East Libya officials 'meet to select Haftar successor' amid health concerns
Senior officials in the self-styled Libyan national army have been holding secret meetings to agree on a successor to their hospitalised leader Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
The negotiations have been underway to choose a new leader for the east-based LNA amid a state of uncertainty over Haftar's health, sources told The New Arab on Wednesday.
"Haftar and the people close to him have insisted that his successor must be agreed by Haftar himself," the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.
They said that the strongest candidate to take over the role is LNA chief of staff Abdel Salem al-Hassi, who is the highest-ranking officer after Haftar himself.
"The majority of parties - including Haftar's sons - have not objected to Hassi, who is a well-known military figure that has much popular backing," the sources said.
Local news website al-Anbaa reported on Thursday that Haftar's main backers Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have formed a committee to find a substitute for the hospitalised leader.
The outlet, citing local sources, said that Cairo has also backed Hassi, while the UAE is supporting Aoun al-Ferjani - another LNA official close to Haftar.
Haftar was in hospital in Paris last week after falling ill during a trip abroad.
The strongman has not made any public appearances in the past two weeks and social media has been abuzz with rumours about his condition.
Haftar supports a parliament based in the east of the country, while a UN-backed unity government in the capital Tripoli has struggled to assert its authority nationwide.
He is accused by his rivals of wanting to establish a new military dictatorship in Libya.
On Wednesday, LNA General Abdel Razak al-Nadhuri, who is also seen a possible Haftar successor, survived a car bombing in the eastern city of Benghazi.
Libya has been gripped by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with rival administrations and multiple militias vying for control of the oil-rich country.