Leading Tripoli negotiator quits a day before new Libya peace talks

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 26, 2015 12:29 PM

By Ahmed Elumami

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - A senior negotiator from one of Libya's two parliaments on Wednesday quit U.N.-sponsored talks on forming a unity government a day before a new round of negotiations.

The United Nations has been trying to persuade the country's warring factions for months to form a unity cabinet and end fighting across the nation four years after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi.

Militant groups allied to each of the two administrations have brought the country's oil-dependent economy to its knees and most of Libya is now lawless and run by armed groups attached to neither government.

The U.N. has scheduled a new round of talks in Morocco to push the factions to agree on a deal this month but the parliament based in Tripoli has so far refused to sign it.

The elected House of Representatives, based in the east with the official government which fled Tripoli a year ago, signed a preliminary deal last month.

Both sides face divisions and pressure from hardliners.

The lawmaker who quit on Wednesday was the head of the Tripoli delegation and an Islamist, Saleh Makhzoum, the Tripoli-based parliament known as General National Congress (GNC) said on its website. He also resigned as deputy GNC president.

The GNC gave no reason but Makhzoum's Justice and Construction Party in a separate statement blamed differences between him and GNC President Nouri Abu Sahmain over the handling of the U.N. talks.

There was no immediate word from the U.N. on whether the Morocco talks would go ahead on Thursday but another member of the Tripoli delegation said Makhzoum's resignation would have an impact.

"Makhzoum had the ability to deal quickly with reactions from the other dialogue side and knows how they think," lawmaker Mohamed Moazab said.

The U.N. proposal calls for a one-year government of national accord in which a council of ministers headed by a prime minister and two deputies would have executive authority.

Libya's security has deteriorated rapidly in the last few months as Islamic State and other armed groups not linked to either government have exploited the power vacuum.

(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Louise Ireland)