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U.S. calls for 'immediate halt' to fighting in Libya

By Darryl Coote
U.S. calls for 'immediate halt' to fighting in Libya
As rebel forces advance on Tripoli, the United States is calling for calm and dialogue to end the conflict between the government and the rebel Libyan National Army. Photo by EPA-EFE

April 8 (UPI) -- The United States urged an immediate halt to military conflict in Libya on Sunday as insurgent fighters advanced on Tripoli.

"We have made clear that we oppose the military offensive by Khalifa Haftar's forces and urge the immediate halt to these military operations against the Libyan capital," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. "Forces should return to status quo ante positions."

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In the statement, Pompeo called on all sides to come together and find a political solution as "there is no military solution to the Libya conflict."

"This unilateral military campaign against Tripoli is endangering civilians and undermining prospects for a better future for all Libyans," he said.

The U.N.-backed Libyan government said earlier Sunday that 21 people were killed and 27 others were wounded in fighting near the capital as the Libyan National Army, led by Gen. Haftar, 75, advanced eastward with aims of toppling Tripoli, BBC reported.

Government forces have fought insurgences as part of a conflict that began in 2014 as sides struggle for control over the country since the death of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

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Pompeo's call for dialogue comes as U.S. forces have pulled a contingent of its troops from the country in response to the increased unrest there, U.S. Africa Command said Sunday.

"The security realities on the ground in Libya are growing increasingly complex and unpredictable," said U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, who is chief of the U.S. Africa Command. "Even with an adjustment of the force, we will continue to remain agile in support of existing U.S. strategy."

The U.S. Africa Command provides military support to diplomatic missions in the area, counterterrorism activities and improving regional security and despite the relocation of troops, it is "committed to a secure and stable Libya," it said in a statement.

Last week, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited the battle-worn country and urged both sides to stay calm.

"I am deeply concerned by the military movement taking place in Libya and the risk of confrontation," Guterres tweeted. "There is no military solution. Only intra-Libyan dialogue can solve Libyan problems."

Pompeo echoed the U.N. chief's words in his statement Sunday: "The United States continues to press Libyan leaders, together with our international partners, to return to political negotiations mediated by U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ghassan Salame. A political solution is the only way to unify the country and provide a plan for security, stability and prosperity for all Libyans."

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