April 25, 2018 / 5:00 PM / a month ago

East Libya commander Haftar returning after treatment in Paris

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Khalifa Haftar, the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, will return to Benghazi on Thursday, a spokesman for his forces said on Wednesday, after he received medical treatment in Paris.

FILE PHOTO: Libya's eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar attends General Security conference, in Benghazi, Libya, October 14, 2017. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori/File Photo

Haftar had been in Paris for about two weeks, where his spokesman earlier said he had been treated after feeling unwell.

From Paris, Haftar flew to Cairo for talks with officials from Egypt, his main backer, several Libyan and Egyptian sources told Reuters.

Haftar, 75, has long been seen as a contender for national power, and reports about his health sparked a flurry of speculation inside Libya, including claims that he was gravely ill and that rivals were maneuvering to replace him.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) is aligned with a parliament and a largely powerless government that has been based in eastern Libya since 2014.

They control most of eastern Libya, including the majority of its oil fields and ports, as well as parts of the south.

Haftar and others in the east have opposed an internationally recognized government in the capital, Tripoli, frustrating U.N.-led efforts to reunify the country.

LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said that on his return Haftar would take part in celebrations marking the anniversary of his “Karama” (Dignity) campaign, the military operation he started in 2014 to drive Islamist militants and other opponents out of Benghazi.

Haftar declared victory in July 2017, though sporadic fighting continued until late last year.

Streets in Benghazi and the town of Rajma, where Haftar has his main base, were earlier cleaned and decorated with posters in preparation for his return.

Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli; writing by Aidan Lewis and Ulf Laessing; editing by Larry King

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