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‘Arab Spring’ Migrants Trapped by Italy’s Economic Crisis December 11, 2011

The flow of migrants from Libya to Europe has resumed following the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi in October. Since the uprisings in Libya and Tunisia earlier this year, tens of thousands of migrants have departed across the Mediterranean for a new life. The reality of trying to build a new life in Europe is often a long way from the hopes and dreams of the migrants. And, Italy’s economic crisis is also hitting the newcomers hard.

From afar, the ramshackle huts crammed on the edge of the vast green fields resemble a refugee camp. The residents call it ‘the Ghetto,’ a squalid shanty town on the outskirts of Foggia in southern Italy which is home to over 600 immigrants.

The region is known as the ‘Red Gold Triangle,’ producing 35 percent of Italy’s tomatoes, most picked and processed by armies of migrant workers every fall.

“They sleep on the ground on mattresses they have picked up on the streets, most of them are rotten and infested with insects,” said Dr. Alvise Benelli of Doctors Without Borders, who helps care for the workers.

This year, due to Italy’s economic crisis, factories in Italy’s rich north laid off employees – forcing an extra 2,000 migrants to head south looking for work.

A clampdown on illegal migrants means fewer farmers are willing to hire them.

The few jobs available pay around $45 for toiling in the fields, dawn till dusk.

“We just didn’t know Italy was like this, we always thought it was a country where we would find jobs and do everything like eating and a lot of nice things,” said Andrea, who came to Italy several years ago from Burkina Faso. “Now we have seen it is not like that. But I can’t go back.”

As the uprisings in Tunisia and Libya ignited earlier this year, tens of thousands of migrants from across Africa and the Middle East began to leave the northern shores headed for Europe.

Hundreds have drowned on the journey.

Most who survive arrive on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa before being taken to the Italian mainland. A few legitimately claim asylum. Most stay illegally.

A group of 400 migrants trying to leave Tripoli last week were stopped by Libyan patrol boats.

“It appears that now after the end of the Libya fighting and crisis, the migration has resumed across the Mediterranean,” said Mans Nyberg, spokesman for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. “So again we see small rickety boats approaching Italy, approaching Malta from Libya. This is happening during the months of winter which of course are very dangerous in the Mediterranean with storms.”

Italy has launched an amnesty for some immigrants employed as cleaners or carers for the elderly. But not for illegal immigrants like the residents of the ‘Ghetto’.

With no official papers and barely any income, they are trapped – far from home and a long way from the hopes and dreams that set them on their way to Europe.

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2011 events to shape world December 8, 2011

(CNN) — From the Arab Spring to a global economic crisis to the killing of Osama bin Laden, 2011 has been defined by historic and dynamic events that will shape the world in the years ahead.

A revolt across the Middle East and North Africa began with the self-immolation of a struggling merchant in Tunisia and spread across the region. Egyptian protesters toppled the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak, and rebels in Libya battled against supporters of long-time strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

Gadhafi was eventually killed in October after months on the run from rebel forces and NATO bombardments.

The significance of the Arab Spring is indisputable, but was it the biggest story of the year?

Vote for the top stories of 2011

Explain it to me: The Occupy movement

Explain it to me: Eurozone debt crisis

Vote for the top stories of 2011

The earth shook off the coast of Japan in March, triggering one of the worst tsunamis in years, destroying nearly everything in its path and sending millions fleeing for high ground.

Beyond the utter calamity from the 9.0-magnitude earthquake, Japan found itself dealing with the worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility was knocked offline, resulting in a meltdown of three reactors, with radiation leaking into the air and contaminated water spilling into the sea.

The long-term effects from the stricken plant remain unknown.

Natural disasters hit the United States hard, too. The largest tornado outbreak ever recorded swept across across the South, Midwest and Northeast — with a record 207 touching down on April 27 and killing 346 people. Alabama bore the brunt of the destruction, with a massive twister turning the college town of Tuscaloosa into a disaster zone.

Three weeks later, a mile-wide tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri, killing more than 150 people and wreaking havoc across the blue-collar town at the edge of the Ozark Mountains. It marked the deadliest single tornado in 60 years.

From Washington to New York residents in August braced for Hurricane Irene, a powerful storm that forecasters feared would cause catastrophic damage. The storm weakened before landfall, but it still was blamed for at least 20 deaths in eight states.

On the battlefield, Navy SEAL Team Six became part of American military lore when the elite unit raided a compound in Pakistan, killing Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda and the most-wanted terrorist in the world who had orchestrated the terror attacks of 9/11.

The end of the Gadhafi era

Just 90 seconds to kill Osama bin Laden?

For President Barack Obama, the bin Laden raid marked a high point of his presidency. Sometimes considered soft on terror, Obama achieved something his predecessor failed to do: bring the terror mastermind to justice.

The killing came ahead of the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which was marked by the opening of several memorials, including an outdoor tribute at Ground Zero in New York.

The United States also marked a decade of war in Afghanistan, a conflict that began in the months after 9/11 aimed at rooting out al Qaeda terrorists. While the Afghanistan war rages on, the United States is preparing to pull out the last of its troops from Iraq.

The year also was defined by economic turmoil. Prime ministers in Greece and Italy quit amid a slow-motion fiscal disaster unfolding in Europe, while Standard Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time after it said Congress failed to do enough to stabilize the country’s debt situation. The downgrade, which came after an eleventh-hour agreement to raise the debt ceiling, damaged an already-stagnant economy.

As the U.S. saw unemployment hit 9 percent, the Occupy Wall Street movement — a grassroots protest against policies favoring the richest 1% — spread to dozens of cities across the country and Europe.

Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidates looked to seize their campaign to retake the White House in 2012. In October, former VP candidate Sarah Palin and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie disappointed supporters by saying they wouldn’t run, and by early December the GOP field seemed to be down to two serious contenders: Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

In July, the world was reminded of man-made tragedy with near-simultaneous terror attacks in Norway.

A car bomb exploded in Oslo targeting government buildings, while miles away, an armed man opened fire on a youth leadership camp, killing 77.

Expectations vs. reality on the ground

Inside Rep. Giffords’ recovery

‘Occupy’ protesters – who are they?

A look back at the life of Steve Jobs

Months earlier, Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot in the head as she met with constituents at a supermarket near Tucson, Arizona. Six people were killed in the attack, including a young girl and a federal judge.

Giffords has awed the nation in her recovery. Married to astronaut Mark Kelly, the congresswoman traveled to Kennedy Space Center in May to watch as her husband commanded the final launch of space shuttle Endeavour.

A few months later, NASA launched the final space shuttle mission, retiring the fleet of historic spacecraft after 30 years. The mission, STS-135, ended on July 21 when Atlantis arrived back at Kennedy.

Other stories dominated the headlines, too.

Casey Anthony was found not guilty in Florida in her daughter’s death, while Conrad Murray was convicted in the death of superstar Michael Jackson.

Charlie Sheen’s raging narcissism captivated the nation for a couple weeks as his bizarre behavior prompted his TV bosses to fire him from “Two and a Half Men”. Other bad boys popped into the news: Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York tweeted a picture of himself in his underwear and soon was forced to resign, and Maria Shriver filed for divorce from Arnold Schwarzenegger after a family housekeeper came forward about her love child with the former California governor.

Scandal struck far and wide in 2011. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, once seen as a future leader of France, quit as head of the International Monetary Fund after he was accused of sexually assaulting a hotel housekeeper in New York — a charge that was later dropped. British tabloids run by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch were hit by a phone hacking scandal that resulted in the flagship News of the World folding.

In the United States, child sex abuse scandals tainted athletics programs at Penn State and Syracuse universities basketball team. Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, was charged with multiple counts of sex abuse against children, and legendary head coach Joe Paterno was fired in the scandal’s aftermath. In Syracuse, assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine was fired after three people, including two former ball boys, said he molested them for years. No charges have been filed against Fine, but multiple investigations have been launched.

Yet not all news was bad in 2011. The world got a brief respite from doom-and-gloom headlines in April when Prince William and Catherine Middleton wed at Westminster Abbey.

Their wedding was one of the most-watched events of the year — from TV to the Internet. On the streets of London, many captured royal images on their mobile devices and instantly shared them with friends.

Some of those images might never have been shared if it hadn’t have been for the creator of the iPhone: Apple founder Steve Jobs, the genius who led the home computer revolution and inspired some the world’s most popular mobile devices.

Jobs died of pancreatic cancer in October. His final words, according to his sister, were “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow!”

Fitting words for 2011.


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Libyan Militia Leaders, Oil Execs Appointed in New Cabinet November 23, 2011

Libyan militia leaders who helped to topple the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi in an uprising this year have won top security posts in a new Cabinet appointed by the country’s National Transitional Council.

Interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib announced his Cabinet line-up in a news conference late Tuesday after weeks of negotiations. He granted the defense minister position to Osama al-Juwali, a militia leader from the western town of Zintan whose forces helped to drive Gadhafi out of Tripoli in August and captured his fugitive son Seif al-Islam last week in the southern desert.

Seif al-Islam has been detained in Zintan pending arrangements for a trial. Zintan militiamen had pressured the NTC to award a prominent Cabinet post to Juwali.

Keib handed the other major security post of interior minister to Fawzi Abdelali, a militia leader from the western city of Misrata, Libya’s third-largest. Anti-Gadhafi militiamen in Misrata resisted a months-long siege by Gadhafi forces during the uprising and later went on the offensive by storming into Tripoli, the dictator’s power base.

Libyan oil executives also won key positions in the transitional government. Libya’s new finance minister is Hassan Ziglam, a former executive at Libya’s National Oil Corporation, while the new Libyan oil minister is Abdelrahman bin Yazza, a former executive with Italian energy company ENI, the biggest investor in Libya’s oil sector.

Libya’s ruling NTC also appointed a little-known diplomat, Ashour Bin Hayal, as foreign minister.

Prime Minister Keib told the news conference that he tried to form a Cabinet that will represent the interests of all of Libya’s regions.

“We aim to achieve the justified dreams and goals of the Libyan people. Dreams of freedom, equality, development, justice and the establishment of a country of law with organizations that will improve education and increase the level of the Libyan people’s income, provide equal chances to all in society,” he said. “We want no separation by race nor sex and we will work on raising the next generations on the principles of the Islamic religion and teach them how to love and how to participate in making human civilization richer.”

Keib said the transitional government will seek to achieve the dreams of the Libyan people for freedom, equality, development and justice under the rule of law. He also said the government will not discriminate on the basis of race or sex and will be guided Islamic principles.

Meanwhile, International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo visited Libya Tuesday to discuss the fate of Seif al-Islam, who faces ICC charges for crimes against humanity for involvement in suppressing the uprising against his father. Ocampo said Seif al-Islam can be tried inside Libya rather than in The Hague, as long as a Libyan trial meets ICC standards.  He made the comment after meeting with Libyan officials.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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Libya’s NTC Unveils New Government

Libya’s National Transitional Council has unveiled a new Cabinet that will govern the country until it holds its first elections since the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi.

Interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib told a news conference in Tripoli late Tuesday that “all of Libya is represented in the new line-up.”  It includes several relatively unknown figures, including Osama al-Juwali as defense minister.  Juwali is the commander of the forces from the town of Zintan who captured the former dictator’s fugitive son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi.

Libya’s deputy envoy to the United Nations, Ibrahim Dabbashi, was expected to head the Foreign Ministry, but the post was ultimately given to a little-known diplomat, Ashour Bin Hayal.

Meanwhile, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said Tuesday Seif al-Islam may be tried in Libya rather than in The Hague, as long as the trial meets ICC standards.  He made the announcement during meetings with Libyan officials in Tripoli.

REUTERS

International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo (C) visits Tripoli November 22, 2011

The ICC has indicted Seif al-Islam, and former intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senoussi, for crimes against humanity.  Libyan transitional fighters recently captured the men in separate raids in the country’s southern desert.

International rights groups say the two men will not get fair trials in Libya.  The country lacks an established judicial system after 42 years of rule by Gadhafi, who deliberately kept state institutions weak.

The United Nations Security Council has authorized the ICC to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Libya, but the tribunal can only prosecute alleged perpetrators if a country itself is unwilling or unable to do so.

U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland has called on Libyan authorities to deal with all prisoners humanely.

“We have in general terms and now in very specific terms with regard to Seif appealed to all parties in Libya to ensure the humane treatment of prisoners in their custody and to ensure that independent monitors have access to him and to prepare a judicial process that meets international standards,” she said.

Moammar Gadhafi was killed in October as transitional forces took control of his hometown of Sirte.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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ICC Prosecutor: Libya May Try Gadhafi’s Son November 22, 2011

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor says the captured son of Moammar Gadhafi may be tried in Libya rather than in The Hague, as long as the trial meets ICC standards.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo met officials in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, Tuesday, as the country’s National Transitional Council prepared to name a new Cabinet that will govern until the country holds its first elections since the ouster of its dictator.

REUTERS

International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo (C) visits Tripoli November 22, 2011

The ICC has indicted Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, and Gadhafi’s former intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senoussi, for crimes against humanity. Libyan transitional fighters recently captured the men in separate raids in the country’s southern desert.

International rights groups say the two men will not get fair trials in Libya. The country lacks an established judicial system after 42 years of rule by Gadhafi, who deliberately kept state institutions weak.

Libya’s transitional Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib is expected to name the ministers of his government on Tuesday. Speaking Monday, he said he tried to pick people who are competent and representative of all Libyan regions. The prime minister made the comments in Tripoli at a joint news conference with visiting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

Rice told the Tripoli news conference that Libya’s friends and neighbors must respect the country’s sovereignty when considering the issue of where to hold the trials of Gadhafi’s son and intelligence chief.

The U.N. Security Council authorized the ICC to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Libya earlier this year, but the tribunal can only prosecute alleged perpetrators if a country itself is unwilling or unable to do so.

“Neither we nor anyone else near or far can impose our will or our interests on the government of Libya, but rather we will be partners that respond first and foremost to your interests and your needs,” said Rice.

U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland called on Libyan authorities to deal with all prisoners humanely.

“We have in general terms and now in very specific terms with regard to Seif appealed to all parties in Libya to ensure the humane treatment of prisoners in their custody and to ensure that independent monitors have access to him and to prepare a judicial process that meets international standards,” said Nuland.

Gadhafi was killed in October as transitional forces took control of his hometown of Sirte.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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Libya Vows to Try Gadhafi Son, Ex-Intelligence Chief at Home November 21, 2011

Libya’s new leaders said Sunday they will try Moammar Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, in Libya and will not hand him over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, where he is charged with crimes against humanity.

The leaders also announced the capture of Gadhafi’s former intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senoussi, who is also wanted by the ICC on the same charge.  

They said Senoussi was detained Sunday in the southern desert, not far from where Seif al-Islam was seized by militiamen from the western town of Zintan a day earlier.  Gadhafi was later transported to Zintan.

Libya’s transitional Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib visited the town on Saturday and praised the capture of Seif al-Islam as marking a new chapter for the country.  Libyan transitional authorities said the two captured men would be given a fair trial in Libya.

The ICC issued arrest warrants for Seif al-Islam, his father, and Senoussi in June, for violently suppressing a pro-democracy uprising. ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo plans to travel to Libya in a week to discuss arrangements for the trial.

In a statement Saturday, the U.S. State Department said the capture and trial of Seif al-Islam “would be another step away from a four-decades-long dark chapter in Libyan history” and help the Libyan people achieve “the peaceful and democratic future they deserve.”

Washington also urged Libya to treat all prisoners humanely and in accordance with international standards. Transitional fighters who seized Moammar Gadhafi in his hometown of Sirte on October 20, were seen beating him before he died, prompting international concern about his son’s treatment in custody.

Transitional forces launched the uprising in February and drove the senior Gadhafi out of Tripoli in August, ending his 42-year rule.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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Key Events in Libya’s Revolution November 20, 2011

The capture of Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, son of Libya’s late leader Moammar Gadhafi and the only wanted member of the ousted ruling family to remain at large, is the just the latest in a series of dramatic events that has transformed the country.

February 15, 2011: Riots break out in Benghazi inspired by Arab Spring revolts in Tunisia and Egypt.

February 26, 2011: The U.N. Security Council imposes sanctions on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and his family and calls on the International Criminal Court to investigate the crackdown on rebels.

March 19, 2011: U.S., Britain and France launch U.N.-mandated air attack over Libya to halt advances on civilians by Gadhafi’s forces.

March 26, 2011: Rebels capture key city of Ajdabiya.


AP

A Libyan rebel fighter in Zawiya, western Libya, August 14, 2011.
March 30, 2011: Libyan Foreign Minister, Moussa Koussa, defects and flies to Britain. Other senior officials follow suit.

April 30 , 2011: A NATO missile attack on a house in Tripoli kills Gadhafi’s youngest son and three grandchildren.

May 17, 2011:
The International Criminal Court prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for Gadhafi for crimes against humanity.

June 7, 2011: Gadhafi speaks on state television. He vows to fight to the end and never surrender.

June 27, 2011:
The  International Criminal Court issues arrest warrants for Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam Gadhafi and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi on charges of crimes against humanity.

July 15, 2011: The United States recognizes the National Transitional Council  as the legitimate government of Libya.

July 28, 2011: Former interior minister Abdel Fattah Younes, who defected to the rebels in February and became their military chief, is killed.

August 14, 2011: Rebels claim to have captured the strategic town of Zawiyah, but fighting continues to rage.

August 20, 2011: Rebels launch their first attack on the nation’s capital, Tripoli in coordination with NATO forces.

August 23, 2011:
NTC fighters overrun Gadhafi’s compound in Tripoli.

October 20, 2011: Gadhafi is captured and dies in custody after NTC fighters take take over his hometown of Sirte.

October 23, 2011: Libya’s transitional leaders declare the country liberated.

October 31, 2011: The NTC elects Abdel-Rahim el-Keeb as the country’s new interim prime minister.  The election takes place just hours before NATO ends its mission in Libya.

November 19, 2011: Libyan military officials announce the capture of Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, the fugitive son long described as his father’s heir apparent.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

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Financial Crisis Hits NATO Funding November 16, 2011

Europe’s economic problems are making it even more difficult for the continent’s governments to fund often unpopular defense programs.  That is threatening to hurt the NATO alliance’s efforts to upgrade its capabilities so it can respond to unexpected crises anywhere in the world.  

When the U.N. Security Council voted in March to launch a mission to defend Libyan civilians, there was only one military force that could handle the job: NATO.

The alliance was able to dispatch ships and aircraft to protect Libyan civilians, and ended up turning the tide of the uprising that ousted Moammar Gadhafi.

“Libya proved that there are no other choices.  When the U.N. decides on a mission, who else but NATO could take it over?,” said French Air Force General Stephane Abrial, NATO’s supreme commander for transformation.

But that capability is being threatened by Europe’s economic crisis, exacerbating the difficulty European leaders have had for years convincing their people that defense spending is important.

Former British defense official Daniel Korski, says Libya was a success for NATO’s transformation efforts, but Europe’s economic crisis and the budget-cutting effort in the United States could slow them down.

“We are living in an age of austerity, and people are cutting their defense budgets as much as they can, and in an uncoordinated fashion.  So we are really seeing a very varied agenda being threatened evermore because different nations are basically cutting to survive, rather than to build capability,” Korski said.

The former head of the European Union’s defense agency, Nick Witney, says it is not so much a lack of money as a lack of coordination, and of interest in defense issues among ordinary Europeans.

“We are not actually short of defense spending in Europe.  What we are short of is using it properly, spending it on the right things, spending it effectively together.  And we do not do that because we do not take defense seriously,” Witney said.

For General Abrial that is a problem, because he says it is impossible to predict where or when the next crisis will break out or what military capability NATO will need to address it.

“We need to be ready, we need to have the necessary capabilities available to face any kind of operation across the spectrum, and we need to have these forces and these capabilities readily available when crisis emerges.  We do not design the calendar,” Abrial said.

General Abrial says NATO needs more resources, more coordination and more partners to meet its ambition to remain the world’s premier defense alliance, and to develop new high-tech capabilities to defend against missile and cyber attacks.

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Libyans Optimistic on Democracy, Challenges Loom November 12, 2011

In the first blush of enthusiasm after the nine-month struggle to oust Moammar Gadhafi, many Libyans are optimistic that the country will be able to move toward democracy with little payback for the iron rule and atrocities of the past. But some analysts are not so sure.

The private compound from which Moammar Gadhafi ruled Libya is flattened.

Youths play on what is left of some of his military vehicles.

University students celebrate their newfound freedom.

But there is serious work to do.  The council that led the Libyan revolution gave way to an interim government, which is to lead the country to elections and a new constitution.

Along the way, Libyans will have to decide how to deal with those who supported Gadhafi, and those who allegedly committed atrocities in the name of the revolution.

Libyan politician Hadi Shalluf, of the Justice and Democracy Party, hopes to be part of the country’s future leadership. “If anyone committed any crimes, any violation of human rights, he should be judged.  If the people didn’t commit any crimes in that time, we have no problem.  These people should be integrated into life,” Shalluf said.

Rebel fighters also need to be reintegrated.  These men are being honored because they handed in their weapons.  

Rebel fighter Tariq Hussein fought in some of the toughest battles in Misrata and in Gadhafi’s hometown, Sirte.  He’s guarding government buildings now, and he thinks reconciliation is already well along the way.

“I hope God will grant us reconciliation,” Hussein stated. “I think it’s already at 70 percent, and I hope it will reach 100 percent soon.”

But some analysts outside Libya are not sure the country will have such a smooth a transition to democracy.  They say tribal, regional and political differences, could become more pronounced in the coming months.  Among them is Anthony Skinner of the Maplecroft risk assessment company, who spoke to VOA via Skype.

“We have to be careful, mindful of the risks, that you still have a large number of groups that are very well armed, that are very concerned to ensure that they lay their claim to the political landscape,” Skinner said. “And the concern is now with Gadhafi actually removed from power, and actually killed, that this glue which held these groups together will have disappeared.”

All the Middle Eastern countries that overthrew their rulers this year are facing various difficulties along the road to democracy.  

But for now in Libya, with children playing on the relics of the old regime, most people are eager to put any differences aside, at least for the moment, and to hope that after decades of dictatorship and months of war they can move forward together.

 

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Arab Spring On the Minds of Hajj Pilgrims November 8, 2011

More than two and a half million Muslims are continuing their pilgrimage in Mecca, the holiest site of Islam, throwing stones at a symbolic Satan as the annual ritual enters its final stages. The religious has mixed with the political this year, with the changes sweeping the Arab world on the minds of some performing the Hajj.

It is perhaps the most fraught part of the five day ceremony, the stoning of the devil, as a sea of people flows around three statues in wave after wave. The pilgrims cast pebbles symbolizing how, in the tradition of Abraham, the prophet spurned Satan who came three times to tempt him.

Saudi authorities say they have taken additional measures, including light rail service, to ensure the safety of the throngs performing the rites, one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith.  The Hajj is mandatory for those healthy and wealthy enough.

And this year, there is another category of people taking part – those free enough.   Among the nearly two million foreigners taking part in the pilgrimage are ordinary citizens from Libya. For decades,  the chance to make the pilgrimage was dictated by Moammar Gadhafi,  a system that ended with the leader himself.

The massive changes across the region were on the minds of many, even in this holy ritual.   An Egyptian pilgrim said she has prayed to God to better the situation for all Muslims.

And she asked specifically for divine intervention to improve conditions in Egypt – swept by revolution earlier this year – and for the country’s protection.

During the opening Hajj prayer Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al Sheikh made reference to the unrest and change, blaming foreign elements for provoking confrontation between the people and their leaders.

But he also called on citizens to solve their problems through dialogue, not bloodshed.  And in a nod to the sweeping demands for better governments, the sheikh also implored leaders to act in accordance to Islam, and not use weapons against their own people.

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UN Chief in Libya, Seeks Weapons Controls November 3, 2011

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has used a previously unannounced visit to Libya to urge the country’s new leaders to secure weapons stockpiled by the former Gadhafi government.

Ban says he raised the issue Wednesday during a meeting in Tripoli with Libya’s transitional leader, Mustafa Abdel Jalil. The secretary-general says it is particularly important to secure stocks of shoulder-fired missiles and chemical and biological weapons.

Some of those arsenals were left unguarded during the chaotic outcome of the popular uprising this year that resulted in long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s death last month. The U.N. Security Council warned in a resolution Monday of the risk that terrorists and other armed groups in the region could gain access to the former regime’s weapons.

Ban, visiting Libya for the first time since the uprising began in March, told Jalil the U.N. will support the Libyan people in their transition to democracy. He offered U.N. help to Libya in preparing for its first free elections, in drafting a new constitution and in safeguarding human rights and improving public security.

From Tripoli, the U.N. chief goes to the French city of Cannes to attend a summit of the Group of 20 economic powers.

Libya’s National Transitional Council on Monday appointed Abdurrahim el-Keib as its new interim prime minister. The American-educated engineering professor said he protecting human rights will be a priority for his interim government, expected to remain in power until elections next year.

Human-rights groups have expressed concern about the NTC’s treatment of pro-Gadhafi fighters and African migrants during the eight-month uprising.

In another development, Italy on Wednesday became the first EU nation to resume commercial flights to post-Gadhafi Libya. An Alitalia plane left Rome for Tripoli carrying more than 100 people, mostly Libyan citizens.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini praised the resumption of flights as an “important signal” of the depth of Italy’s involvement in Libya, a former Italian colony. Italy was one of several NATO member states that took part in an aerial bombing campaign in support of the anti-Gadhafi uprising.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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ICC Trying to Secure Surrender of Gadhafi Son, Spy Chief

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) says his office has been “galvanizing efforts” to bring a son of Moammar Gadhafi to justice as well as the former Libyan leader’s spy chief.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo says efforts are underway to secure the surrender of Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, as part of a broader probe into alleged war crimes committed by pro-Gadhafi forces, revolutionary fighters and NATO.

He says his office is also examining whether former spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi ordered mass rapes to persecute those considered Libyan dissidents or rebels. The exact whereabouts of both men are unknown.

The ICC prosecutor commented on Wednesday in remarks to the United Nations Security Council.  

He said a probe has been launched concerning alleged crimes committed by Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), including the detentions of civilians suspected of being mercenaries and the killing of detained combatants.  

Rights groups have said NTC fighters singled out sub-Saharan African migrant workers for arbitrary arrest due to assumptions they supported Gadhafi.

Moreno-Ocampo did not provide details of possible crimes by NATO forces.  However, western allies, have denied allegations they deliberately targeted civilians during NATO’s seven-month bombing campaign against pro-Gadhafi forces, which ended Monday.

The ICC prosecutor said his office has been informed that Libya’s new leaders will look into the circumstances surrounding Gadhafi’s death.  Libyan Deputy U.N. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi told the council Tripoli would ensure all those involved in crimes not covered by ICC jurisdiction receive “transparent investigations and fair and just trials in Libyan courts.”

Earlier Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon used a visit to Libya to urge the country’s new leaders to secure weapons stockpiled by the former government.

Ban said it is particularly important to secure stocks of shoulder-fired missiles and chemical and biological weapons. Some of those arsenals were left unguarded during the chaotic outcome of Libya’s popular uprising this year.

The U.N. Security Council warned in a resolution Monday of the risk that terrorists and other armed groups in the region could gain access to the Gadhafi government’s weapons.

Ban, visiting Libya for the first time since the uprising began in March, told NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil the United Nations will support the Libyan people in their transition to democracy.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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Libya’s NTC Elects New Interim PM November 1, 2011

Libya’s National Transitional Council has elected Abdel-Rahim el-Keeb as the country’s new interim prime minister, hours before NATO ended its Libya mission.

The Tripoli native won with a slim majority Monday, gaining 26 of the 51 National Transitional Council members’ votes.  El-Keeb is a U.S.-educated electrical engineer who earned his doctorate at North Carolina State University.

He is tasked with forming a new government that will pave the way for national elections.

The vote came shortly before NATO ended its Libya mission at midnight Libyan time, concluding its air campaign to protect civilians under a U.N. Security Council resolution.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen hailed the seven-month bombing campaign during a visit to Tripoli Monday. He said he is “proud of the part NATO played” in helping Libyan transitional forces drive Moammar Gadhafi from power.

Rasmussen said the alliance acted to protect the Libyan people and “together we succeeded.” He called Libya “finally free,” praising its people for having transformed the country and helping to change the region.

The NATO chief was in the Libyan capital for talks with the National Transitional Council, including chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil. Rasmussen said discussions will focus on Libya’s expectations regarding possible future NATO assistance and the country’s roadmap for a transition to democratic rule.

NATO formally decided to halt the mission after the U.N. canceled the mandate last week, though Libya’s transitional leaders had urged NATO to continue because of security concerns.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Libya faces a “huge challenge” to unify the country, and that leaders have a complicated political task ahead of them. But she told The Washington Post the United States and other countries have offered assistance, and will help Libya in any way they can.

Meanwhile, Libya’s outgoing provisional prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, Sunday said he could confirm the presence of chemical weapons in the country.  He did not provide details on weapons sites, but said representatives from international organizations are set to arrive later this week to deal with the issue.

Last week, the top U.N. envoy to Libya, Ian Martin, told the Security Council that previously undeclared chemical weapons sites had been found in Libya.

Provisional leaders declared the country liberated from the 42-year rule of Moammar Gadhafi during a ceremony on October 23.  Officials have said they plan to form a new interim government within a month, followed by elections for a constitutional assembly within eight months.  Parliamentary and presidential elections would be held within a year after that.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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ICC: Mercenaries Trying to Help Gadhafi’s Son Flee October 29, 2011

The International Criminal Court says intermediaries have been in touch with a fugitive son of the late Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi, to discuss a possible surrender so he can face trial.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo also said Saturday the court has learned that mercenaries are trying to help Seif al-Islam Gadhafi flee to an African country.

Moreno-Ocampo said his office could order an interception of a plane trying to take him to another nation.  Recent reports have said Seif al-Islam was traveling through the Sahara to a neighboring country.

The ICC has charged Seif al-Islam Gadhafi with crimes against humanity.  He is accused of killing civilian protesters during the uprising against his father’s regime.

On Saturday, the Reuters news service quoted Moreno-Ocampo as saying Seif al-Islam told intermediaries he is innocent of the charges.

In other news, NATO is preparing to wrap up its seven-month-old Libya mission on Monday.

NATO ministers approved a resolution Friday that will terminate the alliance’s air campaign.  NATO made its decision a day after the U.N. Security Council voted to cancel its mandate that established the mission.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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Fugitive Son of Libya’s Gadhafi Discusses Possible Surrender

Informal talks are underway between a fugitive son of the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and the International Criminal Court.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi is wanted by the ICC for alleged crimes against humanity. He is accused of killing civilian protesters during the uprising against his father’s regime.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo says intermediaries have been in touch with Seif al-Islam Gadhafi to make sure he will receive a fair trial.  On Saturday, Reuters news quoted the prosecutor as saying Seif al-Islam had told intermediaries that he is innocent of the charges.

Seif al-Islam is believed to be traveling through the Sahara to a neighboring African country.

Meanwhile, NATO is preparing to wrap up its seven-month-old Libya mission on Monday.

NATO ministers approved a resolution, Friday, that will terminate the alliance’s air campaign. NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance’s “military job is now done” and NATO will conclude the mission in a “considered and controlled manner.”

NATO made its decision a day after the U.N. Security Council voted to cancel its mandate that established the mission.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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NATO to End Mission in Libya Next Week

NATO ministers approved a resolution Friday that will terminate the air campaign next week.  The decision comes a day after the U.N. Security Council voted to cancel its mandate that established the mission.

In its Friday vote, NATO formalized a preliminary decision to end its Libya mission on October 31.  Libya’s transitional leaders have urged the alliance to extend its mission until the end of the year because of security concerns.

Post-conflict role

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday he did not foresee a major NATO role in post-conflict Libya.  He said the alliance could possibly assist the new government in areas such as security and defense, if requested.

Moammar Gadhafi was fatally wounded last week as revolutionary fighters stormed his hometown of Sirte.  A search is underway for some of his relatives and top officials who served in his administration.

Top official flees

In other news, the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court said informal contact has been made with fugitive Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, son of the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo said intermediaries have been in touch with Seif al-Islam Gadhafi to make sure he will receive a fair trial.  

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi has been charged with crimes against humanity for killing civilian protesters during the uprising against his father’s regime.  He is believed to be traveling through the Sahara to a neighboring African country.

Libya’s former security chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, is also wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity.  On Thursday, officials in Niger said he was in Mali.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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NATO to End Libya Mission October 28, 2011

NATO is ending its seven-month-old mission in Libya.

NATO ministers meeting on Brussels, Friday, approved a resolution that will terminate the air campaign next week. The decision comes a day after the U.N. Security Council voted to cancel its mandate that established the mission.

In its Friday vote, NATO formalized a preliminary decision, reached a week ago, to wind down the Libya mission on October 31. The alliance took the action in spite of calls from Libya’s new leaders for the alliance to extend its mission until the end of the year because of security concerns.

Post-conflict role

On Thursday, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said  he did not foresee a major NATO role in the post-conflict Libya. However, he added the alliance could possibly assist the new government in areas such as security and defense, if requested.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials have announced plans to transport 30 seriously wounded Libyan fighters to medical facilities in the U.S. and Germany. Officials say the transfer will take place on Saturday.  

Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi was fatally wounded last week as revolutionary fighters stormed his hometown of Sirte.  A search is underway for some of his relatives and top officials who served in his administration.

Top official flees to Niger

On Thursday, officials in Niger said Gadhafi’s intelligence chief was in the west African nation of Mali. The officials, who did not want to be identified, said Abdullah al-Senussi passed through Niger and into the Malian desert with the help of ethnic Tuaregs, who supported Gadhafi during his time in power.

The ex-spy chief and Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, both fled Libya recently as anti-Gadhafi forces seized the late ruler’s last strongholds. Officials say the location of Seif al-Islam Gadhafi is unknown, though he is also believed to be travelling through the Sahara.

In June, the International Criminal Court issued warrants for the arrests of both men on charges of crimes against humanity.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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Qatar admits it had boots on ground in Libya


October 27, 2011

by legitgov

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Qatar admits it had boots on ground in Libya 26 Oct 2011 Qatar revealed for the first time Wednesday that hundreds of its soldiers had fought alongside Libyans in their battle to topple Moammar Gadhafi. “We were among them and the numbers of Qataris on ground were hundreds in every region,” said Qatari chief of staff Maj. Gen. Hamad bin Ali al-Atiya. The announcement marks the first time that Qatar has acknowledged it had military boots on the ground in Libya. Previously the gas-rich country said it had only lent the support of its air force to NATO-led operations to protect civilians during the eight-month uprising coup.

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Libya Vows to Prosecute Gadhafi Killers

Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council said Thursday it will prosecute the killers of ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, if an investigation shows he died after his capture.

NTC leaders have been under intense pressure to investigate the circumstances of Gadhafi’s death last week after initially saying he was killed in crossfire after being pulled from a drainage pipe.

Video has raised the possibility he was shot and killed as provisional government forces stormed his hometown of Sirte. Witnesses have offered conflicting information as to how Gadhafi died.  

Libya’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi said Wednesday initial reports show no transitional fighters shot at Gadhafi after he was arrested. Dabbashi told the U.N. Security Council the ousted leader was bleeding from his abdomen and head when he was arrested, and that he died after arriving at a hospital in Misrata.

In other news, a lawyer representing former Libyan prime minister Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi said he has been freed by a Tunisian court.

Mahmoudi fled to Tunisia after Gadhafi’s regime collapsed in August, and was recently arrested while trying to cross into Algeria. He went on a hunger strike to protest his possible extradition to Libya.

In New York, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution Thursday that would end authorization of NATO’s mission in Libya, despite calls from Libyan officials for the mission to be extended.

Last week, NATO announced preliminary plans to phase out its six-month-old air campaign on October 31. But Libya’s interim leaders, citing security concerns, have urged NATO to continue its mission until at least the end of the year.

NATO operations in Libya were launched under a Security Council resolution to protect civilians from attacks by Gadhafi’s military during the conflict.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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Leftover Munitions Hurt Children Returning to Gadhafi’s Hometown

Already traumatized by war, some Libyan children returning to Moammar Gadhafi’s hometown and last stronghold, Sirte, have been hurt by grenades and other weapons left from the bitter struggle for the city.

The devastation from weeks of fighting is a testament to the brutality of what happened here, and the danger remains.

The emergency room at Ibn Mussina hospital is receiving the conflict’s latest victims.

This young boy was hurt when he and his sister found a rocket-propelled grenade in the living room of their house.

But he is lucky, he has shrapnel in his hands, and one is broken, but the doctor says he will recover.

His sister describes what happened.

“I saw it in the living room of our house. My brother and I were taking it outside, but it fell down and it exploded,” she said.

Another sister was also there. She was not injured but she has her brother’s blood on her shirt.

Their aunt was with them when it happened, and was waiting outside the hospital.

“We had just arrived home to get some clothes.  I don’t know where it came from.  Our whole house is ruined and Sirte is completely destroyed.  I can’t describe my feelings.  God will deal with the people who did this,” she said.

The few doctors still working here, including Arish Taher Shafa, are concerned there will be more such incidents as people return home.

“Population will come again to Sirte and we will have more than this (young) lady. There is a lot of trauma like this. The family comes back to home, they find something and bombing,” the doctor said.

And that’s not hard to imagine.  With the level of devastation throughout the city, more people returning to look for clothes and other possessions are likely to find unwelcome and dangerous debris, in places their children feel safe to run and play.

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