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Saudi cleric tells Libya’s Haftar to ‘protect himself’

Renegade General Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army (LNA)
General Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army (LNA) [File photo]

Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, leader of the self-styled Libyan National Army, must preserve “Muslims and Salafists’ blood” and “protect himself”, a Saudi cleric has said.

In a leaked phone conversation Osama Ataya Al-Otaibi allegedly instructs Haftar: “There is an important thing; the flag you raise should be clear; you should focus on supporting the real Islam that is followed by our Salafist brothers.”

Al-Otaibi added how the aim of Haftar’s “Dignity Operation” against Islamist militants in the country is to restore the country’s prestige which has been spoiled by “the Muslim Brotherhood and the Khawarij”.

Haftar was urged to renounce “democracy” and focus only on supporting “the flag of Islam”.

Read: Libya’s mufti accuses Saudi Arabia of supporting Haftar

Al-Otaibi also gave Haftar what he called “three very important recommendations” in which he urged him to “bring some Salafists and clerics closer to him in order to provide him with Sharia advice”, and towards “pleasing Allah and keeping away from sins”.

Al-Otaibi, a Saudi Arabian cleric of Palestinian descent known for his strict rulings, last visited eastern Libya last year where he held several lectures and sermons at mosques.

As well as seeking advice from the Saudi cleric, the head of the Russian contact group on intra-Libyan settlement, Lev Dengov, has revealed that the military strongman previously asked Russia to build a military base in the east of Libya.

Speaking to Egyptian newspaper Youm7, Dengov said Haftar’s request had been received by the Ministry of Defence in Moscow but there had been no confirmation whether or not it had been approved or rejected.

“Russia is not interested in a military solution in Libya and is in support of the UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame because we care about the implementation of the Skhirat-signed agreement,” Dengov explained.

The Libyan Political Agreement was signed in 2015 in the Moroccan city of Skhirat in the hopes of unifying Libya’s warring factions but has yet failed to be accepted by all parties or implemented.

According to Dengov, Moscow supports the UN embargo on selling weapons to Libya and so selling weapons to figures like Haftar would also antagonise the situation in Libya.

Dengov also revealed how both Haftar and head of the Presidential Council, Fayez Al-Sarraj “requested more than once the resumption of the Gaddafi-era arms contracts with Russia.”

The Russian official’s statements have been the first confirmation of Haftar’s military request to Moscow following a series of denials by the Libyan leader’s forces and loyalists.

According to spokesman of Haftar’s forces, Ahmed Al-Mismari last week, “Haftar never requested such a military base from Russia”.

Read: Eastern Libya authority affirms Egypt military support

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