A large armed convoy affiliated with Fathi Bashagha, whom the parliament swore in a week ago, moved towards Tripoli from Misrata, military sources said, but did not immediately attempt to make any move into the city.
Any attempt to install Bashagha in the capital may ignite fighting between armed factions that support him, and others that back the incumbent Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah.
Bashagha said late on Tuesday that he would arrive in Tripoli within two days, promising he would take over government there peacefully.
Dbeibah, who was installed a year ago to head an interim unity government, says he will only leave office after an election.
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A Reuters witness just outside Tripoli on the main coastal highway heading towards Misrata said there were military vehicles and fighters stationed in places along the road, but traffic was moving normally and there was no sign of clashes.
The U.N. Libya mission on Thursday voiced concern at what it called “reports about the mobilisation of forces and movement of large convoys of armed groups that have increased tensions in and around Tripoli”.
Libya has enjoyed a rare period of comparative calm since the collapse of a 14-month assault on Tripoli in summer 2020 by eastern forces in the civil war, leading to a peace process backed by the United Nations.
That process included the creation of Dbeibah’s interim government with a mandate to unify state institutions that had been divided for years between rival governments in east and west, and to oversee the run-up to national elections.
However, the election process collapsed in December shortly before the scheduled vote and rival factions have argued over the right path forward.
The parliament, which mostly took the eastern side during the civil war, declared Dbeibah’s government had expired and announced a new transitional period under Bashagha’s new government and no elections until next year.
Dbeibah has announced plans to hold an election in the summer.
The U.N. Libya adviser responsible for mediation between the factions told Reuters on Wednesday she was seeking to hold talks this month between the parliament and a rival legislative chamber to agree a legal and constitutional basis for elections.
(Reporting by Reuters Libya Newsroom; writing by Angus McDowall; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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