Many in NATO are looking to its so-called Active Endeavour counter-terrorism mission in the Mediterranean, which was set up after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, to switch roles and link up with an EU naval mission.

Diplomats say Libya would have to make a formal request for NATO and the European Union to go after smugglers in Libyan territorial waters and NATO would possibly even a U.N. Security Council resolution, which Russia has said it is unlikely to grant because it believes NATO’s 2011 air campaign went too far.

The EU’s “Sophia” mission is operating in international waters near Libya, but it is too far out to destroy boats used by people smugglers, catch traffickers or head off migrants trying to reach Europe by sea from Libya.

Another area of support for NATO would be helping set up a Libyan Defence Ministry in the lawless country, and to work with the European Union to train police and border and coastguards.

Britain would like to see that training in Libya itself, whereas Germany is adamant its personnel will not be on the ground in the country and that training should be in Tunisia.

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