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Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni (R) shakes hands with his Libyan counterpart Fayez al-Sarraj at Chigi Palace in Rome, Italy, July 26, 2017. REUTERS/Max Rossi

(reuters_tickers)

ROME (Reuters) - Libya's Tripoli-based government has asked Italy to provide naval support in fighting human trafficking in Libyan territorial waters, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on Wednesday.

Gentiloni spoke after meeting Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Seraj, who came to Rome a day after agreeing a conditional ceasefire and possible elections next year with the divided country's eastern commander, Khalifa Haftar.

"A few days ago, President Seraj sent me a letter in which he asked the Italian government for technical support by our naval vessels in the common effort to fight human traffickers," Gentiloni said.

Gentiloni added that the request, if parliament agrees to support it, "is necessary" and "would be carried out in Libyan waters by ships sent from Italy".

People smugglers operating with impunity in Libya have sent hundreds of thousands of migrants to Italy by sea since the start of 2014.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer, editing by Isla Binnie)

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Reuters