British PM Cameron makes unannounced visit to Libya

TRIPOLI (AFP) - British Prime Minister David Cameron flew into the Libyan capital on Thursday for a previously unannounced visit, just days after Britain warned of threats to its embassy in Tripoli.

Ringed by security, Mr Cameron arrived at Tripoli airport at 11am (6pm Singapore time).

The British Premier, accompanied by Libyan Interior Minister Ashur Shwayel, made his way to a police academy in southern Tripoli where he attended a ceremony to mark the promotion of officers.

A Libyan government official told AFP that security cooperation would be at the centre of Mr Cameron's talks in Tripoli.

Downing Street said on Twitter that the Prime Minister travelled to the North African country "to discuss how the UK can continue to help build a strong, prosperous, democratic" Libya.

The British embassy in Tripoli, for its part, tweeted that Mr Cameron was in Libya "to reiterate UK support for Libya's transition".

On Thursday last week, Britain urged its nationals to leave Benghazi immediately because of a "specific and imminent threat to Westerners" in the eastern Libyan city.

Several other Western nations followed Britain's lead and advised their citizens to pull out, sparking anger from Libya which said the threat had been exaggerated.

On Monday, Britain said it had also identified a "potential threat" to its embassy in Tripoli.

Mr Cameron paid a visit to Algeria on Wednesday to strike a new security partnership between the two countries, little more than two weeks after a deadly hostage crisis at a Sahara gas plant.

His spokesman said before his departure that Mr Cameron would seek a partnership with Algeria on tackling extremism, reflecting growing concern in London about unrest in North Africa, and in Mali.

The Premier was accompanied by his national security adviser and a trade envoy, Downing Street said, while British reports said the head of foreign intelligence service MI6 was also on the trip.

Six Britons are believed to have been among 37 foreign hostages killed when gunmen earlier this month stormed the Sahara gas plant and the Algerian army launched a military assault in response. One Algerian and 29 gunmen were also killed.

Mr Cameron is in the region en route to Liberia, where he will co-chair an international development conference on Friday.