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UN Chief: Libya Violating Cease-Fire   05/15 10:02

   

   UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The U.N. chief said foreign fighters and mercenaries 
remain in Libya in violation of last October's cease-fire agreement and called 
for their withdrawal and an end to violations of the U.N. arms embargo, saying 
these are "critical elements" for lasting peace in the north African country 
and the region.

   Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a report to the U.N. Security 
Council obtained Friday by The Associated Press that the smooth transfer of 
power to a new interim government, which took power in March, "brings renewed 
hope for the reunification of the country and its institutions and for a 
lasting peace."

   But he said progress must continue on the political, economic and security 
tracks to enable elections to go ahead on Dec. 24.

   Libya has been wracked by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled 
longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, and split the oil-rich North African 
country between a U.N.-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival 
authorities based in the country's east, each backed by armed groups and 
foreign governments.

   In April 2019, east-based commander Khalifa Hifter and his forces, backed by 
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive to try and capture 
Tripoli. His 14-month-long campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its 
military support of the U.N.-backed government with hundreds of troops and 
thousands of Syrian mercenaries. An October cease-fire agreement that included 
a demand for all foreign fighters and mercenaries leave Libya within 90 days 
led to a deal on the transitional government and December elections.

   The U.N. estimated in December that there were at least 20,000 foreign 
fighters and mercenaries in Libya, including Syrians, Russians, Sudanese and 
Chadians. But at an informal council meeting in late April, speakers said there 
were more than 20,000, including 13,000 Syrians and 11,000 Sudanese, according 
to diplomats.

   Guterres said in the new report that while the cease-fire continues to hold, 
the U.N. political mission in Libya has received reports of fortifications and 
defensive positions being set up in central Libya on the key route between the 
strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to the country's major oil fields and 
export terminals, and Jufra.

   "Despite the commitments made by the parties, air cargo activities 
reportedly continued with flights to various air bases in Libya's western and 
eastern regions," the secretary-general said. "Reports indicated that there was 
no reduction of foreign fighters or of their activities in central Libya."

   Guterres said the government of national unity must prioritize security 
sector reform including filling senior civilian and military appointments, 
producing a roadmap for reunifying the Libyan army, and addressing the 
proliferation of armed groups.

   "Bringing one of the world's largest uncontrolled stocks of arms and 
ammunition under state control is vital," he said. "I reiterate my call on 
member states and Libyan national actors to put an end to violations of the 
arms embargo and to facilitate the withdrawal of foreign fighters and 
mercenaries from the country."

   Last month, the Security Council approved a resolution urging all foreign 
forces and mercenaries to leave Libya and authorizing a small U.N. team to 
monitor the cease-fire agreement. In an April 7 letter to the council, Guterres 
proposed an initial maximum of 60 monitors for a phased deployment as part of 
the U.N. mission, known as UNSMIL.

   In his new report, Guterres said that the monitors' deployment to Libya is 
contingent on the U.N. General Assembly approving the resources to cover 
security, logistical, medical and operational requirements, which will be 
submitted "in the near future."

   He also raised human rights violations, especially the continuing detention 
of migrants and refugees. According to the International Organization for 
Migration's most recent report, there are more than 571,000 migrants in Libya. 
And as of May 2, Guterres said over 4,300 migrants and refugees were being held 
in detention centers across the country.

   Guterres called on Libyan authorities to release migrants and refugees from 
detention centers "on an urgent basis," and put in place measures to protect 
them from sexual violence.

 
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