UN envoy to Libya says time running out, Islamic State expanding

Cairo: The UN envoy to Libya is urging its parliament to endorse a unity government that can help combat a mushrooming Islamic State affiliate, he told today, the fifth anniversary of the uprising that toppled Moammar Gadhafi and plunged the country into chaos.

"Every day lost in political dialogue is a day of gain of Daesh," Martin Kobler said in the interview, referring to the extremist group by its Arabic acronym. "There is chaos. There is anarchy in which Daesh expands."

UN envoy to Libya says time running out, Islamic State expanding

Representational image. Reuters

Libya's internationally recognized government and parliament has convened in the far east since 2014, when Islamist-allied militias seized the capital, Tripoli, in support of rival authorities. The two competing parliaments are each backed by a loose array of militias and tribes.

The divisions have allowed IS to expand across the northern coast of the oil-rich North African country, which is just across the Mediterranean from Italy and has also become a major conduit for African migrants heading to Europe. IS controls the central city of Sirte and a number of oil installations, and has carried out attacks across the country. President Barack Obama said today that the United States will continue to target IS in Libya after a raid last year killed a top commander.

But defeating the group will require a government with broad legitimacy and a unified army, and the international community can only lift an arms embargo once a unity government is in place.

On Sunday, a UN-designated council presented a new 18-member Cabinet in the Moroccan city of Skhirat, weeks after the internationally-backed House of Representatives rejected an earlier lineup, citing reservations about its size and the distribution of portfolios among the country's three regions. Powerful factions in Tripoli have also rejected the unity government, raising concerns about whether it would be able to meet in the capital.

Kobler hailed the new proposal, describing it as a "balanced list" and saying politicians should accept the deal so they can begin to address the country's "disastrous" humanitarian situation.

Around 2.4 million Libyans out of a population of 6 million depend on humanitarian aid, with 1.3 million receiving food aid, Kobler said. He said people line up in front of bakeries and bring their own medicines to hospitals hit by shortages. Oil production has dropped from 1.6 million barrels a day to 350,000, and Central Bank reserves are dwindling.


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Updated Date: Feb 18, 2016 10:33:59 IST

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