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UN chief denounces ‘unprecedented’ foreign interference in Libya


The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday that foreign interference in the Libya conflict has reached “unprecedented levels,” with sophisticated equipment and mercenaries involved in the fighting.

Guterres denounced the situation during a ministers-level UN Security Council video conference, expressing particular concern about the military forces massing around the city of Sirte, halfway between Tripoli in the west and Benghazi in the east.

“The conflict has entered a new phase with foreign interference reaching unprecedented levels, including in the delivery of sophisticated equipment and the number of mercenaries involved in the fighting,” he said.

Forces loyal to Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), “with significant external support, continued their advance eastward” and are 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of Sirte, Guterres said.

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GNA units had tried twice before to seize the city, he noted.

The unity government, with Turkey’s backing, is battling forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar, who has support from Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

“We are very concerned about the alarming military build-up around the city, and the high-level of direct foreign interference in the conflict in violation of the UN arms embargo, UN Security Council resolutions, and commitments made by member states in Berlin” in January, Guterres said.

He did not name any particular countries.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whose country holds the rotating Security Council presidency, slammed violations of the arms embargo in place for Libya since 2011.

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“While the entire world closed its borders, ships, planes and trucks with weapons and mercenaries continued to arrive in Libyan cities,” he said.

His counterpart from Niger, Kalla Ankourao, joined many others in echoing Guterres’ comments.

(With input from AP)

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