US President Barack Obama has convened his National Security Council to tackle the growing "Islamic State" influence in Libya. The US and its European allies are weighing military options for the Arab country.
Washington is willing to engage the IS group beyond Iraq and Syria, Obama said on Thursday.
The United States intends to "counter ISIL terrorist plotters in any country where it is necessary," the White House statement said, referring to the "Islamic State" (IS) by an alternate acronym.
"The president directed his national security team to continue efforts to strengthen governance and support ongoing counterterrorism efforts in Libya and other countries where ISIL has sought to establish a presence," the statement added.
Libya fell into a power vacuum after a NATO-backed rebellion ousted long-time ruler Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. IS has used the instability to gain a foothold in the city of Sirte. The militants also conducted several attacks on oil installations this month.
The militant group was also establishing a training site in Libya and welcoming foreign fighters, reminiscent of its actions in Iraq and Syria, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters earlier on Thursday.
"We don't want to be on a glide slope to a situation like Syria and Iraq," Carter said. "That's the reason why we're watching it that closely. That's the reason why we develop options for what we might do in the future."
Earlier this week, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the US had already deployed "a small number of military personnel" to Libya to "get a clearer picture of exactly what's happening there." He added that the US was "looking at military options" there.
Breaking the deadlock
Italy, Britain and France are also considering joint military intervention with the United States to stabilize the Arab country, Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said in an interview published Thursday.
"We cannot imagine letting the spring go by with the Libya situation still deadlocked," she told "Corriere della Sera."
However, NATO countries would intervene only if invited by Libyans, according to Pinotti.
"We should not supply fodder for jihadi propaganda, which would want to present any intervention as a Western invasion," she said.
Libya currently has two governments, a militia-backed regime in the capital Tripoli and an internationally recognized government in Tobruk. A UN-backed unity government was rejected by the Tobruk parliament earlier this week.
dj/sms (Reuters, AFP, dpa)