October 29, 2014 / 4:48 PM / in 3 years

Libyan PM says ready for talks with parallel government rivals

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Libya’s internationally-recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said on Wednesday he was ready for peace talks with rivals controlling the capital Tripoli and questioning his legitimacy if all sides made concessions.

Libya's Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni takes part in a joint news conference with Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (not pictured) at the Auberge de Castille in Valletta October 21, 2014. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

The North African country has had two governments and parliaments since a militia group from the western city of Misrata seized the capital Tripoli in August, setting up its own cabinet and assembly and effectively splitting Libya.

Thinni, whose government has retreated 1,000 km (625 miles) to the east where also the elected parliament is now based, set one condition for talks with his rivals.

“We open the doors of dialogue with our brothers on the condition that there be concessions from all sides,” Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni told reporters in Khartoum at the end of a three-day visit to Sudan.

Western powers worry that the Libya is heading towards civil war as authorities are too weak to control former rebels who helped oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but now defy state authority to grab power and a share of oil revenues.

The United Nations has been trying to bring together the House of Representatives, the country’s elected parliament allied to Thinni’s government, for talks with Misrata members who have boycotted its sessions.

The talks do not include armed groups from Misrata. But since some lawmakers come from the western city linked to a rival parliament set up in Tripoli, diplomats hope the talks will lead to a broader dialogue.

Thinni did not say what concessions he was asking for or if armed groups would have a seat at the negotiating table.

U.N. Special Envoy Bernandino Leon said on Wednesday the oil-producing country is “very close to the point of no return”.

The death toll from two weeks of street fighting between pro-government forces and Islamist armed groups in the eastern city of Benghazi has risen to 180, according to medics.

Thinni’s trip to Sudan comes after his numerous accusations that Sudan, as well as Qatar, have been arming the Islamist militants that have forced his government to relocate

Khartoum and Doha have denied the allegations and Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir sounded a reconciliatory note during Thinni’s visit.

Bashir reaffirmed support for Libya’s national army, touting a three-year-old training program for its officers and offering to host a regional conference on the Libyan conflict.

“Khartoum will host a meeting of the neighboring countries of Libya which will be the basis of the dialogue plan,” he said.

Reporting By Maaz Alnugomi; Writing By Shadi Bushra; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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