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Italy hosts Libya conference to push new U.N. peace plan

Italy will host a Libya conference that starts on Monday and aims to push forward a new U.N. plan to stabilise the troubled North African country after an initiative to hold elections next month failed.

Last week, U.N. Envoy, Ghassan Salame, officially abandoned a Western plan to hold national elections on Dec. 10 as way out of conflict that has raged in the oil producer since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Instead the United Nations, which has been trying to mediate for years, wants to hold first a national conference to reconcile a country divided between hundreds of rival armed groups, tribes, towns and regions.

Western powers that helped topple Gaddafi then left Libya to its chaos, letting militias and radical Islamist groups grow.

But worried about it turning into a source of instability on the shores of Europe, European powers have recently paid Libya more attention.

Diplomats hope the two-day meeting in the Sicilian city of Palermo will keep up that interest.

France hosted a summit in May during which the main Libyan rivals pledged to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in December.

But weeks of fighting between militias in the capital Tripoli, as well as deadlock between rump parliaments in Tripoli and the east, has made that plan unrealistic.

Italy hopes the conference will help keep pressure on Libyan players to overcome their divisions.

The OPEC oil producer has two governments, a U.N.-backed administration in the capital and a largely powerless eastern version.

This version is aligned with influential veteran commander, Khalifa Haftar, whose forces control much of the east.

Italian officials were scrambling at the weekend to secure Haftar’s presence.

If he shows up, it will be his first meeting with the Tripoli-based Prime Minister, Fayez al-Serraj, since the Paris summit, analysts said.

Also in attendance will be the internationally recognised House of Representatives, as well as the State Council, a rival assembly.

Western diplomats also hope the meeting will help overcome differences between Italy and France.

Both have extensive oil interests in Libya but have used different approaches to trying to resolve the conflict.

France has been courting Haftar, who is supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which see his forces as a bulwark against Islamists.

Italy is the main backer of Serraj and his weak Government of National Accord (GNA), and has worked with local groups in Libya to stop Europe-bound migrants from embarking by boat.

Western power want Serraj’s government to enact economic reforms a system that they say gives Libya’s multitude of armed groups easy access to cheap dollars.

Diplomats say delayed reforms introduced in Tripoli in September, including a fee on purchases of foreign currency, can only partially ease Libya’s economic woes.

This will be so as long as the central bank remains divided and predatory factions retain their positions.

– NAN

 

About Lanre Oyetade

A multiple award winner in Economics and business journalism, Lanre Oyetade has served close to two decades in the media industry, spanning different notable stables, where he is privileged to have risen to the position of a title editor. A masters degree holder in Economics from the University of Lagos and doctoral student at the Babcock University, he is a winner of the prestigious NMMA Capital Market Award for two consecutive years (2004 & 2005), and was also a nominee for the body’s banking and finance and money market awards for two years. In 2013, he also won the Most Outstanding Business-Reporting Title Editor award of the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria (NIMN). A minister in the LORDS’s vineyard, he has been an inspirational speaker and resource person at many corporate and religious fora since early 2004, and has so far authored three books on the capital market; on personal effectiveness, and on personal finance, in 2008 and 2014, respectively.