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Robert Cusack

International community argues over Libya's future without Libyans present

General Khalifa Haftar, who has led Libya's LNA against the country's Islamists [AFP]

Date of publication: 9 February, 2017

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The future of Libya is being decided in foreign capital cities, while diplomats falsely claim that the process must be 'Libyan-led'.

European diplomats have been working behind the scenes to influence the future of the Libyan government, despite statements that the process should be led and managed entirely by Libyans.

Clandestine meetings have been held in recent weeks in London, Rome, Moscow and Washington on a future Tripoli government and the potential role of Libyan war-lord, General Khalifa Haftar.

"We opened the way for a limited amendment to the Libyan political agreement but it must be a Libyan-owned and a Libyan-steered process," the UN's special representative in Libya, Martin Kobler, told Reuters in an interview, published Thursday.

European diplomats have been negotiating with their Russian counterparts to negotiate limits on General Haftar's potential power by offering him a bigger role in control of the country's military.

"The single most important topic is the construction of a Libyan united army with a clear chain of command, where general Haftar must have a role," Kobler said, having recently returned from discussions with the Kremlin over the future of Libya.

Abandoning the GNA?

The UN and many in the West have been working to keep the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) in power since its formation in December 2015.

The GNA has been unable to maintain national security however, due to a civil war involving Islamic State fighters, General Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) and a myriad other militias.

EU diplomats, who are reportedly aware that Haftar will remain in some form of power due to his military strength, have now started to manoeuvre politically to allow Haftar a place in Libya's future government.

"The situation in Libya should be approached with pragmatism," said Italy's foreign minister, Angeleno Alfano, on Monday.

"We were the first to say that General Khalifa Haftar had to have a role, and our choice is to foster a dialogue with the East that can unify the two sides."

Haftar's East-Libyan LNA has reportedly received enormous support, both militarily and otherwise, from Russia, Egypt and the UAE.

The UAE air force is thought to have sent numerous warplanes to Libya's al-Khadim airbase since January 2011, for use in bombing missions by Haftar's forces.

General Haftar has described himself as an authoritarian anti-Islamist patriot who wants to remove the Muslim Brotherhood from Libya in his "cleansing" Operation Karama.

The anti-Islamist 'patriot'

General Haftar has described himself as an authoritarian anti-Islamist patriot who wants to remove the Muslim Brotherhood from Libya in his "cleansing" Operation Karama.

In May 2014, General Haftar launched Operation Karama [translation: dignity] against Islamists in Benghazi

This marked the most recent phase of the Libyan civil war, which began following the rebellion against the regime of long-time leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, culminating with his death after a NATO-led military campaign.

Haftar has been labelled by his enemies as an "American agent" after he arrived in Libya in 2011 with the alleged support and training of the CIA.

Haftar, who voted in the 2008 US elections, had lived in the United States for almost twenty years prior to his return to Libya in 2011.

The Washington Post reports he lived in two Virginian towns, Falls Church and Vienna - located only 7 miles away from the CIA headquarters.

In a 1992 interview, deposed Libyan dictator, Muammar al-Gaddafi, said he felt "like a spiritual father" to Haftar, who had been "a son" before he was captured in a 1980's war against Chad.

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