Wed, Apr 24, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Libyan PM foreigners are arming strongman’s push

UNSUCCESSFUL TRUCE:Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj said that he is disappointed by the muted international reaction to the assault by Khalifa Haftar

Bloomberg

The leader of Libya’s internationally recognized government said that foreign backers have been arming strongman Khalifa Haftar since he launched an offensive to take the capital, Tripoli, and warned of a proxy war.

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj declined to identify the countries, but states including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia have provided weapons in the past to the leader of the self-styled Libyan National Army, the country’s largest and most organized force.

The offensive, launched about two weeks ago, has stalled on Tripoli’s outskirts, and efforts to mediate a truce have been unsuccessful.

Sarraj has said that he will not negotiate before Haftar withdraws his forces, and that he is disappointed by the muted international reaction to the assault.

US President Donald Trump last week spoke to Haftar, recognizing his role in combating terrorism, as Washington and Russia stymied a UN Nations Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire.

Analysts said that the language suggested a reversal by Washington, which had initially demanded the withdrawal of Haftar’s forces, but Sarraj said in an interview on Monday that the US administration informed him that it remains opposed to the assault.

Without a quick resolution, the conflict threatens to turn into a proxy war, pitting Haftar’s backers against countries such as Qatar and Turkey, who have supported Sarraj and allied militias in Misrata, about 190km east of Tripoli.

Libya, which is split between his Tripoli-based Government of National Accord and the rival administration in the east that backs Haftar, is under a UN arms embargo, and Sarraj said that he is frustrated over the militia commander’s alleged advantage.

“The aggressor party has open channels to import weapons and equipment and all types of technology, while the Government of National Accord cannot defend itself,” Sarraj said, referring to his own administration. “How do you expect the Government of National Accord to commit to this and not think of alternative options to defend itself?”

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