Egypt to host Libya conference

August 25, 2014 - 12:47:13 am

CAIRO: Egypt today is to host a meeting of foreign ministers of Libya and its neighbours, as Islamist militias openly challenge the legitimacy of parliament after seizing Tripoli’s airport.

Almost three years after a Nato-backed revolt ousted strongman Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has been roiled by fighting between ex-rebels who have formed militias.

The meeting in Cairo today will include the foreign ministers of Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Chad and Niger, the Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The grouping last met in July when it called for political dialogue and the formation of a council to follow the crisis in Libya.

Fajr Libya, a coalition of Islamist militias, on Saturday announced the capture of Tripoli’s battered international airport from nationalist militiamen.

The announcement came a day after an unidentified warplane raided Islamist positions around the airport, killing 13 fighters, a Fajr Libya spokesman said. The fall of the airport would be a major defeat for the nationalist fighters from Zintan, southwest of Tripoli.

The airport 30km south of the Libyan capital, has been shut since July 13 because of the deadly clashes between the Islamists and the Zintan force.

The Islamists blamed Egypt and the United Arab Emirates for the attack, a charge Cairo denied, and accused them of having acted in collusion with the Libyan parliament.

The parliament has branded Islamist militias as “terrorists”.  “The groups acting under the names of Fajr Libya (Lbyan Dawn) and Ansar Al Sharia are terrorist groups and outlaws that are rising up against the legitimate powers,” the parliament said.

The parliament, which sits in Tobruk, 1,600km east of the capital, said it was determined to deal with the challenge through the regular armed forces.

Fajr Libya is a coalition of Islamist militias, mainly from Misrata, east of the capital, while Ansar Al Sharia, which Washington also brands a terrorist group, controls around 80 percent of the eastern city of Benghazi.

“These two groups are a legitimate target of the national army, which we strongly support in its war to force them to halt their killings and hand over their arms,” MPs said.

Earlier in the day, Islamist militiamen attacked the Tripoli studios of private television station Al Assima which supports the Zintan nationalists and kidnapped its crew, the station said.

Al Assima, in a news bulletin, said equipment was destroyed and the crew went missing.

On the political front, the outgoing provisional General National Congress (GNC), which was dominated by Islamists, was to resume operations at the request of Fajr Libya, despite being superseded by parliament, its spokesman said.