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Libya PM accuses rival Haftar of 'betrayal' over Tripoli offensive Open in fullscreen

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Libya PM accuses rival Haftar of 'betrayal' over Tripoli offensive

Haftar's offensive on Tripoli could plunge the oil-rich country into another spasm of violence [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 April, 2019

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The head of Libya's internationally-recognised government has accused his rival Khalifa Haftar of "betraying" him after the military strongman launched an offensive against the capital Tripoli.

The head of Libya's internationally-recognised government has accused his rival Khalifa Haftar of "betraying" him after the military strongman launched an offensive against the capital Tripoli.

Fayez al-Sarraj made the statements in a televised speech on Saturday, as forces loyal to Haftar pressed on with an offensive on Tripoli.

"We have extended our hands towards peace but after the aggression that has taken place on the part of forces belonging to Haftar and his declaration of war against our cities and our capital... he will find nothing but strength and firmness," Sarraj said.

"We are shocked by military movements that have accompanied by the tactical speech of Haftar, whose words return us to the era of dictatorships and authoritarian rule,"

Sarraj accused Haftar betraying the political process and attempting to "plunge the country once again into a spiral of violence and war".

Haftar's forces on Saturday defied international calls to halt hostilities which risk plunging the country into civil war.

However, pro-Haftar fighters were slowed by forces loyal to Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA), which sits in the capital.

For the first time, forces backing the GNA launched air strikes on Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) around 50 kilometres south of Tripoli.

The LNA said that it took full control of the Tripoli international airport and were working to secure the facility.

The GNA later said they had taken back control of the main airport in the capital.

Haftar's offensive on Tripoli could plunge the oil-rich country into another spasm of violence, possibly the worst since the 2011 civil war that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The country is governed by rival authorities: the GNA in Tripoli and the government in the east, which Haftar is aligned with. Each are backed by an array of militias.

Libya's unity government was created at UN-backed talks in 2015 but it has struggled to assert control, while a number of international initiatives since have failed to unite the country.

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