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Arab League calls for regional countries to support Libya's anti-IS fight

Call from Arab League comes after plea from Libya and Egypt for help
Soldiers allied to the House of Representatives take part in an army ceremony in Tripoli on 13 August (AFP)

The Arab League on Tuesday called for the drafting of a strategy for military support to crisis-hit Libya against the Islamic State group.

The call came at the conclusion of an extraordinary meeting by the Cairo-based organisation to discuss a request by Libyan politicians from one of the country’s rival parliaments to confront the Islamic State group (IS).

Mohammed al-Dairi, the foreign minister of Libya's eastern-based House of Representatives, said that his group’s army was not capable of confronting militant groups, including IS, alone.

"The Libyan army [allied to the House of Representatives] has only two aircraft," he said, calling on the Arab League to transform an Arab proposal for forming a joint Arab action into reality.

"The Libyan government…calls for conducting airstrikes against [IS] on Libyan territories," he added.

The call received strong backing from Egypt, which borders Libya to the east and has long supported calls for a military solution to unrest in the country, including sending planes to bomb IS targets after the group’s Libyan branch claimed to execute 21 Egyptian Copts on a beach.

The UK’s ambassador to Libya also signalled this week that the UK could participate in any airstrikes against IS in the country.

In an interview with French outlet RFL, Peter Millett said Western airstrikes in Libya could be part of a “global plan” to defeat the IS militants.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, the Arab League called in a statement for a strategy to be drafted to outline military support for Libya against IS, which recently seized control of the coastal city of Sirte.

At least 40 people, most of them civilians, were killed in the town last week when IS brutally put down an uprising sparked by the murder of a critical local imam, Khalid bin Rajab Ferjani.

Ahead of the meeting Libya’s western-based government, the General National Congress (GNC), warned the Arab League against any “interfering” in the country’s internal affairs.

In a statement issued on Monday, the GNC said any attempt to fight militants in Libya without first gaining its agreement would hamper UN-sponsored talks aimed at finding a peaceful solution to unrest that has hit Libya since the 2011 uprising against President Muammar Gaddafi.

The latest round of UN-sponsored talks concluded in Geneva on 12 August, with participants telling the UN that the dialogue was “reaching its final stages”.

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