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Eastern Libyan Commander declares war on Tripoli, UN expresses 'deep concern'

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Eastern Libyan army commander Khalifa Hifter on Thursday ordered his forces to take over Tripoli, the capital of the UN-backed government, amid reports of escalating political tension in Libya.

An audio message posted on LNA's Facebook page on Wednesday said that Haftar, who commands the Libyan National Army (LNA) from its eastern base of Benghazi, earlier took over Gharyan, a town 100 kilometres south of Tripoli, Al Jazeera reported.

In the audio, Haftar described his forces' move as a "victorious march" to "shake the lands under the feet of the unjust bunch."

"We are coming Tripoli, we are coming," he said.

In addition, Haftar also urged his forces to enter the city peacefully and only raise their weapons "in the face of those who seek injustice and prefer confrontation and fighting."

He also urged his forces not to open fire on any civilians or those who are unarmed.

"Those who lay down their weapons are safe, and those who raise the white banner are safe," he said.

The audio recording came during United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres's visit to the war-torn country, where he said he was "totally committed" to support a Libyan-led political process. Guterres's visit comes amid talks aimed at drawing a roadmap for new elections in Libya.

Tensions in the North African country escalated after Haftar's forces said that they had moved towards the western part of the country, prompting the Tripoli-based government to declare a military alert on Wednesday.

The LNA gave no details in its statement, however, reports say that the area appears to be the coastal road linking the eastern city of Benghazi, the LNA's main base, with Tripoli in western Libya.

Meanwhile, the UN has expressed "deep concern" over the military escalation in Libya.

"I am deeply concerned by the military movement taking place in Libya and the risk of confrontation. There is no military solution. Only intra-Libyan dialogue can solve Libyan problems. I call for calm and restraint as I prepare to meet the Libyan leaders in the country," Guterres tweeted.

Libya has been in turmoil since the NATO-backed removal of its long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The UN, in its statement regarding the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), further noted that a "solution to Libya's instability, civil conflict, and economic turmoil" can be found following a historic meeting between Prime Minister Faiez Serraj, and Commander Haftar, at the end of February.

The two leaders had agreed to national, democratic elections, and "ways to maintain stability in the country, and unify its institutions", according to the statement.

Ahead of meeting leading Government figures in Tripoli, the UN called for "calm and restraint", the statement added.

Meanwhile, the United States, France, Britain, Italy and the United Arab Emirates, in a joint statement issued on Thursday, called for an immediate de-escalation of tensions in Libya.

"Our governments oppose any military action in Libya and will hold accountable any Libyan faction that precipitates further civil conflict," Al Jazeera cited the statement as saying.

The governments also said that they were "deeply concerned" by fighting near Gharyan, and "urge all parties to immediately de-escalate tensions."

"At this sensitive moment in Libya's transition, military posturing and threats of unilateral action only risk propelling Libya back toward chaos," the statement said.

"We strongly believe that there is no military solution to the Libya conflict," the statement added.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, April 05 2019. 02:30 IST