BENGHAZI, Libya: The U.N. secretary-general appealed on Thursday for restraint from rival factions in Libya as forces from the east of the country moved to within 100 km (60 miles) of the capital Tripoli.
Forces loyal to eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar have moved forces towards western Libya in a possible mission to "liberate the homeland from "terrorism", officials said on Wednesday, suggesting Tripoli was a desirable destination.
Ahmed Mismari, a spokesman for the Libyan National Army (LNA) force controlling eastern Libya, did not say directly whether his force would move on Tripoli in western Libya controlled by the government opposing a parallel administration in the east.
But he said the LNA was gathering forces for a possible mission "to liberate the homeland from terrorism." "We expect the women of Tripoli to welcome the Libyan army like the women of Benghazi and Derna did," he said, referring to two eastern cities which the LNA took by force.
He also called on young people in Tripoli to focus on the battle between LNA and Daesh, in another hint that military action might be looming.
A video released by the LNA media office showed a convoy of armoured vehicles and pickup trucks mounted with heavy guns on the road.
"In fulfilment of his (Haftar) orders, several military units moved to the western region to purge the remaining terrorist groups located in their last hideouts," the LNA said in a statement with the video.
It gave no details but the area appears to be the coastal road linking the eastern city of Benghazi, the LNA main base, with Tripoli.
A resident in Ras Lanuf, an oil town located on the coastal road, said tanks and military convoys were seen heading westwards in the direction of Sirte.
Sirte is in central Libya controlled by a force from the western city of Mistrata allied to the Tripoli administration.
In January, the LNA, which is loyal to Haftar, started a campaign to take control of the south and its oilfields.
The United Nations is holding a conference this month in the southwestern city of Ghadames to discuss a political so-lution to prepare the country for elections and to avoid a military showdown.
The renewed confrontation was a setback for the United Nations and Western countries which have been trying to mediate between Serraj and Haftar, who met in Abu Dhabi last month to discuss a power-sharing deal.
A national conference is set to follow this month to agree on a road map for elections.
Libya is an oil producer and a hub for refugees and migrants trekking across the Sahara in the hope of reaching Europe.