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Libyan Minister: “Hopes greatly heightened” by Biden victory | U.S. Election News 2020

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The powerful interior minister of the United Nations-recognized Libyan government, seen as a candidate for prime minister, expressed hope that the stability of his war-torn country would become a top priority for the new Biden administration .

He also announced an upcoming major offensive by Turkey-backed Libyan government forces in the west of the country to tackle armed groups and human smugglers, and called on the United States to help.

“Our hopes have been greatly increased” by Joe Biden’s election victory in the United States, Fathi Bashagha told The Associated Press earlier this week. “We hope that the new administration will play a major role in the stability and reconciliation of Libya.”

Bashagha, a former Air Force pilot and businessman, said he would be ready to take on the role of prime minister in a yet-to-be formed unity government that could follow peace negotiations between the warring parts of Libya.

Oil-rich Libya was plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi and divided the country between the UN-backed government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east.

Each camp is supported by a range of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers.

Since last year, the two sides have held UN-led talks to appoint an interim government ahead of elections later in 2021, but have so far failed to agree on a voting mechanism. to do it. Bashagha’s name was thrown as a candidate for prime minister, talks watchers say.

In October, the warring parties agreed to a ceasefire, which raised hopes for a peaceful resolution, and said foreign fighters would leave Libya.

Bashagha, speaking from Tripoli, said the withdrawal of foreign forces would be gradual. Rival authorities based in the east were reinforced by Russian mercenaries.

Meanwhile, Turkey has sent its own troops, Syrian mercenaries and drones to bolster the Tripoli-based government. Russia and Turkey are considering contracts worth billions of dollars.

The interior minister said he told Russia Libya was ready to talk business if the mercenaries left.

Bashagha also praised the United States’ efforts to help defeat ISIS fighters (ISIS) in the coastal city of Sirte in 2016. In 2019, the United States said its airstrikes in southern Libya had killed dozens of members of the local ISIL branch. Bashagha said cooperation with the United States continues.

But he warned that the armed groups had regained a foothold in an attempt by renegade east-based Libyan military commander Khalifa Hifter to capture Tripoli. Haftar’s forces have also targeted ISIL fighters in their strongholds and last year said they killed ISIL’s top figure in Libya.

Bashagha said he hoped the United States would support the upcoming operation in the west. Turkey has already pledged its support, he said. “We hope that the United States will help us… to end the terrorist elements that have infiltrated Libya.”

Patchwork of militias

The Trump administration’s stance on Libya has at times been confusing. The US State Department condemned Haftar’s push on Tripoli, but President Trump also telephoned the renegade commander, praising him for his “fight against terrorism.” The administration has subsequently spoken out on several occasions against Russian mercenaries employed by Haftar, which is also supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Since becoming Minister of the Interior in 2018, Bashagha has positioned himself as one of the most powerful figures in western Libya. He cultivated ties with Turkey, France and the United States, but also with Egypt and Russia – his nominal rivals in the conflict. Last month in Tripoli, it hosted a foreign ministry and a high-level Egyptian intelligence delegation.

But his ministry has also struggled to control the patchwork of militias that dominate Tripoli and western Libya. Bashagha said he plans to tackle the problem by identifying which militias should be disarmed and which could be assimilated into the security apparatus. But he said he had encountered problems in implementing the plan, alleging that some armed groups are allied with other officials in Tripoli and control certain institutions, such as the intelligence apparatus.

Libya has been plagued by corruption under Gaddafi and in the tumultuous years following his expulsion. “The problem is that some of the parties, state institutions provide support to these militias,” Bashagha said.

The UN-backed government remains heavily dependent on militias to fight its rivals in the east. But militias are not easily controlled, and although they, with Turkish backing, repelled Haftar’s year-long offensive in Tripoli, some have also been responsible for kidnappings, internal fighting and casualties. civilians.

For its part, the government in Tripoli has been criticized for its handling of the thousands of migrants passing through Libya, trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

A 2019 PA investigation found that militias in western Libya torture, extort and otherwise abuse migrants for ransom in detention centers, often under the noses of the UN and in complexes that receive millions of European money. Conditions for migrants remain dangerous in Tripoli, according to rights groups and the UN.

Bashagha said he had closed the illegal shelters and worked with the UN to monitor conditions in others, but more funds were needed to maintain them. He also referred to the October arrest of Abd al-Rahman al-Milad, one of the country’s most wanted human traffickers, two years after the UN imposed sanctions on him.

He said his new operation in the west of the country would also target migrant smugglers and could help address the root of the problem.

“The security and stability of Libya is important to Europe and the United States,” Bashagha said.


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