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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Libya election set for December 10 after Paris summit

Rival factions agreed on a date for elections at a summit called by French President Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron, flanked by French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian (2R) and UN Special Envoy for Libya, Lebanese Ghassan Salame (L) speaks during an International conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on May 29, 2018. (AFP / POOL / Etienne LAURENT)
French President Emmanuel Macron, flanked by French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian (2R) and UN Special Envoy for Libya, Lebanese Ghassan Salame (L) speaks during an International conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on May 29, 2018. (AFP / POOL / Etienne LAURENT)

A top adviser to the head of Libya's UN-recognized government based in Tripoli has tweeted that the country's rival leaders reached consensus on Tuesday at a Paris meeting to hold both parliamentary and presidential elections in battered Libya on Dec. 10.

Taher El-Sonni, a senior political adviser to prime minister Fayez Sarraj, tweeted about the agreed-on date ahead of the closing of the brief international conference in Paris.

The information could not be immediately confirmed.

Final decisions agreed to by four leading Libyan officials who symbolize the divisions in the North African country will be announced at the close of the conference, attended by representatives of some 20 countries and the UN special envoy for Libya.

Mr El-Sonni said in his tweets in Arabic and English that the two sides would finalize a "constitutional base" by Sept. 16.

The rivals had come together for the Paris meeting to try and forge a political roadmap that would help restore order in the country, where lawlessness has fed Islamic militants, human trafficking and instability in the wider region. Moving toward a parliamentary and presidential election, if possible by the end of 2018, was also a key goal.

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Earlier Tuesday, French president Emmanuel Macron's office said Libyan leaders have agreed in principle to a non-binding accord.

"There will be a collective commitment to this scenario for coming out of the crisis," an official at the French presidency said on Monday. "The very important issue is about simplifying the Libyan institutions" because they are "extremely complex." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose details publicly ahead of the conference.

Libya is split between rival governments in the east and west, each backed by an array of militias.

Participants at the Paris meeting included prime minister Fayez Sarraj, head of Libya's UN-recognized government in Tripoli in the west, and Gen. Khalifa Hifter, the commander of Libya's national army, which dominates the east.

Representatives of Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, which have backed Hifter and the administration in the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk, also were attending, as well as the UN special envoy Ghassan Salame.

According to a 13-point draft seen by The Associated Press, Tuesday's planned accord includes a commitment to organise elections by the end of 2018, to support the unification of the national army and a call for the immediate unification of the Libyan Central Bank.

The draft warns of potential international sanctions against those who obstruct or interfere in the voting process.

Yet it doesn't address what may be Libya's biggest challenge: a wide network of militias fighting for power and control in the country.

"Of course there are Libyans who are opposed to this political process, others who are for a 'status quo' because they have an interest in it, others who are for disorder and instability. So we must not close our eyes" the official at the French presidency said.

"They are a minority," he added.

France is trying to play peacemaker in a country where years of efforts by the United Nations and former colonial power Italy have failed to bring stability.

Macron brought the two rival Libyan leaders - Sarraj and Hifter - for a meeting near Paris last July when they committed to work toward presidential and parliamentary elections.

The International Crisis Group, an NGO on conflict resolution, warned the Paris conference might unintentionally undermine the UN-led peace process.

The group said in a statement Monday that "French organizers should avoid imposing too rigid a framework." It called for "a broader declaration of principles on political, security and economic steps that would help stabilize and unite the divided country."

Libya plunged into chaos after the uprising that ended dictator Moammar Gadhafi's rule in 2011. France was at the forefront of the airstrikes, carried out along with the United States and others, in a NATO operation that helped rebel fighters topple Gadhafi's regime.

The country has become a base for the Islamic State group and other extremists and a departure point for African migrants seeking to enter Europe.