Libya's old army appoints new chief
Al-Baida - Commanders who defected from Muammar Gaddafi’s armed forces in the heat of the civil uprising named a new chief on Thursday confronting the new Libyan authorities with a done-deal.
Some 150 officers and sub-officers, gathered in the eastern city of Al-Baida, unanimously approved the nomination of Khalifa Haftar and announced the re-activation of the army, which has yet to be officially reconstituted.
"Participants agreed to choose Major General Khalifa Belgacem Haftar as commander in chief of the national army due to his seniority, experience and capacity to command troops as well as the efforts he made to support the February 17 revolution," said General Fraj Bunseira, head of Al-Baida's military council.
The nomination will be presented for approval to the head of the governing National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, Bunseira told an audience of senior military officers.
The announcement was welcomed by applause and cries of "God is greatest".
Haftar, who comes from the ranks of Benghazi's military academy and trained in the former Soviet Union, defected from the Gaddafi regime in the 1990s after the Libya-Chad conflict and went to live in the United States.
He returned to Libya in March to join the military campaign to unseat Gaddafi.
The members of the old army were keen to take the lead before a formal meeting scheduled for Sunday to discuss the national army.
The officers believe the defence ministry is hostile to them and is ultimately responsible for the delays in reconstituting the armed forces.
Though many officer broke ranks and joined the Nato-backed fighters during the seven-month campaign to dismantle the Gaddafi regime, they are still viewed with suspicion by scores of civilian brigades who took arms against the former strongman.