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Potential leaders of Libyas new interim government sought to form rival blocs on Thursday to win support from participants in the UN-backed talks after they underwent public tests to see their ability to play leadership roles.
The operation is part of the United Nations plan that provides for general elections at the end of the year as a political solution to the chaos, violence and division that has plagued Libya for a decade. But although the operation represents the largest effort to bring peace to Libya in years, it is fraught with risks as armed groups across the country watch their allies and opponents vie for political power.
A Reuters witness said masked fighters deployed in pickup trucks in the center of the capital, Tripoli, late Thursday evening and set up checkpoints, as participants in the UN-backed operation prepared to vote on the competing candidate lists on Friday. The candidates for the three positions in the presidential council and the position of prime minister were interviewed in sessions that were broadcast live throughout the week.
In one of the alliances, the Speaker of Parliament in eastern Libya, Agila Saleh, a candidate to lead the Presidency Council, joined the Minister of Interior, Fathi Bashagha, who is based in western Libya and seeks to become prime minister, and Osama al-Juwaili, one of the military leaders in the west of the country, and Abdul Majeed Saif al-Nasr from the south. . Tuesday’s initial vote did not get the Presidency Council the required quorum to win, leading to a second vote requiring candidates to join blocs by Thursday evening.
The United Nations said the method, which has been criticized by some Libyans as a way for those with power to influence the process with covert deals, would lead to Friday’s vote. The candidates promised not to run for office in the general elections scheduled to take place on December 24 and to relinquish any other positions they hold if they win the position during the UN process.
And in cafes in Tripoli this week, customers appeared to be overwhelmed by a political process that had been dominated by figures who had already held key positions in the recent past. “What is happening now in Geneva is recycling some names and papers in a way that satisfies the international community,” said Aseel Al-Mahdawi, a financial manager in a private sector company. He added, “I have no hope and I think that the tension and clashes will return.”
Libya has been divided since 2014 between the internationally recognized Government of National Accord in the capital, Tripoli, in the west of the country, and the forces of eastern Libya (the Libyan National Army) led by Khalifa Haftar. The two rival administrations agreed to a ceasefire in October, but not all of the conditions were fulfilled.
On Thursday, the UN Security Council gave the green light to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to deploy a small team to Libya to start work on a scalable ceasefire monitoring mechanism to be based in Sirte.
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