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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Libya commander Khalifa Haftar signals start of race for power

Head of Libyan National Army declares UN political solution a failure and says his forces will answer to no one but Libyan people

A man holds a poster of Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar during a rally demanding that he take over, after a UN deal for a political solution missed what his supporters said was a self-imposed deadline on December 17, 2017. Esam Omran Al Fetori / Reuters
A man holds a poster of Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar during a rally demanding that he take over, after a UN deal for a political solution missed what his supporters said was a self-imposed deadline on December 17, 2017. Esam Omran Al Fetori / Reuters

Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar on Sunday declared that the mandate of the UN-backed unity government had expired and hinted at his willingness to stand for president as the country entered a "dangerous" period.

A UN-brokered agreement signed in Morocco on December 17, 2015 established Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) for a one-year period, renewable only once.

"All bodies resulting from this agreement automatically lose their legitimacy, which has been contested from the first day they took office," Field Marshall Haftar said in a televised speech.

He said the expiry of the agreement marked a "historic and dangerous turning point" for the country.

The GNA, based in Tripoli, was intended to establish itself as the central authority in Libya to end years of political chaos and violence following the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. However, a rival administration in the country's east has refused to endorse it.

Field Marshal Haftar, whose forces known as the Libyan National Army control large areas of the country, supports the eastern government, while the GNA is backed by militias in Tripoli.

In his speech on Sunday, the commander dismissed UN-led attempts to bring together the two administrations, saying they had amounted to nothing but "ink on paper".

"We declare very clearly that we will fully obey the orders of the free Libyan people and no one else," he said.

Field Marshal Haftar and the GNA prime minister Fayez Al Serraj held direct talks earlier this year in Abu Dhabi and Cairo before signing a peace deal in Paris in July under which they agreed to hold national elections next year.

Libyan parties met in Tunis in September to discuss a set of amendments to the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement before a national reconciliation conference next year, convened under the auspices of the UN, to set a road map for a constitution, institutional reforms, government power structure and elections.

The UN's special representative to Libya, Ghassan Salame had told the Security Council last month that "I am quite confident we are close to a consensus" following the meetings in Tunis.

He said although “much progress was made, a few remaining points are still to be agreed”.

Mr Salame issued a statement on Sunday saying Libyans were "fed up with violence" and hoped "for a political solution, for reconciliation and for harmony".

"I urge all parties to heed their voices and refrain from any actions that could undermine the political process," he said.

The UN Security Council on Thursday insisted the 2015 deal remains the "only viable framework" to prepare for elections next year.

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Read more:

Libya deal on unity government within reach, UN envoy says

UN Envoy Ghassan Salame: Time is not on side of a unified Libya

ICC warns Libya of investigations into war crimes

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