Haftar supports elections sees others stalling

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Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar, a key figure in the future of the troubled North African country, supports plans for national elections in December but says other players are not fulfilling their part for the vote to take place.

His downbeat comments to Reuters add to growing doubts a French plan, backed by the United Nations, to hold elections aimed at ending seven years of conflict in the oil producer will go ahead.

Haftar is a dominant figure in the east where his Libyan National Army (LNA) last year seized the second-largest city Benghazi expelling Islamist and other fighters.

The 75-year old, in written comments to Reuters questions, refused to say whether he would run in presidential elections as expected, saying only: “Which elections are you talking about ? When they are announced and the door opened to run for them, you will know the answer.”

Haftar is aligned with a government based in the east and is the main rival of Prime Minister Fayez Seraj who leads a UN-brokered transitional government based in Tripoli.

In May, Haftar, Seraj and leaders of rival parliamentary assemblies agreed verbally under French mediation in Paris to create a framework for elections.

Weeks of clashes between rival factions in Tripoli, some linked to the UN-backed government, have shown the difficulties of organising a vote in a country in chaos.
“The General Command (of the LNA) has not backed down on what it has pledged regarding elections and we are ready to play our part in securing elections on the agreed date,” Haftar said in a written response.
“The rest of the parties breached their commitments and have not taken any steps to fulfil their role,” he added.

He said the House of Representatives failed to agree on a constitutional framework by mid-September as planned. The chamber eastern territory controlled by the LN is divided.

For weeks, the HOR postponed sessions with only few lawmakers showing up. Some complained about intimidation and violence — one deputy was recently shot in the leg.
“We have exceeded this date (September16) without any action and without any justification,” Haftar said.

HIS TITLE: FIELD MARSHAL

Previous attempts at peace deals were scuttled by divisions among rival groups and foreign backers.

Haftar enjoys the support of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates both keen on curbing Islamists. He remains popular with those tired of chaos but is seen by others as divisive, especially in western Libya.

Libya slid into lawlessness after the NATO-backed uprising in 2011 that overthrew Mummar Gaddafi.

Haftar launched a campaign in May 2014 in Benghazi that lasted three years, styling himself as a military leader capable of restoring order. He has the official title “field marshal”.

Critics say he wants to resurrect Gaddafi’s former police state, accusations he denies.

Haftar said the situation in Tripoli remained dangerous despite UN attempts to establish a truce between armed groups.

The LNA talked about expanding to Tripoli but this might entail him having to team up with other armed groups in western Libya.