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UN announces government of national unity for divided Libya

Author: the associated press
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(AP) — The U.N. envoy for Libya has announced a national unity government for Libya after months of difficult talks between the north African country’s two rival governments.

Bernardino Leon told a press conference late Thursday that the names of candidates for the national unity government have been decided.

The announcement is a step toward stitching together the oil-rich but chaotic country that fell apart after the overthrow of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. The country has been split between an Islamist-backed government based in Tripoli and an internationally recognized government in the country’s east.

Leon said the prime minister for the new government is Fayez Sarraj, a member of the Tripoli-based parliament.

“We believe this list can work,” Leon said of the names, which include three deputies for the prime minister — representing the country’s east, west and south — and two ministers to complete a presidential council.

“All of them will work as a team,” Leon said. He added, “This was not an easy task.”

There was no immediate comment from Libyan officials.

The envoy had expected to announce a national unity government Wednesday, just the latest in a series of dates the U.N. and the international community had been pushing the rival governments to meet in recent months.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and others at a high-level U.N. meeting urged the 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.

In addition, Libya’s chaos has opened the door to a surge of migrants and refugees who set off from its coast in often rickety boats operated by smugglers. Many have died on the journey.

The peace talks appeared fragile until the end. On Monday, the internationally recognized government voted to extend its mandate past the Oct. 20 deadline that was part of a political roadmap sketched out after Gadhafi was overthrown, signaling a lack of confidence in the U.N.’s efforts.

A new unity government has multiple challenges, including an economy near collapse, a number of active militia groups and severe needs for basic assistance.

The U.N. says an estimated 2.44 million people in Libya — nearly 40 percent of the country’s population — are in need of protection and some form of humanitarian aid.


Anna reported from the United Nations.