Egypt parliament approves possible intervention in Libya

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Egyptian parliament members on Monday approved the possible deployment of troops in Libya to support Khalifa Haftar, if rival Turkish-backed forces recapture Sirte. (AFP)
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A handout picture released by the Egyptian Presidency on June 6, 2020 shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (C), Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar (R) and the Libyan Parliament speaker Aguila Saleh (L). (File/AFP)
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Updated 21 July 2020

Egypt parliament approves possible intervention in Libya

  • Egyptian intervention would put Turkey and Egypt — in possible direct confrontation
  • Vote intended to help Egypt defend Libya against Turkish aggression

CAIRO: Egypt’s parliament on Monday mandated President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to send troops to Libya.
A statement by the parliament stipulated “the approval of sending elements of the Egyptian Armed Forces on combat missions outside the borders of the Egyptian state, to defend Egyptian national security in the Arab strategic direction against the actions of armed criminal militias and foreign terrorist elements, until the end of the forces’ mission.”
The mandate comes a few days after El-Sisi met Libyan tribal leaders in Cairo, where they called on the Egyptian Armed Forces “to intervene to protect the national security of Libya and Egypt.”
El-Sisi also discussed the Libyan issue and developments in Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam with US President Donald Trump.
The Egyptian parliament had met in order to give El-Sisi a mandate to use military force to defend Egyptian national interests, specifically with regard to Ethiopia and Libya.
El-Sayed El-Sharif, deputy speaker of the parliament, said that Article 152 of the Egyptian constitution stipulated that the state could not declare war nor send forces on combat missions until after the approval of parliament.
“In these situations there is no majority or opposition. We are all one vote in support of our Egyptian state in confronting these dangers,” he said.
Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), with the support of Turkey, recently launched an offensive against the Libyan National Army in northwest Libya and vowed to advance to capture Sirte and the inland Al-Jufra airbase.
El-Sisi had stressed that the frontline of Sirte and Al-Jufra was “a red line” for Egyptian national security.
El-Sisi was also briefed on Sunday night on the developments in the Renaissance Dam and the three-way negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, and discussed developments in the situation in Libya during a meeting of the National Defense Council.
“The council discussed the overall political, security and military situations of the state in all strategic directions, in the context of developments of the various current challenges on the regional and international arenas,” a spokesman for the Egyptian presidency said.
“In light of Egypt’s endeavor to stabilize the current situation and not to cross previously declared lines, with the aim of bringing peace between all Libyan parties, the council stressed the strong ties that link the two countries.
“Egypt will not spare any effort to support Libya, and help its people take their country to safety and overcome the current crisis, based on the fact that the Libyan file is considered one of the highest priorities of Egyptian foreign policy, taking into account that Libyan security is an integral part of Egyptian and Arab national security,” the spokesman said.
The council’s members affirmed Egypt’s commitment to a political solution to the Libyan crisis in a manner that guaranteed preserving Libyan unity and the sovereignty of the country, restoring the pillars of national institutions and eliminating terrorism.
“(Egypt aims to) prevent the spread of criminal groups and extremist armed militias, as well as put an end to illegal foreign interventions that contribute to worsening security conditions and threatening neighboring countries and international peace and security. It also will ensure a fair and transparent distribution of Libyan wealth to its people and prevent the control of any extremist groups over this wealth,” the spokesman said.


‘No way we can rebuild’: Lebanese count huge losses after Beirut blast

Updated 07 August 2020

‘No way we can rebuild’: Lebanese count huge losses after Beirut blast

  • The search for those missing since Tuesday’s blast intensified overnight, as rescuers sifted rubble in a frantic race to find anyone still alive after the explosion
  • The government has promised a full investigation and put several port employees under house arrest

BEIRUT: Beirut residents began trying to rebuild their shattered lives on Friday after the biggest blast in the Lebanese capital’s history tore into the city, killing at least 154 and leaving the heavily indebted nation with another huge reconstruction bill.
The search for those missing since Tuesday’s blast intensified overnight, as rescuers sifted rubble in a frantic race to find anyone still alive after the explosion smashed a swathe of the city and sent shockwaves around the region.
Security forces fired teargas at a furious crowd late on Thursday, as anger boiled over at the government and a political elite, who have presided over a nation that was facing economic collapse even before the deadly port blast injured 5,000 people.
The small crowd, some hurling stones, marked a return to the kind of protests that had become a feature of life in Beirut, as Lebanese watched their savings evaporate and currency disintegrate, while government decision-making floundered.
“There is no way we can rebuild this house. Where is the state?” Tony Abdou, an unemployed 60-year-old, sitting in the family home in Gemmayze, a district that lies a few hundred meters from the port warehouses where highly explosive material was stored for years, a ticking time bomb next to a densely populated area.
As Abdou spoke, a domestic water boiler fell through the ceiling of his cracked home, while volunteers from the neighborhood turned out on the street to sweep up debris.
“Do we actually have a government here?” said taxi driver Nassim Abiaad, 66, whose cab was crushed by falling building wreckage just as he was about to get into the vehicle.
“There is no way to make money anymore,” he said.
The government has promised a full investigation and put several port employees under house arrest. State news agency NNA said 16 people were taken into custody. But for many Lebanese, the explosion was symptomatic of the years of neglect by the authorities while state corruption thrived.
Shockwaves
Officials have said the blast, whose seismic impact was recorded hundreds of miles (kilometers) away, might have caused losses amounting to $15 billion — a bill the country cannot pay when it has already defaulted on its mountain of national debt, exceeding 150% of economic output, and talks about a lifeline from the International Monetary Fund have stalled.
Hospitals, many heavily damaged as shockwaves ripped out windows and pulled down ceilings, have been overwhelmed by the number of casualties. Many were struggling to find enough foreign exchange to buy supplies before the explosion.
In the port area, rescue teams set up arc lights to work through the night in a dash to find those still missing, as families waited tensely, slowly losing hope of ever seeing loved ones again. Some victims were hurled into the sea because of the explosive force.
The weeping mother of one of the missing called a prime time TV program on Thursday night to plead with the authorities to find her son, Joe. He was found — dead — hours later.
Lebanese Red Cross Secretary General George Kettaneh told local radio VDL that three more bodies had been found in the search, while the health minister said on Friday the death toll had climbed to 154. Dozens are still unaccounted for.
Charbel Abreeni, who trained port employees, showed Reuters pictures on his phone of killed colleagues. He was sitting in a church where the head from the statue of the Virgin Mary had been blown off.
“I know 30 port employees who died, two of them are my close friends and a third is missing,” said the 62-year-old, whose home was wrecked in the blast. His shin was bandaged.
“I have nowhere to go except my wife’s family,” he said. “How can you survive here, the economy is zero?“
Offers of immediate medical and food aid have poured in from Arab states, Western nations and beyond. But none, so far, address the bigger challenges facing a bankrupt nation.
French President Emmanuel Macron came to the city on Thursday with a cargo from France. He promised to explain some “home truths” to the government, telling them they needed to root out corruption and deliver economic reforms.
He was greeted on the street by many Lebanese who asked for help in ensuring “regime” change, so a new set of politicians could rebuild Beirut and set the nation on a new course.
Beirut still bore scars from heavy shelling in the 1975-1990 civil war before the blast. After the explosion, chunks of the city once again look like a war zone.