Libyan PM urges international community to back UN mandate


BENGHAZI: The head of Libya’s UN-backed government urged on Saturday the international community to take a firm stance against those defying a 2015 political agreement stipulating a UN mandate that expired earlier this month.

The remarks by Prime Minister Fayez Serraj came during a meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano in the capital, Tripoli, where the UN-backed government is based.

Genitoli’s visit comes days after French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian met with Serraj and later with military strongman Khalifa Hifter in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Hifter is commander of the self-styled Libyan National Army, which is loyal to the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, a rival of Serraj’s government.

Serraj and Alfano discussed preparations for elections slated for next year, including ratifying an electoral law and registering voters. The government had previously announced on several occasions that the processes were underway without specifying dates.

The UN-backed government’s mandate expired on Dec. 17. Thousands of Hifter’s supporters rallied in several cities on the day, calling on him to lead the country.

Hifter had hinted in an earlier televised speech that he might step up to fill the political void but didn’t clearly state whether he would run for president if a vote is held next year. It is also not clear whether Serraj will hold the elections.

Serraj insists the UN mandate remains in effect until a new one is introduced. Earlier, the UN Security Council said the 2015 agreement “remains the only viable framework” to put an end to the country’s political crisis and slammed any attempt to undermine it as “unacceptable.” In his address, Hifter said that all the bodies resulting from the agreement “lost their legitimacy” upon its expiry.

Hifter’s Libyan National Army, comprised mostly of Qaddafi-era officers, has been fighting with militants in the east.

Libya descended into chaos following a 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi.

The country is now split between rival governments, each backed by militias in the east and the west. It has also become a main embarkation point for the perilous route to Europe for migrants fleeing poverty and civil war in Africa and elsewhere in the region.

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