Foreign forces helping Libya to commit suicide, says UN envoy
Warning that the conflict in the oil-rich country could be a prelude to a long and bloody war
New York — UN envoy Ghassan Salame has bitterly denounced the conflict in Libya saying it is “committing suicide” and plundering its oil wealth to pay for the war.
The north African country was “a textbook example of foreign interference today in local conflicts”, Salame told a New York-based think tank on Wednesday.
Between “six and 10 countries (are) permanently interfering in Libya’s problem” funnelling arms, cash and military advice to the country, he warned.
But the Libyans do not need outside help to fuel the conflict, which has ravaged the country since dictator Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in 2011, he said.
“The truth is that Libya can pay for its own suicide,” Salame lamented. “I always considered my compatriots in Lebanon as stupid enough to commit suicide with somebody else’s money. The Libyans are even worse. They are committing suicide with their own money,” he told the International Peace Institute (IPI).
Lebanon was devastated by a civil war between 1975 and 1990, fuelled by regional rivalries. Salame stressed that Libya was a rich country, producing 1.2 million barrels of oil a day.
“This is big money,” the UN envoy said. “Plus there are mines of gold, platinum ... the country is very wealthy, so it (the conflict) can expand.”
He again urged the international community to “not only contain this conflict”. “We need to work in order to put an end to this conflict,” Salame said, regretting the lack of unity at the UN over the issue.
He was speaking a day after warning the UN security council that the ongoing battle for Tripoli launched by strongman Khalifa Haftar on April 4 was “just the start of a long and bloody war”.
More than 75,000 people have been driven from their homes in the latest fighting and 510 have been killed, according to the World Health Organisation. More than 2,400 have also been wounded, while 100,000 people are feared trapped by the clashes raging on the outskirts of Tripoli.
The war has pitted Haftar’s forces against those of the UN-recognised government based in Tripoli. The security council failed in April to agree on a draft resolution demanding a ceasefire in Libya and a return to political talks to end the conflict.