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22:09, 26 June 2017 Monday
Update: 10:45, 06 October 2012 Saturday

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Washington rejected US embassy request for plane in Libya
Washington rejected US embassy request for plane in Libya

State Department officials in May denied a request from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli to allow a security team to continue using an official U.S. DC-3 aircraft

World Bulletin/News Desk

State Department officials in May denied a request from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli to allow a security team to continue using an official U.S. DC-3 aircraft, suggesting they could charter a plane instead, an unclassified email obtained by Reuters shows.

The email dated May 3, carrying the subject line "Termination of Tripoli DC-3 Support," was copied to Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya who was killed with three other Americans in an attack on the Benghazi mission on Sept. 11 this year.

The email is among documents U.S. investigators are examining to determine whether requests before the Benghazi attack for security improvements at U.S. diplomatic posts in Libya were denied by State Department headquarters.

The email says Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy "has determined that support for Embassy Tripoli using the DC-3 will be terminated immediately."

The diplomatic post's request "to continue use of the plane in support of the SST was considered. However, it was decided that, if needed, NEA will charter a special flight for their final departure." NEA refers to the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs which covers Libya and other countries in that region.

SST stands for Security Support Team, and according to the State Department's website such a team's job is to enhance security at U.S. embassies and consulates that face civil unrest, hostile hosts or any other threat.

It was not immediately clear whether the lack of the plane played any role in security problems at U.S. facilities in Libya, culminating with the Sept. 11 attack.

The plane in question was officially assigned to the State Department's international narcotics and law enforcement bureau, which provides foreign governments with assistance fighting organized crime and drug trafficking.

The email ends with "Regards!" and was signed by the State Department's post management officer for Libya and Saudi Arabia based in Washington.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner described the decision to move the plane as standard practice.

"This plane was in Iraq at the time and moved to support Libya early on when there was no commercial airline service into Libya. This is a very common practice in places where there is no commercial airline service. When commercial service was subsequently established we then moved that asset back to other State Department business," he told a news briefing.

Toner said he did not have information on the plane's operational schedule while in Libya, or on the specific date when it was moved out of the country.

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Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland
Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said Monday he hopes to clinch a reunification deal laying out a new security blueprint for the divided island during a crunch summit in Switzerland this week. Anastasiades will attend United Nations-backed talks at the Alpine Crans-Montana ski resort Wednesday with "complete determination and goodwill... to achieve a desired solution", he said in a statement. He said he hopes to "abolish the anachronistic system of guarantees and intervention rights", with a deal providing for the withdrawal of the Turkish army. The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece. Turkey maintains around 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus. The so-called guarantor powers of Turkey, Britain and Greece retain the right to intervene militarily on the island. Greek and Turkish Cypriots are at odds over a new security blueprint, but their leaders are under pressure to reach an elusive peace deal. "I am going to Switzerland to participate in the Cyprus conference, with the sole aim and intent of solving the Cyprus problem," Anastasiades said. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is also set to attend the summit, which is expected to last at least 10 days. Greece, Turkey and Britain will send envoys along with an observer from the European Union. UN-led talks on the island hit a wall in late May after the sides failed to agree terms to advance toward a final summit. Unlocking the security question would allow Anastasiades and Akinci to make unprecedented concessions on core issues. But they have major differences on what a new security blueprint should look like. Anastasiades's internationally recognised government, backed by Athens, seeks an agreement to abolish intervention rights, with Turkish troops withdrawing from the island on a specific timeline. Turkish Cypriots and Ankara argue for some form of intervention rights and a reduced number of troops remaining in the north. Turkish Cypriots want the conference to focus on broader issues of power-sharing, property rights and territory for the creation of a new federation. Much of the progress to date has been based on strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But that goodwill has appeared frayed in the build-up to their meeting in Switzerland. The Greek Cypriot presidential election next February has also complicated the landscape, as has the government's search for offshore oil and gas, which Ankara argues should be suspended until the negotiations have reached an outcome.