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Libya: UN council to meet as Haftar's forces advance

The meeting will be held on Friday [File Photo: Getty]

Date of publication: 5 April, 2019

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Britain requested an urgent UN meeting on Thursday, diplomats said, following the order from Libya's Khalifa Haftar to advance into Tripoli.
The UN Security Council will meet behind closed doors on Friday to discuss the situation in Libya after the leader of eastern forces in the war-scarred north African country ordered his troops to advance on Tripoli.

Britain requested the urgent meeting on Thursday, diplomats said, following the order from Khalifa Haftar, a key player opposed to the government in the capital. The meeting is scheduled for 3:00 pm (1900 GMT). 

Haftar's forces announced on Wednesday they were gearing up for an offensive in the west of the country to purge it of "terrorists and mercenaries," having seized key areas of the country's south since the start of the year.

"The time has come," Haftar said in an audio message released on Thursday by his self-proclaimed Libyan National Army, pledging to spare civilians and "state institutions.”

Haftar, who commands east-based LNA, described his forces' move as a "victorious march to shake the lands under the feet of the unjust."

He urged his forces to enter the city peacefully and only raise their weapons "in the face of those who seek injustice and prefer confrontation and fighting.

"Those who lay down their weapons are safe, and those who raise the white flag are safe," he added.

The spike in tensions came as Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was making his first visit as UN chief to Libya ahead of a planned conference later this month aimed at charting a course toward elections.

"I am deeply concerned by the military movement taking place in Libya and the risk of confrontation," Guterres tweeted.

The United States and its allies issued a joint statement urging "all parties to immediately de-escalate tensions."

"Our governments oppose any military action in Libya and will hold accountable any Libyan faction that precipitates further civil conflict," said the US, France, Britain, Italy and the United Arab Emirates.

Unity government chief Fayez al-Sarraj has granted his air force permission to carry out strikes to repel "anyone who threatens the lives of civilians and vital facilities."

The Tripoli-based government had said that security forces in the capital were on "high alert" and condemned the threats of an armed showdown over the capital city.

"There is no military solution to this crisis as war only brings about destruction. All sides must stop using the rhetoric of escalation and replace it with wisdom," the statement said.

His interior ministry announced a "state of maximum alert" and powerful armed groups from Libya's western city of Misrata said they were ready to halt Haftar's advance.

Elections in Libya are meant to turn the page on years of chaos following the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi that has seen a bitter rivalry emerge between two governments scrambling for control in the oil-rich country.

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