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World News

U.N. chief to appoint special envoy to broker peace in Libya

FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres poses for a photograph during an interview with Reuters at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday asked Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a special envoy to broker peace in Libya, although Russia and China abstained from voting on the resolution that also extended the U.N. mission in the country.

Ghassan Salame, who headed the U.N. political mission and was also charged with trying to mediate peace, quit in March due to stress. Guterres informally proposed a replacement, but the United States wanted the role split to have one person run the U.N. mission and a special envoy to focus on mediation.

The Security Council agreed to that proposal on Tuesday.

“With the new structure, we will have to present a new candidate and we will have to naturally consult with the Security Council for that purpose,” Guterres told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

The Security Council traditionally agrees - informally - by consensus to such appointments. Several months ago, the United States proposed that Guterres appoint former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt to be special envoy, but diplomats said she had since withdrawn herself.

Russia and China said they abstained on the resolution on Tuesday because it did not include their suggested amendments.

Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Since 2014, it has been split, with an internationally recognized government controlling the capital, Tripoli, and the northwest, while military leader Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi rules the east.

Haftar is supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, while the government is backed by Turkey.

“I’m shocked with the fact that so many spoilers, so many countries, have been interfering with the Libyan situation, building up military capacity on both sides ... completely disregarding resolutions of the Security Council in relation to the arms embargo, or mercenaries,” Guterres told Reuters.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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