July 1, 2015 / 6:49 PM / 3 years ago

Libya PM hopes for deal with rivals, Tripoli delays

VALLETTA (Reuters) - Libya’s internationally recognized prime minister said he hoped to reach a power-sharing peace agreement on Thursday with his rivals during U.N.-backed talks to end a conflict that threatens to break up the country.

Abdullah al-Thinni (L), Prime Minister of Libya's internationally recognised government, arrives for talks with Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (R) at the Auberge de Castille in Valletta, Malta, July 1, 2015. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

Libya has two governments and parliaments, with the recognized government operating out of the country’s east since an armed alliance known as Libya Dawn took over the capital Tripoli, in the west, and declared its own government last year.

Abdullah al-Thinni, who leads the government based in the eastern city of Tobruk, flew to Malta on Wednesday for talks with the Maltese prime minister, Joseph Muscat.

“It goes without saying that there will be a lot of discussions tomorrow and there are people in favor and against. We aspire to realize this agreement,” Thinni said.

But in a televised statement, spokesman for Tripoli’s rival parliament, Omar Humaidan, said the assembly would postpone participation in the talks until next week for more consultation. Officials were not immediately available to confirm any details of that decision.

Libya has been sliding deeper into chaos, worrying Western powers who fear it will become a failed state just over the Mediterranean from mainland Europe. Militants allied to Islamic State have also gained ground in the chaos four years after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.

The latest round of talks has been under way in the Moroccan coastal town of Skhirat since Friday and had been due to restart on Thursday.

Nearly three weeks after the U.N. special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, handed them a final draft of the deal, the negotiating teams have been trying to hammer out amendments while fighters on the ground battle for a military victory.

Leon said earlier in the week they would try to “initialize the agreement” on Thursday, after both sides had held consultations.

The U.N. proposal calls for a year-long government of national accord in which a council of ministers headed by a prime minister and two deputies would have executive authority.

Thinni said that once a unity government was set up, it would continue to fight against Islamic State.

“Any sane government would fight terror, and we have been fighting this for some time. This is a paramount importance for the safety and stability of Libya and the rest of the world. This is a fight we all must fight together,” he said.

Reporting by Chris Scicluna in Valletta; Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli; Editing by Patrick Markey and Lisa Shumaker

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