Britain, France, U.S. ask UN to blacklist Libya's Ansar al-Sharia

Mohamed Zahawi, head of the Benghazi brigade of Ansar al-Sharia, delivers a statement in Benghazi May 27, 2014. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

By Michelle Nichols UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Britain, the United States and France have proposed that Islamist extremist group Ansar al-Sharia in Libya be blacklisted under the United Nations al Qaeda sanctions regime, diplomats said on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. If all 15 members of the U.N. Security Council's al Qaeda sanctions committee agree, the group will be added to the list on Nov. 19 and subjected to an arms embargo and a global travel ban and asset freeze, the diplomats said. Australian U.N. Ambassador Gary Quinlan, president of the Security Council this month, told reporters that council members would be looking in general at the possibility of broadening U.N. sanctions to target those undermining stability in Libya. "One of the issues ... is sanctions," Quinlan said after a council discussion on Libya and other issues. He added that the idea was to possibly extend the scope of already existing measures "to take into account people who might want to spoil the political transition." Ansar al-Sharia is blamed by Washington for a 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in the city of Benghazi that killed the American ambassador. Western powers worry that Libya is heading toward civil war as authorities are too weak to control former rebels who helped oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but now defy state authority to grab power and a share of oil revenues. Libya is divided between rival tribes and political factions with two governments vying for legitimacy since an armed group from the western city of Misrata seized Tripoli in August, forcing the internationally recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni to move east. The U.N. Security Council has had an arms embargo and other sanctions measures in place since 2011, when Gaddafi was using his security forces to crack down on pro-democracy demonstrators. Gaddafi was toppled and killed during a U.N.-backed NATO intervention in the same year. (Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Alan Crosby and Lisa Shumaker)