Libyan PM appeals for ‘common vision’ ahead of crisis talks

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj’s biggest challenge has been tackling the insecurity, particularly in Tripoli. (File/Reuters)
Updated 09 November 2018
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Libyan PM appeals for ‘common vision’ ahead of crisis talks

  • Al-Sarraj hits out at ‘negative interventions by some countries’
  • Libya has been beset by violence since Muammar Qaddafi was ousted and killed in an uprising in 2011

TRIPOLI: The head of Libya’s UN-backed government, Fayez Al-Sarraj, has urged the international community to find a “common vision” for the chaos-hit North African nation, ahead of crisis talks in Sicily next week.

In an exclusive interview with AFP at his unity government’s headquarters in Tripoli, Al-Sarraj hit out at “negative interventions by some countries” in Libya, without naming them.

Libya has been beset by violence since Muammar Qaddafi was ousted and killed in an uprising in 2011, with rival groups vying for territory and oil wealth.

Many Libyans put the country’s crisis down to rivalries between foreign governments — Western as well as Arab — who they say pursue their own narrow agendas by supporting one group against another.

Al-Sarraj “saluted” France for organizing a conference in Paris in May that brought together the four main protagonists in Libyan politics, including himself.

He said he regretted that decisions taken at the conference, including a commitment to hold elections on Dec. 10, had not been respected.

Al-Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) was set up under a 2015 UN-brokered deal, but a rival administration based in the country’s east refuses to recognize its authority.

He criticized the rival Parliament based in the east, saying it had failed to respect its commitment to carry out the preparations needed for elections.

When asked about the timing of elections, Al-Sarraj said “any mention of a date ... without putting in place a constitutional framework is a form of wishful thinking.”

The timetable divides the major powers. While France has pushed for the December date, Libya’s former colonial ruler Italy, as well as Russia and the US, have all opposed this.

“It is necessary to unify the international position with regard to Libya,” Al-Sarraj said, calling for a “common vision” for its future.

He said Italy and France should overcome their differences “so that there are no points of contention” between them.

 

Bickering leaders

The populist government that came to power in Rome in June has been openly critical of the French role in Libya, saying it was at least partly to blame for the current chaos.

UN envoy Ghassan Salame set out a new election timetable in a videoconference with the Security Council from Tripoli on Thursday.

He said a national conference in the first weeks of 2019 would pave the way for the electoral process to begin in the spring.

Proposals for a platform for ordinary Libyans to chart the political future, short-circuiting the country’s bickering leaders, have been under discussion since last year.

They had been delayed because of repeated flare-ups of fighting between the country’s rival armed groups.

Al-Sarraj’s biggest challenge has been tackling the insecurity, particularly in the capital, where militias still hold sway more than seven years after Qaddafi’s overthrow.

Between late August and late September, fighting in and around Tripoli between rival groups from the capital and other parts of western Libya killed at least 117 people and wounded more than 400.

Under pressure from the UN mission, the GNA announced new “security arrangements,” which have yet to visibly come into place.

“We are starting to implement this plan, but it requires international support and the engagement of all (Libyan) parties.”

The security plan aims to replace the militias with “regular army and police units,” said Al-Sarraj. But he said some militias had “played a positive role in contributing to securing the capital and other cities, and in the fight against terrorism.”

“Putting all these factions in the same box” represents an injustice to some young Libyans, who could integrate successfully into the security forces, he said.


Iraqi cleric Al-Sadr threatens to withdraw support for Abdul Mahdi’s government

Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. (AFP)
Updated 8 min 24 sec ago
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Iraqi cleric Al-Sadr threatens to withdraw support for Abdul Mahdi’s government

  • “No one can predict what Al-Sadr thinks and even his MPs do not know what the man thinks, so it is likely that this threat is part of the ongoing negotiations”

BAGHDAD: Moqtada Al-Sadr, the powerful Iraqi Shiite cleric, on Monday threatened to withdraw his support for the government of Adel Abdul Mahdi if the prime minister fails to finalize the formation of his Cabinet within 10 days.
Al-Sadr is one of the most influential clerics in the country, with millions of followers, a large armed faction and a parliamentary bloc. He is the official sponsor of the Reform Alliance, the second-largest parliamentary coalition, which is overseeing the formation of the government following the national parliamentary elections in May last year. The removal of his support for Abdul Mahdi’s government might take the form of an announcement that he no longer has confidence in the Parliament, or the organization of mass demonstrations.
Abdul Mahdi, who became prime minister in October, formed his government with the support of Reform and the pro-Iranian Construction coalition. The latter is led by Hadi Al-Amiri, the commander of Badr Organization, one of the most powerful Shiite armed factions. However, disputes between the two alliances over some of the candidates erupted at the last minute, as a result of which four ministries remain vacant: Interior, defense, education and justice.

Monday’s statement, which was signed by Al-Sadr and described as his “last call,” was addressed to his Saeiroon parliamentary bloc, the leaders of all political blocs, and Abdul Mahdi. It was issued in response to criticism on social on Monday because of the vote by members of the parliamentary blocs, including Al-Sadr’s MPs, the day before to grant all the privileges enjoyed by the former MPs to the deputies who ruled out by the Federal Supreme Court due to the error of counting their votes.
“All the political blocs must authorize the prime minister to complete his ministerial Cabinet within 10 days…and he (Abdul Mahdi) must choose (the ministers) according to the standards of integrity, efficiency and specialization, or I will not support him,” Al-Sadr’s statement read.

His position is the latest in a series of events that have put pressure on Abdul Mahdi in recent weeks. These include efforts by some political blocs, including Saeiroon, to dismiss a number of ministers under the pretext of failure to improve services and inability to combat the financial and administrative corruption that is rampant in their departments.
While most political leaders believe that reaching a political agreement on candidates to fill the vacant ministries within 10 days “will be very difficult” and predict “this may be the end of the government of Abdul Mahdi,” some believe that Al-Sadr’s goal is to pile more pressure on Abdul Mahdi as a way to obtain certain concessions.

“Saeiroon is still negotiating with the prime minister and the other political partners to obtain some key government posts that its rivals are looking to get, and Abdul Mahdi refused to give them to the Saeiroon candidates, so this could be a part of this,” said a prominent Shiite negotiator who asked not to be named. “No one can predict what Al-Sadr thinks and even his MPs do not know what the man thinks, so it is likely that this threat is part of the ongoing negotiations."