UN: 20,000 foreign fighters in Libya are a ‘serious crisis’

UN: 20,000 foreign fighters in Libya are a ‘serious crisis’
The top UN official for Libya said Wednesday there are at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in the war-torn nation. (File/AFP)
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Updated 02 December 2020

UN: 20,000 foreign fighters in Libya are a ‘serious crisis’

UN: 20,000 foreign fighters in Libya are a ‘serious crisis’
  • “That is a shocking violation of Libyan sovereignty,” the UN acting envoy for Libya said
  • Williams’ remarks reflect her exasperation over the lack of progress on the departure of foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya

CAIRO: The top UN official for Libya said Wednesday there are at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in the war-torn nation, and warned of a “serious crisis” as weapons continue pouring into the North African country.
“That is a shocking violation of Libyan sovereignty ... a blatant violation of the arms embargo,” UN acting envoy for Libya Stephanie Williams told an online meeting of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum.
The 75-member forum is trying to get Libya’s warring sides to agree on a mechanism that would establish a transitional administration to lead the country through presidential and parliamentary elections in December 2021.
The gathering is part of UN efforts to end the chaos that engulfed oil-rich Libya after the 2011 overthrow and killing of dictator Muammar Qaddafi. The country is now split east to west between two rival administrations, each backed by an array of militias and foreign powers. Military commander Khalifa Haftar rules the east and south, while a government based in the capital of Tripoli controls the west.
Williams’ remarks reflect her exasperation over the lack of progress on the departure of foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya, which was part of a cease-fire deal inked in October.
The cease-fire deal had set a three months’ deadline for foreign forces to leave Libya. Thousands — including Russians, Syrians, Sudanese and Chadians — have been brought to Libya by the rival sides, according to UN experts.
Williams also slammed unspecified foreign governments for “behaving with complete impunity” and deepening the Libyan conflict with mercenaries and weapons.
Tensions in Libya escalated further when Haftar’s forces last year launched an offensive to take Tripoli. Their campaign collapsed in June, when militias backing the government in Tripoli, with Turkish support, gained the upper hand, driving Haftar’s forces from the outskirts of the capital and several western Libyan towns.
Williams also warned about a looming “collapse of the electrical grid” in Libya because of corruption and mismanagement, adding that a $1 billion investment in the electrical infrastructure is immediately needed, given that only 13 of Libya’s 27 power plants are functioning.
She said 1.3 million of Libya’s more than 6.8 million people are expected to need humanitarian assistance in January.


Rescuers pull 394 migrants from dangerously overcrowded boat off Tunisia

Rescuers pull 394 migrants from dangerously overcrowded boat off Tunisia
Updated 01 August 2021

Rescuers pull 394 migrants from dangerously overcrowded boat off Tunisia

Rescuers pull 394 migrants from dangerously overcrowded boat off Tunisia
  • It was not clear if there were any deaths or injuries among the migrants
  • Migrant boat departures have increased in recent months as weather conditions have improved

ABOARD SEA-WATCH 3, Mediterranean: Two humanitarian rescue ships pulled 394 migrants from a dangerously overcrowded wooden boat in the Mediterranean overnight on Sunday in an operation lasting about six hours, a Reuters witness said.

The German and French NGO ships Sea-Watch 3 and Ocean Viking rescued the migrants in Tunisian waters 68 km (42 miles) from the North African coast, near oil facilities and other ships.

Sea-Watch 3, which assumed command of the operation, took 141 of the survivors while Ocean Viking took the rest. The yacht Nadir, from the German NGO ResQ Ship, later gave support.

It was not clear if there were any deaths or injuries among the migrants who were in the wooden boat, which was crammed with migrants on deck and inside the hull.

The craft was taking in water and its engine was not working, the Reuters witness said.

Migrant boat departures from Libya and Tunisia to Italy and other parts of Europe have increased in recent months as weather conditions have improved.

According to the UN-affiliated International Organization for Migration, more than 1,100 people fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East have perished this year in the Mediterranean.

Many of the migrants in this latest rescue were seen jumping off the boat and trying to swim to Sea-Watch 3, the Reuters witness said.

The migrants were mainly men from Morocco, Bangladesh, Egypt and Syria.


Haniyeh re-elected as chief of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas

Haniyeh re-elected as chief of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas
Updated 01 August 2021

Haniyeh re-elected as chief of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas

Haniyeh re-elected as chief of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas

GAZA: Ismail Haniyeh has been re-elected as chief of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza, two Palestinian officials told Reuters on Sunday.
Haniyeh has led Hamas since 2017.


Majority of Turkey wildfires under control, official says

Majority of Turkey wildfires under control, official says
Updated 26 min 47 sec ago

Majority of Turkey wildfires under control, official says

Majority of Turkey wildfires under control, official says
  • Five fires were continuing in the tourist destinations of Antalya and Mugla, while 107 fires were ‘under control’
  • A heat wave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from Africa, has led to wildfires across the Mediterranean

ISTANBUL: More than 100 wildfires have been brought under control in Turkey, according to officials Sunday.
The Minister of Forestry and Agriculture, Bekir Pakdemirli, tweeted that five fires were continuing in the tourist destinations of Antalya and Mugla, while 107 fires were “under control.”
The fires in Antalya were continuing in Manavgat and Gundogmus districts. In Mugla, they continued in the tourist destination of Marmaris, as well as Koycegiz and Milas.
Police water cannons, usually used to control riots, assisted helicopters and fire trucks in Mugla to fight a fire. Blazes were still visible in footage taken early Sunday.

Panic-struck tourists were evacuated Saturday from some hotels in Mugla’s popular district of Bodrum as a fire rolled down the hill toward the seashore. Pakdemirli said the fires in Bodrum have been controlled.
Pakdemirli’s list showed fires began in 32 provinces from Wednesday onward. Six people have died.
While Turkish authorities are investigating whether the fires may have started as an act of “sabotage” by outlawed Kurdish militants, experts mostly point to the climate crisis, as seen by the drastic increases in temperatures along with accidents caused by people.
A heat wave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from Africa, has led to wildfires across the Mediterranean, including in Italy and Greece.
Temperatures in Greece and nearby countries in southeast Europe are expected to climb to 42 degrees Celsius (more than 107 Fahrenheit) Monday in many cities and towns.


Outgoing Iran president says government not always truthful

Outgoing Iran president says government not always truthful
Updated 01 August 2021

Outgoing Iran president says government not always truthful

Outgoing Iran president says government not always truthful
  • President Hassan Rouhani insisted he and his officials did their best
  • Rouhani blamed many of Iran’s current problems on Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal

DUBAI: Iran’s outgoing president on Sunday acknowledged his nation at times “did not tell part of the truth” to its people during his eight-year tenure, as he prepares to leave office with his signature nuclear deal with world powers in tatters and tensions high with the West.

President Hassan Rouhani’s comments, aired on state television, come as officials in his government have appeared rudderless in recent months amid a series of crises ranging from the coronavirus pandemic to parching droughts fueling public protests.

After appearing just days earlier to be lectured by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei about their failures in the nuclear negotiations, Rouhani’s remarks appeared aimed at acknowledging the problems his government faced in its waning hours. President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, a protégé of Khamenei, will be inaugurated Thursday.

“What we told people was not contrary to reality, but we did not tell part of the truth to people,” Rouhani said at his last Cabinet meeting as president. “Because I did not find it useful and I was afraid it would harm national unity.”

He did not elaborate on what he meant by his remarks. However, during his tenure, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard mistakenly shot down a commercial airliner and killed 176 people onboard in January 2020, which the government refused for days to acknowledge until Western nations went public with their suspicions.

Rouhani, a relative moderate within Iran’s theocracy, insisted he and his officials did their best.

“If we have a defect, we apologize to the people and ask them for forgiveness and mercy,” Rouhani said.

He pointed to the country’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. However, that deal now sits in tatters after then-President

Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in May 2018.

Rouhani blamed many of Iran’s current problems on Trump’s decision, which saw the value of the Islamic Republic’s rial currency crash. The president said that while Iran had plans to upgrade its armed forces after the expiration of a UN arms embargo in October 2020, it couldn’t due to its financial woes.

“We did not have the money to buy due to sanctions and not selling oil, but the contract is completely ready,” he said.


Syria’s Assad asks PM Hussein Arnous to form new cabinet

Syria’s Assad asks PM Hussein Arnous to form new cabinet
Updated 01 August 2021

Syria’s Assad asks PM Hussein Arnous to form new cabinet

Syria’s Assad asks PM Hussein Arnous to form new cabinet

AMMAN: Syrian President Bashar al Assad has again tasked Prime Minister Hussein Arnous with forming a new government after he became a caretaker premier following polls last year that extended Assad's presidency.
Assad designated Arnous as prime minister last August to replace Imad Khamis as Syria grappled with a major economic crisis and a plunging currency.