Former Algerian foreign minister quits bid for UN Libya envoy post

UN chief had already begun search for next Libya representative after US knocked back Ramtane Lamamra's nomination

Algeria's vice Prime Minister and diplomatic advisor to the Algerian president Ramtane Lamamra speaks during a joint press conference with German Foreign Minister on March 20, 2019 in Berlin.  / AFP / Odd ANDERSEN
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Algerian former foreign minister Ramtane Lamamra on Thursday ruled himself out of becoming the next UN envoy to Libya, after diplomats said Washington opposed his nomination.

Mr Lamamra told Algerian press that he had been invited last month by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to take the post.

"I gave my agreement in principle but consultations carried out by Mr Guterres since then do not seem likely to result in the unanimity of the Security Council," he said.

Mr Lamamra said he would be calling the Secretary GeneraMr Guterres "in the coming hours" to withdraw his candidacy.

Libya has been mired in chaos since the overthrow in 2011 of long-time dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

The country is divided between the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord and forces loyal to eastern-based Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive on the capital and the militias guarding it in April last year.

Diplomatic sources last week revealed that Mr Guterres had already begun searching for a new envoy, after the US refusal to back Mr Lamamra.

The UN's envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, quit in early March after the repeated failure of efforts to restore order, although he said his resignation was for health reasons.

Mr Salame had served in the role since June 2017.

Fighting over Tripoli has intensified in recent days despite UN calls for a ceasefire to allow authorities to focus on curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

Libya has so far reported 48 virus cases and one death.

Humanitarian groups have warned that the pandemic could devastate the country, where a decade of conflict has ravaged key infrastructure and created dire medical shortages.

The GNA has announced a 10-day lockdown in the western areas under its control to combat the spread of the virus.

The order for a 24-hour curfew, replacing an existing night-time lockdown, came late on Wednesday and takes effect on Friday.

In the east of the country, Field Marshal Haftar's forces have imposed a 12-hour curfew between 7pm and 7am.