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UN weighs sanctions against Libyans opposed to talks

Four countries ask the UN to freeze the assets of Abdul Rahman Swehli and Othman Maliqta
This bronze sculpture outside the United Nations in New York City symbolises the organisation’s dedication to nonviolence

UNITED NATIONS - Britain, France, Spain and the United States are seeking UN sanctions against two Libyans accused of obstructing UN talks on forming a national unity government, diplomats said Thursday.

The request came as UN envoy Bernardino Leon is scrambling to clinch a deal on a national unity government before the start of Ramadan on 17 June, with a new crucial round of talks opening in Rabat on Monday.

The four countries asked that a global travel ban and an assets freeze be imposed on Abdul Rahman Swehli, a politician from Misrata, and Othman Maliqta, commander of the Zintani Qaqa brigade.

The UN sanctions committee has given the 15-member Security Council until 3:00 pm Friday to raise objections to the proposed sanctions.

If no objections are raised, the two Libyans will be blacklisted.

"By proposing these designations, the council will send a clear signal that spoilers of the political process will not be tolerated," the US mission said in a letter to the sanctions committee, obtained by AFP.

The two Libyans are not considered high-profile, but the decision to target them first was aimed at sending a message to more senior-ranking officials that they must get onboard.

Libyan factions agreed during Geneva talks in January to set up a national unity government to restore stability that has been shattered since the 2011 fall of Moamer Gaddafi.

But months of UN-brokered negotiations have yet to produce a political accord.

Two Libyans targeted

Abdul Rahman Swehli is chairman of the Libyan Union for the Homeland Party who reportedly pressed for an attack by Libya Dawn militias against the oil port of Sidra in February to disrupt the talks and strengthen his position.

Othman Maliqta commanded forces that attacked the parliament in Tripoli in May 2014, using trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns, mortars and rocket fire. 

Libya has two sets of rival parliaments and governments, with Tripoli controlled by Libyan Dawn forces who seized the capital last year, forcing the internationally recognised government to operate out of Tobruk, in the east of the country.

The chaos has turned the North African country into a staging ground for people smugglers who load rickety boats with refugees and migrants desperate to reach Europe.

There is also mounting alarm that extremists like the Islamic State (IS) group are gaining a major foothold in the country.

The UN envoy wrapped up two days of talks in Algeria on Thursday that focused on a draft agreement that diplomats have likened to a new constitution for Libya.

A Security Council diplomat however cautioned that there was still "a long way to go" before an accord could be reached. 

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