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فايز السراج رئيس حكومة الوحدة الليبية اثناء اجتماع في طرابلس يوم 31 مارس اذار 2016. تصوير: اسماعيل زيتوني - رويترز

UN-backed Libya leader to meet Trump in Washington

UN-backed Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj has been invited to meet US President Donald Trump and his administration in Washington in June, a source has told The New Arab.

Libya’s Western-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj has received an invitation to meet US President Donald Trump and his administration at the White House in June, a senior Libyan government source told The New Arab.

The head of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli may also meet with rival military strongman Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who commands the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army loyal to the eastern-based parliament, the source added.

The invitation comes days after Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni met Trump at the White House to find a dealth that could help end six years of war in Libya.

“Now is the moment for the US and Italy to work together to stabilise the situation [in Libya] and broaden the support for the Tripoli government to other actors,” Gentiloni said on Thursday before his meeting with Trump.

“The division of Libya is not a good idea. It would be dangerous for Egypt, dangerous for Tunisia and for the interests of Europe,” he told the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

He added that NATO countries – including the US – have a special responsibility to Libya, due to the military bloc’s 2011 military intervention against Muammar Gadaffi as the longtime dictator violently put down protests in the east.

Gadaffi was overthrown and killed in the same year, but his downfall led to war between rival parties which has continued to this day.

“It was evidently an intervention that lacked a vision or perspective for the future,” Gentiloni said.

During a news conference that followed the two leaders’ meeting, Gentiloni said the US had a “critical” role in Libya, which Trump immediately denied.

“I do not see a role in Libya. I think the United States has right now enough roles,” Trump responded.

Washington has not yet confirmed extending an invitation to the Libyan leader.

‘Urgent intervention’

The GNA born out of a UN-brokered deal signed in late 2015, but has struggled to assert its authority nationwide since taking office in Tripoli in March last year. Rival militias and authorities have continued to fight for control of the oil-rich country.

Last week, Sarraj called for an “urgent intervention” from the international community “to end the deterioration of the situation in south Libya”, in an open letter addressed to bodies including the European Union, the United Nations and the Arab League.

He did not specify the nature of what form such intervention could take.

“We ask you to take a firm and decisive stance with regards to this escalation and we will support all decisions to re-establish security and stability in Libya,” he said in the letter.

Clashes erupted earlier this month after LNA battled to seize the Tamenhant air base from militias backing the GNA.

“This sudden and unjustified escalation… puts the country on the brink of civil war”, Sarraj said at the time.

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