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September, 30, 2016

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At UN General Assembly, US and regional powers urge Libya leadership to not fight over oil ports

NEW YORK--The world powers that support Libya's fledgling government urged the country to unite Thursday as rival armed groups jockey for control of its oil exports.

International officials underlined that military faction leader Khalifa Haftar's recent seizure of Libya's main oil ports should not be allowed to undermine peace.

"The oil question should unite and not divide and as of now we here on the right track," Martin Kobler, the U.N. special envoy to Libya, said after the meeting.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Italy's Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni chaired the talks in New York, where envoys are gathered for the U.N. General Assembly.

They were joined by representatives of 20 mostly Middle Eastern and European allies, along with the European Union, United Nations, Arab League and African Union.

The powers saluted the leadership of the head of Libya's unity government, Fayez al-Sarraj, but said he should reach out to rivals like Haftar to build consensus.

"This is very crucial at this moment," Gentiloni said. "We know we don't have an easy situation in the country. Sarraj is strengthened by huge international support."

Sarraj described the talks as "constructive and positive" and added: "I'm willing to talk with anyone for the sake of solving the problems of Libyans.

"There are many obstacles of course and one of them is trying to have a unified army under the political body."

Libya has been riven with violence since the dictator Moamer Kadhafi was ousted and killed in 2011, and rival governments now dispute its large oil resources.

A power-sharing Government of National Accord was formed in December 2015 with the backing of the United Nations and recognition of the international community.

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