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Spokesperson: Libya's Haftar 'will follow in Sisi's footsteps'


May 30, 2014- Renegade Libyan general Khalifa Haftar has welcomed former Egyptian army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi’s victory in Egypt’s presidential election and hinted he may run for office in Libya, according to his spokesperson. "Haftar will follow in Sisi’s footsteps if the Libyan people ask him to run for president," Haftar spokesperson Mohamed al-Hegazi told Anadolu Agency on Thursday. Khalifa Haftar and his non-governmental "National Army" attacked the restive eastern city of Benghazi on 16 May, killing at least 79 people. While the government has labelled him an outlaw and called it a foiled coup, Haftar says his "Operation Dignity" is an initiative to fight terrorism and he has gathered political and military support from across the country...

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Spokesperson: Libya's Haftar 'will follow in Sisi's footsteps'

MEE staff

May 30, 2014


Rogue Libyan general Khalifa Haftar has said he will run for the presidency "if the Libyan people ask him"


Renegade Libyan general Khalifa Haftar has welcomed former Egyptian army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi’s victory in Egypt’s presidential election and hinted he may run for office in Libya, according to his spokesperson.

"Haftar will follow in Sisi’s footsteps if the Libyan people ask him to run for president," Haftar spokesperson Mohamed al-Hegazi told Anadolu Agency on Thursday.

Khalifa Haftar and his non-governmental "National Army" attacked the restive eastern city of Benghazi on 16 May, killing at least 79 people.

While the government has labelled him an outlaw and called it a foiled coup, Haftar says his "Operation Dignity" is an initiative to fight terrorism and he has gathered political and military support from across the country.

Haftar has previously insisted he has "no interest in power" but analysts who have spoken with associates and former army officers close to him suggest otherwise.

"The reality is those who knew him in the United States, as well as in Libya, view him as ambitious and are quite sure he is interested in power," said Mohamed Eljarh, Libyan analyst for Foreign Policy. "People have expressed support for Haftar’s campaign against terrorism, but remain sceptical of the man himself," he added.

"They are saying keep one eye on the extremists and the other on Haftar."

'Haftar is Sisi’s guy'

Eljarh says Haftar cannot "do a Sisi" due to Libya being saturated with weapons, which prevents anyone from forcibly imposing their will, but that the elections in Egypt could have a profound impact on the Libyan crisis.

"Sisi has said he will not allow Libya to destabilise Egypt," he said, adding "Haftar is Sisi’s guy".

There has been much speculation about the regional influences on the Libyan situation, with some suggesting it could be part of a broader counter revolutionary movement emanating from the Gulf States. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who heavily backed last July’s coup in Egypt, have been accused of attempting to export military dictatorships across North Africa, in a column by MEE’s Editor-in-Chief David Hearst.

Haftar insists he has not received backing from foreign powers but he has stated he would gladly accept weapons and money if he could get them.

"We are now fighting not only on behalf of Libya but on behalf of the whole world," he said in an interview with the New York Times this week.

Haftar’s referencing to the fight against terrorism has prompted confusing and contradictory messages from the Americans. The State Department has said it does not condone Haftar’s initiative and warned against the use of violence, however, the US ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones recently said Washington could not "condemn" his actions because he was pursuing "extremist groups" they consider terrorists.

On 27 May the Americans announced it was deploying an amphibious assault ship equipped with about 1,000 marines and several helicopters off the coast of Libya. The USS Bataan will be in the region "in a matter of days", according to a defence official who spoke anonymously to AFP, adding that it was a "precautionary" measure.

A 'crusade' against Islam

The State Department also recommended all American citizens in Libya "depart immediately", in a travel warning issued on Tuesday evening. They described a worsening security situation as "unpredictable and unstable", urging citizens to "exercise extreme caution".

While some have suggested the presence of an American warship as being indicative of support for Haftar, Libyan analyst Eljarh says otherwise.

"The Americans are acting with extreme caution because they do not want another Benghazi on their hands," he said. "The ship is almost certainly there to aid with potential evacuations of American citizens in Libya."

In September 2012 an attack by armed militants on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi killed the ambassador as well as three other people. The incident drew strong criticism from political rivals of the Obama administration, with Republican Party members accusing the president of failing to properly secure the consulate before and after the attack.

Rumours, however, persist that the Americans are providing support to Haftar, who spent 20 years living in exile in the US until his return to Libya in 2011 to aid the uprising against former leader Muammar Gaddafi. Both Gaddafi and former rebel militias have accused Haftar of working with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Ansar al-Sharia, a Benghazi-based militant group designated a terror organisation by the US, has denounced Haftar’s initiative as a "crusade" against Islam "orchestrated by the United States and its Arab allies" in an online statement.

"A confrontation is now inevitable to defend our city and our land," the statement concluded.

It is unclear what Haftar will do next, but he recently told the AFP his operation "will not end until we rid the country of all terrorists and militants."



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