Merkel to push for single EU stance on Libya crisis

German Chancellor Angela Merkel signs a document during a meeting with students at the University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso on May 2, 2019, on the second day of her tour of the Sahel region. (AFP)
Updated 02 May 2019

Merkel to push for single EU stance on Libya crisis

OUAGADOUGOU: Europe must adopt a common position to resolve the Libyan crisis, which has boosted unrest in the Sahel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday in Burkina Faso, a country hard-hit by jihadist violence.
Her visit coincided with a summit of the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger -- the "G5 Sahel" group set up to manage a coordinated response to jihadist attacks.
"We must now work on a political solution for Libya... which will be important for the future of your region," Merkel told students at the University of Ouagadougou.
"What the presidents of the G5 Sahel explained to me once again yesterday, and they are right to say so, is that Europe must agree on the approach as there are still diverging perspectives within the European Union," said Merkel.
"I will do my best to ensure that the Italian position and the French position are consistent and that there are no different voices or positions in Europe."
The two neighbours have differences over how to respond to the Libya crisis. There is also anger in Rome at France's perceived lack of support for the influx of African migrants arriving from Italy's former colony.
Last month, Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord appealed for Europe's support against military strongman Khalifa Haftar, waging an offensive on Tripoli.
Libya has been in turmoil since NATO-backed forces overthrew former dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
"As Europeans, we will not find a solution for Libya by ourselves, we will need the expertise of the African Union," Merkel told the students in a near-two-hour exchange.
The chancellor expressed concern over the security situation in Burkina Faso, and said "we try to build links, to assist Burkina Faso in the fight against terrorism, so that you can have opportunities in your own country, so that you can live in security, well-being, and better prosperity."
Merkel was due in Mali later Thursday, to meet hundreds of German soldiers deployed there as part of UN force MINUSMA, then to Libyan neighbour Niger.

Hariri and Aoun trade blame as prime minister candidate's withdrawal plunges Lebanon further into crisis

Updated 17 min 14 sec ago

Hariri and Aoun trade blame as prime minister candidate's withdrawal plunges Lebanon further into crisis

  • Withdrawal of Mohammad Safadi narrowed the chances of creating a government needed to enact urgent reforms
  • Lebanon's bank staff said they would continue a nationwide strike on Monday

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s outgoing prime minister blasted the party of the country’s president on Sunday after the withdrawal of a top candidate to replace him plunged the country into further turmoil.

Mohammad Safadi, a former finance minister, withdrew his candidacy late on Saturday, saying it was too difficult to form a "harmonious" government with broad political support.

Safadi was the first candidate who had appeared to win some consensus among Lebanon's fractious sectarian-based parties since Saad Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29, pushed out by sweeping protests against the ruling elite.

The withdrawal of Safadi narrowed the chances of creating a government needed to enact urgent reforms.

Reflecting the brittle political climate, President Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) accused Hariri of undermining Safadi's bid in order to keep the job for himself.

"Saad (al-Hariri) is delaying things with the goal of burning all the names and emerging as the saviour," said a source familiar with the FPM's view.

A statement by Hariri's office rejected the FPM assertion as an irresponsible attempt to "score points" despite Lebanon's "major national crisis".

Faced by the worst financial strains since a 1975-1990 civil war, Lebanon has pledged urgent reforms it hopes will convince donors to disburse some $11 billion pledged last year.

The unrest has kept banks shut for most of the last month. They have imposed controls on transfers abroad and US dollar withdrawals, and the pegged Lebanese pound is under pressure on an informal market.

Safadi became the presumed front-runner for prime minister after a meeting between Hariri, a Sunni politician, and Shiite groups Hezbollah and Amal, according to political sources and Lebanese media, but no political force later endorsed him.

Lebanon's prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim, according to its sectarian power-sharing system.

Protesters who have filled the streets since Oct. 17 hit out at the choice of Safadi, a prominent businessman and longtime politician they said was part of the elite they sought to oust.

"We are in a deadlock now. I don't know when it will move again. It is not easy," said a senior political source. "The financial situation doesn't tolerate any delay."

A second political source described efforts to form a new government as "back to square one."

Safadi's withdrawal leaves the powerful, Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies with even fewer options unless they push for a close Sunni ally, a scenario that would likely reduce the chances of Lebanon winning international support. Hezbollah is classified as a terrorist group by the United States and many other countries.

Hezbollah and Amal, along with Aoun, a Maronite Christian, have sought for Hariri to return as premier while including both technocrats and politicians in a new cabinet.

But Hariri, who is aligned with Gulf Arab states and the West, has said he will only return as prime minister if he is able to form a cabinet composed entirely of specialists capable of attracting the international support.

Global ratings agency S&P flashed the latest warning on Lebanon's debt-saddled economy on Friday, lowering its foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings deeper into junk territory to 'CCC/C' from 'B-/B'.

Lebanon's bank staff said they would continue a nationwide strike on Monday that has kept banks shut. The strike is over safety fears as depositors demand access to their money. Union members are set to meet on Monday to discuss a security plan to keep branches safe.