U.N. council meets on Libya as Haftar's forces near Tripoli

Britain on Friday called for Libyan forces under Khalifa Haftar to pull back from their advance on Tripoli as the U.N. Security Council met behind closed doors to agree on a response to the military escalation.
Haftar, the commander of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army, launched an offensive on Thursday to take the capital, held by a U.N.-backed unity government and an array of militias.
"We are very clear today in calling for the LNA to withdraw to previously held positions and to cease military activity," British Deputy U.N. Ambassador Jonathan Allen told reporters ahead of the meeting.
"There is no military solution in Libya and we need to see everybody getting back into the political process."
Haftar has in the past enjoyed support from Russia, which is a permanent council member, and influential Arab countries such as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in his standoff with Tripoli authorities.
Armed clashes broke out Friday south of Tripoli between a pro-government alliance and forces loyal to Haftar, according to sources from both sides.
The press office of Haftar's force said there had been "violent fighting on the edge of Tripoli with armed militias."
Britain called the emergency meeting to discuss Haftar's move as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was in Libya to push for agreement on a political deal that would have paved the way to elections.
Guterres, who met with Haftar in Benghazi earlier, said he hoped that a "bloody confrontation" could be avoided.
French Ambassador Francois Delattre called on "all Libyan actors to work constructively with the U.N." and take part in a national conference planned for April 14-16 aimed at preparing elections.
"This conference should be an important milestone in the political process which is the only way out of the crisis," he said.
The council was to hear a briefing from U.N. envoy Ghassan Salame by video conference from Tripoli, and discuss a possible joint statement.
Libya descended into chaos following the 2011 overthrow of Moamer Kadhafi that has seen a bitter rivalry emerge between the Tripoli-based authorities and Haftar's supporters scrambling for control in the oil-rich country.

© 2019 AFP
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