African Union warns against rush to elections in Libya

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya Maria Ribeiro (L), UN special representative and head of the UN support mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Ghassan Salame (C) and Libya's unity government Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj attend an event to announce the official launch of the 2018 Libya Humanitarian Response Plan, in Tripoli on January 25, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 30 January 2018
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African Union warns against rush to elections in Libya

ADDIS ABABA: Libya should not rush into holding elections as part of UN-led efforts to end years of conflict and division in the North African nation, a senior African Union official said on Monday.
The United Nations has said it wants to help Libya organize national elections by the end of this year as it seeks to break a deadlock between factions based in the east and west of the country.
UN officials including special representative Ghassan Salame have acknowledged complex political, security and legislative challenges to holding such a vote, but say they are encouraged by support for elections among Libyans.
Salame traveled to an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to discuss with regional leaders how to pursue a common approach on Libya.
“We received (Salame), who agreed that this conflict is so complicated and difficult that none of the organizations can solve it by its own,” Smail Chergui, commissioner of the African Union’s (AU) Peace and Security Council, told journalists on the sidelines of the summit.
“So it is a renewed engagement that the two organizations (UN and AU) will work hand in hand to promote reconciliation and prepare the necessary conditions for elections,” Chergui said.
“We (AU member countries) are saying that we should not rush for elections. We have to prepare solid ground for peaceful and credible elections so that the results will be respected by all the parties.”
The UN is trying to revive a stalled peace plan for Libya that was signed in December 2015.
The last time the country held elections, in 2014, the results were disputed and a conflict that developed after a 2011 uprising deepened, resulting in rival governments being established in Tripoli and the east.
This comes as Libya’s eastern-based parliament swore in a new central bank governor on Monday, though the head of a rival assembly in the capital, Tripoli, quickly rejected the move.
The leadership of the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) has been divided since 2014, when rival political factions established competing governments in Tripoli and the east of the country.
The eastern-based parliament, or House of Representatives (HOR), set up a parallel central bank in the eastern town of Bayda, voting to dismiss Tripoli governor Sadiq Al-Kabir.
After backing Kabir’s former deputy Ali Salim Al-Hibri to run the bank in Bayda, in December the HOR elected Mohamed Shukri as the new governor.
As he was sworn in on Monday, Shukri spoke of reuniting the CBL and working to emulate the National Oil Corporation (NOC), which has overseen a sharp increase in production despite continuing political divisions.
“Today is the day of unifying the central bank which was divided and that has divided spending and monetary policy,” Shukri told lawmakers. “We suffered from problems that you are aware of and we promise to work in the same context as the National Oil Corporation to achieve development and welfare for the Libyan people.”
However, it remains unclear what role Shukri can play since Kabir has shown no sign of leaving his post and has continued to control oil revenues, the source of nearly all Libya’s income, as well as most spending across the country.
Abdulrahman Swehli who heads Tripoli’s State Council, a rival assembly to the HOR, called the vote “another jump in the air ... that will be doomed to failure.” There was no immediate comment from the central bank in Tripoli.
Shukri’s swearing-in comes as the Libyan dinar has made strong gains on the parallel market, rising to less than five dinars to the dollar in recent days from around nine dinars to the dollar at the end of 2017.
The partial recovery of the dinar may ease some political pressure on Kabir, who has faced growing calls to devalue the dinar from the official rate of 1.3 to the dollar, as the dinar slid in value over the past two years.
Currency traders and economists have attributed the dinar’s gains in part to Kabir launching a program for citizens to claim $500 in foreign currency at the official rate, widening the options for accessing and transferring dollars, and promising to ease restrictions on dollar allowances for importers.


Palestinian president ‘against’ possible new Netanyahu government

Updated 16 min 1 sec ago

Palestinian president ‘against’ possible new Netanyahu government

OSLO: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Wednesday he would be against a new Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, after elections left him tied with his main challenger and raised the prospect of negotiations to build a unity government.
“Our position: against Netanyahu,” Abbas said during a visit to Oslo when questioned over his preferences for a new Israeli government.