Libya needs help to secure borders: Minister
PARIS (Reuters) – Libya’s foreign minister called on Tuesday for Western and Arab allies to help seal his country’s borders to stop defeated extremist rebels coming in from Mali and further destabilising the strife-hit oil producer.
Tripoli’s government, already struggling to impose security two years after the overthrow of Moammer Gaddafi, is worried al-Qaeda-linked fighters pushed out of Mali by a French-led offensive could seek refuge in its vast desert territory.
Several extremist and separatist rebel groups have already taken advantage of the chaos surrounding the fighting in Mali, and the ‘Arab Spring’ overthrow of Gaddafi and other autocrats, to build up their arsenals and move freely back and forth over North and West Africa’s unprotected borders.
The Malian crisis – where rebel groups seized the northern two thirds of the country last year, raising fears they could turn it into a base for militant attacks – was itself in part triggered by an influx of tribal fighters originally armed in Libya.
“If we want to prevent them coming back, we have to seal the borders,” Mohammed Abdelaziz said after a meeting in Paris between the countries that helped oust Gaddafi. France convened delegations from the United States, Britain, Arab nations, the United Nations and European Union to discuss ways to stabilise Libya, though nothing tangible appeared to have been decided.
Speaking to Reuters, Abdelaziz said he had received pledges from France, Britain, Turkey and other countries to provide technical support and equipment, but more needed to be done to secure his country’s 4,000km frontier.