By Hadi Fornaji.
Tripoli, 5 May 2013:
The Zeidan government appears to have been stung by claims from Chad’s President Idriss Deby, that . . .[restrict]Libya is actively harbouring and training terrorists intent on threatening Chad. It will have been no less pleased by the assertion in Paris last week from Niger’s foreign minister Mohamed Bazoum that Libya was a “major international terrorist base ” for Islamists attacking his country.
Bazoum’s comments will have been all the more vexing because the Niger politician only just stopped short of urging foreign intervention in the “lawless south of the country”.
In recent days there have been persistent reports that Chadian army units had penetrated 100 kilometres into Libya and were near Kufra, supposedly in search of insurgents. Premier Ali Zeidan has denied both Chad’s claims and the presence of the Chadian force on Libyan soil.
His rejection was backed up by the Kufra airforce base commander, Muftah Abdali who said yesterday that fighters had scoured the region and found no sign of any Chadian column. Despite these denials, there has been a report that a heavily-armed column has left Zintan for the Chad border to confront the supposed incursion.
While meeting his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, Niger’s foreign minister said that the French intervention in Mali had driven Islamist terrorists onto Libya soil where they had established bases.
“We always thought there were two areas that needed to be dealt with: Mali and Libya,” Bazoum told Reuters, “Mali has been settled, but Libya is far from being resolved, and today we think Libya is one of the biggest international terrorism bases.”
Here in Tripoli, the Justice and Construction Party (JCP) has strongly rejected the accusation and called on the government to respond “with diplomatic measures” to the provocative statement from Niger. Relations between the two governments remain strained because of Niger’s reluctance to extradite Saadi Qaddafi ,who has sought refuge in the capital Niamey.
A JCP spokesman warned that though Libya was seeking international help in boosting border security, this did not mean that outside countries could infringe on its sovereignty.
Meanwhile, the headof Murzuq military council Baraka Wardako said in an interview with Libya TV that there was no substance to allegations that the south west of Libya had become a hub for Islamists. He said that there were no Islamist factions training in the desert, which in any event was patrolled by revolutionaries who are based there. [/restrict]