Mediators call on Sudan generals, protesters to resume talks Wednesday

Sudanese shout slogans during a demonstration demanding the ruling military hand over to civilians in Khartoum, Sudan, June 30, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 02 July 2019

Mediators call on Sudan generals, protesters to resume talks Wednesday

  • The mediators have come up with a compromise to resolve the crisis that has rocked Sudan for months

KHARTOUM: African Union and Ethiopian mediators said they have invited Sudan’s ruling generals and protest leaders to resume talks Wednesday on creating a new governing body for the country.
“We have invited the two parties for a meeting tomorrow, and we have fixed for them a time and place,” said African Union envoy Mohamed El Hacen Lebatt at a joint press conference with his Ethiopian counterpart Mahmoud Dirir.
Negotiations between the generals and protest leaders collapsed in May over the make-up of the governing body and who should lead it — a civilian or soldier.
The mediators have come up with a compromise to resolve the crisis that has rocked Sudan for months, following the military ouster of longtime leader Omar Al-Bashir in April after widespread protest.
“The document has been presented to the two parties and they considered it as a good base for negotiations,” Lebatt said, without detailing where talks would take place.
But Ethiopian envoy Dirir cautioned that there remained “one point where opinions are conflicting” over the governing body.
Tensions remain high between the two sides following a June 3 crackdown by men in military fatigues on a protest camp which left dozens dead.
On Sunday tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied against the ruling generals, urging them to hand power to a civilian administration.


US contractor told Lebanese port official of chemicals risk

Updated 12 August 2020

US contractor told Lebanese port official of chemicals risk

  • Concerns about the ammonium nitrate were known within the Lebanese government before the deadly blast
  • The thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate had been stored in the warehouse for more than six years

WASHINGTON: About four years before the Beirut port explosion that killed dozens of people and injured thousands, a US government contractor expressed concern to a Lebanese port official about unsafe storage there of the volatile chemicals that fueled last week’s devastating blast, American officials said Tuesday.
There is no indication the contractor communicated his concerns to anyone in the US government.
His assessment was noted briefly in a four-page State Department cable first reported by The New York Times.
The cable, labeled sensitive but unclassified, dealt largely with the Lebanese responses to the blast and the origins and disposition of the ammonium nitrate, which ignited to create an enormous explosion. But it also noted that after the Aug. 4 explosion, a person who had advised the Lebanese navy under a US Army contract from 2013 to 2016 told the State Department that he had “conducted a port facility inspection on security measures during which he reported to port officials on the unsafe storage of ammonium nitrate.”
Concerns about the ammonium nitrate were known within the Lebanese government before the deadly blast, officials said.
The contractor, who was not identified by name and is now a State Department employee based in Ukraine, was in Lebanon to provide instruction to members of the Lebanese navy. While there, he made a brief, impromptu inspection of physical security at the facility in 2015 or 2016 at the request of a port official, US officials said. The contractor was not identified.
The contractor, who has a background in port and maritime security, noted weaknesses in security camera coverage and other aspects of port management but was not assessing safety issues, according to the US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of a planned public statement.
While inside the warehouse where ammonium nitrate was stored, the contractor saw problems such as poor ventilation and inadequate physical security, which he noted to the port official accompanying him, the officials said. It is unclear whether the port official reported this concern to his superiors.
The thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate had been stored in the warehouse for more than six years, apparently with the knowledge of top political and security officials. The catastrophic explosion one week ago Tuesday killed at least 171 peoples and plunged Lebanon into a deeper political crisis.
The contractor was working for the US Army’s Security Assistance Training Management Organization, headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He provided instruction to members of the Lebanese armed forces in naval vessel traffic systems and small boat operations. His class was visiting the Beirut port as part of that instruction program when the port official asked him for the inspection, which US officials said lasted about 45 minutes.
The United States has a close security relationship with Lebanon. According to the State Department, the US government has provided Lebanon with more than $1.7 billion in security assistance since 2006. The assistance is designed to support the Lebanese armed forces’ ability to secure the country’s borders, counter internal threats, and defend national territory.
Last September a US Navy ship, the guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage, visited Beirut. It was the first time in 36 years an American warship had made a port visit there, according to the US military at the time.