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Negotiator Named to Tackle Libyan Conflict

  • Edward Yeranian

People stand next to the wreckage of a government MiG Libyan fighter jet that crashed during fighting Islamist fighters, in Benghazi, July 29, 2014.

People stand next to the wreckage of a government MiG Libyan fighter jet that crashed during fighting Islamist fighters, in Benghazi, July 29, 2014.

As Libya's rival factions fight in the country's two largest cities, the former head of Libya's interim Transitional National Congress, Mustapha Abdel Jalil, has been appointed to try to negotiate an end to the violence.

Warring militiamen paused Wednesday outside a burning oil depot near Tripoli, the capital, as fire trucks and other tankers brought water to help douse the blazing inferno. Libya's oil ministry urged private citizens to bring water to help those fighting the fire.

Amid the country's on-and-off fighting between Islamist militiamen and rivals loyal to former Libyan army chief of staff Khalifa Hafter, Libya's former interim head-of-state, Abdel Jalil, was given the job of negotiating between the factions.

Jalil's task appears arduous, especially after the Islamist fighters expelled Libyan army special forces commandos allied with Hafter from a base Tuesday in Benghazi.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) meets Mustapha Abdel Jalil, President of the Libyan Transitional Council, at Downing Street in London, May 2011.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) meets Mustapha Abdel Jalil, President of the Libyan Transitional Council, at Downing Street in London, May 2011.

In a video, Ansar al Sharia's commander in Benghazi, Mohammed Ali Zahawi, declared that the battle was not over.

He said his forces are pausing to check out Benghazi after their great victory and will pursue their course until they succeed in expelling their opponents from the city.

Georgetown University Middle East expert Paul Sullivan told VOA that Jalil has a difficult task.

“Asking someone to negotiate between these parties is like trying to walk into the middle of a multiple gang fight in the Bronx. You're probably not going to make much progress," he said. "It's an extremely fluid situation. Groups are changing sides, people within groups are changing sides, even within a day.”

Sullivan also said he believes the fighting could last a long time due to the number of weapons and militias there.

“There are a lot of weapons still in Libya from the Gadhafi days. He went on a spending spree. No one is really sure how much is there. This whole thing also connects in with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and all kinds of other groups floating about," he said. "It could take many years for this to actually play out to some kind of conclusion, and my concern is that conclusion will be unhappy for all."

Libya's new parliament, which was formed after a June vote, is due to meet August 4 to try to bring order to a country that appears to be rapidly spiraling out of control. The interim speaker is calling for the body to meet in the eastern city of Tobruk, rather than Benghazi, due to the recent violence there.

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