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US ready to help back Libya elections

22 May 2014, 06:52

Washington - The United States is ready to help organise new elections in Libya in hopes of ushering in a more stable government, US officials said on Wednesday amid growing concern at the political turmoil.

Libya's electoral commission said on Tuesday that polls will take place on 25 June to replace its disputed interim parliament, according to the LANA state news agency.

"We're prepared to help support elections preparation from here," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, cautioning that Washington was still waiting for official word from Tripoli.

Washington has a range of tools at its disposal, she said, declining to confirm however whether the US would be prepared to help with security arrangements.

US Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones said during a visit to Washington that resolving the country's political fragmentation was going to take hard work and she was trying to reach out to "all influences in society and that can include spoilers as well as" more positive players.

Militias are blamed for growing unrest in the North African country since the 2011 Nato-backed uprising that killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Political dialogue

And successive governments have complained that the claim by the General National Council (GNC) to executive power as well as legislative authority has tied their hands in taming the militias.

Jones told the Stimson Centre think-tank that the US and its international partners were focused on trying to foster political dialogue.

"One of the reasons that all of the programs that we and the international community have been engaged in in the three years following the revolution have failed to gain significant traction is because there are underlying disagreements and disputes within a very ununified and weak government which is in a continual battle with the General National Council," Jones said.

She stressed the US had not been forewarned of the actions of renegade general Khalifa Haftar, whom Libyan authorities branded an "outlaw" after he launched a Friday assault on Islamists in Benghazi.

Haftar has won widening support for his campaign to rid Libya of extremists, and Jones said she "personally... would not come out and condemn" his efforts in going after groups blacklisted by the US as terrorist organisations, despite Washington's disapproval of the violence used to achieve that goal.

"Benghazi will not happen again"

Haftar is now one of the many political forces that need to join the dialogue.

"He's not declared that he wants to be the ruler, he's not declared that he wants to be in charge of the state," Jones said, adding the announcement of June elections may have been one of his desired results.

"What he has declared is that he wants the GNC to step aside because the GNC has thus far failed to take any action to respond to the unhappiness of many Libyans that it has outstayed its time, and there's no forcing mechanism to compel it to leave," Jones said.

She also admitted that following the militant assault on a US mission in eastern Benghazi in 2012 that left four Americans dead, including her predecessor Chris Stevens, security for her "small but lean team" was tight.

"We're somewhat similar to a medieval fortress," Jones said.

"Benghazi will not happen again... but something else will.

"It's a precarious environment," she added, stressing she managed to travel beyond the capital but only to the west of the country.

US Secretary of State John Kerry meanwhile spoke with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy as well as his counterparts from Turkey and France about "the dire situation in Libya" and how the international community can help, Psaki said.

"Elections [are] certainly part of that," Psaki told reporters.

"It helps lay a foundation for a more stable Libya because having an elected government that can continue to work on the challenges that need to be addressed... is clearly an important part of what we think needs to happen from here."



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