Libya rival backers reject outside interference

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NEW YORK (AP) — The United Nations, the European Union and 13 countries, including those suspected of supporting rival sides in Libya, signed an agreement Monday that calls for an end to any "outside interference" in the country that is plagued by violence and torn between two governments and parliaments.

Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which may have launched airstrikes against Islamic militias over the past month, along with Turkey and Qatar, which some believe have backed the militias, all signed off on a joint communique that calls for a political solution to the ongoing violence. The communique was released following a meeting of the foreign ministers of the 13 countries and top E.U. and U.N. diplomats that was hosted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly session.

"We reject any outside interference in Libya," they said. "The people of Libya fought to overthrow 42 years of dictatorship, and we continue to support their effort to transform Libya into a secure democratic state."

In addition to Egypt, the UAE, Turkey and Qatar, the communique was signed by Algeria, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Tunisia.

Monday's meeting followed a weekend agreement between rival Libyan factions to hold talks later this month, the first such negotiations since the latest surge in violence.

That announcement came amid a deeply polarized Libya, which has grown increasingly lawless and which has been witnessing the worst bout of violence since the 2011 overthrow of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Weeks of fighting among rival militias has forced nearly a quarter million people to flee their homes.

The violence, which erupted in July, also forced Libya's elected House of Representatives to convene in the eastern city of Tobruk after Islamist-allied militias seized the capital, Tripoli, and the country's second-largest city, Benghazi. The militias, meanwhile, formed their own government and revived Libya's outgoing parliament in Tripoli.

In a statement on Sunday, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya said the rival groups agreed to hold talks on Sept. 29 and that a joint UN-Libyan committee would oversee a future ceasefire.

The statement urged the rivals to agree on a timeline to pull out fighters and armed groups from major cities, airports and other key installations.

It also hinted at the possibility that Islamist militias in control of Tripoli could agree to recognize the elected, Tobruk-based parliament, saying the talks will be based on the "legitimacy of the elected institutions" and that they would also set the venue and date for a "handover ceremony" from the previous parliament to the one elected earlier this year.

Earlier Monday, the speaker for the outgoing Tripoli-based parliament said a series of mysterious airstrikes in Libya in the past month, attributed to Egypt and the United Arab Emirates and which targeted Islamist-allied militias in the capital, had killed at least 30 people.

The airstrikes reinforced the perception that Libya has also become a proxy battleground for larger regional struggles — with Turkey and Qatar backing the Islamist militias while Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE support their opponents.

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