Italy remains Libya’s ‘best partner’ in reconstruction, says Libyan PM

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dabaiba deliver their statements at the end of their meeting at Chigi palace, premier’s office, in Rome, Italy May 31, 2021. (Reuters)
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dabaiba deliver their statements at the end of their meeting at Chigi palace, premier’s office, in Rome, Italy May 31, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 31 May 2021

Italy remains Libya’s ‘best partner’ in reconstruction, says Libyan PM

Italy remains Libya’s ‘best partner’ in reconstruction, says Libyan PM
  • In his first visit to Italy since he entered office, Dabaiba pledged the Government of National unity’s support to counter illegal immigration from Libyan shores to Italy
  • Draghi said Italy ‘remains at Libya’s side and supports it in this complex transition’

ROME: Italy is Libya’s “best partner” in the reconstruction of the north African country after years of civil war, Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dabaiba said in Rome on Monday.

At a business forum with major Italian companies, Dabaiba explained that “after a tough decade Libya now needs the support of all countries, not just Italy. But to us Italy is a partner, a brother country.”

In his first visit to Italy since he entered office, Dabaiba pledged the Government of National unity’s support to counter illegal immigration from Libyan shores to Italy and, after a near two-hour private meeting, praised Italian Prime minister Mario Draghi for having pushed EU institutions to have a global approach and a common financial commitment to tackle the migrant issue.

At the end of the meetings Draghi, however, emphasized that “to ensure full compliance with the rights of refugees and migrants is not only a moral duty but it is also in Libya’s interest.”

Several topics were covered, including the issue of Italian fishermen’s right to fish in maritime areas Libya holds as its territorial waters, waters that Italy claims are international.

“The issue remains hot and there is still no agreement, but we are all keen to work on it,” a member of Draghi’s staff told Arab News.

“The collaboration between the government of the Prime Minister Dabaiba and Italy continues to be more and more fertile and alive,” the Italian prime minister said. “Italy remains alongside Libya and intends to support it in this complex transition.”

He encouraged continuing “along the path of full implementation of the agreement on cease-fire, starting with the withdrawal of all foreign mercenaries and the full development of the reconciliation process.”

Until the revolution of 2011, Libya represented Italy’s fifth global supplier and the third largest European investor in the country.

“Now Rome and Tripoli aim to spark a process of both political and economic reconstruction of Libya, and Italy aims to be a trusted and reliable economic partner for that country. This forum goes in this direction and I can say that lots of good work has been done so far,” a Italian diplomatic source who attended the meeting chaired by Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told Arab News.

Seven top Libyan ministers came to Rome with Dabaiba, and before meeting Premier Draghi attended the business forum comprised of leading Italian companies such as Snam, Saipem, Terna, Ansaldo Energia, Fincantieri, PSC Group, Italtel, Leonardo, WeBuild, San Donato Hospital Group, CNH Industrial, and Eni.

On the agenda is the reactivation of some Italian macro-investments in Libya, such as the construction of the so-called “Peace Highway” included in an agreement signed by Silvio Berlusconi and Muammar Qaddafi in 2008.

“Italy is the best partner for the reconstruction of our country with respect to the economy, infrastructure and oil,” Dabaiba said. “We aim to return to producing three million to four million oil barrels a day. We need hospitals, we need to rebuild schools and the infrastructure in the oil sector. For this reason we intend to remove all the constraints that hinder Italian companies.

“We also want to reopen airspace by restoring air traffic between our two countries so that our historical cooperation may continue in every field,” he said.

The pledge found a “very positive welcome” from the Italian side, a source in the Italian Government told Arab News.

“Now we can count on a new, united Libya, thanks to the efforts of the Government of National unity,” Italian Foreign minister Luigi Di Maio said.

“Italy has never abandoned Libya, and our embassy in Tripoli remained open even in the most difficult moments. We are now committed to a further strengthening of our institutional presence in the country,” he added. He also announced that a “promotional desk for Italian companies” and an Italian cultural center will be soon opened in the Italian Embassy.

Di Maio added: “Italy and Libya can be close and strategic partners in highly technological areas, such as telecommunications and telemedicine. At the same time, I believe it is crucial that our companies can be able to operate in a framework appealing to new investments, which also requires financial stabilization, a sentiment of trust for businesses and the necessary security conditions to operate. I am sure that, together, we will be able to reach new, important goals.”

Meanwhile, Draghi told a joint press conference that the collaboration between Dabaiba’s government and Italy also continues to be fertile, adding his country “remains at Libya’s side and supports it in this complex transition.”
The premier said defining Libya’s electoral law and approving the budget are all institutionally very important and difficult steps, Italian ANSA news agency reported.
“If all goes well, the path should end by the year-end elections,” he said.
On the issue of migrants, Draghi said: “I think it is a moral duty but also an interest of Libya to ensure the full respect of the rights of refugees and migrants.”
He said Italy intends to continue to finance assisted voluntary repatriations and humanitarian evacuations from Libya.
Dabaiba said the migrant issue was a matter of joint responsibility, and that relations with Italy have returned to an “excellent” level.


US linguist sentenced to 23 years for exposing classified information to Hezbollah

Lebanese-American Mariam Taha Thompson was sentenced to 23 years in prison on Wednesday after she admitted to turning over classified national defense information to Hezbollah. (AFP/File Photo)
Lebanese-American Mariam Taha Thompson was sentenced to 23 years in prison on Wednesday after she admitted to turning over classified national defense information to Hezbollah. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 5 min 25 sec ago

US linguist sentenced to 23 years for exposing classified information to Hezbollah

Lebanese-American Mariam Taha Thompson was sentenced to 23 years in prison on Wednesday after she admitted to turning over classified national defense information to Hezbollah. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Lebanese-American Mariam Taha Thompson, 62, worked for a US Special Operations task force in Iraq and had top secret clearance
  • Thompson started speaking with a Lebanese co-conspirator with Hezbollah ties in 2017 and later developed romantic feelings for him

CHICAGO: Lebanese-American Mariam Taha Thompson was sentenced to 23 years in prison on Wednesday after she admitted to turning over classified national defense information to Hezbollah, designated by the US as a terrorist organization based in Southern Lebanon.

Thompson, 62, from Rochester, Minn., was a contracted linguist for a US Special Operations task force in Iraq and had top secret clearance. She agreed to plead guilty in exchange for leniency, a US Justice Department official said in a statement.

According to court filings, Thompson acknowledged that she passed information to a Lebanese man who she believed would pass the sensitive information to Hezbollah agents. Her contact sought to obtain detailed information on individuals who may have been involved in the Jan 3, 2020 assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force Commander Qasem Suleimani. 

“Thompson’s sentence reflects the seriousness of her violation of the trust of the American people, of the human sources she jeopardized and of the troops who worked at her side as friends and colleagues,” John Demers, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s national security division, said in a statement

“That Thompson passed our nation’s sensitive secrets to someone whom she knew had ties to Lebanese Hezbollah made her betrayal all the more serious. Thompson’s sentence should stand as a clear warning to all clearance holders that violations of their oath to this country will not be taken lightly, especially when they put lives at risk.”

Thompson admitted that, beginning in 2017, she started communicating with the Lebanese man using a video-chat feature on a secure text and voice messaging application. Over time, Thompson developed a romantic interest in her co-conspirator.

She learned that the unindicted co-conspirator had a family member who was in the Lebanese Ministry of the Interior and also had strong ties with Lebanese Hezbollah.

In December 2019, while Thompson was assigned to a special operations task force facility in Iraq, the US launched a series of airstrikes in Iraq targeting Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed foreign terrorist organization. These airstrikes culminated in a Jan. 3, 2020 strike that resulted in Suleimani’s death, as well as the founder of Kata’ib Hezbollah, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Following Suleimani’s death, the unindicted co-conspirator began asking Thompson to provide “them” with information about the human assets who had helped the US target Suleimani. Thompson admitted that she understood “them” to be Lebanese Hezbollah, including an unnamed high-ranking military commander.

After receiving this request for information in early January 2020, Thompson began accessing dozens of files on human intelligence sources, including names, personal identification data, background information and photographs of the human assets, as well as operational cables detailing information the assets provided to the US government.

She used several techniques to pass this information on to the unindicted co-conspirator, who told her that his contacts were pleased with the information and that a Lebanese Hezbollah military commander wanted to meet Thompson when she came to Lebanon.

When she was arrested by the FBI on Feb. 27, 2020, Thompson had used her access to classified national defense information to provide her co-conspirator with the identities of at least eight human assets, at least 10 US targets, along with multiple tactics, techniques and procedures. Thompson said she knew the classified national defense information she provided could risk the lives of US sources and troops.

“The defendant’s decision to aid a foreign terrorist organization was a betrayal that endangered the lives of the very American men and women on the battlefield who had served beside her for more than a decade,” acting US attorney Channing Phillips for the District of Columbia said.

“Let today’s sentence serve notice that there are serious consequences for anyone who betrays this country by compromising national defense information.”

FBI officials who worked with the Justice Department said the information Thompson provided to her Lebanese contact put the nation's security at risk.

“By knowingly distributing classified information that would be passed onto a designated foreign terrorist organization, Mariam Thompson put our national defense in danger,” assistant director Alan Kohler Jr. of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division said.

“The men and women of the FBI will continue to work tirelessly to defeat hostile intelligence activities targeting the US and hold those who assist our adversaries accountable.”


American jailed for betraying military sources in Iraq

American jailed for betraying military sources in Iraq
Updated 24 June 2021

American jailed for betraying military sources in Iraq

American jailed for betraying military sources in Iraq
  • Mariam Thompson, 62, had admitted transmitting the classified information to a Lebanese national connected to Hezbollah

WASHINGTON: A Pentagon translator was sentenced Wednesday to 23 years in prison for passing the names of US informants in Iraq to a person linked to Lebanon’s powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah.
Mariam Thompson, 62, had admitted transmitting the classified information to a Lebanese national in hopes that it would be passed on to the group designated a terrorist organization by Washington.
“Thompson’s sentence reflects the seriousness of her violation of the trust of the American people, of the human sources she jeopardized and of the troops who worked at her side as friends and colleagues,” John Demers, head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said in a statement.
According to court documents, Thompson worked as an interpreter on a foreign military base when, in 2017, she began a relationship on a video app with a man who said he was connected to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“Over time, Thompson developed a romantic interest in her co-conspirator,” the Justice Department said.
She was assigned to American special forces in Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, in December 2019, when the unit initiated strikes against a pro-Iranian militia, which ended January 3, 2020 with the death of powerful Iranian General Qassim Suleimani.
Shortly after, Thompson’s contact asked for information about agents suspected of having aided the United States.
She gave him data on several American informants, including the real names of at least eight people, accessed through personnel files, and information on US military tactics.
She was arrested by federal authorities the next month, in late February 2020.


Canada: Decision to down Ukraine flight PS752 was made by senior Iranian official

Canada: Decision to down Ukraine flight PS752 was made by senior Iranian official
Updated 24 June 2021

Canada: Decision to down Ukraine flight PS752 was made by senior Iranian official

Canada: Decision to down Ukraine flight PS752 was made by senior Iranian official
  • The Canadian forensic report stated that Iran ignored some risks, which led to the accident
  • The report also added that the Islamic Republic failed to provide sufficient explanations

DUBAI: Canada’s final report on the downing of the Ukrainian plane said the decision was made by a senior Iranian official, Al-Arabiya TV reported.
The Canadian forensic report stated that Iran ignored some risks, which led to the fatal accident on Jan. 8, 2020.
The report also added that the Islamic Republic failed to provide sufficient explanations for the downing of the plane, which killed all 176 people on board.
Earlier in June, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said they refused Iran’s proposal to pay $150,000 as compensation for each victim of the PS752 plane victims.
Oleg Nikolenko said compensation to families was an important step to justice, but first the full truth behind the circumstances of the plane crash were needed.
“Only then can we talk about the compensation. The specific amount should be set with the agreement of all the governments of the states whose citizens died in the plane crash, and [should] not [be] a unilateral decision,” one of the country’s biggest TV news channels TSN quoted him.


Yemeni minister says government has control of Marib

Yemeni minister says government has control of Marib
Updated 24 June 2021

Yemeni minister says government has control of Marib

Yemeni minister says government has control of Marib
  • Muammar Al-Eryani said Houthis are still recruiting children
  • Loyalist officials told AFP that pro-government forces had repelled Houthi attacks north of the city

DUBAI: Yemen’s Information Minister said Marib was “invincible” and warned that Houthis who tried to enter would be arrested, state news agency Saba New reported on Wednesday.
Muammar Al-Eryani said Houthis are still recruiting children.
“The Houthi militia are again deploying thousands of their militants, including tribesmen and children recruited from the summer radicalization centers for suicide missions at all fronts of Marib,” the report quoted him as saying.
Fighting between Yemeni loyalists and Houthi rebels seeking to take the strategic northern city of Marib has left 90 fighters killed in two days, pro-government military sources said on Tuesday.
The Iran-backed Houthi militia on Monday night mounted a fresh assault on the internationally recognized government forces in Al-Mashjah and Al-Kasara areas, west of Marib, triggering heavy clashes that continued until Tuesday afternoon and claimed the lives of dozens of combatants.
The Ministry of Defense said dozens of Houthis were killed in the fighting and that they lost a significant amount of military equipment.
Loyalist officials told AFP that pro-government forces had repelled Houthi attacks north of the city in clashes that left 63 rebels and 27 loyalist fighters dead since Monday.


Libya sees progress on removal of foreign mercenaries at Berlin talks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah in Berlin on June 23, 2021, on the sidelines of a new round of Libya peace talks. (AFP / Tobias Schwarz)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah in Berlin on June 23, 2021, on the sidelines of a new round of Libya peace talks. (AFP / Tobias Schwarz)
Updated 24 June 2021

Libya sees progress on removal of foreign mercenaries at Berlin talks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah in Berlin on June 23, 2021, on the sidelines of a new round of Libya peace talks. (AFP / Tobias Schwarz)
  • Premier urges parliament to approve election law to allow December election to go ahead

BERLIN: Libya’s foreign minister said on Wednesday international powers had made progress at talks in Berlin on the removal of foreign fighters from the country, although a final communique from the UN-backed conference specified no concrete new measures.

Libya has had little stability since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising against then-head of state Muammar Qaddafi, but a UN-led peace process brought a ceasefire last summer after fighting between rival factions paused.

Wednesday’s meeting in Berlin aimed to make progress on removing mercenaries and other foreign forces from Libya, months after the ceasefire called for their withdrawal, as well as on steps toward securing a December election.

“Hopefully within coming days mercenaries (on) both sides will be withdrawn,” Libya’s Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush told a news conference following the talks.

A senior official at the US State Department said Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides in Libya, had reached an initial understanding to work toward a target of pulling out 300 Syrian mercenaries from each side of the conflict.

HIGHLIGHT

A US State Department official said it was unrealistic to think a full withdrawal of foreign fighters would come overnight and that it would be a phased approach.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also said he believed there was an understanding between Russia and Turkey on a step-by-step withdrawal of their fighters.

“This will not mean that everybody will take their mercenaries back overnight,” he said. The talks were also attended by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

A second State Department official said it was unrealistic to think a full withdrawal of foreign fighters would come overnight and that it would be a phased approach.

“Getting at what we think is one of the key de-stabilizing elements, the presence of these foreign fighters, Syrians, Chadians, Sudanese, that is an important first step and it’s not something we had before,” the official said.

Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeiba called on Libya’s parliament to approve an election law to allow the December election to go ahead and to pass his government’s budget.

“Unfortunately, we have not yet seen the necessary seriousness from the legislative bodies,” he said.