EU diplomats say bloc eyes possible Libya sanctions

AP , Friday 11 Mar 2016

Nouri Abu Sahmain
Libya's parliament speaker Nouri Abu Sahmain (Photo: Reuters)

European Union countries are preparing possible sanctions against officials in Libya blamed for undermining the peace process and blocking the formation of a unity government.

EU diplomats say a small list of "spoilers" could be targeted as soon as next week. The diplomats declined to be named because the process is sensitive and ongoing.

Unconfirmed reports suggest Nouri Abu-Sahmain, head of the Tripoli parliament, and Khalifa Ghweil, prime minister of the Tripoli Salvation government, could be in the EU's sights.

Libya has been split between rival governments since 2014, a consequence of the chaos that engulfed the country after a 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

One is an Islamist-backed government in Tripoli, the other an internationally recognized leadership based in the east.

U.N.-brokered talks to get a unity government up and running have been bogged down. Such a government could eventually seek international military intervention against Islamic State extremists who have taken advantage of the political vacuum.

Small teams of U.S. military have gone in and out of Libya in recent months as part of an effort to establish ties with local groups and leaders.

Italy, France and Britain are also keeping a close eye on the unrest. IS extremists in Libya have claimed responsibility for deadly attacks and are trying to take control of Libya's oil network.

EU foreign ministers will hold informal talks on Libya in Brussels on Monday. Because their talks are informal, no legal decisions to impose sanctions can be taken, the diplomats explained, but a process for a decision will be agreed on when member states are ready.

U.N. Libya envoy Martin Kobler will brief the ministers on recent developments.

Britain and France are driving the sanctions effort, but the move has broad support among other nations in the 28-country bloc, one diplomat said.

Other countries would like the move coordinated more closely with the United Nations.

"Because of the dynamics in the U.N. Security Council, U.N. imposed sanctions talk didn't go anywhere," said Libya expert Carlo Binda.

But he noted that "carrots have worked only so far, and now the sticks are being prepared," adding that EU sanctions would probably hurt the "spoilers.".

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