People watch Libya's newly elected Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh speaks, at a cafe in Misrata, Libya, March 10 2021. Picture: REUTERS/AYMAN AL-SAHILI
People watch Libya's newly elected Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh speaks, at a cafe in Misrata, Libya, March 10 2021. Picture: REUTERS/AYMAN AL-SAHILI

Tripoli — Libyan legislators on Wednesday approved the country’s first unified government in about seven years, overcoming a major hurdle in a fragile political reconciliation that’s supposed to end almost a decade of conflict.

Legislators overwhelmingly backed Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah’s proposed transitional administration during a third joint session of the North African nation’s two rival assemblies.

The new cabinet will have to work quickly to bridge political divides and restore key services in the Opec member that’s been in turmoil since a defence alliance Nato-backed revolt ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The country has been split between duelling eastern and western administrations since 2014.

“The war will not be repeated,” Dbeibah said after the vote, urging Libyans to “open your hearts” in the push for reconciliation.

Dbeibah, an influential businessman chosen as premier by delegates to a UN-supported forum in Geneva, will work alongside a three-member presidency council in an administration that’s supposed to rule until elections in December.

The new cabinet includes 26 ministries, six state ministers and two deputy prime ministers, with women accounting for 15% of positions. Dbeibah said he will head the defence ministry until “discussions are held and a personality acceptable to all parties is reached”.

Reining in the country’s myriad heavily armed militias will be a major challenge for his administration, which must also appease powerful figures who feel they’ve been sidelined by the UN-backed process.

A unified government could mean stability for oil in Libya, which is home to Africa’s largest reserves but has seen output stall due to repeated fighting and closures. The chair of the National Oil Corporation, Mustafa Sanalla, said on Tuesday that production will increase to 1.45-million barrels per day by the end of 2021.

The new government restores an oil and gas ministry scrapped by the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord. A former Libyan representative to Opec, Mohamed Aoun, will head the portfolio.

Bloomberg

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