UN envoy opposes foreign intervention in Libya

CAIRO — The newly appointed UN envoy to Libya said Tuesday that he doesn’t believe foreign intervention can halt the North African country’s slide deeper into turmoil after mysterious airstrikes against Islamist militias prompted allegations that outside powers were trying to swing the fight.

The diplomat, Bernardino Leon, said that only an inclusive political process with all Libyans represented in parliament, government, and other state institutions will end the chaos gripping the country more than three years after the uprising that forced longtime strongman Moammar Khadafy from power.

‘‘Foreign intervention whatsoever — because there are many types of intervention — any kind of intervention or foreign intervention won’t help Libya get out of chaos,’’ Leon said.


France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States raised similar concerns, saying in a joint statement that ‘‘outside interference in Libya exacerbates current divisions and undermines Libya’s democratic transition.’’

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The New York Times, citing unnamed American officials, reported in its Tuesday edition that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates secretly carried out airstrikes against Islamist militias inside Libya, which it said caught American officials off-guard.

American officials have not made similar claims publicly. Egypt has repeatedly denied involvement. Emirati officials have not commented.

Islamist militias in Libya have made similar allegations against Egypt and the Emirates following two days of mystery airstrikes against Islamist-allied militia positions in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, since Aug. 18.

The strikes happened as Islamist-backed militias were fighting for control of Tripoli’s international airport. Libyan officials have repeatedly called the airstrikes ‘‘foreign,’’ and the country’s air force likely does not have the capability to fly night sorties.


Libyan lawmakers recently voted to ask the UN to intervene in the ongoing militia battles throughout the country. These militias largely are comprised of the rebels who toppled and later killed Khadafy in 2011.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri on Tuesday strongly denied reports of an Egyptian role in the airstrikes, calling them ‘‘unsubstantiated rumors promoted until they become a reality.’’

Shukri said his country respects Libya’s popular will and elected parliament, and supports its legitimacy and armed forces and will reach agreements on how to train them.

‘‘But we have no direct connection to any of the military operations on the ground in Libya,’’ Shukri said.

The Emirates and its Gulf neighbor Qatar played the most prominent Arab roles in the military intervention that helped lead to Khadafy’s ouster, with both sending warplanes to assist the NATO-led effort. They also provided humanitarian aid, and Qatar in particular played a major role as a supplier of weapons to rebel groups.


But the two countries — both important US allies — today find themselves in opposing camps jostling for influence in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings.

The Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi — who led the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi — are staunchly opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, which they see as a threat to their ruling systems. Morsi hails from the Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamic group.

Qatar is far more accommodating to the Brotherhood and its allies, including Islamist factions fighting for power in Libya.

It was a major backer of Morsi’s government and is home to the leader of Hamas, an Islamist group that Israel and the West consider to be a terrorist organization.

Libya needs ‘‘a lot of international support’’ to back ‘‘Libyans who want to fight chaos . . . through a political process.’’ Leon, the UN diplomat said.