UN: Competitors in Libya unable to agree on election criteria


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CAIRO — After two days of UN-brokered talks in Geneva, two senior Libyan officials from the country’s rival camps failed to reach an agreement on a constitutional framework for national elections, the United Nations envoy to Libya said on Thursday.

According to Stephanie Williams, the UN special adviser on Libya, the influential speaker of the country’s eastern-based parliament, Aguila Saleh, and Khaled al-Meshri, the head of the government’s Supreme State Council, which sits in the western capital Tripoli, neither could Reach agreement on eligibility criteria for presidential candidates.

The Geneva talks were the latest UN-led effort to bridge the rift between the factions after the latest round of talks in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, made no progress.

“Despite the progress made in negotiations this week between the heads of respective chambers, disagreements persist over the eligibility requirements for candidates in the first presidential election,” Williams said.

According to reports in local media in Libya, the most contentious point in all rounds of talks so far has been the requirements for a presidential candidacy.

The Tripoli-based council insists on banning military personnel and dual citizens from running for the country’s top post — apparently a move aimed at divisive Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter, a US citizen whose forces are loyal to the east-based government are.

Hifter had announced his bid in elections scheduled for last December, but the vote was not held because of a myriad of problems, including controversial hopefuls announcing bids and disputes over electoral laws.

“I urge both chambers to resolve the pending disagreements as soon as possible,” Williams said. “I continue to urge all actors and parties in Libya to take urgent action and stress the need to maintain calm and stability.”

Tensions are rising on the ground, with sporadic clashes between rival militias in Tripoli recently. Living conditions have also deteriorated, largely due to fuel shortages in the oil-rich nation. Tribal leaders have shut down many oil facilities, including the country’s largest oil field.

The main purpose of the blockade was to deprive incumbent Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, who has refused to step down, of important government revenues. Opponents claim his mandate expired on December 25, when elections were due to take place.

Developments surrounding the no-vote plunged Libya deeper into political turmoil, with two rival governments — one of Dbeibah in Tripoli and one of Prime Minister Fathy Bashagha, who was appointed by parliament in the east in February. Both Dbeibah and Bashagha claim power.

The rivalry has sparked fears that the oil-rich country could fall back into the fray after tentative steps toward unity last year.

Libya has been ravaged by conflict since a NATO-backed insurgency toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The country was then divided for years between rival governments in the east and west, each backed by various militias and foreign governments.

Although they have not agreed on a framework for the elections, Williams said the two Libyan leaders have an “unprecedented consensus” on issues such as the headquarters and the allocation of seats for the two legislative houses, the distribution of powers between the various executive bodies , delimitation of provinces and other scored matters.

“The United Nations Good Offices will remain available to provide any assistance necessary to reach a solid agreement,” she added, leaving the door open to possible further talks. UN: Competitors in Libya unable to agree on election criteria

Dustin Huang

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