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Libya's eastern gov't delays Derna reconstruction meeting

By AFP - Oct 01,2023 - Last updated at Oct 01,2023


BENGHAZI, Libya — Libya's eastern authorities said Sunday they had postponed a reconstruction conference for the flood-hit city of Derna that had been planned for October 10 but was met with international scepticism.

The event was put off until November 1-2 to "offer time for the submission of effective studies and projects" for the reconstruction effort, the committee charged with planning the meeting said in a statement.

The divided country's eastern administration last month invited the "international community" to attend the conference in Derna, the coastal city where a September 10-11 flash flood devastated large areas and killed thousands.

The authorities later said the conference would draw in international companies. On Sunday, the committee said the postponed event would be held in both Derna and the eastern city of Benghazi.

According to Saqr Al Jibani, head of the organising committee, the decision to hold off on the event followed requests by mayors of affected communities as well as business representatives who had expressed interest in attending.

The North African country has been wracked by years of fighting and chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed veteran leader Muammar Qadhafi in 2011.

Libya is now split between an internationally recognised Tripoli-based administration in the west, and the one in the disaster-stricken east backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.


‘Predictable setback’ 


The United States on Friday called on Libyans to set aside their political differences and agree on a framework to channel aid to eastern towns.

“We urge Libyan authorities now to form such unified structures — rather than launching separate efforts — that represent the Libyan people without delay,” US special envoy Richard Norland said in a statement. 

Despite a wave of nationwide solidarity since the flood, there has been no show of support for the proposed conference from the Tripoli-based government of interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah.

Jalel Harchaoui, a Libya specialist at the Royal United Services Institute, on Sunday said the eastern authorities were facing a “largely predictable setback”, adding that “they will have no choice but to somehow work with the Tripoli authorities”.

The speaker of the eastern-based parliament, Aguila Salah, welcomed on Saturday officials from Libya’s west and south and reiterated a call for a unified government and nationwide presidential elections, according to a video published by his spokesman Abdallah Bliheg.

On Wednesday, the eastern authorities had announced the creation of a fund for the reconstruction of Derna and other areas affected by the flooding.

They did not indicate how the new fund would be financed, but the parliament has already allocated 10 billion dinars ($2 billion) for reconstruction.

Dbeibah’s government announced on Sunday it had allocated 92 million dinars for the maintenance of 117 schools and educational institutions damaged by the flood.

The Tripoli-based government said classes had resumed in 15 affected municipalities in the east.

According to the latest toll announced by the eastern authorities on Tuesday, at least 3,893 people died in the disaster. 

International aid groups have said 10,000 or more people may be missing.


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