Rival Libyan leaders agree to hold national election: UN

Unity government leader Fayez al-Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar, who rules eastern Libya, hold talks in Abu Dhabi.

    The North African country has been torn between rival administrations and a myriad of militias since 2011 [Hani Amara/Reuters]
    The North African country has been torn between rival administrations and a myriad of militias since 2011 [Hani Amara/Reuters]

    The head of Libya's internationally recognised government and a rival military strongman have agreed to hold elections aiming at ending years of instability, the United Nations said Thursday.

    Unity government leader Fayez al-Sarraj met General Khalifa Haftar, who rules the eastern half of the country, in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday and agreed "on the need to end the transitional phase through general elections and on ways to preserve the stability of #Libya and unify its institutions," the UN's Libya mission UNSMIL tweeted on Thursday.

    The North African country has been torn between rival administrations and a myriad of militias since the NATO-backed overthrow and killing of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

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    Chief among them are Sarraj's Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, and a rival administration based in the east and backed by Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA).

    The leaders had agreed to a Paris-brokered deal in May 2018 to hold a nationwide election by the end of the year.

    However, instability, territorial disputes and divisions in the oil-rich country delayed those plans.

    Talks in Italy in November laid bare deep divisions between the key power brokers, with some delegates refusing to sit side by side and Haftar snubbing the main conference to organise separate talks with international leaders.

    UN envoy Ghassan Salame told the UN Security Council last month that he was planning to organise a national conference inside Libya within weeks to pave the way for elections.

    Traffickers abuse vacuum

    Human traffickers have taken advantage of the chaos to turn Libya into a major conduit for migrants and refugees seeking a better life in Europe.

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    The LNA already controls vital oil installations in Libya's east, but its power struggle with the GNA has left the country's vast desert south a lawless no-man's land.

    The rugged territory bordering Algeria, Niger, Chad and Sudan has become a haven for fighters and armed groups, including Chadian rebels.

    Libya's instability has also made it vulnerable to fighter groups, which have carried out numerous attacks in recent years, including more than 20 in 2018 against institutions linked to the GNA and Haftar's forces.

    But UN efforts to reach a political settlement and restore stability have so far failed.

    The African Union last month called for a global conference in July to try to resolve the conflict in Libya.

    SOURCE: News agencies