Daily Archives: February 3, 2017

France 24 : Europe helps Libyans prevent new migrant wave

Europe helps Libyans prevent new migrant wave


European Union leaders have taken a gamble on Libya’s fragile interim government by offering Tripoli €200 million and assistance in beefing up its frontier controls to help them prevent a new wave of African migrants this spring.

Meeting in Malta – in the sea lane to Italy where more than 4,500 people drowned last year – the leaders addressed legal and moral concerns about having Libyan coastguards force people ashore by pledging to improve conditions in migrant camps there.

Aid groups, however, accused the EU, whose leaders are under popular pressure to be seen to be controlling immigration, of abandoning humanitarian values and misrepresenting conditions in Libya, where the UN-backed government of Fayez Seraj has only a shaky and partial hold on the sprawling desert nation.

Médecins Sans Frontieres, which works in camps there, said: “Libya is not a safe place and blocking people in the country or returning them to Libya makes a mockery of the EU’s so-called fundamental values of human dignity and rule of law.”

Libya has been in chaos since the fall ofMuammar Gaddafi in 2011. Two authorities are fighting for power today. The Government of National Accord (GNA), which is recognized by the international community. And the “government” of Marshal Haftar, to the east of the territory. Between the two, many jihadist militias coexist with the aim of establishing their power over certain regions of the country.

The chaos in Libya has thwarted any hope of a quick fix in the way that a controversial EU deal with Turkey a year ago led to a virtual halt to a migrant route to Germany via Greece along which a million asylum-seekers travelled in 2015.

On Thursday, Seraj signed an agreement with Italy, which offered €200 million euros ($215 million) of its own. Rome fears new arrivals this spring, following a record 181,000 irregular immigrants last year, would put pressure on services and risk a popular backlash – especially since its EU neighbours are no longer letting most migrants travel north out of Italy.

Many EU governments are sceptical that the latest measures can have much effect on migration.

One senior diplomat called it a “long shot”. Several said the declaration was intended partly to appease Italian demands that the Union be seen to be acting.


Longer term, Europeans are placing hopes in using their aid muscle in Africa to reduce incentives for people to leave and give governments there incentives to take back citizens who fail to win asylum in Europe.

Deporting more of those who reach Italy is part of a wider plan to send signals to Africans not to risk the Sahara and Mediterranean in the vain hope of a better life.

At Agadez in Niger, numbers gathering to cross the Sahara have plunged in recent months, which some EU officials think may indicate that strategy of deterrence is working. However, people smugglers may just have altered routes.

British Prime Minister Theresa May attended despite her plan to start negotiations by next month to take Britain out of the EU – a reminder, British officials said, that she wanted to go on cooperating with European neighbours after Brexit.

May also had a chance to brief peers on her visit last week to US President Donald Trump, whose backing for Brexit, doubts on free trade, barring of refugees and warmth toward Russia have all raised alarm in Europe.

Some European leaders disapprove of May’s rush to embrace Trump, although others, notably in the east, have endorsed his tough line against Muslim immigration.

French President François Hollande said European governments should stick together, not seek special favours from Washington.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “Europe has its fate in its own hands … The clearer we are about how we define our role in the world, the better we can also take care of our Transatlantic relations.”

The European leaders will turn their attention after May leaves later in the day to how to shore up popular support for the EU. They will hash out ideas for a declaration on the bloc’s future when they mark its 60th anniversary in Rome in March.


France 24 : US imposes new sanctions over Iran missile test

US imposes new sanctions over Iran missile test


The Trump administration on Friday imposed sanctions on Iran, which it said were just “initial steps” and said Washington would no longer turn a “blind eye” to Iran’s hostile actions.

The sanctions on 25 individuals and entities were the opening salvo by President Donald Trump who has vowed a more aggressive policy against Tehran and came two days afterthe administration had put Iran ‘on notice’following a ballistic missile test.

“The Trump Administration will no longer tolerate Iran’s provocations that threaten our interests,” National Security Advisor Michael Flynn said.

“The days of turning a blind eye to Iran’s hostile and belligerent actions toward the United States and the world community are over,” Flynn said in a White House statement.

Suggesting that more concrete action could follow if Iran does not curb its ballistic missile program and continues support in regional proxy conflicts, a senior administration official said the latest sanctions were the initial steps in response to Iran’s “provocative behavior”.

The administration was “undertaking a larger strategic review” of how it responds to Iran.

Iran denounced the sanctions as illegal and said it would impose legal restrictions on American individuals and entities helping “regional terrorist groups”, state TV quoted a Foreign Ministry statement as saying.

Those affected under the sanctions cannot access the U.S. financial system or deal with U.S. companies and are subject to secondary sanctions, meaning foreign companies and individuals are prohibited from dealing with them or risk being blacklisted by the United States.

The White House said that while the sanctions were a reaction to recent events, they had been under consideration before. It added that a landmark 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program was not in the best interest of the United States.

Citing a foreign ministry statement, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said the missile program is “the undeniable and inalienable right of our nation under international law and the UN charter. Any foreign interference in this regard is a violation of international law.”

The new designations stuck to areas that remain under sanctions even with the 2015 nuclear deal sealed between Iran and world powers in place, such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite military body that is powerful in Iranian politics and the economy, and Iran’s ballistic missile program. Zarif led Iran’s delegation at the nuclear negotiations in 2015.

Among those affected by the sanctions were what it said was a Lebanon-based network run by the Revolutionary Guards.

“The list is actually so targeted and comparatively mild, it leads one to surmise that it may have been a set of targets devised by the Obama administration, and was ready to go when Trump came into office,” said Adam Smith, former senior advisor to the Director of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

“As such, the real test for which way the Trump team will go on Iran may well be not this list release but the next one, whenever that occurs,” Smith said.

The sanctions’ impact will be more symbolic than practical, especially as they do not affect the lifting of broader U.S. and international sanctions that took place under the nuclear deal.

Also, few of the Iranian entities being targeted are likely to have U.S. assets that can be frozen, and U.S. companies, with few exceptions, are barred from doing business with Iran.

Meanwhile, the U.S. moved a Navy destroyer, the USS Cole, close to the Bab al-Mandab Strait off the coast of Yemen to protect waterways from Houthi militia aligned with Iran.


German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Friday expressed understanding over the sanctions, but warned against conflating Sunday’s test with the nuclear deal.

Earlier on Friday, Trump tweeted: “Iran is playing with fire”. U.S. Senator Mark Warner expressed support for the sanctions, adding: “I urge the Administration to bring clarity to their overall strategy towards Iran, and to refrain from ambiguous rhetoric – or provocative tweets – that will exacerbate efforts to confront those challenges.”

Some of the entities sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury are based in the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and China.

Among those affected were companies, individuals and brokers the U.S. Treasury said support a trade network run by Iranian businessman Abdollah Asgharzadeh.

The Treasury said he supported Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, which the United States has said is a subsidiary of an Iranian entity that runs Iran’s ballistic missile program.

Hasan Dehghan Ebrahimi, a Beirut-based official with the Revolutionary Guard’s Qods Force, which runs its operations abroad, was put under sanctions for acting on behalf of the Qods Force, the Treasury said.

Three Lebanese companies involved in waste collection, pharmaceuticals, and construction were also listed under the sanctions for being owned or controlled by Muhammad Abd-al-Amir Farhat, one of Ebrahimi’s employees.

The Treasury said he has facilitated millions of dollars in cash transfers to Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Two of his employees and a company he manages were also sanctioned. The Treasury said Ebrahimi and his employees used a Lebanon-based network to transfer funds, launder money, and conduct business.


France 24 : Louvre attack: suspect believed to be 29 year old Egyptian

Louvre attack: suspect believed to be 29 year old Egyptian


The suspect in the machete attack near the Louvre entered France from Dubai on an Egyptian visa, according to sources close to the investigation. Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said investigators were treating the incident as a “terrorist act”.

  • A French soldier shot and critically wounded a man armed with a machete in each hand as he tried to enter the Carrousel du Louvre shopping centre at the Louvre Museum in Paris at around 9.50am local time. The man shouted “Allahu Akbar” (or “God is greatest”) as he charged a group of four soldiers guarding the premises.
  • Paris Prosecutor François Molins did not officially name the suspect, but said an initial investigation confirmed he is a 29-year-old Egyptian national. The man is believed to have arrived in the French capital on a month-long visa from Dubai on January 26.
  • An investigation has been opened into the attack, which is being treated by authorities as a “terrorist act”. Police are working to establish if the man acted alone or under orders.
  • The four soldiers targeted in the incident were a part of Opération Sentinelle – a nationwide security oeration aimed at “protecting against and dissuading” attacks on French soil.

To follow the day’s events as they unfolded, see our live blog below. To view content on a mobile device, click here.