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Ground troops could go to Libya - Foreign Secretary

Published 24/04/2016

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond cannot rule out the possibility of British ground troops in Libya
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond cannot rule out the possibility of British ground troops in Libya

British ground combat troops could go to Libya in the future, the Foreign Secretary has said.

Philip Hammond told The Sunday Telegraph he cannot "rule anything out" as he does not know how the situation in the north African country will evolve.

But he insisted that the question of British ground, sea or air power taking action in Libya would be put to MPs.

Mr Hammond said the southern Mediterranean was an important security interest as terrorists established there would be a threat to all of Europe, including the UK.

"It wouldn't make sense to rule anything out," he said, discussing the possibility of ground combat troops going to the country.

"But if there were ever any question of a British combat role in any form - ground, sea or air - that would go to the House of Commons."

He also highlighted the closeness of Libya to the outer borders of Europe - he said it was 100 miles from Libya to the Italian island of Lampedusa which is the first stop for many migrants when they arrive to the continent.

"If Daesh (another name for Islamic State) became established in Libya and sought to use that established base to infiltrate terrorists into Europe, that would be a threat to all of us," he said.

He said he knew that the new Libyan government would be cautious about requesting Western military support but if it did, the Government would consider it.

Tory chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Crispin Blunt warned that transparency about British deployments should be more important than the Government's "curious" conditions for needing a parliamentary approval.

He said: "The British Government needs to take Parliament with it.

"I think Parliament will be quite sympathetic to the challenges the Government faces but if we're not told anything and we're given a concept of operations which looks pretty dangerous, and just around the ground element, then I think the Government could find itself getting into unnecessary trouble."

He added: "I think the more transparent the Government can be about the challenge it faces in trying to take Parliament and the public with it in getting a sensible strategy here, acknowledging that they've got to work with the international community, I think that would be better rather than these rather curious and difficult nostrums about when and when not parliamentary authority is required."

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