No quick end to Libya conflict after Haftar derides truce

Tripoli: Prospects for an imminent truce in oil-rich Libya dimmed after forces loyal to eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar scoffed at the United Nations-backed government’s announcement of a cease-fire as “media marketing.”

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Haftar’s Libyan National Army didn’t explicitly say, however, whether it would accept or reject the initiative announced Friday by the government in Tripoli.

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The LNA is ready to defend Sirte, a central city that’s the gateway to the OPEC member’s key oil assets, spokesman Ahmed Al Mismari said Sunday in a televised address. Intelligence received by Haftar’s forces suggests the Tripoli government still intends to “attack our forces in the regions of Sirte and Jufra,” he said.

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Friday’s ceasefire announcement by the government in Tripoli, and a reciprocal call from the head of the eastern-based parliament, followed UN-mediated talks seeking to end almost a decade of conflict in the North African nation.

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Libya holds Africa’s largest crude reserves, but its output and exports have dwindled amid fighting and a blockade of oil ports by Haftar supporters. The country pumped just 100,000 barrels a day in July, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, a fraction of the 1.6 million it produced before the 2011 uprising that ousted former leader Muammar Al Qaddafi.

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The LNA fell back to Sirte after a failed offensive to capture Tripoli, the capital and home to the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord. The two sides have been poised at Sirte for a potentially decisive battle for control of the nation.

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