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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Libya's UN-backed Prime Minister 'Ready to Step Down' if New Leader Chosen

By Edward Yeranian September 17, 2020

As rival Libyan political leaders prepare for a new round of talks in Geneva next month, U.N.-backed Tripoli-based Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj says that he is ready to step down to ensure a "peaceful transition of power." 

He says that he will hand over his duties to a new executive authority by the end of October, assuming that Libya's dialogue committee has completed its task and chosen a new ruling council and a new prime minister.

Libyan negotiators agreed to a number of principles during last week's talks in Morocco, including elections in December 2021 and dividing positions in the ruling council from among Libya's three geographic regions.

Colonel Ahmed Almasmari, spokesman for eastern military commander General Khalifa Haftar, insisted at a press briefing that Haftar and those who back him seek a political solution free of outside interference.

Faisal Bou al Rika, representative of the Libyan parliament at the recent Morocco dialogue talks, said in an interview with Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV that al-Sarraj "was under militia pressure to step down and left Tripoli after taping his announcement." VOA could not independently confirm the claim. 

Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, said the Libyan prime minister announced his resignation because he was disavowed by forces in Tripoli following a recent tug of war with his interior minister, Fathi Bashagha.

There are now three negotiating tracks, Diab said, including U.S. and U.N. efforts to make a deal, a Russian-Turkish proposal for a possible agreement, and European efforts to arrange a deal. It is time to bring all three tracks together, he added.

Paul Sullivan, a professor at the U.S.-based National Defense University, said the upcoming Libya negotiations are likely to be "fraught with tensions and behind-the-scenes maneuvering." The talks, he added, "may last longer than some think and may not solve much, barring a miracle."

Sullivan said he doubted "that Libya will quiet down any time soon."

"There is too much at stake," he said, "and too many competing stakeholders who do not get along."

Egyptian political sociologist Said Sadek said "[conventional] wisdom was that the Libya file [situation] would be postponed until after U.S. elections," but "now it seems things can't wait." The Europeans, he added, "may be preparing an international conference to redraw the map of Libya."

Eastern-based interim Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al Thinni also announced his resignation over the weekend, but it has yet to be accepted by parliament.

Libya has been effectively split between rival eastern and western governments since 2015. 

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