TUNIS (Reuters) - Libya’s Presidential Council announced a new government on Tuesday aimed at uniting the warring factions, though two of its nine members rejected it in a sign of continuing divisions over its U.N.-backed plan for a political transition.
Western powers hope the new government will deliver stability to Libya, deeply fractured since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and tackle a growing threat from Islamic State militants.
Though EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called the announcement by the Tunis-based council “an essential step”, critics say the agreement was forced through too quickly without all groups and factions being evenly represented.
Only a unity government, Mogherini said, would be able “to end political divisions, defeat terrorism, and address the numerous security, humanitarian and economic challenges the country faces”.
One council member pulled out of the process, saying eastern Libya was not properly represented while local media said there were disagreements over the size of the government.
The council had delayed its announcement of the new government by 48 hours without giving a reason
Since the summer of 2014 Libya has had two rival governments and parliaments, operating from the capital Tripoli and from the east.
Both are supported by loose alliances of armed brigades of rebels who once fought Gaddafi.
Late on Monday, one of the council members who did not sign the document naming the new government, Ali Faraj al-Qatrani, announced he was withdrawing from the process, saying eastern Libya was under-represented and there was not sufficient support for the armed forces allied to the eastern government.
He claimed there had been “a lack of seriousness and clarity in dealing with our basic demands” during the Presidential Council’s negotiations.
Libyan media said some council members had wanted to limit the size of the government to just 10 ministers, but the number of appointments had swelled to 32.
The internationally recognised parliament in eastern Libya now has 10 days to approve the new government.
There has been no announcement on how and when the new government to be led by Fayez Seraj, an eastern parliament lawmaker who also heads the Presidential Council, would be able to establish itself in Libya.
Tripoli is controlled by a faction called Libya Dawn, and the head of the self-declared government that it backs said last week that preparations by the Presidential Council to secure the capital violated military law.
The eastern military forces are led by Gen Khalifa Haftar, a former Gaddafi ally who has become one of the most divisive figures among Libya’s rival groups.
In a statement on Tuesday, U.N. Libya envoy Martin Kobler urged the eastern parliament to “uphold the country’s national interest above all other considerations and promptly convene to discuss and endorse the proposed cabinet”.
Kobler visited eastern Libya on Sunday to try to drum up support for the new government, but some in the parliament there, known as the House of Representatives, remain opposed.
The 32 ministers who will serve under Seraj include Khalifa Abdessadeq as oil minister.
Libya’s current oil production is under 400,000 barrels per day, less than a quarter of a 2011 high of 1.6 million bpd.
Reporting by Aidan Lewis in Tunis, Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli and Ayman al-Warfalli in Benghazi; Editing by Richard Balmforth