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Libyan PM Offers to Resign

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FILE - Libya's Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni takes part in a news conference in Valletta, Malta, Oct. 21, 2014

FILE - Libya's Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni takes part in a news conference in Valletta, Malta, Oct. 21, 2014

The prime minister of Libya's internationally recognized government said Tuesday he would resign if demanded by the people, while in Geneva the U.N.'s special envoy to Libya urged the country's warring factions to agree on a national unity government by the end of the month.

Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni faced sharp criticism in a televised interview with questions from viewers blaming the government for a lack of services, and said he would step down Sunday if that was the solution the public wants. A government spokesman told Reuters that Thinni's comments were not an official resignation.

Libya is bitterly divided between an internationally recognized government in the eastern city of Tobruk and an Islamist government based in the capital Tripoli. The country has been in turmoil since former dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, was overthrown in 2011.

U.N. envoy Bernardino León said the participation of all members of the warring factions represents a good sign that an accord can be reached in the next three weeks. He is urging them to vote to endorse a pact by early September.

Some parties to the conflict initialed a peace agreement on July 11. León said he would build on this achievement by focusing on persuading the holdouts to sign on to the unity government accord during this round of talks.

He said one good sign that an accord could be reached during the next three weeks was that all members of the warring factions have come to Geneva and were participating in the new peace round.

“This will very much depend on the political will and on the creativity, on the wisdom of the parties to bring good names, good proposals on the table. So, if this was possible, then the endorsement and final voting and signing of the agreement could happen in the first weeks of September so that the final conclusion of this process can be achieved before we have the U.N. General Assembly,” he said.

León recognized this ideal situation might still prove to be elusive, but he believed everybody now was on board and wants to make it work. He added there were many reasons for the warring factions to finally come together and agree to peace.

“What Libya is facing now is deeper chaos and division of the country. So, I hope all the Libyan actors will be wise to avoid this scenario to expedite the talks and to reach an agreement very soon. I think it is extremely risky to reach October without an agreement because we will be in a more chaotic situation,” he said.

León said the political side of the negotiations was more advanced than the security aspects. He said he planned to gather members of the army and militias around the negotiating table. He said it was essential to have military support and to have measures for implementing security arrangements as part of the final accord.

Islamists took over Tripoli last year, setting up their own leadership and parliament and forcing the internationally recognized government to flee to the east.

The Islamic State group also has seized territory and has added to the chaos in Libya.

Lisa Schlein contributed to this report from Geneva, Switzerland.

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