November 16, 2015 / 10:33 PM / 4 years ago

German diplomat takes over as U.N. envoy to Libya on Tuesday

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Veteran German diplomat Martin Kobler will take over from Bernardino Leon of Spain as the top United Nations envoy to Libya on Tuesday, the U.N. press office said.

U.N. special envoy to Congo, Martin Kobler, addresses troops during a special parade for their slain colleague Major Hatim Shaban from Tanzania killed in an operation with the Congolese army to drive back M23 rebels in Munigi outside Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, August 31, 2013. The U.N. peacekeeper from Tanzania was killed and three others were wounded on Wednesday in an operation with the Congolese army to drive back M23 rebels. A 3,000-strong U.N. intervention brigade, with a tough new mandate to protect civilians and neutralise armed groups in the mineral-rich central African nation, sprang into action last week after the United Nations accused the rebels of shelling the city. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya (DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO - Tags: SOCIETY CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW OBITUARY) - RTX132F1

“The leadership transition comes at a critical time for Libya,” it said in a statement released on Monday.

“Mr. Kobler is committed to ensuring continuity of United Nations facilitation of the Libyan dialogue process, building on what Libyan parties have achieved to date,” the statement added.

Kobler, an experienced U.N. official who has held top posts in Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, replaces Leon at a difficult time for the U.N. mission. Leon long struggled to get Libya’s competing factions to agree to a unity but he did not succeed.

Leon has been hit with a series of embarrassments recently.

First, he defended his decision in early November to accept a high-paying post heading a diplomatic academy in the United Arab Emirates and said it was not conflict of interest. Leon’s new role is expected to involve training envoys of one of the Arab countries most involved in the Libyan crisis.

Then last week Leon said he wanted “full clarification” of a newspaper report that cited emails suggesting the UAE, his future employer, was intentionally shipping arms to Libyan factions in violation of a U.N. arms embargo.

Libya has descended into factional fighting, leaving the country almost lawless nearly four years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. Two competing governments backed by militia brigades are scrambling for control of the oil-producing country and the chaos has created havens for Islamist militants.

The UAE, along with Egypt, backs the internationally recognized government led by Abdullah al-Thinni that is operating in the east.

The U.N. Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Libya in 2011 when Gaddafi’s security forces cracked down on pro-democracy protesters.

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Diane Craft

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