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Sep 22, 10:11 AM EDT

UN says Libya's rival groups agree to hold talks

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CAIRO (AP) -- Libya's rival groups have agreed to hold talks later this month, the first such negotiations since the latest surge in violence that left the country torn between two parliaments and governments, the United Nations mission in Libya said.

The announcement comes amid a deeply polarized Libya, which has grown increasingly lawless and which has been witnessing the worst bout of violence since the 2011 overthrow of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Weeks of fighting among rival militias has forced nearly a quarter million people to flee their homes.

The violence, which erupted in July, also forced Libya's elected House of Representatives to convene in the eastern city of Tobruk after Islamist-allied militias seized the capital, Tripoli, and the country's second-largest city, Benghazi. The militias, meanwhile, formed their own government and revived Libya's outgoing parliament in Tripoli.

In a statement on Sunday, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya said the rival groups agreed to hold talks on Sept. 29 and that a joint UN-Libyan committee would oversee a future ceasefire.

The statement also urged the rivals to agree on a timeline to pull out fighters and armed groups from major cities, airports and other key installations.

It also hinted at the possibility that Islamist militias in control of Tripoli could agree to recognize the elected, Tobruk-based parliament, saying the talks will be based on the "legitimacy of the elected institutions" and that they would also set the venue and date for a "handover ceremony" from the previous parliament to the one elected earlier this year.

On Monday, the speaker for the outgoing Tripoli-based parliament said a series of mysterious airstrikes in Libya in the past month, attributed to Egypt and the United Arab Emirates and which targeted Islamist-allied militias in the capital, had killed at least 30 people.

The airstrikes reinforced the perception that Libya has also become a proxy battleground for larger regional struggles - with Turkey and Qatar backing the Islamist militias while Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE support their opponents.

Omar Houmidan, the speaker for the outgoing General National Congress in the capital, gave the death toll, citing an investigation by the Tripoli-based parliament. It was the first time any toll had been released in connection with the airstrikes. Houmidan also claimed that his parliament remains the "legitimate" authority in Libya.

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