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Libyan army calls on Islamists to disarm ahead of Benghazi showdown - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In this July 28, 2014 file photo, black smoke billows over the skyline as a fire at the oil depot at Tripoli airport rages out of control after being struck in the crossfire of warring militias battling for control of the airfield, in Tripoli, Libya. (AP Photo)

In this July 28, 2014 file photo, black smoke billows over the skyline as a fire at the oil depot at Tripoli airport rages out of control after being struck in the crossfire of warring militias battling for control of the airfield, in Tripoli, Libya. (AP Photo)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Libyan National Army, led by renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar, called on Libya’s militias to disarm, warning that the anti-Islamist militia force is “approaching the finish line” ahead of a renewed assault on the eastern city of Benghazi.

“We are approaching the finish line and before the storming [of Benghazi] we are calling on each Libyan carrying arms to give them up,” Libyan National Army spokesman Col. Mohammed Hijazi said in a statement on Tuesday.

The statement described the announcement as the “last call” before the storming of the eastern city, which is home to a number of Islamist militias.

Operation Dignity, launched earlier this year by Gen. Haftar against the Islamist central government, aims to avert the transformation of Benghazi into “an Islamic emirate governed by reactionary and lawless [forces],” the statement added.

Terrorist elements from across the world have gathered in the city, the spokesman maintained, in order to destroy the Libyan military.

Col. Hijazi issued his statement against the backdrop of a helicopter and armored vehicle, with observers interpreting this as a sign of military aid given to Haftar.

The Libyan National Army’s escalating statements regarding an imminent attack on Benghazi came one day after the UN envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, called on militias to cease fighting and work on a political settlement.

During a visit to Tobruk, Leon said the Libyan parliament was the “legitimate representative of the Libyan people,” calling on the Islamist-led government in Tripoli to put down its arms.

The Tobruk parliament on Tuesday unanimously passed a new counter-terrorism law. Parliamentary sources also told Asharq Al-Awsat the parliament had agreed to postpone the new vote over the Abdullah Al-Thani government until next week to allow further consultation with a view to ensuring the formation of a national reconciliation government.

Meanwhile, Aqeela Saleh, the speaker of parliament based in Tobruk, headed to Abu Dhabi on Tuesday to discuss ways to boost bilateral cooperation, parliament said in a statement.

Saleh was accompanied by several officials, including Prime Minister-designate Thani.