UN announces plan for Libyan unity government

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Cairo (dpa) – UN envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon late Thursday proposed a national unity government for the divided nation after months of negotiations.

The country has descended into violence since the ousting of longtime dictator Moamer Gaddafi in 2011. It is currently torn between two rival administrations: the Islamist-backed General National Congress based in the capital Tripoli, and an internationally recognized government based in Tobruk in the east.

“This, if supported by all Libyans, will be the best government in the world,” Leon said. “If it is not supported, no matter how good they are, it’s not going to work,” he added.

The plan came following months of on-and-off negotiations between the rival factions in Morocco.

Leon said the new prime minister would be Fayez Sarraj. Sarraj, from the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, is 55 years old and an architect by training, local media reported.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the European Union welcomed the peace deal.

“After months of turmoil and uncertainty, the secretary general urges Libyan leaders not to squander this opportunity,” Ban’s spokesman said in a statement.

“Libya has too few opportunities for lasting peace,” EU President Donald Tusk said during a visit to Bulgaria. “I strongly encourage all parties not to waste this opportunity.”

A former prime minister, Ahmed Maiteeq, was named as one of Sarraj’s deputies.

The original peace plan was changed to include not five but six people on a new presidential council headed by Sarraj, according to the English-language Libya Herald.

“All of them will work as a team,” Leon said.

The deal must pass a vote in the rival parliaments to go ahead.

Leon had previously said that an agreement on the government should be reached before October 20, marking the end of the Tobruk parliament’s mandate.

However, on Monday, the Tobruk parliament voted to extend its mandate beyond that date, saying it feared a power vacuum in the country.

“Given the challenges facing Libya, there is no time to waste in the formation of a government of national accord,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

“We now expect the Libyan parties to endorse this deal which meets the aspirations of the Libyan people, to take the path of peace and prosperity,” she added.

The international community would provide “their utmost support” for the new government, according to Leon.

The EU has said that the formation of a national unity government would help clear the way for 100 million euros (113 million dollars) in aid for the country.

The bloc has also been drawing up plans for a possible peacekeeping intervention in Libya that could help with the protection of key infrastructure, naval surveillance and border control.

It too hinges on the parties in Libya managing to find common ground and on the country’s new security committee requesting the intervention, an EU official said on condition of anonymity.

The EU also remains determined to impose sanctions against anyone who would try to hamper the peace process, the official added, noting that the announcement of Leon’s plan had already drawn “criticism from hardliners.”

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