France on Tuesday reaffirmed its "full support" for Libya's unity government, seeking to mend fences after the interim leader demanded an explanation for the presence of French troops in the east of the conflict-ridden country.
Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the Government of National Accord (GNA), had last Monday told French ambassador Antoine Sivan that their presence was a "violation of international customs" and "unacceptable interference."
He was speaking a few days after France's President Francois Hollande confirmed that his country had soldiers in Libya, after three French troops were killed there during an intelligence-gathering mission.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault spoke to Sarraj by telephone to "renew the full support of France to the national unity government acting to unify Libya and restore its institutions," the French foreign ministry said Tuesday.
France recognizes the GNA, but also supports forces that are loyal to a parliament and government based in the country's east that are refusing to recognize and cede power to the U.N.-backed administration.
Ayrault "reaffirmed France's wish to reinforce its cooperation with this (Tripoli-based) government in all domains, starting with security and the fight against terrorism," the ministry said in a statement.
The French prime minister also "hailed the decision of the Libyan authorities to appeal for international aid, which led notably to American air strikes on terrorist targets in (eastern) Sirte," the statement said.
U.S. warplanes carried out their first air strikes on positions of the Islamic State group in Sirte on Monday at the request of the GNA.
Forces loyal to the GNA have been fighting to retake Sirte from the Islamic State group after the jihadists overran the city -- 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of the capital -- in June last year.
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