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Libya’s eastern parliament calls for elections next year

Tobruk-based House of Representatives cited Libya’s ongoing “difficult situation”

Gulf News

Benghazi: Egypt’s eastern-based parliament has called for elections to be held early next year, after it backed out of a United Nations brokered peace deal with rival authorities in the capital, Tripoli.

In an open letter to the country’s electoral commission released late on Tuesday, the Tobruk-based House of Representatives requested the national election commission make “all the necessary arrangements to prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections before February 2018,” citing the Libya’s ongoing “difficult situation” and “political struggle.”

The body earlier voted to withdraw its support for the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, an escalation that stoked concerns recent violence could intensify.

The decision comes days after breakaway militias backed by western Libyan factions seized oil terminals from the east’s strongman general, whose forces have vowed to retake them.

On Tuesday, Libya’s eastern parliament voted to withdraw its support for a United Nations peace deal and Government of National Accord, an escalation in the fractured country’s split that stokes concerns recent violence could intensify.

Abdullah Ablaihig, spokesman for the Tobruk-based, internationally-recognised House of Representatives, said the body voted to annul its previous acceptance of a presidential council and the UN-backed government currently led by Prime Minister Fayaz Al Serraj in Tripoli.

The decision comes as Libya’s rival power centres are sliding closer to open conflict, with breakaway militias backed by western Libyan factions seizing oil terminals from the east’s strongman general, whose forces have vowed to take them back.

The Tobruk body called on all Libyan parties to condemn militias that occupied the two key terminals in what it described as “terrorist attacks,” saying it was suspending its participation in peace talks until they did so. The militias, which oppose the parliament, say they intend to take the eastern city of Benghazi and drive Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar from the area. Haftar’s army is allied to the parliament, while the Tripoli government opposes him.

“The GNA unity government is not legitimate any more, as well as its presidential council and anything to do with this entity,” Ablaihig said, urging the international community to lift an embargo on weapons sales to the Libyan army under Haftar.

His forces have deployed more troops in preparation of a counterattack to drive out the militias, known as the Benghazi Defence Brigades, which are comprised of Islamist militants and former rebels recently defeated by Haftar’s forces in Benghazi, Libya’ second largest city. They are also joined by militiamen from the western city of Misrata, and a day earlier announced their intentions from there.

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