Islamic State militants have seized a power plant west of the Libyan city of Sirte, the group and a military source said on Tuesday, as the U.N. envoy to the country presented the latest draft proposal for a unity government.
Islamic State militants said in a message on social media "the plant .... was taken. ... Now the city of Sirte has been freed completely."
Forces loyal to the self-declared government that controls the Libyan capital Tripoli pulled out of Sirte after Islamic State fighters attacked the plant. Three soldiers were killed in the attack, the military source said.
Meanwhile, Bernardino Leon, the United Nations' special representative to Libya, urged the rival Libyan governments to approve the fourth version of the draft proposal.
Libya's warring factions were scheduled to head to Berlin Tuesday for talks with world powers as the quest for a deal to prevent the oil-rich nation crumbling into a failed state intensifies.
Sought accord by Ramadan
Leon had been pushing for a final accord before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan June 17.
However, Reuters reported Libya's elected government, which governs from Tobruk, rejected the U.N. proposal Tuesday and banned its delegates from traveling to Germany.
Last week, Leon warned the country was running out of money and risked ceasing to be a functional state.
“Today the people of Libya have their eyes on this gathering, on you, in the hope that you'll save your country and your people from protracted conflict,” he said Monday. “I am full of hope that this draft represents a fair and reasonable way forward.”
Since the beginning of the year, the U.N. has sought to bring together the rival governments and warring militias tearing Libya apart.
The talks have only witnessed halting progress, however, and fighting on the ground continues to threaten efforts to bring together the rival governments.
Libya's internationally recognized government is based in the east, while a coalition of Islamists and other groups holds sway in the west. Neither has been able to triumph militarily.
Libya at critical point
Libya has increasingly become a matter for concern for Europe because it is a haven for Islamic State radicals and a jumping off point for immigrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean.
Delegates said they would adjourn to study the latest draft, which includes a power-sharing agreement and an interim government to guide the country, before reconvening in the coming days.
Elsewhere, Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV reported Hezbollah gunmen repelled an attack Tuesday by Islamic State fighters in an area on the Lebanon-Syria border as a major battle between the two groups looms in the rugged mountainous region.
Al-Manar TV said Islamic State fighters targeted several Hezbollah positions outside the northeastern Lebanese border village of Ras Baalbek. The enduing battle left several Islamic State fighters dead or wounded and three vehicles, including a bulldozer, destroyed, the channel said. It did not say whether there were casualties among Hezbollah fighters.
Material for this report came from AP and Reuters.