Libyan National Dialogue in Tunis Discusses Executive Authority’s Structure, Powers

Tunis – Cairo – The two delegations to the Libyan political dialogue, which is hosted by Tunisia under the supervision of UN Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame, discussed on Wednesday the structure of the executive authority and its powers, within a plan to amend the Skhirat political agreement.

The closed meeting gathered a delegation representing the Libyan Parliament and another representing the High Council of the State.

Dialogue sessions between the Libyan factions will be held until next Monday to allow the opportunity to listen to as many Libyan political leaders as possible.

Libyan political officials and tribal leaders continued to arrive in the Tunisian capital on Wednesday, to participate in the dialogue sessions, which bring together representatives of the Libyan parliament and the Council of State and which are aimed at amending the political agreement signed between the Libyan parties in the Moroccan city of Skhirat in 2015, under the auspices of the United Nations mission in Libya.

Well-informed Libyan sources told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that the coming meetings would be reserved for the political leaders representing the dialogue committees, away from the media.

Intra-Libyan sessions would be followed by brief evening speeches, either by a Libyan representative or by the UN envoy.

Contrary to expectations, Wednesday’s round of talks did not tackle the issue of deleting Article 8 of the political agreement, which specifies the powers of the supreme commander of the Libyan armed forces.

Sultana al-Mesmari, member of Parliament’s delegation, said that the committee charged with amending the Skhirat agreement focused on discussing the powers and work mechanism of Libya’s Presidential Council.

She added that the meetings did not address Article 8 of the political agreement, “but was focused on issues that bear a higher degree of consensus”, noting: “Article 8 and the Supreme Commander’s authorities constitute the real point of disagreement.”

Meanwhile, the commander of the Libyan Armed Forces, Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, concluded his visit to Italy following a series of talks with a number of Italian political and security officials.

The visit resulted mainly in Italy’s call for Haftar to disarm and abandon military action against the UN-backed government, and to participate in the country’s political process.

Local sources said that Haftar “received an unambiguous message” during his meeting with Italian officials that he “must confront his political opponents and abandon military moves against the presidential council of the National Reconciliation Government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli”.

Haftar Holds Secret Meetings in Rome on Migration

Libyan General Khalifa Haftar addresses a press conference in Benghazi.

Cairo- Following an invitation from the Italian government, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army, arrived in Rome Tuesday to meet with Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti, Interior Minister Marco Minniti, the head of the Italian intelligence service and army commanders.

Italian newspaper “Il Messaggero” said that Haftar’s visit will include holding secret meetings on migration and discussing the possibility of providing protection for work sites of Italian Energy working group “Eni” in Libya.

Meanwhile, Head of the Russian contact group on Libya Lev Dengov denied Moscow’s bias towards Haftar in the current crisis among the Libyan parties.

Dengov tried to prove the rapprochement among all Libyan parties. He said that during Haftar’s visit to the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, early this year, “the Russian contact group was meeting with Misurata soldiers, who defeated ISIS in Sirte.”

“This reflects our stance. Our main goal is to combat terrorism, and we are ready to cooperate with any party that can assist us in this mission, and we also support the consolidation of state institutions in Libya.”

“Moscow does not intend to lift the arms embargo on Libya anytime soon,” he noted.

In the field, the clashes continue to escalate and then calm again between the two security forces of the government of the National Accord in the city, leaving 17 dead, about 50 wounded, and the majority of the city’s population displaced, according to the Libyan Red Crescent.

Chairman of the Presidential Council of the Libyan Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj was keen to visit the Martyrs’ Square in the center of Tripoli upon his arrival from New York, after the end of a demonstration called by former nominee to Premier post in Libya Abdul Basit Igtet.

On the other hand, US President Donald Trump has accused Libya of failing to cooperate in “restoring its nationals under final deportation orders.”

“Libya faces great challenges in sharing several types of information, including information on public safety and terrorism, which are needed to protect national security,” Trump said.

In a statement issued by the US embassy in Libya on Monday, Trump said that the large terrorist presence within Libyan territories increases the risk posed by the entry of Libyans into the United States.

Italian Minister of Interior Affairs Receives MWL Sec-Gen

During the meeting between Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti received Secretary-General Sheikh Mohammed Issa (MWL Website)

Rome– Muslim World League (MWL) aims to pursue positive integration of Muslim communities into their societies and the citizenship they have recognized and committed to, according to MWL Sec-Gen Sheikh Mohammed al-Issa.

Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti received Secretary-General Issa and his accompanying delegation in Rome on Tuesday.

The two officials discussed a number of topics of common interest including citizenship and positive integration with the promotion of the right of religious freedom guaranteed by law. They also addressed the issue of official recognition of Islam as a religion.

The Italian minister welcomed MWL chief and expressed appreciation for the role undertaken by the MWL in fighting extremism, unifying Muslim communities, and promoting moderation.

Minniti expressed hope that the visit of the MWL chief to Italy will achieve goals that serve humanity, especially after his historic meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican City.

For his part, Issa thanked the Italian minister for his concern over MWL’s role and stressed that the League is keen to spread the values of peace, tolerance, and coexistence.

Later, Sec-Gen Issa held a meeting with Director of Religious Affairs in the Italian Government Maria Yurato where the two discussed several issues of mutual concern.

The two sides also discussed the legal status of several Islamic activities in Italy, and the cooperation between the association and the ministry to unify the Muslim community and improve its representation in the Italian government and civil institutions.

The secretary-general thanked Italian officials for providing the required facilities for a dialogue, hospitality and appreciation, especially in the light of the association’s renewed vision.

British Actor Colin Firth Receives Italian Citizenship

Cast member Colin Firth arrives with his wife Livia Giuggioli for the world premiere of "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" in London

Rome- British actor Colin Firth, who has often played the role of a quintessential Englishman in his many films, has become an Italian citizen, Italy’s Interior Ministry said.

“The very famous actor, who won an Oscar for the film ‘The King’s Speech’, is married to a citizen from our country and has often declared his love for our land,” the ministry said in a statement.
The 57-year-old showed a loud opposition to Britain’s plans to leave the EU, and said in May he intends to request the Italian citizenship.

Firth said he would remain a dual national, adding that his Italian-born wife would also be seeking British nationality.

“We never really thought much about our different passports,” the actor said in a statement.

“But now, with some of the uncertainty around, we thought it sensible that we should all get the same,” he added, in an apparent reference to last year’s British vote to leave the European Union.

Firth has been married to Italian film producer Livia Giuggioli since 1997 and the couple live with their two sons in Britain. Unlike some other EU countries, Italy and Britain both allow dual nationality.

“My wife and I are both extremely proud of our own countries,” Firth said.

Sudan’s Bashir Seeks Women’s Help in Arms Collection Campaign

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir

Khartoum– Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir warned against refusing to voluntarily surrendering weapons, in a campaign to collect arms from tribes in war-torn Darfur.

Bashir also urged women in Darfur to help in the campaign, asking them to prevent their husbands and children from hiding the weapons they have.

Speaking at a rally in Niyala, South Darfur, Bahsir said: “Enough is enough. We will implement the rule of law in the region and weapons will only be carried by regular forces.”

Earlier in July, the president pressed on with a government campaign to collect arms from tribes and combat arms proliferation in Darfur.

The campaign was mocked by the central government in Khartoum, however, observers believe the campaign overlooked the real reasons behind collecting the weapons. They see that the situation now is not suitable for citizens to relinquish weapons they attained from the government or following conflicts in nearby countries.

Conflicts in Sudan have killed about 300,000 people and displaced more than 2,5 million, most of which are stuck in large camps, according to the United Nations. However, the Sudanese government believes the reasons behind the displacement had ceasedto be and the security situation in the country improved.

Bashir is touring the region ahead of a United States’ decision on October 12 on whether to permanently lift a decades-old trade embargo on Sudan.

Before arriving in South Darfur, Bashir told rally attendees in West Darfur: “We are asking people to surrender their arms voluntarily. Some are giving up their weapons but others are keeping them.”

He warned that the government will take the arms that had not been surrendered.

“By the end of this year, no civilians will be permitted to carry arms throughout the entire Darfur region,” he said.

Bashir pledged to restore and maintain security in the region. He said the government is capable of reinstating stability in the region, adding that the rebels are responsible for halting reconstruction works.

“Security is the starting point of any development. You, the people of Darfur, give us security; we will give you development,” he said.

He pledged imposition of state authority legalizing the unlicensed cars and completion of development and service projects, announcing providing the State with three excavators as part of Zero Thirst Program to solve problem of water in the West Darfur State.

In related news, Sudanese foreign ministry stated that the Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour led the country’s delegation to the UN General Assembly. The statement issued mentioned that the minister participated in a special session on immigration and refugees organized by the Italian delegation to UN.

The statement also said that the minister spoke at that session along with the foreign ministers of Italy, Tunisia, Niger, and Uganda as well as members of the civil society. They discussed means to help refugees and displaced citizens.

The head of the Sudanese delegation presented the role of the government to contain the problem and cooperate with the regional and international community to overcome this crisis. He also lauded the role of Italy in this matter, pointing that Sudan continues to follow an open door policy to contain the refugees.

London Hosts Ministerial Meeting on Libya


Cairo – London will host on Wednesday a six-party ministerial meeting in the presence of the foreign ministers of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the United Nations envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salameh.

Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abou Zeid said the meeting was aimed at reviewing the outcome of talks between Salameh and the different Libyan parties, in addition to efforts to resolve the crisis and consolidate accord and reconciliation.

In a statement, Abou Zeid said that the meeting was based on a British initiative to bolster efforts towards achieving national reconciliation in Libya.

It also calls for pushing for the implementation of the Skhirat Agreement by emphasizing the role of the UN, ahead of the high-level meeting on Libya, which was called for by the UN secretary general on the sidelines of next week’s UN General Assembly.

Salameh, for his part, warned that overlapping European and Middle Eastern peace initiatives for Libya were hampering his work to reach a settlement for the ongoing crisis.

In remarks to the Italian newspaper La Stampa on Friday, the UN envoy said: “There are six or seven different operations in front of Libyans’ eyes. Too many cooks spoil the broth.”

Hours before the London meeting, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano held a telephone conversation with Salameh, the Italian foreign ministry said in a statement.

It noted that the two sides discussed a number of issues related to the political process to resolve the crisis in Libya.

The Italian minister reaffirmed his country’s full commitment to ensure the unity of the UN mission to “avoid losses and maintain the cohesion of the international community in support of the ongoing negotiations.”

The UN envoy highlighted “an important step forward”, pointing out that an agreement was reached on the need to amend the Skhirat deal, which was concluded two years ago in Morocco under UN auspices, said the Italian ministry’s statement.

Italian Film Unmasks Migrant Suffering in Libyan Militia Camps


Rome, London – An employee in the Italian Interior Ministry secretly visited Libya to reach deals with local warlords and coast guard officials in order to stop the flow of migrants to Europe.

If the events of the fictional film “L’ordine delle cose” by Andrea Segre seem familiar, it is because it highlights many real life developments.

In an interview with the German News Agency (dpa), the Italian director said: “I finished the script a long time ago, and while I was filming, I gradually realized that what I was imagining is actually happening.”

The film was launched in Italy on Thursday after being screened for the first time at the Venice Film Festival.

The film’s events, which are based on secret interviews with real Italian spies, tell the story of a man who was told to ask Libyans to stop all migrant boats because people can no longer handle their burden.

The film’s release comes in line with a wave of both praise and criticism against Italian Interior Minister Marco Minetti, also a former intelligence service chief, for his success in hindering migration flows.

Last month, only 3,900 people arrived in Italy, less than a fifth, compared to levels recorded in August of 2016.

The drop comes after an Italian move, with the approval of the European Union, to strengthen the coast guard capacity in Libya. Critics said that the measure had the hidden agenda to reduce immigration.

According to many media outlets, former Libyan militias have been preventing migrants from leaving due to secret arrangements with European authorities.

During a screening of Segre’s film at the Italian Senate, former Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said: “Until yesterday, we were, directly or indirectly, encouraging human trafficking.”

Bonino, a member of the radical party (a liberal Italian party) who also served as Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs of the European Union, said that the closure of the migration route between Libya and Italy “is like returning people to hell.”

Amid the growing anti-immigrant calls, Minetti said: “Social and democratic stability in Italy would have been jeopardized if the government did not curb the flow of asylum seekers.”

In an open letter to the European Union last week, Doctors without Borders said that people who are no longer allowed to seek a better life in Europe face rape, torture and slavery in Libya.

“That’s what we’re showing in the film,” said Segre.

The director filmed life in camps run by militias in Libya, with brutal guards, random beatings and scattered bodies.

The Italian director said: “We have in our hearts thousands of people who may not die at sea, but they live in devastating slavery. There is also no real prospect of alleviating their ordeal.”

He also doubted that the United Nations had ever secured assistance, as suggested by Italian authorities.

Segre said all the secret agents he met before filming told him that the only way to do their job was to never think about the human aspect of their actions.

“For them, rule number one is: you should not look at these people as people, but to deal with them as numbers.”

Italy Calls UN Support for International Libyan Initiatives

Tank is seen as fighters from Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government take position during a battle with Islamic State militants in Sirte

Cairo– The United Nations and Italy reiterated the need for uniting all international initiatives aiming at supporting stability in Libya under an international umbrella.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni discussed recent Libyan developments with French President Emanuel Macron.

In addition, Italian Foreign Minister Agnelino Alfano discussed over the phone the Libyan situation with UN Sec-Gen Special Envoy and Head of United Nations Support Mission in Libya Ghassan Salame. During the phone call, Alfano expressed his appreciation for the efforts of Salame as a concrete evidence of UN’s support for the political process in Libya.

Both Salame and Alfano agreed on the need to bring all initiatives together within UN support to bring stability to Libya. They agreed to remain in contact over the coming days.

Aki news agency stated that PM Gentiloni and President Macron discussed over the phone migration issues, Libyan crisis, and counter terrorism. The phone call was made prior to the quartet summit including Italy, France, Germany and Spain determined to take place next week.

In related news, friends and family of Libya’s former prime minister Ali Zeidan said that he has been kidnapped by an armed group in Tripoli and they hadn’t heard from him since nine days.

Karam Khaled, a friend who accompanied Zeidan, stated that the former PM had returned to Libya in early August for the first time since his dismissal and was planning to hold a press conference to respond to his critics.
Khaled confirmed that Zeidan’s visit had been coordinated with Libyan Premier of UN-back government of national accord Fayez al-Sarraj.

“It was the GNA that prepared the visit, including protocol at the airport and the hotel reservation,” Khaled said, adding that an armed group attempted on August 12 to seize Zeidan but they were stopped by hotel guards.

He reported that gunmen from the same group returned the next day and forced them to hand Zeidan.

“Since then, we have had no information on where he is being held or his condition,” he said, criticizing the government’s “silence” regarding the incident.

Meanwhile, Zeidan’s son said the family had no news of his father’s whereabouts. Speaking by phone from UAE, the son stated that his father’s lawyer had told him no court cases had been brought against the former premier. He expressed the family’s concerns over his father’s health, adding that he holds the government of national accord responsible for the incident.

Zeidan became premier in 2012 and two years later, he was dismissed by Libya’s parliament amid accusations that public funds had been embezzled. Afterwards, he left the country despite a travel ban issued by the attorney general.

In October 2013, gunmen seized the then premier but he was released after several hours.

In other news, Libya’s Sharara oil field was gradually restarting on Tuesday after repeated disruptions causing production shutdowns.

Earlier in the day, the National Oil Corporation (NOC) had announced that a three-day pipeline blockade had ended and force majeure had been lifted on loading of Sharara crude at Zawiya terminal.

But the NOC removed its statement and an oil source said there was a further block on production at the field.

Details of the second reported stoppage at the field on Tuesday were unclear, but the official said it was due to action by a different group to the one that caused a closure at a valve on a pipeline leading from Sharara to Zawiya on Saturday.

The NOC said the closure that lasted from Saturday until Tuesday morning had occurred at valve 17 on the pipeline to Zawiya. It did not say where the valve is located.

“No group has claimed responsibility for the valve closure, and no demands were made, but NOC engineers dispatched to open the valve found a gearbox had been stolen,” the statement said.

“This gearbox was removed by criminals for one purpose only, and that is to blockade the line in future,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla was quoted as saying.

2 Dead after Quake Strikes Italy Holiday Island


At least two people were killed and dozens injured in an earthquake that struck the tourist-packed Italian holiday island of Ischia on Monday.

Residents and tourists on the island off the coast of Naples ran out onto the narrow streets from homes and hotels. Fearing aftershocks, many decided to leave the island early.

Television images showed about six buildings in the town of Casamicciola including a church had collapsed in the quake, which hit at 8:57 p.m. (1857 GMT).

Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology put the magnitude of Monday’s quake at 4.0, revising it up from an initial 3.6, but both the US Geological Survey and the European quake agency estimated the magnitude at 4.3.

The director of the island’s hospital said two women were killed and about 40 injured. One of victims was killed when she was hit by falling masonry from the church of Santa Maria del Suffragio, the Civil Protection Department in Rome said.

The church was rebuilt after it, like most of Casamicciola was destroyed by an earthquake that killed some 2,000 people in 1883.

Emergency crews found a baby boy called Pasquale alive in the wreckage of a collapsed building hours after the quake, and said they had located his seven and 11-year-old brothers stuck under a bed nearby.

They pulled out the seven-month-old infant early on Tuesday and pushed a tube through to get water to the older boys, said the fire service. The parents were both safe, said officials.

A doctor at the Rizzoli hospital, Roberto Allocca, told Sky TG24 that some 26 people were being treated for minor injuries at a makeshift emergency room set up on the hospital grounds. He said the situation was calm and under control.

The earthquake hit three days before the first anniversary of a major quake that killed nearly 300 people in central Italy, most of them in the town of Amatrice.

Most of the damage from Monday’s quake was in the high part of the volcanic island. Hotels and residences on the coast did not appear to suffer serious damage but fire brigades were checking to see if they could still be used.

The island has a year-round population of about 63,000, which swells to more than 200,000 in summer, with many people from the mainland owning holiday homes.

Civil Protection Department head Angelo Borrelli said about 2,600 people could not re-enter their homes, pending checks.

Helicopters and a ferry boat brought in more rescue workers from the mainland.

Three extra ferries were provided during the night for about 1,000 residents and tourists who wanted to leave. As daylight broke, dozens of people went to the island’s four ports, having decided to end their vacations early.

Many who were due to take ferries from Naples on the mainland to start their vacations canceled their plans, local officials said.

Some civil protection squads were already on the island because of brushfires.

Together with the nearby island of Capri, Ischia is a favorite island getaway for the European jet set, famed in particular for its thermal waters.

The volcanic island is about a one-hour ferry ride from Naples.

Fire in Historical Italian Building Destroys Priceless Renaissance Manuscripts


Rome, London – Three people were killed and priceless original manuscripts from the Renaissance era were destroyed after a fire broke in a historical building in the southern Italian city of Cosenza, reported the German news agency (dpa).

The victims have yet to be identified, but they are presumed to be two men and a woman who had squatted in the third-floor flat of a building in the center of the city, reported Italy’s ANSA news agency.

The fire broke out Friday afternoon on the floor where the writings of 16th-century scholar Bernardino Telesio were stored.

Cosenza-born Telesio is credited as one of the fathers of modern philosophy, who was inspired by the teachings of Aristotle. His writings were seen as heretical and banned by the Catholic Church.

Friday’s blaze destroyed the first edition of his most important work, De Rerum Natura Iuxta Propria Principia (On the Nature of Things according to their Own Principles), as well as other ancient manuscripts and parchments.

Firefighters are investigating the cause of the fire, but a leak from a gas canister used by the squatters, who have a history of mental health problems and several run-ins with the police, is one of the hypotheses, ANSA said.

“Today Cosenza is mourning three victims and has lost 500 years of history,” Roberto Bilotti, the owner of the building and of the lost manuscripts, told ANSA.