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World powers meet to push for elections in politically fragile Libya

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World powers meet in France on Friday to push for elections in Libya by year-end and endorse efforts to remove foreign forces from the oil-producing nation despite growing political wrangling that threatens to unravel a year-long peace process.

Libya’s election targeted for Dec. 24 was set through a U.N.-backed roadmap adopted last year that also established an interim unity government to take over from rival administrations in east and west that had been warring for years.

The process is seen as a chance to end the decade of instability and warfare following the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi and has since drawn in regional powers in a threat to wider Mediterranean stability.

With disputes on the legal basis for the election, major factions on both sides may reject the vote, potentially causing another violent schism.

A French presidential official told reporters at a briefing ahead of the meeting that while the elections were close at hand, the situation remained fragile. There were some actors ready to seize on any ambiguities to advance their own interests, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“They are obviously waiting to ambush and try to derail the electoral process,” the official said.

A final communique may warn potential spoilers that they could face sanctions, diplomats said.

Almost 30 countries and organisations will be in Paris, including Libya’s neighbours, and countries that have been split over the conflict.

Despite Paris initially aiming to have the Turkish and Russian heads of state attending, both Ankara and Moscow have sent lower level representatives, perhaps demonstrating the complications with removing foreign forces.

Mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group are entrenched alongside the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), which was supported in the war by Moscow, along with the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

The former Tripoli government had support from Turkish regular forces in Libya as advisers, and from allied Syrian fighters, the Turkish government has said.

Diplomats have said Turkey was unlikely to act before there were departures from the east.

Libya’s eastern-based forces said on Thursday it had agreed to repatriate 300 foreign mercenaries from their area of control after a request from France.

 

(Reporting by John Irish; editing by Grant McCool)

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U.S. to revoke terrorist designation for Colombia’s FARC, add breakaway groups

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The United States will revoke its designation of the Colombian group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia as a foreign terrorist organization on Tuesday while designating two breakaway groups as such, a senior State Department official said on Friday.

A review of the terrorist listing – required every five years under U.S. law – found that the leftist organization known by the Spanish acronym FARC should no longer be listed, The official said.

But the two dissident groups that have formed out of FARC, La Segunda Marquetalia and FARC-EP, or People’s Army, would be designated as foreign terrorist organizations, the official said.

“It’s a realignment to address these current threats,” the official said. “The FARC that existed five years ago no longer exists.”

Founded in 1964, FARC was responsible for summary executions and kidnappings of thousands of people, including Americans.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that the United States was preparing to remove FARC from the list five years after the group signed a peace agreement with Bogota.

The State Department notified the U.S. Congress on Tuesday of its planned delisting of FARC. The Colombian government was formally notified on Wednesday.

The government of Colombia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The decision will allow U.S. government agencies like the U.S. Agency for International Development to work on peace implementation in parts of Colombia where demobilized FARC soldiers are located, the official said.

“This is a priority for the Colombian government in the implementation of the peace agreement,” the official said.

 

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Simon Lewis in Washington; Additional reporting by Oliver Griffin in Bogota; Editing by Mark Porter and Leslie Adler)

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Tunisian police say they shot, wounded extremist trying to attack them

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Tunisian police on Friday shot and wounded an extremist who sought to attack them with a knife and cleaver in the capital, authorities said.

The 31-year-old man, whose identity was not disclosed, shouted, “God is great. You are infidels,” as he ran toward police officers near the interior ministry, the ministry said in a statement.

Witnesses and local media said police shot the man in the leg and arrested him. The man, who was previously labelled an extremist by the government, was taken to hospital and is being investigated by an anti-terrorism unit, officials said.

Tunisian security forces have thwarted most militant plots in recent years and they have become more efficient at responding to those attacks that do occur, Western diplomats say.

The last major attacks in Tunisia took place in 2015 when militants killed scores of people in two separate assaults at a museum in Tunis and a beach resort in Sousse.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman)

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At least 19 killed in bus crash in central Mexico

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At least 19 people were killed and 20 more injured on Friday when a passenger bus traveling on a highway in central Mexico crashed into a house, authorities said.

The brakes on the bus, which was heading to a local religious shrine in the state of Mexico, failed, according to local media reports. State authorities did not disclose the possible causes of the accident.

Assistant state interior secretary Ricardo de la Cruz Musalem said that the injured had been transferred to hospitals, including some by air.

The state Red Cross said 10 ambulances had rushed to the area.

 

(Reporting by Sharay Angulo; writing by Laura Gottesdiener)

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