January 13, 2015 / 7:13 PM / 3 years ago

U.N. to launch Libya talks despite doubts over participation

By Ahmed Elumami and Feras BosalumTRIPOLI, Jan 13 (Reuters) - The United Nations said it will launch talks on Wednesday in Geneva between warring Libyan factions even though one side has delayed its decision on attending negotiations aimed at averting a broader civil war.

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

Two rival governments and their forces are vying for control in Libya, three years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, with the internationally recognized government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni based in eastern Libya since a faction called Libya Dawn took over Tripoli last summer.

Tripoli-based forces said their legislature had postponed a decision over joining the Geneva talks until Sunday because of concerns about how the negotiations were organized.

Nevertheless, a U.N. statement released on Tuesday confirmed the meeting and said Bernardino Leon, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya and Head of United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), would give a news conference before talks start and the list of participants was to follow.

A delegation from the elected House of Representatives (HOR), representing Thinni’s government, was in Tunisia waiting to fly to Geneva, according to a parliament representative.

The U.N. statement lists the HOR representatives as participating, but representatives of the Tripoli legislature as to be confirmed. Other participants include various former lawmakers and some HOR lawmakers from the city of Misrata, Libya Dawn’s main base.

LAST CHANCE?

The European Union had called the Geneva talks the last chance for Libya, with Western governments increasingly concerned over the instability spilling into a wider conflict just across the Mediterranean from mainland Europe.

Diplomats expected the talks to be initial, indirect negotiations over U.N. objectives for a unity government and an end to hostilities rather than any swift resolution.

The conflict involves two broad coalitions of political rivals and their allied brigades of former rebels who once fought side by side against Gaddafi.

Thinni’s government and forces are broadly anti-Islamist, allied to former rebel militias from the town of Zintan, and a former Gaddafi army general, Khalifa Haftar, who Thinni has incorporated into his government’s armed forces.

Libya Dawn forces are mostly allied to the rival city of Misrata, but also include some Islamist-leaning former rebels and politicians. They deny charges they are linked to radical Islamist groups.

The new rulers in the capital are not recognized by the United Nations and world powers, but have taken over ministries, oil facilities, airports and much of western and central Libya.

Libya’s oil production has slumped to about 300,000 barrels per day as petroleum revenues increasingly become the focus of fighting. Two major eastern oil ports and their fields are still closed after clashes for control of the terminals.

Additional reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli in Benghazi and by Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles in Geneva; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Louise Ireland

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