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PM Sarraj: Libya Will Defeat ISIS with Its Own Forces

(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)

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Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj said in an interview with Reuters on Friday that unity government forces will be leading the campaign to defeat ISIS.

Sarraj said that the UN-backed Government of National Accord’s (GNA) army battling ISIS in Sirte currently consists of forces mainly from the western city of Misrata and the eastern city of Ajdabiya.

The Prime Minister stressed that no one would be excluded from a national army, not even the rogue General Khalifa Haftar, as long as they submitted to central political authority.

“We are sure that the battle and the eradication of Islamic State will be carried out by Libyans,” he said.

“I think that what was achieved from Ajdabiya to Sirte and from Misrata to Sirte was a good achievement, given the capabilities that the fighters have.”

This week GNA forces from the west and the east made significant gains against ISIS-in the west Libyan troops captured the Al-Gurdabiyah air base in Sirte and in the east its forces captured the towns of Ben Jawad and Nawfiliya, encircling Sirte from all axes.

Sarraj expressed his hope for a unified military, and said that he is not ruling out a place for Haftar in a future military structure.

“We’re not going to exclude anyone like Haftar, or any other person, as long as he obeys the political leadership,” he said.

Regarding the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) in the east – who have yet to complete their responsibility and hold a vote of confidence to endorse the unity government as outlined in the Libyan Political Agreement, which was signed in December 2015 – Sarraj stated that he was pushing the designated parliament to hold a meeting in another city.

“I’m trying to stress to them and convince them that they should hold a session in the near future – in any place – just to take their responsibility to make the right decision about many issues,” he said.

Furthermore, Sarraj asserted that his government would retain control over tackling the migrant crisis in Libya and said that he was opposed to allowing European Union vessels to destroy the boats of smugglers in Libyan waters.

“It upsets us that many people have lost their lives on the shores of Libya, shores that should be a place of prosperity, that should be full of life and not death,” he said.

In addition, in an interview published on Sunday by French Journal du Dimanche, Sarraj reiterated that his government would not be seeking international intervention.

“It is true that we need help from the international community in our war against terrorism and it is true that we have already received. But we are not talking about international intervention,” he said.

He also said that the intervention of ground troops is “contrary to our principles. That is why we want to avoid.”

“We need however satellite images, information, technical aids … No bombs,” he added.

His remarks come amid speculation that the United States and other western nations, including Britain, France and Italy had soldiers on the ground in Libya.

Last month, the US announced that it has employed two teams of US Special Operations Forces of about 25 troops to the cities of Misrata and Benghazi.

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