libya flag, oružje.jpg
Photograph: Photo by BRQ Network, used under CC BY

Chief diplomats from about 20 countries are meeting Monday in Vienna to shore up support for Libya's fragile UN-backed government and discuss ways to stabilize the country that has become a hub for extremists and people smugglers.

The power vacuum created by Libya's two rival administrations since mid-2014, each backed by competing militias, and the chaos following the toppling of dictator Moamer Gaddafi in 2011 has enabled Islamic State extremists to establish a foothold in the North African oil-producing country.

Security issues top the agenda at the talks hosted by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

"We are not asking for foreign boots on the ground, but we are requesting assistance with training, and lifting the arms embargo on Libya," the country's premier-designate, Fayez Serraj, wrote Sunday in Britain's Daily Telegraph.

Serraj is scheduled to attend the Vienna talks, along with chief diplomats from the European Union, North Africa and the Middle East, as well as the UN veto powers.

In March, a national unity government formed under a UN-sponsored peace deal revived international hopes that it will be able to re-establish stability and stop Islamic State's expansion.

Based in Tripoli, it has limited influence elsewhere in the country.

Some Western countries have been mulling airstrikes against Islamic State in Libya, but UN Libya envoy Martin Kobler has warned that such operations would be premature if there is no effective Libyan army that can take control of bombed cities.

European countries are keen to see a stable Libya because they want to stop the lawlessness that has turned the country into a major hub for migrants seeking to go to Europe.

Kobler estimates that at least 100,000 people could cross the Mediterranean from Libya to southern Europe this year.

The officials will also hold crisis talks on Syria on Tuesday, and are expected to broker talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan after the recent flare-up of violence between the two countries.

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