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Libya's Factions Agree to New Talks in Geneva Next Week


FILE - Libyan representative Ashour Abu-Rashed attends an emergency meeting to discuss the conflict in Libya, at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Jan. 5, 2015.

The United Nations' top envoy to Libya said Saturday that rival factions in the war-torn North African country had agreed to hold talks in the coming days, in a push to end a deadly four-year security crisis.

A U.N. statement, issued after Bernardino Leon met with the rival parties in Libya, said the meeting would take place at U.N. offices in Geneva and would focus on the formation of a unity government and the development of a permanent constitution.

The statement did not offer further details, and it was not immediately clear who would participate in the talks or when they would take place.

France, Germany, Britain, the United States, Spain and Italy issued a joint statement praising the development.

Libya was effectively left without governance in 2011 when longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown and later killed. Since then, two opposing governments have battled for power.

The Islamist fighters of the Libya Dawn faction, allied to the western city of Misrata, took over Tripoli, driving out fighters from the city of Zintan who had set up in the capital after the fall of Gadhafi.

The internationally recognized government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni and the elected parliament now operate out of the east. Most governments pulled their diplomats out of Tripoli after the capital fell to Libya Dawn.

Each faction claims the mantle of true liberators of Libya, each brands its fighters the real army and each seeks international recognition in a conflict Western powers and African neighbors worry will fracture Libya.

"In order to create a conducive environment for the dialogue, Special Representative Leon has proposed to the parties to the conflict a freeze in military operations for a few days," the U.N. statement said.

Leon first hinted at the talks between the factions in December, when he said they had agreed in principle to meet. At the time, he said future negotiations would focus on an immediate truce, as well as governance issues.

Saturday's U.N. statement urged "the main stakeholders" to approach fresh talks with "courage and determination," and to place "national interest above all other considerations."

Some information for this report came from Reuters.