Libya rivals announce will not take part in Geneva talks

In this Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 file photo, Ghassan Salame, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, speaks at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP)
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Updated 25 February 2020

Libya rivals announce will not take part in Geneva talks

  • Eastern politicians say delegation members rejected
  • The UN had planned to bring together lawmakers from both sides of Libya's conflict to end the fighting over Tripoli

TRIPOLI: Libya's rival camps announced Monday they had suspended their participation in UN-sponsored peace talks this week in Geneva, although a United Nations spokesman said negotiations would still go ahead.
A parliament based in eastern Libya, backed by strongman Khalifa Haftar, said it would not take part because the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) had not approved all its 13 representatives.
A rival authority in Tripoli, the High State Council -- the equivalent of a senate -- said it would also not participate in talks scheduled for Wednesday until progress was made in military negotiations.
"It is in light of conclusions (from military discussions) that the high council would decide to take part or not in political dialogue," the Tripoli body said.
Haftar's forces launched an offensive against Tripoli, seat of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), last April.
Stalemate around the capital's southern suburbs has persisted for months since then.
A joint military commission with five members from each said wound up talks Sunday in Geneva with a "draft ceasefire agreement" to be finalised in March, according to the UN mission.
A spokesman for UNSMIL said Monday that the political dialogue would still take place.
"The Libyan political dialogue will go ahead as previously scheduled, on 26 February," Jean El Alam told AFP.
"Many participants have already arrived in Geneva and we hope all invited participants follow suit," he said.
But Khaled el-Mechri of the GNA-aligned High State Council said it would not be bound by the outcome of political talks if they went ahead "before knowing the military dialogue's conclusions".


Egypt to ban Ramadan gatherings to counter spread of coronavirus

Updated 33 min 15 sec ago

Egypt to ban Ramadan gatherings to counter spread of coronavirus

  • Egypt will ban any gatherings and public iftars

CAIRO: Egypt will ban any public religious gatherings during the holy Muslim fasting month Ramadan starting in around two weeks to counter the spread of the new coronavirus, a government statement said on Tuesday.
Muslims usually break the fast at sunset together with their families, go to the mosque to pray and spend maximum time with relatives.
But with health experts recommending social distancing measures during the global coronavirus crisis, Egypt will ban any gatherings and public iftars, or fast-breaking meals, as well as collective social activities, the ministry of Islamic endowments said in a statement.
Typically mass iftars are held for poor people.
The ban will also apply to the seclusion of Itikaf when Muslims spend the last 10 days of the month in mosques to pray and meditate, the ministry said.
Egypt has reported more than 1,300 confirmed cases of the coronavirus with more than 250 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.
Egypt is home to some 100 million people and also the seat of the Al-Azhar university, Egypt’s highest religious authority and one of the world’s most eminent seats of Sunni Muslim learning.
Ramadan will start around April 23 depending on the sighting of the moon marking the start of the month.
Egypt already last month ordered mosques and churches to shut their doors to worshippers. Prayer calls are broadcast via loudspeakers.