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Libyan militias must disarm for crisis to end: U.N. envoy

Bernardino Leon says arms supplies to Libya by foreign governments must stop

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Libyan militias should be disarmed if a political solution to the crisis that is ravaging the country could be achieved, the U.N. envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon told Al Arabiya in an interview on Thursday.

“One of the priorities if a political agreement is possible in the coming weeks should be starting disarming militias because this is one of the reasons why this recent confrontation took place, Leon told Al Arabiya’s New York bureau chief Talal al-Haj.

Leon pointed out to the danger posed by the heavy weapons at the hands of various militias in Libya and said foreign countries should respect a U.N. call for an arms embargo on the North African country.

“The Security Council resolution 2174 is very clear about it: there should be a total embargo. No more weapons should be sent to the country,” Leon said.

On Wednesday a warplane of renegade General Khalifa Haftar bombed the port of Benghazi, which Saqer al-Jouroushi, head of Haftar's air defense unit, said was being used by Islamic militias to bring in arms shipments.

However, Leon said disarming militias will take time and requires trust-building that comes when everyone feels they are part of the government.

“It is not realistic to expect that it will happen in 24 hours. This will be a process like in many other countries where we have seen similar situations. It takes time. First, you need all parties to feel a part of the governance of the country, of the institutions,” Leon said.

“I have talked to many brigade commanders, to many people in both camps, and they are aware of this problem. They, nobody wants in Libya a country where brigades are in the streets patrolling,” he added.

He said unlike the situation in Syria, Libya has a homogenous society and the differences between the rival camps “are not very deep.”

“You know, the big violence all over the world comes from strong inequalities. It comes from poverty. It comes from huge differences of culture, ethnic, religions; you don’t have that in Libya. You have a homogenous society with links that go back for centuries and very rich. So Libya should be and I’m sure will be a paradise. But they have to stop fighting each other because the differences are not very deep.”