Libya PM appeals for lifting of arms embargo in fight against militants

Filed on January 12, 2015

The head of Libya’s government has pleaded for more help from the international community, warning that the country could become a dangerous haven for militants on Europe’s doorstep.

In an interview ahead of hoped-for peace talks in Geneva this week, Prime Minister Abdullah Al Thani said his government especially needed the lifting of an arms embargo to combat militias defying its authority.

“The international community must cooperate with Libya to put an end to extremism and terrorism and help government institutions, namely the army, by lifting the arms embargo,” Thani said at his headquarters in the eastern city of Al Baida.

The UN Security Council imposed the arms embargo at the start of Libya’s 2011 uprising, which ousted and killed Muammar Gaddafi. More than three years later, Libya is engulfed in chaos and hobbled by rival governments and parliaments as a myriad of armed groups battle for control of territory.

Thani’s government, which is recognised by the international community, and the elected parliament have been based in the remote east since a militant-led coalition seized Tripoli in August.

The coalition known as Fajr Libya also holds Misrata. Militants, led by the UN-blacklisted Ansar Al Sharia, also control parts of Benghazi and have been locked in battle with pro-government forces since May.

“The international community classified Ansar Al Sharia as a terrorist organisation and it is leading an international coalition to crush such groups in Iraq and Syria,” Thani said of the US-led alliance against the terrorist group.

“But in Libya, the government and armed forces are battling these groups alone, without any support from the international community,” he said.

“We are afraid that the groups that are in Syria and Iraq will infiltrate Libya if they (coalition forces) tighten the noose around them there,” Thani said.

The United Nations on Saturday announced plans for the new round of talks this week in Geneva, without giving a specific date.

Previous attempts to hold talks in Libya have been repeatedly delayed amid intensified fighting.

The UN Security Council has warned that it would impose sanctions on any party that undermines peace efforts.

Thani said his government was ready for talks, but not with armed groups that refuse to recognise its authority. “The government will take part in any dialogue aimed at saving the country,” he said, “but we will not sit at the same table as groups who have carried arms against the government and defy its legitimacy.”  

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