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Libya: U.S.-Russian Military Confrontation over Haftar’s Role | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Supporters of the eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar, who is fighting to seize back the oil ports. Photograph: Esam Al-Fetori/Reuters

Cairo – Military competition between the US and Russia reemerged on Saturday to win over Libyan renegade General Khalifa Haftar and benefit from his weight for building a new government in the country.

Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee, head of US Africa Command General Thomas Waldhauser said it was necessary that Haftar and the Libyan parliament play a “constructive role” in forming a national unity government.

In return, Oleg Krinitsyn, owner of private Russian firm RSB-group uncovered on Saturday the presence of Russian military contractors in eastern Libya as part of commercial arrangement.

Krinitsyn told Reuters that a force of several dozen armed private security contractors from Russia operated until last month in a part of Libya that is under the control of regional leader Khalifa Haftar.

His comments were the clearest sign that Moscow is publicly supporting Haftar.

Security sources in Russia asserted that such arrangement would not be feasible without Moscow’s permission. Although Krinitsyn said his firm did not work with the Russian defense ministry, he admitted his firm was “consulting” with the Russian foreign ministry.

Meanwhile, conflicting reports reemerged in Libya on Saturday concerning the fate of Seif al-Islam Qaddafi, the second son of Moammar Qaddafi.

In a surprising development, the Zintan Military Council, which had captured Qaddafi in 2011, said that Seif al-Islam was transferred from his existing place to another secure area under the supervision of a committee of Zintan militants and residents.

Last week, al-Ajami aL-Etairi, commander of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Brigade, which is detaining Seif al-Islam, confirmed that Seif was released in line with the general amnesty issued by the Tobruk-based House of Representatives.

Last year, Seif al-Islam has been sentenced to death by a court in Tripoli in a mass trial of former regime figures. However, the Zintan militia has refused to hand him over to Tripoli.