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Outgoing UN Libya envoy accused of conflict of interest

AFP , Friday 6 Nov 2015
Libya
Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya and Head of United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Bernardino Leon speaks at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, August 11, 2015. (Photo:Reuters)
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Libya's unrecognised government Thursday accused UN envoy Bernardino Leon of a conflict of interest after he negotiated a high-paying job in Abu Dhabi while trying to defuse the Libyan crisis.

In a letter to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, the president of the General National Congress (GNC) voiced concern that Leon had taken up a post in Abu Dhabi, which openly backs a rival administration.

"The nomination of the principal mediator, who was entrusted with a mission of mediation and neutrality... proved that (he is) closely linked to a state that is a main actor in the Libyan conflict," Nouri Abusahmain wrote.

Speaking to reporters at UN headquarters in New York, Leon denied that his mediation efforts were biased, although he recognized that "maybe I could have done things in a different way."

Leon said a political deal was well on track when he accepted the position as the first director of the government-funded Emirates Diplomatic Academy in Abu Dhabi.

"By the time I was planning to leave, this process was absolutely shaped," said the Spanish diplomat after presenting his final report to the Security Council.

"I don't think that there is a conflict of interest. This is mainly academic work."

The United Arab Emirates backs the internationally recognised government in Libya, which is opposed to the GNC.

Leon said the GNC president was under fire from his own supporters for balking at the political deal and suggested this may have played a role in the attack on his impartiality.

Abusahmain called on the UN to clarify the circumstances of Leon's appointment in Abu Dhabi, warning that it "throws into doubt the credibility of Leon... as well as the mission in general, threatening to derail the political process".

But UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric praised Leon, saying he had worked tirelessly to advance a power-sharing deal and the Security Council also backed his efforts.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, the council's president this month, called the unity government deal "a balanced and fair agreement."

Leon told reporters that no one at the United Nations had raised questions about his decision to accept the post in Abu Dhabi when he informed them in July.

Libya has had two administrations since August 2014, when an Islamist-backed militia alliance overran Tripoli, forcing the internationally recognised government to take refuge in Tobruk, in the far east of the country.

The oil-rich north African country descended into chaos after the fall of Moamer Kadhafi in its 2011 revolution.

Leon was appointed in 2014 and oversaw attempts to form a unity government between Libya's rival factions.

Under the deal, Libya will be governed by a nine-member presidential council made up of a prime minister, five deputy prime ministers and three senior ministers.

Libya's UN envoy Ibrahim Dabbashi said agreement on the final makeup of the unity government is "imminent" and the new administration could be up and running before the end of the month.

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