2 years ago
Delays in forming unity gov’t frustrates the West BY ARSHAD MOHAMMED AND CRISPIAN BALMER Reuters ROME – An international coalition is pushing back Islamic State militants in their Syrian and Iraqi strongholds, but the group is threatening Libya and could seize the nation’s oil wealth, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday. Officials from 23 countries met in Rome to review the fight against Islamic State militants, who have created a self-proclaimed Caliphate across swathes of Syria and Iraq, and are spreading into other countries, notably Libya. While Western officials worry about the growing threat posed by the Islamic State group in the former Italian colony, there was no suggestion that foreign powers were preparing to launch a major military offensive against them there for now. The Islamic State group forces have attacked Libya’s oil infrastructure and established a foothold in the city of Sirte, exploiting a power vacuum in the North African country where two rival governments have been battling for supremacy. “That country has resources. The last thing in the world you want is a false caliphate with access to billions of dollars of oil revenue,” Kerry said. Under a U.N.-backed plan for a political transition, Libya’s two warring administrations are expected to form a unity government, but a month after the deal was agreed in Morocco, its implementation has been dogged by in-fighting. Kerry said the two sides were “on the brink of getting a government of national unity.” Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said once it was in place, many countries would be prepared to respond to any request for help with security. However, Kerry said the United States was opposed to deploying any of its ground forces into Libya and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius dismissed media speculation that Paris was poised to intervene in the oil-rich country. “That is totally inexact,” he told reporters in Rome. The United States is leading two different coalitions carrying out air strikes in Iraq and Syria that have targeted the Islamic State group, but the jihadists have been left largely untouched in Libya. “We are still not at the victory that we want to achieve, and will achieve, in either Syria or Iraq and we have seen Daesh playing a game of metastasizing out to other countries, particularly Libya,” Kerry said, using a pejorative Arabic term for Islamic State.