Rival Libyan premier says he plans to be in Tripoli in days

Rival Libyan premier says he plans to be in Tripoli in days
Fathi Bashagha, designated as prime minister by the parliament. (Reuters)
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Updated 10 March 2022

Rival Libyan premier says he plans to be in Tripoli in days

Rival Libyan premier says he plans to be in Tripoli in days
  • Fathi Bashagha expressed his belief that the war-torn country could be unified without more fighting
  • Libya's two rival administrations are heading into a deeper confrontation

TOBRUK, Libya: A rival Libyan prime minister says he plans to be in the country’s capital and seat his government there in a matter of days — even though a parallel administration opposing his is currently located in Tripoli.
Fathi Bashagha expressed his belief that the war-torn country could be unified without more fighting and that his government will focus on holding elections soon, the only way out of Libya’s decade-old conflict.
However, his statement is likely to add to fears that Libya’s two rival administrations are heading into a deeper confrontation and that the divisions signal a return to civil strife after more than a year of relative calm. On Thursday, the United Nations and the United States urged restraint and expressed concern over reports of armed groups deploying in and around Tripoli.
“The sole political solution in Libya is to hold presidential and parliamentary elections,” Bashagha said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday in the eastern city of Tobruk.
A former air force pilot and businessman, Bashagha was named prime minister last month by the House of Representatives, which has been based in Tobruk. The lawmakers selected Bashagha to replace embattled Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, who is based in Tripoli, claiming Dbeibah’s mandate had expired after Libya failed to hold its first presidential elections in December.
The failure to hold the vote, which was scheduled for December 2021 under a UN-led reconciliation effort, was a major below to concerted international efforts to bring peace to the oil-rich North African nation. Bashagha’s appointment increased tensions and raised the possibility of renewed fighting in a country largely ruled by lawless militias and armed groups with conflicting interests.
Libya has been wrecked by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled then killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. For years, it has been split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each supported by an array of militias and foreign governments.
Dbeibah has refused to step down and insists he will hand over power only to an elected government. He has sought to rally the international community by proposing a roadmap for parliamentary elections in June.
Appointed himself by a UN-led process in March of 2021, Dbeibah has called the push to replace his government “reckless” and a “farce” orchestrated by the political class hanging on to power, saying it could lead to more war. He mobilized allied militias in the capital and has closed its airspace to domestic flights in an apparent move to prevent Bashagha and his government from landing there.
Bashagha ruled out the possibility of a return to violence, saying that efforts were ongoing to find a peaceful settlement to the stalemate and allow his government to work from the capital. He did not elaborate on why he expects to be in Tripoli soon.
“There will be no disputes, no civil wars. This situation (infighting) will not return again,” Bashagha said. “We will be in Tripoli in the coming two or three days.”
Both prime ministers hail from the western city of Misrata, which played a major role in the Qaddafi’s overthrow and numerous bouts of civil fighting over the past decade, most recently in repelling a 2019 offensive on Tripoli by forces of east-based commander Khalifa Haftar.
The offensive failed after 14 months and an internationally brokered October 2020 cease-fire has kept a relative peace since. But long-running mistrust between eastern and western Libya remains.
Bashagha, who is also a former interior minister, has positioned himself as one of the most powerful figures in western Libya. He cultivated ties with Turkey, France and the United States, but also with Egypt and Russia — his nominal rivals during Haftar’s campaign to capture Tripoli.
In recent months, he has grown an alliance with Haftar, something Bashagha has defended, saying that establishing ties with the powerful, but polarizing commander will help unify the country and spare it from sliding once again into war.
“For the first time, there is a true rapprochement between the east and west,” he told the AP. “This is a good step.”
Holding elections in Libya still faces many deep-rooted and unresolved challenges, including controversial candidates and disputed laws governing elections, as well as deep mistrust between rival factions.
Meanwhile, at least three ministers resigned Thursday from Dbeibah’s Cabinet, citing their respect for the east-based parliament’s appointment of Bashaga. In videos on social media, the ministers of social services, migration and human rights said they were ready to hand over their portfolios in order to spare Libyans further divisions.


Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle
Updated 13 August 2022

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle
  • Secretary-General of the House of Representatives Ahmed Manaa invited Parliament’s 596 MPs to attend the meeting without disclosing further information

CAIRO: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt announced a Cabinet reshuffle Saturday to improve his administration's performance as it faces towering economic challenges stemming largely from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Cabinet shake-up, which was approved by parliament in an emergency session, affected 13 portfolios, including health, education, culture, local development and irrigation ministries.
Also included in the reshuffle was the tourism portfolio, a key job at a time when Egypt is struggling to revive the lucrative sector decimated by years of turmoil, the pandemic and most recently the war in Europe.
The changes, however, didn’t affect key ministries including foreign, finance, defense and the interior, which is responsible for the police force.
El-Sisi said the shake-up came in consultation with Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly. He said in a Facebook post that the changes aimed at “developing the governmental performance in some important files ... which contribute to protecting the state’s interests and capabilities.”
The new ministers are expected to be sworn in before el-Sissi later Saturday or early Sunday.
Egypt’s economy has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine, which rattled global markets and hiked oil and food prices across the world.


Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18
Updated 13 August 2022

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

CAIRO: A vehicle accident involving an overturned microbus in southern Egypt killed at least nine people and injured eight, authorities said Saturday.
The crash took place Friday when the passenger vehicle overturned following a tire blowout on a highway in Minya province 273 kilometers (170 miles) south of the capital Cairo, provincial authorities said in a statement.
The microbus, a sort of mass transit minivan, was transporting people from Sohag province to Cairo, the statement said.
Ambulances rushed to the site and moved the injured to hospitals in Minya, the statement added.
Deadly traffic accidents claim thousands of lives every year in Egypt, which has a poor transportation safety record. The crashes and collisions are mostly caused by speeding, bad roads or poor enforcement of traffic laws.
Earlier this month, a microbus collided with a truck in Sohag, killing at least 17 people and injuring four others. In July, a passenger bus slammed into a parked trailer truck in Minya, leaving 23 dead and a least 30 wounded.


UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations
Updated 13 August 2022

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

DUBAI: The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, discussed on Friday with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, bilateral relations between their countries, the prospects for cooperation and ways to enhance them.

Both officials also reviewed the latest developments in the Ukraine, in addition to a number of regional and international issues of common interest, UAE state news agency WAM reported. 

During the phone call, Sheikh Abdullah praised the United Nations-backed agreement recently signed in Istanbul between Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, which provides for the safe export of grain through the Black Sea to global markets.

He reiterated the UAE's commitment to support all efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine and reach a political settlement of the crisis.


Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 
Updated 13 August 2022

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 
  • Mohammad Marandi: ‘I wont be shedding tears for a writer who spouts endless hatred and contempt for Muslims and Islam’

Iran’s advisor to the nuclear negotiating team, Mohammad Marandi, said he will not be “shedding tears” over Salman Rushdie who was fatally stabbed on Friday at a literary event in New York state. 

“I wont be shedding tears for a writer who spouts endless hatred and contempt for Muslims and Islam,” Marandi said in a tweet following the incident. 

Salman Rushdie, who spent years in hiding after an Iranian fatwa ordered his killing, was on a ventilator and could lose an eye following the attack. The British author of “The Satanic Verses,” which sparked fury among some Muslims, had to be airlifted to hospital for emergency surgery following the attack.

Marandi also expressed his surprise at the timing of the attack on Rushdie, which followed Washington’s thwarting of an assassination attempt targeting the former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, calling it “odd.”

The Department of Justice charged an Iranian military operative on Wednesday with plotting to assassinate Bolton.


Tunisian government, unions agree to talks on IMF reform program

Tunisian government, unions agree to talks on IMF reform program
Updated 12 August 2022

Tunisian government, unions agree to talks on IMF reform program

Tunisian government, unions agree to talks on IMF reform program
  • Prime Minister Najla Bouden, UGTT labour union chief Noureddine Taboubi and UTICA commerce union chief Samir Majoul had agreed a "social contract" to tackle national challenges
  • The UGTT reposted the statement on its Facebook page

TUNIS: Tunisia’s government and both its main labor and commerce unions agreed on Friday to start talks on Monday over economic reforms required by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a rescue program.
State news agency TAP reported that Prime Minister Najla Bouden, UGTT labor union chief Noureddine Taboubi and UTICA commerce union chief Samir Majoul had agreed a “social contract” to tackle national challenges, citing a government statement.
The UGTT reposted the statement on its Facebook page.
The labor union, which represents a vast syndicate of workers, has been a staunch critic of IMF economic reforms proposed by the government, including subsidy cuts, a public sector wage freeze and the restructuring of state-owned companies.
It previously said, such reforms would increase the suffering of Tunisians and lead to an imminent social implosion.
Tunisia is seeking $4 billion in IMF support amid the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine, though diplomat sources told Reuters any IMF program approved would be unlikely to reach that level.
The IMF wants the UGTT, a powerful union that has a million members and has previously paralyzed parts of the economy in protest, to formally agree to government reforms.
Efforts to secure the IMF bailout have been complicated by Tunisia’s political upheavals since President Kais Saied seized most powers a year ago, shutting down parliament and moving to rule by decree.
Last month, he pushed through a new constitution formalising many of the expanded powers he has assumed in a referendum. Official figures showed that 31 percent of Tunisians took part, but opposition groups have rejected the figure, calling it inflated.