The United Nations chief, Antonio Guterres, says he is leaving Libya with "heavy heart and deep concern" after holding a meeting with the renegade General Khalifa Haftar who ordered his troops to march to the capital.
Fierce clashes took place on Friday near Tripoli as eastern forces loyal to Haftar continued their advance towards the city, home to the country's UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).
"I still hope it is possible to avoid a bloody confrontation in and around Tripoli," Guterres wrote on Twitter, as he wrapped up a visit to the North African country, which saw him making a diplomatic dash to the Libyan rival centers of power
Guterres had traveled to Libya this week to help organize a national reconciliation conference scheduled for later this month and was designed to draw up a plan for delayed elections.
But in a surprise move on Thursday, Haftar ordered his Self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which is allied to the parallel administration based in the east, to advance toward the capital.
Amid the mounting fears of a renewed civil war, Guterres on Thursday met GNA head Fayez al-Serraj in Tripoli, before heading to Friday to the eastern city of Benghazi, Haftar's stronghold.
"The UN is committed to facilitating a political solution and, whatever happens , the UN is committed to supporting the Livonians, "Guterres said.
According to Al-Arabiya TV, Haftar told Guterres that his operation towards Tripoli will continue until "terrorism" has been defeated.
I leave Libya with a heavy heart and deeply concerned. I still hope it is possible to avoid a bloody confrontation in and around Tripoli.
The UN is committed to facilitating a political solution and, whatever happens, the UN is committed to supporting the Lybian people.
̵1; António Guterres (@antonioguterres) April 5, 2019
The UN Security Council has scheduled an emergency closed-door meeting on Friday afternoon at the United Kingdom's request to discuss the dramatic escalation in Libya's years-long power struggle. 19659004] Since the NATO-backed removal of long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has been split between rival governments in the west and east – the GNA in Tripoli and the House of Representatives in Tobruk respectively – and an array of militias fighting over power and oil fields.
INSIDE STORY: Is the Haftar aggressor or leader in Libya? (25:21)
Haftar's LNA troops on Thursday took a town of Gharyan, about 100km south of Tripoli, putting them closer than ever before to militias allied to the GNA
They further moved north as close as 40km The LNA said on Friday that they had taken control of Qasr ben Ghashir and Wadi's areas, according to a report by Reuters. al-Rabie is on the southern outskirts of Tripoli, near the former Tripoli International Airport, closed since a city battle in 2014.
There was no independent confirmation.
But the LNA failed, however, to take a checkpoint about 30km west of the capital. They were pushed back by pro-GNA militiamen from the coastal town of Zawiya after a "short exchange of fire," an AFP news agency reported citing an unnamed security source.
Traffic was flowing normally past the so-called Gate 27, which lies astride the coastal road to Tunisia, on Friday morning, an AFP correspondent reported.
In another setback, the forces allied to the GNA took 145 LNA fighters prisoner in Zawiya, a western commander, Mohamed Alhudairi, told Reuters.
Sixty vehicles were also seized, Alhudairi said.
|Tripoli-Allied forces took 145 troops allied to the eastern forces and confiscated dozens of vehicles in the city of Zawiya [Hani Amara/Reuters]|
It came after the militias in western Libya vowed to confront the Haftar's attempt to seize Tripoli.
Al Jazeera's Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from the capital, said that forces from Misrata also believed to have joined Troops-Allied troops on the south of the capital and are advancing southwest towards Gharyan.
"There are reports of confrontations between Haftar's forces and that of Haftar's forces."
"There are reports of confrontations between Haftar's forces and UN-backed government forces on the outskirts of Gharyan, "Abdelwahed said.
International powers urge de-escalation
Several governments and organizations have urged de-escalation, including those known to be Haftar's key backers such as France and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
The two countries, along with the UK, Italy and the United States, said in a joint statement on Friday that "military posture and threats of unilateral action only risk driving Lybia back toward chaos.
House Cociancic, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, said the bloc is "deeply concerned by the military build-up that is under way in Libya and the escalatory rhetoric which seriously risks leading to an uncontrollable confrontation.
Matteo Salvini, Italian interior minister, warned that the stability along the southern rim of the Mediterranean Sea was in danger, with Algeria also in turmoil following the uprising against its long-awaited president. 19659004] Russia, which has thrown its support behind Haftar in the past, has distanced itself from the offensive.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, denied any support for Haftar and emphasized the need "to avoid actions that would lead to to the resumption of bloodshed "