Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—France has blocked an attempt by Britain to impose UN sanctions on Libya’s renegade general Khalifa Haftar, a high-level Libyan government source told Asharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday.
A minister in the Tobruk-based government led by Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thani, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said that “an invisible battle” had recently taken place between Paris and London over Haftar, after the British government attempted to add the general’s name to a list of individuals facing UN sanctions.
Haftar has been a staunch opponent of Libya’s Islamist militants, making significant gains in the eastern city of Benghazi since the launch of his campaign against them in May, known as “Operation Dignity.”
Earlier this week, a senior Libyan official told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Tobruk government was considering appointing Haftar as the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces.
“According to information we have received, Britain is pushing strongly to include Haftar in the sanctions list but France objected,” said the minister.
When asked whether the Libyan government has received official notification regarding the sanctions, the minister said: “The information we have is confirmed.”
In August, the UN Security Council expanded international sanctions to include members from almost all of Libya’s warring militias, particularly those accused of involvement in human rights violations and attacks on infrastructure, such as airports and seaports, as well as foreign embassies. The sanctions also targeted individuals and organizations that support armed militias, as well as criminal gangs with illegal access to the country’s oil resources.
Leaked reports circulated last month concerning attempts by the US administration to impose sanctions on Haftar, along with some Libyan militia leaders, sparked outrage among the general’s supporters.
The international disagreement over Haftar reflects an apparent clash of interests between US, France and Britain, the source maintained.
“The West is currently in trouble. The military gains Gen. Haftar is making against extremists on the ground in the city of Benghazi, in eastern Libya, make imposing sanctions on him or putting him on a list beside warlords unpalatable both publicly and officially,” the source added.
Britain’s Foreign Office declined to confirm that it was seeking sanctions against Haftar.
“The UK is currently involved in early consultations with UN Security Council Members on the possible names of individuals to be listed under [Security Council Resolution] 2174,” a spokesperson for the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office told Asharq Al-Awsat. “At this stage we are not able to confirm any names under discussion.”