Libya’s Gen. Haftar offers qualified support for new, unlikely unity government

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Libya’s UN-backed unity government may get the blessing of one of the country’s most powerful military leaders.

Gen. Khalifa Haftar, leader of the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army, has pledged to support any unity government that receives the parliament’s confidence.

Gen. Khalifa Haftar
Gen. Khalifa Haftar

Meanwhile, Haftar was to meet with Egyptian President Abdul Fatah Sisi in Cairo on April 7 to discuss the latest developments in Libya.

But the Tobruk-based parliament has not yet granted confidence to the national unity government led by Prime Minister Fayez Serraj. And the head of the rival government in Tripoli appears to have reversed a decision to dismiss his administration.

Khalifa Ghweil has threatened to prosecute any of his ministers who cooperate with the leaders of the unity government.
Earlier this week, the Tripoli-based government had vowed to step down to prevent further bloodshed in the country.

Speaking to the BBC, a Tripoli government adviser said, “Things are not clear at the moment.”

Gen. Haftar said he refuses “the formation of a military junta in the country” and that he intends to form a military council under his leadership to lead Libya if the UN-backed unity government failed to obtain parliament confidence.

“We will not accept the division of Libya,” Haftar said.

Support for Serraj, a businessman and former lawmaker, is building in Libya, according to analysts.

“Being relatively unknown would appear to be a weakness but it’s his strong point,” said Arturo Varvelli, an analyst at the Milan-based Institute for the Study of International Politics. “In the Libyan system of everyone-against-everyone, not having had senior jobs before or since Gadhafi allows him to present himself as someone new.”

Serraj also should keep his distance from world powers, said Varvelli, or Libyans might see him as “a puppet of the West. When his government has gained credibility, then he’ll be able to ask for help,” including military assistance to fight Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).