ROME - Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called Wednesday for an "urgent" agreement between the European Union and Tripoli to tackle illegal immigration by African migrants via Libya.
"If Libya is not helped to patrol its 1,200 kilometre (740 mile) southern border, one cannot claim that it is the only guardian of the European Union on the northern frontier of the Mediterranean," Frattini told lawmakers.
An agreement was therefore both "necessary" and "urgent" between the European Union and Libya, he said.
Tripoli called in May for the EU to honour its commitments to fight illegal immigration by providing technical help, training and equipment.
Rome and Tripoli recently implemented a controversial new policy which allows the Italian navy to intercept illegal migrants at sea and return them to Libya, from where they set off for Europe.
Earlier this month the EU said it wanted Libya to sign a refugee convention so would-be immigrants to Europe could apply for asylum there instead of trying to cross the Mediterranean first.
Libya is a major transit country for people from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan seeking to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, with the first land fall usually the Italian island of Lampedusa or Malta.
Many EU nations want to boost cooperation with Tripoli to help stem the flow of would-be migrants.