Libyan PM denies airstrike rumours

“We unequivocally deny that the UAE and Egypt had any involvement in the strikes in Libya,” said Abdullah Al Thani. “It is tarnishing their image."

Libya’s prime minister, Abdullah Al Thani, speaks to the media at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Christopher Pike / The National
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ABU DHABI // The prime minister of Libya on Wednesday rebutted rumours that there was any engagement of the UAE and Egypt in military action taken in his country two weeks ago.

“We unequivocally deny that the UAE and Egypt had any involvement in the strikes in Libya,” said Abdullah Al Thani. “It is tarnishing their image.

“The Emirates’ involvement in the military strike is a falsification of the situation and this incident was abused by the Islamists. There were far greater crimes, such as theft and the destruction of homes, including my own.”

US officials claimed last month that the UAE and Egypt were behind air strikes on Islamist militia targets in Libya. They said UAE pilots had twice flown over Tripoli from Egyptian air bases.

Mr Al Thani said the “false events” were a misrepresentation of the positive role played by the UAE and Egypt.

“I am absolutely sure that Egypt and the UAE are not implicated in this and that there is no evidence,” he said. “Whoever has evidence should present it to us.”

Mr Al Thani was on an official visit to the UAE to meet Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. He was joined by his own delegation, headed by Ageela Saleh, the speaker of the house of representatives.

Mr Al Thani confirmed that seven Libyans had been arrested in the UAE shortly after the raid on Tripoli.

“Our embassy has undertaken all legal measures and I trust the UAE judiciary,” he said. “If they are guilty, they will be given due process. If they are innocent, we most definitely trust the UAE judiciary and the UAE Government, and we trust that they will be set free.

“Just as we do not compromise on our sovereignty, we do not allow our own citizens to infringe the sovereignty of any other country and it is an obligation to respect the sovereignty of other countries.”

Asked about the threat of Islamist extremists, Mr Al Thani said terrorism was a worldwide phenomenon that had to be fought.

“We ask the international community to support us in our fight against terrorism,” Mr Al Thani said. “That is the support we need.”

He said the strategy to get Libya out of its crisis involved militants laying down their weapons and leaving the capital.

“Tripoli will be freed in the coming days,” he said. “If they lay down their weapons and return to their homes, they will be pardoned. Libya will be freed by the hands of Libyans and the Libyan youth will liberate their country.”

Mr Al Thani said international military intervention in Libya was a topic of discussion with the country’s parliament and government. “The Libyan people will give their final word.”

He also confirmed that oil companies were completely under the control of the government.

“Rates of production have reached 750,000 barrels a day,” he said. “The situation is headed towards prosperity. I expect the rate to jump to one million barrels per day by next October.”

Sheikh Mohammed said the UAE looked forward to a unified Libya that occupied its natural position in the Arab world and its regional sphere.

He stressed the UAE’s support for all efforts aimed at backing the Libyan people to achieve peace and stability and wished for stability in Libya to be followed by reconstruction and development.