Libya Presidential Council seeks extra week to form unity government
TRIPOLI - Libya's presidential council said Monday it needs one more week to form a national unity government, after the country's internationally recognised parliament rejected an initial line-up.
The council, chaired by prime minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj, had been due to submit the name of a new unity government on Wednesday for approval by the recognised parliament.
A 32-member unity government was announced on January 19 under a UN-brokered deal signed the previous month in Morocco aimed at ending years of bloodshed in oil-rich Libya and which led to the formation of the nine-member council.
But the recognised parliament on January 25 rejected the line-up, saying it was too large and set a 10-day deadline for a smaller cabinet.
Sarraj, a businessman, has been holding a series of consultations with Libyan political players to forge a new government.
On Monday, the presidential council said it had asked the legislature based in the eastern city of Tobruk to grant it an extra week, a council source said.
The source said the council "needs more time" to discuss the line-up.
World powers have been pressing Libyans to back a unity government as a step towards ending the political chaos that has gripped the country since the 2011 ouster of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
The Islamic State jihadist group has taken advantage of chaos in Libya to spread its influence, posing a threat to the rest of Africa as well as to Europe across the Mediterranean.
Since August 2014, Libya has had two rival administrations and parliaments, with the internationally recognised authorities based in the east and a militia-backed authority holding power in Tripoli.
The turmoil has also served as fertile ground for people smugglers who are cashing in by ferrying migrants to Europe in Mediterranean crossings that often turn deadly.