TRIPOLI (AFP) - Khalifa Haftar, the renegade Libyan general who has launched an assault against Islamists in Benghazi, called on Wednesday for a civilian “presidential council” to be formed.
Claiming to speak in the name of the army, the general urged the country’s highest judicial authority “to form a civilian presidential high council tasked with forming an emergency cabinet and organising legislative elections.”
Gen Haftar, who was once one of slain dictator Muammar’s Gaddafi top generals before falling from grace and going into US exile, was reading a statement broadcast on several Libyan networks.
He returned to support the rebellion in 2011 but has this year emerged as the most serious challenge to the post-Kadhafi authorities born of the rebellion.
“Libya has become a hub for terrorists who control power,” said Gen Haftar, who has been branded an outlaw by the authorities after launching an assault in Benghazi on Friday in which at least 79 people were killed.
Speaking from the eastern town of Al Abyar, he said the presidential council he envisions would hand over power to an elected parliament.
He said the self-proclaimed high council of the armed forces would “remain in charge of security during that transition period” and beyond.
Gen Haftar has won widening support for his campaign to rid Libya of jihadists.
His supporters include an elite special forces unit of the regular army in Benghazi, who have suffered mounting losses in suspected jihadist attacks in the eastern city where Islamists are well entrenched.
Libya’s Culture Minister Habib Lamin threw his weight behind Haftar’s campaign.
“I support this operation against terrorist groups. The (Islamist-dominated) General National Council which is protecting terrorists no longers represents me,” the minister told AFP.