The UN envoy for Libya has made his strongest attack yet on the military strongman Khalifa Haftar as his forces intensify their assault on the capital, Tripoli.
In comments in Paris, where the French president, Emmanuel Macron, is seen as Europe’s biggest supporter of Gen Haftar’s attempt to control Libya after eight years of chaos that followed the toppling of Muammar Gadafy, Ghassan Salamé said Gen Haftar was no democrat and had little support in Tripoli.
In an unusually forceful judgment for a UN mediator, Mr Salamé said: “He is no Abraham Lincoln, he is no big democrat … Seeing him act, we can be worried about his methods because where he is governing, he doesn’t govern softly, but with an iron fist.”
In the meantime, fierce fighting for control of Libya’s capital that has already displaced tens of thousands of people threatens to bring a further worsening of humanitarian conditions, a senior UN official has warned.
“As long as the situation continues, even if it just stagnates and continues like this, we can expect to see a continuing deterioration,” UN humanitarian coordinator for Libya Maria do Valle Ribeiro told AFP.
“When we see the use of air power, the indiscriminate shelling of densely populated areas, it is very difficult to be optimistic,” do Valle Ribeiro, who is also the deputy UN envoy to Libya, said late Sunday.
She was speaking after air raids by the LNA on Tripoli on Saturday killed four people and wounded 20 others, according to the GNA.
“We continue to call for a respect of civilians, we continue to call for humanitarian pauses and most of all we continue to hope that the situation can return to a more peaceful settlement of the crisis,” she said.
Meanwhile, mercenaries affiliated to a security company operating in Iraq and the UAE travelled secretly from Iraq to Libya to fight alongside the troops of General Khalifa Haftar, according to electronic newspaper Arabi21.
Weeks ago, Haftar launched a military campaign against the internationally recognised government in the city of Tripoli.
Sources told Arabi21 that the Frontier Services Group security company run by Erik Prince, who previously ran the Blackwater security company, had recently sent fighters from Iraq’s Kurdish region to Libya to fight alongside Haftar, following a secret deal.