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French President Emmanuel Macron and Vice President Kamala Harris wave November 10, 2021 at the Elysee Palace in Paris. France is hosting an international conference on Libya on Friday as the North African country heads into long-awaited elections next month, a vote that regional and world powers hope will pull the oil-rich nation out of its decade-old chaos. Image Credit: AP

Paris: Those attempting to obstruct the election process and the political transition in Libya will be held accountable and may face United Nations sanctions, according to the draft conclusions of a conference to be held in Paris on Friday.

The draft conclusions, seen by Reuters, urge all parties to keep to a timetable for presidential and parliamentary elections that are due to start on December 24. They also call for an existing action plan for the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign forces to be implemented without delay.

Transparent, credible elections

US Vice President Kamala Harris and several world leaders will take part in the Paris conference, and are expected to push for transparent, credible elections. They will also urge the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign forces from Libya, as stated in last year’s UN-brokered cease-fire that ended fighting between rival factions in the country.

Libya has been engulfed in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising 2011 that toppled longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed. The oil-rich country was for years split between rival governments - one based in the capital, Tripoli, and the other in the eastern part of the country. Each side is backed by different foreign powers and militias.

Friday’s conference is co-chaired by France, Germany, Italy, Libya, and the United Nations, and attended by international and regional high-level officials.

The participants are expected to push for an ‘indisputable and irreversible’ election process, a joint commitment to fight trafficking of people and weapons through Libya. They also are expected to advocate for tangible efforts withdraw mercenaries and foreign troops, according to French President Emmanuel Macron’s office.

Harris said Monday she will take part in the conference “to demonstrate our strong support for the people of Libya as they plan for elections”.

Also expected to attend are Libyan leaders Mohammed Al Manfi, head of the presidential council, Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush.

The conference comes less than six weeks before Libyans are scheduled to cast their ballots in the first round of the presidential elections on December 24. Parliamentary elections are to take place nearly two months later, along with a second round of the presidential vote.

The long-awaited vote, however, still faces challenges, including unresolved issues over election laws and occasional infighting among armed groups. Other obstacles include the deep rift that remains between the country’s east and west and the presence of thousands of foreign fighters and troops. The UN has estimated that there have been at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya over the past few years.