Libyan PM, foreign powers backs Dec. 24 national election

·3 min read
FILE PHOTO: Libya's unity government Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah looks on at Libya's mission to the United Nations in New York

By Ahmed Elumami

TRIPOLI (Reuters) -Libya's prime minister and several foreign powers on Thursday endorsed the holding of a national election on Dec. 24 as envisaged in a U.N.-backed peace plan aimed at resolving years of turmoil and division.

Speaking at the Libya Stabilization Conference in Tripoli, Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah said it was possible to end the crisis that has engulfed the country since the NATO-backed uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

"We support the efforts of the higher election committee to hold (the vote) on the planned date. I call for a wide and effective participation of Libyans in the elections," Dbeibah said.

Elections have been viewed as a key step in efforts to end a decade of violence by creating a new political leadership whose legitimacy is widely accepted.

The final communique at the conference, which included foreign ministers from France, Italy and Arab states and U.S. and United Nations officials, stressed the importance of taking confidence-building measures in order to hold a vote in a fair, transparent and inclusive manner on Dec. 24.

Wrangling over the constitutional basis for an election, the rules governing the vote and questions over its credibility have threatened to unravel the peace process.

The United Nations process has called for presidential and parliamentary elections for Dec. 24.

However, although parliament has issued a law for the presidential election on that date, it has issued a separate law saying the parliamentary election will happen at a later date. Other political institutions in Libya have rejected the parliament's proposals.

NON-INTERFERENCE

France's foreign minister said that a conference on Libya in Paris next month aimed to give a final international push so that elections would be held by year-end and to endorse the departure of foreign forces.

"It will provide the last international impetus needed in support of the elections at the end of the year...(and) endorse the Libyan plan for the departure of foreign forces and mercenaries and support its implementation, to put an end to foreign interference," Jean-Yves le Drian said in a speech.

Any move to hold an election without widespread acceptance by rival political institutions could lead factions to reject the vote, potentially triggering another violent schism.

Unifying the country's fragmented armed forces, divided between a host of groups split between two broad coalitions in east and west, as well as resolving the role of foreign powers and mercenaries in Libya, is also crucial.

"There is no other option but to respect fully the principle of non-interference. Deterrent actions should be taken against all those who interfere in others' sovereignty," said Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush, referring to foreign forces deployed in the North African country.

At a joint news conference with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al-Sabah, Mangoush said the communique cited a commitment to the sovereignty and independence of Libya and rejection of foreign interference in its internal affairs.

The role of foreign powers is seen as critical to keeping in check any major players that may seek to sabotage the process if they believe their interests are threatened.

However, the international community has been split over the Libya conflict, with regional powers backing different sides before the latest peace push.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Moshashal in Dubai and John Irish in Paris; Writing by Michael Georgy, Editing by Gareth Jones and Angus MacSwan)

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