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LIBYA

Libya denounces French role in Haftar offensive

Khalifa Haftar
Khalifa Haftar REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the internationally-recognised government in Tripoli, denounced France on Wednesday for supporting rival Khalifa Haftar.

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Speaking to French daily newspaper Libération, Sarraj denounced Paris for backing a "dictator," in his harshest criticism yet of French diplomacy.

France has long been suspected of supporting Haftar, a former army field marshal based in eastern Libya who heads the self-styled Libyan National Army and who has gradually expanded his territory.

On 4 April, Haftar launched a drive towards Tripoli where Sarraj's UN-recognised government is based, triggering fighting that has claimed 264 lives and left more than 1,200 wounded.

"We are surprised that France does not support our government that is democratic, but supports a dictator," Sarraj told Libération.

"When Emmanuel Macron called me, I warned him that public opinion was against France. We don't want Libyans to hate France. France still has a positive and important role to play," he said.

In a separate interview with the Le Monde newspaper on Monday, Sarraj said France was partly to blame for Haftar's offensive on Tripoli.

France publicly denies supporting Haftar. It says it has contact with all the actors in Libya where a complex mosaic of militias and political factions are competing for advantage.

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