UN in final push to salvage Libya political deal

UN envoy for Libya Ghassan Salame told the Security Council he is launching a new, final push to bring Libya’s rival leaders on board a 2015 political deal that set up a unity government. (AFP)
Updated 22 March 2018
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UN in final push to salvage Libya political deal

UNITED NATIONS: The UN envoy for Libya told the Security Council Wednesday that he is launching a new, final push to bring Libya’s rival leaders on board a 2015 political deal that set up a unity government.
Ghassan Salame said he believed there was “very little chance” of agreement on amending the deal that established the UN-backed government under Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj.
“However, starting tomorrow, I shall commence a new, and final attempt to realize the amendments,” said Salame, who briefed the council by video-conference from Tripoli.
The United Nations has launched a plan to bring stability to Libya through elections this year that are meant to turn the page on years of turmoil since the 2011 ouster of Muammar Qaddafi.
Despite the 2015 deal, Libya remains divided between the UN-backed government in Tripoli and a rival administration in the east that enjoys support from Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
One of the main stumbling blocks has been the inclusion in the UN-backed administration of Khalifa Haftar, whose Libyan National Army dominates the east.
The UN plan “does not depend on these amendments and certainly the closer Libya is to elections, the less relevant these amendments become,” Salame said.
“For the United Nations, working for the conduct of fair, free and credible elections before the end of this year is at the top of our priorities,” he said.
Some 2.5 million Libyans have registered to vote but new election laws have yet to be drafted and plans for a constitutional referendum have stalled.
After eight months in the job, Salame said he was “truly disturbed” by the widespread corruption in oil-rich Libya.
The north African country produces well over 1 million barrels of oil a day but there is no economic recovery.
“This system must be shattered. Resources must flow into building a strong equitable state for all, and not in the pockets of the few,” said the envoy.
The UN mission in Libya is also holding talks with armed groups on a strategy to be unveiled by May on reintegrating fighters into civilian life.


Bill Cosby convicted of drugging and molesting a woman

Updated 26 April 2018
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Bill Cosby convicted of drugging and molesting a woman

NORRISTOWN-PENNSILVANIA: Bill Cosby was convicted Thursday of drugging and molesting a woman in the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era,
completing the spectacular late-life downfall of a comedian who broke racial barriers in Hollywood on his way to TV superstardom as America’s Dad.
Cosby, 80, could end up spending his final years in prison after a jury concluded he sexually violated Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He claimed the encounter was consensual.
Cosby stared straight ahead as the verdict was read, but moments later lashed out loudly at District Attorney Kevin Steele and called him an “a--hole” after the prosecutor asked that Cosby be immediately jailed because he might flee. Cosby denied he has an airplane and shouted, “I’m sick of him!“
The judge decided Cosby can remain free on bail while he awaits sentencing.
Shrieks erupted in the courtroom when the verdict was announced, and some of his accusers whimpered and cried. Constand remained stoic, then hugged her lawyer and members of the prosecution team.
“Justice has been done!” celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, who represented some of Cosby’s accusers, said on the courthouse steps. “We are so happy that finally we can say women are believed.”
The verdict came after a two-week retrial in which prosecutors put five other women on the stand who testified that Cosby, married for 54 years, drugged and violated them, too. One of those women asked him through her tears, “You remember, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?“
The panel of seven men and five women reached a verdict after deliberating 14 hours over two days, vindicating prosecutors’ decision to retry Cosby after his first trial ended with a hung jury less than a year ago.
Cosby could get up to 10 years in prison on each of the three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He is likely to get less than that under state sentencing guidelines, but given his age, even a modest term could mean he will die behind bars.
Constand, 45, a former Temple women’s basketball administrator, told jurors that Cosby knocked her out with three blue pills he called “your friends” and then penetrated her with his fingers as she lay immobilized, unable to resist or say no.
It was the only criminal case to arise from a barrage of allegations from more than 60 women who said the former TV star drugged and molested them over a span of five decades.
“The time for the defendant to escape justice is over,” prosecutor Stewart Ryan said in his closing argument. “It’s finally time for the defendant to dine on the banquet of his own consequences.”
Another prosecutor, Kristen Feden, said Cosby was “nothing like the image that he played on TV” as sweater-wearing, wisdom-dispensing father of five Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.”