UN envoy says military forces in Libya are flexing muscles

Libya fighters (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2018
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UN envoy says military forces in Libya are flexing muscles

UNITED NATIONS: The UN envoy for Libya said Wednesday that military forces “are flexing their muscles in many parts of the country” and the oil-rich nation needs a competent government.
Ghassan Salame told the Security Council that “the specter of violence remains present,” pointing to clashes between forces allied with two rival communities close to Libya’s border with Tunisia, rival groups at a flashpoint in the eastern vicinity of the capital of Tripoli, and heightened tension around the city of Derna.
He said he was delivering the briefing by videoconference from Tunis and not Tripoli as he had planned “because bloody clashes at the airport have halted all flights in and out ... for the whole week.”
Libya fell into chaos after the ouster and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 and since 2014 it has been split between rival governments and parliaments based in the western and eastern regions, each backed by different militias and tribes.
Salame said negotiations to amend a UN-brokered political agreement in December 2015 to create a unity government “have crystalized consensus on the much-needed adjustments.”
“Although a formal agreement is yet to be reached, this consensus is desirable and reachable,” he said.
Salame said Libya needs a government that can deliver desperately needed public services, unify the country’s institutions, provide order and justice, and preside over elections that would end the current transition.
He lamented that civilians continue to be killed and injured “in crossfire and indiscriminate attacks” and “armed groups fight recklessly in residential areas, with no thought to the safety of civilians.”
Libya already has “20 million pieces of arms” and the arms embargo on the North African nation “has never been more important,” Salame said.
“It is for this reason that recent reports of a large shipment of explosives intercepted by the Greek Coast Guard are particularly alarming,” he said.
Salame said the UN panel of experts monitoring the arms embargo on Libya is looking into the shipment.


UN chief urges Lebanon’s Hezbollah to halt military wing and operations

Updated 16 min 13 sec ago
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UN chief urges Lebanon’s Hezbollah to halt military wing and operations

UNITED NATIONS: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly criticized Hezbollah for operating as the most heavily armed militia and a political party in Lebanon and urged the militant group to halt military activities inside and outside the country, including in Syria.
In a report to the Security Council obtained Monday by The Associated Press, Guterres also called on Lebanon’s government and armed forces “to take all measures necessary to prohibit Hezbollah and other armed groups from acquiring weapons and building paramilitary capacity” outside the authority of the state.
He said Hezbollah’s military activity violates a 2004 Security Council resolution ordering all Lebanese militias to disarm and the Taif Accords that ended the country’s 1975-90 civil war. In the semi-annual report on implementation of the 2004 resolution, the secretary-general said Hezbollah’s engagement in the Syrian conflict also violates Lebanon’s official policy of “disassociation,” or neutrality in regional affairs.
Guterres said the report demonstrates Hezbollah’s failure to disarm and “its refusal to be accountable” to state institutions that the UN resolution sought to strengthen.
“In a democratic state, it remains a fundamental anomaly that a political party maintains a militia that has no accountability to the democratic, governmental institutions of the state but has the power to take that state to war,” he said.
Israel and Lebanon have been in a state of war for decades and do not have diplomatic relations. In the summer of 2006, Israel and Hezbollah militants fought a monthlong war.
The border with Israel has remained mostly quiet since then, but Guterres said an alleged increase in Hezbollah’s arsenal poses “a serious challenge” to the Lebanese government’s ability to exercise authority and sovereignty over the entire country.
“I call upon countries in the region that maintain close ties with Hezbollah to encourage the transformation of the armed group into a solely civilian political party, and its disarmament,” Guterres said.
He did not name Iran, a strong supporter of Hezbollah in Syria and elsewhere. Both are strong supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
Guterres said Hezbollah’s military arsenal and involvement in Syria continue “to be denounced by a number of voices in Lebanon, who consider those issues to be destabilizing factors in the country and ones that undermine democracy.”
In addition, he said, “many Lebanese see the continued presence of such arms as an implicit threat that those could be used within Lebanon for political reasons.”
Hezbollah is considered a terrorist group by the United States, but its political wing has long held seats in Lebanon’s parliament and was part of Lebanon’s outgoing coalition government.
Parliamentary elections earlier this month were the first in Lebanon since war broke out in Syria in 2011 and Hezbollah made major gains. Its leader, Hassan Nasrallah declared “mission accomplished.”
Nonetheless, Lebanese analysts say the next Cabinet, like the outgoing one, will likely be a unity government that includes Hezbollah.