Int’l community urges dialogue in Libya as Haftar’s forces advance on Tripoli

Al-Qunidi also revealed that Haftar has offered money and services to officers from Tripoli, promising them they will be granted senior positions after he occupies the city.

Libya has been torn by violence and political instability since long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011.

Mr Guterres, the USA and European nations have all called for calm.

Gen Haftar spoke to Mr Guterres in Benghazi on Friday, and reportedly told him that his operation would not stop until his troops had defeated "terrorism".

The UN Security Council scheduled an emergency closed-door meeting Friday afternoon at Britain's request to discuss the unfolding developments. "We urge all involved parties to immediately halt all military activity and movements toward Tripoli", the body, which is composed of the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the USA wrote in a statement.

Germany said that the G7 has agreed to exert pressure on those responsible for the escalation, and Haftar in particular.

As well as visiting Haftar in Benghazi, UN boss Guterres had been in Tripoli this week to help organise a national reconciliation conference planned for later this month.

After Gen Haftar's announcement, his forces moved towards the capital from several directions, one of his spokesmen said.

Pro-government forces from the coastal town of Zawiya battled them, retook the base and captured more than 100 of Haftar's men.

Haftar's self-proclaimed Libyan National Army launched the assault on Thursday as United Nations chief Antonio Guterres visited Tripoli ahead of a planned conference later this month to hammer out a roadmap for delayed parliamentary and presidential elections.

"These areas are on the southern outskirts of Tripoli, near the western gate of Tripoli ... and two major frontlines in the west of Libya", Abdelwahed said, adding clashes could erupt in each of the locations "at any time".

A Gharyan official told AFP that there were "ongoing efforts to avoid a confrontation" between rival fighters in the town.

The UN Security Council expressed concern on Friday about military activity near Libya's capital Tripoli, warning that it threatens the country's stability, and called on Haftar's LNA troops to halt all military movements. According to Reuters, various armed groups control numerous country's ports and beaches.

Analysts also believe Haftar wants to affirm his military clout after launching successful operations in the east and the south of the country - spurred by the fact that the worldwide community failed to react to those past offensives. He returned in 2011 after the uprising against Gaddafi began and became a rebel commander.

GNA Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj issued three directives ordering GNA Military Region Commanders to raise alert levels, re-centralize their units, and use force and airstrikes to defend civilians and critical facilities against "terrorists, criminals, and those outside the legitimacy".

"Capturing Tripoli... remains a possibility" for Haftar, with the support he receives from Saudi Arabia and its allies Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, he said.

  • Jon Douglas