libya war islamic state airstrike.jpg
Photograph: EPA/STRINGER

The European Union on Friday imposed sanctions on three top politicians accused of obstructing a political deal for Libya, days after the head of a United Nations-backed compromise government arrived in Tripoli to take up his position.

Talks have dragged on for months as the UN has sought to broker a deal between Libya's internationally recognized parliament in Tobruk and a rival Islamist-leaning administration controlling the capital Tripoli.

The Islamic State extremist group has taken advantage of the political instability to gain control of an area of the country's central Mediterranean coast lying between the regions controlled by Tobruk and Tripoli.

Neither the administration in Tripoli nor in Tobruk recognize the UN-backed government, headed by Fayez Serraj. He arrived in Tripoli by boat on Wednesday - being denied permission to use the airport - and is expected to form his cabinet in the coming days.

The EU has long accused some key individuals of hampering the UN-led mediation efforts, warning that it could take action against them.

The EU sanctions target: Agila Saleh, the speaker for the elected parliament based in Tobruk; Khalifa Ghweil, the chief of the Tripoli-based government; and Abu Sahmain the head of a former parliament which has been revived as part of the Tripoli-based administration.

The three men "are viewed as obstructing the implementation of the Libyan political agreement of 17 December 2015 and the formation of a government of national accord in Libya," the EU wrote.

They are now banned from entering the EU and any assets they hold in the 28-member bloc will be frozen. Officials hope that the measures will have a practical impact, as the individuals have previously travelled to Europe for shopping sprees or medical treatment.

The sanctions were published Friday in the EU's Official Journal, putting them into immediate effect.

Libya has suffered five years of civil strife since a revolt broke out in February 2011 against long-time dictator Moamer Gaddafi.

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