Libyan-American group says UN begins investigating ex-envoy

AP News
Posted: Dec 07, 2015 2:25 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations has begun investigating the circumstances surrounding the hiring of the U.N.'s former envoy to Libya by the United Arab Emirates, which backs one of Libya's rival governments, a Libyan-American organization said Monday.

Bernardino Leon's hiring has been questioned after the Guardian newspaper last month quoted a leaked email from him to the Emirati foreign minister saying he had a strategy to "completely delegitimize" Libya's Islamist-backed government. As envoy, Leon was responsible for brokering a peace deal between the two rival governments.

Leon later accepted a job as director general of the Emirates Diplomatic Academy, which trains Emiratis in foreign diplomacy, although he said recently that he is reflecting on whether to take up the position.

In response, the Libyan American Public Affairs Council filed a complaint with the U.N. demanding an investigation, saying Leon's actions as envoy threatened Libya's future. The group's co-founder, Emadeddin Muntasser, told The Associated Press that he spoke by phone Monday with a deputy director of the U.N.'s internal oversight office, who said the complaint has been assigned to an investigator.

The oversight office referred questions to spokesmen for the U.N. secretary-general, but spokesman Farhan Haq said they have no way of knowing whether an individual case is being pursued.

"While we applaud this first step ... it's important that the investigation continues in a transparent and thorough way so that confidence and trust in the U.N. and its mediator system is restored," Muntasser said. He said he was given no details on how long an investigation might take.

The council is a non-governmental organization that says it is not affiliated with any government entity in Libya. It says it did not consult with or coordinate its complaint with Libya's Islamist-led government, which has also demanded an explanation from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Leon's actions

Libya is split between an Islamist-led government in the country's west and an internationally-recognized government in the east. Both are being urged by the international community to approve a proposed peace agreement.

Over the weekend, however, the two sides announced they had reached their own power-sharing agreement, shunning the U.N.-brokered deal to avoid "foreign intervention." The agreement still would need approval from both parliaments, and members from both sides quickly criticized it.

Leon, a Spanish diplomat, last month said he sees no conflict of interest in his actions as envoy and that the U.N.'s proposed Libya peace agreement is unbiased. But after The New York Times also reported on leaked emails about the UAE's actions in Libya, Leon issued a statement saying he was reflecting on whether to take the UAE government-funded job.