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Tripoli factions tell UN-backed leader to leave the capital or surrender

AFP | UN-designated Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Seraj addresses a press conference after arriving in Tripoli

The Libyan faction in control of Tripoli demanded Wednesday that the head of a UN-backed unity government leave the capital, just hours after he arrived amid international calls for Libya's rivals to unite behind his administration.


In a televised address the head of the Tripoli authorities, which are not recognised by the international community, said Fayez al-Seraj's Government of National Unity (GNA) was "illegal", asking him to leave the capital or to "hand himself in".

"Those who entered illegally and secretly must surrender or turn back," Khalifa Ghweil said. "We won't leave Tripoli as long as we are not sure of the fate of our homeland."

Seraj, who was named prime minister-designate in December as part of a UN-brokered power-sharing deal, arrived at a naval base Wednesday following growing international calls for Libya's rival political camps to unite behind his administration.

Libya has had two rival administrations since mid-2014 when a militia alliance overran the capital, setting up its own authority and forcing the internationally recognised parliament to flee to the country's remote east.

Ahead of its arrival, the GNA said it had negotiated a security plan with police and military forces in Tripoli, and with some armed groups.

The road outside the naval base was heavily secured with checkpoints and armoured vehicles on Wednesday. To the west, military vehicles were stationed near the chief of staff's headquarters on the seafront, where they shut down the coastal road and a major roundabout, though it was not clear if this was for the GNA's protection.

The GNA has called for an immediate transfer of power to the unity government, though both the Tripoli and eastern-based governments oppose this.

The unity government's 18 members have so far failed to secure a vote of approval from Libya's eastern, internationally-recognised parliament, as required under the UN-mediated deal, and Fathi al-Mrimi, a spokesman for the eastern parliament's president, said its arrival was "premature".

"They have entered by force under foreign protection, and Libyans won't accept anything imposed on them by force," he told Reuters.

Earlier, UN Libya envoy Martin Kobler welcomed the GNA's arrival, saying the international community was "ready to provide the required support and assistance", and that all Libyan security actors had a responsibility to ensure its safety.

The EU, as well as the French, British and Italian foreign ministers also greeted the move.

"We stand ready to respond positively to requests for support and assistance from the GNA to help them restore stability to Libya, rebuild the economy, fight Daesh [Islamic State group] and tackle the criminal gangs that threaten the security of Libyans and exploit illegal migrants," British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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