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Newsline: UK’s ambassador drawn into Libyan political crisis after elections called off

Libya’s political crisis has taken on an increasingly international dimension after the UK was accused of defending corruption and interfering in internal processes by calling for the interim government to remain in power pending the rescheduling of delayed elections. The country’s first presidential elections, scheduled for 24 December, were indefinitely postponed at the last minute, largely because fierce disagreements over who should be allowed to stand had not been resolved. On the day the vote should have taken place, the UK in Libya Twitter account published a message saying it continued to recognise the interim government of national unity “as the authority tasked with leading Libya to elections and does not endorse the establishment of parallel governments or institutions”. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/dec/26/uk-accused-defending-corruption-libya-election-tweet) In response the foreign affairs committee of the House of Representatives, Libya’s parliament, accused the UK ambassador, Caroline Hurndall, of violating diplomatic norms and unwarranted interference. The committee said only the House of Representatives – which has been accused of seeking to delay and even disrupt any elections – could decide on the role of the interim government. Some tribes went further, calling for Hurndall to be expelled. Fathi Bashagha, a presidential candidate and former interior minister, said: “Corruption is leading Libya to bankruptcy. We want to ask Britain a question: why does the British government apply the best anticorruption standards in its country, and want to protect corruption in Libya? Why is Britain defending the government and financial institutions in Libya?” The vote was intended to mark a fresh start for the oil-rich country, a year after a landmark ceasefire and more than a decade after its 2011 revolt that toppled and killed the dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Libya’s parliament is to meet on Monday to debate a new timeline and discuss the mandate of the current interim government, which was meant to end on Friday with the elections. Various factions and international powers are jockeying for position, amid concerns the political vacuum will lead to the resumption of fighting.

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