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LIBYA

Hollande urges peace deal for strife-torn Libya

French President Francois Hollande on Monday condemned the killing of at least 28 Ethiopian Christians in Libya, urging a peace deal to restore order in the conflict-ridden nation.

Hollande urges peace deal for strife-torn Libya
Migrants from sub-Saharan Africa sit at a center for illegal migrants in the al-Karem district of the Libyan eastern port city of Misrata. Photo: AFP

Hollande said in a statement he was outraged at the "abominable" murder shown in a video by the Islamic State (IS) group released Sunday.

"A national peace deal remains both necessary and urgent to restore order and security in Libya," read the statement.

Awash with weapons since its 2011 revolt and torn between rival governments and parliaments, Libya is on the edge of all-out civil war as armed groups do battle for its cities and oil wealth.

The Islamic State, which has seized chunks of Syria and Iraq, has won the support of jihadist groups across Middle East and north Africa.

Several Libyan jihadist groups have pledged allegiance to the militants.

The issue of Libya was the subject of a political spat between former president Nicolas Sarkozy and the far-right Marine Le Pen over the weekend.

After Sarkozy tweeted out his sadness at news of the latest boat tragedy involving migrants, Le Pen blasted him on Twitter for helping to create the crisis by choosing to take action to oust former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. 

On Monday the foreign ministers from around Europe had been due to discuss the situation in war-torn Libya, now a major transit point for people from all over Africa and the Middle East trying to get to Europe.

Exploited by ruthless people smugglers, thousands take to the sea in rickety boats at the mercy of the elements and prone to capsize.

Italy, which has borne the brunt of the latest exodus, said only 28 people out of 700 survived the latest shipwreck off Libya.

Following the disaster Hollande joined calls for action to be taken to increase the protection for migrants and to tackle the people smugglers, whom he described as "terrorists".

He did not however spell out what France would or could do to help ease the situation.

Hollande called for "more boats, more aerial surveillance and an intensified fight against trafficking".

"Because those who put these people on boats are traffickers, terrorists even, because they know these boats are lousy… and put hundreds of people in danger."

 

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CORRUPTION

‘I’ll smash my accusers’: Sarkozy comes out fighting over corruption charges

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to clear his name on Thursday after being charged for financing his 2007 election campaign with money from late Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi, but admitted he was "finished" in politics.

'I'll smash my accusers': Sarkozy comes out fighting over corruption charges
French former president Nicolas Sarkozy speaking during an interview with TF1 on March 22nd. Photo: AFP PHOTO / TF1
“It might take me one, two, 10 years but I'll smash this group (of accusers) and will restore my honour,” he said during an emotion-charged prime-time television interview on Friday evening. “I don't plan to give an inch!”
   
Having already stepped back from a front-line public role in 2016 after he failed with a bid to run again for president, Sarkozy told his interviewer on the TF1 channel that for himself “politics is finished”.
   
In an defiant half-hour performance that saw him shake with indignation at times, Sarkozy frequently referred to his accusers from Kadhafi's regime as “sinister”, “liars” and a “group of killers”.
   
“If you had told me that I would have problems because of Kadhafi, I would have said: 'What are you smoking?'” Sarkozy said at one point, claiming that investigators had not found a single piece of evidence against him.
   
The 63-year-old, who served as French leader from 2007 to 2012, was charged with corruption, illegal campaign financing and concealment of Libyan public money on Thursday evening after two days of questioning in police custody.
 
READ ALSO:
Sarkozy charged with corruption over alleged Gaddafi financing
 
 
Under the French system, charging a suspect means that investigators believe they have strong and corroborated evidence against them, but the defendant can appeal and the case can still be dropped before a trial.
   
The allegations that Sarkozy took money from Kadhafi — whom he welcomed to Paris in 2007 but then helped to topple in 2011 — are the most serious out of several investigations that have dogged him since he left office.
   
“I am hurt deeply as a person, not for me, for my country,” Sarkozy said in his concluding remarks on the TF1 channel. “You can't drag people into the mud because some killers wanted to do it. I can't let them get away with it.”
   
Earlier in a statement released to Le Figaro newspaper, Sarkozy said he had been “living the hell of this slander since March 11, 2011,” when the first allegations against him emerged via Kadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam.
   
He went as far as to blame “the controversy launched by Kadhafi and his henchmen” for his failure to win re-election in 2012, when Francois Hollande, a Socialist, took the presidency.
 
Suitcases of cash?
 
Since 2013, investigators have been looking into claims by several figures in Kadhafi's ousted regime that Sarkozy's campaign received cash from the dictator.
   
In 2011, as NATO-backed forces were preparing to drive Kadhafi out of power, Seif al-Islam told the Euronews network that Sarkozy must “give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign”.
   
Sarkozy has dismissed the allegations as the rantings of vindictive Kadhafi loyalists who were furious over the French-led military intervention that helped end Kadhafi's 41-year rule and ultimately led to his death.
   
He has also unsuccessfully sued the investigative website Mediapart for publishing a document allegedly signed by Libya's intelligence chief showing that Kadhafi agreed to give Sarkozy up to 50 million euros ($62 million). The courts have ruled it can be used as evidence.
 
Ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy hauled in by police for grilling... once again
   
Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine also claims to have delivered three suitcases stuffed with a total of five million euros ($6.15 million) to Sarkozy and his chief of staff in 2006 and 2007.
   
Sarkozy lashed out at the arms broker in his television interview and in his statement, arguing his account contained inconsistencies and accusing him of having “highly suspect characteristics and a questionable past”.
   
The legal investigation is also looking into a 500,000-euro foreign cash transfer to Sarkozy's former chief of staff Claude Gueant and the 2009 sale of a luxury villa to a Libyan investment fund.
   
Le Monde newspaper further reported that other former regime officials have stepped forward alleging illicit financing.
 
First ex-president in custody
 
In 2014, Sarkozy became the first former French president to be taken into police custody, over a separate inquiry into claims he tried to interfere in another legal investigation against him.
   
But he is not the first ex-president to be charged with corruption — his predecessor Jacques Chirac was given a two-year suspended sentence in 2011 for embezzlement and misuse of public funds during his time as mayor of Paris.
   
Sarkozy is already charged in two separate cases, one relating to fake invoices devised to mask overspending on his failed 2012 campaign and another for alleged influence peddling.