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In Libya UN envoy recommends guard to protect government

"The presidential council and the Government of National Accord (GNA) must not be protected by armed groups," he said.

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United Nations special envoy to Libya Martin Kobler recommended the progressive return of the UN mission to Tripoli in 2017 play

United Nations special envoy to Libya Martin Kobler recommended the progressive return of the UN mission to Tripoli in 2017

(AFP/File)

The United Nations envoy to Libya called Tuesday for the creation of a "presidential guard" to protect government bodies in the war-ravaged country, including the UN-backed Government of National Accord.

"I give my full backing to the creation of the presidential guard which will provide protection to state institutions and embassies," envoy Martin Kobler told the UN Security Council.

"The presidential council and the Government of National Accord (GNA) must not be protected by armed groups," he said.

Kobler said the proposal to create the guard would be discussed at a "high-level meeting" set for December 13 by the UN mission in Libya.

Once launched, the guard could ask for exemptions to the arms embargo imposed on the oil-rich North African country so it could develop its defenses.

The embargo, which the GNA has sought to have eased, should be maintained and enforced "until Libya has a reliable and coherent security apparatus," the UN envoy said.

Among other measures Kobler recommended for 2017 is the progressive return of the UN mission to the capital Tripoli and steps to improve the economy, badly hit by the country's multiple armed conflicts.

Kobler's remarks to the Security Council came as forces loyal to the GNA said they were hunting down the last jihadists in the city of Sirte, a day after taking control of the Islamic State group's former bastion.

The UN envoy said that after the recapture of Sirte, "the economic recovery of Sirte and Benghazi must be a matter of priority."

Benghazi is Libya's second city and birthplace of the 2011 revolution that toppled longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi. It has been embroiled in clashes between the armed forces of Marshal Khalifa Haftar and jihadists holding onto pockets of the city.

Despite the victory over IS in Sirte, Kobler warned that the jihadists "continue to be a threat."

"The fight against terrorism produced results. However, the gains are not irreversible," he said.

The recapture of Sirte could strengthen the UN-backed unity government of prime minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj, aimed at replacing the two rival administrations fighting for power in Libya.

The GNA, established in March, has not been able to solidify its authority despite the support of some militias.

It is challenged by Haftar in the east and Khalifa Ghweil, leader of the former Tripoli-based Government of National Salvation.

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