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U.S. officials meet with Libya's Haftar amid push to end Tripoli offensive

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. officials met on Sunday with eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar as Washington presses him to end his offensive on the capital, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) has been trying since April to take Tripoli, which is held by an internationally recognised government.

Haftar and the U.S. delegation, which included White House deputy national security adviser Victoria Coates, discussed “steps to achieve a suspension of hostilities and a political resolution to the Libyan conflict,” the department said in a statement. It did not say where the meeting took place.

“The officials underscored the United States’ full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Libya and expressed serious concern over Russia’s exploitation of the conflict at the expense of the Libyan people,” the statement said.

Haftar is backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and most recently Russian mercenaries, according to diplomats and Tripoli officials. The LNA denies it has foreign backing.

On Nov. 14, the State Department – after a visit to Washington by Tripoli-based government ministers – called on Haftar to end the offensive.

“These frank discussions build on recent talks with Tripoli-based officials aiming to establish a common basis for progress between the parties on the issues that divide them, in the context of moving towards a ceasefire,” the department said on Monday.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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