Rome, April 28 (IANS/AKI) Italy has no plans to send troops to Libya without a request from the unity government that is backed by the UN, Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told lawmakers on Thursday.
“No Italian military intervention is foreseen unless this is requested by the Libyan government and authorised by the UN,” Gentiloni told Italy’s lower house of parliament, answering questions from MPs.
“Until now, there has been no such request,” he said.
His comments came after Italy’s defence ministry denied a report in leading daily Corriere della Sera on Tuesday that the country had offered to send between 600 and 900 soldiers to Libya.
Corriere della Sera claimed Italy was “ready to send the troops” to guard sensitive sites in Libya, such as its oil fields, as well as to train local security forces.
They were latest hints at plans by Italy to send troops to Libya in the past few months, which have been denied by the government.
The report came after Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj appealed to the UN, the European Union and neighbouring African countries to help his country safeguard its oil resources which have in recent months been attacked by the Islamic State jihadist group.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s government considers it a priority to bring stability to Libya, where IS has taken advantage of the chaos that has engulfed the country since the NATO-backed 2011 ouster of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, expanding and seizing territory in the oil-rich state.
“Stabilising Libya will be a long, gradual and arduous process,” Gentiloni warned, adding that doing so was the only way to defeat the terrorist groups operating there as well as the people traffickers fuelling the migrant influx to Europe across the Mediterranean.
The new UN-backed unity government is still struggling to gain clear support in Libya, which has had two rival administrations since mid-2014 when an alliance of Islamist militias overran Tripoli and set up its own authority, forcing the recognised parliament to flee to Tobruk in the remote east.