September 18, 2015 / 1:39 PM / 4 years ago

In step to peace, U.N. says Libya lawmakers to rejoin parliament

SKHIRAT, Morocco (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Friday Libyan lawmakers had agreed to reunify the country’s elected parliament in a step towards a final agreement which aims to end protracted chaos in the North African state

More than 25 Libyan lawmakers had been boycotting the House of Representatives (HoR) since conflict erupted more than a year ago between two powerful factions who have set up rival governments and parliaments in a battle for control.

Western powers say the U.N. deal for a unity government is the only solution to the conflict, which has pushed Libya to the edge of economic collapse four years after the rebellion which ousted long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The U.N. has been trying to convince Libyans to form a year-long unity government, where a council of ministers headed by a prime minister with two deputies will have executive authority.

The HoR will be the only legislative body, under the U.N. proposal. After negotiations, the 25 boycotting lawmakers, many who are from areas loyal to the self-declared Tripoli government, had agreed to return to the elected parliament.

“It is an agreement inside the (general) agreement,” U.N. envoy Bernardino Leon told reporters.

The recognised government and elected HoR working out of the east of the country have agreed to a preliminary accord, while the Tripoli faction is expected to come back on Friday to the Moroccan costal town of Skhirat to resume discussions.

But both sides are fragmented and under pressure from hardliners who see they can still win ground from continued fighting. Leon has set Sept.20 as a deadline to announce a full agreement.

“We have never been so close to a final agreement that will end the chaos in our country,” Hadi Ali al-Saghir a member of the elected parliament told reporters.

The United Nations said the Tripoli-based General National Congress (GNC) is expected to resume talks on Friday and both sides will start discussing the names that will lead the unity government.

Armed forces on both sides are loose alliances of former anti-Gaddafi rebels who turned against each other or whose loyalties are more to tribal or regional allegiances. That complicates holding a unity government deal together.

Libya’s turmoil is an increasing worry for European leaders as Islamic State militants gain ground there and smugglers take advantage of the chaos to send thousands of illegal migrants and asylum seekers across the Mediterranean to Europe.

Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi; editing by Patrick Markey and Dominic Evans

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