US Set to Arm New Libyan Unity Government

The U.S. announced it is ready to arm the new UN-backed government in Libya. Speaking in Vienna, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States and other major countries would support the new Libyan government's bid to have an exemption from the current embargo on selling arms to Libya. The UN Sanctions Committee will vote on whether to approve the exemption.  

The new government has been in place for six weeks, but will struggle to unify a country beset by divisions between different armed militia groups. The Islamic State controls a narrow strip along the cost including the port of Sirte.

Until the UN brokered ceasefire created a new Government of National Accord, the country was divided into two rival parliaments backed by rival sets of militias. They had been engaging in a civil war.

The new prime minister, Fayez Serraj, has established his government in a naval base in Tripoli. Government officials arrived by boat from Tunisia, because it was too dangerous to fly. Rival militias affiliated with the General National Council had warned them not to fly.

The new government “is the only entity that can unify the country,” Kerry said. "It is the only way to generate the cohesion necessary to defeat [ISIS]."

At this stage, it is far from clear whether the new government will be able to restore order in the country, or whether it will be dominated by Islamists, secularists or other factions and whether it will be beholden to powerful militia groups.

If the government is to function, it will need the backing of a powerful army. But U.S. policy makers will need to tread carefully to ensure that arms and ammunition does not end up in the wrong hands.



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