Italy Tries to Broker Libyan Truce

Italy Tries to Broker Libyan Truce

ROME (AP) -- Italy's premier was to meet with the U.N.-recognized Libyan prime minister on Saturday, days after Italy botched an attempt to broker a truce to end the latest fighting in Libya.

The Italian government was forced to backtrack Wednesday when it announced that Premier Giuseppe Conte would meet with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Serraj in Rome hours after Conte hosted Serraj's rival, Gen. Khalifa Hifter.

While the Hifter meeting took place at the premier's palace in Rome, Serraj decided to snub Conte by travelling from Brussels directly back to Tripoli.

Conte's office confirmed the Serraj meeting Saturday and listed a subsequent briefing.

Hifter's eastern-based forces have launched a fresh offensive against Sarraj's U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, sparking a flurry of diplomatic efforts to try to contain the crisis in the North African nation.

The east-based government, backed by Hifter's forces, is supported by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia. The western, Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy.

The fighting has threatened to plunge Libya into violent chaos rivaling the 2011 conflict that ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

On Wednesday, Turkey and Russia called for a Jan. 12 cease-fire after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Istanbul.

Serraj has welcomed the cease-fire, but a spokesman for Hifter's self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces, Ahmed al-Mosmari, said the group's battalions would still try to take control of Tripoli from what he called "terrorist groups."

Both Russia and Turkey have been accused of exacerbating the conflict in Libya by giving military aid to its warring parties.