The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord in a pre-dawn statement said Khalifa Haftar claiming to have a "mandate" to govern the country was another attempt in a series of coups and urged him to consider a humanitarian cessation of hostilities.
Libya's UN-recognised government on Tuesday accused warlord Khalifa Haftar of attempting yet another coup after he claimed to have a "mandate" from the people to govern the country.
"It's a farce and the latest in a long series of coups d'etat," the Government of National Accord, which is based in the capital Tripoli, said in a pre-dawn statement.
The oil-rich North African nation has been gripped by chaos since the ouster and killing of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with rival administrations in the east and west vying for power.
Haftar, who controls swathes of eastern Libya and in April last year launched an offensive to seize Tripoli, on Monday said his self-styled "army" had "accepted the will of the people and its mandate".
The militia leader did not make clear, however, if a parliament elected in 2014 and also based in the east of the country backed his move.
Haftar claims his legitimacy from that parliament, which was forced to move its headquarters after violence ripped apart Tripoli six years ago.
The GNA said Haftar had "turned his back on the parallel political institutions that backed him and designated him" head of the army.
Haftar’s announcement that his organization is now formally taking over power makes no sense, especially as his forces are on the defensive.— Wolfram Lacher (@W_Lacher) April 27, 2020
He gains little, and he loses the facade of civil institutions he used since 2014. He risks pushing some allies into his enemies’ arms.
Wahington, Moscow call for calm
Washington called for dialogue between the two sides and a "humanitarian" truce.
"The US regrets ... commander Haftar's suggestion that changes to Libya's political structure can be imposed by unilateral declaration," a statement on its embassy's Twitter account said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that Moscow insists on a political solution to the Libyan crisis.
"Moscow remains convinced that the only possible settlement in Libya can be on the political and diplomatic tracks, political and diplomatic communication between all the parties, first of all, the conflicting parties," Peskova said.
"Russia continues to stay in contact with all participants in the Libyan process and we believe that there are no other options to resolve the Libyan problem."
The United States regrets LNA commander Haftar’s suggestion that changes to #Libya’s political structure can be imposed by unilateral declaration and reiterates the call for an immediate humanitarian cessation hostilities. Link: https://t.co/hBsSshzjKU pic.twitter.com/QkzpeCgJVS— U.S. Embassy - Libya (@USAEmbassyLibya) April 27, 2020
GNA said that its forces conducted air strikes on Al Watiya air base, controlled by militias loyal to Haftar.
GNA military spokesman Mohammed Kanunu issued a statement on developments at the air base in western Libya.
Kanunu said the GNA forces conducted five air strikes targeting pro-Haftar soldiers and military vehicles at the base.
The air strikes were carried out in response to attacks by Haftar militias on civilians in Tripoli, it added.
The GNA statement said that civilians continue to suffer during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, and the Covid-19 pandemic threatens more lives.
"We urge the LNA (Haftar's forces) to join the Government of National Accord in declaring an immediate humanitarian cessation of hostilities," it said.
Haftar has been accused by his detractors of seeking to impose a new military dictatorship in Libya.
On Monday he announced the "end" of a 2015 UN-mediated agreement that produced the GNA.
He made similar remarks in 2017 and three years earlier also appeared on television to say that he was taking the reins of power in Libya.
Haftar's offensive to seize Tripoli has claimed hundreds of lives and displaced some 200,000 people.