Libya’s embattled premier seeks support from UAE

The parliament that backs Abdullah Al-Thinni is virtually powerless and has no control over Libya's largest cities

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The Libyan prime minister was in the United Arab Emirates Wednesday meeting with its rulers to shore up critical support against Islamist-allied militias that forced him and his allies out of the capital over the summer.

Abdullah Al-Thinni and the embattled parliament that appointed him need the financial and political backing of wealthy Gulf Arab allies like the UAE if they hope to grab back their seat of power from rivals working to set up their own government.

The parliament that backs al-Thinni is virtually powerless and has no control over Libya's three largest cities. Its lawmakers along with al-Thinni were forced to relocate to the remote eastern city of Tobruk far from the capital.

U.S. officials had suggested that the UAE and Egypt were behind recent air strikes on Islamist militia targets in Libya, but al-Thinni told reporters in Abu Dhabi “there is no evidence” to support that claim.

“We unequivocally deny that the UAE and Egypt had any involvement in the strikes in Libya,” al-Thinni was quoted saying in the Abu-Dhabi state-backed The National newspaper.

He said reports that the UAE Air Force launched strikes from bases in Egypt into Libya were a “falsification”.

The UAE has cracked down hard on Islamist groups domestically and backed regional efforts to crush the Muslim Brotherhood.

The UAE state news agency reported that al-Thinni and Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan discussed the importance of strengthening bilateral relations in a way that serves the joint interests of both countries. The Libyan delegation, which included the head of parliament, also met with Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

The UAE rulers expressed their support “for all efforts aimed at backing the Libyan people to achieve peace, stability and prosperity,” the state report said.

Al-Thinni also confirmed that seven Libyans had been arrested in the UAE, but did not give any details about why they had been detained or release their identities.

Some Libyan media outlets had reported earlier this month that up to 30 Libyans were arrested in the UAE after the air raids and that most of those detained had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The UAE has not commented on the arrests or the air strikes.

Al-Thinni's visit to the UAE comes as Libya witnesses its worst spasm of violence since former dictator Muammar Qaddafi was toppled and killed in 2011. A United Nations report said the fighting in its two largest cities of Tripoli and Benghazi has forced some 250,000 people to flee, including 100,000 who have been internally displaced.

The country's divisions are deeply rooted in rivalries between Islamists and non-Islamists, as well as powerful tribal and regional allegiances between groups who quickly filled the power vacuum after Qaddafi's ouster. Successive transitional governments have failed to control the militias.

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