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Photograph: en.wikipedia.org

Libya needs a government of national unity to have the best chance of defeating the Islamic State extremist group, the European Union's top diplomat said Friday

The radical Islamist group has made inroads amid a political vacuum in the north African country, where two rival governments are locked in efforts to agree to a joint cabinet, after signing a UN-brokered peace deal in December.

"The best condition to fight against Daesh in Libya is going to be counting on the government of national accord to be in place and to work in partnership with them to fight and to defeat Daesh," said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, using an alternative name for the group.

She was speaking in Amsterdam, following a meeting of EU defence ministers attended also by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

There has been increasing talk in recent weeks about staging an international military intervention in Libya to stem the spread of Islamic State there, following a US-led air campaign targeting the group in Syria and Iraq.

But many are wary of taking action without the blessing of Libya's new leadership.

The formation of a national unity government "will be an important first step also to be able to fight ISIL," Stoltenberg said ahead of Friday's talks, using an acronym for the Islamic State.

The ministers discussed ways of providing security support to the unity government, once it is in place, as well as plans to extend an EU naval mission targeting migrant traffickers in the high seas off the coast of Libya.

The aim is to expand the operation, codenamed Sofia, to the Libyan coast - a move that would require government approval. The mission could also be broadened to include training for Libyan coastguards, Mogherini said.

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