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Outgoing Libyan PM Thinni to stay for now after rival takes office

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Outgoing Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said he was still running the government on Tuesday, a day after the new premier Ahmed Maiteeq seized the government leader's main office in a power struggle.

The North African oil producer is struggling with turmoil and political paralysis as Thinni has refused to hand over power to Maiteeq, elected by parliament in a chaotic vote last month.

Thinni had resigned in April but has said he received conflicting orders from Libya's parliament over the legitimacy of Maiteeq's election and would continue in his post until the General National Congress (GNC) assembly resolved the dispute.

To create facts on the ground, Maiteeq - Libya's third premier in just two months - arrived at the prime minister's office late on Monday escorted by police cars and held his first cabinet meeting there.

"The government has not handed over power to Ahmed Maiteeq," Thinni said in his first reaction, adding a transition would take up to two weeks and would need a court decision on whether Maiteeq's election was legitimate.

Thinni referred to a justice ministry legal department ruling that Maiteeq's election was illegal, which is being reviewed by a court.

Thinni also rejected an order by parliament's speaker to the central bank to freeze all government accounts to prevent Thinni's ministers from accessing funds. "The government is responsible for running the country," he said.

Parliament is at the heart of a growing confrontation among rival political parties and brigades of former rebels who refuse to disarm and have allied themselves loosely on competing sides of a split Grand National Congress.

Gaddafi's authoritarian rule and three years of unrest have left Libya with few institutions and no real army to impose state authority on former fighters and Islamist militants who often use their military muscle to make demands.

Those rivalries came closer to open confrontation last month after a renegade former general began a self-declared campaign with irregular forces to purge Islamist militants he says the government has failed to challenge.

(Reporting by Feras Boslaum, Ahmed Elumami and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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