No talks planned with rival, says East Libya strongman

ROME: Eastern Libya’s dominant military figure has no plans to resume talks with his UN-backed rival in the west, according to comments in an interview that may further dent foreign hopes of an end to years of conflict in the divided country. Strongman Khalifa Haftar and Fayez Seraj, who heads the internationally recognised administration in Tripoli, were expected to meet in Algiers in coming days, a source close to the Algerian government said.
They were to discuss the possibility of forming a government of national union, the source said. But Haftar said talks with Seraj begun 2-and-a-half years ago had yielded no result and the existing state of war now required combat rather than politics.
“Once the extremists are defeated we can go back to talking about democracy and elections. But not now,” Haftar was quoted as telling Tuesday’s edition of Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
The outlook for Seraj’s government, already uncertain as it struggles to fulfil Western hopes that it could bring stability to Libya, worsened on Monday when one of its deputy leaders announced his resignation, saying it had failed to tackle urgent problems.
Haftar said his forces now controlled about 80 per cent of the country, according to the newspaper.
A deeply divisive figure portrayed by his rivals as a military strongman seeking national power, he has been waging a campaign against hardliners and other opponents in eastern Libya for more than two years. Haftar has close ties to Egypt and the UAE. — Reuters