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UN's Leon holds fresh Libya peace talks in Algiers

As talks continue, fears are growing for four Indian nationals believed to have been taken by IS near Sirte
Libya Dawn militias have been in control of Tripoli since last year

UN envoy Bernardino Leon was to hold talks with members of the General National Congress parliament which boycotted a UN peace deal for the conflict-hit country, both sides said on Thursday.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya said Leon would hold "consultations" with GNC representatives in Algiers on Thursday night and Friday "to discuss ways to reinforce and move forward the dialogue process".

The announcement comes just hours before news emerged that the Islamic State group, which has been growing in Libya, had allegedly "detained" four Indian nationals.

India's foreign ministry said the group was detained at a checkpoint around 50 kilometres from IS-controlled Sirte. The teachers, who had been working at Sirte university, were heading for Tripoli where they intended to catch a flight out of the country.

Plunged into chaos after the 2011 uprising to oust former leader Muammar Gaddafi, Libya now has two parliaments and governments vying for power, as a slew of armed groups battle for control of its oil wealth.

The elected parliament, which now sits in the country’s east, initialled a UN draft deal on 11 July aimed at setting up a national unity government and holding fresh elections.

Members of political parties, civil society and local officials also signed the agreement, but the Tripoli-based GNC, which reconstituted itself last summer amidst claims that the June elections were invalid, refused to endorse the UN deal saying it was "unsatisfactory" and calling for "modifications".

On Thursday the GNC, which is based in Tripoli and was installed by the powerful militia alliance Libya Dawn that seized the capital last year, said it was sending a delegation to Algiers for talks with Leon.

The delegation, headed by GNC chief Nuri Abusahmein, will meet Leon "to discuss the latest developments concerning the political dialogue brokered by the UN," it said on its website.

Talks have been ongoing for months, and despite repeated reports that the two sides have been “close” to penning a deal, no such agreement has come to pass. While the initial versions of the UN draft were rejected by the GNC, which called on Leon to step down over his alleged favouritism, a later draft unveiled shortly before the start of Ramadan in June fell foul of the Tobruk-based authorities.   

Sticking points include divisions over a future governing council and fierce disagreements about who will head up the fragmented Libyan army.  

The rise of the Islamic State group has further complicated negotiations.