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U.S. "ready" to arm fractured Libyan gov't in ISIS fight

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (C), Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni and U.N. Libya envoy Martin Kobler (R) attend the ministerial meeting on Libya in Vienna, Austria, May 16, 2016.

REUTERS

VIENNA -- The United States and other world powers said Monday they were ready to supply Libya's internationally recognized governments with weapons to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and other terrorist groups, and would push for exemptions to an arms embargo imposed on the country.

The decision was stated in a communique prepared for the end of top-level talks on Libya and obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its release.

Libya is under a UN embargo imposed to keep lethal arms away from terrorists and rival militias vying for power. But the communique signed by the U.S. the four other permanent U.N. Security Council members and the more than 15 other nations participating at the talks says they're "ready to respond to the Libyan government's requests for training and equipping" government forces.

Earlier Monday, Libya's U.N.-established presidency council effectively gave the go-ahead for 18 government ministers to start work, even though they have not received backing from the parliament, which is based in the country's east.

The development, announced in a council statement, was an effort to bypass political deadlock that continues to grip the North African country five years after the ouster and killing of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Since 2014, Libya has been torn among rival militias, tribes, governments and parliaments.

The council was created under a U.N.-brokered unity deal struck in December to reconcile Libya's many political divisions. It won the support of a former powerbase in the country's capital, Tripoli, but failed to secure a vote of confidence by the country's internationally-recognized parliament, based in Tobruk, a city in eastern Libya.

​ISIS militants drive in procession through the northeastern Libyan city of Sirte

ISIS militants drive in procession through the northeastern Libyan city of Sirte, in a video released by the group on Feb. 19, 2015.

The U.N. deal also created a de facto Cabinet to administer the country under Prime Minister-designate Fayez Serraj and the 18 ministers will answer to him.

Western nations hope Serraj's government can unite the country in order to combat an increasingly powerful ISIS affiliate there.

As Libya sank into chaos over the past years, ISIS militants gained a foothold, taking over the central city of Sirte and carrying out deadly attacks across the country.

The crisis has heightened fears that ISIS or other terror groups could smuggle fighters into Europe by exploiting the illegal human trafficking networks that have sent a flood of refugees toward Italy from the Libyan coast.