Monday, May 23, 2011

EU sets up office in Libya’s rebel-held east


A man tried to avoid breathing dust as he
walked yesterday nearbuildings
destroyed by fighting in Misurata, Libya.

In a boost to Libya’s rebels, the European Union opened a diplomatic office yesterday in their eastern stronghold and pledged support for a democratic Libya where Moammar Khadafy “will not be in the picture.’’

The office in the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi gives Khadafy’s opponents a key point of contact with the 27 nations in the European bloc and adds to the growing international recognition of the rebels’ political leadership.

In return, the head of the rebels’ National Transitional Council held out the possibility of future rewards for those who offer early support, and he said his nascent administration would respect human rights and international law.

“The United States and the European Union should know that we are a righteous people,’’ said Mustafa Abdul-Jalil. “We are fighting for a better future and they will not regret helping us.’’
The rebel-held east is home to many of Libya’s oil resources, and Abdul-Jalil said backers of the rebel council could stand to benefit in future business deals. Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa, most of them untapped.

A number of countries — including France, Italy, Qatar, and the West African nation of Gambia — have recognized the rebels, and the United States and other countries have sent envoys to open talks.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton opened the bloc’s office in Benghazi’s heavily guarded Tibesti Hotel, saying she looked forward to a better Libya “where Khadafy will not be in the picture.’’

“I have seen the vision of the Libyan people today all around. I saw the posters as I came from the airport with the words ‘We have a dream,’ ’’ she said after meeting with Abdul-Jalil.

Ashton said she discussed EU support in border management, security reform, the economy, health, education, and in building civil society.

She did not offer what the rebels say they need most — heavy weapons to match the arsenal of Khadafy, Libya’s leader of more than 40 years, who controls the capital, Tripoli, and most of western Libya.

Khadafy has responded to the uprising that began in mid-February by unleashing his military and militias against the rebels, who have been aided by NATO bombing runs.

The sides have been stalemated in recent weeks, with the rebels complaining they cannot defeat Khadafy’s better-equipped army. But no country has sent significant arms. Qatar has sent antitank weapons and military trainers, and other countries have sent communications equipment and other supplies. None of it has had a noticeable effect on the battlefield.

Early yesterday, NATO raids again targeted the heavily fortified Khadafy compound in the capital, the government said.


A Cairo court yesterday imposed the first death sentence in the killing of protesters during the popular uprising that deposed President Hosni Mubarak, condemning a police officer who was tried in absentia.
It was the first such sentence in more than a dozen court cases involving police shooting and killing protesters. Lawyers said because the officer, Mohammed Mahmoud, was tried in absentia, the court felt free to pass the maximum sentence. Once he is arrested, Mahmoud would get a new trial, human rights lawyer Taher Abou el-Nasr said.

Mahmoud, a low-ranking police officer, was convicted of killing at least 20 protesters and injuring many by randomly firing his rifle.


A special appeals court in Bahrain upheld death sentences yesterday for two people convicted of killing policemen during antigovernment demonstrations in March.
The case is part of a series of closed-door trials in the Gulf island nation that have been criticized by rights groups and others opposed to the wide-ranging emergency laws used to quell demonstrations against Bahrain’s monarchy.
Two other defendants who had been sentenced to death in the case had their sentences reduced to life in prison, according to the kingdom’s official state news agency.

Three other defendants in the same case previously received life sentences.

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