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Libya’s Haftar ‘accepts people’s will’ to rule, declares UN-brokered unity government deal ‘thing of the past’

Libya’s Haftar ‘accepts people’s will’ to rule, declares UN-brokered unity government deal ‘thing of the past’
Military leader Khalifa Haftar declared that his forces will take control of Libya, arguing the UN-brokered unity deal which created a rival government in Tripoli is dead and that the “people’s will” gave him a mandate to rule.

“The General Command of the Armed Forces accepts the will of the people despite the burden of that trust, multiplicity of obligations, and the magnitude of responsibilities before God, our people, and conscience and history,” Haftar said in a televised address on Monday, announcing that his Libyan National Army (LNA) will take control of the country.

Haftar’s forces already control most of Libya, and have spent much of the last year driving on Tripoli to topple the Government of National Accord (GNA), created in 2015 under UN-mediated talks in the aftermath of the US-led NATO operation that ousted Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi and threw the country into years of civil war.

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The general has so far acted on behalf of a competing legislature, based in the eastern city of Tobruk. He did not elaborate on what the new arrangement would look like, however, leaving some mystery about the fate of the civilian administration in the east.

Addressing “free Libyans” in his speech, Haftar condemned the unity deal that established the GNA – often dubbed the ‘Skhirat Agreement’ for the Moroccan city in which it was signed – insisting it “destroyed” Libya, and that citizens had chosen another “eligible” leader.

“We have followed up your response to our call to you to announce the fall of the Political Agreement, which has destroyed the country and led it to the abyss, and to authorize those you consider eligible to lead this stage,” Haftar said, adding the LNA would work to create “durable institutions of the civil state.”

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Slamming the announcement, the US Embassy in Tripoli said that Washington “regrets... Haftar’s suggestion that changes to Libya’s political structure can be imposed by unilateral declaration,” urging the LNA to declare a ceasefire for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as the country battles a coronavirus outbreak.

The GNA, which enjoys the backing of Turkey, has managed to repel Haftar’s offensives over the last year, even gaining ground against the LNA near Tripoli in recent weeks. The unity government has nonetheless called on Washington for support, declaring in February that it would welcome US troops on Libyan soil to assist in the fight against “terrorism.”

The 2011 NATO regime change operation that forced Gaddafi out of power – which ended in a brutal roadside execution at the hands of Western-backed rebels – transformed Libya into a war-torn failed state, fostering nearly a decade of armed conflict between competing power centers and the rise of terrorist groups such as Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), that flourished in pockets of lawlessness created amid the fighting.

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