Western military action against Islamist fighters in southern Libya has been ruled out by France, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Monday.
The announcement essentially rebuffs an appeal for intervention from neighboring Niger, but Fabius said the Western powers were drawing up plans to help the Libyan government deal with the issue.
“No, an intervention, no (that’s not being discussed),” Fabius told RTL radio. “But we are going to have an international meeting in Rome at the beginning of March to give Libya more help because it’s true that there are terrorists gathering in the south.
Fabius said Britain, Germany, the United States, Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia were all involved in talks on how to help Libya.
“We have to fight terrorism everywhere,” Fabius said. “That does not mean we have to have people on the ground, it means we have to help governments that want to get rid of terrorism, which is the case with the Libyan government.”
Niger last week called on the West to finish the job they started in Libya by dealing with the Islamists who have established bases in the south since the 2011 overthrow of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
A poor but mineral-rich former French colony, Niger has had to contend with numerous Islamist attacks and kidnappings on its own soil, some of which have threatened the security of its uranium production.
In an annual intelligence report published in December, the United States said southern Libya had become an “incubator” for terrorism in a “hothouse” region and described a possible intervention as “within the bounds of the possible,” according to Agence France-Presse.