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British PM's Chief of Staff lobbied government to recognise rival Libyan administration

Fathi Bashagha, Prime Minister-designate by the eastern-based Libyan House of Representatives in Tobruk on May 17, 2022 [Abdullah Marei/Anadolu Agency]
Fathi Bashagha, Prime Minister-designate by the eastern-based Libyan House of Representatives in Tobruk on May 17, 2022 [Abdullah Marei/Anadolu Agency]

The Chief of Staff of the British Prime Minister's office worked closely with a controversial Libyan politician in an attempt to lobby London into backing Libya's rival government, a report has revealed.

According to the Sunday Times newspaper, UK Prime Minister Liz Truss's most senior official, Mark Fullbrook, facilitated unofficial meetings this June with senior British cabinet ministers for Fathi Bashagha, the Prime Minister of Libya's eastern rival government.

Working for Bashagha in the spring and early summer – before joining Truss's leadership campaign and then entering Downing Street in September – under his company, Fullbrook Strategies, he accompanied the Libyan figure on a visit to the UK Foreign Office during a trip to London, while acting as his PR adviser.

That was just one month after Bashagha launched an unsuccessful military storming of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, where the UN-backed and internationally-recognised Libyan government resides. He also has links to the Russian Wagner Group and the military strongman, Khalifa Haftar, all of which committed numerous war crimes and human rights violations during their offensive against the Tripoli government in 2019-2020.

At an unofficial appointment in Parliament during his visit to London and hosting by Fullbrook, Bashagha met Kwasi Kwarteng, the then-Business Secretary, and Nadhim Zahawi, the then-Education Secretary, as well as Stephen Hickey, a Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

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Fullbrook also lobbied Truss, who was then the Foreign Secretary, as well as Priti Patel, the then-Home Secretary.

Fullbrook reportedly told the ministers that, if the UK recognises the eastern rival Libyan government and backs it, his client Bashagha could grant access to Libyan oil fields and prevent the flow of migrants into Europe.

While Truss and Patel seemed not to have responded to those efforts, Zahawi and Kwarteng were apparently more favourable. The latter, in particular, has previously defended Haftar, having written a pamphlet calling for the UK to support the militia leader after visiting Libya, where he met Haftar together with Leo Docherty, now a Foreign Office Minister responsible for Europe.

The revelation that Fullbrook lobbied the now-Prime Minister Truss contradicts No. 10's previous statement to the Guardian newspaper that his company "did not lobby Liz Truss when she was Foreign Secretary". The attempts also directly go against Britain's stated foreign policy of not recognising "parallel governments" in Libya.

According to a Fullbrook spokesperson, who spoke to the Sunday Times, "These matters relate to Mr Fullbrook's engagements long before he was involved with any government role." The spokesperson insisted that the official and his company "have complied with all legal obligations and have conducted everything in an open and transparent manner. The government was fully aware of all of Fullbrook Strategies' and Mr Fullbrook's professional engagements before Mr Fullbrook was appointed as the PM's Chief of Ataff."

Following the findings, which primarily reveal the role and involvement of British officials in Libya's political divide, the UK's Labour party called Fullbrook's position as the No. 10 Chief of Staff "untenable".

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