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Libya's Eastern Government Postpones Derna Reconstruction Conference

Libya's eastern authorities Sunday announced the postponement of a reconstruction conference for the flood-hit city of Derna that had been planned for October 10 but was met with international skepticism.

The event was put off until November 1-2 to "offer time for the submission of effective studies and projects" for the reconstruction effort, the committee charged with planning the meeting said in a statement.

The divided country's eastern administration last month invited the "international community" to attend the conference in Derna, a coastal city where a September 10 flash flood devastated large areas and killed thousands.

The authorities later said that the conference would draw in international corporations, and on Sunday the committee said the postponed event would be held in both Derna and the eastern city of Benghazi.

The North African country has been wracked by fighting and chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

Libya is now divided between an internationally recognized Tripoli-based administration in the west, and the one in the disaster-stricken east backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

'Separate efforts'

The United States on Friday called on Libyans to set aside their political differences and agree on a framework to channel aid to eastern towns.

"We urge Libyan authorities now to form such unified structures –- rather than launching separate efforts –- that represent the Libyan people without delay," US special envoy Richard Norland said in a statement.

Despite a wave of nationwide solidarity since the flood, there has been no show of support for the proposed conference from the Tripoli-based government of interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah.

Jalel Harchaoui, a Libya specialist at the Royal United Services Institute, said that "institutionally" the eastern government "does not exist because it is not internationally recognized."

It is therefore "unlikely that countries will give money to the east", he said, adding that "in all likelihood, the money must go through Tripoli."

He suggested that Dbeibah, following the tragedy, may seek to unblock Libya's foreign assets and investments that have been frozen by the United Nations for over a decade to prevent their theft following the uprising.

On Wednesday, the eastern authorities had announced the creation of a fund for the reconstruction of Derna and other areas affected by the flooding.

They did not indicate how the new fund would be financed, but Libya's House of Representatives, also based in the east, has already allocated 10 million dinars ($2 million) for reconstruction.

According to the latest toll announced by the eastern authorities on Tuesday, at least 3,893 people died in the disaster.

International aid groups have said 10,000 or more people may be missing.