TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Britain will close its embassy in Tripoli from Aug. 4, evacuating diplomatic staff to Tunisia, after fighting between rival armed factions spread in the Libyan capital, officials said.
Britain was one of the last western countries with an embassy open in Tripoli after two weeks of street fighting between rival militias forced the United States, the United Nations and European diplomatic staff to leave the North African country.
“Reluctantly we’ve decided we have to leave and temporarily suspend embassy operations in Libya,” British Ambassador to Libya Michael Aron said on his Twitter account. “The risk of getting caught in the crossfire is too great.”
The foreign office said in a statement late on Friday it would no longer be able to provide consular services in Tripoli after Aug. 4 when it would suspended embassy operations.
Fighting in Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi is the worst since the 2011 civil war that ended four decades of Muammar Gaddafi’s rule, increasing international worries Libya is becoming a failed state.
Three years after the war, Libya’s fragile government and nascent army are unable to control heavily armed brigades of ex-rebels who refuse to disband and have allied themselves with competing political factions to become powerbrokers.
Reporting by Patrick Markey; Editing by Janet Lawrence