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U.N. to Authorize EU Operation to Enforce Libya Arms Embargo

The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday was set to authorize an EU naval force to enforce the arms embargo on Libya by intercepting ships suspected of carrying weapons to the Islamic State group and other militias.

The 15-member council was to vote on a resolution drafted by Britain and France that would expand the mission of Operation Sophia, which has been combating migrant-smuggling in the Mediterranean.

Operation Sophia's enforcement of the arms embargo would help shore up the U.N.-backed unity government as it struggles to establish its authority over the entire north African country.

Militias loyal to the new government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj have been battling to retake from IS jihadists the key city of Sirte.

The draft resolution invokes Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which allows for the use of military force.

It would grant a 12-month mandate to EU vessels to "inspect, without undue delay, on the high seas off the coast of Libya, vessels bound to, or from Libya which they have reasonable grounds to believe are carrying arms or related material to or from Libya."

Libya descended into chaos during the 2011 uprising against Moamer Kadhafi and the new government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj set up office in Tripoli only two months ago.

The arms embargo was imposed on Libya in 2011, but U.N. sanctions monitors have reported shipments from Egypt, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan to various factions.

Diplomats said they expected broad support for the measure although it remained unclear whether Russia, Egypt and Venezuela would abstain.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin last week expressed concerns that the measure could create "suspicion against any party" and negotiations have focused on Moscow's proposed changes.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini asked the council last week to endorse the naval mission's expanded mandate, saying it would "make the Mediterranean a safer place."

Libya is awash with weapons, with some 20 million pieces of weaponry in a country of six million people, according to the United Nations.

Source: Agence France Presse


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