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Tripoli Power Struggle Prompts Egypt Visit by UN Special Libya Envoy


Demonstrators march during an anti-government protest in Tripoli, Libya, Aug. 25, 2020.

A week of protests in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, and an apparent power struggle inside the National Unity Government that controls the west of the country have both the U.N. and regional power brokers Egypt and Turkey jockeying to resume stalled political talks inside the country.

A popular protest movement in the Libyan capital of Tripoli is calling for a major government reshuffle to deal with the many crises facing the country. Public anger brought crowds into the streets again Saturday to decry poor government services, including lengthy electricity blackouts.

U.N. Deputy Libya Envoy Stephanie Williams met Saturday with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo in a bid to jump-start political talks amid what appears to be a power struggle in Tripoli within the U.N.-backed National Unity Government.

Analysts in Cairo say the talks are focusing on a joint call August 21 for a cease-fire by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj and parliament Speaker Aguilah Saleh. The proposal includes new elections in March.

Public anger over government-backed militias firing at demonstrators in Tripoli during a week of protests prompted the governing "presidential council" to suspend Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, pending an investigation into the incidents.

Arab media reported that Bashagha and the head of the presidential council, Khaled al Meshri, are now in the Turkish capital, Ankara, to discuss the deepening political crisis. Turkey supports rival factions inside the Tripoli government.

Libya analyst Hassan Muftah told Arab media the power-struggle in Tripoli is "pitting militias from the capital, which support Sarraj, against militias from neighboring Misrata, which back Bashagha." Muftah claims that Turkey, which supports both sides, "is the big loser in the conflict."

Rival militias have struggled for control of Tripoli since former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was killed in October of 2011. A separate struggle for control of the country pits eastern military commander General Khalifa Haftar against militias and armed forces that support the Sarraj government.

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