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Iran Press TV

Battle looms over Libya's strategic city of Sirte

Iran Press TV

Tuesday, 30 June 2020 9:46 AM

Libyan government forces are preparing to retake the strategic city of Sirte, and the rebels occupying the city are also reinforcing their ranks by deploying thousands of foreign mercenaries ahead of the battle.

Yasin Aktay, a senior official from Turkey, the Libyan government's main ally, said on Monday that government forces were making preparations to recapture Sirte.

Qatar's Al Jazeera TV network also quoted local sources from Libya's southeastern city of Kufra as saying that numerous convoys carrying foreign militants, including Sudanese and Chadian nationals, were on their way to Sirte.

The rebels released a video showing military reinforcements being deployed from Benghazi, their eastern stronghold, toward the Central Region in Sirte.

Aktay said the leadership in Egypt, which supports the rebels, lacked "the power or guts" to attempt to stop the recapture of the city.

Sirte fell into the rebel's hands in January. The Libyan government has vowed to retake control.

Turkey has extended significant help to the government – which was once threatened by a rebel offensive against the capital, Tripoli – helping it push the rebels as far back as Sirte, which lies in an oil-rich region on the Mediterranean coastline.

Russian private contractors deploying to Libya to support rebels: WSJ

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal said on Monday that Russian reinforcements were being dispatched to Libya to help the rebels, who have been losing ground in the country.

Citing European and Libyan officials, the Journal claimed that private military contractors from Russia helped forces loyal to rebel commander Khalifa Haftar seize Libya's largest oil field last week.

It said Russia had also dispatched MiG-29 fighter jets and an advanced radar system.

Moscow has said in the past that the military contractors do not represent the Russian government.

Since 2014, two rival seats of power have emerged in Libya: the internationally-recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli, and another group based in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by Haftar's rebels.

The rebels are backed by the UAE and France, besides Russia and Egypt.

'Turkey pushing for Sirte battle, eyeing Libyan oil'

Ahmida Homa, an official from the Tobruk-based camp, has accused Turkey of seeking to get its hands on Libya's oil resources.

Speaking in an interview with Russia's Sputnik, Homa said Turkey was exerting massive pressure on the Libyan government to launch the offensive on Sirte with the aim of taking control of the oil crescent region and the city of al-Jufra, "the gateway to southern Libya and its oil fields."

Macron denounces Turkey's intervention in Libya

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday accused Turkey of also deploying militants to Libya and said Turkish intervention in the North African country was "criminal."

"I think it's a historic and criminal responsibility for a country which claims to be a NATO member," Macron said.

Without providing any evidence, Macron said Turkey was "massively importing" militants from Syria.

Commenting on a United Nations (UN) report that Russian private military contractor Wagner Group had up to 1,200 fighters in Libya, Macron said Putin had told him that private contractors did not represent Russia.

"I told [Russian President Vladimir Putin] of my very clear condemnation of the actions which are carried out by the Wagner force... he plays on this ambivalence [over representation]," Macron said of his Friday talks with Putin.

NOC announces international talks on resuming oil production

Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) announced on Monday that there had been negotiations in recent weeks among the company, the Libyan government, and regional countries, overseen by the UN and the United States, on ending the oil blockade on the country and thus paving the way for a ceasefire.

"We are hopeful that those regional countries will lift the blockade and allow us to resume our work," a spokesman for the NOC said.

Libyan rebels shut down the country's oil production in January to cripple the government's main source of income.

Reuters cited a person familiar with the issue as saying that a possible deal to allow production to resume would involve a new agreement on distributing oil revenue, as well as guarantees on field security.

Libya has been in chaos since 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

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