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Anti-IS coalition debates Libya while Syria peace talks stall

Anti-IS coalition leaders have retreated from launching a new military intervention in Libya despite the terror threat. Talks were held in Rome Tuesday as the UN struggled to hold together Syrian peace talks in Geneva.

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US Secretary of State John Kerry

Speaking at a 23-nation conference in the Italian capital, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the last thing anyone wants "is a false caliphate with access to billions of dollars in oil revenue," referring to the increased threat from IS in the North African country.

He called on Washington's partners in Europe and the Middle East to boost security training and help Libya's military "not just to clear territory, but to create a safe environment" for the proposed unity government to operate.

But the coalition ruled out direct military intervention in Libya for now, despite last week's comments by Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti that her country was preparing militarily to counter the threat together with the US, Britain and France.

Syria peace talks stall

The anti-IS coalition met as just a few hundred kilometers away in Geneva, the UN attempted to hold together the fragile Syrian peace talks.

Syrian peace talks in Geneva

In Geneva, the main Syrian opposition postponed its talks with the UN envoy on Tuesday

On Tuesday, the main Syrian opposition delegation - the Higher Negotiations Committee - postponed its planned meeting with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura citing an escalation in violence in the war-torn country.

The Syrian government also denied formal peace negotiations had begun, despite the UN saying the six-month long talks had started in earnest last Friday.

Chief regime negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari insisted that discussions were still "in a preparatory phase," adding that opposition delegate was not made up of "professional politicians."

As two of the main players wavered, German foreign minster Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that behind the scenes, ongoing tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iraq may lead to a collapse of the peace process.

Firm strategy for Syria & Iraq

In Rome, coalition leaders agreed to keep up the battle against IS in Syria and Iraq after successfully pushing back IS fighters from several areas they previously held in both countries.

But simultaneously, the jihadi group has carved out territory in the center of Libya, and many of its fighters have moved to the region.

Kerry, along with Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, told their allies that IS was adapting to the pressure on its heartland and redirecting its efforts towards Libya.

Lackluster response

In a statement following the talks, the US-led coalition described the "growing influence" of the terrorist group in Libya as a worrying development.

The statement said its leaders would "continue to monitor closely developments there and stand ready to support the fledgling national unity government in its efforts to establish peace and security for the Libyan people."

Libya became mired in chaos following the toppling of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Since 2014, the country has been split between two rival governments and the new UN-brokered unity government still doesn't have parliamentary approval.

Leaders backtrack

Despite reports that Paris was pushing for airstrikes, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed to reporters after the meeting that military action was not on the agenda.

"There is absolutely no question of military intervention in Libya," Fabius said. "There is pressure (for that) but that is not the position of the government."

Italy, whose southernmost territory lies less than 480 kilometers (300 miles) from Libya, has said it would participate in a UN-authorized peacekeeping or stabilization mission.

mm/ng (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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