Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 May 2019

Khalifa Haftar's force lauds Donald Trump's support for war against terrorism

The White House said the president discussed "ongoing counterterrorism efforts" with the general in a telephone call

Members of the Libyan National Army commanded by Khalifa Haftar leaving Benghazi for Tripoli, April 13, 2019. Reuters
Members of the Libyan National Army commanded by Khalifa Haftar leaving Benghazi for Tripoli, April 13, 2019. Reuters

Remarks made by President Donald Trump show that the United States believes in the pivotal role of the Libyan National Army (LNA) in the war against terrorism, Sky News Arabia cited the LNA spokesman as saying on Friday.

Earlier the White House said Trump had discussed "ongoing counterterrorism efforts" by General Khalifa Haftar's forces during a telephone call with the Libyan commander on Monday. General Haftar's forces are pressing a military assault on the capital Tripoli in opposition to Libya's internationally recognised government. White House national security adviser John Bolton also spoke recently to General Haftar.

A White House statement said Mr Trump "recognised Field Marshal Haftar's significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya's oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya's transition to a stable, democratic political system".

It was unclear why the White House waited several days to announce the phone call, which took place on Monday.

General Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), based in the country's east, launched an offensive on April 4 to take Tripoli, the western seat of the UN-recognised GNA.

It also comes a day after UN envoy Ghassan Salame warned of "a widening conflagration" in other parts of the North African country.

On Thursday GNA interior minister Fathi Bach Agha lashed out at France, accusing it directly for the first time of supporting General Haftar.

France immediately denied the claim.

The United Nations health agency says at least 15 more people died in fighting over control of Libya's capital in the past two days, bringing the total to 220 dead including civilians.

The World Health Organisation said late Friday that 1,066 others have been wounded since the self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive on April 5 to take Tripoli.

More than 25,000 have been displaced, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

Both the United States and Russia said on Thursday they could not support a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Libya at this time.

Russia objects to the British-drafted resolution blaming Haftar for the latest flare-up in violence when his Libyan National Army (LNA) advanced to the outskirts of Tripoli earlier this month, diplomats said.

The United States did not give a reason for its decision not to support the draft resolution, which would also call on countries with influence over the warring parties to ensure compliance and for unconditional humanitarian aid access in Libya. The country has been gripped by anarchy since Muammar Qaddafi was toppled in 2011.

General Haftar is aligned with a rival government in the east that is opposed to the government in Tripoli and that is supported by Mr Trump's allies Egypt and the UAE.

General Haftar was among officers who helped Qaddafi rise to power in 1969 but fell out with him during Libya's war with Chad in the 1980s. General Haftar was taken prisoner by the Chadians and had to be rescued by the CIA after having worked from Chad to overthrow Qaddafi.

He lived for around 20 years in the US state of Virginia before returning home in 2011 to join other rebels in the uprising that ousted Qaddafi.

Updated: April 20, 2019 05:15 PM

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