British premier makes surprise visit to Libya

Updated 01 February 2013
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British premier makes surprise visit to Libya

TRIPOLI: British Prime Minister David Cameron flew into the Libyan capital yesterday for a previously unannounced visit, just days after Britain warned of threats to its embassy in Tripoli.
Ringed by security, Cameron arrived at Tripoli airport at 11 a.m.
The British premier, accompanied by Libyan Interior Minister Ashur Shwayel, made his way to a police academy in southern Tripoli where he attended a ceremony to mark the promotion of officers.
A Libyan government official told AFP that security cooperation would be at the center of Cameron’s talks in Tripoli.
Downing Street said on Twitter that the prime minister travelled to the North Africa country “to discuss how the UK can continue to help build a strong, prosperous, democratic” Libya.
The British embassy in Tripoli, for its part, tweeted that Cameron was in Libya “to reiterate UK support for Libya’s transition”.
Britain urged yesterday its citizens to leave Benghazi immediately because of a “specific and imminent threat to Westerners” in the eastern Libyan city.
Several other Western nations followed Britain’s lead and advised their citizens to pull out, sparking anger from Libya which said the threat had been exaggerated.
On Monday, Britain said it had also identified a “potential threat” to its embassy in Tripoli.
Cameron paid a visit to Algeria on Wednesday to strike a new security partnership between the two countries, little more than two weeks after a deadly hostage crisis at a Sahara gas plant.
His spokeswoman said before his departure that Cameron would seek a partnership with Algeria on tackling extremism.
The premier was accompanied by his national security adviser and a trade envoy, Downing Street said, while British reports said the head of foreign intelligence service MI6 was also on the trip. Six Britons are believed to have been among 37 foreign hostages killed when gunmen earlier this month stormed the Sahara gas plant and the Algerian army launched a military assault in response.
One Algerian and 29 gunmen were also killed.


Turkish president Erdogan holds controversial election rally in Bosnia

Updated 12 min 27 sec ago
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Turkish president Erdogan holds controversial election rally in Bosnia

SARAJEVO: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday addressed thousands of expatriate Turks in Sarajevo at his only election rally outside Turkey after other European countries banned such events.
The Bosnian capital was chosen for the event — ahead of Ankara’s presidential and parliamentary elections next month — after European Union states such as Germany, Austria and the Netherlands barred Turkish politicians from electioneering in their countries, stoking tensions between Ankara and Brussels.
Turkey is scheduled to go the polls on June 24, with three million expatriate Turks allowed to vote, including 1.4 million in Germany.
Several thousand people, according to an AFP reporter, converged on Sarajevo’s largest sports venue, Zetra, where the rally was held.
Many of the participants, who arrived from several European countries, including Germany, Austria, Denmark and France, were wearing scarves and banners carrying pictures of the Turkish leader, and waving Turkish flags.
Giant billboards welcomed Erdogan in Turkish and Bosnian.
Security for the event, the only one Erdogan will attend outside Turkey, was tight.
Despite the ban in other European countries, Bosnia had not been expected to stop Turkish politicians campaigning on its soil, given the close ties between Bosnian Muslim leader Bakir Izetbegovic and his SDA party and Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
According to Bosnian media, the AKP is also planning to open a representative office in Bosnia soon.
“Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) and “Sultan Erdogan” the crowd chanted as Erdogan arrived accompanied by Izetbegovic.
Erdogan urged Turkish diaspora to get involved in the politics of their adopted countries and take citizenship.
“I have one request from you, take an active role in the political parties in the countries you live (in),” he told the crowd during a nearly hour-long speech.
“You should take a place in those parliaments....”
Host Izetbegovic, who is also the Muslim member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, urged the crowd to vote for Erdogan labelling him a “man God sent to you.”
Nevertheless, Erdogan’s visit stirred controversy in Bosnia and support for it was not unanimous.
“Why hold a rally in Bosnia rather than in Turkey. Of course, I mind,” pensioner Spomenka Beus, 74, told AFP.
However, Muhamed Yanik, a 20-year-old student, said he had traveled 28 hours by bus from Germany to see Erdogan.
“If he says so, we will die for him,” Yanik said.
But others, such as theater director Dino Mustafic, felt Erdogan’s visit harked back to the colonial times of the Ottoman Empire, when the Balkans, notably Bosnia, were ruled by the Ottomans for more than four centuries until 1878.
The event would be an occasion for “poor local people to euphorically applaud their sultan,” he tweeted.
Bosnian Serb leader Milord Dodik accused the Turkish leader of “interfering” in Bosnia’s affairs.
But Erdogan said Turkey had “no hidden agenda.”
Turkey has excellent relations with Bosnia and Turkish companies have played a major role in the country’s reconstruction following its 1990s inter-ethnic war.
Erdogan has called snap presidential and parliamentary elections for June 24, bringing the polls forward by a year-and a half.
Half of Bosnia’s 3.5 million citizens are Muslims, a third are Serbs, while Croats make some 15 percent of the population.
The expatriate European vote is generally a source of support for Erdogan’s AKP and officials are keen to rouse a strong turnout in Europe.
The early election in Turkey is set to accelerate its transition to the new presidential system with full executive powers which critics fear will lead to a one-man rule.