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US backs Libyan politicians pushing for unity government

Libyan politicians had said they faced intimidation before a confidence vote
A Presidential Council, born of an UN-brokered agreement in December, put forward a unity government of 18 members (AFP)

The United States on Wednesday backed Libyan politicians' support for a new national unity government after the country's internationally recognised parliament said it was prevented from forming one.

"The United States welcomes the 23 February endorsement for the Cabinet of the Government of National Accord, signed by a majority of Libyan House of Representatives members," State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

Earlier on Wednesday, a majority of politicians from Libya's internationally recognised parliament said that they supported a UN-backed unity government but had faced intimidation before a confidence vote.

The parliament, located in the eastern town of Tobruk, was unable to hold the vote on Tuesday for the new government line-up because it lacked a quorum with less than the required 89 MPs showing up.

"We are deeply concerned by reports that a small hardline minority used physical intimidation and threats to disrupt the February 23 session of the House of Representatives in Tobruk in order to prevent a vote on the cabinet," Kirby said.

"We strongly condemn all attempts to obstruct the Libyan political process."

A Presidential Council, born of an UN-brokered agreement in December between representatives of the country's rival parliaments, last week put forward a unity government of 18 members.

Libya descended into chaos after the 2011 ouster of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, allowing militant organisations including the Islamic State group (IS) to gain significant ground.

IS fighters briefly occupied the heart of a city near the capital Tripoli on Wednesday before they were ousted by fighters loyal to the government.