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Washington Monument shut until at least 2019 for repairs

Washington (AFP) - The Washington Monument, which has been plagued with elevator problems since a 2011 earthquake struck the US capital, will remain closed until 2019 for much-needed repairs and renovations, the National Park Service said Friday.

A new elevator will be installed in the towering landmark -- one of the most popular in the US capital -- to allow visitors to reach the top of the giant stone obelisk for sweeping views of the city and its surroundings.

Billionaire businessman and philanthropist David Rubinstein has donated the $2-3 million needed to complete the project, which will resolve ongoing mechanical, electrical and computer issues.

"The monument has become a symbol of our country, and reminds everyone of the towering strengths of our first president," Rubinstein said in a statement issued by the National Park Service.

"I am honored to help make this symbol safely accessible again to all Americans as soon as practicable."

Rubenstein, co-founder and co-chief executive officer of private equity firm The Carlyle Group, is among the richest people in the United States, with a net worth of some $2.5 billion, according to Forbes Magazine.

It is the second time he has given funding to repair the monument, Washington's tallest edifice at slightly over 555 feet (169 meters).

A surprise 5.8-magnitude earthquake that rattled the US East Coast in 2011 opened a small crack near the top of the iconic monument, built in honor of the nation's first president, George Washington.

Officials at the time temporarily shuttered the building. It was reopened after months of repairs but had to be closed again indefinitely in August this year over the elevator problems.

"The Washington Monument is expected to re-open to visitors in 2019," the National Park Service said.

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No military intervention on the table for Libya: Kerry

Rome (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday that there would be no foreign military intervention in Libya and called for a diplomatic solution as violence flared in the capital Tripoli.

"Our tools are diplomacy. We are not looking at other options," Kerry told journalists alongside his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni following a summit in Rome on the future of countries in the Mediterranean region.

"I don't think any country is prepared to engage in military action."

Kerry said that diplomatic efforts had made progress, disagreeing with Gentiloni who said that negotiations "have not yet produced results".

"There has been a significant shift in the last month of efforts diplomatically to bring general (Khalifa) Haftar to the table... and create a series of meetings to try to resolve some differences," said Kerry, referring to the military strongman who has refused to support a UN-backed unity government.

He instead supports a parallel authority, based in eastern Libya near the border with Egypt, that controls much of the country's oil production.

Fighting between rival militias erupted in Tripoli on Thursday and continued on Friday, with shooting heard throughout the day as most residents stayed at home.

The city is controlled by a loose alliance of militias of different political and religious factions, and clashes between them are an almost daily occurrence.

At least eight people were killed on Thursday and Friday, a source at the Al-Khadhra hospital in Tripoli said.

Five years after Libya's 2011 revolution that toppled longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, the country remains embroiled in violence and political chaos as the militias and two rival governments vie for power. No Minimum Payout
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