Libya announces new unity government under UN-brokered deal
TRIPOLI - A Libyan unity government was formed Tuesday under a UN-brokered deal aimed at ending years of bloodshed, but it was unclear whether the leaders have wide support from the warring sides.
World powers are appealing to the country's rival parliaments to back the new administration to end political paralysis that has provided fertile ground for jihadists and people-smugglers.
But less than half of the members of the two parliaments signed up to the UN-sponsored agreement last month.
The unity government, headed by businessman Fayez al-Sarraj, who was named prime minister-designate under the UN-sponsored accord, comprises 32 ministers, the administration announced on its Facebook page.
"I congratulate Libyan people & Presidency Council on formation of Govt. of National Accord," UN envoy Martin Kobler wrote on Twitter.
He urged the country's internationally recognised parliament, the House of Representatives, to "promptly convene" and endorse the unity government.
There was no immediate reaction from the country's two legislatures.
Kobler, a veteran German diplomat, became UN special envoy for Libya in November, taking on his predecessor Bernardino Leon's task of brokering a unity government.
Libya has been in chaos since the 2011 ouster of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
A militia alliance including Islamists overran Tripoli in August 2014, establishing its own government and parliament and causing the internationally recognised administration to flee to the country's remote east.
On December 17, under UN guidance, around 80 of 188 lawmakers from Libya's internationally recognised parliament and 50 of 136 members of the Tripoli-based General National Congress signed the unity government deal.
On Sunday, Kobler held private talks with the speaker of the internationally recognised legislature, Aguila Saleh, to discuss the latest developments, the national news agency LANA reported.
The power-sharing deal has been given added urgency by fears that the Islamic State jihadist group, under pressure in Syria and Iraq, is building a new stronghold on Europe's doorstep.
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the agreement on the members of the unity government was an "essential step" in implementing the UN-brokered deal.
"It is now for the House of Representatives and its Presidency to show the same spirit of compromise and sense of leadership, and promptly convene to endorse the proposed cabinet," she said in a statement.
"Libya is at a critical juncture and it is crucial that all key political and security actors uphold the interests of their country and its people above all others," she added.
"Only a united Libyan government, supported by all its citizens, will be able to end political divisions, defeat terrorism, and address the numerous security, humanitarian and economic challenges the country faces."
Peter Millet, the British ambassador to the North African country, also urged the House of Representatives to support the new leadership.
"Action against Daesh a priority," he said on Twitter, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
The group first appeared in Libya in 2014 when a group of Libyan IS fighters returned from Syria and reorganised in the port city of Derna, declaring eastern Libya to be a province of their self-declared "caliphate".
They have since established a stronghold in the coastal city of Sirte, Gaddafi's hometown.
In recent weeks they have pushed east towards the so-called "oil crescent" along Libya's northern coast, attacking oil facilities.
ISIS claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings earlier this month that killed dozens, including one on a police training school in the city of Zliten that was the deadliest single attack in Libya since the 2011 revolution.
Officials have warned that the already crumbling state could be paralysed if ISIS, which is reported to have at least 3,000 fighters in Libya, seizes control of oil resources.