New Libya parliament holds first meeting

The parliament, elected on June 25, is to take over from the Islamist-dominated interim General National Congress

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Libya’s new nationalist-dominated parliament was holding its first meeting Saturday in the eastern city of Tobruk, boycotted by Islamists, in a sign that deep divisions remain in the strife-torn country.

The parliament, elected on June 25, is to take over from the Islamist-dominated interim General National Congress that was elected after the 2011 ouster of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

It was to have convened in Benghazi on Monday, but a decision was taken to move the meeting forward by two days and shift it to Tobruk for security reasons.

Both Benghazi and the capital, Tripoli, are the scene of fighting that has killed more than 200 people and wounded another 1,000 in the past two weeks.

Presiding MP Abu Bakr Biira said Wednesday that, “in light of the dangerous situation in the country, we decided to hold an emergency meeting in Tobruk.”

Issuing a call for reconciliation among the country’s factions, he confirmed Saturday’s closed-door gathering was purely consultative and that the inaugural session would be held Monday.

“We want to unite the homeland and put our differences to one side,” he said, claiming that 160 of the 180 members of the new parliament had made their way to Tobruk, near the Egyptian border.

It was not possible to independently confirm that number.

Meanwhile, outgoing GNC president Nouri Abou Sahamein also said Monday’s inaugural session would be held on Monday, but insisted that it would be held in Tripoli.

The international community has pressed the new legislature to move quickly to assume power amid continuing turmoil.

Tripoli has been rocked by violence since July 13, when armed groups, mainly Islamists, assaulted the international airport in a bid to oust former fellow rebels from Zintan, who have controlled it for the past three years.

The Zintan brigades are viewed by their opponents as the armed wing of Libya’s nationalist movement, and the battle is seen as part of a struggle for political influence at a time when the new parliament prepares to assume office.

Nationalist factions have won the most seats in the new assembly, according to political analysts, and the Islamists are now trying to reassert their influence by military means.

Many newly elected MPs expressed reluctance about a proposed GNC move to Benghazi, with some refusing to take up their seats because of the city’s rampant security problems.

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