France to start training Libyan police in coming weeks
PARIS (Reuters) - France said on Tuesday it would begin training Libyan policemen in the coming weeks, more than a year after pledging to do so as part of efforts to help restore security in the North African state.
Paris is worried by the situation in energy producer Libya which, more than two-and-a-half years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, is struggling to contain violence between militias and Islamist militants who are gaining ground in the south.
Paris agreed in February 2013 to initially train 1,000 Libyan police in counter-terrorism with another 1,500 after that, but, with Libya's parliament paralyzed by rivalries and brigades of heavily armed former rebels, Western countries have been reluctant to interfere in the internal political situation.
"This training will start. We are examining the extra requests made by the Libyans," foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal told reporters. "It's a question of weeks."
French officials have said the training, which had been due to begin in March, had been delayed because Tripoli was not providing financial guarantees to pay for the mission. Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in April it could not start because there were not enough Libyan volunteers.
"They have requested more detailed and technical training in a number of fields and we are adjusting to that," Nadal said, without saying who would pay for the mission.
France also plans to deploy 3,000 troops, currently in Mali, across the Sahel region along the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, to fight Islamist militancy, including with a new base in northern Chad.
A French offensive last year ousted Islamist insurgents from northern Mali, scattering them across the region.
Militias and armed protesters have seized ports and oilfields over the last few months to press demands on the central government, squeezing state finances in a country where oil and gas exports are the overwhelming source of revenue.