UN calls for Libya unity government, presidential council

AP News
Posted: Mar 24, 2015 9:47 AM

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — The United Nations wants to keep Libya's elected parliament and set up a unity government led by independents, it announced Tuesday in a statement outlining its proposed solution to a conflict that has effectively split the country in half.

The internationally recognized government and elected parliament have been confined to the far east since Islamist-allied militias seized the capital Tripoli last year and set up a rival government. The two sides have been negotiating in Morocco for the past three weeks to end months of fighting -- the bloodiest since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

U.N. envoy Bernardino Leon visited both Tobruk and Tripoli, where he presented ideas to expedite the talks. "These ideas are not intended to provide concrete details or present a final solution to Libya's political crisis and military conflict but they form the basis from which the parties can work on," the statement said.

The country would be led by a "presidential council of independent personalities" while the House of Representatives would be the legislative body — a key concession by the Tripoli-based alliance, which has its own rival legislature.

The international community has been pushing for a deal, fearing that Libya's chaos could destabilize its neighbors.

Militants affiliated with the Islamic State group and other jihadists have gained a foothold in the vast, petroleum-rich country. The gunmen who attacked a Tunisian museum a week ago, killing 21 people, mostly tourists, were reportedly trained in Libya and the Islamic State group claimed the attack.

The unity government would also include a High State Council, a Constitutional Drafting Assembly as well as a National Security Council and a council of municipalities, which will be defined in later negotiations.

Once the two sides agree to the proposal, something that Leon said could happen this week, discussions would begin on who will fill positions like the presidency.

Talks nearly broke down over the weekend after forces loyal to the internationally recognized government launched attacks on Tripoli from the south and west. Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who commands troops loyal to the eastern-based government, has rejected the talks.