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Photo: Libyan Prime Minister Office

Libya PM: allies preparing 'Arab taskforce' to fight IS

Abdullah al-Thani says Jordan, Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia close to creating force to tackle the Islamic State group, adding that Libya’s forces to be restructured by Jordan.

The head of the Tobruk government in Libya, Abdullah al-Thani, has said that moves are under way to form a “pan-Arab” military force to combat the Islamic State group.

Thani said at a Wednesday news conference in Amman: “I have held discussions with King Abdullah II to coordinate on establishing a unified Arab force led by the supporting countries, Jordan, Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia”.

He said the plan was in response to a request made by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi “to create an Arab force to combat terrorism led by Daesh [the Islamic State group]”.

Thani said “practical and proactive dialogue will take place over the coming days at the Arab and international levels to confirm the presence of a bid to establish an Arab taskforce to fight terrorism”.

Thani arrived in Amman on Tuesday for a three-day visit to meet political, military, and security officials.

He also said that plans were under way for Jordan’s army to help restructure the Libyan army.

“The Jordanian chief of staff has instructed departments to meet Libyan counterparts,” he said, adding that more meetings will be held in the coming days.

Thani said that he hoped a UN Security Council arms embargo on Libya would also be lifted. “There is extensive coordination at the level of Arab leaders to put pressure on the UNSC sanctions panel, to partially lift the embargo in order to provide shipments to defend the Libyan people.”

Thani said Jordan will push the issue when it becomes the representative of the Arab group at the UNSC next month.

The Libyan prime minister praised Jordanian-Libyan cooperation, saying that the country had offered its help during and after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

However, Thani said the cooperation was hurt by “the extremists’ domination” of his country adding that “Libya was unable to rebuild its military and security institutions, because of the establishment of parallel alien bodies”.

Libya currently has two governments – the internationally recognised Tobruk parliament, known as the House of Representatives, which is protected by troops loyal to General Khalifa Haftar, and the Tripoli government calling itself the General National Congress, set up by the opposing “Libya Dawn” movement and supported by various militias and Islamist groups. Neither administration recognises the other as legitimate.

Thani laid out what he said were the fixed foundations for Libyan dialogue, as: “Recognising the legitimacy of the [Tobruk] parliament as a red line that cannot be crossed, where there can be no return to the expired General National Congress; and fighting terrorism, a red line that cannot be backed away from.”

“Everyone must recognise that there is terrorism in Libya and that it must be resisted by all means.”

Thani welcomed the idea of establishing a national consensus government provided it is formed out of patriotic figures who are not affiliated to any parties or ideologies, as he said.

Thani stressed the purpose of such a government would be to build a modern Libyan state based on the peaceful transfer of power, democracy, justice, and respect for different opinions.

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