CAIRO (AP) — Libya's new prime minister called on the international community to help his country bolster its fight against terrorism on Sunday, urging the lifting an arms embargo and release of funds that remain frozen under U.N. sanctions.
The call was the latest move by the head of Libya's United Nations-backed government to assert authority, after it began to set up shop in a naval base in the capital, Tripoli, since Fayez al-Serraj's return to the country in March. He has been unable to exercise much power beyond his office walls — much like his predecessors.
Speaking at the Arab League in Cairo, al-Serraj, prime minister of the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord, said the Libyan people were suffering and needed both the arms and assets to battle the extremist Islamic state group.
"It doesn't make sense that the international community supports our war against terrorism, and forbids us from arming ourselves," he said.
The European Union has been seeking to boost al-Serraj's authority. Western nations hope that his government can unite the country in order to combat an increasingly powerful IS affiliate there. IS militants gained a foothold in Libya amid the power struggle and security vacuum, taking over the central city of Sirte and carrying out deadly attacks across the country.
Libya has been torn apart among rival militias, tribes, governments and parliaments since the 2011 downfall of longtime autocrat Moammar Gadhafi in a NATO-backed rebellion.
At the moment, the forces of Libya's rival powers in the east and west of the country are moving on the city of Sirte, vowing to free it from the hold of the Islamic State group, with each side aiming to capture the central city as a way to gain advantage over the other. The danger is they could very well fight each other as well.
Al-Serraj also met the Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi during his trip, whose office said in a statement later that he wished al-Serraj success, and would continue to support him and the Libyan army. Egypt supports the lifting of the weapons embargo.
Al-Serraj also said that the root causes of illegal immigration must be addressed.