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Nov 19, 11:42 AM EST

UN announces 12-hour truce in Libya's Benghazi

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UN announces 12-hour truce in Libya's Benghazi

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CAIRO (AP) -- Libya's warring parties in the eastern city of Benghazi agreed to a 12-hour humanitarian truce Wednesday.

U.N. Special Representative Bernardino Leon said the U.N.-brokered cease-fire started at 7 a.m. Wednesday and could be extended by the involved parties.

Leon's statement described it as a "much-needed reprieve from the violence." It said the Red Crescent will evacuate civilians from affected areas as well as retrieve bodies of those killed in the fighting.

Samir Ghattas, spokesman for the U.N. mission, said that "this and other confidence-building measures would certainly help in creating an atmosphere conducive for dialogue."

Witnesses said the violence calmed considerably after the truce was announced but the sound of light clashes was still audible.

The fighting in Benghazi escalated in October when a prominent Army general, Khalifa Hifter, aligned with Libya's internationally recognized government and launched an offensive to retake the city from Islamist militias.

Hundreds of people have died in the fighting.

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