Thani’s government backs UN talks to end rift in Libya

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Published Friday, December 5, 2014

An airstrike hit a Libyan militia post on the border with Tunisia on Friday, killing one person and wounding several others, a militia spokesman said.

The attack, suspected to be by Libya’s internationally recognized government headed by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani, came a day after the aforementioned announced it was backing UN talks to end rift in the country.

The Libya Shield militia accused forces loyal to Thani’s government of carrying out the raid close to the Ras Jedir border crossing.

"One Libya Shield member was killed and between three and five were wounded," spokesman Hafedh Muammar told AFP.

Libya Shield forms part of the Islamist-backed militia alliance which seized much of the west and the capital in August and set up their own government there, forcing the internationally backed government to take refuge in the remote eastern towns of Shahat and Tobruk.

Thani's government has allied itself with forces of former army general Khalifa Haftar who declared war on Islamists in May and currently battling them in second city Benghazi since October.

After the NATO-backed war ended Muammar Gaddafi's one-man rule in 2011, oil-producing Libya has struggled to reach stability. Former rebel brigades who once fought side by side have now turned on each other, aligning themselves with rival political factions in a battle for control.

On Wednesday, Thani said in a statement his forces had started a military offensive to take back Tripoli and have since carried out a spate of airstrikes in western Libya in recent days.

Thani’s forces targeted Thursday what they said was a militia position in the south of Tripoli, but their militia rivals said the strike hit a poultry farm.

Two days earlier, airstrikes on the coastal city of Zuara, between Tripoli and Ras Jedir, killed seven people, including five migrant workers, and on Sunday, a source at Benghazi hospital said that in the past six weeks, more than 400 people have been killed in heavy fighting between Libyan pro-government forces and Islamist groups in Benghazi.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to impede the unrest across the country, Thani’s government gave its backing to UN-brokered talks between warring factions, its foreign minister said late Thursday.

UN Special Representative Bernardino Leon in Libya chaired a first round of talks between rival politicians in the oasis town of Ghadames in September, and will lead a new round of negotiations on December 9.

"As the foreign minister, I welcome the holding of the second Ghadames meeting and we express our support for Bernardino's efforts," Mohammed al-Dairi told AFP in Khartoum late Thursday.

"We want the Ghadames approach to reach a government of national unity to manage the transitional period," Dairi said.

Dairi said there would be "another meeting for military formations and armed groups that will be separate from the meeting for the political parties," without specifying which armed groups would be taking part in the discussions.

Some of these groups have seized vital oil installations, but Dairi said most of these areas were under his administration's control, "except for some small areas under the control of armed military formations outside the authority of the state."

Dairi was in the Sudanese capital for talks between Libya's neighbors – Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Niger and Tunisia, as well as Sudan – who have pledged their support for the UN mediation effort.

(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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