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Libya Nominates 32 Cabinet Members for a Unity Government
Libyan officials nominated 32 people on Tuesday to serve as cabinet members in a proposed unity government, marking a step forward in a United Nations-backed process aimed at bringing together the country's warring parties after years of political divisions and civil war, diplomats said.
But the formation of a single government still faces significant hurdles, including opposition from powerful Libyan factions. The cabinet nominees still need to be approved by Libya's internationally recognized Parliament, which sits in Tobruk, in the east.
Diplomats have been pressing Libyan officials in recent months to reconcile in the face of a growing threat from the Islamic State extremist group, which is expanding its footprint in Libya; counterterrorism officials view the Libyan branch as the group's most dangerous. The group has profited from an absence of authority, with Libya split between the government in Tobruk and a rival, Islamist-backed government in western Libya.
The Islamic State has gained control of Surt, a city in central Libya, and has mounted a series of recent offensives and attacks that have killed dozens of people and threatened important Libyan oil facilities.
Last month, after more than a year of negotiations and under growing international pressure, more than 200 Libyan officials meeting in Morocco signed an agreement to form a "government of national accord" that would eventually sit in Tripoli.
For the moment, a nine-member council, composed of Libya's disparate factions and tasked with forming the government, is still based in neighboring Tunisia because of security concerns.
If and when the government is able to sit in Tripoli, one of its greatest challenge will be forming unified security services out of the Libyan armed factions that proliferated and fought one another in the years since the uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011.
The clamor by Western nations to check the rise of the Islamic State in Libya could pose a further challenge, analysts say. As the United States and European nations court armed Libyan groups to act as proxy forces in the battle against the Islamic State, the empowering of such groups could stymie efforts to develop a unified military.
In a statement after the naming of the new government, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said it was "crucial that all key political and security actors uphold the interests of their country and its people above all others."
"Only a united Libyan government, supported by all its citizens, will be able to end political divisions, defeat terrorism and address the numerous security, humanitarian and economic challenges the country faces," the statement said.
[Source: By Kareem Fahim, The New York Times, Cairo, 19Jan16]
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