UPDATE 1-U.S., European allies express concern over Libya violence

Fri May 23, 2014 1:16pm EDT

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WASHINGTON May 23 (Reuters) - The United States and European allies on Friday expressed deep concern over mounting violence in Libya and warned that the country stood "at a crossroads" between pursuing a peaceful political transition or facing chaos, fragmentation and terrorism.

"The European Union, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, deeply concerned by the repeated acts of violence, call on all sides to refrain from the use of force and to address differences by political means," they said in a joint statement.

The statement comes amid growing chaos in Libya where the government has been unable to control dozens of militias who helped oust veteran ruler Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.

On Sunday, gunmen shelled Libya's General National Congress in an attack claimed by forces loyal to a renegade general Khalifa Haftar. Western powers fear the general's campaign will split the Libyan army and further destabilize the oil-producing North African country.

In their joint statement, the countries offered to facilitate talks to help stabilize the situation, saying they were prepared to support an inclusive reconciliation process.

They warned, however, that "persistent divisions amongst Libyans will gravely challenge the ability of the international community to assist."

"The process leading to a peaceful transition of power should be based upon broad consensus, avoiding any acts which seek to undermine that process," the statement said, calling on Libya to move forward as soon as possible with parliamentary elections.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Eric Beech and Tom Brown)

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