Libya’s Haftar calls for unified government to oversee polls

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Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar called Friday for a unified government of technocrats to organize long-delayed elections, in place of the rival administrations currently vying for control.

Libya has been torn by more than a decade of stop-start conflict since a NATO-backed revolt toppled strongman Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, with a myriad of militias forming opposing alliances backed by foreign powers.

The country remains split between a nominally interim government in Tripoli in the west, and another in the east backed by Haftar.

Presidential and parliamentary elections were due to be held in December 2021 but were never organized as differences persisted on key issues including who should be allowed to stand.

Last week, both sides agreed on the legal steps to hold the elections following talks in Morocco, but stopped short of signing a deal, suggesting that some differences remain.

Among the contested points are the candidacy of dual nationals and soldiers.

Haftar also hold US citizenship, and his detractors accuse him of seeking to restore military dictatorship in Libya.

The United Nations, which hopes the elections could take place before the end of the year, has said it would work toward helping iron out differences between the rival sides.

On Friday, a statement from Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army urged the rival administrations “to end the political divisions and form a new unified government comprising technocrats tasked with organizing elections.”

Meanwhile, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said that UN envoy Abdoulaye Bathily had “initiated a series of meetings with political leaders in Libya, regional and international partners, and other stakeholders to hear their analysis and discuss potential ways forward.”

According to the statement, some of Bathily’s interlocutors voiced concerns over the agreement struck last week in Morocco which, they claimed, “could hinder elections from a practical and political standpoint.” It gave no further details.

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