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While Guterres tries to broker peace, conflict escalates in Libya

United Nations, April 6 (IANS) As Libya teetered on the brink of an all-out civil war, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres met rival leaders in an effort to broker peace, but left the country with a “deep concern and a heavy heart”, while a rebel offensive neared Tripoli.

Hoping to stop the fighting, Guterres went to Benghazi on Friday to meet Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the rebel Libyan National Army (LNA), whose forces were reported to be advancing on the capital.

According to a transcript released by his office, he told reporters as he left Benghazi: “I leave Libya with a deep concern and a heavy heart. I still hope it will be possible to avoid a bloody confrontation in and around Tripoli.”

On Thursday in Tripoli, Guterres met Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, High Council President Khaled Mishri and other leaders of the internationally recognised government the LNA is seeking to overthrow.

After those meetings, he told the media that he found a “a strong support to the National Conference”.

Cautioning against foreign intervention, he added: “It is not through foreign intervention that we are going to solve the problems of any country.”

According to some reports, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates were said to be backing Haftar.

On a trip to the Middle East, Guterres visited the war-torn country to promote the the UN-backed Libyan National Conference later this year to bring about reconciliation when he was caught up in the escalating conflict.

At the UN headquarters on Friday, the Security Council met for hastily convened consultations and issued a statement warning that it would hold “accountable those responsible for further conflict”.

The statement said that Council President Christoph Heusgen told reporters that it was adopted unanimously to call on the LNA “to halt all military movements” and “on all forces to de-escalate military activity”.

In the bloom of the Arab Spring that swept many leaders in the region from power, a civil war broke out in Libya in 2011.

Backed by the US under former President Barack Obama and by the NATO, the rebel forces took Tripoli and dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed.

Although elections were held the next year and a government was installed, chaos prevailed and conflict returned by 2014.

The internationally recognised government in Tripoli and the LNA led by Haftar have been in control of different parts of the oil-rich country.

Despite UN and other international attempts to bring peace, the fighting between the two sides has festered, escalating in recent days.

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

–IANS

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