ROME (AP) — World diplomats worked Thursday to help Libya create a stable government and more secure environment amid the violence and growing political tensions that have festered since Moammar Gadhafi's regime crumbled in 2011.
The meeting of foreign ministers, mostly from the West and Gulf states, focused largely on easing disagreements among Libya's diverse tribal, religious and ethnic populations, looking toward writing a new constitution and holding elections this year. The ministers are also working to secure weapons and ammunition left over from the Gadhafi regime to help bring more security to the country.
"Those mostly uncontrolled materials are a threat to the entire region," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the conference, adding that Germany and France are allocating several million euros for the weapons-securing project this year.
Three years after Gadhafi's ouster and slaying, Libya's central government still has little authority. The military and police are in disarray, outmanned and outgunned by rival militias who frequently take over state facilities.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Libya is at "really a pivotal moment" and pledged to help the country move toward national reconciliation and elections while it drafts a new constitution.
"Libyans did not risk their lives in the 2011 revolution just to slip backward into thuggery and violence," Kerry told reporters hours after meeting Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan and Nouri Abu Sahmein, the Islamist-leaning president of Libya's parliament.
"And we will continue to work closely to fight terrorism to prevent the spread of conventional weapons and to secure those weapons where they should be secured and to build democratic institutions," Kerry said.
Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, who hosted the conference, said the international community wants to give the Libyan people support. She said they are suffering "far beyond what was expected and would be normal" from uncontrolled circulation of weapons and other violence.
The Libyan parliament's term expired last month, but lawmakers voted to extend it and hold new elections in the spring.
Protesters have been holding daily demonstrations demanding parliament be dissolved.