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Libya tribal chiefs hope for a 'modern state'

26 May 2015, 07:00

Cairo - A four-day meeting of Libyan tribal leaders opened on Monday in Egypt which is exploring ways to unite warring parties and bring peace to its oil-rich neighbour.

Those attending the conference at a Cairo hotel were members of tribes that back the internationally recognised government based in the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk.

But representatives of tribes from Tripoli and Misrata were unable to attend "because they are under pressure from Fajr Libya", said Mohamed Qassem of the eastern tribe of Al-Minfa.

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The Fajr Libya coalition of militias seized Tripoli last year after weeks of bloody fighting with forces that support the recognised government, which then fled to the east of the country.

"The Cairo meeting is organised by the Egyptian authorities. We have nothing to do with it," Hatem El-Ouraybi, spokesperson for the Tobruk-based government, told AFP by telephone.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry opened the conference, saying it would help Libya "get out of the current vicious circle of violence, conflict and terrorism".

Modern state

He expressed hopes that the gathering would help to make Libya a "modern state that is free of terrorism that is threatening the security and stability" of the country and region.

Since longtime leader Moamer Kadhafi was toppled and killed in 2011, battle-hardened former rebel groups armed with heavy weapons have been carving out their own fiefdoms in Libya.

When the Fajr Libya alliance took Tripoli and set up a rival administration, both the recognised government and parliament took refuge in the east near the border with Egypt.

Also Read: France, Niger forces kill 3 fighters, detain 3 others

The turmoil has allowed the jihadist Islamic State group that has captured territory in Syria and Iraq to move in and gain ground in the country, where it has executed dozens of Christians.

In February, ISIS claimed the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya, mostly Egyptians, prompting air strikes by Cairo inside its western neighbour.

Officials said the raids targeted IS military camps, weapons depots and training facilities.

Since then, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has pushed for a joint Arab military force to fight jihadists in the region.

Arab army chiefs have so far held two meetings in Cairo to work out the details of building the force after it was approved by Arab leaders at a summit in March.



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