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Libyan Warlord Vows To Continue Fight Amid Cease-Fire Call By Russia, Turkey


A fighter loyal to Libya's UN-backed government fires toward the forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar on the outskirts of Tripoli. (file photo)

Forces loyal to Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar said they would not halt their campaign to drive the UN-backed government from Tripoli amid calls from Russia and Turkey for a cease-fire in the war-torn North Africa nation.

Ahmad al-Mesmari, a spokesman for Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), said the group welcomed moves to bring peace to the country but that it would continue its war to "eradicate" what it described as "terrorist groups" in the capital backed by the United Nations.

An adviser to Haftar -- who has received Russian support in the past -- said the general’s position did not amount to an outright rejection of the cease-fire calls but rather that "conditions must be fulfilled" before any truce could take place.

Libya has been torn by violence since longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011.

The country has two rival administrations, the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and Haftar's in the city of Tobruk.

The GNA is supported by NATO-member Turkey and its ally Qatar. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced last week that he had dispatched military elements to Libya to ensure stability for the GNA.

UN experts and diplomats say that Russian military contractors in recent months have deployed alongside Haftar's LNA, which has also received air support from the United Arab Emirates and backing from Jordan and Egypt.

Turkey and Russia have both been criticized by UN and Western officials who say their efforts to arm their allies has led to an intensification of the violence.

Proposed Truce

After meeting in Istanbul on January 8, Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a statement saying they supported "the necessary measures to be taken for stabilizing the situation on the ground" in the North African country.

The proposed truce would start from midnight on January 12, according to the statement..

Haftar "hailed...President Vladimir Putin's initiative," but he stressed that the "efforts of the armed forces in the war against terrorists" would continue, his spokesman said.

"These groups have seized the capital and received the support of some countries and governments who supply them with military equipment, ammunition...and drones," he added.

"These countries also send terrorists all over the world to fight [Haftar's] armed force," he said in an apparent reference to Ankara, which he accused of sending pro-Turkish Syrian fighters to Libya, along with Turkish regular forces.

The Tripoli-based GNA said it welcomed any serious call for a return to the political process.

"The GNA urgently wants to restore peace, and until that is possible...we will exercise our lawful right to enter into military alliances and defend our country from attack," senior GNA adviser Mohammed Ali Abdallah said on January 9.

The GNA "welcomes any credible cease-fire proposal, but we have a duty to protect the Libyan people" from Haftar's offensive, he said.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, AP, and dpa

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