Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Libyans Urged to Accept Cease-Fire, Embrace UN Unity Plan

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Libyans Urged to Accept Cease-Fire, Embrace UN Unity Plan

Article excerpt

ROME * Diplomats trying to help Libya emerge from the chaos that terrorists have exploited said Sunday that rival political factions in the North African country needed to accept an immediate cease- fire and embrace a U.N.-brokered plan aimed at producing a "secure, democratic, prosperous and unified state."

"We refuse to stand by and watch a vacuum filled by terrorists because all of us are unwilling to do what's necessary to help people who want their freedom, want their independence, want their country back," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said after a conference that drew officials from 17 countries, the European Union, the African Union, the Arab League and the United Nations, as well as 15 Libyan leaders.

Members of Libya's two rival parliaments are set to sign the agreement at a ceremony Wednesday in Morocco. The agreement was mediated by U.N. special envoy Martin Kobler during a session Friday in Tunisia.

Libya slid into chaos after the toppling and killing of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Since then, it has been torn between an internationally recognized government in eastern Tobruk and an Islamist-backed government in the capital, Tripoli, and now faces threats from Islamic State extremists.

IS is trying to extend its influence beyond areas it now controls, including the city of Sirte.

The envisioned government of national accord is seen as critically important to help restore security and mobilize international support to counter the extremists.

The plan for a national unity government "is not something being sprung on the people of Libya," said Kerry, who hosted the conference with Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

"This has been developed by Libyans" through lengthy negotiations and "deserves to breathe the air of a future and of freedom and of possibilities."

Gentiloni has pressed other countries to move more quickly and with more urgency on Libya, which lies just across the Mediterranean from Italy's southern shores. "The commitment taken by all today can really be a turning point in a crisis that has dragged on for so long, with all the risks that that carries for all of us," he said. …

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