Northern Irish parties making progress in last-ditch talks

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams leaves Parliament buildings at Stormont in Belfast for the last time in his role as Sinn Fein President. (Reuters)
Updated 10 February 2018
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Northern Irish parties making progress in last-ditch talks

BELFAST: Northern Ireland’s two main parties reported on Friday that they had made progress in a last-ditch attempt to restore devolved government, with the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein saying talks would conclude one way or another next week.
Northern Ireland has been without an executive and assembly for over a year since Sinn Fein withdrew from the power-sharing government, saying it was not being treated as an equal partner by the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The two parties, representing mainly Catholic proponents of uniting with the rest of Ireland and mostly Protestant supporters of continued rule by Britain, have failed to meet a number of deadlines to reach agreement since then.
“We have had a very intensive week of discussions. Progress has been made. We have more work to do and our negotiating team will continue working next week,” DUP leader Arlene Foster said in a statement.
A Sinn Fein spokesman also said some differences had been overcome and that talks “should conclude next week.”
Before the latest round of talks, disagreement remained on a range of issues including same-sex marriage, which is illegal in Northern Ireland despite being legal in the rest of Britain and Ireland, rights for Irish-language speakers, and funding for inquests into deaths during decades of Protestant-Catholic sectarian violence before a 1998 peace deal.
The British government, which is overseeing the talks alongside the Irish government, has already had to take steps toward ruling the region directly from London for the first time in a decade, setting its budget late last year.
Many in the province fear that direct rule would further destabilize the delicate political balance between the two sides who, until last year, had run the province since 2007 under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday peace accord.
The absence of an executive has also limited the province’s say in Britain’s negotiations to leave the European Union, which are set to have a bigger impact on Northern Ireland than on any other part of the United Kingdom.
Friday’s talks were Gerry Adams’ last as Sinn Fein president as he prepares to step down on Saturday, having led the party since 1983.
“We’re not there yet,” Adams, who will be succeeded by Mary Lou McDonald, told the Irish national broadcaster RTE. “There are still obstacles and difficulties, and the fact that it’s taken so long shows how difficult it is.”


Libya planning to extradite Manchester bomber’s brother

Britain last year submitted a request to extradite Hashem Abedi. (Ahmed Bin Salman, Special Deterrent Force via AP)
Updated 37 min 40 sec ago
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Libya planning to extradite Manchester bomber’s brother

  • Abedi's brother, Salman, detonated the bomb, killing himself, outside one of the arena exits shortly after the end of a concert by pre-teen idol Ariana Grande

Libya is planning to extradite the brother of Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi to Britain by the end of the year, Libya’s UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj told the BBC in an interview.

Britain last year submitted a request to extradite Hashem Abedi after the bombing in May 2017 in which 22 people — many of them minors — were killed.

Abedi detonated the bomb, killing himself, outside one of the arena exits shortly after the end of a concert by pre-teen idol Ariana Grande.

Hashem Abedi is suspected of involvement and is wanted by Manchester police on charges of murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to cause explosions.

In an interview with the BBC on the sidelines of an international conference in Italy, Al-Sarraj said: “I think from here to the end of this year we will finish all the legal procedures in Libya.

“We are fully cooperating because we understand the suffering of the families of the victims of this terrorist attack.

“According to the general prosecutor we can extradite. After we complete the legal process in Libya it is only a matter of time.”

When Britain first made the extradition request in November 2017, the armed group holding him refused it.

The Manchester Arena bombing was Britain’s worst terror attack in more than a decade.

Salman Abedi was born in Manchester in 1994, to parents who had been granted asylum after fleeing Muammer Qaddafi’s regime.

He was in Libya just days before the attack.