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Arab League vows military support to Libya

Libya's foreign minister appealed for help at an emergency Arab League meeting in Cairo

Published: Updated:

Libya's internationally recognized government on Tuesday urged fellow Arab countries to arm its military so it can face the expanding influence of an ISIS 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 ISIS, which he said was seeking to establish a base in Libya as it faces U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

The Arab League's chief, Nabil al-Arabi, endorsed al-Dairi’s call and urged members to respond “promptly and effectively.”

“We emphasize the need to take all necessary measures to restore security and peace in Libya. Arab leadership have decided to provide political and military support to preserve and protect Libyan sovereignty and support the national army and eliminate terrorism,” al-Arabi said.

Libya has slid into chaos since the 2011 overthrow and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi. 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 U.N. 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.

Al-Dairi’s eastern-based government has in the past appealed for a lifting of the embargo, including after Libya’s ISIS 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 ISIS militants.