Libya's new parliament holds first session

Saturday 02 August 2014 22.57
Libya is closer to full-scale civil war just three years after the NATO-backed revolution
Libya is closer to full-scale civil war just three years after the NATO-backed revolution

Libya's newly elected House of Representatives has held its first session  in a heavily guarded provincial hotel as armed factions turned the two biggest cities, Tripoli and Benghazi, into battlefields.
              
Western governments, which have mostly evacuated their diplomats after two weeks of fighting, hope the new parliament can create space for negotiations.

This comes after the worst clashes since the 2011 war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.
              
But there was no sign of a let-up in the capital, Tripoli, where a huge cloud of black smoke spread over the south of the city again.

A fuel depot near the international airport was hit for the second time in a week as rival Zintan and Misrata brigades battled for control.
              
In southern Tripoli, at one of the front lines between warring factions, one block of partially built apartments was on fire after being hit. 

Nearby streets were littered with shell casings from machine-gun fire where Zintan fighters had defended their positions.
              
Fighting with rockets, anti-aircraft cannon and other heavy artillery in Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi has killed more than 200 people.

It has edged Libya closer to full-scale civil war just three years after the NATO-backed revolution.
              
Britain became the latest Western government to announce it would close its embassy, fearing being caught in the crossfire.
              
Elected in June, politicians met for an emergency session in Tobruk, a coastal city east of Benghazi, where they are supposed to form a new government that many Libyans hope will be a step to ending the crisis.
              
The 200-member parliament will hold its first official session to elect its new president on Monday.

Some deputies aim to form a new Cabinet to handle the crisis, three of them told Reuters.
              
Three years after Mr Gaddafi's demise, few Libyan state institutions have popular legitimacy and the country still has no new constitution. 

Militias stormed the last parliament repeatedly to threaten politicians.
              
Heavily armed Interior Ministry troops and the Libyan army protected the Tobruk hotel that was chosen to host the parliament meeting after Tripoli and Benghazi were deemed too risky.
              
Western countries are worried Libya's escalating conflict could create a failed state just across the Mediterranean from mainland Europe. 

Fearing the violence could spill beyond Libya's borders, neighbours Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria all warn of the danger a failed Libya would pose.
              
Hundreds of Egyptians clashed with Tunisian border guards when they tried to force their way out of Libya, fleeing the fighting in Tripoli. Tunisia temporarily closed its frontier with Libya.

Keywords: conflict, libya