June 26, 2015 / 6:59 PM / in 2 years

Libya talks at crucial stage over power-sharing deal

SKHIRATE, Morocco (Reuters) - Libya’s two main rival factions restarted U.N.-backed peace talks in Morocco on Friday with negotiations at a crucial stage over a power-sharing proposal that negotiators call the best chance for peace.

Members of the Libyan pro-government forces, aim a weapon during their deployment in the Lamluda area, southwest of the city of Derna , Libya June 16, 2015. Picture taken June 16, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

Four years after an uprising ousted strongman Muammar Gaddafi, Western and regional powers are pushing for an end to fighting between the two competing governments vying for control of the North African country and its oil.

Nearly three weeks after U.N. envoy Bernardino Leon handed them a final draft, negotiating teams were in Morocco to hammer out amendments, even as hardliners on the ground kept fighting for a military victory.

European governments are concerned Libya is becoming a haven for Islamist militants and people smugglers.

The conflict is being fought on several fronts, complicated by Islamic State militants who gained influence in the chaos, but local ceasefires have also emerged that may ease tensions.

“We are getting closer to a solution. Obviously, the fact that all the participants in the dialogue have accepted the fourth draft as a basis for a final solution is extremely encouraging,” Leon said as delegates arrived late Thursday.

The conflict has become polarized around two loose coalitions and their allied armed forces of former rebels who once fought Gaddafi but have turned on each other.

A self-declared National Sovereignty government backed by an alliance of former rebels mainly for the city of Misrata, and more Islamist-leaning fighters, took over the capital last summer.

To the east, Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni’s internationally recognized government and the elected House of Representatives is backed by a loose alliance of military forces under the banner of the Libya National Army.

DISAGREEMENTS OVER DETAILS

The U.N. proposal calls for a one-year-long government of national accord, where a council of ministers headed by a prime minister, and two deputies, will have executive authority.

The House of Representatives will be the legislative body, but the accord also sees the creation of a 120-member State Council, consisting of 90 members of the Tripoli parliament.

Terms of a ceasefire, disarmament for armed groups and withdrawing armed groups from oil facilities and cities are also addressed.

Both sides have agreed in principle to the draft, but potentially deal-breaking disagreements remain on the authority of the second chamber, the legitimacy of the House of Representatives and who controls the commander of the national armed forces.

For hardliners in the internationally recognized government, the creation of a second chamber is a challenge to its authority, and hands too much power to Islamist leaders.

Tareq al-Jouroushi from House of Representatives told Reuters they were pushing for fewer members from the other faction in the second chamber, and the new government’s mandate to be extended to a year and a half.

The Tripoli delegation wants amendments to ensure respect for a supreme court ruling in November that declared the House of Representatives election unconstitutional.

“It is as complicated as it has ever been, but now there is a solution that takes into account the complications,” Mattia Toaldo, policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said. “Local ceasefires cannot hold for long absent of a national agreement.”

Additional reporting by Ahmed Alumami in Tripoli; Ayman Al-Warfalli in Benghazi; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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