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Haftar to be named commander-in-chief “soon”: Libyan official
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General Khalifa Haftar speaks during a news conference at a sports club in Abyar, a small town to the east of Benghazi. on May 17, 2014. (Reuters/Esam Omran Al-Fetori)

General Khalifa Haftar speaks during a news conference at a sports club in Abyar, a small town to the east of Benghazi. on May 17, 2014. (Reuters/Esam Omran Al-Fetori)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Libya’s parliament on Tuesday took its first official steps towards naming Gen. Khalifa Haftar as commander-in-chief of the Libyan army.

Libyan parliamentary spokesman Faraj Bouhashem told Asharq Al-Awsat that MPs had voted on a proposal to issue a draft law establishing the post of commander-in-chief of the Libyan army.

“The issue was referred to the speaker of parliament to appoint somebody to this post,” he added.

Parliamentary Speaker Ageila Saleh is widely expected to name Haftar as the commander-in-chief of Libya’s military forces. Gen. Haftar would also be promoted to the rank of Field Marshall.

“The decision to appoint Haftar to this new position will be issued soon,” Bouhashem told Asharq Al-Awsat. However he denied that Haftar, who arrived at the Tobruk-based parliament on Tuesday, was there to take the official oath of office as commander-in-chief.

The decision to promote Haftar and appoint him as head of Libya’s armed forces would need to be approved by parliament.

Libya’s internationally recognized government and parliament in Tobruk allied with the military strongman last year to confront the rival Islamist-led government in Tripoli.

Haftar’s forces, the Libyan National Army, have been fighting Islamist militias in the northeastern port city of Benghazi as part of “Operation Dignity” since May 2014, although this military operation was subsequently expanded to target the Islamist-backed government and its allies, including the Islamist Libyan Dawn militia, in the capital Tripoli.

UN-brokered negotiations between the two rival governments have broken down after Libya’s Tobruk-based parliament withdrew from the talks earlier this week.

Bouhashem stressed that the legislative authority will not bow to Western pressure not to appoint Haftar as military commander of its forces.

“There is an implicit attempt by the US and UK governments to prevent the issuance of this decision and to exclude Haftar from the political and military arena in Libya,” he said.