Libya's Western-backed PM accuses Haftar of betrayal over Tripoli offensive
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Libya's Western-backed PM accuses Haftar of betrayal over Tripoli offensive

The head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) said in a televised speech on Saturday that Haftar had “stabbed us in the back" by launching "a coup." Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) said its forces had advanced into the capital's southern outskirts and taken its former international airport, prompting Sarraj to warn in a televised address of a "war without a winner." "We have extended our hands towards peace but after the aggression that has taken place on the part of forces belonging to Haftar... he will find nothing but strength and firmness," Sarraj said. Haftar's troops, which are backed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, have been slowed in their advance amid "intensive" airstrikes by forces backing the GNA. The airstrikes came as fresh fighting flared south of Tripoli despite warning from several European foreign ministers to Haftar not to countenance any further military action. Armed groups allied to Sarraj moved machinegun-mounted vehicles from Misrata towards the Libyan capital to defend the city.  Sarraj also called on the international community to stop attempts to militarize the oil-rich country, in a veiled rebuke of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. “And a last word to the countries that support Libyans fighting: fear God and stop interfering in our affairs. The tables will turn one day. God protect Libya," he said. A senior Libyan general said on Saturday that Haftar's forces were using Emirati and Egyptian weapons in their push to capture the capital. Saudi Arabia has also given Haftar the green light for the offensive and supplied him with money, he added.  “The three Arab countries support Haftar’s militias in order to create a new Sisi in Libya,” said Mohammad al-Qunidi, who is chief of the military intelligence loyal to Sarraj, referring to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. According to British daily The Guardian, Haftar met King Salman of Saudi Arabia on March 27 in Riyadh apparently to discuss his offensive plans.  The United Nations has voiced deep concerns about the escalating tensions. It plans to hold a conference later this month in the Libyan city of Ghadames to discuss a political solution to the conflict. Libya has been the scene of increasing violence since 2011, when former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled from power after an uprising and a NATO military intervention.  His ouster created a huge power vacuum, leading to chaos and the emergence of numerous militant outfits, including the Daesh terrorist group. The oil-rich country is now divided between two rival governments — the House of Representatives, based in the eastern city of Tobruk, and the government of Sarraj, or the Tripoli-based GNA. Apart from the three Arab countries backing Haftar, some European governments that once contributed to the NATO military operation to oust Gaddafi have also offered the Libyan strongman some diplomatic support. On Friday, Russia stressed that it had not assisted Haftar's forces in their latest push to take over Tripoli, calling for a political solution to the recent flare-up of tensions in Libya.

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