Libyan Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar told French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday that he was willing to negotiate a ceasefire in Libya but the conditions were not yet right.
Mr Macron and French officials have for several weeks called for an unconditional ceasefire in the battle for Tripoli after Field Marshal Haftar last month launched an offensive on the Libyan capital
The Libyan eastern military chief held a long meeting with the French leader at Elysee Palace.
Field Marshal Haftar said his Libyan National Army began the Tripoli offensive to drive out terrorist groups and explained the situation in the eastern Libyan city of Derna, where his fighters have battled Al Qaeda militants.
He said he always made a political solution his priority and that he took part in the political dialogue, but he had been forced to lead the offensive because discussions with the parties involved made no progress.
Field Marshal Haftar said he saw the growing control of armed groups and terrorists in Tripoli, which made him intervene.
French Presidential sources said that during his meeting with Mr Macron, he talked about his army as if he considered it the main national defence force of Libya, making it his responsibility to defend Tripoli and Derna, and the oil crescent last year.
Field Marshal Haftar said his main target was to prevent the control of militias and to protect the oil revenues of his country.
When Mr Macron asked him for a ceasefire, he asked with whom he could negotiate for it because he regards the rival government of Fayez Al Sarraj to be totally controlled by militias, and that he cannot negotiate with them.
Mr Macron met Mr Al Sarraj this month, but the next day the Libyan leader’s administration asked 40 foreign companies, including France’s Total, to renew their licences or have their operations suspended.
Mr Al Sarraj leads the internationally recognised administration in Tripoli but some European countries, including France, have also supported Field Marshal Haftar in his fight against fight militants.
The commander said neither he nor his army were benefiting from oil sales in the east of the country, the presidential official said.