Italy ready to consider giving Libyan unity government arms

Vienna, May 16 (IANS/AKI) Military training and arms, not military intervention are what the Libyan unity government wants and Italy and other countries are open to this request, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on Monday.

“We will rapidly consider the request of the Libyan unity government concerning the training of troops and are prepared to meet these,” Gentiloni told journalists in Vienna.

A military embargo put in place by the United Nations five years ago would not be abolished but would be subject to “limitations”, he said after a meeting of diplomats from 20 countries including the US pledged to consider training and arming the Libyan government in the fight to stop the Islamic State jihadist group from expanding in the chaos-wracked country.

“Stabilising Libya is key to the fight against terrorism and to its development, ” Gentiloni stated.

Speaking at a press conference after the Vienna meeting, which was co-chaired by Italy, US Secretary of State John Kerry said IS was a “new threat” to Libya and it was “imperative ” it was stopped.

Besides countering IS, the government of national unity should take full control of Libyan ministries backed by the international community, he said.

But Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj warned major challenges lay ahead.

“The situation in Libya is extremely bad,” he said, adding the international community would not be spared” if IS was not eradicated from the country.

IS controls the coastal oil hub of Sirte and has launched a series of suicide bombings and attacks on oil facilities in the country.

The UN-backed Serraj government earlier in May announced the formation of a military task force to fight IS but is does not have the support of the rival government in the east of the country, which is quarrelling over the allocation of the country’s oil and financial resources.

Libya, a major transit point for migrants has been in turmoil since NATO-backed forces overthrew long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011.

Italy, Libya’s former colonial ruler, has an extra stkte in the North African country due to the threat of uncontrolled migration across the southern Mediterranean.

Gentiloni invited ministers from several sub-Saharan African countries to the Vienna meeting as well as Malta.

–IANS/AKI

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