'No need for foreign troops on Libyan soil,' Sarraj says

Rome (AFP) - The head of Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) said Wednesday the country did not need foreign troops on the ground in the fight against the Islamic State group.

"We do not need foreign troops on Libyan soil," Fayez al-Sarraj said in an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera daily.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that American special operations troops have for the first time started directly supporting Libyan forces battling the Islamic State (IS) group in their key stronghold of Sirte.

"Our men can manage alone once they have cover from the air. I only asked for US air strikes which must be very precise and limited in time and geographical scope, always carried out in coordination with us," he said.

Pro-GNA forces have been engaged in a military operation since May 12 to retake the coastal city located 450 kilometres (280 miles) east of Tripoli. Sirte has been a stronghold of the jihadist group since June last year.

The United States has since last Monday been carrying out air raids on IS positions in the city at the GNA's request.

According to the Post, the US forces are operating alongside British troops, and are helping to coordinate American air strikes and providing intelligence to partner forces.

Sarraj warned IS "will use any means possible to send its militants to Italy and Europe" and said he "would not be at all surprised to discover that its men hide out on boats" of migrants headed for the Italian coast.

Rome has authorised the US to use its bases and air space for strikes in Libya against IS. The head of the GNA said he "may go to Russia soon", adding that his government had "good relations" with Moscow, but without providing further details on the possible trip.

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