EU, AU, International Community egg GNA on to combat IS

Image courtesy: Reuters
Image courtesy: Reuters

First Spot

International pressure mounted on Libya to form a national unity government as the Islamic State jihadist group expands at the doorstep of Europe and the rest of Africa.

In Libya itself, prime minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj met controversial army chief General Khalifa Haftar on Monday as part of a series of encounters to press the creation of a UN-backed unity cabinet.

The meeting came as African Union leaders at a summit in Addis Ababa called for a political solution in Libya to curb the spread of Islamic State.

In Paris, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Islamic State could infiltrate the ranks of refugees using Libya as a springboard to reach Europe, adding that a unity government could help “eradicate” Islamic State.

Libya has been in political turmoil and rocked by violence since the 2011 toppling of longtime dictator Muammar Gadhafi.

Since the summer of 2014, the country has had two rival administrations, with the recognised authorities based in the country’s far east and a militia-backed authority in Tripoli.

The situation has been further compromised with the emergence of Islamic State in the oil-rich North African country and a brisk business by people smugglers ferrying migrants to Europe.

The jihadist group, which controls swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, has claimed several attacks and beheadings in Libya and last year captured the coastal city of Sirte.

In January, IS jihadists pushed east from Sirte in an attempt to seize oil terminals in Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra, which lie in an “oil crescent” along the northern coast.

That same month it claimed responsibility for a January 7 truck bombing at a police school in Zliten, east of Tripoli, that killed more than 50 people, the deadliest attack since the 2011 revolt.

The international community has pressed Libya’s rival politicians to accept a power-sharing agreement it hopes will help to reverse Islamic State’s territorial gains.

Sarraj’s official Facebook page said he met Haftar in the eastern city of Al-Marj yesterday to assess “the opinions, fears and worries of influential sides in the crisis”.

Sarraj and Haftar discussed “finding a practical solution to the war in Benghazi”, Libya’s second city where Haftar’s forces have been fighting Islamists, it said.

It said Sarraj was seeking a “realistic” solution based on “realities on the ground” to reach a political consensus between all parties.

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