Libyan government rules out foreign intervention in IS fight

Libyan government rules out foreign intervention in IS fight
The leader of Libya's unity government Fayez al-Sarraj has rejected international calls for military assistance in its battle against IS, saying Libyan forces were capable of winning this battle alone.
3 min read
05 June, 2016
Two Libyan forces are racing to take IS' power base in Sirte [AFP]
Libya's UN-backed unity government has ruled out any international military intervention to held in its fight against the Islamic State group, which has built a stronghold on the country's Mediterranean coast.

A total of 25 countries - from the United States to Russia - have already agreed to arm the government's military and militias to defeat IS and there has been a limited presence from some Western special forces inside Libya.

But Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj told French newspaper Journal du Dimanche he would not allow foreign troops on the ground or war planes to bomb the country.

"It's true that we need help from the international community in our fight against terrorism and it's true that this is something we have already received," he said in the interview, published Sunday.

"But we are not talking about international intervention," Sarraj said.

Foreign ground troops would be "contrary to our principles" he said, but international powers could help with intelligence and some logistical support, he said.

"Rather we need satellite images, intelligence, technical help... not bombardments," he said.

The Government of National Accord (GNA), established in Tripoli more than two months ago, has been trying to unify Libya which has been fragmented by rival clans and militias competing for power.

Libyans have been fighting each other in a complicated war, which included allied militias of two rival governments - in Tobruk and Tripoli - attempting to exert their country over the country.

Many sides

Despite opposition from Libya's powerful militia commander General Abdullah Haftar and the Tobruk government, the unity government hopes to reclaim authority over the whole country.

Both bodies are currently engaged in a race to be the first to drive the Islamic State group out of the coastal city of Sirte, a bastion for jihadists in the country.

On Saturday, forces loyal to the unity government said they had retaken a jihadist air base near the city.

Pro-Tripoli forces announced on Facebook they had "retaken control of al-Gordabiya air base", nine miles south of Sirte, the hometown of the late dictator Muammar Gadaffi now held by IS.

It said the unity government forces were able to take the complex with the backing of "five air raids against jihadists and their equipment".

Sarraj told Journal du Dimanche that "total victory over IS in Sirte is close".

"(We hope) that this war against terrorism will be able to unite Libya. But it will be long. And the international community knows that," he said.

The unity government enjoyed a boost to its legitimacy when on Saturday two major armed groups in eastern Libya announced their support for the Tripoli authority.

The two armed groups were formerly loyal to Haftar, and includes a crack anti-terrorist force and a military intelligence brigade, giving a further boost to the unity government's limited presence in the east.

The commanders of the two units held a joint press conference with GNA defence minister-designate Al-Mahdi al-Bargathi to announce that they were throwing in their lot with the unity government.

Earlier, the Libyan Central Bank and the State Oil Company also rallied to his authority.

But the unity administration has yet to receive a vote of confidence in parliament, which remains linked to the former internationally-recognised government also based in the east.

Agencies contributed to this story.