Libyans meet in Geneva to select transitional leaders
In this file photo taken on June 19, 2019 a fighter loyal to the internationally-recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) holds a rifle from a position in the al-Sawani area south of the Libyan capital Tripoli. AFP
Libyan delegates meet Monday for UN-backed talks in Geneva to choose a new temporary executive to lead the war-scarred country through a transition until scheduled December elections.
The 75 participants at the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum have until Friday to select a prime minister and a three-member presidency council from a list of 45 candidates, Libya's UN mission UNSMIL said in a statement.
Oil-rich Libya has been torn by civil war since a NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and killing of long-time dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.
The country is now split between the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and its rival, the eastern-based House of Representatives backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.
A fragile ceasefire agreed in Geneva last October has largely held despite threats by Haftar to resume fighting.
The list of candidates unveiled Saturday by the UN includes 21 names for the position of prime minister and 24 for the presidency council.
"This new interim, unified executive authority will be primarily tasked to lead Libya to national elections set for 24 December 2021 and to reunify state institutions," an UNSMIL statement said.
The list of candidates was approved in political talks held in November between the 75 delegates selected by the UN to represent a broad cross section of Libyan society.
Among the names for the premiership are Fathi Bashagha, the powerful GNA interior minister, and the current deputy prime minister of the Tripoli-based presidential council, Ahmad Meitig.
Nominations for the presidency council include GNA Defence Minister Salahuddin al-Namroush and the head of the Tripoli-based High Council of State, Khalid al-Mishri.
Council candidates from the east include key powerbroker Aguila Saleh, the current speaker of the Tobruk-based parliament, and Mohammed al-Bargathi, Libya's ambassador to Jordan.
The political talks kicked off in mid-November in Tunisia, where the 75 delegates were tasked with laying out a roadmap towards elections.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on January 19 hailed the "tangible progress" made in recent months to restore stability in Libya.
His comments came in a report to the Security Council in which he demanded that all foreign troops and mercenaries involved in the Libya conflict leave the country by January 23.
But foreign forces -- 20,000 troops and mercenaries by UN estimates -- have ignored the deadline to pull out of Libya.
Satellite images broadcast by CNN showed a trench running tens of kilometres (miles) dug by "Russian mercenaries" near the frontline coastal city of Sirte, as main foreign protagonists Ankara and Moscow appear intent on defending their interests under any final settlement.
An unidentified US intelligence official quoted by the American news network said there was "no intent or movement by either Turkish or Russian forces to abide by the UN-brokered agreement".