Published: Sat, April 06, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Libya fighting prompts condemnation by G7 and UN

Libya fighting prompts condemnation by G7 and UN

The UN has called for calm and sent Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to Libya to meet Haftar on Friday.

"I am leaving Libya with heavy heart and deep concern", he told reporters at the airport shortly after meeting with Hifter. "I still hope it is possible to avoid a bloody confrontation in and around Tripoli", he said on Twitter.

The statement added that military activity is "hindering prospects for the UN-led political process, putting civilians in danger, and prolonging the suffering of the Libyan people".

Haftar, 75, who casts himself as an opponent of Islamist extremism but is viewed by opponents as a new Gaddafi, was quoted by Al-Arabiya TV as telling Guterres the operation would continue until terrorism was defeated.

Libyan rivals were making contradictory claims over territorial gains in the outskirts of Tripoli after eastern-based General Khalifa Haftar directed his forces to move on the capital.

In 2014, he assembled former Gaddafi soldiers and in a three-year battle seized the main eastern city of Benghazi.

The escalation surprised the United Nations. Guterres had traveled to Libya this week in the hopes of bring the warring sides to a national reconciliation conference scheduled for later this month.

On Thursday, LNA forces took the town of Gharyan 100km (62 miles) south of Tripoli.

In an attempt to close the coastal road to Tunisia, Haftar's forces failed to take a checkpoint about 30 kilometres west of the capital.

Meanwhile residents in Misrata said armed groups from the city had begun moving towards the Libyan capital, Reuters reported.

And in another setback, forces allied to Tripoli took 145 LNA fighters prisoner in Zawiya, west of the capital, a western commander, Mohamed Alhudair, told Reuters.

There was no independent confirmation of that, but a video posted online purportedly showed LNA fighters inside Qasr ben Ghashir suburb, which includes the airport.

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Eastern Libyan forces on Friday seized the former Tripoli International Airport on the southern outskirts of the capital, a spokesman said.

The call came as the LNA clashed south of Tripoli with militias aligned with the internationally-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez Sarraj.

The LNA said it had lost five soldiers since Thursday.

Guterres was deeply concerned, after he held a meeting with eastern commander Haftar who has ordered his self-proclaimed Libyan National Army and allied troops to march on Tripoli.

Lev Dengov, Russia's special envoy to Libya, called the announcement of an assault on Tripoli "provocative and counter productive" and reiterated Moscow's commitment to the United Nations process, but also avoided mentioned Gen Haftar by name.

On Thursday, Saleh welcomed the offensive.

The UN Security Council will meet on Friday to discuss the situation following a request from the United Kingdom, reports said.

Confiscated military vehicles from Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar's troops are seen in Zawiyah, west of Tripoli, Libya April 5, 2019.

The conference the United Nations wants to organize is meant to forge agreement on a roadmap for elections to resolve the prolonged instability in Libya, an oil producer and transit point for refugees and migrants trekking across the Sahara in an attempt to reach Europe.

Nevertheless France, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have provided tacit support for Haftar during several years of fighting, according to expert Harchaoui.

After a closed-door emergency meeting in NY, the Security Council called on Haftar's forces to halt their advance and warned that those responsible for re-igniting the conflict will be held responsible.

Tunisia has tightened control over its border with Libya in response to the renewed conflict, the defence ministry said.

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