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US may send 'training' unit to Tunisia amid concerns over Russian activity in Libya

US says Russian jets sent to Khalifa Haftar's forces and $1.1bn in counterfeit Libyan money printed by Russian company has been seized
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, left, shakes hands with Libya's Khalifa Haftar in Moscow earlier this year (AFP/File photo)

The US said it is considering deploying a Security Force Assistance Brigade to Tunisia for training as part of its assistance to the North Africa country, amid concern over Russian activity in neighbouring Libya.

Libya's civil war has drawn in regional and global powers, prompting what the UN has called a huge influx of weapons and fighters into the region in violation of an arms embargo.

"As Russia continues to fan the flames of the Libyan conflict, regional security in North Africa is a heightened concern," the US Africa Command said in a statement on Friday, Reuters reported.

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"We’re looking at new ways to address mutual security concerns with Tunisia, including the use of our Security Force Assistance Brigade."

It later said the brigade refers to a small training unit as part of military assistance and no way implies combat military forces.

Russian military personnel have delivered 14 MiG 29 and Su-24 fighter jets to the Libyan National Army's (LNA) Jufra air base, the US military said on Wednesday, despite denials by the LNA and a Russian member of parliament.

MEE reported that US Army General Stephen Townsend, chief of the US Africa Command, had said: "Russia is clearly trying to tip the scales in its favour in Libya."

Also, the US State Department said on Saturday that Maltese authorities had seized counterfeit Libyan money worth $1.1bn that was printed by a Russian company and such money worsens Libya's economic problems, according to AFP.

"The influx of counterfeit, Russian-printed Libyan currency in recent years has exacerbated Libya's economic challenges," it said. 

Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates support the eastern-based Khalifa Haftar's LNA, which launched an offensive last year to seize the capital Tripoli.

In a statement, Tunisia's defence ministry said the US was a main partner in the effort to build its army's operational capability.