Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) has recaptured the strategic town of Bani Walid in the country’s northwest from the forces of renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.
The latest development comes a day after the UN-recognised government seized the city of Tarhuna, Haftar’s last stronghold in northwestern Libya, which was used as the main launchpad against the capital, Tripoli. Friday’s defeat inflicts serious blows to Haftar’s 14-month offensive to capture Tripoli.
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Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed said Bani Walid was handed over to the GNA peacefully.
“Life to a great extent is normal in Bani Walid,” he said, speaking from Tripoli. “The government forces entered the town without any fighting because of the cooperation of the elder’s council, the mayor and the civilians with the government forces.”
Haftar’s forces, he added, left the town before the GNA forces approached the northern borders of the town.
The GNA is now setting its sights on Sirte, the hometown of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and has announced a new offensive to recapture the city by deploying reinforcements around the Abu Grein area, Abdelwahed said.
“The military move on the city of Sirte came after peaceful talks to hand over the city failed,” he said. “We are also getting reports that the government air force in Abu Grein targeted UAE military-supplied vehicles for Haftar’s forces.”
In March, the Libyan government launched Operation Peace Storm to counter attacks on the capital and recently regained strategic locations, including the al-Watiya airbase, in the country’s west.
Turkey’s military support, particularly its drone force, to the GNA seems to have turned the tide against Haftar forces in recent months.
But analysts say the GNA’s military gains do not mark the end of Libya’s war but a return to the status quo before the launch of the Tripoli offensive last year.
Egypt’s Libya initiatiave
Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) still controls large swaths of territory in the east, where there is a parallel administration, and large parts of the south, where the main oil fields are located.
Egypt, along with the United Arab Emirates and Russia have provided support for Haftar, but that backing has been outweighed in recent months by Turkish military backing for the GNA.
Hundreds of people have been killed and another 200,000 driven from their homes since Haftar launched his assault last April, pledging to “cleanse” the capital of the “terrorist militias” he said.
On Saturday, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced a new initiative for Libya alongside Haftar and Aguila Saleh, the leader of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, which proposes an elected leadership council and a ceasefire starting on June 8.
Sisi said the initiative included a call for negotiations in Geneva and the exit of all foreign fighters from Libya.
Speaking from Cairo, Haftar said the LNA will “expel the mercenaries from Libya in order to achieve the hopes and aspirations of the Libyan people to have a new day of prosperity”.
“The Libyan army is trying to restore the country,” Haftar said. “We need to expel Turkey from Libya. The Turkish intervention in Libya will seek to increase the polarisation in our country within the framework of supporting the non-constitutional government of accord with more weapons and mercenaries.”
“This will also increase polarization in the region around Libya,” he added. “This will prolong the conflict and will not lead to ways to sort out the problems and will postpone the hopes of building a new Libyan country.”
For his part, Saleh said the task of the LNA is to fight the “terrorist groups” and to get rid of the militias.
“We have taken a step backwards in order to stop fighting and we accepted the truce but until now the other party has not committed itself to the truce,” he said, referring to the GNA.
“I urge the Libyans to forget about the past, and for the political powers and others to take a step backwards in order to deal together as Libyans,” he continued. “I wish all the Libyans will cooperate with each other in order to get rid of this crisis with the support of Egypt and its president.”
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Iran says ‘internal agents’ may be responsible for Natanz blast |NationalTribune.com
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year. On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the…
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year.
On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the roof to collapse and parts of the building were blackened by the blaze.
“One of the strong theories is based on internal agents being involved in the incident,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters at a news conference, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
“The issue is being seriously reviewed by the country’s security organisations and we will announce the results after things are clear.”
It is the first time an Iranian official specifically pointed to the possibility of an inside job for the blast.
In late August, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization confirmed the damage to the facility was the result of “sabotage”.
“But how this explosion took place and with what materials … will be announced by security officials in due course,” spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at the time, citing “security reasons” for not disclosing further information.
‘Sabotage is certain’
In early September, Kamalvandi announced Natanz saboteurs “have been identified” but refrained from discussing further details, including whether internal agents were complicit.
On Tuesday, Rabiei also reiterated that “sabotage is certain” but the incident still needs to be investigated due to its complexities.
The desert Natanz site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities regularly monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.
Following the explosion, international media reports indicated Israel may have been behind the attack. Israel has been deliberately vague, neither confirming nor denying involvement while stressing the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“Everyone can suspect us in everything and all the time, but I don’t think that’s correct,” Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said days after the attack.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also said “Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear capabilities”, adding to that end, “We take actions that are better left unsaid.”
September’s announcement that Iran knows the saboteurs behind the Natanz explosion came one week after IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited the country.
The trip was successful, leading to Iran granting access to two suspected former nuclear sites that the UN watchdog wished to inspect.
“In this present context, based on analysis of available information to the IAEA, the IAEA does not have further questions to Iran and further requests for access to locations other than those declared by Iran,” the IAEA and Iranian officials said in a joint statement following the visit.
In a speech during the 64th session of the General Conference of the IAEA on Monday, the president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi referred to the Natanz incident.
“These malicious acts need to be condemned by the agency and member states,” he said via video conference, adding “Iran reserves its rights to protect its facilities and take necessary actions against any threat as appropriate.”
Salehi also urged the UN watchdog not to compromise its “impartiality, independence and professionalism”.
Iran, UN and the United States are locked in a major disagreement centred around the landmark 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers, which US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned in May 2018.
The US on Sunday declared it reinstated all UN sanctions on Iran, an announcement that was roundly rejected by the United Nations Security Council as lacking legal basis.
The US is trying to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in October as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the nuclear deal.
Iran, which has always maintained it never pursued nuclear weapons, accepted the nuclear deal that removed all UN sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The US reneged on the deal, unilaterally imposing a harsh campaign of sanctions that have hit almost all the productive sectors of the Iranian economy. US sanctions have also targeted Iranian officials and organisations.
In response, starting exactly one year after US sanctions were imposed and other parties failed to guarantee economic benefits promised Iran under the deal, Iran started gradually scaling back its nuclear commitments.
Palestine quits Arab League role in protest over Israel deals |NationalTribune.com
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel. Palestinians see the deals that the United…
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel.
Palestinians see the deals that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed with Israel in Washington a week ago as a betrayal of their cause and a blow to their quest for an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.
Earlier this month, the Palestinians failed to persuade the Arab League to condemn nations breaking ranks and normalising relations with Israel.
Palestine was supposed to chair Arab League meetings for the next six months, but Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told a news conference in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah that it no longer wanted the position.
“Palestine has decided to concede its right to chair the League’s council [of foreign ministers] at its current session. There is no honour in seeing Arabs rush towards normalisation during its presidency,” Maliki said.
In his remarks, he did not specifically name the UAE and Bahrain, Gulf Arab countries that share with Israel concern over Iran. He said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit had been informed of the Palestinian decision.
Palestinians rally against Bahrain-Israel normalisation
The Palestinian leadership wants an independent state based on the de facto borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem.
Arab countries have long called for Israel’s withdrawal from illegally occupied land, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and a settlement that leads to the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state, in exchange for establishing ties with it.
In a new move addressing internal Palestinian divisions, officials from West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the Gaza-based Hamas movement were due to hold reconciliation talks in Turkey on Tuesday.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from Fatah forces during a brief round of fighting. Differences over power-sharing have delayed implementation of unity deals agreed since then.
Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies
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