Rival faction challenges Libya's UN-backed government in Tripoli


UN’s Libya envoy condemned challenge to authority of GNA, warning it would sow 'further disorder and insecurity'

Fayez al-Sarraj, left, prime minister of UN-backed unity government, greeted on Tripoli street earlier this year (AFP)
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Last update: 
Monday 17 October 2016 2:05 UTC

A Libyan faction opposed to the UN-backed government seized a building used by parliament in Tripoli, proclaiming its own authority and demanding a new government in a challenge to Western plans to end the instability in the country.

The UN’s Libya envoy condemned the latest challenge to the authority of the Government of National Accord (GNA), warning it would sow "further disorder and insecurity".

The GNA is the centrepiece of Western hopes to stem an upsurge of the Islamic State (IS) group in the North African nation and halt people trafficking across the Mediterranean that has led to thousands of drownings.

Led by prime minister designate Fayez al-Sarraj, it was intended to replace two rival administrations, one in Tripoli and one in the country's far east.

But late on Friday the head of the former Tripoli-based Government of National Salvation, Khalifa Ghweil, proclaimed its reinstatement from the offices of a key consultative body of the GNA.

The GNA, which has struggled to impose its authority on rival factions, condemned the takeover of the Rixos Hotel as a bid to scuttle its attempts to form a stable government in the North African OPEC member.

Later on Saturday, the GNA posted images on social media of its presidential council and ministers holding a meeting in the main offices of parliament in a different part of Tripoli.

Since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has been caught up in factional fighting between various groups of former rebels who battled Gaddafi and then steadily turned against each other in a struggle for control.

Tripoli was calm on Saturday hours after leaders of a former government said they had taken over the Rixos in the capital, where part of the GNA is supposed to operate.

Ghwail said in a statement late on Friday: "The presidential council was given chances one after another to form the government, but it has failed... and has become an illegal executive authority."

Ghwail called for a new administration to be formed by his former Tripoli government and its rival in the east, where hardliners also oppose the UN-backed administration. He said all institutions including banks, the judiciary and local authorities were under their jurisdiction.

Eastern factions led by former General Khalifa Haftar are also opposed to the UN-backed Tripoli government. Haftar's forces have taken over four key oil ports and now are cooperating for the moment with the GNA in allowing oil exports.