Libya, Egypt Seek International Aid in Fight Against Islamic State #ISIS

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AP//Libya’s internationally recognized government, with strong backing from neighboring Egypt, on Tuesday urged fellow Arab countries to provide arms to help it defeat a local Islamic State affiliate and criticized the U.S.-led coalition for confining its efforts to Syria and Iraq.

Egypt criticized what it called international “double standards” and “lethargy” in dealing with the spread of the IS group in Libya, where the militants have exploited the chaos following the 2011 revolt that toppled and killed longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi, seizing his hometown of Sirte and other areas.

Egypt has meanwhile been grappling with a wave of attacks by another IS affiliate based in the northern Sinai Peninsula, and last week IS fighters claimed to have beheaded a Croat abducted on the outskirts of Cairo.

Cairo’s representative to the Arab League, Tarek Adel, said his country would keep pressuring the international community to lift an arms embargo and provide assistance to Libya’s military. Egypt has targeted Libya’s IS (Daesh) branch with airstrikes, including after the group killed 21 captive Egyptian Christians earlier this year.

The Arab League emergency meeting Tuesday was called for after IS fighters in Sirte put down a local revolt against their rule, killing rival Muslim clerics, desecrating the bodies of prisoners and seizing new ground. “Libya is bleeding,” Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Dairi told the gathering of resident diplomats. 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 in the years since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising, and is now divided between an elected parliament and government in the far eastern town of Tobruk 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 allowed a sanctions committee to review requests for exemptions. U.N. members are concerned that weapons could fall into the hands of any number of armed groups.

Al-Dairi said U.N.-brokered talks to form a national unity government should not “obstruct” arming the military to fight IS. Egypt’s representative said fighting terrorism should run “parallel” to the political process, and “requires urgent movement on the international and regional levels to dry up the sources of terrorism and their finances and to lift the arms embargo.” “What is surprising is that double-standard with which the international community is dealing with the threats of Daesh,” Adel said, using the Arabic acronym for the IS group. “There is energy and work when it comes to pushing it back in Syria and Iraq, but ignoring the same group’s practices in Libya.”

In a statement over the weekend, Egypt’s foreign ministry sharply criticized the international coalition, saying that “despite our constant urging, it has refused to be more emphatic, decisive and swift in its response to Daesh. This has undoubtedly undermined international efforts to combat terrorism in the region.” In a statement after the Tuesday meeting, the Arab League urged member states to help Libya, separately or as a group, without elaborating. Arab League officials said member states are meeting next week to discuss the formation of a joint Arab force to be used to intervene in regional crises and combat terrorism.