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Libyan rivals split over army leadership - Tripoli parliament head

Libyan factions involved in U.N.-brokered peace talks are still far apart on the issue of the leadership of a future national army, the head of one of two rival parliaments said on Monday (November 6).

Abdulrahman Swehli said delegations from both the Tripoli State Council that he leads and from a parliament based in eastern Libya were “almost there” on agreeing the structure and selection process for a new transitional government.

The aim is to form an administration to rule until elections expected late next year and help the country climb out of chaos.

But there was still disagreement over the military and the role of Khalifa Haftar, a commander whose forces dominate eastern Libya, Swehli told Reuters in an interview.

The United Nations is trying to revive a deal struck in late 2015 to end the conflict that spread after the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.

Control of the military and the role of Haftar has long been a sticking point. Haftar and his supporters have rejected an internationally recognised government that was set up in Tripoli in 2016.

The eastern parliament is aligned with Haftar, who has expanded his power with support from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, taking control of Benghazi after a three-year military campaign earlier this year.

Swehli said he considered Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) an “armed organisation outside the state,” accusing Haftar and his backers of seeking a return to authoritarian rule.

“I am speaking for myself, but also, the majority of Libyans will not accept the return of dictatorship or the militarisation of the country once again. We accept political participation of all, and giving the chance to all Libyans to let go of the past with all its advantages, disadvantages and crimes committed. We will not accept another dictatorship in Libya under any circumstances,” he said.

Haftar’s LNA has been battling Islamists and former anti-Gaddafi rebels in Benghazi and other parts of the east since 2014.

He is widely assumed to be seeking national power, and has repeatedly hinted at “liberating” the capital from militias which he says control an unelected government there.