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Russia 'surprised', US disappointed at Haftar's self-declared power grab in Libya

In a televised speech, Haftar said he had a 'popular mandate' to govern Libya [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 April, 2020

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After the US stated it 'regrets' Libyan National Army head Khalifa Haftar's claim of a popular mandate to govern Libya, Russia reportedly expressed surprise at the Moscow-backed strongman's announcement.

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Libya, Russia, US
Russia found the popular mandate claim by Libya rogue General Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by Moscow, to be "surprising", state news agency RIA reported on Tuesday, after the United States announced it "regrets" Haftar's announcement.

Haftar, head of the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), said on Monday he had a "popular mandate" to govern the country, declaring the end of a key 2015 political deal and vowing to press his assault to seize Tripoli.

According to RIA, a Russian foreign ministry source added that decisions from January's Berlin summit were meant to be implemented by Libyans with the help of the international community.

"We support the continuation of the inclusive intra-Libyan dialogue within the framework of the political process," the source told RIA. "There is no military solution to the conflict."

Meanwhile, the US embassy in Libya on Monday expressed disappointment at Haftar's announcement.

"The United States regrets Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Haftar’s suggestion that changes to Libya’s political structure can be imposed by unilateral declaration," the embassy said in a statement.

The embassy added it "welcomes any opportunity to engage LNA commander Haftar and all parties in serious dialogue about how the country can move forward".

In a speech on the LNA's Libya Al-Hadath TV channel, Haftar said the military faction was "proud to be mandated with the historic task" of leading Libya.

Haftar also announced "the end" of the Skhirat Agreement - a 2015 United Nations-mediated deal that produced Libya's unity government - and said his forces will "put in place the necessary conditions to build the permanent institutions of a civil state".

Haftar has so far drawn his legitimacy from Libya's House of Representatives, an elected parliament in the country's east.

In April 2019, LNA forces launched an assault to seize Libya's capital Tripoli from the Government of National Accord.

The conflict escalated this month, despite international calls for a ceasefire as war-torn Libya deals with its novel coronavirus outbreak.

Haftar receives backing, including fighter jets and drones from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

Russia has also deployed trained mercenaries in Libya through a private security contractor, the Wagner Group, to boost Haftar’s assault.

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