Libya needs united force to fight IS group: UN envoy

Reuters , Tuesday 31 May 2016

Libya conflict
Libyan pro-government forces walk next to their vehicle mounted with a machine gun on May 18, 2016 in Abu Grein, south of Libya's third city Misrata (Photo: AFP)

The United Nations special envoy to Libya said on Tuesday the country would not be able to defeat Islamic State militants unless the various military and militia strands joined forces against the group.

The December unity deal was meant to end the divide between rival governments in the capital Tripoli and the east who have vied for control over the country and its oil resources since 2014. The competing factions helped oust Muammar Gaddafi five years ago.

But in a sign of a possible new showdown, eastern and western factions have sent separate armoured columns towards Gaddafi's home town Sirte, now in the hands of fighters from Islamic State.

Speaking alongside side French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Martin Kobler, the envoy, said a united command structure was needed under control of Fayaz Seraj, the head of the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), which arrived in Tripoli in late March and is still trying to establish its authority.

"One point must be very clear. The fight against Daesh must first be a Libyan fight and a united fight," Kobler, said referring to the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

"Nobody acting alone will succeed that's why it's important that all security actors in the west and east unite their forces. There must be a joint command structure and joint army under the general command of the council (GNA)."

Ayrault, whose country has sent special forces to help certain groups fight Islamic State in the North African state, said the priority was to incorporate General Khalifa Haftar, who heads up troops in the east, with militias in the west.

Haftar on May 20 said it would be "unthinkable" for eastern Libyan forces to join the GNA until militias aligned to it had been disbanded.

"I encourage the government (GNA) to do everything to have contacts with the east and they re doing it," said Kobler, who added he would like to hold talks with Haftar. "But the east is refusing for the moment. It takes two to tango."

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