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Feb 24, 12:17 PM EST

Italy pushes for new diplomatic effort in Libya


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PARIS (AP) -- Italy's prime minister said Tuesday that a U.N. peacekeeping operation in Libya wasn't on the agenda yet, and called for the international community to launch a new diplomatic effort as the security situation rapidly deteriorates in the country.

Matteo Renzi, speaking at a news conference during a trip to Paris, said conditions haven't been met for a U.N. peacekeeping operation.

French President Francois Hollande says Paris is supporting Italian efforts to help find solutions in Libya.

Both leaders are pushing for a U.N. initiative to promote political dialogue among Libyans, who are divided among competing militias, Islamist factions and tribal rivalries.

Two weeks ago, Italy appeared to be supporting military intervention, but Renzi has since stressed diplomacy.

"Libya is the priority issue," Renzi said. "The international community cannot take the risk to look the other way."

Italy, Libya's former colonial ruler, had close economic and political relations with Tripoli during the long rule of leader Moammar Gadhafi, who was ousted in 2011.

With Italian islands only a few hundred kilometers from Libya, Italy has borne the brunt of waves of migrants who are smuggled across the Mediterranean from Libya.

Italian authorities have also raised fears that extremists backing the Islamic State group might mingle among the trafficked migrants and reach Italy by sea.

France has 3,000 troops deployed in five countries in Africa's Sahel region, some of them in Niger close to the Libyan border, whose key mission is to stop weapons smuggling from Libya.

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