Major troop deployment in Libya unthinkable: Italy

Rome, Feb 26 (IANS/AKI) A largescale deployment of Western troops in Libya is “unthinkable” and “absurd”, Italy’s Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti has said.

He spoke amid reports that special forces were already on the ground to fight the Islamic State militant group.

“Can you imagine… what it means to intervene with a military occupation? It is unthinkable, it is absurd. No one has ever considered it,” Pinotti told the private Canale 5 TV channel.

The minister declined to comment on a report by Le Monde newspaper of a secret French operation.

“Unilateral action has never helped Libya,” Pinotti stated, in an apparent reference to air raids against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 that were initially conducted by France, Britain and the US.

“As soon as the Libyan government is installed and begins to stabilise the country, it will need security back-up such as trainers and protection forces, something Italy is willing to do,” Pinotti added.

Libyan troops should fight on the ground against IS, but only upon the request of a national unity government, Pinotti said.

The North African country has descended into chaos after the NATO-backed ouster of long-time dictator Gaddafi in 2011, with rivals governments in Tobruk and Tripoli, each backed by a multitude of militias.

IS, which has come under pressure in Syria and Iraq from the international coalition against it, has exploited the turmoil in Libya to expand its presence there and has recently threatened its oil installations.

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