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French foreign minister visits Libya to boost election push

The French foreign minister announced a million-dollar donation to organise the Libyan elections. [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 July, 2018

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Maintaining pressure on Libyan leaders to prepare for polls, the French foreign minister announced a million-dollar donation to organise the elections.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian pushed a deal paving the way for elections in Libya during a visit on Monday to the chaos-ridden country.

Speaking alongside the head of Libya's United Nations-backed government, Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, Le Drian urged leaders to forge ahead with plans for polls this year.

"It's what Libyan citizens aspire to, who have registered massively in electoral lists," he said in the capital Tripoli. 

The visit by France's top diplomat follows May talks in Paris which for the first time brought together rival Libyan leaders including Sarraj and military strongman Khalifa Haftar, whose self-styled Libyan National Army dominates the country's east.

At that meeting, they agreed to work towards holding parliamentary and presidential elections by 10 December.

"I have come to remind (parties to the deal) of those commitments and that calendar, and to share this approach with those who were not in Paris on May 29," Le Drian said.

Maintaining pressure on Libyan leaders to prepare for polls, the foreign minister announced a million-dollar donation to organise the elections.

"France supports the efforts of all of those who work in this direction," he said.

The Paris agreement included a 16 September deadline to come up with an electoral law, forming the "constitutional base" for a vote later in the year. 

Many observers see the timetable as overly ambitious given ongoing instability and territorial disputes across the country, along with an economy that is flagging despite Libya's vast oil wealth.

More than seven years since dictator Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in a NATO-backed uprising, Libya remains divided, with rival administrations in Tripoli and the eastern city of Tobruk.

While in Tripoli, Le Drian also met with Khalid al-Mishri, head of the High Council of State in Tripoli, which serves as an upper chamber. 

Both Mishri and Aguila Saleh Issa, the Tobruk-based parliament speaker who is also due to meet Le Drian, attended the Paris meeting and agreed to support elections.

France's foreign minister is also expected to hold talks with Haftar and make a stop in the western city of Misrata, the base of powerful armed groups who did not attend the Paris talks.

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