Libya PM ‘ready for talks with rivals’

Speaking at the end of his visit to Sudan, prime minister Abdullah Al Thani said Khartoum will host a meeting of the neighbouring coutnries which will be the basis of the dialogue plan.

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KHARTOUM // Libya’s internationally recognised prime minister Abdullah Al Thani said on Wednesday he was ready to talk to his rivals if “all sides” made concessions.

This comes as at least 10 people were reportedly killed in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, when rockets struck residential districts as the army battled with Islamist militias.

At least 180 people have been killed since pro-government forces launched an offensive on Islamists in Benghazi two weeks ago –– part of the chaos gripping the major oil producer three years after the ousting of Muammar Qaddafi.

Speaking in Khartoum at the end of talks with Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir and senior officials, Mr Thani said, “We open the doors of dialogue with our brothers on the condition that there be concessions from all sides.”

He did not say what concessions needed to be made.

His government accused Khartoum of supporting “terror” groups in Libya last month after a planeload of weapons touched down in the southern town of Kufra, allegedly bound for militias in Tripoli.

Sudan denied the allegations.

Mr Thani played down the spat on Wednesday, and said “Khartoum will host a meeting of the neighbouring countries of Libya, which will be the basis of the dialogue plan”.

Mr Bashir said the Libyan delegation’s visit had restored relations “to their normal position”, adding that Sudan was “interested in bringing peace to Libya”.

He said Khartoum was training hundreds of Libyan military officers because of “the importance of building a strong Libyan national army”.

On Tuesday, foreign minister Ali Karti said Mr Thani had accepted Sudan’s proposal to bring together rival groups in Libya for talks on ending the fighting.

Since a Nato-backed 2011 uprising toppled Qaddafi, Libya’s central authorities have struggled to impose their authority across the vast, mostly desert nation.

Rebel groups who fought Qaddafi have largely refused to give up their weapons, and the government has failed to establish an effective regular army or police force.

During the uprising, Sudan supplied rebels fighting Qaddafi with weapons.

Heavy fighting erupted again in Benghazi on Wednesday, after the nascent army, backed by forces of former army general Khalifa Haftar, had made initial gains by expelling Islamists from the airport area and claiming the seizure of one of their strongholds in the port city. “Ten bodies were delivered to hospitals,” said a medic.

Benghazi, home to several oil firms, has been a battlefield since May when Gen Haftar declared war on Islamists such as the Ansar Al Sharia - blamed by Washington for a 2012 attack on the US consulate that killed the American ambassador.

Libya is divided between rival tribes and political factions, with two governments vying for legitimacy.

Mr Thani’s government moved to the eastern city of Tobruk in August for security reasons after mostly Islamist militias from the western city of Misrata seized the capital Tripoli and set up a rival administration there.

The interior ministry tightened security in Tobruk, where the elected parliament is operating, after a car bomb exploded in front of the security headquarters on Tuesday, wounding one person.

Tobruk, close to the Egyptian border, has been largely spared the violence gripping many other parts of the country.

The situation in Benghazi and other parts of Libya has been fluid as the army is unable to control militias which often have better arms.

Gen Haftar’s forces have planes from Libya’s outdated air force though his opponents say he is backed by Egypt, which is worried about the spread of militants. Gen Haftar denies this.

Most foreign embassies withdrew their staff in the summer when the Misrata-led forces expelled a rival group from Tripoli.

* Agence France-Presse and Reuters