Head of UN-backed unity government arrives in Libyan capital

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — The head of a U.N.-brokered Libyan unity government arrived in the capital by sea Wednesday with six deputies and set up a temporary seat of power in a naval base despite threats from rival factions.

Fayez Serraj sailed in from neighboring Tunisia, militia commander Abdel-Rahman al-Swehli said. A post on the unity government’s website said a Libyan vessel carried the government into the capital, denying reports that the officials came in aboard an Italian ship.

The officials were prevented from flying into Tripoli by a rival government based in the capital. A third government is based in the east of the vast oil-rich country. Libya has been dominated by an array of militias since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Ali Abu Zakouk, the foreign minister of the rival government in Tripoli, said Serraj’s presence is “unacceptable.”

Western nations strongly back the unity government, seeing it as the best hope for ending Libya’s chaos and uniting all factions against an increasingly powerful Islamic State affiliate, which has seized the central city of Sirte and launched attacks across the country.

However, both governments are opposed to the unity government. Last week, the Islamist-backed government in the capital declared a state of emergency and ordered its forces to “increase security patrols and checkpoints.”

State Department spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that the United States “is deeply troubled by reports that a small group of political obstructionists have closed the air space around Tripoli in a deliberate attempt to prevent the Libyan Government of National Accord from arriving.” He called such actions “reprehensible.”