January 26, 2016 / 3:37 PM / 2 years ago

EU considering sanctions on Libyans blocking peace: diplomats

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Nouri Abusahmain, president of the General National Congress (GNC), speaks during a ceremony in Tripoli January 30, 2014.Ismail Zitouny

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is discussing imposing travel bans and asset freezes on at least two Libyans it sees as blocking efforts by the United Nations to form a government of national unity, diplomatic sources said on Tuesday.

While European governments have threatened sanctions for many months, the rejection of the unity government on Monday is forcing the 28-nation bloc to act, sources said, as frustration grows in Brussels after a string of delays.

Nouri Abusahmain, the head of Libya's General National Congress, one of two rival parliaments, and Khalifa al-Ghwell, who heads one of Libya's two rival governments, could face the sanctions early next month if diplomats reach agreement soon, the sources said.

Other names are also being discussed, according to the sources, including the president of Libya's internationally recognised parliament, Aguila Saleh, whose eastern-based House of Representatives rejected the UN-backed plan on Monday.

"We want the political process to go forward but we are also ready to penalise those who want to obstruct it," said one person close to discussions who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The United Nations is seeking to unite factions and militias that have competed for power since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and Western powers say the U.N. process is the only hope of bringing stability and stemming Islamic militancy.

Facing a refugee crisis on its borders, the European Union is eager to see the U.N.-mediated agreement that sets out a political transition for Libya.

European Union foreign ministers last week promised 100 million euros ($108 million) of "immediate and substantial support" for Libya once a government is formed, possibly also increasing that support if security conditions in the country improve and allow the return of international workers.

With a government in place, the EU is also considering helping Libya strengthen its borders and disarm militias, according to a draft plan seen by Reuters.

Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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