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Hopes aren't high for a deal as Italy hosts Libyan factional talks

ITALY hosted talks between rival Libyan factions in the Sicilian capital Palermo today, but hopes of an end to seven years of warfare were reduced as key players refused to participate.

Since Nato helped rebels to overthrow the Muammar Gadaffi government in 2011, numerous armed factions have vied for control of Libya. It has become a key staging post for human traffickers who offer migrants passage to Europe — thousands drown in the Mediterranean en route — and have even been exposed selling trafficked slaves in the country’s lawless markets.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte seeks an accord between the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, and Libyan National Army commander General Khalifa Hafter, who controls most of the east of the country and enjoys political and military support from the Egyptian and French governments.

But aides to General Hafter would not even confirm his attendance hours before the summit’s start, adding that, if he did attend, he would only participate in discussions on counter-terrorism and not talks aimed at a political deal.

A previous summit hosted by France in May saw the rivals fail to agree a joint statement, while Italy opposed French demands for elections this December — a difference ascribed by Tripoli University Professor Amer Abu Dawya to the “struggle over the Libyan cake.”

French oil firm Total bought a 16.33 per cent stake in Libya’s Waha oil concessions in April, while Italy’s ENI signed a deal giving it a 42.5 per cent stake in the BP-operated exploration and production oil and gas licence in the country last month.

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