KUWAIT (Reuters) - Egypt will not allow armed turmoil in neighboring Libya to threaten its national security, presidential frontrunner Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in an interview with the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat published on Saturday.
Libya has descended into factional chaos since the Western-backed uprising in 2011 that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, but Egypt has suffered street strife and Islamist militant violence since its own 2011 revolution that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Sisi has already called on the United States to help fight jihadi terrorism and warned in a Reuters interview on May 15 that Libya was becoming a major security threat, with militants infiltrating across the 1,115km (693-mile) border.
In an interview published with the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat published on Saturday, the former army chief said Cairo would “not allow the launching of any terrorist activities from inside Libya”.
Libya has seen intense militia fighting in recent days with a renegade general calling on the wobbling Tripoli government to hand over power to the country’s top judges.
Arms from Libya have flown freely across the Egyptian border since Gaddafi’s ouster, a U.N. report found last year. It cited weapons trafficking as a threat to Egyptian security mainly because the arms are ending up in Egypt’s volatile Sinai Peninsula where an Islamist insurgency has taken wing.
Sisi, who is expected to easily win a presidential election that starts in Egypt on Monday, told Asharq al-Awsat that Libyans wanted a state that could accommodate everyone but this was not possible in the presence of armed conflict.
Speaking about threats to security in general, Sisi said Cairo could confront any terrorism in Egypt head-on. He said it was important to strengthen the hearts and minds of Egyptians and stop those who abused the discourse of Islam, an apparent reference to Islamist militants in the Sinai.
“Egyptians do not accept what affects or threatens their security. Since the beginning of terrorist incidents in the Sinai, there has been a crucial decision that (Egypt) will not allow the return of the situation to what it was before.”
Egypt launched a wide-ranging campaign against militants in the Sinai after they stepped up attacks on police and army targets following the overthrow of elected President Mohamed Mursi, an Islamist, by the military last July.
(The story amends headline to restore word “Libya”)
Reporting by Sylvia Westall, editing by Maggie Fick and Mark Heinrich