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US says UAE bombed Libya Islamists UN envoy opposes foreign intervention

TRIPOLI, Aug 26, (Agencies): UAE warplanes secretly bombed Islamist militia targets in Libya, apparently catching Washington off guard, as turmoil in the North African country deepened with the Islamists naming a rival premier. US officials said on Monday that the United Arab Emirates jets launched two attacks in seven days on the Islamists in Tripoli using bases in Egypt. An Emirati official told AFP only that his country had “no reaction” to the report, while Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri on Tuesday denied any “direct” role by his country.

The air strikes signalled a step towards direct action by regional Arab states that previously have fought proxy wars in Libya, Syria and Iraq in a struggle for power and influence. The bombing raids were first reported by The New York Times, and Islamist forces in Libya had also charged that Egypt and the UAE — two of the region’s main anti- Islamist powers — were behind them. “The UAE carried out those strikes,” one US official told AFP on condition of anonymity. Asked about the account, a senior US official said “the report is accurate”. The United States did not take part or pro-vide any assistance in the bombing raids, said the two officials, who could not confirm that Egypt and the UAE had left Washington totally in the dark about the attacks.

The first strikes, on Monday last week, focused on militia targets in Tripoli, including a small weapons depot, according to the Times. A second round south of the city early Saturday targeted rocket launchers, military vehicles and a warehouse, it said. Those strikes may have been a bid to prevent the capture of the airport, but the Islamist militia forces eventually prevailed anyway.

The UAE — which has spent billions on US-made warplanes and advanced weaponry — provided the military aircraft, aerial refuelling planes and crews to bomb Libya, while Cairo offered access to its air bases, the Times said. Egypt’s Shoukri said: “We have no direct tie to any military operation in Libya.” However, he told journalists in Cairo: “We help the Libyan armed forces by supplying their requirements for training.”

Meanwhile, the newly appointed UN envoy to Libya said Tuesday he doesn’t believe foreign intervention can halt the North African country’s slide deeper into turmoil after mysterious airstrikes against Islamist militias prompted allegations that outside powers were trying to swing the fight. The diplomat, Bernardino Leon, said that only an inclusive political process with all Libyans represented in parliament, government and other state institutions will end the chaos gripping the country more than three years after the uprising that forced longtime strongman Muammar Gaddafi from power.

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