Rebel general Khalifa Haftar’s forces were reported to be on the outskirts of Tripoli late on Friday and experts warned he could be a new Colonel Gaddafi. Britain joined G7 foreign ministers in condemning the military action. The group said fresh fighting was “harming innocent people” and urged the parties to “immediately halt all military activity”. The group said: “We firmly believe that there is no military solution to the Libyan conflict. We strongly oppose any military action in Libya. Any Libyan actor or faction that precipitates further civil conflict are harming innocent people and standing in the way of the peace that Libyans deserve.” Haftar is backed by the UAE and Egypt and has held talks in Saudi Arabia. He is also thought to have Russian support, but last night the Kremlin said it did not endorse the latest move.
The fighting has prompted fears of the worst escalation of violence since the 2011 civil war, which led to the toppling and death of long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi.
A meeting with UN secretary general Antonio Guterres on Friday failed to persuade Haftar to halt his advance, which has already claimed Tripoli Airport.
Last ditch appeals following a UN Security Council warning threatening military repercussion are also falling on deaf ears.
Libya expert Professor George Joffe of Cambridge University said last night: “We should certainly take Haftar seriously. Libya will become a dictatorship of the kind with which the Arab world has learned to live and it will work in the short term, though it might be brutal.
“But, as I warned two years ago, we’ll end up with another Gaddafi.”
Prof Joffe said Britain and France had not done enough to keep the peace after replacing Gaddafi.
He said: “Libyans are quite capable of creating a proper and functioning state if they’re given the structure in which they can do it.
“Gaddafi destroyed the state and both Britain and France, who were responsible for removing him, are not prepared to make the effort to re-establish the state. We just stepped out. And we are paying the price.”