UN chief: UN mission in Libya should be cut 'substantially'

AP , Tuesday 24 Feb 2015

File photo of clashes in Libya (Photo: Reuters)

The United Nations secretary-general says the U.N. mission in Libya should be cut "substantially" because of the new and increasingly dangerous situation there.

Ban Ki-moon's report circulated Tuesday says the mission should be limited to 15 to 20 people inside the North African country while keeping a temporary base in Tunisia. The mission evacuated there from Libya last year for its safety.

Ban's report stresses this "does not mean that the United Nations is disengaging from Libya."

His recommendation comes as Libya's neighbors are calling for more United Nations action on Libya amid chaos that includes two separate governments and multiple armed groups. Militants affiliated with the Islamic State group last week released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, leading Egypt to launch airstrikes inside Libya in retaliation.

The U.N. mission, led by envoy Bernardino Leon, has been trying to find compromise in Libya between an internationally recognized government based in Tobruk in the east and another government in Tripoli, backed by Islamist militias.

The militia fighting has killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands and left Libya vulnerable to the growth of groups like the Islamic State.

Ban's report says the mission's first goal must be ending the conflict. While Libya last week called on the U.N. Security Council to lift an arms embargo to allow the Western-backed government to defend itself, Ban has said repeatedly that a political dialogue is the only way out of the crisis.

The U.N. mission has been in Libya in 2011, the year that long-ruling dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown. It was meant to help rebuild and stabilize the state, but U.N. officials acknowledge that the country now faces its worst political crisis and escalation of violence since Gaddafi was in charge.

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