UN envoy for Libya focused on building institutions to unite country

The Lebanese-born academic Ghassan Salame, center, says that if state institutions can begin to work, Libya would finally change course after years of chaos since the fall of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. (AFP)
Updated 18 November 2017
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UN envoy for Libya focused on building institutions to unite country

UNITED NATIONS: Five months after he was appointed to lead UN peace efforts in Libya, Ghassan Salame says he is focused on building institutions as a way to unite the country.
The 66-year-old Lebanese-born academic said in an interview that if state institutions can begin to work, Libya would finally change course after years of chaos since the fall of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
“The key to my approach is institutions,” Salame said. “If in a year or two, we can begin to reunite, revive and liberate institutions, then the country will be on a different path.”
A UN-mediated political deal in 2015 was supposed to unite Libya, but the country remains divided between a government in Tripoli that enjoys UN support and a rival authority based in Tobruk in the east.
Salame said shoring up Libya’s institutions means stepping away from “the basic competition between individuals, who tell you they represent big tribes until you discover that they represent very little.”
Under Qaddafi’s four decades of authoritarian rule, Libya was devoid of functioning state institutions as the leader “cemented his power by systematically destroying institutions.”
In his action plan, the UN envoy hopes to set a course to elections, by beginning voter registration in December and convening a national conference in February to draw a consensus about elections.
It remains unclear whether Libya will hold presidential, legislative and local elections at the same time and no timetable has been set for the polls.
“I haven’t decided yet,” said Salame. “The country is not ready for any election. For elections to be held, there are technical, political and security conditions that have to be met. None of these are currently there.”
A referendum on a new constitution is also planned, said the former Lebanese culture minister.
Salame insists that elections in Libya must not deepen divisions.
“The thing that leaves me panicked is the idea that we could hold elections that would create a third parliament and the same result for the government,” he said.
“In Libya there must be a recognition that elections are to replace Mister X with Mister Y and not add Mister Y to Mister X,” he said.
On Libya’s many divisions, Salame said there are currently “two governments that are holding on from previous periods” and a third formed from the 2015 political deal.
“I don’t want a fourth government” in Libya, he said.
Elections can be held if the “main actors make a commitment that whoever is elected will replace what currently exists, and will not be added on to what currently exists.”


Israel and US will be targeted if Washington attacks — Iran cleric

Updated 22 August 2018
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Israel and US will be targeted if Washington attacks — Iran cleric

  • ‘Americans say you should accept what we say in the talks. So, this is not negotiation, but dictatorship’
  • ‘The price of a war with Iran is very high for America’

LONDON: A senior Iranian cleric warned Washington on Wednesday that if it attacked Iran, the United States and allied Israel would be targeted, as a war of words escalated after the reimposition of the US sanctions on Iran.
Ahmad Khatami also told worshippers attending Eid prayers in Tehran that President Donald Trump’s offer of talks with Iranian leaders was unacceptable, as the US leader wanted Tehran to concede on its missile program and regional influence.
“Americans say you should accept what we say in the talks. So, this is not negotiation, but dictatorship. The Islamic Republic and the Iranian nation would stand up against dictatorship,” Khatami was quoted as saying by Mizan news agency.
“The price of a war with Iran is very high for America. They know if they harm this country and this state in the slightest way, the United States and its main ally in the region, the Zionist regime (of Israel) would be targeted,” Khatami said.
Khatami did not elaborate which forces would carry out such attacks, but Iran has said it could target Israeli cities with its missiles if it is threatened. Iran also has proxies in the region, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that the Islamic Republic’s military prowess was what deterred Washington from attacking it, and vowed to boost Iran’s military might.
The Trump administration slapped sanctions back on Iran this month after withdrawing from the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran, saying it was too soft on Tehran and would not stop it developing a nuclear bomb.
Washington imposed new sanctions in August, targeting Iran’s car industry, trade in gold and other precious metals, and purchases of US dollars. Trump has said the United States will issue another round of tougher sanctions in November that will target Iran’s oil sales and banking sector.
Trump’s national security adviser told Reuters on Wednesday that the US president wanted maximum pressure on Iran.
“There should not be any doubt that the United States wants this resolved peacefully, but we are fully prepared for any contingency that Iran creates,” John Bolton said.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has rejected Trump’s offer of unconditional talks on a new nuclear deal, prompting Trump to tell Reuters in an interview on Monday: “If they want to meet, that’s fine, and if they don’t want to meet, I couldn’t care less.”