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Kerry heads for latest Middle East peace push
by Staff Writers
Kuwait City (AFP) June 26, 2013

Six Libyan soldiers killed in ambush: army
Tripoli June 25, 2013 - Unknown gunmen launched a dawn attack on Tuesday on a Libyan army checkpoint south of Sirte, the home town of former dictator Moamer Kadhafi, killing six soldiers, a military officer said. "An attack at dawn Tuesday against a checkpoint of the army in the town of Khuchum al-Kheil, south of Sirte, killed six soldiers who were on guard duty," local military officer Khaled al-Akari was quoted as saying by Lana news agency. "Two vehicles were burned in the attack," said the officer, adding that the "area was cordoned off and a search was on to find the attackers". Sirte, the last bastion of Kadhafi to fall into rebel hands in the 2011 uprising, has been largely untouched by the wave of violence shaking the country since the former ruler's regime fell. Libya's new authorities are battling to establish military and security institutions capable of restoring law and order and state authority in the face of armed militias who fought Kadhafi's forces. UN says Syria conflict makes 'impact' on Lebanon
United Nations (AFP) June 25, 2013 - The United Nations on Tuesday highlighted the impact of the Syrian conflict on Lebanon as it called for support for the country's armed forces and other key institutions.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon and UN-Arab League envoy Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi have stressed support for President Michel Sleiman and key state institutions as the 27-month-old Syria war increasingly spills over the border.

A battle between the Lebanese army and followers of a radical Sunni Muslim sheikh in the southern city of Sidon was "a stern reminder to all of the risks of the conflict in Syria spreading across the border," Brahimi said Tuesday in Geneva.

At least 17 Lebanese troops were killed in the battle and the army has launched a manhunt for radical cleric Ahmad al-Assir. Brahimi said at least 50 people were killed in all in the worst clashes in the country since the start of the Syrian war in March 2011.

"Lebanon is a country that has a balance of power inside the country and the effects of the Syrian conflict right now obviously are having some kind of an impact there," said deputy UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey.

In a statement released by his office on Monday, Ban said he "stresses that all in Lebanon should fully respect the authority of the state and its institutions under the leadership of President Sleiman, in particular the Lebanese Armed Forces whose role is essential to protect all Lebanese."

Ban is following events in Lebanon with "deep concern," added the statement which condemned the attacks on the army.

"The secretary general reminds all concerned in Lebanon of their responsibility to avoid conflict and uphold the principles of mutual respect and coexistence in order to preserve Lebanon's national unity."

Sleiman has called on the powerful Shiite group Hezbollah to end its role in the Syria war. Hezbollah has taken the side of President Bashar al-Assad and played a key role in taking the town of Qusayr.

US Secretary of State John Kerry heads Wednesday on his latest push to resume direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, hoping to overcome doubts on whether he can succeed.

After a stop in Kuwait, Kerry flies later in the day to Jordan which he will use as a base as he shuttles between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, a US official said.

It is Kerry's fifth visit to the region since the veteran senator became the top US diplomat in February. He has vowed to keep pressing to solve one the world's most intractable disputes, while warning that the clock is ticking.

Kerry, speaking Tuesday in Saudi Arabia, said that President Barack Obama's administration hoped to bring about peace "notwithstanding all of the conflict, notwithstanding all of the counter-indications".

"We believe, President Obama believes, that those negotiations should start as soon as is possible, and hopefully that they should conclude with two states living side by side in peace and security," Kerry said.

Kerry said he was also working with regional players and praised Saudi Arabia for leading a decade-old proposal that would include Arab states' recognition of Israel in return for Israel withdrawing from territories seized in 1967.

But Netanyahu, who already had a tense relationship with Obama during the US leader's first term over pressure on the peace process, came out of elections leading a coalition that is even more critical of compromises.

Danny Danon, a member of Netanyahu's Likud party who serves as deputy defence minister, said this month that the government was not serious about a Palestinian state and that a move towards one would be opposed by most of the coalition.

Netanyahu said Tuesday that his goal was not just to "tick the box of starting negotiations".

"Our aim is to persevere in the talks and to continue them for a period of time in order to try and deal with the issues and reach an agreement that will resolve the essential issues of the conflict," Netanyahu said.

The two sides have not held face-to-face negotiations since September 2010, and even then the talks broke down within weeks after Israel failed to renew a freeze on construction of new homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

The Palestinians have since demanded that Israel halt all construction and accept the 1967 lines as the basis for negotiations, while Israel has hit back that it would only talk without such "pre-conditions".

US officials are cautious not to predict breakthroughs and are seeking largely to ensure a path forward. The United States believes it is critical to make progress by September, the time of the UN General Assembly where Abbas could again seek to rally international support.

Abbas, meeting last week with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said that the Palestinians were committed "to the success of Kerry's efforts to save the peace process" with a goal of a Palestinian state.

Kerry was switching focus to the peace process after stops in Qatar and Saudi Arabia that looked mostly at coordinating assistance to Syrian rebels fighting a bloody civil war against President Bashar al-Assad.

Kerry was making his first visit as secretary of state to Kuwait where he hoped to encourage further international initiatives by the oil-rich state, which a US-led coalition freed from Iraqi occupation in the 1990-91 Gulf War.

The top US diplomat was expected to talk to Kuwait about economic support to the Palestinians. The emirate has a warming relationship with the Palestinian leadership after years of strain over its support for Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War.


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