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Libya unity govt may seek Turkish deployment - minister

Khalifa Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive in April to take the capital from the internationally recognised Government of National Accord, making rapid gains before becoming stalled on the edge of the capital.

Fathi Bashagha, Libya's UN-recognised and Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) Interior Minister, gives a press conference in the Tunisian capital Tunis on 26 December 2019. Picture: AFP.

Tunis - Libya's UN-recognised unity government said Thursday it may officially seek Turkish military support in the face of a bid by the country's eastern-based strongman to seize Tripoli.

Khalifa Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive in April to take the capital from the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), making rapid gains before becoming stalled on the edge of the capital.

Haftar has "provided foreign forces with military bases in Libya," GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha told journalists in Tunis on Thursday.

"If this position continues we have the right to defend Tripoli and we will officially ask the Turkish government for its military support."

Haftar has received support from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia, while Turkey has backed the GNA.

The Turkish parliament on Saturday ratified a security and military cooperation deal with the GNA, which Turkish officials say would allow Ankara to send military and security personnel to Libya for training purposes.

Bashagha said the GNA could seek Turkish support to "remove" foreign-backed, pro-Haftar mercenary forces and their bases.

Libya was plunged into chaos with the toppling and killing of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a 2011 Nato-backed uprising.

It has since become divided between two main camps: the GNA and a rival administration in the country's east, backed by Haftar.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday opened the way for direct Turkish military intervention in the North African country, announcing the 7 January tabling of a parliamentary motion on sending troops to support the GNA.

That came a day after he made a brief visit to Libya's neighbour Tunisia, where he announced that "if Turkey is invited (to send troops to support the unity government), we will accept".