BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — Lawmakers from Libya's rival parliaments have reached a power-sharing agreement in Tunisia, shunning a U.N.-brokered deal to avoid the "foreign intervention" tainting it, an internationally recognized government representative said Sunday.
However, it appeared the deal had failed to gain broad acceptance by either side, with representatives from both parliaments coming out to slam the newly minted agreement.
Libya slid into chaos following the 2011 toppling and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The oil-rich country has been torn between an internationally recognized government in the far east and Islamist-backed government in the capital, Tripoli.
The U.N.'s unity government deal, which is aimed at ending the conflict, was drafted by its former envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, who accepted a job last month from the United Arab Emirates. The country backs some members of the internationally recognized government, casting doubts on the international body's neutrality.
Sunday's move seemed to splinter the north African country's governing bodies even further, with members from both sides coming out to praise or criticize the deal.
"We believe this is a step on the right track away from intervention of foreign entities and manipulation," prominent internationally recognized parliament member Abu Bakr Beira said in the eastern city of Tobruk, where his parliament is based.
Meanwhile, his parliament's spokesman told The Associated Press the new deal does not represent the body.
"This is an individual effort and a childish attempt to get out of signing the real peace deal," Faraj Abu Hashim said.
If successful, Sunday's deal would see the formation of two 10-member committees, with both camps enjoying equal representation. One committee would name a prime minister and two deputies_one from each body— in the next two weeks. The trio would then form the unity Cabinet. The other committee would draft a constitution and prepare for parliamentary elections within two years.
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi received the chief negotiators Sunday night after the talks and urged the negotiating parties to maintain contacts with the U.N. envoy for Libya.
"Tunisia welomes this step, which helps to bring an end to division in Libya and allow this brother country to re-establish unity and assure conditions of security and stability on its territory," the president's office said in a statement after the low-profile talks in the Tunis suburb of Gammarth.
According to the media offices of both parties, nearly half the members of each body are still in favor of the U.N. deal despite Leon's departure, albeit with conditions. The U.N. has repeatedly refused to reconsider changing the proposal.
The U.N. deal due for endorsement next week in Rome had been rejected by the internationally recognized government because it would have given the unity government the power to fire all senior Libyan officials not unanimously approved by its members — a clause they interpreted as an attempt to remove their fiercely anti-Islamist army chief, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, whose forces have been battling Islamist militias nationwide for over a year.
The Islamist authorities, on the other hand, were unhappy with the deal because it did not provide sufficient guarantees that Islamic law will be applied, Islamist officials said.
Western officials have urged the Libyan governments to act quickly and reach a deal, warning that the instability in the country was giving room for extremist groups like the Islamic State to expand.
Libya's chaos has opened the door to a surge of migrants and refugees who set off from its coast for Europe in often rickety boats operated by smugglers. Many have died on the journey.
Bouazza ben Bouazza in Tunis contributed to this report.