UK troops could head to Libya to train local forces


British troops could be sent to Libya to help train local forces if a new unity government requests support, Downing Street has indicated.

A UN-sponsored deal aiming to end Libya's conflict by forming a new national unity administration is due to be signed in Morocco and Number 10 said it would consider any request for assistance.

The UK Government had made clear it would support a new administration in Libya but if any troops were sent to the country they would not be in a combat role, a Downing Street spokesman said.

"No decisions have been made about any future deployment of British troops to Libya," the spokesman said.

If a unity administration is formed and requests assistance, that appeal for help would be considered by the Government.

"We have always been clear we would look to support a unity government if one were to be formed and if one is formed we would obviously need to wait for any requests that they put to us before we would then make a decision," the spokesman said.

"We have always certainly been clear that if any troops were ever deployed on the back of a request from that government, that they certainly would not be in a combat role."

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told MPs on Wednesday the West and the Gulf states would "swing behind" a new Libyan government to help them combat Islamic State, also known as Daesh.

He said if a unity government deal was signed "the western countries and the Gulf countries will swing behind that government of national accord and will look to build their capability as soon and as quickly as possible, so that we can start to work in Libya to contain the threat that Daesh now clearly represents in that country".

The Times said Britain is preparing to send up to 1,000 troops and special forces to the North African country to help it resist the advances of IS.

It reported that British military personnel could contribute to a 6,000-strong Italian-led mission to train and support Libyan security forces.

Libya has descended into chaos following the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with factional violence and the lack of a stable government opening the door for IS to make gains in the country.