Libya’s rival factions set to sign deal

Libya’s rival factions have agreed to December 16 as a target date for signing a United Nations-backed national unity government agreement, the UN envoy says.

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The UN has been negotiating for a year to get Libya’s two rival governments and armed factions to end a conflict that has plunged the North African state into chaos four years after rebellion ousted Muammar Gaddafi.

Successfully signing an agreement would open the way for the international community to support Libya in the fight against Islamic State, which has gained ground in the chaos and controls the western city of Sirte.

But hardliners in both camps have been resisting signing a deal and several past deadlines to sign have failed after opponents baulked at details or demanded more concessions.

UN Libya envoy Martin Kobler on Friday praised representatives of both factions for announcing the agreement in Tunisia after two days of talks, though he acknowledged any new government would need to address many problems.

For a year, Tripoli has been controlled by an armed faction called Libya Dawn, a coalition of former rebel brigades from Misrata and other armed factions in the capital, after they battled to force out rivals.

They set up a self-styled government and reinstated the old parliament, known as the General National Congress. The internationally-recognised government and the elected House of Representatives was forced to operate out of the east of the country.

Both factions are backed by loose alliances of former rebel brigades, tribal fighters and former Gaddafi soldiers, including General Khalifa Haftar, who has been appointed armed forces commander by the government in the east, but is despised by the Tripoli faction.