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Gunmen surround Libyan foreign ministry

Gunmen surrounded Libya's Foreign Ministry calling for a ban on officials who worked for deposed dictator Moammar Gadhafi holding senior positions in the new administration. The protest raised security fears.

Dozens of armed men with at least 20 armed pick-up trucks blockaded the foreign ministry in Tripoli Sunday, directing traffic away from the building, witnesses said.

The militia that enacted the blockade is demanding the passage of a proposed law which would ban officials who had worked for Gadhafi from senior government positions. The law could force out several ministers as well as the leader of the General National Congress, the country's legislature, depending on the working adopted.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will remain closed until the political isolation law is implemented," the commander of the militia told the news agency Reuters, adding that the ministry was targeted because several of their employees had worked for Gadhafi.

The German embassy reduced its activities, a spokesman said. "The German embassy continues to operate but public access is temporarily restricted," he added but declined to say how long the measures would remain in place.

Challenges by armed militias

Since the ouster of long-time leader Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, Libya's new leaders have struggled to assert authority over a nation awash with weapons and armed militias that are increasingly targeting state institutions.

"The country will remain in crisis so long as these people are present," assembly member Tawfiq Al-Shehabi told Reuters.

On Tuesday, the French embassy in Tripoli was bombed, with Libya's foreign ministry condemning it as a "terrorist attack."

The incident marked the first attack on a foreign mission in Libya since militants stormed the US diplomatic mission in the eastern city of Benghazi last September, killing US ambassador Chris Stevens and three others.

hc/ipj (Reuters, AP, dpa)