Posts tagged ‘Libya’

September 6, 2011

Rift between China, Libya deepens over weapons dealings with Gadhafi

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TRIPOLI— From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail

Published Monday, Sep. 05, 2011 8:03PM EDT

Last updated Monday, Sep. 05, 2011 8:05PM EDT

Tensions are growing between China and Libya’s new government after revelations that Chinese weapons manufacturers met recently with a delegation sent by Colonel Moammar Gadhafi, despite a UN resolution banning military assistance to his regime.

In an unusually frank response, China’s Foreign Ministry confirmed reporting by The Globe and Mail that Col. Gadhafi’s envoys travelled to Beijing in mid-July and held meetings with state-controlled arms makers. But the ministry insisted that those talks did not result in any signed deals or weapons deliveries. A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman even suggested that Col. Gadhafi’s men had operated clandestinely inside China, somehow arranging to meet representatives from three Chinese weapons manufacturers without official permission.

“The truth of Algeria’s behaviour will be revealed,” Mr. Medelci said.

A possible justification for any state caught supplying weapons to Col. Gadhafi would be that NATO, and other sponsors of the Libyan rebels, were funnelling arms to the opposite side of the conflict. Trucks filled with war supplies rolled across the Egyptian border for rebels in the east, and France confirmed that it dropped weapons – including Milan anti-tank missiles – into the hands of rebels in the mountains of the western front.

Those supplies for the rebels were not prohibited by Resolution 1970, however; the embargo referred specifically to the “Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,” or Libyan government.

“About the ‘Oh, NATO did it too!’ defence, I don’t think it holds,” said Shashank Joshi, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a defence think tank.

Arms embargoes are usually monitored by panels of experts appointed by the United Nations. George Lopez, a professor at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies who recently served on such a panel, said that proof of a violation typically requires a bill of lading or other documentation to show that weapons changed hands.

If anybody strikes a deal that breaks the rules, however, it may also qualify as a sanctions violation.

“The willingness to assent to the deal is all that is needed,” Mr. Lopez said.

Given the difficulty of punishing UN embargo breaches, it seems likely that the more important consequences for the countries involved – China and Algeria in particular – will be their tarnished reputations in Tripoli.

Now that Col. Gadhafi has lost power, the Chinese appear to fear, with some justification, that they could lose their foothold in the Libyan oil fields.

“Oil is a basis for war, and oil was the fundamental interest behind the war,” wrote the Chinese media group Caixin in a recent commentary.

A senior official at the Arabian Gulf Oil Co., in Benghazi, told The Globe and Mail last month that he would be reluctant to do business with Chinese companies in future because of their government’s stand against the rebellion.

While a diplomatic quarrel between China and Libya may have significant economic implications, the tensions along the Algerian border may prove more troublesome from a security standpoint. Many Libyans already feel outraged by the fact that Col. Gadhafi’s wife and three children escaped into Algeria last week, and a rebel commander suggested that his men might pursue them into Algerian territory.

At the beginning of the uprising, rebels used radar installations at Benina Airport, near Benghazi, to track suspicious aircraft travelling between Algeria and the loyalist strongholds of Sabha and Surt. They recorded details for several flights by giant C-130 Hercules and Ilyushin Il-76 transport planes, bearing registration codes used by the Algerian military.

“Now we know what was inside those planes,” said Mohammed Sayeh, a member of the National Transitional Council. “That is why it took the Libyan people such a long time to get rid of the dictator, because they were fighting against the mercenaries and machinery provided by our neighbours.”

The new leadership in Tripoli seems acutely aware, however, that Libya needs peace with the neighbours during this shaky moment of transition. Having seized control of the capital, the rebels have not yet secured some of the remote desert towns that remain dangerously close to the Algerian border. Even while criticizing Algiers for its role in the war, Mr. Hariri referred to the Algerians as “brothers;” Mr. Sayeh emphasized that the new government must forge good relations with all countries, regardless of their history.

“We will start a new era,” Mr. Sayeh said. “We will forgive them, but we will not forget.”

Battle-hardened fighters seem less inclined to forgive. The authoritarian regime in Algiers now finds itself uncomfortably close to two North African countries that have overthrown their dictators, which could offer staging grounds for dissidents. Salaheldin Badi, a former pilot who commands one of the Misrata brigades that rushed into Tripoli last month, hinted that his men might be willing to let their revolutionary fervour spill across the border.

“Algeria played an important role, helping Gadhafi get his Chinese weapons,” Mr. Badi said. “That’s okay,” he added, with a mischievous grin, “because we will send weapons back for the revolutions in their countries.”

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June 8, 2011

Touched by Iman al-Obeidi, an ‘icon of modern Libyan history’


The Times Logo
Wednesday, June 8, 2011 , by Kurt Sansone

Libyan-American women showing solidarity with Iman al-Obeidi in Lafayette Park in front of the White House in Washington, DC on March 30. On March 26, Ms al-Obeidi went to the hotel in Tripoli where the foreign media were staying and claimed she had been arrested, beaten and repeatedly raped by armed men of the Gaddafi regime. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP

Like the rest of the world, Ibrahim Dermish, 67, had witnessed on television the dramatic scene of a Libyan woman who entered a Tripoli hotel and, in the presence of foreign journalists, accused pro-Gaddafi soldiers of raping her.

It was in March when 29-year-old Iman al-Obeidi courageously walked into the Rixu Hotel where foreign journalists were camped and, before being whisked away by security agents, in full view of TV cameras claimed she had been arrested and gang raped by soldiers.

For Mr Dermish that moment left a mark on his life like many other experiences he has had to endure. A Libyan, he has been on the run for 42 years, travelling from one country to another to get away from the oppression of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

But, on Sunday, the woman in the TV story took on a different meaning for Mr Dermish when he met Ms al-Obeidi on a United Nations humanitarian flight from Benghazi to Malta. She was being accompanied by UN refugee officials, her father and Najah, an activist from a Libyan humanitarian organisation based in the US.

Ms al-Obeidi had fled Libya and was awaiting resettlement as a refugee in Qatar when she was deported last week and sent back to Benghazi. After leaving Libya for a second time on Sunday, Ms al-Obeidi made an overnight stay in Malta and then travelled on to Romania where she is now in a UN refugee processing centre. From there, she will eventually move on to a final destination.

AFP reported the UN High Commissioner for Refugees saying she was at the emergency transit centre in Timisoara, alongside another 100 evacuees from different locations.

Local media, quoting staff at the refugee centre, said she still carried traces of violence and was admitted to hospital briefly for examination.

Ms al-Obeidi has repeatedly said that she wants to settle in the US, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has taken great interest in her case.

“The passenger in front of me was real. She is an icon of modern Libyan history. She is not only a Joan of Arc for fellow Libyan women but also a symbol of courage for Libyan men,” Mr Dermish said, recalling the thoughts that raced through his head when realising who the woman in front of him was.

He wanted to talk to Ms al-Obeidi but was fearful of reopening the wounds of her ordeal.

“I paused for a moment and then I thought, how stupid of me to think in this way. This young woman not only suffered rape but the chauvinist Arab male mentality also wanted her to forget her tragedy because every time she spoke to the international media about it she made them feel impotent.”

Mr Dermish eventually plucked up courage and spoke to Ms al-Obeidi in Arabic, telling her how proud he was of her actions. She asked him to speak in English, which caught him by surprise.

“I thought to myself this young woman is afraid of her own people. Her eyes were sad but they also rewarded me with the most beautiful smile. It is a snapshot I will never forget,” he says.

When the humanitarian flight landed in Malta and the passengers were waiting on the tarmac, the loud bangs of the fireworks from the Għaxaq feast greeted their arrival.

Mr Dermish recalls Ms al-Obeidi’s frightened look when the fireworks broke the silence of the night, in what was possibly a reminder of the loud noises from exploding missiles, mortars and gunfire she had left behind in Libya.

“There we were, three Libyans, on the run and united in our search for freedom. Ms al-Obeidi comes from Tobruk, Najah from Gharian and I come from Misurata. There is no tribalism in Libya,” he says. Mr Dermish will soon return to Benghazi as he has been doing since the struggle for liberation started earlier this year. Before leaving Ms al-Obeidi, he asked her to pray for him and hoped that this would be her last run unlike his, which has not yet ended after 42 years.

June 3, 2011

Libya: Rape as a weapon

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  • Source: Global Times
  • [02:44 June 03 2011]

Some Libyan women participate in demonstrations against Muammar Gaddafi in the revolution square of the rebel stronghold eastern city of Benghazi on May 27. Photo: AFP

By Lin Meilian in Benghazi

As a surgeon, Suleiman Refadi says he is not interested in what is wrong with a patient’s heart. But when some of his patients asked for HIV tests, he was forced to wonder what was wrong?

The HIV tests held the key to truly shocking answers: The patients made allegations of rape by militias loyal to Muammar Gaddafi when they battled in Ajdabiya, 100 miles (161 kilometers) south of Benghazi.

“We are a very conservative Muslim country. If any family member is raped, it becomes a stigma for the whole family,” Refadi, working at Ajdabiya Hospital, told the Global Times.

Since the middle of March, medical staff in Ajdabiya have seen four alleged cases of rape. However, Refadi thinks the real number of victims may be in the hundreds.

All the HIV tests were negative. However, he cannot inform any family members, neither could he investigate their stories.

“If I did, I would not only expose them to danger, but also myself,” he said.

“If you touch this thing and their family found out you are following something that might hurt their dignity, they will kill you,” he lowered his voice when speaking to the Global Times in the hospital canteen.

Staying silent?

Rape can be a deadly stigma for a Muslim family. Victims can be abandoned or even marooned in the desert to die, as they bring shame upon the family. Therefore, they do not want any outsiders to know of this shame and to get involved in the miasma, clearly preventing any interviews.

The only victim to speak out publicly is Eman al-Obeidy, who burst into a Tripoli hotel March 28, and told reporters she was raped. Others remain silent.

Refadi says he prefers to stay silent too. “There is a gate in front of you, and it is closed. If you open this gate, you know danger will definitely come to you, would you open it?” he asked.

Educating families to accept a raped relative seems impossible. “This is a very difficult task. Even if you gave me $1 million, I won’t do it,” he said.

He said for married women, the only recourse is to try to forget about the “accident” and accept their fates. For the unmarried ones, life is tougher but choices remain, if horrific ones: They can either undergo surgery to repair their hymen or marry a cousin to save face. However, the former seems remote.

Refadi says that although the surgery is an easy one, he will not carry it out.

Taboo breaker

However, some doctors are taking steps to end the tragedy. Seham Sergewa, a psychologist in Benghazi, first heard about the rape cases when she was called by the mother of a patient. Since then, more calls have come from women asking for help.

To collect evidence, she distributed a survey to 70,000 families in refugee camps. Among 59,000 responses, 259 women reported being raped by Gaddafi’s militias.

She said some women told of gang rapes where they were held for days in abandoned houses and were passed between up to 15 men.

“I asked them what I can do to help, they said, ‘nothing, just give me a hug,'” she told the Global Times.

“To protect their privacy, sometimes I have to visit the whole village house after house to simply talk to two victims, so that nobody will raise the alarm,” she said.

These women, she believes, are proof that the Gaddafi regime has used rape as a weapon. She shared her evidence with the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, where prosecutors are now investigating accusations, and kept the names and the cities of the victims secret.

Refadi agrees and believes it is organized. “Hundreds of rapes have been reported in so many places. Do you think this is all by chance? I don’t think so.”

Some Libyan civilians told the Global Times that they had seen many condoms and Viagra pills left behind in tanks captured by the rebels.

Refadi added that some regime soldiers treated in his hospital confessed that they had received orders from Gaddafi to take anything they wanted. “Money, jewels and even a woman are all for them, that’s what they have been told.”

The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, referred to the situation as a  “tool of massive rape.”

“We are investigating. We are not ready to present the case yet, but I hope in the coming months, we’ll add charges or review the charges for rapes,” he was quoted by CNN as saying.

An official with the Gaddafi regime in Tripoli told CNN that “the Libyan government welcomes an investigation into these claims.”

However, Sergewa said it is hard to investigate.

“Many women said what is done is done, they don’t want to talk about it. ‘By helping the whole investigation, I feel like I am being raped again,’ they told me,” she said.

March 27, 2011

US reducing naval firepower aimed at Gadhafi




In this March, 26, 2011 photo released by NBC News, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates discuss the latest developments in the Middle East during a pre-taped segment of NBC's "Meet the Press" in Washington. (AP Photo/NBC, William B. Plowman)

WASHINGTON — In a sign of U.S. confidence that the weeklong assault on Libya has tamed Moammar Gadhafi’s air defenses, the Pentagon has reduced the amount of naval firepower arrayed against him, officials said Sunday.

The move, not yet publicly announced, reinforces the White House message of a diminishing U.S. role — a central point in President Barack Obama’s national address Monday night on Libya. The White House booked Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on three Sunday news shows to promote the administration’s case ahead of the speech.

Yet Gates, asked whether the military operation might be over by year’s end, said, “I don’t think anybody knows the answer to that.”

At least one of the five Navy ships and submarines that have launched dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles at Libyan targets from positions in the Mediterranean Sea has left the area, three defense officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive military movements.

That still leaves what officials believe is sufficient naval firepower off Libya’s coast, and it coincides with NATO’s decision Sunday to take over command and control of the entire Libya operation. Aided by international air power, Libyan rebels were reported to have made important gains by capturing two oil complexes along the coast.

The shrinking of the naval presence adds substance to Obama’s expected reassurance to the American people that after kicking off the Libyan mission, the U.S. is now handing off to partner countries in Europe and elsewhere the bulk of the responsibility for suppressing Gadhafi’s forces.

NATO’s governing body, meeting in Brussels, accepted a plan for the transfer of command. That is expected to mean that U.S. Army Gen. Carter Ham, who has been the top commander of the Libya operation, will switch to a support role.

Obama administration officials claimed progress in Libya, but lawmakers in both parties voiced skepticism over the length, scope and costs of the mission.

Obama is trying to address those issues in a speech that’s expected to provide his fullest explanation of the U.S. role in Libya and what lies ahead.

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., questioned whether it made sense to be involved at all. “I don’t believe we should be engaged in Libyan civil war,” Lugar said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I believe the Libyans are going to have to work that out. The fact is that we don’t have particular ties with anybody in the Libyan picture.”

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, was broadly supportive of the president’s steps so far. “It is a flyover which is succeeding. It has set Gadhafi back. He’s on his heels now,” Levin said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Still, Levin said it was unclear how long the air campaign will have to last if Gadhafi clings to power.

Gates, an early skeptic of establishing a no-fly zone, told ABC’s “This Week” that for practical purposes, the establishment of the zone is complete and can now be sustained “with a lot less effort than what it took to set it up.”

The Pentagon said Sunday that over the previous 24 hours, U.S. aircraft had flown 88 combat strikes against Libyan targets, down from 96 a day earlier. It provided no details on targets.

In advance of Obama’s speech at 7:30 p.m. EDT Monday, Gates and Clinton stressed the administration’s message that the U.S. role in the mission will shrink, illustrating that it’s possible for the U.S. military to partner with others without always being the leader.

Gates said the no-fly zone and efforts to protect civilians from attack by pro-Gadhafi forces will have to be sustained “for some period of time.”

Among other hard questions for Obama is whether the Libyan intervention should serve as a model for U.S. policy toward other Arab countries where revolts against authoritarian governments are gaining ground, including Syria and Yemen, and where civilians are at risk of violent reprisals.

Clinton declined to say if the U.S. might be willing to enter other such conflicts. She said it was too early to talk of getting involved in Syria, where security forces have opened fire on protesters amid nationwide unrest. Unlike Gadhafi, Syrian President Bashar Assad is a “different leader” and many members of Congress who have visited the country “believe he’s a reformer,” Clinton said.

Clinton and Gates insisted that the objective in Libya was limited to protecting civilians, even as they hoped the pressure of concerted international penalties and isolation might strip away Gadhafi’s remaining loyalists and cause his government to crumble.

“One should not underestimate the possibility of the regime itself cracking,” Gates said.

Asked if the Libyan conflict posed a threat to the United States, Gates said it was “not a vital national interest” but he insisted that the situation nevertheless demanded U.S. involvement. With tenuous democratic transitions under way in the neighboring countries of Tunisia and — more important to the U.S. — Egypt, allowing the entire region to be destabilized was a dangerous option.

Citing military gains against Libya over the past week, Gates said Pentagon officials are now planning the start of a force reduction. He was not specific, but he appeared to refer to moving some of the dozens of American ships or aircraft — or both — out of the immediate area.

“We will begin diminishing the level of our engagement, the level of resources we have involved in this,” he said, adding that as long as there is a no-fly zone, “we will continue to have a presence.” He gave as examples U.S. surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft that support the no-fly zone.

Even as naval firepower was reduced, Pentagon officials said they were considering adding air power. Vice Adm. William Gortney told reporters on Friday that low-flying Air Force AC-130 gunships, armed drones and helicopters were among weaponry that might be deployed to provide more precise air power against Libyan ground forces battling in urban areas. High-flying fighter jets run a high risk of causing civilian casualties if they attack inside cities.

It is unclear how long the U.S. will keep a Navy command ship, the USS Mount Whitney, in its role as overall coordinator of the sea and air campaign, once NATO assumes full command. NATO could run the full operation out of its Allied Joint Forces Command headquarters in Naples, Italy.

The Navy has had three submarines in the Mediterranean — the USS Providence, the USS Scranton and the USS Florida — plus two destroyers, the USS Barry and the USS Stout. All five are equipped with Tomahawks, the cruise missile that can fly long distances and maneuver to hit fixed targets like surface-to-air missile batteries and other air defense elements that posed a threat to coalition air patrols. It was not clear Sunday which of the five had been ordered out of the area.

Through the first seven says of the campaign to ground Gadhafi’s air force, those American ships and subs launched 184 Tomahawks — more than half of them in the opening moments of the assault on March 19, according to figures provided by the Pentagon. None was launched Saturday and two on Sunday, bring the U.S. total to 186. That is in addition to seven cruise missiles fired by British warships.

Gates and Clinton taped interviews Saturday on NBC, ABC and CBS’ “Face the Nation” that aired Sunday.


Associated Press writer Tom Raum contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

March 27, 2011

Gates: Libya not ‘a vital interest’ for US, but part of region that’s of vital US interest


By Associated Press, Sunday, March 27, 8:31 AM

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he doesn’t think Libya is “a vital interest” for the United States, but he does say the North African nation is part of a region that’s of vital American interest.

Gates tells NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “we clearly have interests” in Libya, though he doesn’t believe it’s a vital American interest.

President Barack Obama, who’s scheduled a speech Monday about Libya, used his weekend radio address to explain his decision to take military action against Moammar Gadhafi.

Obama said that when innocent people are being “brutalized” and when a leader such as Gadhafi threatens “a bloodbath that could destabilize an entire region” and when other countries are ready to help save lives, then it’s in “our national interest to act.”

Gates tells ABC’s “This Week” that he doesn’t think Libya posed an actual or imminent threat to the U.S. before military operations began last weekend.

But he notes the upheaval in two of Libya’s neighbors — Tunisia and Egypt — that topped longtime rulers, and the potential that refugees fleeing Libya could destabilize those countries.

He says “that was another consideration I think we took into account.”

Gates taped the interviews on Saturday and they aired on Sunday.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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