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Published: Sunday June 22, 2014 MYT 7:00:02 PM
Updated: Sunday June 22, 2014 MYT 7:01:24 PM

Renegade general urges Turks, Qataris to leave east Libya

BENGHAZI Libya (Reuters) - A Libyan renegade general has called on all Turks and Qataris to leave volatile eastern Libya, accusing the two countries of supporting "terrorism", his spokesman said on Sunday.

Retired General Khalifa Haftar has declared war on Islamist militants in eastern Libya, part of growing turmoil in the oil producer where the government is unable to control armed groups which helped oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but now defy state authority.

The Tripoli government says Haftar has no authority to act but its orders are routinely ignored in much of the oil-producing country, especially in the east where Islamists, tribes and militias vie for control.

"All citizens of Turkey and Qatar should leave Libya within 48 hours. The deadline started last night," Haftar's spokesman, Mohamed El Hejazi, said.

"They should leave the part of Libya from Imsaid (at the Egyptian border) to Sirte (in central Libya) and we are not responsible for these two nationalities on the Libyan land."

A Turkish embassy official declined to comment. Turkey moved staff of its Benghazi consulate to Tripoli this month. Qatar's mission could not be immediately reached for comment.

Turkey and Qatar both have supported the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement which has been declared a "terrorist" organization by Egypt and Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia.

There has been speculation among analysts that Haftar has the support of neighbouring Egypt and of Gulf states such as the United Arab Emirates, which like the West are worried about Islamist militants exploiting the chaos in Libya.

Haftar had last week accused Qatar of supporting armed militias in Libya.

The latest fighting in Libya comes days before a parliamentary election that ordinary citizens hope will ease the chronic political infighting that has paralysed decision-making since the last vote in the summer of 2012.

(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli and Ahmed Elumami; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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