UK could send 1,000 troops to international force in Libya: MPs

15th March 2016, Comments 0 comments

Britain could deploy 1,000 troops as part of a 6,000-strong international force in Libya, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said on Tuesday.

In a letter to Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, the committee said it had become aware of "UK plans to contribute 1,000 ground troops to a 6,000-strong international force which will be deployed to Libya in the near future".

It said the matter came up during a visit to Egypt and Tunisia earlier this month and urged Hammond to make a statement to parliament on the issue.

Western countries have agreed that action is needed to dislodge Islamic State (IS) jihadists from Libya but world powers say they want a national unity government to request help before formally intervening.

On Saturday, Libya's UN-backed unity government said it was taking office despite lacking parliamentary approval, with its US and European allies urging it to move to Tripoli and begin governing.

The allies also warned they would impose sanctions on anyone who acted to "undermine" Libya's political process.

In the letter, the British committee said: "We heard that the GNA's (Government of National Accord's) likely first formal action will be to request that the UK and its allies conduct airstrikes against ISIL (IS) targets in Libya."

Libya descended into chaos after the 2011 ouster of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi allowed extremist organisations, including IS, to gain significant ground.

Italy has agreed to lead a UN-mandated international stabilisation force into its troubled former colony, but the sticking point has been getting credible cover from a national authority.

The international force would seek to train the Libyan army and protect the newly-formed government, the committee said.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon was expected to agree Britain's contribution to the force at a conference in Europe this week, it added.

Neither the foreign or the defence ministries had any immediate comment on the letter.

© 2016 AFP

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