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Libya in Chaos as Top Court Rejects Elected Assembly

TRIPOLI — Libya's Supreme Court declared the internationally recognized parliament on Thursday as unconstitutional, in a ruling likely to fuel further chaos in the north African oil producing nation.

The decision, which was rejected by the assembly, came a day after gunmen stormed Libya's biggest oilfield and shut down production at the facility in the country's remote south. Libya is in chaos as two rival governments and parliaments are struggling for control of the country's vast energy reserves three years after the overthrow of veteran ruler Muammar Gaddafi. Dozens of armed groups have also joined the fray.

Libya is split into a western part controlled by fighters calling themselves Operation Dawn, who seized the capital in August, and a rump state in the east where the internationally recognized parliament and government are now based.

In a televised ruling likely to deepen these divisions and hamper the United Nations' mediation efforts, the Supreme Court invalidated the election of the House of Representatives, which has fled to the eastern city of Tobruk. The court said a committee that prepared the election law had violated Libya's provisional constitution.

The June election produced an assembly with a strong showing of liberals and federalists, annoying Islamists with links to Operation Dawn, which seized Tripoli two months later.

The Supreme Court is based in Tripoli, where Dawn has reinstated the previous parliament, the General National Congress (GNC), where Islamists had been stronger. The fighters, who come mainly from the western city of Misrata, have taken control of state bodies, calling into question the court's ability to make independent rulings.

Hundreds of people were seen celebrating the court verdict in Tripoli and GNC head Nouri Abusahmain said it provided a chance for a national dialogue to end Libya's crisis.

"We the General National Congress call for dialogue," he said in a televised speech. "A dialogue serves national reconciliation, stability and development."

Responding to the ruling, the House of Representatives in Tobruk declared it did not recognize the court. "The ruling was made under the threat of guns," the assembly's spokesman Farraj Hashem told a news conference.

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— Reuters