Libyan leader shrugs off EU sanctions

The head of Libya's elected parliament on Saturday shrugged off sanctions that the European Union (EU) imposed after accusing him of hampering a peace deal for the restive country.

"Threats and sanctions do not intimidate us," Agila Saleh said in a televised statement. "The UN secretary-general and the European countries must respect the sovereignty of the Libyan people."

Saleh is one of three top Libyan leaders who the EU targeted with sanctions on Friday after accusing them of blocking Libya's peace accord signed under UN auspices in Morocco in December.

The two others are Khalifa Ghweil, the chief of the Tripoli-based government, and Abu Sahmain, the head of a former parliament that has been revived as part of the Tripoli-based administration.

The three are now banned from entering the EU and any assets they hold in the 28-member bloc will be frozen.

The bloc hopes that the measures will have a practical impact, as the individuals have previously travelled to Europe for shopping sprees or medical treatment.

The EU move came days after Fayez Serraj, the head of UN-backed unity government, arrived in Tripoli from neighbouring Tunisia to take up his position.

The government is part of the UN-brokered peace agreement aimed at ending years of instability in Libya. The oil-rich country has been mired in turmoil since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Moamer Gaddafi.

In recent months, Libya has been divided between two competing administrations: one based in Tripoli and the other in the far-eastern city of Tobruk, with each backed by militias.

In a rare gesture of unity, rival administrations in Tripoli and Tobruk have refused to recognize Serraj's government and a presidential council established under the internationally-backed peace agreement.

Saleh Saturday said that Serraj's government could not take office without approval from his parliament.

"We reject that the consensus [unity] government works under the protection of Tripoli militia,” he said in a statement broadcast from Tobruk. "The House of Representatives is the sole legislative and legitimate authority in Libya.”

Serraj arrived in Tripoli by boat on Wednesday after the rival Islamist-leaning administration closed the city's airspace to prevent him from flying into the capital.

He has set up a temporary seat of power in a high-security naval base in Tripoli.

Several institutions in Libya including the state-run National Oil Corporation have since announced backing for him, raising hopes that his administration will succeed in re-establishing stability in the country.

The Islamic State extremist group has taken advantage of Libya’s chaos to establish a foothold in the country.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49
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