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Italy warns against military action in Libya

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (L) and the head of Tripoli's internationally recognised government, Fayez al-Sarraj, met in Rome
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (L) and the head of Tripoli's internationally recognised government, Fayez al-Sarraj, met in Rome AFP
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Rome (AFP)

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warned Tuesday against possible military action in Libya, as the head of Tripoli's internationally recognised government, Fayez al-Sarraj, kicked off a European tour to drum up support against a possible attack by strongman Khalifa Haftar.

The contents of a meeting between Conte and Sarraj -- which Italian media said lasted about 90 minutes -- were not made public.

But Conte said on the sidelines of a separate event that "there is no military solution that could guarantee the stabilisation of the country".

"The military solution would, in any case, come at the cost of human lives and humanitarian crises," Conte said.

Sarraj, who heads the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, is seeking support against an attack on Tripoli by Haftar, who has urged his troops to "wipe out" government forces.

After his meeting with Conte, Sarraj was set to travel to Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel later on Tuesday and then to Paris to meet French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday.

The visit to France, in particular, comes after the GNA repeatedly accused Paris of politically backing the assault which Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) launched on Tripoli on April 4.

Italy, Libya's former colonial power, is a key backer of the GNA and has echoed calls by Merkel for a "unified" European position and a political solution to resolve the crisis.

In a slip of the tongue, Conte said he had spoken "with president Haftar," but immediately corrected himself to say: "I've spoken with president Sarraj. I am confident I will be able to meet General Haftar soon. We are seeking to establish how and when."

Sarraj may also possibly travel to London as part of his tour.

Britain has pushed for a resolution at the UN Security Council demanding a ceasefire in Libya but its efforts have foundered amid divisions at the world body.

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