Tripoli (AFP) - The head of a former government announced plans Thursday to reopen Tripoli's airport that was heavily damaged in fighting in 2014, in a fresh blow to Libya's unity administration.
Khalifa Ghweil, who refuses to recognise the legitimacy of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), made the announcement during a visit to the airport, south of Tripoli.
The facility was damaged during the summer of 2014 in fierce fighting between rival militias for control of the capital.
Ghweil, who arrived in a convoy of four-wheel-drive vehicles, told reporters that the airport, where construction work is already underway, would reopen "soon".
"We have finalised the airport project in record time, despite a parallel authority, and flights will resume soon," said Ghweil, referring to the GNA.
A local firm, Al-Sarih, has been tasked with the reconstruction work and has already restored the VIP lounge at the airport.
According to Al-Sarih, work to rebuild a new terminal, control tower and the airport parking lot has already begun.
It was not immediately clear who is funding the project.
Flights in and out of Tripoli have been operating through Mitiga airport, formerly a military base east of the capital, that is under the control of the GNA.
Ghweil is backed by a number of Tripoli militias and powerful armed groups from his hometown, the western city of Misrata.
The former premier has taken several steps in defiance of the GNA, including seizing control briefly in January of several government buildings in Tripoli that housed ministries.
Last week, several militias who back him announced the creation in Tripoli of a "Libyan National Guard".
The United States said it noted with "serious concern reports that numerous tactical vehicles from an organisation claiming to be the 'Libyan National Guard' have entered Tripoli".
Libya has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 toppling of dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with rival militias and administrations vying for control of the oil-rich country.
A rival authority based in the country's east has also refused to recognise the GNA since it started working in Tripoli in March last year.