Libyan leader asks for UN support in elections

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Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj is calling for U.N. support in holding presidential and parliamentary elections./AP

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj is calling for U.N. support in holding presidential and parliamentary elections as the war-torn country remains split between rival administrations in the east and west, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.

Sarraj said elections next year could lead to democracy and end Libya’s “legitimacy crisis.” While he called for political dialogue with all factions and regions of Libya, he said the exception would be those who’ve ”spilled Libyan blood.”

Sarraj delivered his prerecorded remarks to the world body’s first-ever virtual general assembly from Tripoli, where his U.N.-backed government is based. He is aided by Turkey and Qatar. His rival, Khalifa Hifter, controls the east and is backed by neighboring Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, France and Russian mercenaries.

Sarraj slammed Hifter’s attempted offensive on the capital, Tripoli last year, calling it a “tyrannical attack” that attempted to return the country to dictatorship. Still, as he spoke he represented only part of the country. Libya descended into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed.

The instability has made Libya a major transit point for African and Arab migrants fleeing war and poverty to Europe.

Libya’s handling of migrants has been criticized by rights groups. They say refugees there have been raped or forcibly deported, or die in custody as from violence, torture or starvation.

Sarraj defended his government’s treatment of migrants. “Libya is a victim of a migration and not its reason,” he said.

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