UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations informed the Security Council on Tuesday that rival factions in Libya have agreed "in principle" to hold a new round of peace talks aimed at ending the escalating political crisis early in the new year.
The world body had planned to hold a second round of talks last week to end a confrontation between two rival governments and parliaments, but it said a military escalation was undermining its efforts.
The new talks have been repeatedly delayed due to difficulties getting the parties to agree to meet.
U.N. Special Envoy Bernadino Leon briefed the 15-nation Security Council via video link.
"He (Leon) said he had agreement 'in principle' that talks would start on the 5th," a diplomat who attended the closed-door meeting said on condition of anonymity. "He also set out three key issues for a roadmap - a national unity government, stabilizing the country through cease-fires of militias and a new constitution."
Chad U.N. Ambassador Mahamat Zene Charif, council president this month, confirmed the Jan. 5 date, adding that council members expressed concern about the continued fighting and flow of weapons into Libya.
Charif noted that Leon said the parties had agreed on the roadmap. A U.N. official told Reuters that getting the various factions to meet was like "herding heavily armed cats."
Libya has had two governments and parliaments competing for legitimacy since a group called Libya Dawn seized the capital in August, installing its cabinet and forcing the government of recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni to the east.
World powers fear the Libyan conflict will lead to civil war as former rebel groups that helped oust the country's former leader, the late Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011 fight for power and a share of its vast oil reserves.
Leon has said that the Libya dialogue would include members of the General National Congress, the country's previous assembly reinstated by the new rulers in the capital Tripoli.
Hundreds of civilians in Libya have been killed in fighting since late August, the United Nations said, warning commanders of armed groups that they could face prosecution for possible war crimes, including executions and torture.
The conflict has driven at least 120,000 people from their homes and caused a humanitarian crisis, said a joint report by the U.N. human rights office and U.N. Support Mission in Libya that also documents shelling of civilian areas.
Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Dan Grebler and Richard Chang