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21:29, 28 May 2017 Sunday
Update: 14:01, 04 August 2012 Saturday

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Turks debate over Obama-Erdogan bat photo
Turks debate over Obama-Erdogan bat photo

A photograph of U.S. President Barack Obama holding a baseball bat while talking on the phone to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan angered many in Turkey

World Bulletin/News Desk

A photograph of U.S. President Barack Obama holding a baseball bat while talking on the phone to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was intended to show their close relationship, a White House spokeswoman said, after the photo caused a stir in Turkey.

The two leaders spoke on Monday to discuss the crisis in Syria, after which the photograph of Obama seated at his desk, talking on the phone while holding a bat autographed by black-American baseball great Hank Aaron, was released by the White House.

"The photo reveals from whom our Prime Minister receives orders to rule the country," Metin Lutfi Baydar, a lawmaker with Turkey's main opposition party the Republican People's Party (CHP), said in a statement.

CHP vice president Umut Oran asked through parliament if Erdogan had seen the picture and if he would take action against "an implicit insult to Turkey and its citizens".

Some newspapers took a more lighthearted view, with columnist Ahmet Hakan of Hurriyet writing: "We need to do something - retaliation seems to be the most reasonable method."

"Our prime minister needs to hold something in his hand as he's calling Obama," he added, suggesting as possible candidates a slipper, a belt or a rolling pin.

White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a written statement on Friday that her department had seen the commentary and speculation about the photo in the Turkish media.

"We released the photo with only one purpose in mind, to highlight the President's continuing close relationship with Prime Minister Erdogan and draw attention to the important conversation they had about the worsening situation in Syria," she said.

"The President values his friendship and close partnership with Prime Minister Erdogan on a range of important issues on which the United States cooperates with Turkey," she added.



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Libya extremist group Ansar al-Sharia announces dissolution
Libya extremist group Ansar al-Sharia announces dissolution

The Libyan jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia, which is linked to Al-Qaeda and deemed a terrorist organisation by the UN and United States, announced its "dissolution" in a communique published online on Saturday. Washington accuses the group of being behind the September 11, 2012 attack on the US consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi in which ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. Ansar al-Sharia is one of the jihadist groups that sprung up in Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, in the chaos following the death of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011. They overran the city in 2014. East Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar earlier this month launched an offensive to oust jihadist fighters from their two remaining strongholds in Benghazi. In its communique Ansar al-Sharia said it had been "weakened" by the fighting. The group lost its leader, Mohammed Azahawi, in clashes with Haftar's forces in Benghazi at the end of 2014. Most of its members then defected to the so-called Islamic State group. Ansar al-Sharia later joined the Revolutionary Shura Council of Benghazi, a local alliance of Islamist militias. At its zenith, Ansar al-Sharia was present in Benghazi and Derna in eastern Syria, with offshoots in Sirte and Sabratha, western Libya. The organisation took over barracks and other sites abandoned by the ousted Kadhafi forces and transformed them into training grounds for hundreds of jihadists seeking to head to Iraq or Syria.