Libya's Haftar vows hand over of Brotherhood leaders to Egypt

Ahram Online , Friday 23 May 2014

Haftar, who praised El-Sisi's response to the 30 June protests which led to the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, said he would only run for Libya's presidency 'in response to the public will'

General Khalifa Haftar speaks during a news conference at a sports club in Abyar, a small town to the east of Benghazi May 21, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

Promising to exercise security cooperation with Egypt, Libya's General Khalifa Haftar asserted his country's right to build a strong army and support its neighbour's, the Russia Today news website reported on Thursday.

Haftar, who leads what he calls the "National Army" that began to use force against Libya's Islamist militants early last week, promised to hand over to Egypt leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood currently based in Libya.

The general praised the reaction of Egypt's ex-military chief and presidential candidate Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi towards the 30 June protests which led to the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Haftar lived in exile in the United States before returning home to lead ground forces in the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi's ousted regime.

"With forces from the navy, air force, air defence and, definitely, the ground forces, almost 70,000 soldiers have now joined our ranks," he asserted.

Haftar stated that the restructuring of the Libyan military and its provision with training and advanced weapons was underway, noting the importance of national reconciliation and the legal pursuit of those who "killed the Libyan people or stole their money."

Haftar said he aims to restore Libyan security and stability and "cleanse the country of jihadists and radicals."

"I may run for the presidency under one condition: in response to the public will," the general concluded.

The Egyptian foreign ministry on Monday announced its rejection of foreign intervention in Libya, calling on the neighbouring country's domestic parties to "end divisions and cease bloodshed."

The statement came after the Libyan army had initially decided to impose a no-fly zone last Saturday -- a direct challenge to Haftar after he'd relied on airpower to press a campaign against Islamist militants.

Backed by warplanes and helicopters, his paramilitary force pounded Islamist militiamen on Friday in fought pitched battles with the ex-rebels.

Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thani denounced Haftar's forces as "outlaws" and called on all parties to observe restraint.

However, Haftar vowed to continue his war against Islamists whom he blamed for attacks that have killed dozens of members of the security forces, judges and foreigners since the end of the uprising in October 2011.

Gunmen stormed parliament in southern Tripoli on Sunday, hot on the heels of an anti-Islamist offensive launched by Haftar in the eastern city of Benghazi.

After the attack on parliament, a colonel claiming to speak on behalf of the National Army declared that the General National Congress (GNC) had been suspended.

Cairo condemned "attempts from inside and outside" Libya to push Egypt into the conflict and regarded the situation as an internal Libyan matter.

The Egyptian-Libyan border is rife with arms smuggling and both countries have worked together in recent years to limit such activity.

Weapon smuggling out of Libya surged after its 2011 civil war that led to the ouster of long-time dictator Gaddafi.

With interim authorities failing to build a regular army and police forces, militias have imposed a stronghold over Libya, with large numbers of arms for export freed up.

Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour held a meeting Thursday with cabinet head Ibrahim Mahlab and other officials to discuss securing the country's borders with Libya, Al-Ahram's Arabic news website reported.

An operations team was formed to work on means to secure the country's western borders.

Attending the meeting were the ministers of defence, interior, foreign affairs, transport, media and the head of General Intelligence.

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