April 19, 2016 / 11:57 AM / 2 years ago

Britain says has no plans to send combat troops to Libya

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain has no plans to send combat troops to Libya, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Tuesday, responding to media reports that British special forces were already operating in the country.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond arrives at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

“I am clear that there is no appetite in Libya for foreign combat troops on the ground,” Hammond told parliament on his return from a visit to the new UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.

He added: “We do not anticipate any requests from the GNA for ground combat forces to take on Daesh (Islamic State) or any other armed groups and we have no plans to deploy troops in such a role.”

During his visit this week, Hammond offered the GNA 10 million pounds ($14.4 million) in support and said Britain was ready to offer further technical assistance.

On Monday, Libya’s new prime minister Fayez Seraj called for European help to combat people-smugglers but stopped short of making the formal invitation the EU says it needs to move its Mediterranean naval mission into Libyan waters to stem a new tide of migrants.

Libya has been in anarchy since Western-backed rebels overthrew President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with two competing governments based in Tripoli and the far east.

Previous training efforts ran into difficulties in 2012 and 2013 when Italy and Turkey started training police and, along with Britain and the United States, planned to build a force of 8,000 troops.

Those programs were hampered by militia infighting and political squabbling among Libyan factions.

Reporting by Stephen Addison; editing by Kate Holton

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