EU agrees to lift arms embargo on Libya
The ambassadors of the European Union (EU) member states agreed in Brussels Wednesday to lift the bloc's 18-year-long arms embargo on Libya.
They made the decision at their weekly meeting under the mounting pressure from the Italian government, sources close to the meeting said.
The Italian government wants the move to help Libya patrol its coastline more effectively and catch the hundreds of illegal immigrants who try to reach Europe by sea each month.
The formal decision to lift the embargo would be taken by the EU foreign ministers in mid-October in Luxembourg where they hold their October meeting each year.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has expressed "great satisfaction with the agreement" in a statement issued on the same day, according to media reports monitored here.
Italy's interior ministry said that more than 9,700 illegal immigrants, many from North Africa, had arrived on its shores so far this year.
There are also reports saying that the EU's lifting of the arms embargo is also a result of warming ties between Tripoli and Brussels as well as the growing interest of some EU member states in Libya's oil reserves.
The EU and the United States imposed trade sanctions on the African country in 1986 in retaliation for what they saw as Libya's support for terrorist groups.