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UN threatens Libya sanctions, urges negotiations

Security Council presses second round of UN-backed talks in Algiers to end violence and form unity government in Libya
United Nations special envoy Bernardino Leon meets with Libyan President of the General National Congress Nuri Abu Sahmein in Tripoli on 24 March (AFP)

The United Nations Security Council pressed Libya's warring factions to urgently form a unity government and threatened sanctions against those behind spiralling violence.

In a declaration adopted by consensus, the 15 council members urged the parties taking part in peace talks to "agree on arrangements on the formation of a national unity government to end Libya's political, security and institutional crisis."

A meeting attended by political party leaders and activists took place on Monday in Algiers under UN auspices, with participants hoping to reach an accord to end the chaos and violence that has engulfed Libya since the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

"Expressing deep concern about the continuing violence in Libya, the members of the Security Council reaffirmed that there can be no military solution to the crisis in Libya and called on all parties to cease hostilities to create a peaceful and conducive environment for an inclusive dialogue," the statement said.

The council also warned it was "prepared to sanction those who threaten Libya's peace, stability or security or that obstruct or undermine the successful completion of its political transition."

Libya has been in the midst of a brutal civil conflict since the end of the 2011 uprising that saw the ousting of long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi. Rival cities, tribes, militias and governments have all vied for control of Africa’s largest oil reserves.

The June 2014 popularly elected House of Representatives (HoR) relocated to the eastern cities of Tobruk and Bayda in August, after the Misrata-led alliance of Libya Dawn seized control of the capital Tripoli and reformed the former administration of the General National Congress (GNC).

The GNC established a “salvation government” to challenge the HoR – which they accuse of trying to undermine the 2011 uprising – while the Libya Dawn coalition of militias have continued to battle HoR-allied military forces led by Khalifa Haftar, a former Gaddafi-era general who returned to Libya in 2011 to aid the rebel uprising after more than 20 years' exile in the US.

Both sides have been accused of corruption and economic failings.

“The two governments are two faces of the same coin,” an analyst told the Financial Times on Sunday, requesting anonymity for fear of reprisals against their family in Tripoli.

The self-declared GNC government has accused its former leader Omar al-Hassi, sacked in March, of overestimating surplus budget funds he said amounted to $36.5bn (50bn Libyan dinars) when they were actually around $2.7bn (3.7bn dinars).

HoR Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni has said that his eastern-based government has only been able to pay its salaries, in the absence of access to state funds, by securing a loan of $535mn from the country’s Commercial Bank, according to the Financial Times.