CAIRO (AP) — Islamist-allied militias in control of the Libyan capital and the country's top religious body on Tuesday rejected U.N.-led talks that have called for a cease-fire in the battered nation.
The announcements reflect the difficulties facing the U.N. envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, as he tries to broker a truce amid a deep polarization that has left Libya torn between two rival governments and parliaments.
The statements followed the first round of U.N.-brokered talks between Libya's rival lawmakers held Monday in an attempt to bridge the gap between the warring groups.
The Libya Dawn umbrella group, which is in control of Tripoli and which is affiliated with the militia from the western city of Misrata, said on its Facebook page Tuesday that the only way to end the fighting is to disarm its rivals and hunt down their leaders.
Libya is facing its worst turmoil since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
The Libya Dawn's recent takeover of Tripoli followed weeks of fighting that forced nearly a quarter million Libyans to flee their homes and prompted an exodus of diplomats and foreigners from the city. Once in control of the capital, the militias revived the country's outgoing parliament, dominated by Islamist lawmakers.
Meanwhile, Libya's elected — and internationally recognized — parliament based in the eastern city of Tobruk wields little influence.
The Tobruk-based assembly has denounced the Libya Dawn, saying the assault on Tripoli is an act of terrorism and passing a resolution to disarm militias controlling the capital.
Shortly after the Libya Dawn statement, the Dar al-Ifta body, which is in charge of issuing religious edicts and which is led by hard-liner al-Sadek al-Gharyani, said that Libya's Muslim "clerics demand the suspension of talks with the Tobruk parliament."
Dar al-Ifta said the suspension was pending a ruling by the country's Supreme Constitutional Court on whether the Tobruk-based, elected parliament has violated the constitution by calling the militias "terrorists and urging for international intervention" in the crisis.
The religious body said no one has "the right to negotiate" with Tobruk-based lawmakers and alleged that they deviated from the principles of Islam and Libya.
Libya's 2011 revolt gave rise to a patchwork of heavily armed and increasingly unruly militias, which emerged from the rebel groups that led the uprising against Gadhafi.
The current crisis is rooted in the successive Libyan governments' dependence on those militias for restoring order in the absence of a strong national army or police force.