UN may push back Libya election conference

In this file photo, Smoke rises from the site of the headquarters of Libya's foreign ministry after suicide attackers hit in Tripoli, Libya December 25, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 31 January 2019
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UN may push back Libya election conference

  • The national meeting is central to a UN and Western roadmap for a vote in Libya as a way out of its eight-year war since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi
  • Libya splintered following the NATO-backed revolt against Gaddafi and has since 2014 been divided between competing political and armed groups based in Tripoli and the east

TUNIS/BENGHAZI: The United Nations is likely to delay a conference intended to prepare Libya for elections this year until there is more support from rival leaders, sources familiar with the plans said.
The national meeting is central to a UN and Western roadmap for a vote in Libya as a way out of its eight-year war since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
But big players and their allied armed groups wield considerable power under the status quo, and there is mistrust between rival governments and parliaments.
Libya splintered following the NATO-backed revolt against Gaddafi and has since 2014 been divided between competing political and armed groups based in Tripoli and the east.
More delay in the UN-sponsored conference, where Libyans from all walks of society are supposed to decide details of their elections such as the presidential or parliamentary system, would also probably push back an actual vote.
Under a French plan, Libya was meant to hold elections last Dec. 10, but that was shelved due to divisions among rival leaders and a spike in violence in the capital Tripoli.
In a new push, UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame wanted a conference in "the first weeks of 2019" with potential polls by June. But momentum for that has been lost due to resistance from major parties backing the parallel governments in Tripoli and the east who benefit from access to oil revenues and jobs for armed groups in the absence of police.
Sources familiar with the UN plans told Reuters the conference could still happen by the end of February, but a delay until at least March looked more likely.
"Salame won't announce a venue and date ahead until he thinks there is enough support from all sides," one source said.
The UN mission in Libya said it was seeking a successful meeting but no date was set yet. "We plan for the conference to happen as soon as possible," it said in a statement to Reuters.
Diplomats say the conference is a "last joker" in the pack for Salame who has toiled since September 2017 for elections.
Western nations hope ordinary Libyans will pressure armed groups into a peaceful solution
But in eastern Libya, some worry the forum may give a platform to extremists and other opponents defeated by the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar.
Some 20 lawmakers in the eastern-based parliament last week proposed to ban the Muslim Brotherhood. That would make it difficult to talk to Khaled Mishri, head of a rival parliament in Tripoli who is close to the Brotherhood.
"I personally think the conference is a good idea but it will be hard to achieve results," said eastern lawmaker Hamd Bazaq.
Diplomats fear a recent spat between Salame and the LNA might further complicate preparing the conference.


Italy urges EU to ready plan for Libya refugee flight, work on joint initiative

Updated 15 min 48 sec ago
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Italy urges EU to ready plan for Libya refugee flight, work on joint initiative

  • Moavero was speaking at joint news conference in Rome with Ghassan Salame
  • Moavero says situation in Libya required a lot of “time and support”

ROME: Italy’s government has written to the European Union asking it to ready a plan of action to deal with a possible flight of refugees from the armed conflict in Libya, Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero said on Wednesday.
Moavero was speaking at a joint news conference in Rome after talks with the UN envoy on Libya, Ghassan Salame.
He also said that the European Union was working on developing a Europe-wide initiative for the country, as the bloc fears the emergence of fresh terrorist activities.
Moavero said the situation in Libya required a lot of “time and support.”