The standoff over Al-Sharara illustrates the complex challenge United Nations mediators face in holding together a country heading toward a civil war.
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Deep in Libya's southern Sahara, men in army uniforms guard a pipeline at the Al-Sharara oil field.U.N. envoys plan to bring the Libyan rivals together Tuesday for a dialogue, but the conflict is spreading, with both sides increasingly at odds over the OPEC country's vast oil resources.At Al-Sharara, one of the country's largest fields, guards securing its storage areas, pumps and pipes are led by officers from Misrata, a coastal city 1,000 km to the north, the power base of Libya Dawn.The Zintanis, allied to Thani, had already pulled out of the capital after a battle with Libya Dawn over the summer.Thani, who accuses Libya Dawn of relying on Islamist militants, has teamed up with former Gadhafi army Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who enjoys the support of tribes in the east and in Zintan.Sitting in Al-Sharara's staff meeting room, commander Esmaida told managers that his forces would make sure the field's engineers could work safely.
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