Last updated: 23 April, 2014

US envoy in Libya amid political turmoil

A top US diplomat was visiting Libya on Wednesday to meet government officials, amid political upheaval in the North African country, the State Department said.

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns was in Tripoli to meet with senior Libyan officials including interim prime minister Abdullah al-Thani and leaders of Libya’s parliament, the General National Congress, the State Department said in a statement.

Burns, who is the deputy to Secretary of State John Kerry, is the most senior US official to visit Libya since the 2012 assault on a US mission in eastern Benghazi in which four Americans, including the ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed.

During his visit Burns will “hear from civil society and political leaders on the full range of issues related to Libya’s ongoing transition,” the State Department said.

“This trip reaffirms US support for the Libyan people as they work to achieve the aspirations of the revolution: a sovereign, democratic, prosperous, and secure country.”

Burns’ visit comes with the government in turmoil, after the Libyan parliament earlier this week began vetting candidates to replace Thani, who quit last week just days after his appointment to lead the country.

Thani announced he was stepping down on April 13, five days after parliament tasked him with forming a new cabinet, saying he had been the victim of an attack.

He had replaced Ali Zeidan, who was ousted a month earlier by the General National Congress, Libya’s highest political authority, for failing to rein in the lawlessness gripping the country.

Thani said he and his family had been the victims of an “armed attack” the previous day.

His decision has further complicated the situation, where the government has struggled to impose order in the vast, mostly desert nation that has been awash with weapons since the 2011 uprising that toppled the regime of veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi.