PM Abadi says opposed to repeat of Iraq election

File photo showing Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi attends the election campaign, along with his supporters in Kirkuk, Iraq April 28, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 12 June 2018
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PM Abadi says opposed to repeat of Iraq election

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said on Tuesday he opposed any repeat of the May 12 parliamentary election, and warned that anyone who tried to sabotage the political process would be punished, after allegations of electoral fraud raised tensions.
Parliament has demanded a nationwide recount of votes, drawing calls for the election to be re-run. Abadi said only the Supreme Federal Court could decide whether to re-run the vote, which was won by Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr’s bloc.
“The matter is exclusively in the hands of the judiciary, not politicians. The government and parliament don’t have the power to cancel the election,” Abadi told a news conference.
On Monday, Sadr urged Iraqis to unite rather than squabble over a possible re-run of the election, in a message apparently meant to lower the political temperature after a ballot box storage depot caught fire.
Abadi called the fire a deliberate act and said the attorney general would bring charges against those who are trying to undermine the political process.
An Iraqi court ordered the arrest of four people accused of setting fire to the storage site, the judiciary said. Three of them were policemen and one an employee of the Independent High Elections Commission.
Abadi said a preliminary report had provided evidence of gasoline at multiple areas inside the storage site. It also showed that security cameras had been disabled and no locks had been broken, implying it was carried out by someone with access to the storage site.
Iraqi authorities said the ballot boxes had been rescued but the fire has fueled fears of violence.
Sadr, who once led violent campaigns against the US occupation that ended in 2011, has emerged as a nationalist opponent of powerful parties allied with neighboring Iran and as a champion of the poor.
He has warned that certain parties are trying to drag Iraq into a civil war, adding that he would not participate in one.
Abadi thanked Sadr for a disarmament initiative he floated after a weapons cache at his Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City exploded, killing 18 people, and said he hoped the cleric would stick to it.
“I welcome Sayed Moqtada’s announcement that his followers commit to not having weapons outside the framework of the state. We consider this good,” he said, adding that those responsible for the explosion would be brought to justice.
“What happened in Sadr City is very regrettable, it is a crime. Those responsible will receive their just punishment.”


Libya reopens Tripoli’s only functioning airport

Updated 6 min ago
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Libya reopens Tripoli’s only functioning airport

  • Mitiga airport was closed earlier in the day when residents reported an air strike on the Libyan capital
  • Mitiga airport offers air links to a city of an estimated 2.5 million residents

TRIPOLI: Libya has reopened Tripoli’s only functioning airport, aviation authorities said on a post on social media on Sunday.

Mitiga airport was closed earlier in the day when residents reported an air strike on the Libyan capital, but a later Facebook post noted the arrival of an African Airlines aircraft from Istanbul.

A Reuters reporter and several residents said they saw an aircraft circling for more than 10 minutes over the capital late on Saturday, and that it made a humming sound before opening fire on several areas.

An aircraft was heard again after midnight, circling for more than ten minutes before a heavy explosion shook the ground.

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It was not clear whether an aircraft or unmanned drone was behind the strike, which triggered heavy anti-aircraft fire. Residents had reported drone strikes in recent days, but there has been no confirmation and explosions heard in the city center this time were louder than in previous days.

Residents counted several missile strikes, one of which apparently hit a military camp of forces loyal to Tripoli in the Sabaa district in the south of the capital, scene of the heaviest fighting between the rival forces.

Authorities earlier closed Tripoli’s only functioning airport, cutting air links to a city of an estimated 2.5 million residents. The airport in Misrata, a city 200 km to the east, remained open.

The Libyan National Army (LNA) force loyal to commander Khalifa Haftar started an offensive two weeks ago but has been unable to breach the government’s southern defenses.

If a drone strike was confirmed this would point to more sophisticated warfare. The LNA has so far mainly used aging Soviet-made jets from the air force of Muammar Qaddafi, toppled in 2011, lacking precision firepower and helicopters, according to residents and military sources.

The violence spiked after the White House said on Friday that US President Donald Trump spoke by telephone with Haftar earlier in the week.

The disclosure of the call and a US statement that it “recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources” has boosted the commander’s supporters and enraged his opponents.

Western powers have been divided over a push by Haftar’s forces to seize Tripoli, undermining calls by the United Nations for a cease-fire.

Both sides claimed progress in southern Tripoli on Saturday, but no more details were immediately available.

A Reuters TV cameraman visiting the southern Khalat Furgan suburb heard heavy shelling but saw no apparent change in the frontline.

On Friday, two children were killed in shelling in southern Tripoli, residents said. The fighting has killed 227 people and wounded 1,128, the World Health organization said before the air strikes.

On Thursday, both the United States and Russia said they could not support a UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire in Libya at this time.

Russia objects to the British-drafted resolution blaming Haftar for the latest flare-up in violence when his LNA advanced to the outskirts of Tripoli earlier this month, diplomats said.

The United States did not give a reason for its decision not to support the draft resolution, which would also call on countries with influence over the warring parties to ensure compliance and for unconditional humanitarian aid access in Libya.