The Libyan National Army (LNA) is “not a trader,” head of the eastern military Khalifa Haftar told Bloomberg in response to skeptics of his insistence to take over Tripoli, denying that oil is his ultimate objective.
He said the army did not sell oil either legally or illegally during the period it was securing the oil facilities, pledging to continue protecting them as oil is the first source of income for Libyans.
Haftar added that the National Oil Corporation (NOC) in Tripoli has the full right to export crude oil and to the operation of the sector, which is fully supported by the LNA through the maintenance of facilities.
The army will counter any attempt to use oil imports in supporting terrorism and armed groups fighting against the eastern forces, the commander of the LNA told Bloomberg.
In contrast to expectations, the latest reports show a 24-percent increase of oil sale during May to hit $2.3 billion on a month-on-month basis despite the campaign on Tripoli since April 4.
Haftar revealed his readiness for any political initiative to solve the crisis in Libya as long as the head of U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, Faiez al-Sarraj, is not part of it.
“[Sarraj] can’t make his own decisions and says nothing that’s not dictated to him. It’s not worth the trouble of paying attention to Sarraj or answering him because our time is valuable,” Haftar said.
Commenting on Sarraj’s government announcing finding U.S. missiles in Gharyan, Haftar said “we don’t have any American weapons or have any weapons deal with America,” he said. “All the world knows that America is among the nations active in enforcing the arms embargo on us.”
He also clarified that any country that imported U.S. weapons wouldn’t transfer them to Libya because of the repercussions.
There were recent claims that the United Arab Emirates provided Haftar with the U.S. arms, but UAE denied.
On withdrawing from Gharyan, 50 miles south of Tripoli, Haftar said it had been factored into the broader military plan, although Sarraj’s government consider withdrawal a victory.
Haftar said the Tripoli campaign had proceeded slowly because it required “tremendous caution to ensure the welfare of innocent citizens, first, and to avoid destroying facilities and installations.” He also noted that he could have ended the operations in less than 24 hours if he hadn’t taken those concerns into account.