Libya ceasefire halts month-long battle in Tripoli

Tripoli (AFP) –


Libya's internationally recognised government Wednesday announced a ceasefire deal between rival militias after a month of clashes that have left more than 100 dead south of Tripoli, the focus of armed groups vying for power since the 2011 fall of Moamer Kadhafi.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) welcomed "the return of calm" after the battle which left at least 117 dead and more than 400 injured since it broke out in the capital's southern suburbs on August 27, according to official figures, and displaced over 25,000 people.

The ceasefire, which already came into effect on Tuesday, allowed the reopening of the capital's only working airport, at a former military base in Mitiga on the capital's eastern outskirts, that had closed several times because of the clashes.

It also allowed many families to return to their homes, although others were delayed by heavy rains on Wednesday that closed off several roads.

The agreement was signed by representatives of the capital and the town of Tarhuna, southeast of Tripoli, the interior ministry said.

The deal ratified by interior minister Abdessalem Ashour calls for the rivals to implement a UN-brokered accord, signed on September 4, to form a joint security force of police from Tripoli and Tarhuna to patrol the capital's southern suburbs.

That accord held for only a few days and political analysts said the new deal could suffer the same fate.

"The problem with the notion of a ceasefire is that, in and of itself, it implies it's only a temporary solution," said Libyan researcher Emadi Badi.

He said the GNA had no real authority over armed groups.

"A successful negotiation would involve terms viewed as win-win where some parties compromise. It does not appear to be the case this time," said Badi.

The capital has been at the centre of a battle for influence between armed groups ever since dictator Kadhafi was ousted and killed in a NATO-backed uprising seven years ago.

- Militiamen posted at crossroads -

The latest feud pitted armed groups from Tarhuna and Libya's third city Misrata against militia forces from Tripoli under the nominal control of the GNA. Forces from Misrata were driven out of the city on Monday night.

Dozens of militiamen were posted at crossroads in the southern suburbs on Wednesday, manning pickup trucks loaded with anti-aircraft guns.

Under the ceasefire deal, militias and their heavy weapons are to be withdrawn from the capital.

The unity government has struggled to exert its control in the face of a multitude of militias and a rival administration based in eastern Libya.

At the United Nations on Monday, France called for stronger UN sanctions on Libyans who stand in the way of a political solution in the conflict-ridden country.

The current situation "forces us to show greater firmness toward those who want to insist on the status quo for their sole benefit," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters in New York.

Sanctions should target "militia members who threaten Tripoli", he said.

Le Drian, whose government has been pushing a peace plan that includes elections by the end of the year, also called for stricter control of the cash flow from sales of Libyan oil to prevent funding of hostile groups.