UNITED NATIONS – Libya pleaded with the international community on Saturday to help it stand up to Islamist-allied militias that have taken control of government buildings, saying the United Nations must impose sanctions or risk a terrorist expansion throughout North Africa.
Ageila Saleh Eissa, president of the House of Representatives, addressed the annual U.N. General Assembly of world leaders after weeks of fighting among rival militias in Libya forced nearly a quarter-million people to flee their homes.
"From this podium, I say that turning a blind eye to terrorism in Libya is deemed unacceptable," Eissa said.
"The international community has either to stand with the elected, legitimate authorities and (impose sanctions) or say very clearly that the Libyans have to face terrorism alone," Eissa said. "Hence, the international community must withstand the effects of terrorism expansion in North Africa and the Sahel region."
Libya has grown increasingly lawless in recent weeks, and has been witnessing the worst violence since the 2011 overthrow of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
The violence, which erupted in July, forced Libya's elected House of Representatives to convene in the eastern city of Tobruk after 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.
The divisions are rooted in rivalries between Islamists and non-Islamists, as well as powerful tribal and regional allegiances between groups who quickly filled the power vacuum after Gadhafi's fall. Successive transitional governments have failed to control them.
The latest violence and power grab left Libya with two governments and two parliaments, deepening divisions and escalating the political struggle that has torn the country apart.
Eissa is representing the internationally recognized parliament. It is backed by militias that rival the Islamist-allied ones in control of Tripoli.
The militias in Tripoli have been prosecuting journalists, political and human rights activists, and have shut down television channels, Eissa said. He said the groups have "recruited media and some radical clerics to incite the killing of those with different opinions, or those who supported the elected House of Representatives and the government."
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya said a week ago that the rival groups agreed to hold talks on Sept. 29 and that a joint U.N.-Libyan committee would oversee a future cease-fire.
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.