U.N. envoy says Libya should start process for elections in spring

TUNIS (Reuters) – Libya should start the process to hold an election in spring 2019 only after a national conference to discuss its conflict, the U.N. Libya envoy said on Thursday, officially burying a long obsolete idea to stage a vote next month.

Western powers and the United Nations had originally hoped to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on Dec. 10 as a way out of Libya’s conflict raging sine the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

But violence and a deadlock between rival administrations had made that goal unrealistic although nobody had declared it officially dead or offered a new time frame.

Instead, the United Nations wants to focus on a national conference to give Libyans a forum to discuss their future and bridge divisions between armed groups, tribes, town and regions, Ghassan Salame told the U.N. Security Council.

“The National Conference is to be held in the first weeks of 2019. The subsequent electoral process should commence in the spring of 2019,” Salame said, without being more specific about whether he meant it was expected then or that it ought to happen then.

Saleme did not give a new date for elections or even mention the date of Dec. 10 agreed only verbally by rival Libyan players at a summit hosted by France in May.

Shelving the vote is the latest setback for Western powers that helped topple Gaddafi seven years ago before stepping back and seeing hopes for a democratic transition crumble.

Salame said the internationally recognized House of Representatives had deliberately failed to approve legislation to hold a vote.

“The House has failed to uphold its responsibilities,” he said. “It is now clear that the postponed sessions and contradictory public statements (by lawmakers) were simply intended to waste time. The body calling itself Libya’s sole legislature is largely sterile.”

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Cameroon leader tells separatists to down arms after kidnapping

YAOUNDE (Reuters) – Cameroon’s president on Tuesday warned Anglophone separatists to lay down their arms or face the full force of the law, a day after dozens of schoolchildren were abducted in the rebel region.

Clashes between a secessionist movement and the army began more than a year ago in west Cameroon, killing over 400 civilians and forcing thousands to flee their homes.

On Monday, unidentified assailants kidnapped 79 children, their principal and a driver from the PSS Nkwen school in Bamenda in Northwest region and took them into the bush outside town, military and government sources said.

An army spokesman blamed separatists for Monday’s kidnapping. A separatist spokesman denied involvement and said government soldiers had carried it out, as a ploy to discredit the insurgents.

President Paul Biya, making an inauguration speech after re-election last month that extends his 36-year-old rule, did not mention the kidnapping but attacked the separatists.

“They need to know that they will face the rigor of the law and the determination of our defense and security forces,” Biya said in the national assembly.

“I appeal to them to lay down their arms.”

Last week, an American Baptist missionary was shot dead amid fighting between the army and separatists in Bamenda.

The secessionists have imposed curfews and closed schools as part of their rebellion against the French-speaking government, which they say has marginalized the Anglophone minority.

Samuel Fonki, a minister of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, said he had been mediating with the kidnappers for the children’s release. He said separatists were responsible.

The search for the children continued on Tuesday. About 200 parents gathered outside the school, waiting to hear if their children were among those who had been abducted or had remained unharmed at the school.

Authorities denied parents access to the school, according to six parents and a security guard who spoke to Reuters.

The kidnapping was a chilling echo of the 2014 abduction of the Chibok girls by Boko Haram in neighboring Nigeria. There are no known links between the Cameroon separatists and the Nigerian Islamist militant group.

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Security minister reveals knowledge of football money-laundering investigation

Security minister Ben Wallace told the treasury select committee that the sports industry “is as susceptible as anything else” to being used to hide the source of dirty money.

Committee member and Labour MP John Mann asked Mr Wallace: “When it comes to money laundering, how many professional football clubs have been deemed as requiring investigation currently?”

The minister replied: “I know of (a) professional football club or clubs under investigation.

“I couldn’t reveal how many and what they are, for that is an operational matter.”

When he was pushed to give the number involved, Mr Wallace said: “There are live investigations that go on all the time and to expand any more could threaten investigations.

“The sports industry is as susceptible as anything else to dirty money being invested or their organisations being used as a way to launder money.”

Mr Wallace told the MPs it can take years for investigations into money laundering to be finished.

He said suspicious activity reports, a means of giving information to police about potential criminal activity by customers or clients, should be made “by anyone” and not just banks.

“Not enough” had been reported by the football authorities, Mr Wallace told the committee.

A National Crime Agency spokeswoman said: “We do not routinely confirm or deny the existence of investigations.

“We have not charged any professional football clubs with money laundering, and there are none currently in the court process.”

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