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Libyan rival officials meet for UN-led talks on elections

AP – Two senior Libyan officials began two days of talks yesterday on constitutional arrangements for elections, the latest United Nations (UN) effort to bridge gaps between the country’s rivals.

Speaker of the country’s east-based Parliament Aguila Saleh and head of the government’s Supreme Council of State Khaled al-Meshri, based in the capital of Tripoli in the west, met at the UN headquarters in Geneva.

According to the UN, the talks will focus on a draft constitutional framework for elections after Libya’s rival factions failed to reach an agreement in their last round of talks in Cairo.

The criteria for a presidential candidacy were a contentious point in the talks, according to Libyan media.

The Tripoli-based council insisted on banning military personnel from running for the country’s top post – apparently a move directed at the divisive commander Khalifa Hifter, whose forces are loyal to the east-based administration. Hifter had announced his bid in elections slated for last December but the vote was not held because of myriad issues, including controversial hopefuls who had announced bids and disputes about election laws.

Speaker of Libyan House of Representatives Aguila Saleh, United Nations Special Adviser on Libya Stephanie Williams and President of Libya’s High State Council of State Khaled Al-Mishri give a press conference after a high-level meeting on Libya Constitutional track at the United Nations in Geneva. PHOTO: AFP

There are growing tensions on the ground, and sporadic clashes between rival militias recently erupted in Tripoli.

Living conditions have also deteriorated, mainly because of fuel shortages in the oil-rich nation. Tribal leaders have shut down many oil facilities, including the country’s largest field.

The blockade was largely meant to cut off key state revenues to the incumbent Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, who has refused to step down even though the vote was not held in December.

Now, Dbeibah and another Prime Minister, Fathy Bashagha, appointed by the east-based Parliament to lead a transitional government, are claiming power.

The rivalry has sparked fears the oil-rich country could slide back to fighting after tentative steps toward unity last year.