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UK attacks on IS in Libya a long way off, says Hilary Benn

Published 31/01/2016

Hilary Benn says Britain 'a long way' from attacks in Libya
Hilary Benn says Britain 'a long way' from attacks in Libya

Britain is "a long way" from launching military action against the self-styled Islamic State in Libya, shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn said following reports of a secret reconnaissance mission to scope possible air strikes.

The Sunday Times claims that RAF officers, MI6 operatives and diplomats joined US and French colleagues at an airbase in Tobruk controlled by pro-western militia forces to establish potential targets.

It comes amid concerns the terror group could switch its base from Syria in order to start targeting the Mediterranean.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said the UK will do "everything we can" to support a new Libyan government in its efforts to combat IS (also known as Daesh) and the criminal gangs behind the migrant boats heading to Europe.

The Government has offered British forces in a training role if a new unity administration in Tripoli requests support.

The Ministry of Defence said no decisions had been taken on British involvement in any international coalition force.

Mr Benn - who backed UK strikes in Syria in defiance of Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn - told Sky News that questions about whether Labour would support such action were premature.

"Nothing has been, as far as I am aware, said publicly or reported to the House of Commons," he said on the Murnaghan programme.

"The threat from Daesh and its affiliates is to be found, sadly, in too many places now, not just Syria and Iraq.

"We saw the downing of the Russian airline over the Sinai and we have seen right over in Nigeria what Boko Haram have been doing, and there is a problem with a Daesh presence in Libya.

"There is no proposition, there is no proposal, there is no UN resolution and I think we are a long way away from that."

An MOD Spokesperson said: "The UK, along with international partners, is supporting the process to form a recognised Libyan government and we are developing plans to support this.

"No decisions have been made about the future deployment of any British military forces to Libya as part of an international coalition force."

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