CAIRO – Libya's internationally recognized government on Tuesday urged fellow Arab countries to arm its military so it can face the expanding Islamic State affiliate in the country.
Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Dairi made the appeal at an emergency Arab League meeting in Cairo. He warned that his ill-equipped government is unable to fight off IS, which he said was seeking to establish a base in Libya as it faces U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.
Libya has slid into chaos since the 2011 overthrow and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. It is now divided between an elected parliament and government in the east, and an Islamist militia-backed government based in the capital, Tripoli.
The North African nation has been under a U.N. arms embargo since 2011. In March, the Security Council renewed the ban but under a resolution, allowed a sanctions committee to review any government's requests for exemptions from the embargo and arms exports.
The U.N. is concerned that if it allowed weapons in, they could fall into the hands of multiple armed groups.
Al-Dairi's eastern-based government has in the past appealed for a lifting of the embargo, including after Libya's IS took control of the central coastal city of Sirte recently. It also asked for Arab countries to carry out airstrikes against the militant group in Libya.
The foreign minister also said ongoing, U.N.-mediated negotiations to form a unity government in Libya should not be an "obstacle" to arming Libyan government troops to fight IS militants.
Arab League's chief, Nabil Elaraby, endorsed al-Dairi's call, urging Arab League members to respond "promptly and effectively."