France pushes for EU sanctions against Libyan officials
BOUAZZA BEN BOUAZZA
Mar. 18, 2016
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — France's foreign minister says it is "urgent" for Libya's unity government to start working in Tripoli and says his country is ready to support eventual U.N. Security Council action to support that crucial step.
Jean-Marc Ayrault spoke Friday during a visit to Tunisia, which is facing increasing security threats from Islamic extremists and turmoil in neighboring Libya.
"I insist that it is urgent to set up and recognize a national unity government in Libya. Nothing can be done or started without this step," he told reporters in Tunis.
He said France is ready to offer its backing at the U.N. Security Council for international support for the new government, without elaborating. "France is very committed to this," he said.
Ayrault later met with the head of Libya's unity government, Fayez Serraj. The government, based in Tunis, is supposed to replace two rival administrations in Libya, one dominated by Islamists based in the capital Tripoli, the other in the eastern city of Tobruk recognized by the international community.
Following the meeting, Ayrault hailed Serraj as a patriot "who wants to revive his country."
European governments are watching the situation in Libya with great concern. France has sent reconnaissance flights over Libya, the defense minister said in an interview with Le Figaro this week. Libyan officials say French special forces are present in the east.
Ayrault reiterated threats of European sanctions against Libyan officials who are blocking the unity government, named after months of U.N.-brokered talks to end the chaos in Libya.
Ayrault also attended a commemoration of an Islamic extremist attack on Tunisia's leading museum a year ago, which left 22 people dead, mainly foreign tourists. A 12-meter (40-foot)-long mosaic with the images and names of the victims was unveiled in front of the Bardo museum.
He said Tunisia was repeatedly targeted last year "because the success of the democratic transition in Tunisia is intolerable for the dark forces of the Islamic State group."
France is boosting aid to Tunisia's security forces since after last year's attacks, including equipment and training.