Libya’s UN-backed govt accuses France of supporting Haftar, ends cooperation
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Libya's internationally recognised government accused France Thursday of supporting rebel commander Khalifa Haftar and said it would halt cooperation with Paris. France denied the accusations and reaffirmed its support for the government in Tripoli.
"Any dealings with the French side in bilateral security agreements" will halt, the interior ministry in Tripoli said in a statement.
Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha directed the head of the international relations and cooperation committee under the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) to cease all its bilateral activities and agreements (including security cooperation) due to France’s “relentless backing” of Haftar, tweeted London-based counter-terrorism expert Emad Badi.
France, however, denied the allegation and said it supported the Libyan government in Tripoli.
"As we have already stated on several occasions: France supports the legitimate government of Prime Minister (Fayez al-)Sarraj and the mediation of the UN for an inclusive political solution in Libya," a French presidential official said.
"Furthermore, the president's legitimate interlocutor is Prime Minister Sarraj, with whom the president spoke on Monday to reaffirm this support."
Haftar has ignored international calls for a halt to his advance on Tripoli, launched while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was visiting Tripoli on April 4 in a bid to jumpstart a peace process between rival Libyan camps.
#GNA's Minister of Interior Bashagha demands that the head of the international relations & cooperation committee cease all its bilateral activities and agreements with #France (including in security cooperation) due to #Paris' relentless backing of #Haftar. #Libya pic.twitter.com/MneJ5EfAldEmad Badi (@emad_badi) April 18, 2019
Arrest warrant for Haftar
The GNA on Thursday issued an arrest warrant for Haftar for allegedly ordering deadly air strikes against civilian areas.
Six of Haftar's officers were also named in the warrant issued by the military prosecutor general, which was published by the unity government's press office.
A spokesman for the GNA said it was seeking an international arrest warrant against Haftar for "war crimes" and two UN experts were expected in Tripoli later on Thursday to investigate the origin of rocket fire that killed six people the previous day.
GNA’s military prosecutor issues arrest warrant against renegade General Khalifa Haftar and 6 other LNA officials following the bombing of residential areas in tripoli with heavy artillery https://t.co/LsiJaMIT3dGhaith Shennib (@GhaithShennib) April 18, 2019
Mortars crash down on Tripoli suburb
The arrest warrant came as fighting intensified in the southwestern Tripoli suburb of Al-Suani with heavy shelling and mortar fire.
Mortars crashed down on Al-Suani on Thursday, almost hitting a clinic and adding to people's suffering after two weeks of an offensive by Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA).
The shelling came a day after seven people were killed when Grad rockets hit a densely populated district of Tripoli, which the LNA has been trying to take, deepening the chaos that has plagued the oil-producing nation since 2011.
Haftar’s Benghazi-based LNA has become bogged down in the southern suburbs of the capital.
The fighting has killed 205 people, including 18 civilians, and wounded 913 since the start of the campaign, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.
Toll for armed conflict in #Tripoli is 205 dead and 913 wounded. Medical specialists that WHO #Libya deployed to support frontline hospitals are helping perform dozens of surgeries. pic.twitter.com/94zXHzsQq1World Health Organization in Libya (@WHOLIBYA) April 17, 2019
Locals blamed Haftar's forces for the shelling, saying the rockets had been fired from the direction of his positions south of the capital.
"We say to the United Nations and the Security Council: listen. Listen to the bombing... Rockets are coming down on us. For this reason, please find a solution for us," said Youssef Salem, a displaced man from al-Suani.
The LNA has denied shelling residential areas.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)