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Libya PM says Haftar will be included in government

Prime minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj says Khalifa Haftar, who controls Libya's oil ports, should be represented in the new government
The GNA has struggled to impose its power across a country riven by violence (Reuters)

Libyan prime minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj says military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who controls the north African country's main oil ports, should be represented in a new, more inclusive government.

"We have no other choice but dialogue and reconciliation," Sarraj told AFP in an interview in Paris on Tuesday.

"No one wants an escalation or a confrontation between Libyans," he added, less than two weeks after Haftar's forces seized control of the strife-ridden country's "Oil Crescent".

The Libyan leader pledged to quickly submit "the composition of a new government in which everyone will be represented in a balanced way".

"No one wants an escalation or a confrontation between Libyans" - prime minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj

Sarraj, who met with French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday, said: "We should be united to fight the terrorism that is spreading in Libya."

His fragile unity government, formed in March following a UN-backed deal in December 2015, is backed by the international community.

But the Government of National Accord (GNA) has struggled to impose its power across a country riven by violence since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Haftar's forces seized control of the strife-ridden country's "oil crescent" (AFP)

Last week, Haftar hailed the support of Egypt's military and the country's leadership, calling the head of the Egyptian army "an intimate friend".

In an interview with Egypt’s state-owned al-Ahram newspaper, Haftar said he regularly consulted Egyptian authorities about Libyan affairs and he received intelligence from Egypt’s military.

“We deal at the leadership level [with Egypt] with a high degree of transparency and clarity,” he said on Monday. “We consult among ourselves on all issues of common interest and we cooperate without limit for the sake of our countries’ interests.”

Talking about other countries dealing with terrorism, he said: “You find them keen on providing us with intelligence data and dedicating their advanced technologies in carrying out monitoring and spying operations. Foremost among these countries are Egypt and France.”

He said they exchanged “intelligence data about the activities of terrorist groups, about their locations, combat capabilities, funding, logistics, leaders, movements, communications, and those who collaborate with them”.

The general, who recently anointed himself "field marshal" in control of a "Libyan National Army," is opposed to a UN-backed Libya unity government known as the GNA. His forces are loyal to a rival parliament sitting in the eastern city of Tobruk, which refuses to recognise the GNA's authority.

Middle East Eye has revealed that despite the UN plan to unify Libyan politics, Haftar has been supported by the US, Jordanian, British, Italian, Emirati and French forces in battles against groups he opposes around Benghazi.

Questions over legitimacy

The Tobruk-based parliament is under Haftar's influence and refuses to recognise the Tripoli-based GNA, which runs day-to-day affairs.

Both governments depend on militias for their authority, and the parallel authority is backed by Haftar, who is in turn backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Sarraj said he has met with Haftar and still maintained "indirect contacts" with him in order to "unify the military institution and the security forces".

France was forced to admit that it has provided military assistance to Haftar after three French troops were killed in Libya during an intelligence-gathering mission in July.

Sarraj said French authorities promised to inform the GNA in future of "any security coordination" with Haftar's forces.