Libyan factions taking part in UN-backed talks are split over the future role of controversial general Khalifa Haftar, the head of the Tripoli-based parliament has said.
Abdulrahman Swehli told Reuters on Monday that delegations from the two rival parliaments were close to agreeing on a new transitional government but that Haftar’s place in it has been a major sticking point.
“We are facing this curse which is yearning for the rule of a strongman. Haftar is trying to re-live [Former dictator Muammar] Gaddafi… This is what we revolted against in 2011,” Swehli said.
“The obstacle now is mostly about the military and how it will be run and who will be in control.
“Our position is that we need a united, professional military solution, we need a Libyan army… under civilian control. We should not concentrate on personalities of who wants to lead that army,” he added.
The UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli since March 2016, has struggled to impose its authority across the country, particularly in the far east, dominated by Haftar who supports a rival parliament.
Libyan General Suleiman al-Obeidi told The New Arab that Haftar’s power has recently declined after losing support from tribal forces during a campaign against extremist groups in the city of Derna.
“Haftar’s militias are weak and do not have a clear national goal. He only has several officers and the rest are mercenaries from the Sudanese Justice and Equality Movement,” Obeidi said.
“Haftar’s military power is diminishing,” he added.
The UN-backed talks aim to form an administration to rule until elections take place late next year.
Years of political turmoil since the 2011 overthrow of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi have left Libya divided between rival governments and beset by violence as militia forces battle for power.
Representatives of the rival Libyan authorities have already held two rounds of talks in Tunisia aimed at amending a UN-backed political agreement struck in 2015.
The deal had led to the creation of the GNA, a unity government headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.
During the first round of talks in September, rival Libyan politicians had agreed to set up a three-member Presidency Council and a new government.
Disagreement centres on an article of the 2015 deal which gives the GNA the power to name the head of the armed forces.