Libya armed groups raid hotel where presidency met, its spokeswoman says

Unverified images on social media showed armed, uniformed men standing at the entrance to the Corinthia Hotel, but Presidency Council spokeswoman Najwa Wahiba said nobody from the council was in the building

  
Image used for illustrative purpose Heavily armed vehicles belonging to the military council of the self-declared autonomous region of Cyrenaica, which are deployed to protect oil ports, drive past a large flag of the region at a checkpoint, near the east of the city of Sirte March 14, 2014. Former Libyan prime minister Ali Zeidan has fled to Europe after parliament voted him out of office on Tuesday over his failure to stop rebels exporting oil independently in a brazen challenge to the nation's fragile unity. The standoff over control of oil exports threatens to deepen dangerous regional and tribal faultlines in Libya where rival militias with powerbases in the east and west back competing political factions in the transitional government. Picture taken March 14, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

Image used for illustrative purpose Heavily armed vehicles belonging to the military council of the self-declared autonomous region of Cyrenaica, which are deployed to protect oil ports, drive past a large flag of the region at a checkpoint, near the east of the city of Sirte March 14, 2014. Former Libyan prime minister Ali Zeidan has fled to Europe after parliament voted him out of office on Tuesday over his failure to stop rebels exporting oil independently in a brazen challenge to the nation's fragile unity. The standoff over control of oil exports threatens to deepen dangerous regional and tribal faultlines in Libya where rival militias with powerbases in the east and west back competing political factions in the transitional government. Picture taken March 14, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

REUTERS/Stringer

TRIPOLI  - Armed groups in Tripoli on Friday stormed a hotel where Libya's new Presidency Council meets, the council's spokeswoman said in a social media post, underscoring the continued risks to the unity government.

Unverified images on social media showed armed, uniformed men standing at the entrance to the Corinthia Hotel, but Presidency Council spokeswoman Najwa Wahiba said nobody from the council was in the building.

The groups have voiced anger at the Government of National Unity's Foreign Minister, Najla el-Mangoush.

The Presidency Council, which functions as head of state, was chosen through a United Nations-facilitated process that selected a new Government of National Unity that took office in March, replacing rival administrations in east and west.

Unity Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibeh has worked to win support from Libya's many rival factions, forming a large cabinet that included an array of ideological and regional figures.

However, both the Presidency Council and Government of National Unity have faced both internal criticisms and challenges to their authority.

In eastern Libya, commander Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA) still hold sway nearly a year after their 14-month offensive to seize the capital collapsed.

In Tripoli, the armed groups that pushed Haftar back from the capital with Turkish support still control the streets.

Foreign mercenaries remain entrenched on both sides of the heavily fortified front line, despite international calls for the warring sides to pull them from the country.

Last week, Foreign Minister Mangoush repeated the call for all foreign fighters to leave while standing next to visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Turkey says its military presence in Libya is different to that of other foreign forces because it was invited by the previous U.N.-recognised government and it will not withdraw until others do.

Before the hotel was stormed on Friday, an operations room for the Tripoli armed groups said on social media that it had met to discuss "irresponsible statements" by Mangoush and later called on the GNU to formally reject Haftar.

(Reporting by Reuters Libya newsroom; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Daniel Wallis) ((angus.mcdowall@thomsonreuters.com; Reuters Messaging: angus.mcdowall.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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