TOBRUK, Libya: Three-quarters of Libya's newly elected parliament held its first official meeting in the eastern city of Tobruk Monday, even as militias continue to battle each other in this oil-rich, North African nation's largest cities.
The 200-member parliament was elected at the end of June and will take over from the previous assembly which was dominated by Islamist groups including the Muslim Brotherhood. The new body's real power remains in question as the armed militias that overthrew Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 fight each other for control of the country.
In the last few weeks, 230 people have been killed and nearly 1,000 injured as the capital's airport has been destroyed and thousands of Libyans and foreigners have crammed the bordering crossing with Tunisia in effort to escape.
"Libya is not a failed state," maintained newly elected parliamentarian Abu Bakr Baeira as he addressed his fellow deputies and called for help from the international community. "If the situation were to get out of control in Libya, the whole world will suffer."
The session took place in Tobruk because the country's main city in the east, Benghazi, was deemed too dangerous as Islamist militias battle troops loyal to renegade general.
The session was boycotted by pro-Islamist deputies who called for holding a rival opening session in Tripoli. There are also 12 seats vacant because those regions were too unstable for elections.
"We are in a crucial period where the rattle of guns are louder than reason," said Ezzeddine al-Awami, a member of the outgoing parliament, to the new deputies in Tobruk.
Since the overthrow of Gadhafi, Libya has been ruled by politicians backed by militias, especially the powerful ones from the cities of Zintan and Misrata.
The uneasy balance of power was destroyed when renegade general Khalifa Hifter announced a campaign in May to rid the country of Islamist militias and parties.
The fighting soon spread from Benghazi to the capital Tripoli where Misratans and Zintanis are locked in a battle that has sent pillars of smoke over the city as the fuel stocks near the airport burn.