A renegade former Libyan general has called the country’s new prime minister illegitimate and “a businessman, not a man of war” who is incapable of restoring stability.
In an interview with the Reuters news agency, Khalifa Haftar on Monday said he had no ambitions to replace Ahmed Maetig but called for the postponement of June parliamentary elections while the nation fought “terrorists”.
Haftar launched a campaign last week to rid Libya of what he called “terrorists”. Gunmen claiming loyalty to him attacked parliament in Tripoli a week ago to demand a power transfer, triggering the worst clashes in the capital for months.
Speaking to Reuters by phone from an undisclosed location in eastern Libya, Haftar rejected the idea of holding elections on June 25 as planned by the Libya’s parliament and election commission.
does not represent the people because the GNC which voted for him is illegitimate.”]
“We support elections but the timing needs to be right. The time is not appropriate while we fight terrorism,” he said on Monday.
He said his campaign would last at least three months but declined to discuss troop strength or which areas he controls.”There is for sure progress… it is not appropriate to tell you this,” Haftar said.
When asked whether he had any political ambitions to lead Libya one day, he said : “No, I just want to rid the country of terrorists, so that citizens can live unharmed.”
Haftar also dismissed Maetig as illegitimate, but did not rule out talking to him.
“We are open to talk to anyone who can defend the nation,” he said, but added: “He is a businessman, not a man of war.”
Voted into office with his cabinet with the help of a vote of confidence from Libya’s General National Congress on Sunday, Maetig has said he is ready to reach out to Haftar as he also wanted to focus on fighting terrorism.
But Haftar, who helped Muammar Gaddafi into power and then rebelled against him in the 1980s, said: “He does not represent the people because the General National Congress which voted for him is illegitimate. “
Several army units and senior officers have declared loyalty to his campaign.