AP Interview: Libya wants allied airstrikes against IS

AP News
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Posted: Aug 20, 2015 8:33 AM
AP Interview: Libya wants allied airstrikes against IS

BAYDA, Libya (AP) — Libya's prime minister wants Arab allies to carry out airstrikes against the country's powerful Islamic State affiliates but says they don't need to send ground forces into the increasingly chaotic North African country.

Abdullah al-Thinni, who heads an internationally-recognized government at war with both Islamic extremists and rival Islamist-backed authorities that control the capital, said his forces need weapons and other support to take on the IS group, and have been let down by the international community.

"We're fully relying on Arab nations and not on the international community, as we were let down after repeated unanswered appeals," al-Thinni told The Associated Press in an interview late Wednesday.

Libya has slid into chaos since the NATO-backed uprising that ended Moammar Gadhafi's four-decade reign, with much of the country controlled by rival militias and Islamic extremists. The IS group has exploited the chaos, setting up several local affiliates and seizing Gadhafi's hometown, the central coastal city of Sirte, earlier this year.

Al-Thinni said he doesn't want foreign troops on the ground, because that would be a "violation of Libya's sovereignty."

Instead, he said his own forces could direct airstrikes "from an Arab coalition, either nations on their own or in clusters, to eliminate these groups" before moving in to secure territory.

Al-Thinni's government, with strong backing from Arab countries, has also been pressing the U.N. Security Council to lift an arms embargo imposed after the 2011 revolt. The Security Council renewed the ban in March, but allowed a sanctions committee to review requests for exemptions.

U.N. members are concerned that weapons could fall into the hands of any number of armed groups.