Western powers meet Libyan PM over political standoff

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) attends the Libyan Ministerial meeting with Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (3rd L), French Director of Political Affairs, Nicolas de Riviere (L) and Libya's Prime Minister and Deputy Prime minister, at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, Britain October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
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LONDON (Reuters) – The U.S., British and Italian foreign ministers began talks with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Seraj on Monday to tackle a political standoff preventing Tripoli’s U.N.-brokered unity government from expanding its authority outside the capital.

Seraj and his two deputies met British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and their Italian counterpart, Paolo Gentiloni, at the British Foreign Office in London. They made no comment before the meeting.

Since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi to an uprising in 2011, Libya has been beset by factional fighting among brigades of ex-rebels who battled him and then turned on each other.

Western powers are alarmed about resistance to Seraj and his Government of National Accord from the country’s eastern military commander General Khalifa Haftar, who has blocked a parliamentary vote to endorse the GNA.

The parliament based in Libya’s east has twice rejected lists of ministers put forward by the GNA leadership meant to represent the various sides in Libya’s fractured politics.

The failure to appoint a finance minister has stalled economic decision-making in the major oil-producing country, an OPEC member. Monday’s meeting was to try to address ways to tackle Libya’s slide towards economic collapse.

Two side-effects of Libya’s protracted disorder are of major concern abroad – an uncontrolled flow towards Europe of migrants setting off in boats from Libya’s lawless shores where people smugglers operate, and an infiltration of Islamic State militants now holding patches of the country’s territory.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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