Libya national conference postponed due to fighting

Libya national conference postponed due to fighting
A national conference in Libya hoping to pave the way to elections has been postponed due to fighting in its capital.
2 min read
09 April, 2019
Fighters loyal to the internationally recognised GNA prepare before heading to the frontline [AFP/Getty]

A Libyan national conference aimed at establishing a roadmap towards elections has been postponed due to battles for control of the capital, the United Nations said Tuesday.

"We cannot ask people to take part in the conference during gunfire and air strikes," UN envoy Ghassan Salame said, expressing hope the meeting which had been scheduled for next week would take place "as soon as possible".

Dozens of people have been killed and 181 wounded in the past few days as eastern Libyan National Army (LNA) forces - loyal to renegade general Khalifa Haftar - advance on Libya's capital Tripoli, agencies reported on Tuesday.

The death toll - mainly composed of fighters - was reported by local health facilities near the capital to the World Health Organisation (WHO) - Reuters reported, thousands of civilians have fled the city.

The death toll is higher than numbers reported by either side, said WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic at a Geneva news briefing.

Two doctors were also among those killed. Ahmed al-Mandhari, the World Health Organisation's regional director for the eastern Mediterranean, said in a statement Monday that the targeting of doctors was "unacceptable".

Heavy fighting has taken place near Tripoli since the forces of militia leader Haftar, who took over the south earlier this year, launched an assault on Thursday aimed at seizing the capital from the Tripoli-based internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

The LNA are entrenched on the southern side of the capital, Reuters reported, where armed groups serving the GNA's Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj seek to block them.

The offensive has raised fears of return to all-out war in Libya and left a question mark over the UN-led effort to lay the groundwork for elections.

The UN, US and EU and the Group of Seven economic bloc have all called for a ceasefire.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday strongly condemned the military escalation near Tripoli after an air attack by the forces of warlord Khalifa Haftar on the Mitiga airport east of the capital.

Haftar launched the offensive on Tripoli last week just as Guterres was in Libya to push for a political deal on holding elections.

Libya has struggled to counter unrest since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, leaving dozens of militia to fill the void and ally with either the GNA or a rival administration in the east backed by Haftar.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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