UN official: Libya elections could be rescheduled for June

UN official: Libya elections could be rescheduled for June
UN special advisor on Libya Stephanie Williams is pushing for Libya to hold elections by June. (AP)
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Updated 18 January 2022

UN official: Libya elections could be rescheduled for June

UN official: Libya elections could be rescheduled for June
  • Libyans want an end to this long period of transition that the country has experienced since the events of 2011

CAIRO: A senior US official said she is pushing for Libya to hold elections by June after the county missed a December deadline to elect its first president since the 2011 ouster and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

Stephanie Williams, the UN’s special adviser on Libya, said that it is still “very reasonable and possible” for the country’s 2.8 million voters to cast their ballots by June in line with the UN-brokered 2020 roadmap.

Libya failed to hold its first-ever presidential elections on Dec. 24 as scheduled, a major blow to international efforts to end a decade-long chaos in the oil-rich Mediterranean nation.

Williams, who led UN efforts to end the latest bout of violence in Libya in 2020, said elections are needed in the country to give credence to the country’s institutions.

“All the institutions are suffering a crisis of legitimacy,” she said.

“I don’t see any other exit for Libya other than a peaceful political process.”

The country plunged into turmoil after the NATO-backed 2011 uprising and split into rival governments — one in the east, backed by military commander Khalifa Haftar, and another UN-supported administration in the capital of Tripoli, in the west. Each side is supported by a variety of militias and foreign powers.

Mediated by the UN, an October 2020 ceasefire led to the formation of a transitional government and scheduled elections for Dec. 24. But the vote faced steep challenges that eventually forced its postponement.

Williams urged lawmakers, who are convening Monday in the eastern city of Tobruk, to agree on a “clear, time-bound process with a clear horizon and to not create an open-ended process.”

“They have to shoulder a great responsibility right now to respect the will of the Libyans who registered to vote,” she said.

“Libyans want an end to this long period of transition that the country has experienced since the events of 2011.”

The missed election deadline came after bitter disputes over the laws governing the electoral process. Outbreaks of fighting among armed factions and the presence of thousands of foreign fighters and troops in the North African country also fed mistrust between the rival groups.

Controversial figures declaring runs for the presidency have further polarized the political scene in recent months. Among them are Hifter, Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and Seif Al-Islam Qaddafi, the ousted dictator’s son and one-time heir apparent. Opponents of Hifter and Gadhafi have said they will never accept an election victory by them.

The country’s election commission didn’t name a final list of candidates for the presidential and parliamentary elections. Imad Al-Sayeh, head the commission, told the parliament Monday that militias threatened to stop the electoral process if a final list was announced.

Al-Sayeh said the commission needs between six and eight months to prepare for elections, given the uphill challenges that led to the postponement of Dec. 24 vote.

Williams said lawmakers and leaders in Tripoli should work out the disputes over the elections rules. She did not see the departure of foreign mercenaries as a “prerequisite for the elections,” saying that holding the cease-fire is the priority.

“There have been mercenaries in Libya since 1970s,” she said, adding later, “I don’t believe that that is a card that is necessary to play at this time.”

Williams also said all factions should accept the results no matter who wins.

“The way to solve this is (allowing) the Libyan voters go to the ballot box and make their own choice,” she said. “Results need to be respected.”

The vote’s delay also threatens to open a power vacuum. Lawmakers have argued that the mandate of Dbeibah’s government ended on Dec. 24. Aguila Saleh, the influential speaker of parliament, said Monday that the transitional government “should be restructured.”

The UN adviser called on the parliament to focus on delivering the vote rather than appointing a new transitional administration.

“What Libyans have clearly said is that they want to go to the ballot box and choose their government, a democratically government representing the entire Libya,” she said.


Kuwait ministry captures Iranian ship with 240 tons of smuggled diesel: report

Kuwait ministry captures Iranian ship with 240 tons of smuggled diesel: report
Updated 21 May 2022

Kuwait ministry captures Iranian ship with 240 tons of smuggled diesel: report

Kuwait ministry captures Iranian ship with 240 tons of smuggled diesel: report

DUBAI: Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior has seized an Iranian ship carrying 240 tons of smuggled diesel, a report by Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV said Saturday. 

The ministry said it has seized the ship in territorial waters and has arrested its crew members, who were Iranian. 

It said the Iranian ship crew were buying fuel from smaller ships at certain prices. 

The ministry also said an investigation is underway to reveal all the circumstances of the smuggling incident. 


Israeli forces shoot dead Palestinian teenager in West Bank clashes – health ministry

Israeli security forces clash with Palestinians in Jerusalem. (AFP file photo)
Israeli security forces clash with Palestinians in Jerusalem. (AFP file photo)
Updated 21 May 2022

Israeli forces shoot dead Palestinian teenager in West Bank clashes – health ministry

Israeli security forces clash with Palestinians in Jerusalem. (AFP file photo)
  • Jenin refugee camp has served as a flashpoint amid recent tensions following a wave of attacks

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: A Palestinian teenager was shot dead by Israeli forces early Saturday during a raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said.
“A 17-year-old boy was killed, and an 18-year-old was critically wounded by the Israeli occupation’s bullets during its aggression on Jenin,” a statement by the health ministry said.
Jenin refugee camp has served as a flashpoint amid recent tensions following a wave of attacks in Israel in which 19 people were killed.
Thirteen Palestinians were injured last week during an operation by Israeli forces in the camp in which one Israeli commando and one Palestinian were also killed.
Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett named the Israeli commando as Noam Raz.
The Palestinian was later named as Daoud Al-Zubaidi, a brother of Zakaria Al-Zubaidi, who headed the armed wing of the Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and briefly escaped from Israeli prison last year.
The raids came hours before violence erupted at the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera journalist who was killed last week while covering another Israeli raid on the camp.
As her funeral unfolded, Israeli police stormed the grounds of a Jerusalem hospital as the body of the slain journalist was being transported for burial, prompting an international outcry.

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Israeli missile strikes kill 3 near Syria capital: state media

Israeli F35 I fighter jets take part in an air defence exercise in Eilat. (AFP file photo)
Israeli F35 I fighter jets take part in an air defence exercise in Eilat. (AFP file photo)
Updated 21 May 2022

Israeli missile strikes kill 3 near Syria capital: state media

Israeli F35 I fighter jets take part in an air defence exercise in Eilat. (AFP file photo)
  • Since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes there, targeting government positions as well as bases and weapon depots for allied Iran-backed forces and fighters of Lebanon’s Shiite militant group Hezbollah

DAMASCUS: Israeli surface-to-surface missiles killed three people near the Syrian capital Damascus on Friday, state media said quoting a military source.
“The Israeli enemy carried out an aggression... that led to the death of three martyrs and some material losses,” Syria’s official news agency SANA quoted the source as saying.
The missiles came from the Israeli-occupied Golan heights and were intercepted by the Syrian air defenses, the military source said.
AFP correspondents in the Syrian capital said they heard very loud noises in the evening.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said that the three people killed were officers and that four other members of the air defense crew were wounded.
The Israeli strikes targeted Iranian positions and weapon depots near Damascus, the monitor said.
A fire broke at one of the positions near the Damascus airport, where ambulances were seen rushing to the site of the strikes, according to the Observatory.
The latest strike follows one on May 13 that killed five people in central Syria, and another one near Damascus on April 27 which, according to the Observatory, killed 10 combatants, among them six Syrian soldiers, in the deadliest such raid since the start of 2022.
Since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes there, targeting government troops as well as allied Iran-backed forces and fighters of Lebanon’s Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
While Israel rarely comments on individual strikes, it has acknowledged carrying out hundreds of them.
The Israeli military has defended them as necessary to prevent its arch-foe Iran from gaining a foothold on its doorstep.
The conflict in Syria has killed nearly half a million people and forced around half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes.


Tunisia heads for ‘new republic’ in dialogue without political parties

Tunisia heads for ‘new republic’ in dialogue without political parties
Updated 21 May 2022

Tunisia heads for ‘new republic’ in dialogue without political parties

Tunisia heads for ‘new republic’ in dialogue without political parties
  • On Friday the official gazette announced that law professor Sadeq Belaid would head the newly created "National Consultative Commission for a New Republic"
  • Saied announced in early May the establishment of a long-awaited "national dialogue"

TUNIS: Tunisia’s President Kais Saied on Friday appointed a loyalist law professor to head a committee charged with writing a constitution for a “new republic”, through a national dialogue that excludes political parties.
On July 25 last year, Saied sacked the government and suspended parliament, sidelining the political parties that have dominated Tunisian politics since the 2011 revolution that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.
He has since vowed to scrap the country’s 2014 constitution and draft a replacement to be put to referendum in July, but has repeatedly inveighed against political parties despite calls for an inclusive dialogue.
On Friday the official gazette announced that law professor Sadeq Belaid would head the newly created “National Consultative Commission for a New Republic”, charged with drawing up a draft constitution.
Saied has also created three other committees to focus on socio-economic issues, the judiciary and on national dialogue.
While major organisations including the powerful UGTT trade union confederation are supposed to be involved, no political party is set to take part.
Saied announced in early May the establishment of a long-awaited “national dialogue” – at the same time attacking the political parties he accuses of having plundered the country.
Since his July power grab, many Tunisians have supported his moves against a political class seen as corrupt, but opponents have labelled his moves a coup and he has faced calls from home and abroad for a dialogue involving all of the country’s major actors.


Sandstorms pose serious risk to human health: WMO

People navigate a street during a recent sandstorm in Basra, Iraq. (AP)
People navigate a street during a recent sandstorm in Basra, Iraq. (AP)
Updated 20 May 2022

Sandstorms pose serious risk to human health: WMO

People navigate a street during a recent sandstorm in Basra, Iraq. (AP)
  • The UN agency WMO has warned of the “serious risks” posed by airborne dust

PARIS: Sandstorms have engulfed the Middle East in recent days, in a phenomenon experts warn could proliferate because of climate change, putting human health at grave risk.
At least 4,000 people went to hospitals on Monday for respiratory issues in Iraq where eight sandstorms have blanketed the country since mid-April.
That was on top of the more than 5,000 treated in Iraqi hospitals for similar respiratory ailments earlier this month.
The phenomenon has also smothered Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE with more feared in the coming days.
Strong winds lift large amounts of sand and dust into the atmosphere, that can then travel hundreds, even thousands, of kilometers.
Sandstorms have affected a total of 150 countries and regions, adversely impacting on the environment, health and the economy, the World Meteorological Organization said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The UN agency WMO has warned of the ‘serious risks’ posed by airborne dust.

• The fine dust particles can cause health problems such as asthma and cardiovascular ailments.

• They also spread bacteria and viruses as well as pesticides and other toxins.

“It’s a phenomenon that is both local and global, with a stronger intensity in areas of origin,” said Carlos Perez Garcia-Pando, a sand and dust storm expert at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center and the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies.
The storms originate in dry or semi-dry regions of North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia and China.
Other less affected areas include Australia, the Americas and South Africa.
The UN agency WMO has warned of the “serious risks” posed by airborne dust.
The fine dust particles can cause health problems such as asthma and cardiovascular ailments, and also spread bacteria and viruses as well as pesticides and other toxins.
“Dust particle size is a key determinant of potential hazard to human health,” the WMO said.
Small particles that can be smaller than 10 micrometers can often become trapped in the nose, mouth and upper respiratory tract, and as a result it is associated with respiratory disorders such as asthma and pneumonia.
The most at-risk are the oldest and youngest as well as those struggling with respiratory and cardiac problems.
And the most affected are residents in countries regularly battered by sandstorms, unlike in Europe where dust coming from the Sahara is rare, like the incident in March.
Depending on the weather and climate conditions, sand dust can remain in the atmosphere for several days and travel great distances, at times picking up bacteria, pollen, fungi and viruses.
“However, the seriousness is less than with ultrafine particles, for example from road traffic, which can penetrate the brain or the blood system,” says Thomas Bourdrel, a radiologist, researcher at the University of Strasbourg and a member of Air Health Climate collective.
Even if the sand particles are less toxic than particles produced by combustion, their “extreme density during storms causes a fairly significant increase in cardio-respiratory mortality, especially among the most vulnerable,” he said.
With “a concentration of thousands of cubic micrometers in the air, it’s almost unbreathable,” said Garcia-Pando.
The sandstorms’ frequency and intensity could worsen because of climate change, say some scientists.
But the complex phenomenon is “full of uncertainties” and is affected by a cocktail of factors like heat, wind and agricultural practices, Garcia-Pando told AFP.
“In some areas, climate change could reduce the winds that cause storms, but extreme events could persist, even rise,” he said.
With global temperatures rising, it is very likely that more and more parts of the Earth will become drier.
“This year, a significant temperature anomaly was observed in East Africa, in the Middle East, in East Asia, and this drought affects plants, a factor that can increase sandstorms,” the Spanish researcher said.