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This image grab taken from a video published by the War Information Division of military strongman Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army on April 28 shows Haftar giving a speech. Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar on Monday declared a landmark United Nations-brokered agreement to unite the country “a thing of the past,” and pledged his authorities would move toward creating a new government.

“The political agreement destroyed the country,” he said. “We will work to create the conditions for building permanent civic institutions.”

Haftar, commander of Libya’s east-based forces laying siege to the capital of Tripoli, controls most of eastern and southern Libya. The administration in Tripoli rules just a corner of the country’s west. Both sides are supported by a network of fractious militias and foreign powers.

While Haftar has not yet dissolved any state institutions, such as the eastern-based House of Representatives, he said his armed forces “accept the people’s mandate to run the country.”

The US Embassy in Libya said it “regrets” Haftar’s unilateral proposal to alter Libya’s political structure and urged him to engage in “serious dialogue” about the country’s next steps.

Slogans against the rival Tripoli administration

In a speech last week, Haftar asked Libyans to hold demonstrations and give him a mandate to rule. Despite a curfew imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, crowds thronged the streets of Benghazi and chanted slogans against the rival Tripoli administration.

The UN set up the Tripoli-based government, known as the Government of National Accord, in 2015 following the emergence of two rival centres of government - one allied with Haftar in the eastern city of Tobruk and one in Tripoli.

The agreement, frequently condemned by Haftar and his supporters, bestows international legitimacy on a western government under the leadership of technocrat Fayez Sarraj. It also acknowledges the House of Representatives based in Tobruk as the country’s official legislature and grants consultative powers to the previous parliament based in Tripoli. Both bodies are largely powerless.

Meanwhile, Haftar has ratcheted up his military campaign to seize Tripoli. In his speech, Haftar said his forces would continue their offensive “until the end.”