September 28, 2011 – News Review

Western states give way on UN Syria sanctions, Al-Jazeera

“Western powers have dropped earlier calls for immediate sanctions against Syria by the UN Security Council in the face of veto threats from China and Russia, as activists reported more civilian deaths in the country.  Put together by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, with backing from the United States, the scaled-back draft resolution, which was obtained by reporters on Tuesday, is aimed at breaking a deadlock at the Security Council.  The resolution, if passed, would have the 15-nation council voice “grave concern” at the situation in Syria and demand “an immediate end to all violence”.  “If you look at that resolution, really what it appears to be doing is buying time,” Al Jazeera’s Jane Arraf, speaking from Amman, Jordan, said.  If Damascus fails to heed the council’s demands, the Security Council would still “adopt targeted measures, including sanctions”, the resolution says.”

Tens of thousands protest in Yemen over president’s return, the Guardian

“Tens of thousands of Yemenis protested in Sana’a on Wednesday over President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s return from Saudi Arabia, while opposition tribesmen said they had shot down a warplane outside the capital and captured its pilot.  Waving flags and making peace signs, protesters fearing renewed deadlock after months of demonstrations marched out of area known as Change Square shouting “death, death”.  “The point is, if we can’t live a decent and dignified life, we’d rather die,” said Khaled al-Mandi.”

Turkey readies sanctions against Syria, The Daily Star (Beirut)

“Having failed to persuade Syrian President Bashar Assad to end a bloody crackdown, Turkey is preparing a list of sanctions against its one-time friend in a policy shift that aligns Ankara more closely with the West. The measures, which mark a break from Turkey’s long-standing record of resisting sanctions on its Middle Eastern neighbors, will complement a Turkish arms embargo already in place and underline how deeply Ankara has fallen out with Assad.

Sanctions are to be announced in the next few days, after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits border camps providing refuge for more than 7,000 Syrians who have fled the violence.  “Turkey is reverting to the U.S. and European line on Syria,” said foreign policy expert Semih Idiz. “The relationship with Syria has collapsed and it is heading for a freeze.”

New Clues on Whereabouts of Gaddafi and Sons, The New York Times

“Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the fugitive former leader toppled from power a month ago, has probably taken refuge near the Algerian border under the protection of sympathetic nomadic tribesmen who have fought for him, an official of the new Libyan government said Wednesday.”


September 27, 2011

Egypt sets Parliamentary poll dates, Al-Jazeera

“Egypt’s parliamentary elections, the first since a popular uprising ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February, will start on November 28, the official MENA news agency has reported.  “The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has set November 28 as the start of the first stage of the parliamentary election, which will be held over three rounds,” MENA reported on Tuesday. For the Majlis Al-Shaab lower house – People’s Assembly – the second and third stages of elections are slated to take place on December 14 and January 3, while the first session of parliament will be held on March 17.  In the Shura upper house, elections will start on January 29, the agency quoted a military official as saying, with the first session set for March 24.”

Saleh urges Yemen clerics to issue fatwa against his opponents, The National (U.A.E.)

“Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh yesterday urged loyal clerics to issue a fatwa against those calling for his removal from power.  In a speech to religious figures, Mr Saleh attempted to build a religious base to confront rivals insisting on his resignation.  “You have to state the ruling of God and His prophet on those who reject the extended hand for peace and dialogue and insist on revolting against constitutional legitimacy,” Mr Saleh said.  He returned last week to Yemen where clashes have been taking place between forces loyal to the president and defected troops protecting the protest camp in Sanaa where anti-government demonstrations have been under way for months.”

Syian forces attempt to crush army deserters, Al-Jazeera

“Syrian forces backed by tanks and helicopters stormed into the central town of Rastan to crush army deserters who are fighting back after months of mostly peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad, residents said.  Early on Tuesday, dozens of armoured vehicles entered Rastan, a town of 40,000 on the Orontes river north of Homs, after tanks and helicopters pounded it with heavy machineguns through the hours of darkness.  “Tanks closed in on Rastan overnight and the sound of machineguns and explosions has been non-stop. They finally entered this morning,” said a resident named Abu Qassem.  Reports indicate that 20 civilians were injured in the assualt. However, Al Jazeera could not immediately confirm reports of injuries due to restrictions on reporting in Syria.”

Saudi woman driver to be lashed, Al-Jazeera

“Amnesty International says a court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a woman to 10 lashes for challenging a ban on women driving in the conservative kingdom.  The sentence comes two days after Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud announced women would be allowed to vote and run in municipal elections for the first time in 2015.

He also promised to include them in the next all-appointed consultative Shura Council in 2013.  “Flogging is a cruel punishment in all circumstances but it beggars belief that the authorities in Saudi Arabia have imposed lashes on a woman apparently for merely driving a car”, Philip Luther, an Amnesty regional deputy director, said in an emailed statement on Tuesday. “Allowing women to vote in council elections is all well and good, but if they are still going to face being flogged for trying to exercise their right to freedom of movement then the king’s much trumpeted ‘reforms’ actually amount to very little.” Two other women are also believed to be facing charges related to driving, the UK-based rights group statement said.”


Abbas at UN: ‘Palestine is being reborn’

Abbas at UN: ‘Palestine is being reborn,’ Al-Jazeera

“Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has handed over a historic request to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, asking the United Nations to admit the state of Palestine as a full member.  The Palestinian leader won huge applause and a standing ovation on Friday from the assembly as he entered the hall just after submitted the membership request and before beginning his speech.

In his address, Abbas said he was ready to return to negotiations based on the 1967 borders, saying he did not want to isolate or delegitimize Israel.  “Here I declare that the Palestine Liberation Organization is ready to return immediately to the negotiating table on the basis of the adopted terms of reference … and a complete cessation of settlement activities,” he told the UN General Assembly.”

More deaths as sanctions on Syria widened, The Daily Star (Beirut)

“Another three deaths in Syria were reported on Friday, a traditional day for protests, as the EU and Switzerland both said they were widening sanctions against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Security forces shot dead two civilians in separate incidents near the central city of Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement, also reporting the death of a man wounded the day before.

Gaddafi’s prime minister arrested in Tunisia, The Guardian

“One demonstrator was killed when security forces opened fire on a march in Talbisseh, while another was shot dead and three more were wounded when they gathered after Friday prayers in the village of Al-Zaafarana,” the group said.”

Muammar Gaddafi’s last prime minister has been arrested in Tunisia, becoming the most senior member of the former Libyan regime to be detained since the government’s overthrow by Nato-backed rebels, it emerged on Thursday.

Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi was caught near the country’s border with Algeria and jailed for six months for illegal entry. He is likely to be handed over to Libya to face investigation, however, since the Tunis government recognises the new ruling national transitional council (NTC) in Tripoli.”

Yemen’s Saleh calls for ceasefire on return, Al-Jazeera

“Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni president, has called for a truce and new negotiations on his return to Sanaa after three months, as deadly clashes between forces loyal to him and dissident tribesmen continued in the north of the capital. “The president calls on all political and military parties to achieve a truce and a ceasefire,” said a presidency official.

For Saleh, “there is no alternative to dialogue and negotiations to end the bloodshed and resolve the crisis”, the official added.  Saleh had been recovering in Saudi Arabia since suffering injuries in a bomb blast at his presidential palace in the capital, Sanaa, on June 3.  “Ali Abdullah Saleh, president of the republic, returned this morning to the land of the nation safely after a trip for treatment in Riyadh that lasted more than three months,” Yemen Television announced on Friday.”


September 21, 2011 – News Review

Truce Slows Fighting in Yemen’s Capital, The New York Times

“The truce was called between government forces and troops commanded by a general who defected months ago to protect the demonstrators against a government crackdown. The protesters have been staging a sit-in in the city for months to try to oust the country’s longtime autocratic ruler, but the fighting that erupted Sunday was the most violent period of the revolt.”

Protesters Hold “Traffic Demo” in Bahrain, The National (U.A.E.)

“The demonstration in Manama was called on Wednesday by an internet-based youth group that had acted as one of the main organisers of a popular uprising against the Bahraini government, demanding more rights for its Shia-majority citizens.

Protests began in February, but have been suppressed by the country’s security forces.  Using vehicles to block traffic, witnesses said that activists slowed down the flow of vehicles on main roads leading to central Manama significantly for about three hours on Wednesday morning.  A heavy contingent of police had been deployed to monitor the protest, they said. No violence was reported.”

NATO Extends Libya Mission, The Daily Star (Beirut)

“NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said warplanes would stay in the air as long as Libyan civilians are under threat but the mission will be under constant review and could be called off “at any time.”

“We are determined to continue our mission for as long as necessary, but ready to terminate the operation as soon as possible,” Rasmussen said, calling the extension a “technical rollover” of a mission that has lasted six months.  Any decision to end the air strikes will be taken in coordination with the United Nations and “in line with the will of the Libyan authorities,” he said.”

Islamist Hard-Liner Blocked in Egypt, Hurriyet Daily

“Egypt approved on Monday the establishment of a party led by a former top official in Hosni Mubarak’s now disbanded party and rejected another set up by an Islamist group-that was once involved in a bloody insurgency- the committee charged with reviewing party applications said in a statement. Many politicians and activists want members of Mubarak’s dissolved National Democratic Party, or NDP, banned from politics to bar them from a parliamentary election in November.”


September 20, 2011 – News Review

Bahrain forces fire tear gas at funeral, Al-Jazeera

“Tens of thousands of Bahrainis, he said, were at the funeral of Jawad Marhun, a 36-year-old who died late on Wednesday from what Al-Wefaq said was “excessive exposure to tear gas from a canister tossed into his parents home on September 10”.

The government of Bahrain, which crushed a month of protests in mid-March, said Marhun had died from “acute respiratory” problems as a result of sickle cell disease. His family denies that he had the disease, according to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR).”

Yemen street battles escalate as Saleh troops shell Change Square, The National (U.A.E.)

“The latest deaths took to at least 60 the number of people killed since Sunday, as anti-regime protesters step up their campaign to topple President Ali Abdullah Saleh and a key military unit supporting them was drawn deeper into the fighting. President Saleh’s forces have hit back with attacks by rooftop snipers and shelling of protest encampments.

In Geneva, the United Nations said today that four children were killed by live ammunition during the unrest on Sunday and Monday. Marixie Mercado, a spokeswoman for the UN children’s’ fund, also said that 18 minors were injured.  Ms. Mercado told reporters in Geneva that the casualties were confirmed by Unicef’s local partners in Yemen.”

Egypt elections ‘posed for November 21’, Al-Jazeera

“Egypt’s election commission has proposed November 21 as the date for elections to the lower house of parliament, state news sources have said.  The vote for the upper house will begin on January 22, with each vote being held in three stages, Al-Ahram newspaper quoted Abdel Moez Ibrahim, head of the electoral commission, as saying on Sunday.

The elections would be the country’s first vote since Honsi Mubarak was toppled as president seven months ago.  Egyptian state television said that the final date for voting would be announced on September 26 when full details of the election procedures would also be declared.  Most parties have welcomed the army’s call for elections to start in November, although a few mainly liberal groups have said they want more time.   The announcement follows a meeting held between different political party’s and members of the ruling military council on Sunday. “

Obama praises Libya’s post-Gaddafi leaders at U.N., The New York Times

“Just as the world stood by you in your struggle to be free, we will stand with you in your struggle to realize the peace and prosperity that freedom can bring,” the president, [Obama] said at a meeting on Libya’s future, which included other world leaders and emissaries from the Transitional National Council, the group of former Libyan rebels whose forces ended Colonel Qaddafi’s four decades of absolute rule last month. Before the meeting, Mr. Obama met privately with the leader of the council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil.”


September 19, 2011 – News Review

Death Toll Soars in Yemen, Al-Jazeera

‘Yemeni security forces have killed at least 28 people and wounded more than 100 on a second day of violence across the country.  Gunmen loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh were continuing to fire upon anti-government demonstrators in Sanaa, with hospital sources saying the total death toll since Monday was now more than 50.

Government troops and snipers in nearby buildings opened fire on Monday at peaceful demonstrators and passers-by in the capital’s Change Square, where they have camped since February demanding regime change, witnesses said.  Protesters were sprayed by water cannons and tear gas, and also baton charged, before the security forces opened fire with machine guns, they said.  Additional deaths were reported in the southwestern city of Taiz, where two people were killed and 10 were injured by gunfire from Saleh loyalists, Al Jazeera journalists stationed in Yemen said.”

Police ‘Thwarting Attempts to Change’ Say Egyptian Activists, The National (U.A.E.)

“The Egyptian police force has long been hated for its corruption and use of torture, and many Egyptians saw the downfall of the police state as a critical goal of their 18-day uprising.  But current and former officers say some members of the force are thwarting any attempt at change, and in many cases are avenging their fall from power by refusing to do their jobs.

These alleged sanctions are blamed for a surge in crime. According to interior ministry figures, there were 36 armed robberies nationwide in January but the figure rose sharply to 420 in July; murders went from 44 to 166, kidnappings from three to 42.  Mid-level officers have ‘an attitude that borders on mutiny’, says Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Mahfouz, who left the force in late 2009 and now advocates reform.”

Libya: Gaddafi Son Spotted in Bani Walid as Heavy Fighting Continues, The Guardian

“Saif al-Islam, wanted along with his father for crimes against humanity, has been rumoured to be in the area before, but this was the first sighting to be claimed by officials of the National Transitional Council, now recognised internationally as Libya’s government.

Fighting continued around Bani Walid on Monday amid signs that the rebels remain disorganised and disoriented in the face of a determined enemy that dominates the high ground. The situation is complicated by the fact that the town is home to Libya’s largest tribe, the Warfalla, who were hitherto loyal to Gaddafi.”

Israel and Turkey, Foes and Much Alike, The New York Times

“Washington, in hopes of restoring the Israeli-Turkish relationship, is pushing Israel to take conciliatory steps on the Palestinian issue, partly to avoid a showdown at the United Nations this month over a Palestinian statehood resolution. It is also pressing Turkey to move away from its recent moves to improve ties with Iran and Syria. It recently persuaded Turkey to place a NATO radar station focused on Iran on its soil, a step that will benefit Israel.

And there are other mutual interests that could help reunite them. Both are engaged in battles against militants — Israel against Hamas and other Palestinian groups, Turkey against Kurdish separatists unimpressed by Mr. Erdogan’s moves toward tolerance. Both occupy land in defiance of the international community — Israel in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Turkey in northern Cyprus. Moreover, although resource-poor, both are economic success stories, high-growth members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, exceptions in the region.”


September 16, 2011 – News Review

Steel Tycoon with Links to Mubarak is Sentenced, The New York Times

“Among the wealthiest figures in Egypt at the apex of his power, Mr. Ezz parlayed his political connections and close friendship with Mr. Mubarak’s son Gamal into an effective monopoly of the Egyptian steel market. He held a leading role in Parliament and the former ruling party. He was famous for his brash and domineering style, tailored Italian suits, multiple wives, and the way he pointed his index finger in a gesture of command. As soon as protests against Mr. Mubarak’s government broke out in January, his corporate headquarters were sacked along with the headquarters of the former ruling National Democratic Party.”

Egyptians Rally Against Emergency Laws, Al-Jazeera

“Earlier this week, following a violent attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo and attempts to storm security buildings, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) said it would enforce the Emergency Law at least until the end of this year, on articles relating to the spreading of misinformation, arms possession and interfering with traffic.  At least 33 political groups and movements had announced they would take part in the protest in Tahrir Square, which had been the focal point of demonstrations over the past eight months.”

Turkish Prime Minister Says that Syrian Oppressors Won’t Survive, The Daily Star (Beirut)

“Erdogan, who is visiting Libya, told a cheering crowd in Tripoli that by ousting Moammar Gadhafi the Libyan people had set an example to others seeking to throw off oppression. “You are the ones who showed the whole world that no administration can stand in the way of the might and will of the people,” Erdogan said, as many chanted “Turkey, Turkey.”  “Do not forget this: those in Syria who inflict repression on the people will not be able to stand on their feet because oppression and prosperity cannot exist together.”

Syria’s Opposition Gets Organized, Foreign Policy

“The protest movement has lacked so far is a unified front that could express the Syrian opposition’s vision for the country’s future, and press for international action against the Assad regime. While Syria’s historically fractious opposition groups have been unsuccessful in overcoming their differences, a new coalition has an opportunity to establish a united front. On Thursday, a group of 140 dissidents announced the establishment of the Syrian National Council (SNC), the first organized effort to challenge the ferocity of Assad’s “killing machine.”