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Libya’s parliament rebuffs pressure to accept UN deal

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — The spokesman for Libya’s internationally-recognized parliament on Thursday rebuffed pressure by the West and United Nations on lawmakers to accept a peace deal that stipulates power-sharing with rival Islamists.

Faraj Abu-Hashim, spokesman for the parliament based in Libya’s eastern city of Tobruk, told reporters that lawmakers will not accept “pressures” and attempts to “legitimize militias” — a reference to the militia-backed government based in the capital, Tripoli.

Since last year, Libya has been split between an elected parliament, which was forced to convene in the country’s far east, and Islamist-led government backed by militias that seized Tripoli last August.

The elected parliament has suspended its participation in U.N.-brokered negotiations. However, there are internal divisions and Tobruk negotiators have backed the deal, saying it has “many positive elements.”

On Wednesday, Bernardino Leon, the U.N. envoy leading talks aimed at stemming Libya’s collapse said he hoped to win consensus over the deal by next week, before the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Leon spoke at a meeting in Berlin that brought together nearly two dozen Libyan participants in ongoing U.N.-brokered talks with the Libya envoys of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members, Italy, Spain and the European Union.

The talks are taking place as extremists from Libya’s Islamic State affiliate are pushing to expand their territorial gains after taking over central and eastern cities and towns.

On Thursday, the IS affiliate released an online video purporting to show its members blowing up two fighter jets parked at an air base near the central city of Sirte, one of the IS strongholds in the country. The video was released a day after the group suffered a setback in the eastern city of Darna, when al-Qaida-linked militias declared war on IS after the assassination of their top leader.

But a military official affiliated with the Tripoli government said there were no functional fighter jets at the Sirte base, suggesting the two destroyed aircraft were out of service. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

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