By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations Libya mediator said on Wednesday it was "difficult to be optimistic" a peace deal could be reached, but the aim was to try and broker agreement on a unity government before the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan starts in mid-June.
The mediator, Bernardino Leon, briefed the U.N. Security Council on the conflict on Wednesday. Two governments - one in the east, the other in Tripoli - are fighting for control of the North African state, four years after the ouster of leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Leon said he gave the parties a third draft of a possible agreement this week and they are due to respond by Sunday.
"The international community would like to see an agreement in Libya before Ramadan," Leon told reporters. "Let me be very cautious about the possibilities for an agreement."
Internationally recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al- Thinni, his government and the elected parliament have been confined to eastern Libya since a group called Libya Dawn seized Tripoli in August, set up its own administration and reinstated an assembly.
Leon said once he received the parties' reaction to the latest draft, he hoped to be able to schedule a new round of talks in the "coming couple of weeks."
"I think that there is a genuine interest in improving the proposal, improving the possible agreement," he said.
"It's difficult to be optimistic," he said. "You cannot be optimistic in this context in Libya. You cannot be. The only source of hope is that we're working hard."
Western leaders say the negotiations are the only way to end the chaos in Libya, where militants loyal to Islamic State have gained ground, exploiting a security vacuum just as they did in Syria and Iraq.
People-smuggling gangs have also taken advantage of the anarchy, and Europe is struggling to stem a flow of tens of thousands of migrants crossing the Mediterranean. Up to 900 people drowned trying to reach Europe from Libya last week.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Leslie Adler)