Libyan parliament rejects UN-backed unity gov’t

By Rami Musa, AP

BENGHAZI, Libya–Libya’s internationally recognized parliament on Monday rejected a U.N.-sponsored unity government with rival authorities based in Tripoli, dealing a blow to months of efforts aimed at bridging a political divide that has undermined the fight against Islamic militants.

House of Representatives member Abu Bakr Beira said 89 out of 104 members who attended Monday’s session rejected the Cabinet formed by the U.N.-sponsored unity presidential council. He said the council would be dissolved if it failed to meet a 10-day deadline to form a new, smaller Cabinet. Another parliamentarian earlier said 90 out of 140 lawmakers rejected the deal.

The parliament endorsed the political agreement underpinning the new government, but objected to an article that would dismiss Gen. Khalifa Hifter, a divisive figure who was appointed military chief by the internationally-recognized government.

That left the fate of the peace deal uncertain, as the U.N. has said repeatedly that there will be no changes.

The voting caps months of negotiations between supporters of the deal from Libya’s two rival parliaments.

“Our indication is, they voted in favor of the agreement with some conditions,” the spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters Monday. He said details were still coming in and that “we need to let the process play out.”

U.N. envoy Martin Kobler, who brokered the plan, said in a statement that he welcomed what he called an endorsement in principle of the political agreement, and he noted the reservation on the article on Hifter. “We will continue consultations with all parties to find consensual solution to all outstanding issues,” Kobler said.

The international community has been pushing the rivals to unite against the rising threat of Islamic militants, including an increasingly powerful Islamic State affiliate that has seized the central city of Sirte and launched attacks across the country.

Libya has fallen into chaos since the 2011 toppling and killing of longtime dictator, Moammar Gadhafi. Since 2014, an internationally recognized government has convened in the far east of the vast, oil-rich country. An Islamist-dominated parliament backed by various militias sits in the capital.

Hifter, who served as army chief under Gadhafi before defecting, rose to new prominence after declaring a coup against the Tripoli-based government in 2014 and launching “Operation Dignity,” a military campaign against Islamic militants in the east. He describes all Islamists as terrorists, including those in Tripoli.