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Libya requests NATO assistance to bolster security institutions

Libya's UN-backed government asked for help following a shift to fighting international terrorism. Libya has been in crisis since a 2011 civil war let the so-called "Islamic State" gain a foothold in the nation.

Libya formally requested the help of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to help strengthen Libyan security institutions, according to NATO head Jens Stoltenberg.

Stoltenberg told reporters on Thursday that the alliance was looking into exactly what could be done to help the war-stricken nation, which has been in turmoil since the 2011 toppling of leader Moammar Gadhafi. Following the civil war and the ensuing power vacuum competing governments and militias vied for power.

"Libya needs that framework to be able to develop the forces and stabilize the country," Stoltenberg said, though he did not detail when that effort might start or what it might entail.

The country's United Nations-backed government requested the "advice and expertise in the field of defense and security institution building."

Stoltenberg was speaking during a meeting of the military alliance's defense ministers in Brussels.

The Libyan request came after the group decided on Wednesday to establish a new coordination hub in the Italian city of Naples to analyze information from countries such as Libya, Syria and Iraq as part of stepping up NATO involvement in the fight against terrorism.

The "hub" was expected to consist of about 100 people honing in on potential threats in the volatile region. 

Stoltenberg noted that NATO members had agreed last year to provide support to Libya if the UN-backed national unity government asked for it.

Libya's Government of National Accord, based in Tripoli, has struggled to control the country, particularly in the east where a rival administration holds sway as well as in other regions where local militias maintain control.

Thousands of people leave from Libya to cross the Mediterranean Sea - often in overpacked, unseaworthy vessels - in attempts to reach Europe. Italy and the European Union have been in talks with Libyan officials to discuss how migrants and refugees could be dissuaded from embarking on the dangerous journey.

aw/sms (Reuters, dpa, AP)

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