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Britain prepared to offer military support for Libya

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They have been operating out of the naval base where they docked ever since.

It was used as recently as December a year ago, when MPs voted to extend airstrikes against Islamic State into Syrian territory.

The activity in Libya comes at a time when the Balkan Route for migrants into Europe’s heartland has been largely closed and fears are increasing that crossings from Libya, with inevitable sinkings, will become much more commonplace again.

“Prime Minister Sarraj is aware of our focus on this issue but it is a question of timing”.

“We shared the sense of urgency: House of Reps should vote now on Govt of National Accord”, he tweeted.

The Foreign Secretary and his entourage were driven from Tripoli airport amid tight security in a convoy of armour-protected SUVs to the heavily protected naval base where prime minister designate Fayez Serraj’s government is struggling to establish its authority. “Any deployment would need a parliamentary vote, as would airstrikes”, chairman of the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Crispin Blunt said.

“Mr Hammond is in Tripoli, he is meeting the Presidential Council (chaired by Sarraj) and will hold a press conference after the meetings”, a media advisor for the GNA told AFP.

Mr Hammond said: “The security agenda must, of course, be owned and led by the GNA”. The UK contribution to such a mission was likely to involve between tens and hundreds of trainers, including some provided by contractors, as opposed to current service personnel, he said.

“I hope that as the militia groups come inside the tent, as it were, and cooperate with the government, it will be possible for us and our partners to support the military training programme”.

The Secretary of State stressed that no such decision had been taken and no commitment of that kind was being contemplated at present.

“Some of the training that’s needed will be police training…”

He insisted that many of those armed groups are not extremists but instead local defence forces who were protecting the local population.

No element of the plan would take effect without an explicit request from the new Libyan authorities.

He added that his preference was for Libyan military forces to be trained outside Libya, possibly in Tunisia, and admitted that previous efforts to train Libyan army fighters in Cambridgeshire ended disastrously amid allegations of sexual assault.

The West is hoping the new government will unify Libyans and help the country battle a surging Islamic State affiliate.

Mr Hammond replied: “This would be I think a very different operation in very different circumstances”.

At least eight African migrants, and possibly as many as 27, died after an overcrowded boat left the Libyan port of Sabratha, a search and rescue organisation said on Monday.

On Daesh, he said there were “probably up to about 3,000 Daesh fighters in Libya of whom a significant number would be foreign fighters”.

“The legislative authorities must quickly give the GNA its legitimacy through the House of Representatives in order for it to serve the Libyan people”, Maiteeq said.

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