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UN political chief pushes for 2018 elections in Libya

The UN's political chief pushed Wednesday in Libya for the country to hold credible elections this year in a bid to ensure a peaceful shift from a failed unity deal.

“The goal is a Libyan goal to end the transition phase with inclusive peaceful process that produces a unified government that is a product of the will of the Libyan people,” Jeffrey Feltman said after meeting internationally backed premier Fayez al-Sarraj.

A 2015 UN-brokered deal that saw the establishment of Sarraj’s Government of National Accord was meant to calm years of chaos that followed the ouster of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

But Libya has remained mired in violent turmoil as the country is riven by divisions between the GNA in Tripoli and a rival administration backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east.

In September the UN presented a new plan to hold legislative and presidential elections by the end of 2018 as the GNA’s mandate neared the end of its two-year lifespan with no solution to the crisis in sight.

Analysts have expressed scepticism that elections will help end the bitter divisions in Libya and say they could in fact increase tensions between the rival camps.

Feltman acknowledged that “credible elections will require an understanding in terms of political agreements” as well as new legislation and the necessary security conditions across the conflict-wracked nation.

But he insisted the UN wants “to do our part in promoting the political, the security, the technical and the legislative condition to see that the Libyan people’s desire for these elections can be realised this year.”

In December strongman Haftar said he would support elections in the country but also implied he would seize power if the polls did not occur.

Haftar — who never recognised the GNA’s authority — has insisted the unity government has lost all legitimacy after the expiry of the 2015 agreement at the end of last year.

The United Nations insists sticking to the unity deal still remains the “only viable framework to end the Libyan political crisis” and prepare for elections.

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