Tobruk, Asharq Al-Awsat—Libyan Speaker of Parliament Aqeela Saleh said that a new Minister of Defense is set to be appointed within the coming few days, but refused to divulge the name of the ministerial candidate that the Tobruk-based parliament is set to discuss.
The appointment of a Defense Minister would be an important step for Libya’s legitimate government against a rival government and parliament that remain present in Tripoli amid an ongoing offensive against Islamists in the east of the country. The difficult domestic situation in Libya has seen the government embrace renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar and his National Libyan Army which had been fighting against Islamist militias in Benghazi. Haftar’s forces continue to fight against Islamists in the east of the country, but this time with the backing of the central government.
In a broad-ranging interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Libyan Speaker of Parliament Aqeela Saleh confirmed that Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni had submitted a candidate to fill the post of Defense Minister, adding that “the [parliamentary] session to discuss this is expected to be held on Monday or Tuesday.”
“The name [to fill the post of Defense Minister] is still being discussed, and other names may be put forward in addition to this,” he added.
Commenting on the Libyan parliament’s decision to back Gen. Khalifa Haftar, he said: “Haftar’s group is made up of army officers and soldiers who are defending themselves. Everybody has the right to defend themselves. The operation that is being led by Gen. Haftar is one of self-defense.”
“In any case, all the parties involved in this conflict are under the orders of Libya’s Chief of Staff: . . .and that is Gen. Abdul Razzaq Al-Nasoori.
Saleh also strongly denied that any foreign forces are participating in the fight against Benghazi’s Islamists following reports that Egyptian or Emirati warplanes were supporting the Libyan army. “Talk about Egyptians or others intervening in military operations in Libya is completely untrue. We in Libya do not need this kind of assistance, whether we are talking about airplanes or whatever,” he said.”
“We are in the process of building a legitimate army, and we have every right to obtain arms from abroad, but talk about Egyptian or Emirate forces [inside Libya] is nothing more than sedition that aims to distort the image of our neighbors and brothers,” he added.