Libya could agree on unity government leaders this week: U.N. envoy

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 23, 2015 10:15 AM

By Adrian Croft

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Libya's warring groups could agree this week on the leaders of a national unity government to try to overcome the conflict in the North African country, but it will not be easy, a U.N. envoy said on Monday.

The talks, originally due to end on Sunday, have been extended for two more days despite renewed fighting in the capital Tripoli, which Libya's internationally recognized government wants to take back from a rival administration that seized it last summer.

Western leaders say U.N. talks being held in Morocco are the only way to end the chaos in Libya, where protesters and tribal militias overthrew strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

"There is a chance that we can make progress and have the first names for a unity government this week. It is going to be a difficult discussion," U.N. special envoy Bernardino Leon said in Brussels where he took part in a meeting of Libyan mayors.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Libya was at a turning point. "We have to make sure that Libya has a future," she told reporters.

Leon told Reuters the initial goal in Morocco was to agree on a prime minister and two deputy prime ministers.

"It is a proposal, it is not a decision. The proposal has to be discussed, debated by the Libyans and they have to come back to say these three names are supported," he said.

The new leaders would then draw up a full list of ministers for the government, which would take a few weeks to put in place, Leon said.

Proposed security arrangements such as a ceasefire, weapons control and withdrawal of militias could not work without international monitoring, Leon said.

"We need to support Libya also in building an army, in training its forces, in border control. So there is a lot the international community and particularly the European Union ... can do," he said.

EU foreign ministers agreed last week to draw up proposals to send a mission to Libya if the talks were successful.

Islamic State, which released a video last month showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya, was growing in strength, Leon said.

"There were a few hundred a short time ago and now they are probably a more important force .. If the Libyans together with the international community ... don’t react soon this is going to become much more difficult to control," he said.

(Additional reporting by Ulf Laessing in Cairo; Editing by Tom Heneghan)