US does not condone or back Haftar in Libya

May 21, 2014 - 1:20:15 am
Armed men loyal to elite Libyan unit’s commander Colonel Wanis Abu Khamada patroling in the eastern city of Benghazi. Khamada said his troops were joining paramilitaries of the National Army in Benghazi, Libya’s second city, commanded by retired general Khalifa Haftar.

WASHINGTON: The US State Department said yesterday it does not support, condone or assist in recent actions by forces loyal to renegade Libyan general Khalifa Haftar, including the attack on Libya’s parliament.

“We have not had contact with him recently. We do not condone or support the actions on the ground, nor have we assisted with these actions,” department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily briefing. “We are continuing to call on all parties to refrain from violence and to seek resolution through peaceful means.”

Gunmen shelled Libya’s General National Congress on Sunday in an attack claimed by forces loyal to renegade general Khalifa Haftar, who said it was part of a campaign to purge the North African country of Islamists.  Washington is closely monitoring an upsurge of violence in Libya, but has not decided yet whether to order the closure of its embassy in Tripoli.

While Saudi Arabia on Monday closed its embassy in Tripoli and evacuated its diplomats, Psaki said: “We have made no decisions to move any of our personnel out of Libya.”

The United States has been closely watching events in Libya ever since the late ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans were killed in a 2012 militant attack on a US diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

The mission, which was badly damaged in a fire, was closed in the wake of the attack, and embassy staff in Tripoli were reduced to emergency levels.

New ambassador Deborah Jones arrived in Libya in mid-2013, but tweeted on Monday that she was “on family travel. Watching #Libya with heavy heart and praying enduring solutions emerge.”

“Compromise required (but #NoRoomForTerrorism),” she added in her Twitter message.

A State Department official confirmed that the ambassador had left before the weekend’s unrest and that the embassy was currently operating “normally” and was not on any authorised or ordered departure.

Jones, a veteran diplomat and former ambassador to Kuwait, vowed during her swearing-in last June to stand with Libya as it moves towards democracy.

“The Libyan people endured 42 years of rule by intimidation. They courageously defeated a dictator and are now determined to experience governance by representation,” she said.Agencies