Western countries seek sanctions on 2 Libyans impeding peace

AP News
Posted: Jun 04, 2015 7:58 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States, Britain, France and Spain have asked the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on two Libyans undermining peace efforts to send a signal ahead of new talks on June 8 "that spoilers of the political process will not be tolerated."

A letter to the council obtained Thursday by The Associated Press asks members to freeze the assets and impose a travel ban on Othman Mlekta, a militia commander whose forces attacked parliament in May 2014, and Abdulrahman Swehli, a Misrata politician supporting the city's Islamist-allied militia that controls the capital Tripoli.

The Libya sanctions committee set a deadline of 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT) Friday for objections. If there are none, the two men will be added to the sanctions blacklist.

Libya has been torn among powerful armed militias that have left the country with two rival parliaments and governments, while groups allied to the Islamic State extremist group grow in strength.

The Misrata militias now controling Tripoli have set up their own parliament and government. They pushed out the elected parliament, which now meets in the eastern city of Tobruk. Government forces and allied militias are also battling Islamist radical groups who operate in Benghazi, Libya's second largest city.

Bernardino Leon, the U.N. envoy to Libya who has been mediating talks, has urged the warring parties to agree on a unity government before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on June 17. The next round of negotiations is scheduled to begin on June 8 in Rabat, Morocco.

"If Leon's next round of talks are to have any chance of success, we feel strongly that the Security Council should send an unambiguous signal of support to those moderates who may be leery of political participation due to their support for one side or another," the United States said on behalf of the four countries in a note to the 11 other council members.

The note said "a balanced and progressive approach to sanctioning spoilers — leaving more senior names for another time — could give a much needed push to those seeking to participate in Rabat."

According to the note, Mlekta, whose surname is also spelled Maliqta, is the commander of the Zintani Qaqa Brigade, a militia that attacked parliament using trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns, mortars and rockets on May 18, 2014.

Throughout last summer, it said Qaqa and other forces carried out missile attacks against civilians and Libyan oil facilities. It also cited reports that Mlekta used connections with countries in the Gulf, Africa and Europe to buy weapons and ammunition in violation of a U.N. arms embargo.

The note said Swehli reportedly pressed for an attack by Libya Dawn militias from Misrata against the oil port of Sidra in February to disrupt peace talks and strengthen his party's position. He also sought to carry out sieges of government ministries by revolutionary militias, it said.