Benghazi: The forces that control eastern Libya regard UN envoy Ghassan Salame as an enemy contributing to the North African nation’s violent crisis, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

The unusually strong criticism followed the UN Libya mission’s expression of “deep concern” about a deployment last week to southern Libya of troops from the Libyan National Army (LNA), which is led by Khalifa Haftar.

Libya has been in conflict and chaos since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with competing governments and armed groups vying for control.

“The fact is that Salame has turned into an opponent ... and has become part of the Libyan crisis,” LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari said, adding that the deployment to the main southern city of Sabha would boost security for populations and oilfields.

“Ghassan Salame should remember that this is a holy national duty and we will not leave Libya to be like Lebanon, a country of militias and multiple authorities,” he told reporters in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Salame is from Lebanon.

Mismari said the UN official was surrounded by “graduates” of Tora Bora, the Afghan mountain hideout once used by the late Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The UN mission did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Salame has been trying to persuade Haftar and the other major Libya players to hold national elections. Haftar is linked to a eastern parallel government opposing the internationally recognised administration based in Tripoli.

The United Nations has been endeavouring to stabilise Libya since 2011 but has no peacekeeping troops on the ground.