Confidence vote on hold as Libya unity govt asserts authority
TRIPOLI - Agence France-Presse
United Nations envoy to Libya Martin Kobler (L) shakes hands with the head of the internationally-recognised Libyan parliament, Aguila Saleh, in Tobruk, Libya, April 18, 2016 - REUTERS photoLibya's parliament postponed a vote of confidence expected to be held on April 19 on a new UN-backed unity government even as it asserted its authority by assuming control of two ministries.
Deputies told AFP a special session of the internationally-recognised parliament, to be held in the eastern city of Tobruk, failed to take place because of "big differences".
"We couldn't hold a session today. There are big differences on what should we vote on first: the confidence or amendment of the constitution," MP Abu Bakr Beira said.
"The session was postponed till tomorrow, and hopefully it will happen."
Another MP, Khalifa Daghari, said a committee was formed of supporters and opponents of the unity government to try to reach a deal.
"If we reach it, we will hold a session tomorrow. If we don't, we will keep trying," said Daghari.
In contrast to the reservations on the domestic front over prime minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj's cabinet, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond flew into Tripoli on April 19, hot on the heels of visits last week by the foreign ministers of Italy, France and Germany for talks on shoring up the new administration.
The international community sees the Government of National Accord (GNA) as the best hope for oil-rich Libya, which has been roiled by turmoil since the 2011 ouster and killing of Moamer Kadhafi.
Concern has been compounded by the expansion of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in Libya, where the jihadists have set up a bastion just 300 kilometres (185 miles) from Italy across the Mediterranean.
People smugglers are also feeding on the chaos, with a surge of illegal migration to Europe from Libya.
Formed under a power-sharing deal agreed by some Libyan lawmakers in December, the GNA has been working to assert its authority but needs formal endorsement from parliament and support from a rival administration.
UN envoy Martin Kobler was in Tobruk for the vote and had earlier tweeted he was "encouraged" by the presence of "many" of the deputies in the 198-member legislature.
The GNA pushed ahead on April 19 with its efforts to assert its authority by taking over the ministries of housing and public works and social affairs in Tripoli.
They were handed over to state minister Mohammad al-Amari, an official statement said, without elaborating on why the takeover of a third ministry -- youth and sports -- had been delayed.
Deputy premier Ahmed Maiteeq had said the government would begin running the three ministries regardless of the result of the confidence vote.
The Foreign Office in London said Hammond and Sarraj discussed the GNA's plans to rebuild the country, tackle ISIL and human trafficking.
"Fighting Daesh and fighting illegal migration is part of the same agenda, and of course it must be for the Libyan people, the Libyan government, to decide how to recapture their country from the Daesh invaders, but the international community stands ready to support them, to provide training and technical assistance in any way," Hammond said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.
He said Britain was committing an extra 10 million ($14 million) to help the GNA "strengthen political institutions, the economy, security, and justice".
Kobler called Hammond's visit a sign of the international community's "unwavering support" for Libyan stability and unity.
Libya has had two rival administrations since a militia alliance took over Tripoli in mid-2014, setting up its own authority and forcing the elected parliament to flee to Tobruk.
The head of the Tripoli administration, Khalifa Ghweil, has refused to recognise the authority of the Sarraj government, which he deems illegal.
Sarraj arrived in Tripoli on March 30 under naval escort and has set up his government in a naval base.
Since then he was won the trust of local officials, including mayors of cities ruled by the Tripoli administration, and key state institutions have pledged allegiance to the GNA.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on April 19 offered support to Libya's new unity government to boost the economy and security, including expanding the mandate of its "Sophia" navy operation fighting people-smugglers operating off the Libyan coast.
"There is also the need to work together on a comprehensive approach on migration -- border control, training and assisting in particular the coastguard," she said.
At least eight African migrants, and possibly as many as 27, died after an overcrowded boat left the Libyan port of Sabratha, a search and rescue organisation said on April 19.
In the east, meanwhile, five days of violence between pro-government forces and armed groups in second city Benghazi has left 26 loyalist soldiers dead, the Lana news agency close to the recognised parliament reported.