Libya says it wants planes to fight IS

Libya’s unity government called Tuesday for warplanes and helicopters to fight jihadists as it hailed international support for granting it an exemption to a longstanding embargo on weapons sales.
On Monday, the United States, Italy and Libya’s allies and neighbours agreed in Vienna to arm the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) to confront the threat from the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.
The agreement comes as rival Libyan forces prepare separate offensives against IS, which has taken advantage of the chaos since the 2011 revolution to establish a new stronghold across the Mediterranean from Europe.
International backing for an exemption to the embargo, in place since 2011, is “fundamental to the creation of a strong army… capable of fighting the jihadist Islamic State group and other extremist groups”, GNA deputy head Mussa al-Kony told AFP.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said a 25-member group agreed to exempt the GNA from the UN arms embargo imposed since the uprising against Moamer Kadhafi’s regime five years ago.
“State institutions have collapsed because the army itself fell apart. Our priority today is to unify this institution and revive it, but without weapons we cannot do this,” Kony said.
“What we want is to acquire all sorts of weaponry… but our priority is aircraft,” he said.
“We want pilots, helicopters and warplanes.”
On Monday in Vienna, GNA chief Fayez al-Sarraj requested both equipment and training which the international ministers present were ready to support.
World powers, Kerry said, will support the GNA’s exemption “from the UN arms embargo to acquire those weapons and bullets needed to fight Daesh (IS) and other terrorist groups”.
Sarraj has sought for the past month and a half to assert the GNA’s authority in Tripoli.
It comes as IS seeks to expand westwards out of its stronghold Sirte, Kadhafi’s hometown on the Mediterranean coast which it has controlled since last June.
Europe fears the jihadists could use Sirte’s port and airport as a springboard to attack the continent.
The international community, particularly European powers, are also concerned about a stream of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya’s unsecured coast.

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