Italy’s cabinet has backed sending a mission to Libya to try to stem the influx of migrants.
The mission would help Libya “reinforce their capacity to control their borders and national territory”, said Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
It would reportedly comprise ships, planes and at least 700 sailors.
Mr Gentiloni claimed it had been requested by Libya, but the UN-backed government there vigorously denied making any such request.
In an earlier statement, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj said his administration had agreed to receive only training and arms from Italy.
“Libya’s national sovereignty is a red line that nobody must cross,” he said.
Mr Sarraj, whose administration’s control of Libya is limited, held a face-to-face meeting with Mr Gentiloni in Italy on Wednesday.
Mr Sarraj did acknowledge asking Rome for border guards in southern Libya in that meeting.
More than 94,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Italy so far this year, according to the UN. But more than 2,370 people have died trying.
Migrants picked up in Libyan coastal waters – and not international waters – can be legally returned to Libya, but aid workers say that conditions in Libyan migrant reception camps are dire.
The mission would contribute, Mr Gentiloni told the cabinet meeting, to Libya’s “path of stabilisation… and Italy feels it a duty to participate”.
The cabinet had “approved what the [Libyan] government requested, no more, no less,” he said. He later clarified that the initiative aimed to “support Libya sovereignty, it is not an initiative against Libyan sovereignty”.
He said full details of the plan would be presented to parliament on Tuesday.