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UN warns Libya could be divided again, urges 2022 elections

AP – The United Nations’ (UN) Political Chief warned on Wednesday that Libya could again see two rival administrations and a return to instability, calling for elections as soon as possible to unify the oil-rich North African nation.

Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo told the UN Security Council she is encouraged by support for a UN initiative to convene a joint committee from Libya’s rival House of Representatives and High State Council with a goal of reaching agreement by both bodies “on a constitutional basis that would lead to elections this year”.

The crisis erupted after Libya failed to hold its first presidential elections on December 24 under a UN-led reconciliation effort.

The country’s east-based House of Representatives named a new prime minister, former interior minister Fathi Bashagha, to lead a new interim government in February. The lawmakers claimed the mandate of interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah expired when the election failed to take place.

But Dbeibah insists he will remain prime minister until elections are held, and the High State Council, which advises the interim government, called parliament’s decision to name a new prime minister “incorrect” before holding elections.

DiCarlo said UN Special Adviser on Libya Stephanie Williams on March 3 asked the House of Representatives speaker and High State Council president to appoint six members to the joint committee. She said the council nominated its representatives on Tuesday and the UN expects the House of Representatives to do the same.

DiCarlo warned that the continuing standoff over “executive legitimacy” could again lead to two parallel administrations.

She said there have been “worrying developments” since March 1, when the House of Representatives held a vote of confidence on Bashagha’s new government. The vote was marred by “procedural flaws and threats of violence against some members of the chamber and their families” according to reports received by the UN.

DiCarlo pointed to the continuing suspension of airline flights between cities in the east and Tripoli and “forces in western Libya supporting either side moving on March 9-10 towards the capital”. She said Williams engaged both sides “and managed to reduce tensions”.

But the UN political chief warned that “Libya is now facing a new phase of political polarisation, which risks dividing its institutions once again and reversing the gains achieved over the past two years”.