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Libya politicians call for ouster of Dbeibeh govt. over secret meeting with Israel FM

Top Libyan politicians have called for the ouster of the government of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh after it was revealed that the country’s foreign minister and her Israeli counterpart met secretly, despite the two countries not having formal relations.

The meeting, which took place between Libyan Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush and her Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen in Italy last week, came to the surface after Cohen boasted in a statement on Sunday about “the great potential” for the two sides to cooperate.

Former Chair of Libya’s High Council of State Khalid Al-Mishri condemned the meeting, suggesting that it was probably not the first.

“The Dbeibeh government has crossed all red lines and must be overthrown,” al-Mishri said in a post published on Facebook.

Libyan presidential candidate Suleiman Al-Bayoudi accused Dbeibeh of promoting normalization with the Israeli regime, calling for his exclusion from the upcoming elections.

“He has nothing but Israel’s card to throw in the face of his opponents after playing all his other cards to continue to remain in power,” al-Bayoudi said on Facebook, adding “Israel is the last straw he (Dbeibeh) is grasping before he drowns.”

Following news of the controversial meeting that prompted protests in the North African country, Mangoush was suspended and later dismissed.

As uproar engulfed the country, reports said Mangoush fled the country.

Libya suspends foreign minister over Israeli talks amid angry protests

The Libyan foreign ministry has issued a statement saying that the interaction did not include “any discussions, agreements or consultations”, describing the meeting as “an unprepared, casual encounter”.

But Israeli and US officials quoted as saying by Axios on Monday refuted the claim.

A US official told Axios that the administration of US President Joe Biden was surprised when Cohen publicly revealed the meeting, saying Washington’s understanding was that it was meant to remain secret.

According to the report, US officials spoke to Israel’s foreign minister and other Israeli officials on Sunday, protesting against Cohen’s handling of the issue.

Three US and Israeli officials told Axios that the Biden administration had been pushing for normalization between Libya and Israel for two years.

But an official said that the fallout of the disclosure of the meeting has harmed such efforts.

“The Biden administration is concerned the exposure of the meeting and the unrest that followed will not only kill efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Libya but will also harm efforts that are underway with other Arab countries,” the official told Axios.

In late 2020, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco signed normalization deals, brokered by the administration of the then-US president Donald Trump, with the Israeli regime. The deals were condemned by Palestinians as a “betrayal” to their cause.

Dbeibah has headed the government based in the capital since early 2021. He came to power under a UN-backed process with the aim of unifying Libya and preparing the country for elections.

Libya has been split between two rival governments since 2014, with the other one operating in the country’s east and backed by field marshal Khalifa Haftar, who leads the Libyan National Army (LNA).

The North African has been beset by violence and chaos since the overthrow and killing of its long-serving ruler Muammar Gaddafi following a bombing campaign by the US-led NATO military alliance in 2011.

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