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23 nations converge on Rome to discuss anti-Islamic State push, Libya

Nearly two dozen nations gathered on Tuesday to plot their fight against the Islamic State militant group in Syria and Iraq and how to choke off its rise in Libya.

The meeting holds amid talks in Geneva to end the five-year Syrian civil war, which has killed at least 250,000 people, driven more than 10 million from their homes and drawn in the U.S. and Russia on opposite sides.

The nations which form part of the wider Global Coalition to Counter ISIL would review their efforts to regain Syrian and Iraqi territory from the jihadist group and discuss ways to curb its wider influence, notably in Libya, officials said.

The meeting would strategise on how to cover stabilising areas such as the Iraqi city of Tikrit, which had been wrestled from the group, as well as broader efforts to undercut its finances, stem the flow of foreign fighters and counter its messaging.

A senior U.S. official told newsmen that the meeting would also address the potential spread of Islamic State to Libya, where rival factions are struggling to form a united government nearly five years after a Western coalition helped topple dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

“Where they control territory is where it gets on our radar screen,” he told reporters, saying the group was trying to seize parts of Libya, notably Sirte, and the U.S. would work with the Libyans and coalition partners to try to prevent that.

He added that the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2017 budget would call for more than $7 billion to fight Islamic State, up roughly a third from the previous year’s request to Congress.

Meanwhile, the U.S. maintained that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had lost the legitimacy to lead, and its first priority was to try to rein in militants from the Islamic State group.

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