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France's Macron to meet Libya's eastern commander Haftar next week: presidency

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France's Macron to meet Libya's eastern commander Haftar next week: presidency
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a news conference with New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (not pictured) at the 'Christchurch Call Meeting' at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France May 15, 2019. Yoan Valat/Pool via REUTERS   -   Copyright  POOL(Reuters)
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PARIS, (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron will meet eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar in the middle of next week to discuss how to resume peace talks in the country, a French presidential source said on Thursday.

Macron last week called for a ceasefire in the month-long battle for Libya’s capital Tripoli after meeting U.N.-backed Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj.

“They will discuss the situation in Libya, the conditions for a return to political dialogue following the visit of Serraj and in co-ordination with the United Nations and partners,” the source told Reuters.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte met Haftar on Thursday as European powers seek to put an end to fighting after troops loyal to Haftar launched an offensive on the capital breaking months of U.N.-led peace negotiations.

“Prime Minister Conte reiterated the need to agree to a ceasefire as soon as possible to avoid a humanitarian crisis in the country and safeguard the already difficult conditions of the Libyan people,” his office said.

Tripoli is home to the internationally-recognised administration but some European countries such as France have also supported eastern military commander Haftar as a way to fight militants in a country in chaos since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

A day after meeting Macron last week, Serraj’s administration asked 40 foreign firms including French oil major Total to renew their licenses or have their operations suspended.

(Reporting by Marine Pennetier in Paris and Crispian Balmer in Rome; writing by John Irish; editing by Inti Landauro and Toby Chopra)

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