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40 Libyan politicians throw support behind Haftar

Following rallies for Haftar's operation and his own declaration that he has a popular 'mandate', 40 politicians announce support
Hundreds of Libyans converged in Tripoli on Friday to support Haftar's campaign (Anadolu Agency)

Forty members of Libya's General National Congress announced late Saturday that they no longer recognise the country's prime minister and are throwing their support behind renegade army general Khalifa Hafta.

The politicians televised statements come a day after Haftar said the Libyan people have given him a "mandate" to crush militants in the country following 'Friday of Dignity' marches in which thousands rallied in Benghazi and Tripoli in support of his operation.

Haftar's campaign has won growing backing amid frustration at the lawlessness in Libya three years after the overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

"We have accepted the mandate of the people," Haftar said in a statement.

"The (people) have given their instructions ... We pledge not to abandon this mission untilLibya is purged of terrorists and extremists and all those who back them," he added.

The statement on Saturday was released by Haftar's self-declared "supreme military council" in the Benina region near the eastern city of Benghazi, where the rogue general launched his campaign this month.

Legislative elections are set for 25 June, against the backdrop of Haftar's operation. The parliament has 182 members, meaning that with their announcement on Saturday, one-fifth of the member now support Haftar instead of Prime Minister Ahmed Miitig. 

Friday's demonstrations were some of the largest seen in Libya since Gaddafi was toppled and killed in 2011.

On Wednesday, Haftar warned that Libya has become a "terrorist hub" and called for the formation of an emergency cabinet and legislative elections to be held.

His forces launched an assault against Islamist-inspired militias on 16 May in Benghazi. At least 79 people were reported killed.

The government has branded him an outlaw and claim he was attempting a coup.

But Haftar insists he has no interest in power, just an end to the Islamist-dominated General National Congress, or interim parliament.

Also on Saturday the spokesman of Haftar's paramilitary "National Army", Mohammed al-Hijazi, called on troops to "rejoin" their units without elaborating.

UN calls for calm

UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon urged calm Saturday amid fears of clashes between the country's pro-government militias and forces backing the general.

Ban "is deeply concerned by recent developments in Libya, in particular the growing military mobilization in and around the capital Tripoli," according to his spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Despite Haftar's growing support, UN chief insisted that "armed confrontation risks negating the sacrifices made by the Libyan people during their struggle for freedom and human dignity, particularly at this critical juncture in the political transition process," Dujarric said.

He urged all parties in Libya to "refrain from acts which undermine the democratic transition, and also to resume dialogue," according to the statement.