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Iran Press TV

General Haftar seeking to stage new coup in Libya, GNA warns

Iran Press TV

Tuesday, 28 April 2020 5:14 PM

Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) says renegade General Khalifa Haftar is seeking to stage a new coup against the government after he claimed to have a "mandate" from the Libyans to govern.

"It's a farce and the latest in a long series of coups d'etat," the GNA said in a pre-dawn statement on Tuesday, stressing that Haftar had "turned his back on the parallel political institutions that backed him and designated him" head of a so-called army.

Since 2014, two rival seats of power have emerged in Libya, namely the internationally-recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, known as the GNA, and another group based in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by rebel forces, collectively known as the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA), under Haftar's command.

The military commander, who is primarily supported by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, and Jordan, launched a deadly offensive to capture Tripoli, the seat of the GNA, in April last year.

Despite fierce fighting, he has so far failed to achieve his objective of ousting the GNA, and the offensive has stalled outside the city. Reports say that more than 1,000 have to date been killed in the violence.

Numerous international attempts to bring about peace between the two warring sides have failed.

The GNA statement came a day after Haftar, who controls swathes of eastern Libya, claimed in a televised speech that his self-styled "army" had "accepted the will of the people and its mandate," pledging that his LNA rebel forces would take over control of the divided country.

The strongman, who has been accused by his detractors of seeking to impose a new military dictatorship in war-ravaged Libya, announced the "end" of a 2015 UN-mediated agreement that produced the GNA.

"The political agreement destroyed the country. We will work to create the conditions for building permanent civic institutions," he said.

Haftar did not clarify whether an elected parliament based in Tobruk – which has until now been protected by his LNA militants – supported the new effort, or what its future role would be. Furthermore, he did not explain how he had obtained any popular mandate.

The renegade general made similar comments in 2017 and even in 2014 he also appeared on television to say that he was assuming complete power in the country.

Russia 'surprised' by Haftar's move

Separately on Tuesday, Russia said a political and diplomatic process was the only way to settle the conflict in Libya, apparently in response to Haftar's controversial statement on Monday.

"In Moscow, we remain convinced that the only possible resolution in Libya can be through political and diplomatic communication between all parties, above all those in conflict," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

He added that Moscow remained in contact with all participants in the Libyan process, calling Haftar's power grab claim as "surprising."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also warned Haftar against any "unilateral" action, saying Moscow does not support the warlord's statement that he would "decide unilaterally the way for the Libyan people to live."

"We have always warned that without the explicit consent of the Libyan parties, the agreements of external players on Libya will not be viable. This does not mean that the conflicting parties should make aggressive statements, announce unilateral decisions, or refuse to conduct an inter-Libyan dialogue," the Russian top diplomat added.

EU slams Haftar's statement on power grab

Also on Tuesday, Peter Stano, the lead spokesman of the External Affairs of the European Union, denounced as "unacceptable" Haftar's unilateral declaration.

"Any attempt to push forward a unilateral solution, even more by force, will never provide a sustainable solution for the country. Such attempts can't be accepted," he said, stressing that the 2015 UN-backed agreement still "remains the viable framework for a political solution in Libya until amendments or replacements are found."

The EU official reiterated the previous calls by the EU for an inclusive Libyan-led peace process to seek a political solution with the participation of all parties involved in the conflict and the assistance of the international community.

Libyan state council slams Haftar's power claim

The High Council of State, for its part, decried Haftar's statement.

"What the war criminal Haftar said was a coup on the democratic path, not new but a continuation of his failed coups and to cover up his repeated defeats," the council said in a statement.

It also urged the UN and its mission in Libya "to assume their political and moral responsibilities toward the people, and rejected the futility of war criminal Haftar, and his disrespect to the unity of Libya and the will of its people," Turkey's official Anadolu news agency further quoted the statement as saying.

Libya plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster, and later killing, of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

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