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Media: Italy prepares military operation in Libya

U.S. and the EU have both said they agree with Italy that deeper military involvement will need the request of the Libyan government

Baku. 26 February. REPORT.AZ/ Italy is resisting pressure to allow aircraft and armed drones to stage attacks on Islamic State militants in Libya from its territory, saying on Thursday that direct Western military intervention on the ground there was "unthinkable", Report informs citing the TASS.

While Libya's rival factions have struggled to agree to a UN-backed national unity government, the Americans have launched air strikes on Islamic State outposts in the country and the French have conducted surveillance flights and sent military advisers.

But the U.S. and the EU have both said they agree with Italy that deeper military involvement will need the request of the Libyan government.

Italy is concerned that Western military intervention without such a request will stoke IS popularity and turn Libyan militias against the West. It is trying to persuade its allies to limit action until a government is in place.

"Libya can be stabilized by local forces. A military intervention and occupation of the country (by Western forces) would be unthinkable," Italian Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti said in an interview on Canale 5 television.

When asked about reports of French special forces on the ground there, she said: "In the past, unilateral accelerations have not helped Libya."

She was referring to the Western bombing that helped depose Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi five years ago but which has led to civil war and chaos, allowing IS to take root just across the Mediterranean from Europe.

Italy's Sigonella air base, where U.S. and NATO forces also are stationed, is just 500 km (310 miles) from Tripoli, making it the West's best staging area for air strikes on Libya.

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