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Moscow faces challenge over alleged mercenary presence in Libya

LIBYA’S United Nations-recognised government says it plans to confront Moscow over what it says are Russian private military contractors fighting for the rebel Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar, which controls most of the country.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) says it has the names of 600-800 Russian mercenaries it wishes to raise with Russian authorities.

Russia has denied backing a side in the Libyan civil war, which is increasingly a proxy conflict for differing regional powers.

Libya’s parliament, which meets in LNA-controlled territory, has denounced a deal agreed by the GNA with Turkey that accords the latter an economic zone right across the Mediterranean — an agreement that has also provoked outrage from Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, which all hold that it affects their rights.

Turkey’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee approved the agreement yesterday. But at the same time, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said he was launching legal action at the International Court in The Hague against Turkey for exploratory gas drilling in Cypriot waters.

Turkish backing is a boost for the GNA, which is also supported by Qatar and Italy, whose ENI oil firm has concessions with the Tripoli regime.

Rome has accused France, whose oil company Total has agreements to exploit reserves in Haftar-controlled territory, of intervening militarily to support the rebels.

The US has alleged that Russia is supporting General Haftar, though President Donald Trump has also expressed support for the rebel general, praising him for “anti-terrorism” efforts when he launched his assault on Tripoli.

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