TRIPOLI, Libya: The head of Libya’s internationally-recognized parliament based in the country’s far east has criticized the U.N. envoy to the North African country, saying the diplomat is acting like a “ruler.”
Parliament speaker Agila Saleh also accused the international community of trying to impose a unity government that goes against a U.N.-brokered agreement reached by Libya’s rival parties last December.
The remarks reflect the rocky path that Libya faces toward unity. The country slid into chaos after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moammar Gadhafi, with an array of militias, including extremist groups, carving out fiefdoms and backing rival authorities.
Since 2014, it has been split into two main camps — an outdated parliament and a government backed by a set of Islamist militias and seated in Tripoli, and Saleh’s parliament and its government based in eastern Libya.
Western nations now hope the U.N.-backed government of Fayez Serraj can unite the country in order to combat an increasingly powerful Islamic State affiliate.
Serraj arrived in Tripoli by the sea on March 30 and has so far been able to rally support of the capital’s militias and many of the municipal councils in western Libya. The Central Bank and state-run National Oil Corporation have also backed Serraj’s unity government.
But he is still resisted by the Libyan officials in the east, including Saleh, who was among Libyan officials facing EU sanctions for blocking UN-backed government.
U.N. envoy Martin Kobler is “acting as a ruler and a judge, setting timeline, issuing decisions” and paving the way for the unity government to seize power in the capital of Tripoli before parliament can vote on it, Saleh told Libya 218 television on Tuesday.
“The intervention is clear,” said Saleh, adding that “the international community intends to interfere in Libya to serve its own private interests.”
In eastern Libya, the parliament headed by Saleh is expected to vote on the unity government on April 18, in accordance with the UN-brokered deal.
The eastern house fears sweeping changes in the leadership of the Libyan army, currently occupied by Gen. Khalifa Hifter who has led a two-year campaign against Islamic extremists in the eastern city of Benghazi. In an interview last week, Hifter told the Egyptian Al-Ahram Al-Arabi magazine that Libya’s army will support the unity government if it wins endorsement of the parliament in the east.
The Libyan chaos has allowed an Islamic State affiliate to gain a foothold in the country, with a militant stronghold in the central city of Sirte.
On Wednesday, a suicide car bomber struck a checkpoint on the outskirts of the western city of Misrata, killing a member of the security forces and wounding four, according to the state news agency LANA.
IS also has closed some Internet centers in its stronghold of Sirte, LANA reported Wednesday. The agency quoted an unnamed person as saying that the extremist group confiscated all satellite devices that receive Internet signals in the city. It said IS militias searched the streets of the city to carry out the decision of the group.
The top U.S. commander for Africa, Army Gen. David Rodriguez, meanwhile, said the number of Islamic State group fighters in Libya has doubled in the last year or so to about 6,000.