Libyan rivals vie for roles in new interim government

·2-min read

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Potential leaders of a new Libyan interim government joined in competing blocs on Thursday to seek backing from participants in U.N.-backed talks after publicly auditioning for top roles.

The process is part of a U.N plan that envisages national elections at the end of the year as a political solution to Libya's decade of chaos.

Although the process represents the biggest peacemaking effort for years, it is fraught with risk as heavily armed groups watch their allies and rivals vying for political power.

Late on Thursday masked fighters deployed in pickup trucks in central Tripoli, setting up checkpoints, a Reuters witness said, with participants in the U.N. process to vote for the rival slates of candidates on Friday.

Candidates for the three positions in a presidency council and for the post of prime minister have been interviewed in live broadcast sessions throughout the week.

On one ticket, eastern-based parliament head Aguila Saleh, a candidate to lead the presidency council, has joined with western-based Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, seeking to be prime minister, Osama Juweili, a western military commander, and Abdulmajid Seif al-Nasr, from the south.

Some Libyans have criticised the choice of combined leadership tickets as the mechanism for selecting the interim government, seeing it as a means for powermongers to cling onto control.

Candidates have promised not to run for office in the national elections planned for Dec. 24 and to step down from any other posts they hold if they win office through the U.N. process.

In Tripoli cafes this week, customers appeared jaded with a process dominated by familiar figures.

"What is happening in Geneva is the recycling of some names and papers in a way that satisfies the international community," said Aseel al-Mahdwi, a financial manager at a private sector company.

"I have no hope and I think tension and clashes will return," he added.

Libya has been divided between rival administrations since 2014. They agreed a ceasefire in October after the failure of the eastern forces' assault on Tripoli but not all terms have been met.

The United Nations Security Council on Thursday approved a small advance team to start work in Libya on a ceasefire monitoring mechanism.

(Reporting by Reuters Libya newsroom, additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York; writing by Angus McDowall, editing by Giles Elgood and Grant McCool)