The Libyan prime minister was in the United Arab Emirates Wednesday meeting with its rulers to shore up critical support against Islamist-allied militias that forced him and his allies out of the capital over the summer.
Abdullah Al-Thinni and the embattled parliament that appointed him need the financial and political backing of wealthy Gulf Arab allies like the UAE if they hope to grab back their seat of power from rivals working to set up their own government.
The parliament that backs al-Thinni is virtually powerless and has no control over Libya’s three largest cities. Its lawmakers along with al-Thinni were forced to relocate to the remote eastern city of Tobruk far from the capital.
U.S. officials had suggested that the UAE and Egypt were behind recent air strikes on Islamist militia targets in Libya, but al-Thinni told reporters in Abu Dhabi “there is no evidence” to support that claim.
“We unequivocally deny that the UAE and Egypt had any involvement in the strikes in Libya,” al-Thinni was quoted saying in the Abu-Dhabi state-backed The National newspaper.
He said reports that the UAE Air Force launched strikes from bases in Egypt into Libya were a “falsification”.
The UAE has cracked down hard on Islamist groups domestically and backed regional efforts to crush the Muslim Brotherhood.
The UAE state news agency reported that al-Thinni and Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan discussed the importance of strengthening bilateral relations in a way that serves the joint interests of both countries. The Libyan delegation, which included the head of parliament, also met with Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.