Western countries alarmed as Libya slides towards chaos

ROME Thu Mar 6, 2014 2:45pm EST

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan at the Conference on International Support to Libya in Rome March 6, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan at the Conference on International Support to Libya in Rome March 6, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

ROME (Reuters) - Western countries voiced concern on Thursday that tensions in Libya could slip out of control in the absence of a functioning political system, and they urged the government and rival factions to start talking.

Two-and-a-half years after the fall of former leader Muammar Gaddafi, the oil-rich North African state is struggling to contain violence between rival forces, with Islamist militants gaining an ever-stronger grip on the south of the country.

"The situation in Libya is very worrying," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters on the margins of a conference in Rome to discuss the Libyan crisis.

He said the uncertain security position, especially in the south, worsened an unstable political situation which required Libyan political forces to come together to reach a solution.

"We are asking the Libyans to talk to each other and to find a stable solution," he said.

The conference in Rome was overshadowed by the crisis in Ukraine, with a hectic round of bilateral talks at the margins culminating in a 40-minute meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

But with violent disputes between rival tribal factions disrupting exports of Libyan oil, the lack of a stable political foundation is causing growing concern for energy-hungry western countries, several of which were involved in overthrowing the Gaddafi government.

"It's incredibly important for the simple reason that oil is clearly a key driver of the economy," said Hugh Robertson, a junior minister in Britain's Foreign Office. "As long as the economy remains depressed that means there are a lot of young people in Libya for whom there is no real viable future inside a new democratic state of Libya."

MILITIAS

The weak government in Tripoli is struggling to control well-armed former anti-Gaddafi rebels and Islamist militias, while parliament was stormed by protestors at the weekend who blamed the politicians for the growing chaos.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur Tarek Mitri said the Libya situation would be discussed at a Security Council meeting on Monday.

"There must be a consensus also within Libya to address what seems like the intractable problem of insecurity," he said.

However no concrete decisions were announced after the meeting beyond vague promises of help with security.

Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdulaziz pointed to the difficulties of creating a stable political culture in a country that had only recently gone through a civil war after four decades of authoritarian rule.

"We do not deny that we have political struggles and problems," he said. "We suffer from the absence of a regime. Libya was kidnapped for more than 40 years. Political parties were forbidden under the former regime."

But he said that stability and security could not be the responsibility of Libya alone, which was fundamentally weaker than neighboring states in North Africa and the Middle East.

"We suffer from the inexistence of institutions, and that's what makes us different from Tunisia and Egypt," he said.

(Additional reporting by James Mackenzie, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
Tiu wrote:
F*ing morons.

Mar 06, 2014 7:07pm EST  --  Report as abuse
seamanplus wrote:
Talk? The time for talking was before they overthrew Qadaffi. Now it looks like, unforntunetly, noon at OK corral. The last man standing is the winner

Mar 07, 2014 1:24pm EST  --  Report as abuse
spirittoo wrote:
You must remember the Libyan people had a state bank backed by the gold dinar. The us invaded illegally, murdered Gaddafi, and enslaved the people to the private central banking system.

Never being ripped off like that before and use to their money being issued interest free … of course the people are not going to take kindly to being never ending debt slaves to the bankster like the people of the west. Folks in the west are used to getting up the wazzoo so they don’t complain. It’s a different story for the Libyans and they are not going for the fascists and there private central banking system.

They are taking the country back, and the corporate news which is nothing more than the propaganda arm of the WH, is making it sound like radicals are taking over to justify another us invasion.

Anyone that takes the corporate news at face value needs some serious help.

Mar 07, 2014 8:37pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Full focus