France warns of IS group push to grab Libya oil fields
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French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday that the Islamic State group was spreading from its stronghold on the Libyan coast to the interior of the country, with the aim of getting access to oil wells.
"They are in Sirte, their territory extends 250 kilometres (155 miles) along the coast, but they are starting to penetrate the interior and to be tempted by access to oil wells and reserves," Le Drian told RTL radio.
Le Drian’s declaration came after world powers backed on Sunday the formation of a national unity government in Libya to prevent IS extremists from extending their territory.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni, joined by UN envoy Martin Kobler, were optimistic that the majority of the representatives of Libya’s two rival governments would sign a unity deal on Dec. 16.
Representatives from 17 countries including Egypt, Germany, Russia, Turkey, and China signed a joint statement calling for an immediate ceasefire and promising to cut off contacts with factions that do not sign the deal.
Fifteen Libyans from different groups also attended the meeting. Past deadlines have slipped amid internal disagreements in the sprawling, oil-producing country rife with armed groups.
With around 3,000 fighters, the Islamic State group has solidified its foothold in Libya by taking over the central city of Sirte. It has attacked a hotel and a prison in Tripoli, oil fields and military checkpoints, and issued a video of its militants beheading 21 Egyptian Christians on a Libyan beach.
The UN brokered agreement would allow a new Libyan government to ask for international military assistance to fight the Islamic State group’s growing presence.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)