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FILE PHOTO: Libya’s eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar attends General Security conference, in BenghaziFILE PHOTO: Libya’s eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar attends General Security conference, in Benghazi, Libya, October 14, 2017. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori/File Photo

By Ulf Laessing

TUNIS (Reuters) – Western diplomats sat down for three hours with Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar in his eastern stronghold last month to try to dissuade him from launching an offensive against the internationally recognized government in Tripoli.

They urged him not to plunge the country into a civil war and told him he could become a successful civilian leader if he committed himself to pursuing a political settlement, according to two sources with knowledge of the meeting outside Benghazi.

But Haftar, a military strongman who critics describe as the

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