‘No plans’ to send British troops to Libya: government

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British soldiers in Kabul, Afghanistan. Reuters, Ahmad Massoud

London: Britain has no plans to expand bombing or send troops to Libya, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement on Tuesday, after a committee of lawmakers said the country could deploy a force of 1,000 men.

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee had said Britain could be part of a 6,000-strong international force in Libya, which has been riven by unrest since the fall of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Defense Secretary Michael Fallon was due to agree Britain’s contribution to the force at a conference in Europe this week, the committee added.

But a government spokeswoman said the Foreign Affairs Committee was “mistaken on a number of points”.

“There are no plans to extend airstrikes to Libya or to send British troops to provide security on the ground in Libya,” the spokeswoman said.

“It is therefore also false to suggest that the Secretary of Defense will accept any British contribution this week.”

Western countries have agreed that action must be taken to dislodge Islamic State (IS) jihadists from Libya, but world powers say they want a government of national unity to seek help before officially intervene.

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

The allies have also warned that they will impose sanctions on anyone who acts to “undermine” Libya’s political process.

The UK committee had said that the first official action of the Libyan Interim Government of National Accord “is likely to be to request the UK and its allies to carry out airstrikes against ISIL (IS) targets in Libya”.

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

Libya descended into chaos after Gaddafi’s ouster in 2011 allowed extremist organisations, including IS, to gain ground.

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

AFP

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