Rival Libyan Parliament Leaders Reject U.N. Peace Deal a Day Before Signing it

Rival Libyan parliament chiefs have rejected a U.N. peace deal, stating that the pact had been imposed by world powers. Both sides have asked for more time to work out a Libyan initiative. REUTERS/Mandel Ngan/Pool

TRIPOLI, Dec 16 (Reuters) – The leaders of Libya’s rival parliaments rejected a U.N. peace deal a day before moderates from both sides were due to sign it, highlighting the deep splits challenging international efforts to end the fighting.

The two met on Tuesday for the first time since latest fighting broke out more than a year ago, a development they said showed progress. But they both said the pact had been imposed by world powers and asked for more time to work out a Libyan initiative.

Moderates from the rival parliaments and independents were scheduled to sign the agreement on Wednesday, a deal that calls for a unity government and a ceasefire.

There was no immediate announcement on whether the signing would go ahead. Libyan deadlines and negotiation dates have often slipped in the past.

“We met to find a solution of the Libyan crisis and to let the world know that we are able to work our problems by ourselves,” Aguila Saleh, president of the elected House of Representatives in the east, told reporters.

“There is no doubt that we need help from the international community, but we reject any pressure from outside. No one can pressure me or change my mind.”

Nuri Abu Sahmain, head of the rival General National Congress in Tripoli, said they would consider parts of the U.N. accord, but asked the international community to consider their meeting as a way to a Libyan consensus.

Four years after revolt ousted Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has two governments and parliaments — an internationally-recognized administration in the east and a self-declared one that took over the capital after fighting erupted last year. Each is backed by competing armed factions.

Some Western diplomats said the two parliament leaders are the main block to getting support and a vote on a U.N. deal and they could be the target of sanctions if an agreement is signed without them.

Western powers and Libya’s neighbours met in Rome on Sunday to push for a deal. They hope war fatigue, the promise of international aid and a common threat of Islamic State inside Libya will help coax more people onboard.

But there are questions about how much support the deal has on the ground among the many armed factions, how a government will be established in Tripoli and how much political sway those signing the agreement have inside Libya.

Daesh militants have gained a foothold inside Libya in the security chaos, controlling Sirte city, drawing more foreign fighters away from the group’s main Middle East stronghold in Iraq and Syria.

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