TRIPOLI (Reuters) - The U.N. envoy to Libya said on Wednesday he had been forced to cancel a flight to Tripoli because he had not been granted landing rights by the self-declared government there.
Martin Kobler said he had intended to visit the Libyan capital to “pave the way” for a U.N.-backed unity government to move there from Tunis. Fayez Seraj, prime minister of the unity government, said last week that such a move was imminent.
Libya has two sets of rival parliaments and governments, one in Tripoli and one in the east.
A unity government was formed under a plan to end Libya’s simmering conflict, but has faced stiff opposition from hardliners on both sides of Libya’s political divide.
Earlier this month the unity government called for an immediate transfer of power. But the prime minister in Tripoli, Khalifa Ghwell, warned it not to move, and the eastern government said it should first secure a long-delayed vote of approval from the internationally recognized parliament in the east.
Ghwell’s office in Tripoli said authorities there had asked Kobler for an agenda for his visit but had not received a reply and therefore had not granted permission for him to land.
Previous requests from Kobler to visit had not been granted for the same reason, it said, adding that the visit had been postponed, not canceled.
In televised comments on Wednesday, Ghwell repeated his criticism of Kobler and the U.N., saying they risked creating “chaos”.
Seraj has said that his government would be able to move to Tripoli after a security plan was agreed with police and military forces, as well as armed groups.
But the security situation in the Libyan capital remains fickle, and there have been repeated clashes between armed groups.
Overnight, the commander of Tripoli’s diplomatic police, Faraj Swaihili, escaped an assassination attempt by an armed group, according to accounts posted by residents on social media. No-one could be reached to confirm the reports.
At least seven people were killed on Wednesday in clashes about 35km (22 miles) west of Tripoli between a brigade from Zawiya and armed militiamen who had tried to ransack the town of Tuwaybiya to avenge an earlier killing there, said security official Sabri Kshada.
That followed clashes near a bank in the Bab Ben Ghashir district of Tripoli on Monday, and heavy gunfire between the Zawiyat Addahmani area and Bab Azizziya on Saturday.
Tripoli is controlled by a number of semi-official armed groups which clash periodically, and it was not clear if any of the most recent incidents were linked to political developments.
Some armed groups, including powerful factions from the western city of Misrata, have said they will back the unity government, but other brigades remain opposed.
Reporting by Aidan Lewis in Tunis and Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli; Editing by Richard Balmforth