Libyan Parliament Speaker Slams Sarraj Initiative, Doubts Government’s Legality

Libya

Cairo- Libyan Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh Issa slammed on Monday the roadmap suggested by Head of Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez al-Sarraj. The road-map suggests presidential and parliamentary elections in March 2018 to put an end to the absence of security and the political competition in Libya since the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

In his statement, Issa expressed his rejection of the suggested road-map and described the Presidential Council of Saraj government as an illegal body according to the Constitutional Declaration. He added that it didn’t gain the Libyan parliament confidence, not to mention that it violates the temporary constitution and has no legal qualification to call for elections or launch a similar initiative.

He considered that Sarraj initiative is a violation of the Constitutional Declaration and even the political agreement reached the end of 2015 under the sponsorship of the United Nations in Skhirat, Morocco.

The parliament speaker stressed that the Parliament is the only competent authority in the country to call for elections, underscoring that the Presidential Council of Sarraj government is controlled by the armed militias and the proposed map is only a means to gain legality, amend the Constitutional Declaration and prolong the term of the illegal Presidential Council.

In a televised speech, Sarraj called for presidential and parliamentary elections next spring for a three-year term or until the preparation of the constitution is concluded. He showcased a roadmap of nine points to rescue Libya from the crisis and activate the political agreement signed in Morocco among competent Libyan groups end of 2015.

Allying with Haftar is Gaddafi Son’s Weakest Option

libya

Cairo- Some leaders from the former Libyan regime have held meetings in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia to determine their stance from Saif al-Islam, 44, son of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, days after releasing him by virtue of the act of amnesty while others said that Saif al-Islam has several political and militarily options in case he wishes to play a role in the country’s future.

Tayeb al-Safi, official in Gaddafi’s last government, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Saif al-Islam is among his family and tribe but the Libyan public prosecution announced that he is still wanted because he was sentenced in absentia in 2015.

Releasing him triggered various reactions on his future in Libya and what he would do in a country witnessing a fierce struggle over power.

Safi, like many former regime officials, refused to state Saif al-Islam’s place of residence in the meantime.

Sherif al-Helwa, American expert in Middle East affairs, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Saif al-Islam has cards that he can use to blackmail the West and I don’t think he will succeed on the long-run.

He added, “Saif might be a good tool to divide Libya.”

Tariq al-Qaziri, a former political advisor at the national dialogue, said that in case the act of amnesty was confirmed then Saif would be infront of three options based on tribal or political basis and the weakest option is allying with Haftar.

According to Libyan tribal and political sources, several meetings were held among Libyan leaders in Egypt and Tunisia during the past two days to set new arrangements following the release of Saif al-Islam.

“If Saif was truly released then he would be basically infront of three options: first to impose his presence in the field through relying on the former regime supporters, second to chose peace and try launching a communicative, forgiving and negotiating dialogue,” Qaziri told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“As for the option of colliding with Haftar then this is possible but I don’t expect it to be beneficial for him,” he added.

Libya: Ghwell Militias Prep for New Battle in Tripoli

Ghwell

Cairo – Former Prime Minister of the National Salvation Government Khalifa al-Ghwell stated that he tried to reach an agreement with Akilah Saleh, speaker of the parliament in Tobruk, and Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani to form a new government to substitute Sarraj government.

Ghwell denounced the meddling of Italy in the internal affair and seizing, supported by pro-Sarraj militias, his headquarters in Tripoli. He considered that the latest aggressive incidents that occurred in the past week were plotted by the Libyan Presidential Council.

A military officer in Ghwell government revealed that preparations are being made for a military operation to wrest control over some headquarters and target pro-Sarraj militias.

Tripoli falls under the control of various armed groups that have formed local power zones and are struggling for authority since the national revolution, backed by NATO, against late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The Libyan Presidential Council neglected, for its part, that its headquarters in the navy base was raided by militias and denounced in return the threats of Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar to invade the capital in response to calls made by protestors who witnessed gunfire as they demanded liberating the city from militias.

In a related matter, spokesman for pro-Haftar forces Ahmed al-Mesmari declared that the last stronghold of al-Qaeda was liberated putting an end to a resistance that lasted for weeks by fighters who took shields in housing towers.

In a news conference, he added that the Libyan National Army (LNA) killed 42 terrorists in latest battles, west Benghazi, as he affirmed that Turkey is involved in providing logistic and materialistic support to extremists in the city.

The LNA is conducting, since three years, a campaign in the second biggest city in Libya and is still confronting resistance enclaves in two northern towns despite the enormous gains accomplished since the beginning of 2016.

Mid of 2014, Haftar launched the Dignity Operation saying that he wants to kick out extremists from the city following a series of explosions and murders.

The Exciting Presidential Term of Trump

Don’t claim that you are not concerned and that the U.S. is a far country. You know that it is a neighboring one although it is in another continent. If its economy stumbles, the global economy does too. You know that its fleets are the masters of the seas and oceans.

You know, very well, that it is the sole superpower and that its stance in the Security Council counts even if it does not use its veto power. You know that its aircrafts carry out precision strikes and that it has the best universities where you wish you can enroll your children.

You know that its attitude affects your country’s stability and fate, when it chooses to excessively interfere or when it decides to remain distant and isolate itself.

The U.S. is a superpower and a huge problem. Whether you like it or not, you should deal with it.

One day, former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein mockingly mentioned the collapse of western leaders because of the end of their terms, a media scandal or their fears from public opinion.

Sarcastically Saddam said: “How could a leader who has only won 51% of votes take a historic decision?” Like others, Saddam believed that the leader who makes history is the one who receives 99% of his nation’s backing and that enthusiasm might even urge the dead to vote.

Saddam failed to perceive the new reality. Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi also enjoyed counting the U.S. presidents who collapsed while he kept his grip on power – the Middle East has paid a heavy price for policies adopted by men who are uninformed about this world.

The days before the U.S. president-elect is granted official powers are usually important but in Donald Trump’s case the transition period is more difficult than any post-elections stage. His statements during his electoral campaign did not reveal a clear comprehensive policy – this vagueness doubled confusion and excitement as well.

Observers believe that his foreign policy will be based on three axes that concern our region: His deep belief of possible cooperation with Russia, combating radical Islam and reducing Iranian power in the region.

A diplomat gave me an example of what might possibly happen. He said that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called Trump after his victory to be assured that the U.S. will continue to be a partner in the Mosul battle. Abadi discussed with Trump strategic relations between the two countries and the importance of U.S. support to the Iraqi army in combating ISIS and purging Mosul.

Trump affirmed his country’s commitment to assisting Iraq in its war against ISIS, logistically and economically. However, Trump made it clear that the continuity of these ties is conditioned with Iraq having an independent policy unlike that of Iran.

The diplomat added that Trump did not specify his demand but clarified that the U.S. will not be providing assistance without getting anything in return.

Abadi is not the only one awaiting the White House to declare its new policies. Perhaps, the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar Assad, is considering the possible gains in case Trump chooses to cooperate with Russia in the war against terrorism – Assad is considering the role his regime would play in a possible U.S.-Russian deal.

These are exciting days of anticipation. Russian President Vladimir Putin himself is waiting. The Chinese president is ready for all possibilities and Germany’s Chancellor has concerns over Trump’s protectionism.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also adopting a wait-and-see approach to decide on his next step with Russia.

Leaders of GCC countries are awaiting Trump’s policy towards Iran while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is eager to know whether Trump would make good on his promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Trump’s term will be exciting and full of terse statements, tweets and tumult.

Gaddafi Loyalists Hijacked Airplane with Replica Weapons

Libya

Cairo- Libyans lived hours of fear before the hijacking of a Libyan plane ended peacefully. Two armed men had hijacked the airplane and obliged it to stand-off in Malta, 500 km north of the Libyan coast.

According to Libyan sources, the two hijackers are: Moussa Shaha and Ahmed Ali and they are not known for any political activity.

Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the weapons the hijackers were carrying appeared to be replicas, according to an initial forensic examination. He carried out a phone call with Prime Minister Faiz Al Siraj.

There were 111 passengers people, not to mention the crew members, on board — the hijacked Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 was on an internal flight from Sabha in south east Libya to the capital city of Tripoli.

The airplane was obliged to stand off in Malta while one of the hijackers claimed to be head of a party that backs Libya’s late leader Muammar Gaddafi. Libya’s Channel TV station said one hijacker, who gave his name as Moussa Shaha, said by phone he was the head of Al-Fateh Al-Jadid – this name was accorded by Gaddafi to September 1969 during the military coup.

Taher Siala, the foreign minister of Libya’s Al-Wefaq government, also said that hijackers have said they want to set up a pro-Gaddafi political party. Images circulating on social media showed one of the hijackers waving the green flag of Gaddafi just outside the door of the plane.

The airplane landed on Friday and remained around one hour at the runway before the first group of women and children began to get out. After minutes dozens of passengers started to exit the airplane following negotiations which were held by head of Armed Forces of Malta.

Martin Kobler: Dialogue Sole Solution to Libyan Political Crisis

Cairo- U.N. envoy to Libya Martin Kobler told Asharq Al-Awsat that he was still optimistic on the possibility of Libya regaining stability, unity and peace. For the second time in less than a month, Kobler arrived in Egypt for meetings with various parties on the Libyan crisis.

The U.N. envoy said the purpose of these visits is to amend the Constitutional Declaration which is being enforced since the regime of Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011, adding that it’s worrying to see a government depending on militias.

He stressed that militias have no future in Libya but this situation can’t be changed overnight.

Speaking of positive developments in Libya, Kobler said that there were three major improvements. “First, there is a national and international unanimity in Libya on Skhirat Agreement. I am trying to cooperate with the European Union (EU), the Arab League, the Security Council and the African Union (AU),” he said.

“Second is the presence of the presidential council inside Tripoli and its tireless efforts. Third is combatting terrorism,” Kobler added.

Commenting on the presence of militias in Libya, he stressed that they should all be dissolved because they can’t provide security. He said: “Most of the groups in Tripoli are just criminal gangs that take people captive and threaten security. For this, what we need is an organized army and police to keep security… Security is the main demand of the Libyan people.”

As for the U.N.’s point of view, Kobler said: “ISIS, Ansar al-Shari’a and al-Qaeda members are extremists and terrorists who have no role or position in institutions. They are even put on blacklists.

“There is a huge division inside the Libyan community and it is important that everyone unites together—the only way to achieve that is through dialogue,” he added.

Kobler assured Libyans that he will not give up working for the sake of women, children and men. He continued: “Every person should be given the chance to get education and every patient should be able to receive treatment in the hospital. Mothers are not supposed to wake up in the night as their children cry due to shooting. The U.N. always backs vulnerable individuals around the world.”

East Libyan Army Claims Control of Benghazi

The dominant armed force in the east Libyan city of Benghazi said on Thursday it had taken control of one the last holdouts of militias, amid clashes in which at least 13 troops were killed, according to medical officials.

The Libyan National Army (LNA), whose commander, Khalifa Haftar, is a figurehead for factions aligned with an eastern-based government, has been fighting extremist militants and other militias in Benghazi for more than two years.

Fighting resumed this week in the southwestern district of Ganfouda and nearby Guwarsha, where the LNA said it had now flushed out the opposing forces.

“The forces of LNA have liberated Guwarsha and our forces found 15 bodies belonging to terrorist groups,” military spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari told Reuters.

A video circulating on social media showed LNA special forces field commander Wanis Boukhamada shouting into a radio: “Repeat, repeat, the main road of Guwarsha district Shajar Street has fallen! … God is great.”

Libya slid into political turmoil and conflict after Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in an uprising five years ago. In 2014, rival parliaments and governments were set up in Tripoli and eastern Libya, both backed by loose alliances of armed groups.

The eastern government, supported by the LNA, is opposed to a U.N.-backed government that arrived in Tripoli in March.

Clashes were continuing on Thursday around Ganfouda, where the LNA has besieged fighters from the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC), the main group fighting it.

The LNA also conducted air strikes in Ganfouda and another district, Sabri, a military official said.

At least 13 LNA soldiers were killed and 15 wounded in the fighting, medical officials said. Four of the dead were killed in a mine explosion in Guwarsha, they said.

A car bomb exploded near a building captured by the LNA in Ganfouda, though the number of casualties was not immediately clear, security and medical officials said.

The BRSC claimed responsibility for the bombing, according to a statement posted from a Twitter account close to the group.
The LNA also has a presence in parts of southern Libya.

Reuters

Tayeb El Safi​ ​:​ ​I Call Libyans for a Comprehensive Reconciliation

Tripoli- Tayeb El Safi, a trusted aide to former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi for decades, expressed to Asharq al-Awsat his rejection of the phenomenon of multiple governments considering it as a negative sign.

“The fact that we have three governments in the current time is unacceptable because this hurdles the process of the state. Now we have two central banks, one in the west and another in the east. We now have two Libyan institutions for oil and investment. All these are negative signs and their consequences are greater than their benefits. For this, I call everyone to join efforts to put an end for this,” said Safi.

Speaking on required conditions of a government capable of rescuing the country, Safi said “We are looking forward towards a government of qualifications… Development, economic and political conditions of Libya are no secret. This country needs to be rescued– to achieve this we need a government that consists of qualified figures who can tackle critical issues not only political ones—there are topics closely related to citizens’ daily life such as health, education and oil.”

Commenting on Skhirat Agreement, Safi said that this agreement was signed among some individuals and does not represent the Libyan people. “Only a limited category participated in this agreement that did not reflect the Libyans approach towards a real reconciliation and a moving forward attitude. Until today, Skhirat Agreement failed to be applied because the Libyans totally rejected it,” added Safi.

On the way he views Prime Minister Faiz Al Siraj, Safi said that Siraj is mistaken to believe that he enjoys legality just because of the international support. “You gain legality from the Libyan people and not from foreign parties. You should go back to the parliament where you were once a member in and swore the oath to look after the Libyan people interests,” added Safi.

Some concerns aroused regarding the return of the previous regime, Safi stressed that this topic should be overlooked because what matters is whether this person has integrity and loyalty in his job and can serve Libya. “My advice for people is to evaluate others based on their work, their qualifications, loyalty and success in their specialty,” continued Safi.

He thanks all the countries that are trying to solve the Libyan crisis but insisted that the Libyans are now convinced that regional and international interference worsened the crisis and that the Libyans must figure out a solution by themselves.

When asked how his feeling was when he returned to Libya, knowing that he departed in 2011, “I was assured. I have confidence in my people…After more than five years of emigration, I felt like I was finally home.”

Republicans Launch French Presidential Elections Battle

Elections

Paris- No one was surprised when Nicolas Sarkozy announced his candidacy for presidency. Sarkozy, 61, wants to be the first former president to return to the Élysée Palace after five years of absence following his defeat by current president François Hollande in 2012. In this step, the Republicans aim to take revenge from their political rival.

However, the dream of Sarkozy seems to face several obstacles, starting with the internal elections of the Republicans which is scheduled for November 27 and which will decide the party’s nominee against other candidates.

Alain Juppé is the man rival against Sarkozy amongst the 13 Republican candidates.

Juppé topped the Republicans’ candidates list with up to 73% while Sarkozy earned only 55%, according to Ipsos survey. However, this survey does not take into account the new book to be published by Sarkozy, “Everything for France”, considered as his electoral campaign.

Observers agree that Sarkozy bets on the change of French public opinion and its bias towards strict Republicans, not to say the extremist. Thus his campaign is not based on economic affairs as unemployment, absence of growth and weakness of economy, not even the foreign policy or the future of European Union.

The trilogy of “security, identity and peace” will be the foundation of Sarkozy’s campaign.

Sarkozy wants to appear as the strong man who will restore the country’s reverence, a very simple method. However, not only does he have to worry over defeating his rivals but also over his involvement in judicial cases and other scandals claiming that Muammar Gaddafi funded his campaign.

The terrorist attacks France has witnessed since January and the fake connection of executors to Islam worsened islamophobia as well as intensified competition among politicians to appear as the defendants of national identity and citizens’ security.

Al-Bunyan al-Marsous Forces Start Countdown to Recover Sirte

A Libyan Navy boat carries migrants back to the coastal city of Misrata May 3, 2015. The North African country, gripped by violence and a breakdown of state authority four years after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi, has turned into a major hub for human traffickers smuggling African migrants by boat to Italy. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

Cairo- Forces of the Government of National Accord in Libya said that the final stage of military operations against ISIS remnants in Sirte has commenced.

The Sunday Times unveiled a new mission that was carried out by Elite British Forces operating in Libya against ISIS via a high-tech weapon called “The Punisher”. This weapon was tested in Afghanistan by the U.S. Army and it can fire air-bursting rounds up to 704 meters (700 yards), reported the newspaper from military experts.

Al-Bunyan al-Marsous forces stated that operation leaders are holding intensive meetings in preparation for the final offensive in Sirte. The forces added in a statement that the countdown for the final stage of government forces’ assault has started.

Operations’ chamber mentioned in a statement published on its official Facebook page that the U.S. forces launched on Saturday four raids on ISIS remnants’ locations in Sirte. Government forces are supported by the U.S., which has started targeting ISIS locations as per Sarraj government’s request.

More than 3,000 government soldiers were killed and up to 1,800 were injured since the launching of Al-Bunyan al-Marsous operation in May 2016.

Meanwhile, the transitional government, headed by Abdullah al-Thani, demanded that the International Criminal Court stop prosecuting Muammar Gaddafi’s second son Saif al-Islam since he was being tried before the local justice.

Libyan Justice Minister Munir Aser said in a letter to the ICC that trying an individual twice breaches international conventions.

Saif al-Islam was arrested in November 2011 after his attempt to escape Libya, knowing that a court in Tripoli had already issued a death sentence in absentia as he stood accused of oppressing the Libyan revolution that sparked in February 7, 2011.