UN-backed Libyan government chief arrives in capital by sea

The head of the UN-backed compromise government for war-torn Libya arrived by sea Wednesday in the capital Tripoli to take up his position.

A source in the city's Abu Sita naval base told dpa that Fayez Serraj arrived in the base by sea.

His arrival had been delayed for days after Mitiga airport outside Tripoli was closed to him on the orders of the Islamist-leaning government, which claims control of the capital, local newspaper the Libya Herald reported.

Sarraj vowed in a press statement on arrival that his government is keen "not to spill the blood of Libyans and will seek to achieve national reconciliation as well as the return of the displaced," according to the Libyan Bawbat al-Wasat website.

He said that his government will present a plan and will call for the unification of Libyan efforts to confront the Islamic State movement.

"It is time to work together as Libyans for Libya, turn the page of the past and look to the future. ... Libya is for all Libyans, and revenge and hatred does not build our nation," Serraj was quoted as saying.

The Tripoli-based prime minister of the so-called Salvation government, Khalifa al-Ghweil, said the entry of Serraj and his government to Tripoli was "illegal" and called on all Libyan rebels to confront it.

Meanwhile, the Libyan Afrigatnews Agency said gunmen loyal to the Tripoli-based government had closed the road leading Abu Sita naval base, where the UN-backed compromise government has set its headquarters. The report said that gunfire was heard in the area, without giving more details.

Under UN-brokered and internationally backed plans to resolve Libya's civil strife, a Government of National Accord headed by Serraj is to replace both the Tripoli government and its centrist rival based in the eastern city of Tobruk.

The proposal has been rejected by Islamist hardliners in Tripoli and by supporters of Tobruk's military chief, Khalifa Haftar.

The Facebook page of Serraj's Presidency Council - the nucleus of the proposed unity government - said that he and other members of the council had arrived in the capital.

Serraj is expected to attempt to form a full government in the coming days, after previous attempts failed to gain a vote of support from the Tobruk parliament.

UN envoy Martin Kobler hailed the Presidency Council's "courage, determination and leadership" and called on the Libyan people and all public bodies to support it.

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

Over the last year, the Islamic State extremist group has taken advantage of the chaos to gain control of an area of the country's central Mediterranean coast, lying between the regions controlled by Tobruk and Tripoli.

Last update: Thu, 31/03/2016 - 10:07
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