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Elections announced in Libya as US disowns Haftar

Announcement of elections comes as international bodies begin evacuating over instability fears
Libyan protestors wave their national flag and hold pictures of Libya's Major-General Haftar (AFP)

The United States has put distance between itself and renegade Libyan general Khalifa Haftar, who has been accused by some of trying to instigate a coup in the troubled country.

“We have not had contact with him recently. We do not condone or support the actions on the ground, and nor have we assisted with these actions," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington.

“We are continuing to call on all parties to refrain from violence and to seek resolution through peaceful means," added Psaki.

She declined to say whether the White House viewed Haftar’s action as a coup attempt.

The general launched an assault on an Islamist militia in Benghazi last week, raising fears of civil war in the country.

Haftar’s plan to bring stability to the strife-torn country, which he has labelled “Operation Dignity”, has won backing from many militias and army officers, but he has been labelled an “outlaw” by the Libyan authorities

The general spent two decades in the US following a public “betrayed” by former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after an ill-fated operation in Chad in the late 1980’s.

Some suspect that Haftar has close links with the CIA. The Benghazi-based Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia has alleged an American hand behind Haftar claiming that he is leading “a war against... Islam orchestrated by the United States and its Arab allies".

Elections announced

The US disavowal comes as the Libyan electoral commission announces elections will take place in the country on the 25th of June to replace the disputed General National Council (GNC).

The government said it hopes that elections could help bring calm to an extremely tense political situation in the country.

General Hafter has fiercely criticised the GNC. Speaking to the Washington Post on Tuesday he said it “has been rejected by the people and its legitimacy has ended.”

“The government is ineffective.”

Instability in Libya has already led many international operations to pull themselves out of the country.

Algeria’s state-owned energy firm Sonatrach has pulled its workers out of Libya and Saudi Arabia and the UAE have both closed their embassies in Tripoli.

A Pentagon spokesperson has announced that the US military has moved more aircraft and troops to Italy for a possible evacuation of the American embassy.

Rear Admiral John Kirby described the climate in Libya as “unsettling," citing it as the reason for deciding to “move those Marines to Sicily.”

“They're ready to go if they're needed."

Air defence chief pledges support

Chief of Staff of the Libyan Air Defense Force Brigadier Jomaa al-Abani announced his support for the offensive launched by general Haftar against militias – some of which affiliated with the army - in the eastern Benghazi city.

Al-Abani called on the rest of the Libyan Air Defense Force troops to follow suit, in a televised speech which was broadcast in the early hours of Wednesday.

"I am with the Libyan people against all types of terrorism," al-Abani said.

A source from the military judiciary told Anadolu Agency earlier that al-Abani is wanted by the Libyan military prosecution for alleged involvement in arranging meetings for military officers without the knowledge of the army leadership.