UN Security Council has moral responsibility to correct its mistakes against Libyan people, says envoy

UN Security Council has moral responsibility to correct its mistakes against Libyan people, says envoy
The UN Security Council members must acknowledge their role in the developments in Libya over the past years, the country’s envoy says. (AFP)
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Updated 25 November 2021

UN Security Council has moral responsibility to correct its mistakes against Libyan people, says envoy

UN Security Council has moral responsibility to correct its mistakes against Libyan people, says envoy
  • Ambassador Taher Elsonni warns freeze on Libya’s assets is being ‘politicized,’ and accuses Belgium of embezzlement over funds seizure
  • Council members call on Libyan authorities to support December election process, and address inhumane treatment of migrants in detention centers

NEW YORK: Libya’s UN envoy has told the Security Council it has a “moral responsibility” to correct past mistakes against the Libyan people and called for an end to foreign interference in the country’s affairs.

Speaking ahead of Libya’s landmark presidential and national elections in December, Ambassador Taher Elsonni said that Security Council members must acknowledge their role in “the developments in my country over the past years.”

He told the Security Council meeting on Wednesday that “the Libyan people will recover from this crisis,” and added: “We will become stronger.”

Discussing the situation in Libya, council members voiced hopes that the elections will be held in a free and fair atmosphere, and called on all parties to resolve disputes through legitimate means and refrain from disrupting the political process.

Although they welcomed a recent agreement on the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries, council members also called on Libya to do more to address its humanitarian challenges amid increasing reports of inhumane treatment of migrants in detention centers in the country.

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, senior adviser for special political affairs at the US Mission, welcomed the “unambiguous demonstration of international support for Libya” at the Paris conference this month, but reminded “those who would interfere with Libya’s elections or stoke violence that the Security Council may impose sanctions on anyone — Libyan or otherwise — who obstructs or undermines the elections..”

He said the council “must target election spoilers to promote accountability if need be.”

Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy highlighted Moscow’s support for the repatriation of foreign mercenaries in order to avoid “the risk of damaging the existing cease-fire” and urged all groups to “work constructively with one another.”

Russia’s support for the Libyan National Army includes mercenaries from the Russian private security company Wagner Group.

However, Elsonni cautioned the envoys against “belittling Libyan citizens, especially the youth, who are now more aware of the history of their country in the past 10 years of conflict.”

Libyans “have uncovered everything that happened and all the conspiracies against them,” he added.

“You have seen genuine national reconciliation and synergy. We are turning the page on a painful chapter in the history of Libya.”

Elsonni reassured the council that “the Libyan people will recover from the crisis and will become stronger.”

He added: “We are only asking those who are interfering in our internal affairs to stop, and, as we say in Libya, ‘just leave us alone.’ Despite all challenges, we remain steadfast, one and united: This is the secret of our strength, no matter what.”

Libya “appreciates” international initiatives in pursuit of a peaceful solution, but the process must be owned and led by Libyans, who “must lead and not be led,” Elsonni said.

The present authorities in Libya are committed to a roadmap that stipulates the holding of elections on time and ensuring their success, he said.

 “The sovereign demands of the Libyan people to end any form of foreign presence in Libyan territory, regardless of labels or categories, must be honored.”

Turning to his country’s frozen assets, Elsonni said that this was no longer an attempt to protect Libyan money but “a politicized mechanism aimed at allowing some to usurp the treasures of the Libyan people.”

Last week, AFP reported that Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh has accused Belgium of seeking to seize $15 billion in Libyan assets frozen by the UN since the beginning of the Libyan conflict in 2011.

“It is regrettable to inform you that we are being embezzled again,” Elsonni told the Security Council, warning against this “dangerous precedent.”

Libya’s assets in Belgium are the subject of a decade-old dispute after the Global Sustainable Development Trust, a charity owned by Belgian Prince Laurent, invested millions of euros in a reforestation scheme during Muammar Qaddafi’s rule, a project that was never completed due to the toppling of the dictator. The prince has been seeking compensation ever since.

“Any conflict or dispute must be solved between governments, and it should not come as a threat to citizens” Elsonni said as he called on Brussels to refrain from “provocative” actions and work with the Libyan government toward a diplomatic solution to the issue.

The Libyan envoy asked the Security Council and sanctions committee to honor commitments to protect Tripoli’s assets, and urged all countries “not to prejudice this money or seize it under any pretext in a clear violation of the council’s resolution.”

Elsonni reiterated that specialized Libyan institutions are conducting investigations into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the Libyan conflict.

“Those have no statute of limitations,” he said, adding that the discovery of mass graves in Libya “will always be a dark spot in our history.”

The meeting on Wednesday was also the last at which UN Libya peace envoy Jan Kubis briefed the council following his resignation this week, citing personal reasons.

Elsonni said that he regretted Kubis’ resignation “at this critical time,” and called on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to clarify UN plans for the support mission’s leadership.


France’s Macron says hoping for progress on Lebanon ‘within next hours’

France’s Macron says hoping for progress on Lebanon ‘within next hours’
Updated 03 December 2021

France’s Macron says hoping for progress on Lebanon ‘within next hours’

France’s Macron says hoping for progress on Lebanon ‘within next hours’

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday he hoped there would be progress on the Lebanon crisis in the next hours.
“We will do all we can to re-engage the Gulf regions for the benefit of Lebanon... I hope the coming hours will allow us to make progress.” Macron said during a visit to the United Arab Emirates.
Lebanon is facing a diplomatic crisis with Gulf states, spurred by a minister’s critical comments about the Saudi Arabia-led intervention in Yemen that prompted Riyadh, Bahrain and Kuwait to expel Lebanon’s top diplomats and recall their own envoys. The UAE withdrew its envoys.


US critics of Israel face challenges in redrawn Congress districts

US critics of Israel face challenges in redrawn Congress districts
Updated 03 December 2021

US critics of Israel face challenges in redrawn Congress districts

US critics of Israel face challenges in redrawn Congress districts
  • Planned changes to district boundaries could affect nine members of Congress who have a record of voicing support on Palestinian issues

CHICAGO: Nine members of Congress who have been vocal critics of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians could face tougher re-election campaigns as a result of their districts being redrawn, an analysis by Arab News shows.

Every 10 years, the dominant political parties in many states re-draw district boundaries based on demographic data provided by the US Census, which does not count Arab and Muslim Americans as a separate category.

Where population shifts have led to proposed boundary changes, incumbents may be forced to stand in new districts. That’s the challenge facing Illinois representative Marie Newman, who won election in 2020 in the 3rd Congressional District, which has the largest concentration of Palestinian American voters.

Newman has chosen to face-off with Sean Casten, who is very strong on climate change, in the new 6th District rather than stand against Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who is one of only two Hispanic congress members in Illinois, in the 4th District. Casten is a strong supporter of Israel and silent on Israeli violence against Palestinians, while Garcia has often joined Newman to support pro-Palestinian legislation, including voting against a bill giving Israel $1 billion for its Iron Dome defense system last September.

“Rep. Newman was supportive of the push to create a second congressional district of Latino influence and understood that doing so would mean the need to shift boundary lines of existing CDs in the Chicagoland area,” Newman campaign spokesperson Ben Hardin said.

Describing the challenges as “inevitable,” Hardin said: “Representative Newman is grateful … to have the support of so many people here in Chicago’s southwest side and in the south and west suburbs, including a strong coalition of supporters from the Arab and Muslim American community.”

The new Illinois district map was approved by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, one of Israel’s strongest advocates, in November. Pritzker aroused anger among Arab Americans after refusing to apologize for disparaging remarks he made in a 1998 congressional race in which he accused a rival of accepting money from a Muslim group that Pritzker asserted supported terrorists.

“There is no doubt that the Illinois Democrats are seeking to undermine Newman, who has been a vocal supporter of Palestinian, Arab and Muslim rights,” said Hassan Nijem, the president of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce.

“She and Chuy Garcia are the only Illinois Democrats to defend Palestinian rights and recognize our growing community.”

The Illinois primary has been delayed from March until June 28, 2022, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to Newman and Garcia, seven other members of Congress who voted against the Iron Dome money could be affected by district changes.

They include Cori Bush of Missouri; André Carson of Indiana; Raúl Grijalva of Arizona; Ilhan Omar of Minnesota; Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts; Rashida Tlaib of Michigan; and Thomas Massie of Kentucky, a Republican Congressman who consistently votes against all foreign aid regardless of the recipient.

Tlaib, Pressley and Omar are members of the “Squad,” a group of progressive Democrats that includes New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Instead of voting against the Iron Dome funding, however, AOC voted “present” not taking a position.

In Michigan, which is holding its primary on Aug. 2 next year, mapmakers are proposing to re-draw Tlaib’s 13th district, increasing the number of African American voters. That could be important even though Tlaib defeated several African American candidates when she first ran and won office in the predominantly African American district in 2018.

Tlaib may be forced into a new district against pro-Arab Democrat Debbie Dingell. However, she could survive as the Michigan process puts remapping in the hands of an independent commission rather than partisan politicians. The final Michigan remap might not be completed until late January.

Also in Michigan, proposed changes would pit Jewish Democratic Congressman Andy Levin, who has been an outspoken supporter of the two-state solution for Palestine and Israel, against Brenda Lawrence.

Minnesota congressional remapping plans have targeted Omar and another pro-Palestinian Congresswoman, Betty McCollum, although maps in those districts have not been finalized.


Israeli agents convinced Iranian scientists to blow up their own nuclear facilities

Israeli agents convinced Iranian scientists to blow up their own nuclear facilities
Updated 03 December 2021

Israeli agents convinced Iranian scientists to blow up their own nuclear facilities

Israeli agents convinced Iranian scientists to blow up their own nuclear facilities
  • They posed as Iranian dissidents and smuggled bombs into the Natanz facility disguised as food
  • Israel had pledged to never allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons

LONDON: Agents from the Mossad convinced Iranian scientists to blow up their own nuclear facilities by “posing as dissidents” and smuggling explosives disguised as food into facilities, according to reports.

According to The Jewish Chronicle, Israeli agents convinced up to 10 scientists to destroy the Natanz nuclear facility, wiping out 90 percent of its centrifuges – crucial for research into nuclear weapons.

They are said to have smuggled some explosives into the plant in food lorries, while others were dropped in via drones and picked up by scientists – who they convinced to use against the nuclear sites by posing as Iranian dissidents.

The attack on the facility is just one of a long line of Israeli sabotages of Iranian nuclear facilities, a strategy that they have engaged in more as Iranian nuclear research has progressed.

The Natanz facility, a critical nuclear research site, has been hit by at least three attacks linked to the Israeli secret service, the Mossad.

In another incident, agents used a quadcopter drone to fire missiles at the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company in an attempt to disrupt its research.

In recent years, following the US withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Iran has increased its atomic energy research, including enriching growing quantities of uranium above the levels required for civilian nuclear activity such as energy production.

In April Iran said that it would start enriching uranium up to 60 percent after the attack on its Natanz plant which it blamed on Israel – that is closing in on the 90 to 95 percent enrichment required for nuclear weapons.

This week – much to the ire of Israel – Iran and the US returned to the negotiating table to try to find a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear activity in exchange for relief from crushing economic sanctions imposed on the country by the US and its allies.

But on Thursday, Israeli officials called on the US directly to cease those negotiations.

In a phone call with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called for “concrete measures” to be taken against Iran.

He said that Tehran was carrying out “nuclear blackmail” as a negotiation tactic and that “this must be met with an immediate cessation of negotiations and by concrete steps taken by the major powers,” according to a statement released by his office.

The Israeli leader also expressed his concern about a new report from the UN, issued during the US-Iran talks in Vienna, which showed that Iran had “started the process of enriching uranium to the level of 20 percent purity with advanced centrifuges at its Fordo underground facility.”

Israel, the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East, has pledged never to allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.


Lebanon information minister resigns

Lebanon information minister resigns
Updated 53 min 38 sec ago

Lebanon information minister resigns

Lebanon information minister resigns

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Information Minister George Kordahi has officialy submitted his resignation on Friday to “give Lebanon a chance.”
“I will resign this afternoon,” Kordahi earlier told AFP. “I do not want to cling to this position, if it can be useful, I want to give Lebanon a chance.”
An official at the presidency confirmed to AFP that President Michel Aoun had received a call from Kordahi confirming he would submit his resignation.


UAE, France sign $18 billion deal for 80 Rafale jets as Macron starts Gulf tour

UAE, France sign $18 billion deal for 80 Rafale jets as Macron starts Gulf tour
Updated 03 December 2021

UAE, France sign $18 billion deal for 80 Rafale jets as Macron starts Gulf tour

UAE, France sign $18 billion deal for 80 Rafale jets as Macron starts Gulf tour
  • Macron arrived in the early hours of Friday for a brief Gulf tour where he will also visit Qatar

DUBAI: French President Emmanuel Macron met Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed on Friday at the start of a two-day Gulf tour that saw France sell the UAE 80 French-made Rafale warplanes for $18.08 billion (€16 billion). 
France’s Defense Minister said the deal was France’s largest-ever weapons contract for export while the Minister for the Armed Forces hailed the deal as "historic."

There was no immediate confirmation of the deal from Emirati officials. Macron was greeted at the leadership pavilion at Dubai’s Expo site for talks with Sheikh Mohammed.
“I don’t want to reveal the Christmas present” before the meeting, UAE presidential adviser Anwar Gargash told journalists in the build-up to the talks in Dubai.
Macron arrived in the early hours of Friday for a brief Gulf tour where he will also visit Qatar, host of next year’s World Cup, before traveling to Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
The UAE, which celebrated its 50th anniversary on Thursday, is expected to order dozens of Rafale jets to replace its Mirage 2000 aircraft acquired in the late 1990s.
The Emirates is the fifth biggest customer for the French defense industry with $5.31 billion (€4.7 billion) from 2011-2020, according to a parliamentary report.
Macron is accompanied by a large delegation in Dubai including Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Defense Minister Florence Parly.