Libya's Belhadj quits military post for politics

Libyan Islamist commander Abdel Hakim Belhadj has resigned his military post in a bid to enter politics. Mr Belhadj, a key brigade leader in the 2011 toppling of Col Gaddafi, plans to run in elections next month. He is a former member of an Islamist insurgent group which sought to overthrow Gaddafi in the 1990s.

Mr Belhaj said he had handed in his resignation on Monday night. He said he quit as head of Tripoli's Military Council in order to compete in the elections next month as leader of The Nation party, which will be launched next week.

The polls see Libyans elect a 200-member Constitutional Assembly, which will draft a constitution setting out a political framework for the country after more than four decades of rule under Muammar Gaddafi.

Many rebels who fought to oust Gaddafi have been drawn into official security entities, but many more remain aligned to strong regional brigades, presenting a security challenge for the ruling National Transitional Council.

The BBC's Rana Jawad in Tripoli says Libyans have mixed views on Mr Belhaj's decision.

Some are wary of ex-military personalities joining politics altogether, she says, but others hope Mr Belhadj's move will encourage other rebel strongmen to abandon their guns and join Libya's political process to rebuild the country.

Meanwhile, Libyan political analyst Sami Khashkhousha told the BBC he believed Mr Belhadj's chances in politics were remote, saying liberal parties are likely to be more successful.

"The influence of Islamists on the future politics of Libya has been blown out of proportion by the media," he said.

Mr Belhadj was imprisoned in Libya following a secret rendition he claims the CIA carried out from Bangkok in 2004. Earlier this year Mr Belhadj alleged that British ex-foreign minister Jack Straw and the UK government's various spy agencies were complicit in his rendition to Libya, where he says he and his wife were tortured. Mr Belhadj is currently taking legal action against the UK authorities, alleging they were complicit in his 2004 rendition to Libya. He claims he was interrogated by agents from countries including Britain and United States while detained in Libya.

(Source: BBC)

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