Morocco, Tunisia: No Military Solution to Libyan Crisis

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Morocco, Tunisia: No Military Solution to Libyan Crisis

Protest against the UN to draft agreement talks headed by the Head of United Nations Support Mission in Libya, Bernardino Leon in Benghazi

Rabat – Morocco and Tunisia have announced their support to a political solution to the crisis in Libya, namely the Skhirat Agreement, which was signed in late 2015 under the auspices of the United Nations.

In a joint statement issued at the end of the 19th session of the Tunisian-Moroccan High Joint Commission in Rabat, the two countries praised efforts that are aimed at “supporting our Libyan brothers and accompanying them in the path towards a comprehensive political settlement.”

The meeting, which was co-chaired by Moroccan Prime Minister Saadeddine al-Othmani and his Tunisian counterpart, Youssef Chahed, stressed the two countries’ rejection of the military options.

The statement underlined the importance of reaching a political solution as the only means to overcome the current situation by preserving the country’s territorial unity.

The two sides expressed their condemnation of all forms of terrorism, highlighting the need to unify efforts to fight terrorist groups in the Maghreb region and the world.

In this regard, the two countries urged the five Maghreb states to “promote cooperation, consolidate dialogue and increase security cooperation in order to face terrorism according to an organized mechanism that aims at prioritizing common interests and rejecting all forms of introversion.

Tunisia and Morocco also called for the need to overcome all deadlocks within the Maghreb Union, as well as activating the work of institutions.

“This requires a strong political will and serious work by the five Maghreb countries in line with the noble goals which were set in the Marrakesh agreement,” the statement said.

It also called for fulfilling the aspirations of the Maghreb population with regards to growth, stability and decent living.

The two sides also condemned the violations committed by Israel and the attacks against Al-Aqsa Mosque, urging the international community to force the Jewish state to abide by the international legitimacy.

The commission discussed means to boost bilateral cooperation and signed 10 agreements in various sectors, including agriculture, investment, civil aviation, vocational training, higher education, and employment.

Mali’s Capital Of Bamako: Shots Fired, Luxury Hotel Under Attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Shots were fired Sunday at a luxury resort near Mali’s capital city of Bamako, according to a tweet from the UN Mission to the West African country.

The tweet reads: “shots fired at Le Campement #Kangaba, tourist camp in the suburbs of #Bamako #Mali.”
Reuters, sourcing a spokesman at the Security Ministry, reported that the resort came under attack by gunmen. He had no further details of the attack but said it was still going on, Reuters, reported.
The EU Training Mission in Mali tweeted a statement that they were aware of the attack and were assessing the situation.
Earlier this month, the US Embassy in Bamako had issued a travel warning on its website, saying there was an increased security threat to Westerners.
“The U.S. Embassy informs U.S. citizens of a possible increased threat of attacks against Western diplomatic missions, places of worship, and other locations in Bamako where Westerners frequent. Avoid vulnerable locations with poor security measures in place, including hotels, restaurants, and churches,” the warning said.
Le Campement is located on the outskirts of the capital, about 30 minutes from downtown Bamako. The resort is popular with Western tourists and expatriates who use its facilities to host business meetings and team-building exercises.
The grounds include a hotel, bars, restaurant, spa and swimming pools. The resort also offers live entertainment and several outdoor activities, including bike rides and kayaking on the Niger River.

Trump By Ignoring Africa, US Cedes Would Be American Jobs To China: Creating A China first Policy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FORBES)

By Ignoring Africa, US Cedes Jobs To China

Guest commentary curated by Forbes Opinion. Avik Roy, Opinion Editor.

GUEST POST WRITTEN BY

Grant Harris

Mr. Harris is CEO of Harris Africa Partners LLC and was senior director for Africa at the White House from 2011-2015.

It is old news that China has aggressive commercial ambitions in Africa, but fresh numbers reveal the depth of China’s success—and raise the stakes for U.S. dithering.

A recent Ernst & Young report shows that China more than doubled its foreign direct investment (FDI) projects in Africa in 2016, and that the value of these projects outweighs U.S. investments by a factor of 10. Moreover, China’s Commerce Ministry recently announced that China-Africa trade increased by 16.8% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2017. As if that was not enough, various African leaders were courted at a summit in Beijing last month, which promised extensive deals in infrastructure and trade under China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative. All of this serves as an exclamation mark on the following sentence: The United States must step up its game on U.S.-Africa trade and investment.

Moroccan King Mohamed VI (C-L) and Li Biao (C-R), Chairman of the Chinese group Haite, attend the launch of a Chinese investment project in Morocco on March 20, 2017, at the royal palace near Tangiers. (Photo credit: FADEL SENNA/AFP/Getty Images)

Unfortunately, the U.S. has been slow to stake out a serious commercial strategy toward Africa, and U.S. companies by and large continue to overestimate the risks of doing business in the region. In contrast, China has sustained a policy of deliberate engagement and investment on the continent—and is making enviable returns in the process. Across Africa, China’s infrastructure projects generate earnings worth around $50 billion a year, which directly and indirectly translate into numerous jobs for Chinese citizens.

Building on a strong legacy of bipartisanship regarding U.S.-Africa policy, the Obama Administration deepened commercial ties on the continent, including through initiatives like Power Africa (designed to double electricity access in the region) that garnered broad Republican support. Indeed, U.S. FDI in Africa surged by over 70% from 2008 to 2015, on a historic-cost basis. Yet, in absolute terms, much more remains to be done to fully capitalize on Africa’s potential to contribute to U.S. growth.

Worryingly, the Trump Administration is so far heading in exactly the wrong direction. The policy signal to increase U.S. investment in Africa is no more. Whereas President Obama called for stronger U.S.-Africa economic ties—as did key Cabinet-level champions—the Trump Administration has shown no senior-level interest in this agenda. The raft of vacant positions across key federal departments compounds the problem.

Worse, President Trump is actively trying to eviscerate some of the vital tools needed to promote a serious commercial agenda. Though the “budget wars” are ongoing, fortunately Congress has so far rejected President Trump’s shortsighted proposals to eliminate funding for the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA). Both are important for trade and investment globally, and in Africa in particular. Between 2009 and 2016, OPIC’s commitment of about $7 billion in financing and insurance to secure projects in Africa catalyzed an additional $14 billion in investments in the region. Over that same time period, USTDA more than doubled its Africa portfolio of grants and technical assistance for infrastructure projects, boosting U.S. exports by at least $2.5 billion.

These and other tools should be strengthened—not demolished—to support U.S. businesses in Africa and to successfully compete with China. This includes the U.S. Export-Import bank, which has been outpaced by the China Export-Import Bank (some estimates say by a factor of 37 for loans to Africa) despite having a Congressional mandate to prioritize helping U.S. exporters compete for business in Africa.

The Trump Administration still has the opportunity to advance a serious commercial agenda in Africa, but we are reaching an inflection point, beyond which it will be increasingly difficult to make up for lost ground. As a dynamic continent of over one billion people (who will comprise one quarter of the world’s population and workforce by 2050), Africa’s role in the global economy will certainly increase over time. As the U.S. economy looks for new global growth to fuel domestic jobs, Africa represents a critical commercial frontier. Seizing this opportunity, however, depends on the interest and capacity of American companies to do business in Africa. There is still time to change course but, failing that, middling policy and weakened tools to promote U.S. investment in Africa essentially constitute a “China First” policy.

The Songhai Islamic Empire Of Sunni Ali

(I GOT THIS ARTICLE FROM GOOGLE PLUS, IT IS AN EXCELLENT HISTORY LESSON ON ISLAMIC KINGDOMS)

Songhai Empire
Jenne mosque

The Songhai Empire was the largest empire in the history of western Sudan. It grew from the small state of Gao, which was founded between 500 and 700 a.d. However the empire did not become a major force in the history of empire building and territorial expansion until 1464 when Sunni Ali, also known as Ali Beer, became the king.

In 1469 and 1470, his military campaigns led to the incorporation of Timbuktu and Azawad, located northward and northeast, respectively. In 1473, he attacked Jenne, a great Islamic center located southward, and in 1483, he was able to drive the Mossi out of Walata-Baghana.

Within 28 years of his ascendancy, Sunni Ali had converted the little state of Gao into a magnificent empire stretching from the Niger in the east to Jenne in the west, and from the Timbuktu in the north to Hombori in the south. He was said to be a ruthless ruler who maltreated all those who opposed his administration and did all that was possible to keep vassal states under firm administrative control by appointing governors who administered his orders.

Payment of tributes, which were in form of goods and contribution of workforce for further territorial expansion, placed the empire on a powerful economic and political footing.

The death of Sunni Ali in 1492 was followed by a 40-month reign by his son Sunni Baru, who was deposed in 1493 by Askia Muhammad Touré. Askia Muhammad Touré, popularly known in history as Muhammad the Great, completed the process of nation building and conquest initiated by Sunni Ali by extending territories of Songhai Empire to Baghana and Taghaza, a significant caravan route and salt producing area.

While Sunni Ali’s reign was characterized by ruthlessness and dislocation of commerce, that of Askia Muhammad the Great was known for the pacification of the subjugated people and the promotion of commerce, Islamic scholarship, and general tranquility.

Songhai people

His 1496 pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca had far-reaching consequences for the promotion of Islam as it attracted Muslim clerics and commerce to the empire. Islamic religion flourished in the great Islamic centers such as Timbuktu and Sankore. The University of Sankore produced the likes of Mahmoud Kati and Abdulrahman As Sadi, whose books are valued sources for the reconstruction of the history of Songhai and western Sudan in general.

Askia Muhammad the Great relied on the advice of Muslim clerics in governing the empire and made Islamic law the instrument of political and administrative machinery in western parts. In the eastern territories of Gao and Kikiya he allowed traditional religion to exist by granting non-Muslims of the region the freedom they needed to practice their religion.

As had his predecessor, Askia Muhammad divided the entire kingdom into provinces administered by governors, or kio. The central administration consisted of a council of ministers predominantly from his immediate and extended families. While Jenne controlled internal commerce, Gao and Timbuktu served as link to other economic centers in the east and northeast and west and northwest, respectively.

Songhai map

Short-lived Prosperity

The prosperity of the empire was however short-lived. Starting in the middle of the 16th century, internal problems hindered the government and provided an enabling condition for its invasion and destruction by the Moroccans in 1651. At the top of the list of the internal factors that led to the fall of Songhai Empire was the succession dispute among the sons of Askia Muhammad the Great.

Aside from allowing hitherto subjugated states to assert their independence, this development inhibited economic prosperity and further territorial expansion. The Civil War of 1588 had its origin in poor internal control exemplified in the succession dispute between Ishaq and Sadiq, two sons of Askia Daud, and the crises between the western parts, which was under strong Islamic influence, and the east, under the firm control of the non-Muslims.

The last straw was the Moroccan invasion of 1591. The defeat by the Moroccans can only be appreciated against the backdrop of the fact that the empire on the eve of the invasion was in the throes of an internal convulsion. Al-Mansur, the sultan of Morocco, who had failed in two early expeditions, wasted no time to invade the empire during its most turbulent period.

View of Timbuktu
View of Timbuktu

In 1591, he attacked Songhai with 4,000 professional soldiers and another 2,000 armed with arquebus, a gun with three legs. Askia Ishaq II raised an army of 18,000 cavalry and 9,700 infantry to resist the invasion of the Moroccan army.

The overwhelming numbers of the Songhai army could not defeat their Moroccan counterparts in the battle, known to history as the Battle of Tondibi; the Moroccan army was more professional, disciplined, and equipped with sophisticated weaponry.

The Moroccan invasion led to the demise of the Songhai, the largest empire to have emerged in western Sudan. The guerrilla warfare initiated after 1591 was not formidable enough for the reassertion of political freedom.

The invasion led to loss of lives and property and the extension of Moroccan political hegemony over Songhai. Islamic scholars and clerics fled to other parts of the western Sudan and the great Islamic centers of Timbuktu and Sankore lost their hitherto prime position.

Algeria, France urge political solution in Libya to halt terrorism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

Algeria, France urge political solution in Libya to halt terrorism

By Hamid Ould Ahmed | ALGIERS

The foreign ministers of Algeria and France on Tuesday urged Libya’s rival armed factions to seek a political solution in the North African country to help stem the spread of militant groups there and potential spillover across its borders.

Algeria has joined with North African neighbor Tunisia to seek support for an inclusive dialogue in Libya, where competing governments and armed supporters have struggled for control since a 2011 civil war ousted veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi.

France aims to play a bigger role in bringing Libya’s factions together to end the turmoil that has allowed Islamist militants to gain a foothold and migrant smugglers to flourish in the absence of a strong central government.

“The main objective remains the fight against terrorism in this area of turbulence, where the presence of terrorists is reinforced because of the chaotic situation in Libya,” Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel said after talks with France’s Jean-Yves Le Drian, according to state news agency APS.

Le Drian, on a two-day visit to Algiers, described his talks with Messahel as “thorough”.

French officials fear Islamic State militants – who were driven from the coastal city of Sirte last year – and other jihadists are trying to exploit the power vacuum in Libya to regroup after losing substantial ground in Syria and Iraq.

A U.N.-backed Libyan government of national accord has sat in Tripoli for more than a year, but it has struggled to reach agreement with eastern factions, including with powerful commander Khalifa Haftar.

Libya’s neighbors and regional powers have often differed on how to help. Egypt is closer to Haftar and his anti-Islamist militant campaign while Algeria has pushed for an inclusive approach including using the influence of Tunisia’s moderate Islamist.

Last week Le Drian last week held talks with Egypt on how to stabilize Libya and on Monday began a two-day visit to Algiers, where he said he had “thorough” talks with his Algerian counterpart Abdelkader Messahel.

Last year Islamic State was driven out of the Libyan coastal city of Sirte.

“It is this determination which leads us to wish for a political solution in Libya,” APS quoted Le Drian as saying.

Algeria and France have agreed to “combine their efforts to reach an inclusive political solution that allows the integrity of Libyan territory and a peace process”, Le Drian added.

Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt last week expressed support for dialogue in Libya and rejected foreign interference or any military options, days after Egyptian jets carried out strikes against militant camps inside Libya.

The talks between Le Drian and Messahel also included the situation in the Sahel, two years after Algeria helped mediate a peace deal in Mali between the government and Tuareg rebels, in part to help stop Islamist militants gaining ground.

(Editing by Patrick Markey and Gareth Jones)

Nairobi Kenya: 7 Story Apartment Building Collapses

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC AND REUTERS)

Nairobi building collapse: People missing as residents join search

Rescue workers at the scene after a building collapsed in a residential area of Nairobi, 13 June 2017Image copyright REUTERS
Image caption Witnesses said the building had been condemned

Several people are reported missing after a seven-story building collapsed on Monday night in an eastern suburb of the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

The Kenya Red Cross tweeted that response teams were at the scene, in the Kware Pipeline Embakasi area.

The Star newspaper said dozens of people had been evacuated moments before the collapse.

Witnesses told the paper that the building had been condemned after cracks appeared in its walls.

The co-coordinator of the rescue efforts, Pius Masai, said that more than 100 people had been accounted for, but added that some people may still be trapped.

“Rescue efforts are ongoing,” he said in a statement, and appealed for people with access to “cutters, drillers and any other extrication equipment” to help with the search.

Emergency personnel at the scene of a collapsed building in a residential area of Nairobi, 13 June 2017Image copyright REUTERS
Image caption Rescuers appealed for help from the public in the search for the missing

The National Disaster Management Unit said that most families acted when ordered to leave the building prior to its collapse, with 121 people making it to safety.

Local media reports that some people re-entered the building apparently to collect their belongings when it caved in, possibly trapping them. Police said they do not know how many people are trapped.

Rescue teams at the scene of a building collapse in Nairobi, 13 June 2017Image copyright ANNE SOY/BBC
Image caption Authorities said 121 people had made it to safety before the collapse

Building collapses are a problem in Kenya with many people in Nairobi living in low-income areas or slums. Housing is in high demand, and developers often bypass regulations.

In April 2017, 49 people died after a building collapsed in heavy rain in Nairobi.

At the height of Kenya’s rainy season in April 2016, a six-storey building collapsed killing 52 people in Nairobi’s poor Huruma district.

Collapsed building in NairobiImage copyright KENYA RED CROSS
Image caption Rescue workers are searching the rubble for survivors

China: Keeping the peace in Darfur

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Keeping the peace in Darfur

Somali President: Defeat of Terrorism Paves Way for Economic Revival

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Somali President: Defeat of Terrorism Paves Way for Economic Revival

Mogadishu– Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said that defeating terrorism would pave the way for reviving the economy.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper on the occasion of the passing of 100 days since he took office, Mohamed said that “changing the security situation” and overcoming terrorist threats, represented by ISIS and Al-Shabaab militant group, would allow the achievement of decent living conditions by stimulating economic growth and providing the Somalis with good job opportunities.

The Somali president said he “inherited a very difficult situation”, especially on the security level.

He noted in this regard that despite efforts exerted by the former government to counter terrorism, Al-Shabaab militants still represent “a real threat to stability in my country.”

“At the same time, I have inherited a difficult economic situation that does not allow the government to regularly pay the Army salaries,” he continued, stressing that the military institution was in need of comprehensive restructuring and rearmament.

As for social services, government’s capabilities are limited, according to the president, in particular with regards to health and educational services.

“I am not saying that we have to begin from nothing, but we have big challenges ahead compared to the available capacities,” he stated.

Asked about the reason he chose Saudi Arabia as his first state visit, Mohamed said: “This visit is a clear proof of the deep and historic relations between Somalia and the Kingdom.”

He underlined Saudi Arabia’s continuous support to Somalia at all levels. He added that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz has expressed his keenness to help the African country in facing its challenges.

As for the support provided by the Kingdom, the president said that Saudi Arabia has assisted Somalia in rebuilding its army, fighting terrorism, launching reconstruction projects, as well as supporting the state budget and responding to the drought crisis.

With regards to rebuilding the army, Mohamed, who goes by the nickname “Farmajo”, said that the issue was a priority in the new government’s program.

“We are seeking to build a professional army that is able to protect the borders, defend the country’s sovereignty and achieve stability,” he stated.

As for the African Union peacekeeping forces in Somalia (AMISOM), the president said that the current plan was to drive Al-Shabaab militants out of the country within the next two yeas, and gradually start reducing the number of peacekeeping forces as of October 2018, in line with the ongoing negotiations.

Asked about the arms embargo on Somalia since the beginning of the 1990s, Farmajo said that ongoing sanctions on the country were limiting the army’s capabilities.

“The current project to reorganize and restructure the army would not be effective if it is not paralleled with the lifting of sanctions,” the president noted.

“We are committed to this demand because we know that the support, which is offered by the African Union forces, would not last,” he added.

On wearing the military uniform twice since taking office in February, the Somali president said: “This is to remind the Somali people that we are in an open war against terrorism represented by Al-Shabaab movement.”

“I do not believe in the military choice alone,” he said, noting that after his election, he called for dialogue with the movement and offered to grant amnesty to militants who abandon arms and violence.

“We should admit that not all Al-Shabaab militants are the same; there are those who believe there are citizens just like us and they reject violence; and others, who are very extremists and influenced by al-Qaeda and who would not accept dialogue,” he said.

Asked about his visit to the United Arab Emirates, the Somali president said that the UAE was one of the biggest supporters to his country, describing his meetings in Abu Dhabi as “successful at all levels”.

As for the assistance needed from Arab countries and institutions to support Somalia, Mohamed highlighted the importance of investing in the country’s “tremendous economic resources, which include natural resources, maritime wealth and agriculture, as well as infrastructure and transport”.

“This can create job opportunities for the youth, who represent 70 percent of the Somali population,” he said.

He added that his government was ready to provide the required facilities for Arab investments.

Professional Hunter Killed By Elephant That Collapsed on Top of Him

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME WORLD)

Professional Hunter Killed By Elephant That Collapsed on Top of Him

2:43 PM ET

A longtime big game hunter was killed in Zimbabwe when his group opened fire on a herd of elephants that charged at them — and one of the fatally wounded animals collapsed on top of him.

Theunis Botha, 51, was leading a group through the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe Friday when they came across four breeding elephants, who started charging at them. One of the elephants grabbed Botha with its trunk and lifted him up as members of his group fired off shots at the animal, according to South African News24.

The elephant eventually fell to the ground, crushing Botha to death, News24 reported.

Botha was an experienced hunter who frequently led expeditions through his business, Theunis Botha Big Game Safaris, to hunt animals such as lions and leopards using big game hounds, according to his website.

Hunter Steve Scott, who described himself as a friend of Botha, announced his death on Twitter. Botha’s daughter also confirmed his death to the BBC, but did not provide details.

Sad News. Friend & professional hunter, Theunis Botha, died in Zimbabwe this week in a hunting accident.Prayers for Carike and his children.

He is survived by his wife and five children, according to the Washington Post.

Hwange National Park is the same place where Cecil the Lion was killed, sparking an uproar in 2015.

Rebels Break out Spiritual Leader from Congo Prison

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

World

Rebels Break out Spiritual Leader from Congo Prison

Nsemi

Rebels from an outlawed group in the Democratic Republic of Congo staged a prison break in the country’s capital, freeing their spiritual leader and 50 other inmates, the government announced.

“Followers of the Bundu Dia Kongo (BDK) attacked Makala prison at dawn and broke out around 50 prisoners, including their guru, Ne Muanda Nsemi,” government spokesman Lambert Mende said, indicating that police had given chase.

BDK has called for an insurrection against Kinshasa. Nsemi – a self-styled prophet – was arrested along with his three wives and son in early March following a violent two-week siege of his home in Kinshasa, DR Congo’s capital.

According to a local resident, the attack began just before dawn when there were “prolonged exchanges of fire”. Other witnesses said they had heard gunfire near Makala prison at around 4 a.m. (0300 GMT) and saw prisoners wearing blue shirts with yellow collars in the streets.

One of the prisoners on the run told AFP he had managed to escape during violent clashes between the attackers and the prison guards.

The government has accused BDK followers of a string of violent attacks in western DR Congo since the start of the year.

By around 8:30 am (0730 GMT), a column of thick black smoke could be seen rising over Makala prison, with dozens of police and soldiers blocking off all access to the facility.

The United Nations warned its staff to avoid unessential movement around Kinshasa, saying the situation was calm but unpredictable.

Soldiers stopped young men for questioning near Nsemi’s house in the city’s district of Ngaliema and arresting some of them, a Reuters witness said.

Clashes between his followers and security forces have compounded wider tensions across Congo since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down when his mandate expired in December, raising fears of renewed civil conflict.

Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe told a local radio station that, aside from Nsemi, the prison’s most prominent prisoners, including political opposition leaders and soldiers convicted in the assassination of former President Laurent Kabila, had not escaped.

The dramatic assault took place as DR Congo marks 20 years since the fall of Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled the country — which was then known as Zaire — with an iron fist for more than three decades.

Mobutu was ousted by rebel chief Laurent-Desire Kabila, father of the embattled current President Joseph Kabila.

BDK stands for “Kingdom of the Kongo” in the Kikongo language, and its members want to restore an African monarchy that once included what is today Kongo Central (formerly Bas-Congo) along with parts of Angola, the Republic of Congo and Gabon.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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