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BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — Libya's self-styled national army in the east welcomes holding presidential and parliamentary elections in the country as soon as possible, the spokesman said, urging the east-based parliament to make haste with issuing elections laws.
Brigadier Gen. Ahmed al-Mosmari said in a press conference late Wednesday that elections, planned for 2018, should be monitored by international observers to ensure integrity. He also said the army will secure polling stations across the country.
"We should give the Libyan people the freedom to express themselves through ballot boxes," al-Mosmari said. He stressed that the army is supportive of an "elected civilian leadership."
Libya plunged into chaos following a 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. It is now split between rival governments in the east and the west, each backed by an array of militias.
Earlier in December, the United Nations said it was "intensively trying to establish the proper political, legislative and security conditions for elections to be held before the end of 2018."
Libya's military strongman and leader of the so-called Libyan National Army, Khalifa Hifter, had hinted in a televised speech on Dec. 17 that he might step up to fill the void but didn't clearly state whether he would run for president if a vote is held next year. Later, thousands of his supporters rallied in several cities calling on him to take charge of the country.
Hifter is a rival of the government backed by the U.N. in the west.
Fayez Serraj, head of the Tripoli-based government, had announced on several occasions that procedures are underway to hold the country's elections in 2018 but didn't specify an exact date. It's also not clear whether Serraj would run the elections.
During Wednesday's press conference, al-Mosmari touched briefly on a recent attack on a pipeline pumping crude oil to port of Sidr. He said the attack was meant to plunge the country further into "economic chaos" and added that the attackers fled to the west.