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Libya deal delayed again over logistics – IS threat to artifacts

TRIPOLI, Dec 16, (Agencies): The signing of a long-delayed peace deal between Libya’s warring factions has been pushed back again to Thursday because of logistical problems, a UN spokesman said on Wednesday. Representatives from Libya’s two rival factions were due to agree the UN-backed accord on Wednesday after months of wrangling and opposition from hardliners in both camps.

The pact called for a unity government to bring together two rival administrations and parliaments that have emerged four years after revolt ousted Muammar Gaddafi. “It (the signing) will be delayed for logically reasons until tomorrow,” the UN spokesman said. Libya has one internationally-recognized administration in the east and a self-declared one that took over the capital after fighting erupted last year.

Each is backed by competing armed factions. Western officials hope that even if the agreement faces opposition, that war fatigue, worries over Libya’s economy, promises of international aid and the common threat of Islamic State militants will help bring critics onboard. But questions remain about how the myriad of armed factions on the ground will react, how the new unity government would be established in Tripoli and how much political sway those accepting the deal have in Libya.

The presidents of both rival parliaments met on Tuesday for the first time since the latest fighting started more than a year ago – a move they said was a sign of progress. But they both dismissed the UN deal as a foreign imposition. “We met to find a solution of the Libyan crisis and to let the world know that we are able to work our problems by ourselves,” Aguila Saleh, president of the elected House of Representatives in the east, told reporters.

Nuri Abu Sahmain, head of the rival General National Congress in Tripoli, said they would consider parts of the UN accord, but asked the international community to consider their meeting as a way to a Libyan consensus. Some Western diplomats said the two parliament leaders are the main block to getting support and a vote on a UN deal and they could be the target of sanctions if an agreement is signed without them. Islamic State militants have gained a foothold inside Libya in the security chaos, controlling Sirte city, drawing more foreign fighters away from the group’s main Middle East stronghold in Iraq and Syria.

Leading world museums and the UN cultural agency are releasing a list of Greek and Roman antiquities and prehistoric artwork under threat from Islamic State extremists in lawless Libya. The International Council of Museums on Tuesday detailed cultural treasures “in peril,” and appealed to Interpol, customs officers and art traders to watch out for looted Libyan goods. Islamic State extremists have destroyed temples and ancient sites in Iraq and Syria, and experts believe they are also selling plundered antiquities on the black market. IS has also made inroads across Libya, which is split between rival governments.

Among threatened artwork are: sculptures and mausoleum carvings in Cyrene, a one-time Greek colony; the Roman-era trading center of Sabratha; and a desert region home to stone paintings or carvings dating back 12,000 years. Meanwhile, a local dispute in a Libyan city on Monday resulted in more than a dozen deaths, the partial destruction of a prison and the escape of at least 250 inmates, as well as the burning of a courthouse and prosecutor’s office, security officials said. The events in Tajura, east of the capital, Tripoli, highlight the chaos that has engulfed Libya since the 2011 toppling and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The north African country is torn between an internationally recognized government in the far east and an Islamist government in Tripoli. Speaking anonymously in line with regulations, officials said Monday’s dispute began when officers killed a man trying to steal a car near the facility. In retaliation, the dead man’s family stormed the prison and burned nearby state buildings, killing 13 people including Tajura’s de-facto head of security and his deputy. A further seven people were wounded. Authorities managed to transfer 127 prisoners in the early stages of the trouble, the officials said.

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