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France: threat of EU sanctions will help Libya form government

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has called for sanctions to be put on any Libyan official holding up plans for a unity government. A UN-backed deal to merge two rival administrations has, so far, failed.

"We can't let the Libyan situation continue. It's not only a danger for the Libyans, but the region and it threatens Europe," Ayrault told the French news channel iTELE on Thursday.

"I do not exclude threatening [Libyan politicians] with sanctions," he said, adding that he would recommend the EU impose restrictions and penalties at the next foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels on Monday.

Those targeted for censure would be Libyan officials who obstruct the formation of a UN-backed unity government.

Patience is wearing thin in Western capitals over the failure of Libyan lawmakers to form an alliance due to resistance from hardliners.

In 2014, an Islamist-led militia alliance overran Tripoli and forced the internationally recognized administration to flee to the east of the country.

Libyan parliament in Tripoli

Libya's parliament in Tripoli is one of two rival legislatures

IS presence stokes fears

Western intelligence officials believe the subsequent power vacuum has allowed the "Islamic State" (IS) militant group to gain a stronghold in the oil-rich nation.

French officials have warned for more than a year that the political void is creating favorable conditions for Islamist groups, which could use Libya as a launch pad for attacks in Europe.

"We have to fight Daesh where it is trying to develop in Libya, but the precondition is the constitution of a new national unity government," Ayrault told i-TELE, referring to IS by an Arabic acronym.

"We can wait no longer" he added, denouncing those who "put themselves in the way out of self-interest."

France said last month that it would support economic sanctions for those who "knowingly" scuppered the political process, just as Libya's Presidential Council was set to agree a plan that would see 18 ministers run the country.

Greece opposed to sanctions

EU diplomats renewed negotiations this week on imposing travel bans and asset freezes on certain individuals, although a consensus among the 28 nations has yet to be reached, with Greece in particular opposed to the move, according to officials in Brussels.

Watch video 12:07

Martin Kobler, UN Special Envoy to Libya talks to DW News

The United Nations is seeking to unite factions and militias that have competed for power since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Western powers say the UN process is the only hope of bringing stability and stemming Islamic militancy.

Western countries agreed that military action is needed to dislodge IS in Libya, but want a national unity government installed to request help before formally intervening.

Last month, the United States conducted limited airstrikes against IS positions in Libya.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is due in Paris on Sunday to meet with Ayrault and other European foreign ministers to discuss the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Libya.

mm/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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