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Pompeo to attend Libya conference in Berlin; priority is ceasefire - State Department

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Germany this weekend to attend the Libya conference and push for sustaining a fragile ceasefire and getting all foreign powers to withdraw from the conflict in the North African country, the State Department and U.S. officials said on Thursday.

Germany on Sunday hosts a summit bringing together foreign powers and the Libyan rival camps backed by them to try to end the war over Tripoli and resume talks on a power-sharing deal.

The conference will come days after failed efforts by Russia and Turkey to persuade Khalifa Haftar, whose forces control much of Libya’s east and south, on a visit to Moscow this week to agree to a lasting ceasefire and halt the offensive on the Libyan capital. Haftar left Moscow without signing the proposal.

“Successful outcome would be - the primary issue there is the ceasefire,” a senior State Department official told reporters in a teleconference. “Other things of course would be nice to have ... but the imperative would be the continuation of a ceasefire,” the official said.

On Thursday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’ office said that Haftar committed to a ceasefire and was willing to attend the Sunday conference, after Maas visited the commander in his base in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

The nine-month-old war over Tripoli is just the latest bout of chaos in Libya, an OPEC oil exporter that has become a hub for human traffickers to ship migrants by boats to Italy, while Islamist militants have exploited the widespread disorder.

The country has been fractured and deeply unstable, with outside powers providing support to rival armed factions, since veteran dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in a 2011 uprising.

Haftar has received support from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Russian mercenaries while the internationally recognized GNA government led by Fayez al-Serraj is backed by Turkey.

On Thursday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara was beginning to send troops into Libya in support of Serraj’s government. The U.S. official voiced concern about the move.

“We are very keen to see that there are no external or foreign interventions. We do not want the conflict to widen beyond what’s it has already become and this is a situation now where the foreign interventions are only exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the country,” the official said.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; editing by Jonathan Oatis