(Adds details, quotes)
GENEVA, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Eastern Libya’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that his government, parallel to the internationally recognised administration in Tripoli, could not force eastern tribesmen to lift an oil blockade that he said was a “popular decision”.
“We cannot use our power to lift the blockade,” Abdulhadi Lahweej told journalists in Geneva, alleging that the Tripoli government was using revenues from oil to pay for thousands of mercenaries he says have come from Syria to help them.
He also reiterated that his side, led by eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, would not participate in political talks due to begin in Geneva on Wednesday, saying there was no agreement with the U.N. mission on the composition of their delegation.
“The participation for the moment is suspended,” he said.
The United Nations had planned to bring together lawmakers from both sides of Libya’s conflict on Wednesday to end the fighting over Tripoli as part of a dialogue encompassing military, political and economic strands.
In a sign of the acrimony between the two sides, Lahweej took aim several times at Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, who earlier this week called Haftar a “war criminal” at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“The war criminal is the one who accepts mercenaries to kill people and accepts pilots who kills civilians,” Lahweej said of the internationally recognised Libyan prime minister. (Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Hugh Lawson)