Libya’s Parliament declared that it would be impossible to hold a long-awaited presidential election on Friday as scheduled, a delay that risked further destabilizing the oil-rich North African nation, which has been troubled by division and violence in the decade since the dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was toppled and killed in a revolution.

The announcement on Wednesday by the president of the parliamentary election committee, Hadi Al-Sagheer, confirmed what virtually everyone in Libya already knew. Nonetheless, it threatened to take political tensions to a boil from a simmer.

“After reviewing the technical, judicial and security reports,” Mr. Al-Sagheer said in a statement, “we would like to inform you that it will be impossible to hold the elections on the date set by the elections law.”

Western diplomats, along with many Libyans, had thrown their support behind this election, viewing it as a crucial step toward ending nearly a decade of civil conflict and reunifying a country still largely split in two. The election of a new president is regarded as the key to beginning the evictions of the armies of foreign fighters who were brought in over recent years to wage civil conflicts, to starting the consolidation of Libya’s multiple militias into a single national army, and to reuniting fractured government institutions.

Libya was already on edge as the delay was announced on Wednesday morning. In the capital, Tripoli, on Tuesday, armed men and tanks had deployed on the streets and closed down the road to the presidential palace, sending residents scrambling to stock up on food and fueling fears of an imminent armed conflict. No violence had broken out by nightfall, but many feared the tenuous

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