Libya’s Haftar Spurns Unity Deal, Blames Militias

The general rules out joining a unity government as long as militias continue to fight on its behalf.

Libyan general Khalifa Haftar speaks at a news conference in Amman, Jordan, August 24, 2015
Libyan general Khalifa Haftar speaks at a news conference in Amman, Jordan, August 24, 2015 (Reuters/Muhammad Hamed)

Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar on Friday ruled out joining a unity government until militias that fight on its behalf disband.

“I would like to stress that Mr Sarraj relies on militia and we refuse them,” he told reporters, referring to Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of a proposed government of national accord that has been accepted by most factions.

“An army cannot unify with militias so they must be dismantled,” Haftar added. “It’s unthinkable to work with these armed factions.”

Divided government

Haftar, who served in Muammar Gaddafi’s army before he fell out with the former dictator in the 1980s, leads the Libyan National Army, which nominally takes its orders from the internationally-recognized parliament in Tobruk.

The lawmakers based there fled Tripoli after their more Islamist predecessors were voted out in 2014 but refused to recognize the election result. They relented last month and joined Sarraj’s unity government. The parliament in Tobruk is still undecided with Haftar’s future role being the main sticking point.

Libya’s central bank, the National Oil Corporation and Western countries have all recognized Sarraj’s as the legitimate government.

Egypt and the United Arab Emirates continue to support Haftar against the Islamists.


Large parts of Libya have been ungoverned since Gaddafi was ousted and killed in 2011. During his reign, what little institutions Libya had were dismantled and power was concentrated in his inner circle. When Gaddafi fell, the country broke apart along regional and tribal lines. Law and order collapsed. Militias that were formed to fight Gaddafi have roamed free since.

Some, based around the city of Sirte on the Mediterranean coast, profess fealty to the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

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