French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Wednesday that the condition of Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) in the nation’s east, has improved. That’s according to Radio France International, citing remarks Le Drian made to the Foreign Affairs Committee of France’s National Assembly while confirming that Haftar remained hospitalized near Paris.
The absence of clarity on the 75-year-old Haftar’s health status, however, continues to result in conflicting accounts – including another report Wednesday, citing an unnamed European diplomat who insists Haftar has sustained irreversible brain damage and will be unable to function as before.
Haftar is reportedly receiving treatment following a stroke. Journalist Hugeux Vincent of Le Monde said Haftar was taken to Jordan and then transferred from Amman to Paris on April 5, according to a high-level diplomatic source within Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) who declined to be named.
He is believed to be at Percy, a military hospital in the Paris suburb of Clamart.
LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari initially denied the reports early last week and said Haftar, a potential candidate in Libyan elections planned for later this year, was in “excellent health” and attending to his normal duties. By Friday, al-Mismari admitted that Haftar was ill but insisted he went to Paris for “normal medical examinations” and would return to Libya in a few days.
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said it was in contact with Haftar, countering the many reports that he had died. Ghassan Salame, head of the UNSMIL mission, said he communicated with Haftar by phone and “discussed the general situation in Libya and the latest political developments in the country.”
Haftar’s Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Abdul Razak Al-Nazhuri, survived an assassination attempt Wednesday when a car bomb exploded as his motorcade passed in Benghazi. He was not hurt, but the incident underscored the context in which uncertainty over Haftar’s health adds to the tense political climate.