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Stabilization of Libya to Dominate International Conference in Sicily


A policeman stands guard inside Villa Igiea, the venue of the international conference on Libya in Palermo, Italy, Nov. 12, 2018.

Italy is hosting an international conference on Libya in an effort to find ways to bring stability to the North African country, which has been beset by chaos and violence since 2011.

The conference in the Sicilian capital of Palermo is to begin Monday evening with a private dinner hosted by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Ahead of the plenary sessions Tuesday, it is not clear whether all the main factions involved in Libya would attend. One major player, General Khalifa Haftar, commander of the self-styled Libyan National Army that controls much of eastern Libya, has reportedly said the conference lacks a clear agenda.

In an interview with La Stampa newspaper, the Italian prime minister said he expected Haftar to be present.

FILE - Khalifa Haftar, center, the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, leaves after an international conference on Libya in Paris, France, May 29, 2018.
FILE - Khalifa Haftar, center, the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, leaves after an international conference on Libya in Paris, France, May 29, 2018.

Italy had hoped U.S. President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel would attend; however, they will not be there. Lower-ranking officials are representing those countries.

Nonetheless, Italy wants to keep the focus on the OPEC producer, where chaos has reigned for seven years among the hundreds of rival armed groups and tribes since Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was toppled and killed.

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio told reporters last week he was confident that a shared road map for the stabilization of the North African country could be drawn up.

Libya is currently run by two administrations: a weak U.N.-backed Government of National Accord, led by Fayez al-Sarraj in the capital of Tripoli, and another one in the eastern part of the country, headed by Haftar.

Al-Sarraj had hoped elections would be held in December following discussions at a summit in France earlier this year, but the plan was abandoned due to Libya's volatile state.

Italy and France, which both have strong business ties in Libya, have appeared to be rivals rather than partners in efforts to stabilize the country, but Conte denies this. Libya is also a departure point for migrants seeking to escape war and poverty by heading for European shores.

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