Libyan force attacking Tripoli gives militias 3-day deadline

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For months, the LNA and the militias have been locked in fierce clashes on Tripoli's southern outskirts, with the fighting mostly stalemated. (Screenshot)
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Libya's UN-recognized Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj (C) holds a cabinet meeting in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Dec. 19, 2019. (AFP/Tripoli. (AFP)
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Updated 21 December 2019

Libyan force attacking Tripoli gives militias 3-day deadline

  • Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) approved the implementation of a military deal with Turkey
  • Erdogan said on Dec. 10 that Ankara was ready to send troops to Libya to support the GNA

TRIPOLI: A Libyan force fighting to capture the country's capital from the U.N.-supported government based there on Friday gave the militias defending Tripoli a three-day deadline to pull out.

The self-styled Libyan National Army issued a statement demanding that the powerful Misrata militias, which are fighting on behalf of the government in the Libyan capital, withdraw from both Tripoli and the coastal city of Sirte.

The Misrata militias are named after the western Libyan town of Misrata, which saw some of the heaviest fighting during the 2011 uprising that led to the ouster and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Qaddafi. The militias played a key role in Qaddafi's ouster.

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For months, the LNA and the militias have been locked in fierce clashes on Tripoli's southern outskirts, with the fighting mostly stalemated.

Last week, LNA commander Khalifa Haftar declared the “zero hour” of the battle for Tripoli had begun, nearly eight months after he began his offensive to take the city. The announcement triggered a fresh bout of clashes around Tripoli.

Friday's LNA statement warned that if the militias do not withdraw, their town Misrata will continue to be targeted “every day, non stop and in an unprecedentedly intensive way.”

The warning came shortly after an LNA airstrike targeted sites where Turkish weapons and military equipment had been stored, said the statement. The Tripoli-based government led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj condemned the attack, saying it caused civilian casualties but without providing details.

Turkey and Qatar, as well as Italy, have been allied with Sarraj's government, while Haftar is backed by France, Russia and key Arab countries, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

The U.N. mission in Libya tweeted Friday that it regrets the recent escalation in fighting and all foreign interference, and urged Libyans to return to political dialogue.

Since Haftar's forces launched their offensive on Tripoli in April, both sides have exchanged accusations of deploying allied foreign forces in the ongoing civil war, which has seen Libya divided since 2015 between two governments, one based in the west, in Tripoli, and the other based in the east. Haftar is allied with the east-based government.

Haftar was particularly angered after Sarraj signed a maritime deal and security pact with Turkish President Recep Tayeb Erdogan last month. That pact also angered Egypt. Erdogan later said that Ankara could dispatch Turkish troops to assist the Tripoli-based government — if Sarraj's Cabinet asks for them.

Erdogan renewed his support of Sarraj's government on Friday by criticizing the alleged presence of Russian-backed fighters in Libya.

“It would not be right for us to remain a spectator in the face of this. We have done whatever we can until now and will continue to do so,” he told Turkish reporters at the end of a trip to Malaysia.

The Tripoli-based government has recently said that it had evidence Russia was deploying fighters through a private security contractor to back Haftar's forces in key battleground areas in the past months.

Moscow has repeatedly denied playing any role in Libya’s fighting.


It’s time to implement radical changes, says Algeria’s new president

Updated 18 min 46 sec ago

It’s time to implement radical changes, says Algeria’s new president

  • Tebboune: “We cannot reform, repair and restore that which was destroyed over a decade in two months”

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who succeeded longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika in December, asked in the face of his country’s insistent protest movement for time to implement “radical changes,” in an interview published on Thursday.

The interview with French daily Le Figaro was Tebboune’s first since his election in Dec. 12 polls that were rejected by the year-old “Hirak” protest movement that forced out Bouteflika and marked by a record 60-percent abstention rate.

“We cannot reform, repair and restore that which was destroyed over a decade in two months,” Tebboune told Le Figaro.

Tebboune has been slammed by protesters as representing the ruling elite they want removed, having served several times as minister and once briefly as prime minister during Bouteflika’s two-decade rule.

Tebboune, who after his election “extended a hand” to the Hirak movement to build a “new Algeria,” said he has prioritized “political reforms.”

“I am determined to go far in making radical changes to break with bad practices, clean up the political sphere and change the approach to governing.”

Revising the constitution is the “priority of priorities,” he said.

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The interview with French daily Le Figaro was Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s first since his election in Dec. 12 polls that were rejected by the year-old ‘Hirak’ protest movement that forced out Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

“The limits,” he added, are those elements “relating in particular to national identity and national unity. “Everything else is negotiable.”

“The second area of work will be that of the electoral law,” to give legitimacy to parliament, “which will have to play a larger role,” he said, underscoring the need to “separate money from politics.”

He said “things are starting to calm” in the streets and that “the Hirak got almost everything it wanted,” including the departure of Bouteflika last April and figures from the “old regime” as well as the arrests of officials and businessmen suspected of corruption.

Even as the unprecedented popular movement has thinned in numbers since December, protesters still turn out in droves every Friday, keeping up demands for a complete overhaul of the system in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962.

In his interview, Tebboune dismissed any notion that he — like his predecessors — was a president chosen by the army, a pillar of the regime.

“I feel indebted only to the people who elected me freely and openly. The army supported and accompanied the electoral process, but it never determined who would be president.”

Tebboune is, however, considered to have been close to the late General Ahmed Gaid Salah, powerful army chief for 15 years until his death on Dec. 23.

Gaid Salah wielded de facto power in Algeria between Bouteflika’s resignation in the face of mass street protests last April 2 and Tebboune’s succession.

“The army ... is not concerned with politics, investment or the economy,” Tebboune said, contradicting most observers who say the army’s top brass have influence in all those spheres.

The president said he also wants to reform the economy, which has been battered by the low price of oil — on which Algeria’s economy is dependent — and “unbridled imports, which generate overcharging, one of the sources of corruption.”