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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Italian minister meets Libyan commander after 'enemies' accusation

Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar accused fellow Libyans of being puppets of Italy's government
Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar met Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi. Reuters

Italy's foreign minister met Libyan military leader Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi on Monday, days after the commander described Italians as “enemies” and accused some Libyans of being puppets of the Italian government.

Field Marshal Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army said the talks, which also focused on efforts to organise elections in Libya, were held at the Haftar’s headquarters.

The two men "had a long and cordial conversation which relaunched close relations with Italy, in a climate of consolidated trust," the Italian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Italy, a key supporter of the UN-backed government of Fayez Al Sarraj in Tripoli, wants to "maintain an active dialogue" with all well-intentioned actors in Libya, Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi said.

"The current political path must be completed, in particular through free and fair elections held under adequate security conditions," he added. France has pushed for elections before the end of the year.

Italy’s foreign ministry said Field Marshal Haftar "expressed his appreciation for Italy's foreign policy, which Libya can't do without".

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The LNA said the two men discussed "the upcoming Libyan elections and ways of guaranteeing their transparency".

Italy "pledged to back any UN proposal that would guarantee the stability of Libya", the statement added.

The Libyan capital has been at the centre of a battle for influence between armed groups since dictator Muammar Qaddafi was driven from power and killed in a 2011 Nato-backed uprising.

Mr Al Sarraj's Government of National Accord has been unable to form a functioning army or regular security forces and has been forced to rely on militias to keep Tripoli safe.

Militias formed the backbone of the uprising that toppled Qaddafi.

Since then rival administrations - including one allied with Field Marshal Haftar and based in the remote east - and the militias have competed for authority and oil wealth.

Accused by his opponents of wanting to establish a new military dictatorship, Field Marshal Haftar refuses to recognise Mr Al Sarraj's Tripoli-based government.