Libya – U.S. Reveals Support For Hafter’s Side

By Moon Of Alabama

April 19, 2019 “Information Clearing House” – The Libyan National Army (LNA) troops of General Hafter attack the militias which support the UN recognized government in Tripoli from the south. The LNA still lacks forces for a larger break through. Several objects at the front changed hands several times. There are bloody skirmishes but no big fights. Those are still to come.


Map by South Front – bigger

Some people doubt that Hafter can be successful:

Analysts believe that Haftar over-estimates the strength of his LNA.

They say the controversial field marshal, who backs an administration rival to the GNA based in eastern Libya, was counting on a quick collapse of Tripoli militias.

But pro-GNA reinforcements from around Tripoli rushed to assist in driving back his forces.

It was never clear if Hafter really hoped that a lightning attack on Tripoli would achieve a fast victory, or if his sudden move was intended to rally support from outside. He is now certainly getting such support and that will be to his decisive advantage in the longer play.

As we described it:

Hafter has open support from France, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Russia. The Trump administration is not interested to step into the mess. Hafter is an old CIA asset and if he takes control there is a good chance that the U.S. will have influence over him. As long as Libyan oil flows and keeps the global oil price down Trump will be happy. Russia is trying to stay in the background to not give the anti-Russian forces in Washington an excuse to intervene.

The Muslim Brothers, supported by Turkey and Qatar, are still in play in Misrata but have otherwise lost their influence on the ground.

Since then the Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Arabia pledged tens of millions of dollars to support Hafter’s move on Tripoli. During the last week Hafter visited President Sisi of Egypt.

Europe is disunited over the issue. Italy wants to keep its influence in its former colony Libya and its historical position in the Libyan oil industry. It is also concerned about a new wave of refugees. It supports the government in Tripoli. France is supporting Hafter with an eye on taking over some oil business. It is also concerned about Islamist activities in former French colonies west and south of Libya. With Italy and France in a clinch, the European Union only issued a weak statement that called for a stop of fighting without naming any side.

Concern over the militias which support the Tripoli government increased too. They not as harmless as many seem to have thought:

A week after an aspiring strongman launched a surprise attack on the Libyan capital, an assortment of criminal gangs and extremists are rushing into the fight against him, raising new questions for the United States and other Western powers that have condemned his attack.

But an increasingly unsavory cast has joined the coalition against him, including a group closely tied to a militia sanctioned as a terrorist organization by the United States and the United Nations; an extremist warlord sanctioned for undermining Libya’s stability; and other militia leaders sanctioned for migrant trafficking. That mix so alarms Western powers that some may deem General Hifter the lesser evil.

Yesterday the U.S., which had said little when Hafter launched his assault on Tripoli, came out of the closet:

The United States and Russia both said Thursday they could not support a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire in Libya at this time, diplomats said, as mortar bombs crashed down on a suburb of the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

Russia objects to the British-drafted resolution blaming eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar for the latest flare-up in violence when his Libyan National Army (LNA) advanced to the outskirts of Tripoli earlier this month, diplomats said.

The United States gave no reason for its position on the draft resolution …

Today we learn that Trump spoke with Hafter several days ago:

President Donald Trump spoke on Monday with a Libyan strongman whose forces are advancing on the nation’s capital, the White House said, in a move that may undermine support for the country’s internationally recognized government.

Trump discussed “ongoing counterterrorism efforts and the need to achieve peace and stability in Libya” with Haftar, White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement. Gidley called Haftar by the title “field marshal.”

“The president recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system,” Gidley said.

The key point for Trump is the oil price. His administration put sanctions on sales of Iranian and Venezuelan oil. Since the beginning of the year crude oil prices rallied from the low $50 per barrel to over $70 per barrel. Trump plans to reduce waivers he gave to some of the countries that continue to buy Iranian oil. That would further decrease Iran’s output. Any additional disruption of Libya’s oil production would increase the oil price and harm the U.S. economy. It would thereby make Trump’s plan for total sanctions on Iranian oil impossible.

Hafter controls most of Libya’s oil supplies. With open backing from the U.S., Russia and France, support from the military in Egypt, and with enough Saudi cash to finance his army, he surely has all the needed support to sustain a longer fight.

His next move will likely be against the small air force the Misrata gangs assembled. The U.S. might give him a helping hand in that. Hafter could then close down the airspace for flights from Turkey and Qatar. That would cut into the resupply Misrata and Tripoli need for a longer fight.

Those who say that “there is no military solution” to the situation in Libya will likely be proven wrong. Hafter has all he needs to win the fight.

This article was originally published by Moon Of Alabama” –

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What if al-Aqsa Mosque caught fire?

It is doubtful in today’s US-dominated world that anyone would rally to its cause, as they did for Notre Dame
Palestinians gather at al-Aqsa Mosque compound in June 2018 (AFP)

On 15 April, a devastating fire broke out at France’s famous Notre Dame Cathedral.

In the course of the conflagration, the church’s distinctive 93-metre medieval spire and two thirds of its roof were destroyed. Had it not been for the tireless efforts of French firefighters, who fought day and night to extinguish the blaze, the damage would have been far more extensive.

For days, the story was front-page news in Western countries, and media outlets were saturated with expert analyses of the cathedral’s history, architecture and significance.

Symbol of national identity

There is no doubt that Notre Dame, dating from 1163, is a Gothic masterpiece and a Parisian landmark. It is a symbol of France and of Roman Catholicism, even though France is an officially secular state that prides itself on what it calls laicité. Church and state were formally separated in 1905.

But that did not stop crowds of people from singing hymns in a vigil near the stricken cathedral and marching in its honour. Paris’s deputy mayor of tourism and sports joined others in creating a human chain to save the ancient relics held inside the cathedral.

For Palestinians, al-Aqsa is their very own possession – a symbol of Arab historical continuity in a city claimed by non-Arabs

Notre Dame is today not just a religious monument, but a symbol of French national identity. For that reason, the French president quickly took on the responsibility of rebuilding the cathedral, and French billionaires and businesses have already pledged more than €700 million ($787m) towards that goal.

In recognition of that nationalist bond, many western states, from Australia to Europe, hastened to send their condolences to President Emmanuel Macron. Japan, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan did the same.

In the United States, the One World Trade Centre and the Empire State Building were lit up in the tricolour of the French flag, and the governor of New York pledged his city’s solidarity with the people of France.

Sacred character

What if a similar fate overtook al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem? This building is older than Notre Dame, built by the Umayyad caliphs in the eighth century, and has a long, rich history. The mosque was hit by earthquakes in 746 and 1033 and rebuilt each time; taken over by crusaders in 1099 and reclaimed by Saladin in 1187; then remained under Muslim rule until the war of 1967, when it came under Israel’s control.

Muslims everywhere revere this mosque. It is the third holiest place after the mosques of Mecca and Medina. Many associations bind al-Aqsa to Muslim religious sentiment.

Palestinians pray at al-Aqsa Mosque compound in May 2018 (AFP)
Palestinians pray at al-Aqsa Mosque compound in May 2018 (AFP)

Interpreted as the place referenced in the Isra verse in the Quran, al-Aqsa has taken on a sacred character, and is traditionally associated with the Prophet Muhammad’s miraculous night journey to Jerusalem. Its spiritual significance for Muslims is hard to overstate. Jerusalem was Islam’s first qibla, or direction of prayer, and it has been an important place of pilgrimage ever since.

For Palestinians, al-Aqsa is their very own possession – a symbol of Arab historical continuity in a city claimed by non-Arabs, and an affirmation of Arab identity in an anti-Arab environment. Though it stands beside what is claimed to be the site of the now-vanished Jewish Second Temple, it is the only concrete historical building in that place.

No assaults by religious Jewish groups claiming rights to the mosque can alter this reality, nor have Israel’s constant excavations to detect a trace of Jewish history at the site since 1967 produced that evidence.

The case of the 1969 fire

What if this unique building, so meaningful for the 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide, succumbed to fire, or collapsed after Israel’s archaeological digs weakened its ancient foundations?

Would the Arab and Islamic world rise up as one? Would Israel, the de facto custodian of Jerusalem’s holy places, be made accountable? Would world leaders rush to rebuild the mosque or to help the Palestinian people?

The struggle for al-Aqsa: Palestinians have ‘no one but God to help them’

Read More »

We have a preliminary answer in the case of the fire that burned Saladin’s minbar inside al-Aqsa Mosque in 1969. Denis Michael Rohan, an evangelical Christian Australian, started a fire in the mosque to try to destroy it, aiming to clear the way for the Jewish Temple to be rebuilt in its place, thus hastening Christ’s second coming. The incident led to the establishment of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Jordan’s representative to the UN presented letters of protest over the fire at al-Aqsa. These came from just 17 states, and a further 58 letters came from NGOs, Muslim religious bodies, other Muslim groups and Muslim individuals around the world. They called on the UN to intervene to protect the holy site from Israel’s occupation.

An orphan without allies

The Western response to the fire at al-Aqsa was muted. None displayed solidarity with Palestinians or Muslims, and no effective action was taken by the UN.

In the 50 years since the fire at al-Aqsa, Israel has only increased its hold on Jerusalem’s holy places. In 2017, it illegally installed turnstiles and metal detectors at the entrances to al-Haram al-Sharif, although they were subsequently removed. Religious settlers are now regularly allowed to march through al-Aqsa compound, threaten Muslim worshippers, and perform Jewish religious ceremonies.

Al-Aqsa Mosque is no less a religious and nationalist symbol for Arabs and Muslims than Notre Dame is for the French

Al-Aqsa Mosque is no less a religious and nationalist symbol for Arabs and Muslims than Notre Dame is for the French. But if it burned down, it is doubtful in today’s US-dominated world – and given Arab and Islamic weakness – that anyone would rally to its cause. Only the Palestinians who live there would go on fighting to defend it.

Like them, this wonderful Islamic icon is an orphan in a world without allies.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Ghada Karmi
Ghada Karmi is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter. She was born in Jerusalem and was forced to leave her home with her family as a result of Israel’s creation in 1948. The family moved to England in 1949, where she grew up and was educated. Karmi practised as a doctor for many years working as a specialist in the health of migrants and refugees. From 1999 to 2001 Karmi was an Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, where she led a major project on Israel-Palestinian reconciliation. In 2009, she became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Six months after it begins, the oligarchs/Macron versus Gilets Jaunes battle is still raging and will keep on

April 19, 2019

By Le Saker Francophone for the Saker Blog

Six months after it begins, the oligarchs/Macron versus Gilets Jaunes battle is still raging and will keep on

This battle that the French people will win – we do not yet know when, but sure it will – is the vanguard battle of a Western world in full decline because their elites, no longer able to plunder the rest of the world as they did before, are beginning to plunder their own country in order to continue to accumulate a capital that has no other objective than to accumulate, always accumulate, by pure Pavlovian reflex. The shape and outcome of this battle therefore does not concern only France but all the other people of the “West”, specially the United States, where the 1% show the same greediness.

Saturday after Saturday, about 100,000 yellow vests invade the streets of cities and roundabouts of the countryside, claiming that the government should take more into account the interests of the people and a less those of the oligarchs.

But the latest and their puppet, Macron and his government, are stubbornly refusing to listen to these people whom they obviously consider as congenital idiots, uncultivated anti-Semitics, jealous of those who succeed… and other verbal demonstrations of their unfathomable superiority complex.

But behind this superiority complex, we also see a panic, at least with Macron who, after six uninterrupted months of demonstrations he has violently repressed, sees the hatred that is accumulating against him and who, in his rare moments of lucidity, must remember the history of France and the fate of Louis XVI, the king guillotined by the revolutionaries. And this panic was clearly visible in this episode: After spending 12 million euros on its Great Debate, that should “transform anger into solutions”, these famous solutions had to live up to the expectations and frustration of a people who saw their country turning into a dictatorship. But what can Macron offer when he is stuck between the oligarch hammer and the popular anvil? He obviously didn’t find it. So as usual, he cunningly used the very providential but very dubious fire of Notre Dame de Paris to make the Great Debate disappear into the black hole of popular memory that he hopes will lead to amnesia because, as is well known to manipulators, nothing is better than an emotional diversion to make important things forgotten. Providentially then, the fire started just one hour before its speech, giving him the perfect excuse to cancel it and, in the name of “mourning”, delaying it, and the famous solutions he should propose, to an unspecified date. Since then not a word about it, from his side or the media side. A shameful 12 million euros scam!

But, contrary to what they think, they are not dealing with fools but with people educated and intelligent enough to understand that behind their empty words, their institutional violence and their brigands’ schemes, these oligarchs are plundering the nation’s heritage, sucking the people’s blood. And the most intelligent among the Gjs are explainingto others, days after days, both through social networks and constituent assemblies, as well as through meetings in the streets every Saturday how things work. Then, the day the fire erupted the investigation was therefore open, on social networks, to find out whether this fire was really an accident, as the government claims, or a voluntary act, as most experts, especially the best in position to do it, the former head of Notre Dame’s maintenance, believe.

Moreover, one of the first visible benefits of this movement is that it is rebuilding a social bond that 30 years of “modern individualistic society” had completely destroyed. There is nothing like a common enemy to bring a people together and the Gj have found it. It is Macron and the oligarchs who manipulate it. And there is no shortage of battles against this powerful and blind enemy.

But it is not only the enemy that is common to them, they perceive above all a common objective, that of giving the French people back their say in the political decisions concerning the nation. And for that, the main tool to be implemented is the RIC. The Citizens’ Initiative Referendum, in all areas, i.e. covering all areas of politics. For sure, the oligarchs, and therefore Macron, do not want this RIC because it would sign the end of their enrichment on the State’s back. Because it is one of the things that is explained every day to the Gj by those who have understood the mechanism well, these oligarchs get rich on the back of the State through systematic public procurement, legal tax exemptionstate subsidiesprivatization of public companies, tax havens, shell companies…

And since the State is getting poorer under the blows of these oligarchs, since taxes are already on their highest level, since money is no longer under the control of the government, all that remains for the government is the solution of “budgetary austerity”, which takes the form of closing hospitals and schools, downgrading the number of civil servant, increasing education costs, reducing pensions and expenditure allowing social regulation, which was the pride of post-1936 France, in short, to gradually erase all the social gains made by our grandparents before and after the Second World War.

As one of these Gj experts explained, tax fraud alone is exactly equivalent to the amount of the public deficit. So if, thanks to the RIC, the French nation could stop the budgetary hemorrhaging caused by this oligarchic system which, since the 1980s, has been slowly weaving the web choking the nation, then it could keep its status as a world and economic power that it is losing, like the rest of the Western world, because of the greed of one percent of its population, and the shameless minions who work for them.

In the coming years, it will therefore be a fight to the death between the people and these oligarchs, one of the first victims of which is democracy. Because, now that they are already naked, these oligarchs will no longer be cluttered with the apparatus of freedom and democracy that they used to cover their hold on the country. We can already see it with a police repression that has never been seen before, a justice that is more than expeditious, totally muzzled media, in short, all the characteristics of a totalitarian state.

But how could these oligarchs win against an entire people? This is historically impossible. It therefore remains to the Gj to have them worn out so that, Saturday after Saturday, the number of Gj visible in the streets goes from 100,000 to 500,000 and then to millions, in short a new revolution. But for this to happen, it will require a long process of making aware of the situation those who do not yet understand, those who are afraid to understand. A long-term task for which, for the moment, more than one hundred thousands people are ready to give their time, energy and bravery to the end as their motto “nous ne lâcherons pas” [We shall not give up] is showing it.

Le Saker Francophone

Grandson of Gen. Gouraud Apologizes to the Syrians for France’s Occupation of Syria

SWEIDA, (ST)– Jean-Louis Gouraud, grandson of French General Henri Gouraud, who led the French army to occupy Syria early in the 20th century, has apologized to the Syrian people for what France had done upon its occupation of Syria, stressing that the French people are not satisfied over their government’s colonialist policies.

During a visit along with a French delegation to the monument of the martyrs of the Syrian Great Revolution and the tomb of freedom fighter Sultan Pasha al-Atrash, Louis Gouraud said “My grandfather, General Gouraud, had committed grave mistakes, but successive French governments didn’t get the lessons, rather, they continued to practice aggressive policies towards the Syrian people,” said the grandson, pointing out that “all the governments which didn’t get the lessons will find themselves obliged to apologize for the Syrian people as I am doing now.”

Louis Gouraud, an author and horse specialist, is currently visiting Syria within delegation of guests participating in activities of al-Sham International Arabian Horse Festival due to kick off activities on Tuesday and it will last for five days with notable international participation.

He stressed that “most European peoples, particularly the French , are not satisfied with the colonialist policies and wars, particularly those waged by the United States on Iraq and currently on Syria,” pointing out that several demonstrations were held in Paris to protest the French government’s interference in Syria.

“We are here to say that we are against these colonialist policies and that we apologize to the Syrian people,” he said.

“Syria has been exposed to several wars throughout history and today it is facing a war launched by terrorist gangs backed by western countries and some Arab regimes. But, we find that the country has triumphed.

On his part, Thaer al-Atrash, Grandson of Sultan Pasha al-Atrash, leader of the Great Syrian Revolution, hailed Jean-Louis Gouraud’s initiative towards the Syrian people who defended their land against the French occupation and won independence. He said that the initiative coincides with Syria’s celebration of the 73rd Evacuation Day (the evacuation of the last French occupation soldier from Syria.”

Earlier in a statement to SANA, Louis Gouraud affirmed that through visiting Syria he want to convey  a message of love from the French people to the Syrian people.

About the situation in Syria, he said that he felt happy for seeing the Syrians enjoying security and peace after eight years of war and destruction.

Hamda Mustafa

Notre Dame Inferno: Fire under Control, Main Structure «Saved & Preserved»

By Staff, Agencies

Notre Dame Cathedral, one of the most beloved Gothic landmarks in Paris and Europe, has been engulfed by flames Monday evening as a major fire broke out on the cathedral’s roof.

It is believed that the fire may be linked to restoration works currently underway. Video footage below shows the iconic spire of the 850-year-old Gothic building collapsing, with fears that the cathedral’s wooden interior is under threat.

The entire roof of the cathedral has collapsed, while the cathedral’s three medieval rose windows have reportedly exploded in the intense heat. In a glimmer of hope, fire officials have confirmed that the main structure has been “saved and preserved.”

The fire reached the North tower of the cathedral’s two bell towers which, along with the main structure, are now believed to be safe following efforts by emergency services. The main task facing fire personnel is now the recovery of precious artwork at the back of the cathedral, some dating hundreds of years old.

The fire broke out on Monday evening at 17:50 local time, with flames bursting through the roof of the cathedral. Smoke and ash were reported across the city over a large area as flames moved towards the cathedral’s two bell towers. The fire has claimed the cathedral’s spire, a 19th-century addition constructed of a wood and lead structure.

The blaze has been brought under control, firefighters confirmed in the early hours of Tuesday morning. “The fire is completely under control. It is partially extinguished, there are residual fires to put out,” said a spokesman.

French President Emmanuel Macron attended the scene, having canceled a planned speech to the nation. There are currently no reports of deaths, however one fireman has been seriously injured.

Buildings around the island on which the cathedral sits have been evacuated, as thousands of people gather on the left bank of the Seine to watch helplessly on. Meanwhile, tributes have been expressed from across the political world.

Construction on the cathedral, which is considered one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Europe, began in 1163. The structure was completed in 1345, and now hosts 13 million people every year, an average of over 30,000 per day. The cathedral is currently undergoing renovations after cracks began to appear in the stone, prompting fears that the structure may be unstable. Last week, bronze statues were removed from the cathedral while work was underway.

Relatedly, French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO of the Kering group, which owns Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent fashion houses, immediately pledged 100 million euros ($113 million) on Monday towards the rebuilding of the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

In a statement sent to AFP, Pinault said the money towards “the effort necessary to completely rebuild Notre-Dame” would be paid by the Pinault family’s investment firm Artemis.

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The Ukies come to Paris to meet with their bosses

The Ukies come to Paris to meet with their bosses

April 13, 2019

by Le Saker Francophone for the Saker blog

Macron, the French president, always eager to take the center stage to show his dynamism, has received the two outsiders of the presidential election of Ukraine, Zelenski and Poroshenko, on the same day with 3 hours interval. On april 12th Zelinski is convened at L’Elysée at 3 pm then Poroshenko at 6 pm.

Le Monde, one of the few French newspaper to speak about that visit says: “It is Zelenski team who took the initiative for the meeting. For the young candidate, who see himself as an ‘Ukrainian Macron’ the interest is clear : to show its closeness with a president that is appreciated by the people of Ukraine, to show its international stature, and after being described as a puppet manipulated by the Russian, to show that his loyalty goes for the West… Mr Poroshenko has requested too an invitation and l’Elysée accepted it not to look as favoring one upon the other”.

The other media speaking about that visit is Sputnik France.

The French presidency said that the talks will be about bilateral relations and the cooperation in the frame of the Normandy agreement. No more details has been added. This vague declaration may hide some kind of “talks” that could be not politically correct enough to be publicly announced. One could think that the anglosionist system, whose Macron is a slavish representative, wants to “suggest” its instructions and conditions to the future Ukrainian president, especially Zelinski who got 30% of the votes for the first round while Poroshenko got only 16%.

Zelenski did not say anything about that planned meeting. Porochenko said that «the fate of the State, of security in Ukraine and in Europe too, in the whole continent, are at stake…and it is necessary to consider for some more sanctions against Russia”. Before coming to France, Poroshenko paid a visit to Merkel. But the spoke person of the German chancelier took the precaution to precise that it should not be seen as a support for the Ukrainian candidate.

The Western backers of Poroshenko looked puzzled by the high score of Zelenski, a guy they did not choose.

Johann Wadephul, vice president of the main party at the German parliament said “Ukraine cannot afford to bend on an unexperienced government, especially because of its conflict with Russia and difficult economic and social situation”.

After first saying that the USA will not interfere in Ukrainian election, Kurt Volker, the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine, said “today the people of Ukraine has to choose. Do they want somebody who just oppose the system and promise huge reforms or somebody who may have disappoint them but who has done more reforms for Ukraine than anybody else since 20 years, and is able to face Poutine”.

Even with this backing, the chance for Poroshenko to win look weak and “the West could insist for the two contender to get an agreement. If Poroshenko falsify the results, Zelenski will have to stay quiet. It is one of the option. But if they consider that Zelenski could make a suitable president for Ukraine they could try to convince him to give a good political position to Poroshenko” thinks Rostislav Ichtchenko, president of a Russian think tank.

“Macron want to evaluate Zelenski and the potential consequences if he becomes president. Especially for his relation with Russia. Poroshenkko has been invited only to be polite with him as the European Union has been backing him those last years”, says Bogdan Bezpalko another Russian expert.

After the meeting, Zelenski declared to the Ukrainian media «What pleased me with Macron, what characterize him on the contrary of many politicians is that he has an excellent sense of humor. Then I am now not the only one”. And that they talked about “the most important problems in Ukraine, especially how to stop the war with Donbass”.

Of course The Kremlin reacted with irony to that convocation. Dmitri Peskov is curious to know how Arsen Avakov will denounce that French interference in an Ukrainian election with the same virulence as he denounces Russian interference. On her side, Maria Zakharova reminded that French and Western interference are not new in Ukraine, and that “…foreign ministers, including the French one, personally gave support to the Maidan demonstrators, in the very centre of Kiev». Then, to tease Macron she added “For some months we observe the Yellow Vets movement. Did you see Foreign ministers of other countries – europeans, arabs or americans – coming in the middle of the crowds to push them to take over the Elysée palace or to ask for the destitution of the government?”

Coincidentally, Hubert Fayard, the Donbass representative in France, has been arrested and put in custody for “procurement”. The story is unclear as “an Ukrainian woman he just met proposed to lend him some money”. The day after police searched his house and arrested him for procurement.

France: Yellow Vests protesters dress as XVIII century royalty to protest inequality

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