Voting for members of interim Libyan authority begins in Geneva

Voting for members of interim Libyan authority begins in Geneva
This handout picture made available by the United Nations (UN) shows acting UN envoy for Libya Stephanie Williams (C) and representatives at the opening of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum on February 1, 2021. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 03 February 2021

Voting for members of interim Libyan authority begins in Geneva

Voting for members of interim Libyan authority begins in Geneva
  • No clear winners in first round of contest to elect three members of Presidency Council; voting will now move to second phase
  • Ahead of the vote, candidates presented their visions for the nation’s future to the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum

NEW YORK: Efforts by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) to elect a three-member Presidency Council will move to the next stage after none of the candidates secured the required 70 percent of the vote during a meeting in Geneva on Tuesday.

The forum, which was established late last year to advance the political peace process, is made up of 75 women and men from across the country who are described by the UN as reflecting the full social and political spectrum of Libyan society.

During talks in Tunisia in November, the LPDF agreed a plan to elect an interim executive authority that includes a prime minister and a three-member Presidency Council with one representative from each of Libya’s eastern, western and southern regions.

They will be tasked with guiding the country toward the “sacred goal” of holding constitutionally based national elections, said Stephanie Williams, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s acting representative for Libya, who convened this week’s meeting in Switzerland.

“This project is not about power sharing or dividing the cake,” said Williams. “Rather, it is to form a temporary government composed of patriots who agree to shoulder and share the responsibility to put Libyan sovereignty — and the security, prosperity and welfare of the Libyan people — above narrow interests and far from the specter of foreign interference.”

It would be the first such unified government in the country since the 2011 revolution that overthrew the Qaddafi regime.

The top three contenders that emerged on Tuesday were: Abdul Majeed Ghaith Seif Al-Nasr, who received 42.9 of all votes for southern candidates; Aguila Saleh, head of the parliament in eastern Libya, who received 39.1 percent of the votes for candidates from that region; and Khaled Mishri, leader of the High State Council, who received 22.2 percent of votes for candidates from the west of the country.

All fell far short of the required 70 percent of support, so the next round of voting will be based on a list system. Many observers expect the three top candidates on Tuesday will ultimately be the winners.

In all there are 24 candidates, who previously delivered 30 minute presentations to forum delegates, followed by 10 minutes of questions.

Also on Tuesday, 21 candidates for prime minister presented their credentials and visions for the future, after which they faced 20 minutes of questions. Delegates have until Friday to choose their preferred candidate for prime minister.

Almost all of the hopefuls listed the holding of elections as top priority, and vowed to reunify the nation’s institutions. As one of them put it: “One budget, one state, one army.”

Other popular pledges included a return to pre-civil war levels of oil production, the strengthening of the Libyan currency, the provision of security measures to ensure a safe election, prominent roles for women and young people in the new government, efforts to crack down on corruption, checks and balances to ensure no one is above the law and, crucially, an end to foreign interference in Libyan affairs.

Southern candidate Mona Jarrari said she decided to run so that Libyans “can get accustomed to a woman candidate.” She urged her fellow candidates to steer clear of slogans and to be realistic in setting their goals, the implementation of which, she added, will be impossible without an executive authority.

“Elections are our salvation,” said Jarrari, who also presented a plan to combat COVID-19 as another top priority.

“It is a positive sign that this process – your process – has inspired a high degree of buy-in and enthusiasm,” Williams told the participants. “While the selection of the interim unified executive is not an election in the traditional sense, open competition is good for democracy. This is the kind of competition that can only take place when the guns are silent.”

Hafed Al-Ghwell, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute at Johns Hopkins University followed Tuesday’s events with a feeling of deja-vu.

Ghassan Salame, the UN’s former envoy to Libya who resigned last year as a result of stress, had submitted the proposal for a similar gathering, and the group meeting now in Geneva was set to meet in April 2019.

“The plan would have worked,” said Al-Ghwell. “And it would have been much less controversial (at that time).”

However 10 days before the forum was due to gather, the Libyan National Army launched an assault on Tripoli, where the Government of National Accord is based.

“So now, to go back to the same process without taking into account the serious changes that happened on the ground — including 12 months of constant bombardment of the capital, thousands of dead, hundreds of thousands of displaced people — even if you come up with the right (executive authority), a lot of people on the ground who have lost their loved ones are not going to accept it,” said Al-Ghwell.

While conceding that “a meeting is better than killing each other,” he also questioned the selection process in Geneva. Especially problematic for him is the background of some of the candidates. He singled out Aguila Saleh in particular, who backed the attack on the capital.

“If he’s in the Presidential Council, what will stop him from making decisions that exclude everybody else? Or opening the door to foreign intervention like he did when he was the speaker of the parliament?” said Al-Ghwell.

“The UN says there are more than 250,000 displaced people in Tripoli. How are these people going to accept the legitimacy of a council if it has somebody like Aguila Saleh, who supported the war on the capital?”

In a country that has still to re-establish its institutions, the personality and credibility of a candidate is of paramount importance, Al-Ghwell said.

He also questioned the choices of the 75 members of the forum, some of whom have never lived in Libya, but added that what the UN has achieved with the implementation of the LPDF is very important nonetheless.

“Stephanie Williams and UNSMIL (the UN Support Mission in Libya) found that there’s a parliament and a state that have been major obstacles to implementing UN resolutions in Libya and the unification of its institutions,” said Al-Ghwell.

“Therefore Williams create a third body, the 75-member LPDF. This group is not going anywhere in the near future. If the parliament does not approve the (interim) government within 21 days, the matter will go back to the 75 to decide. So she created this UN-chosen, third body (and added it) into the Libyan mix.”


Suicide car bomb in Somali capital kills at least 7 -official

Suicide car bomb in Somali capital kills at least 7 -official
Updated 15 sec ago

Suicide car bomb in Somali capital kills at least 7 -official

Suicide car bomb in Somali capital kills at least 7 -official

MOGADISHU: A suicide car bomb killed at least seven people in the Somali capital on Saturday at a street junction near the president's residence, an official said.
"A suicide car bomb that exploded at Ceelgaab junction killed seven people and injured eight others," Muawiye Mudeey, district commissioner of Mogadishu's Hamarjajab district told Reuters.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack, but al Shabaab, which wants to overthrow the government and impose its interpretation of Islamic law, frequently carries out such bombings.
A Reuters witness at the scene of the blast reported seeing seven cars and three rickshaws destroyed by the blast, and the whole junction covered in blood. 


Iraqi Kurdistan conference pushes Baghdad-Israel normalization

Iraqi Kurdistan conference pushes Baghdad-Israel normalization
Updated 5 min 18 sec ago

Iraqi Kurdistan conference pushes Baghdad-Israel normalization

Iraqi Kurdistan conference pushes Baghdad-Israel normalization
  • Iraqi Kurdistan maintains cordial contacts with Israel, but the federal government in Baghdad does not have diplomatic ties with the Jewish stat

IRBIL: More than 300 Iraqis, including tribal leaders, attended a conference in autonomous Kurdistan organized by a US think-tank demanding a normalization of relations between Baghdad and Israel, organizers said Saturday.
The first initiative of its kind in Iraq, where Israel’s sworn enemy Iran has a very strong influence, the conference took place on Friday and was organized by the New York-based Center for Peace Communications (CPC).
The CPC advocates for normalizing relations between Israel and Arab countries, alongside working to establish ties between civil society organizations.
Iraqi Kurdistan maintains cordial contacts with Israel, but the federal government in Baghdad does not have diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.
Four Arab nations — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — last year agreed to normalize ties with Israel in a US-sponsored process dubbed the Abraham Accords.
“We demand our integration into the Abraham Accords,” said Sahar Al-Tai, one of the attendees, reading a closing statement in a conference room at a hotel in the Kurdish regional capital Irbil.
“Just as these agreements provide for diplomatic relations between the signatories and Israel, we also want normal relations with Israel,” she said.
“No force, local or foreign, has the right to prevent this call,” added Tai, head of research at the Iraqi federal government’s culture ministry.
The 300 participants at the conference came from across Iraq, according to CPC founder Joseph Braude, a US citizen of Iraqi Jewish origin.
They included Sunni and Shiite representatives from “six governorates: Baghdad, Mosul, Salaheddin, Al-Anbar, Diyala and Babylon,” extending to tribal chiefs and “intellectuals and writers,” he told AFP by phone.
Other speakers at the conference included Chemi Peres, the head of an Israeli foundation established by his father, the late president Shimon Peres.
“Normalization with Israel is now a necessity,” said Sheikh Rissan Al-Halboussi, an attendee from Anbar province, citing the examples of Morocco and the UAE.
Kurdish Iraqi leaders have repeatedly visited Israel over the decades and local politicians have openly demanded Iraq normalize ties with the Jewish state, which itself backed a 2017 independence referendum in the autonomous region.


Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report

Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report
Updated 41 min 34 sec ago

Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report

Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report
  • Morocco already uses drones for intelligence and surveillance operations along its borders

RABAT: Morocco took delivery earlier this month of Turkish combat drones, the Far-Maroc unofficial website dedicated to military news reported.
The report, also carried by several local media outlets, comes as tensions have spiked between Morocco and neighboring Algeria in recent weeks.
The two countries are mainly at odds over the disputed Western Sahara territory, and Algeria severed ties with Morocco in August claiming “provocations and hostile” action by its neighbor.
Relations took another blow this week when Algeria on Wednesday said it has closed off its airspace to all Moroccan civilian and military traffic.
According to Far-Maroc, the North African kingdom ordered 13 Bayraktar TB2 drones from Turkey in April and a first batch of the unmanned aircraft arrived this month.
Rabat, said the report, seeks to “modernize the arsenal of the Moroccan Armed Forces (FAR) in order to prepare for any danger and recent hostilities,” but did not elaborate on these topics.
It did however add that Moroccan military personnel have trained in Turkey in recent weeks to work with the drones.
Media reports said Morocco signed a $70 million contract with the private Turkish company Baykar.
The firm is run by one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-laws and has been exporting its Bayraktar TB2 model to Ukraine, Qatar and Azerbaijan for some years.
According to the company’s website, the Bayraktar TB2 is a “medium altitude long endurance tactical unmanned aerial vehicle capable of conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and armed attack missions” with a range of up to 27 hours.
Morocco already uses drones for intelligence and surveillance operations along its borders, according to military experts.
The Western Sahara dispute pits Morocco against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front which fought a war of independence with Rabat from 1975 to 1991.
Morocco laid claim to the former Spanish colony with rich phosphate resources and offshore fisheries after Spain withdrew in 1975, and controls around 80 percent of it.
Rabat has offered autonomy there and maintains the territory is a sovereign part of the kingdom but the Polisario is demanding a referendum on self-determination, in line with the terms of a 1991 UN-backed cease-fire deal.
Tensions rose sharply in November when Morocco sent troops into a buffer zone to reopen the only road linking Morocco to Mauritania and the rest of West Africa. The road had been blocked by the separatists.


UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff

UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff
Updated 53 min 7 sec ago

UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff

UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff
  • The country’s COVID-19 total number of cases recorded since the start of the pandemic now stands at 734,275

DUBAI: The UAE’s daily coronavirus cases continue to decline, with health officials on Friday confirming 303 new infections and three virus-related deaths.

The country’s COVID-19 total number of cases recorded since the start of the pandemic now stands at 734,275 with 2,086 fatalities related to the disease. 

The government’s inoculation program, coupled with an active testing policy for the early detection and intervention for coronavirus cases, has provided at least a dose of COVID-19 vaccines to 90.8 percent of the UAE population.

The recent decline in daily infections comes just days before the opening of the Expo 2020 Dubai, which the emirate hopes will draw millions from around the globe.


’Soon’ in Iranian parlance differs from West’s in nuclear talks, Iran’s top diplomat says

’Soon’ in Iranian parlance differs from West’s in nuclear talks, Iran’s top diplomat says
Updated 25 September 2021

’Soon’ in Iranian parlance differs from West’s in nuclear talks, Iran’s top diplomat says

’Soon’ in Iranian parlance differs from West’s in nuclear talks, Iran’s top diplomat says
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on Saturday that when his government says it will return soon to talks on resuming compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, it means when Tehran has completed its review of the nuclear file.
On Friday, Amirabdollahian told reporters in New York that Iran would return to talks “very soon,” but gave no specific date.
In remarks broadcast on state TV channel IRINN on Saturday, Amirabdollahian said, “People keep asking how soon is soon. Does it mean days, weeks or months?”
“The difference between Iranian and Western ‘soon’ is a lot. To us,‘soon’ means really in the first opportune time — when our reviews (of the nuclear file) have been completed. What is important is our determination to return to the talks, but those that are serious and guarantee the Iranian nation’s rights and interests,” Amirabdollahian said.
He was speaking to IRINN in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
On the other hand, he said: “I remind you of the West’s promises, such as repeatedly promising they would ‘soon’, ‘in a few months,’ implement the Instex” — a trade mechanism set up to barter humanitarian goods and food after the US withdrawal from the deal.
Iran has said the channel with Europe has been ineffective.
Under the 2015 deal that Iran signed with world powers, it agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions. Washington abandoned that deal in 2018 and unilaterally reimposed financial sanctions.
Talks that began in April between Iran and the five other nations — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — to revive the deal have been stalled since hard-line cleric Ebrahimi Raisi was elected president in June.
European diplomats have served as chief intermediaries between Washington and Tehran, which has refused to negotiate directly with US officials.