Italian FM: military force won't stabilize Libya

By COLLEEN BARRY - Associated Press ,

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Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, right, is flanked by Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti as he addresses the Italian Senate, in Rome

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, right, is flanked by Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti as he addresses the Italian Senate, in Rome (Photo: Giuseppe Lami/ANSA via AP)

MILAN (AP) — Italy will not be drawn into broad military action in Libya based on the terror threat, Italy's foreign minister indicated Wednesday, saying such actions could lead to further chaos.

The Italian government is under pressure both at home and from its allies as it outlines its response to ongoing instability in Libya, across the Mediterranean Sea, with divided factions and an increasing presence of Islamic State fighters.

Paolo Gentiloni told the Senate that Italy would defend itself from "the real threat" posed by the Islamic State group, "with proportionate actions."

Parliament has already given approval for military support in cases involving a terror threat to Italy's security. But Gentiloni warned against "drum calls" for military intervention.

"Military action is not a solution," he said. "At times, it can aggravate the problem."

Gentiloni noted that that Libya is six times larger than Italy with more than 200,000 armed soldiers and militias of various stripes.

"In any case, it is not through fighting terrorism that we can expect to achieve the stabilization of Libya," he said. "To confuse legitimate defense with the stability of Libya doesn't help. To the contrary, it can provoke dangerous spirals."

Italy has also committed to join a coalition to provide support to a new unity government upon its request, which will require further approval by lawmakers.

Gentiloni told lawmakers that the kidnapping of four Italian construction workers for eight months underlined the "critical and dangerous nature of the Libya situation."

Two of the hostages died in a shootout while being transferred to another location, while the others escaped March 4 after being left unattended in a hideout in the western Libyan city of Sabratha.

Gentiloni said no ransom was paid, and that the kidnappings appeared to be the work of local criminal groups with Islamic ties, not the Islamic State group, which has been fighting for territory near Sabratha.

Italian estimates put the number of Islamic State fighters in Libya at 5,000, Gentiloni said, adding they are geographically capable of striking at Libya's oil-producing areas.

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