performance pointing to a return to normality after the devastating conflict that ousted now slain dictator Moamer Kadhafi last year, an increase in overall security and rapid measures to tackle armed conflicts that have flared up in recent months.

Since its appointment in November, the interim government has also seen oil production return to near pre-uprising levels, organised overseas treatment for those wounded during the conflict and ensured payment for public sector employees, he said.

But the ministers of defence, health and interior have come under scrutiny in recent months following ethnic and regional conflicts and the discovery of massive fraud in compensation schemes for former rebel fighters.

Last week, NTC members warned that the interim government was heading towards a no-confidence vote due to its failure to organise the army, disarm militias and tackle outstanding security issues.

The main criticisms, an NTC member told AFP, were its failure "to reactivate the army, to integrate militias under a legitimate framework and the wasting of public money."

A government spokesman said on April 19 that the prime minister planned to reshuffle his cabinet but Kib gave no indication of intending to do so in his latest address.

"Building a state is not done in months," Kib said, acknowledging that uprooting corruption remained one of the biggest challenges in the country's transition to democracy.

"This highly charged atmosphere hinders the government's efforts to hold elections as scheduled," he added.

The NTC, which has pledged to hold elections for a constituent assembly by June 19, issued a law late on Tuesday governing the formation of political parties and associations.