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

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.


Saudi Arabia, other Middle East countries warn citizens after protests erupt in Lebanon

Updated 48 min 24 sec ago

Saudi Arabia, other Middle East countries warn citizens after protests erupt in Lebanon

  • Saudi Arabia and Egypt called on citizens to avoid protest areas
  • Kuwait’s embassy in Lebanon asked citizens wishing to travel to Lebanon to postpone their plans

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Lebanon called on its citizens to avoid places where protests are taking place in the country on Friday. 

The Kingdom’s embassy in Beirut advised its nationals to take care and to “stay away from places of protest,” Al-Ekhbariya news channel reported. 

Egypt’s embassy in the Lebanese capital Beirut also called on its nationals in the country to avoid protest areas, Egyptian state news agency MENA said.

“The embassy calls on all Egyptian citizens in Lebanon to avoid the areas of gatherings and protests, to be careful in their movements and to abide by the instructions of the Lebanese authorities in this regard,” MENA said.

Meanwhile, Kuwait’s embassy in Lebanon asked citizens wishing to travel to Lebanon to wait because of the current protests and unrest.

“The embassy also calls on citizens currently in Lebanon to take utmost care and stay away from crowds and demonstrations,” the embassy said in its tweet.

Protesters across Lebanon blocked roads with burning tires on Friday and thousands marched in Beirut, calling on the government to resign over an economic crisis.