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Libya, Egypt: Ease embargo

February 18, 2015

Libya's internationally recognized government and Egypt have asked the UN Security Council to ease a 2011 arms embargo so Libya can fight Islamic State (IS) affiliates trying to get a foothold outside Syria and Iraq.

UN Sicherheitsrat Ukraine
Image: Reuters/Carlo Allegri

UN envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon urged the UN Security Council on Wednesday to stabilize the northern African nation by helping to forge a political agreement between its rival factions.

Leon, addressing an emergency council session via video link said Islamic State (IS) affiliates, who recently beheaded 21 Coptic Egyptians, were trying to exploit Libya's factionalism and "security vacuum."

Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed al Dairi told the council that the army of the recognized government based in Tobruk needed materials and weapons through the easing of the embargo.

"If we fail to have arms provided to us, this can only play into the hands of extremists," al Dairi said, adding that the region, including the Mediterranean was in danger.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri called for the "imposition" of a naval blockade to prevent the acquisition of arms by all non-state militias and entities in Libya.

On Monday, Egyptian warplanes struck a suspected Islamic State stronghold at Derna in eastern Libya in retaliation for the killing of the 21 migrant workers.

Neighbor calls for political solution

UN diplomats said Egypt's initial demand that the UN approve a coalition to mount further such airstrikes against IS were eased during intense bilateral talks at the UN late on Tuesday.

This followed a meeting between Arab UN envoys and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. Libyan neighbor Tunisia called for a political solution.

Italy, a former colonial power in Libya, also rejected the possibility of an outside intervention while factional unrest continues.

"The only solution to the Libyan crisis is a political one," said Italy's Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni earlier on Wednesday.

Differences 'not insurmountable'

Leon, a Spanish-educated diplomat who heads the UN's mission in Libya, said he remained "hopeful that a political agreement can be reached soon."

"The differences between the parties are not insurmountable," he said, referring to Libya's two rival administrations, including an Islamist-backed alliance that controls swathes of western Libya including Tripoli.

The rival factions, each backed by militias, have vied for territory and Libya's oil wealth since the fatal ouster by Libyan rebels of strongman Moammar Gadhafi four years ago.

Experts say a multitude of militias and jihadist groups complicate the unstable situation.

Residents quoted by Reuters said some IS leaders went underground after the emergence of the video showing the beheadings.

The hostages had been transported out of Derna about two weeks ago. A camera crew had been with them, they said.

ipj/rc (Reuters, AFP, dpa)