Saturday, December 28, 2013

Tunisians to begin discussing constitution's final draft next Friday

The Tunisian constitutional assembly will begin discussing articles in the new constitution next Friday, a member of the assembly bureau said.
After a meeting yesterday [Friday,] a member of the constitutional bureau Sameera Mer'e said that a discussion "article by article" would start next Friday.
Mer'e also said that articles which members of the assembly reconciliation committee came to a compromise on by are expected to be published today [Saturday.]
She added that on Saturday the reconciliation committee would receive suggested modifications by some members of the constitutional assembly, to be added to articles of the draft constitution published last June.
Constitution rapporteur Al-Habib Khader previously said that the reconciliation committee had discussed various aspects of the constitution, including its approval before the 14th of January, which coincides with the third anniversary of the Tunisian revolution.

Kuwait is the first country to reject Egypt's call to blacklist Muslim Brotherhood

The Kuwaiti government has refused to consider the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, saying that this is considered an internal Egyptian issue.
Observers considered Kuwait's decision a huge rebuff to the coup authorities in Egypt. Their decision was supported by other countries.
Head of the media and information committee in the Kuwaiti interior ministry Colonel Adel al-Hashash said: "Kuwait has nothing to do with considering the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation."
AFP reported on Saturday morning that the Egyptian foreign minister Nabeel Fahmi had called for the international community to support Egypt in its war against "terrorism." It said that by the word "terrorism" Fahmi meant the Muslim Brotherhood.
The French news agency reported Fahmi saying in New York: "I am convinced that the international community, which has rejected terrorism for a long time, will support Egyptian people in their fight against terrorism and its supporters."
He added: "It [the international community] will not accept any attempt to justify terrorism or keep silent towards it."

Three Egyptians killed, 100s wounded and 265 arrested during protests

Just two days after declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, Egyptian security forces killed three anti-coup protesters, wounded hundreds and detained 265 others over the course of two days.
Egyptian security deals with all anti-coup protesters in Egypt as if they are members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Therefore, in wake of declaring the group a terrorist organisation it considered all anti-coup protesters terrorists.
A statement from the Egyptian interior ministry claimed that the causalities happened during clashes between terrorists [Muslim Brotherhood] protesters and security staff. The statement also said that a number of the security staff were wounded.
According to the statement, the three people were killed in Cairo, Damietta and Al-Menya.
Despite severe punishments announced for protesters, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in many of Egypt's governorates.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Final Stage of N-Talks Leads to Removal of All Sanctions

The Iranian Foreign Ministry says Tehran regards the removal of all sanctions imposed against the Islamic Republic as the final stage of the nuclear negotiations with world powers.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham said that according to a plan proposed by Iran, the final stage of the negotiations would lead to the removal of all unilateral, multilateral and UN Security Council sanctions imposed against Tehran.
Photo courtesy of ISNA
Photo courtesy of ISNA
Afkham dismissed reports about the US Congress’ efforts to impose new sanctions against Iran in six months as an attempt to create hype against the negotiations.
Afkham also said Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai sealed a “comprehensive friendship pact” during their meeting on Sunday in Tehran.
The Iranian official added that according to the agreement, the foreign ministers of the two countries will begin the process of preparing the text of the pact, which will include political, security, economic, social and cultural aspects.
Afkham expressed hope that the cooperation pact would strengthen the expansive relations between Iran and Afghanistan.
The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman rejected US President Barack Obama’s recent claim about secret talks between Tehran and Washington.
Afkham added that all talks between Iran and the US were within the framework of the negotiations with the six world powers and over the country’s nuclear energy program.
Commenting on an upcoming visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Iran, Afkham said the Russian diplomat will hold talks with senior Iranian officials, including Zarif and Rouhani.
“The two countries regularly discuss bilateral, regional and international issues,” Afkham said, adding that Lavrov’s visit is aimed at holding talks over the latest bilateral developments.

Karzai: USA Acting Like Colonialist Power

Speaking to the French newspaper Le Monde, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said ‘‘There is no difference between the behavior of the United States, which is brandishing threats against us for us to carry out their wishes, and that of the colonialists of history.’’
US-Trrops_AfghanistanAfghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai accused the USA of acting like a “colonialist power”, stressed that the USA has made threats to both the peace and to the economy of his country.
Karzai spoke to the French newspaper Le Monde, stating that the USA had applied pressure on his government to force them to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA).
Karzai stated that while he was not opposed to the pact, before it was signed certain assurances had to be made to the Afghans.
According to the Afghan President, if these assurances are not made, he would not sign the pact, and would leave the responsibility for the decision whether to sign it or not to the President who succeeds him after the coming elections.
Karzai accused the USA of holding a stance no different to the colonialist powers of history, and said, “Even if they are serious, they have no right to pressure us.”
Both the USA and NATO have previously claimed that if international forces are to remain in Afghanistan and to train Afghan military forces after 2014, the BSA must be signed.
The pact comprises an economic aid of USD 15 billion per year, including the wages of the army and the police forces.
The most controversial issues with regards to the BSA are the USA insistence on the authorization of US troops to unilaterally carry out anti-terrorism operations, including the raiding of private homes, and the USA’s insisting on immunity for US forces.

For Syrian refugees in Lebanon, winter storm brings snow, rain and new misery

MINIEH, Lebanon — The United Nations said Wednesday that it is “extremely concerned” for Syria’s refugees as snow and freezing temperatures descended on the region.
Syria and the countries that border it have been bracing for what is expected to be the worst winter storm in years. Snow hit some areas of Lebanon, Turkey and northern Syria overnight Tuesday as sharp winds and cold, heavy rains battered others, causing misery for hundreds of thousands in camps and shanties.
epa03987545 An aerial photo made available 12 December 2013 by the Metropolitan Police shows the skyscrapers looming out of the foggy mist over London 11 December 2013.  They were taken from a police helicopter.  EPA/MPS IN THE SKY  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

In Lebanon, despite the wintry conditions, the flow of Syrians fleeing the war is unrelenting. Local officials in the border town of Arsal, where some of the heaviest snow fell overnight, on Wednesday reported the arrival of 200 men, women and children who had risked the treacherous journey across the mountains on foot. Many were from the town of Yabroud in the Qalamoun region, where a Syrian army offensive is underway.
Aid agencies, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Lebanese army rushed to distribute kits containing plastic sheeting and blankets to the newcomers, but poorly funded humanitarian groups are struggling to meet the overwhelming needs. Authorities remainreluctant to establish permanent refu­gee camps in Lebanon and have opened only one official, 100-tent “transit camp.”
In the Lebanese town of Minieh, just outside the port city of Tripoli, a muddy, makeshift collection of tents and shacks spills down from the side of the highway to the coast. Despite biting sea winds and flooding, the 400 Syrians who have sought refuge here do not qualify for the UNHCR’s winter fuel assistance, because their camp is too close to sea level.
On Wednesday, children dug rocks out of the ground with their hands to weigh down plastic sheeting that covered their tents. The tarpaulins nailed to wooden frames provide poor shelter in driving rain and wind.
A man, 47, who arrived from Syria’s Hama province a year ago pointed out the place where water had flooded his tent overnight. He said it was impossible for his family to sleep and expressed fear that the storm — which was expected to continue toward the weekend — would get worse.
“I don’t know where to go,” said the man, who for security reasons declined to give his name. “I don’t know where to take my children. It’s much worse than last year, and it’s only the beginning.”
There was no heating inside the damp tent, which costs the family $77 a month. The man’s wife huddled with their seven children, holding out her daughter’s hand to a visitor. “It’s ice,” she said.
In a tent a little higher up in the camp, a 51-year-old man, his wife and their 13 children gathered around a small barbecue. The cheap, cut-price charcoal, virtually dust, is difficult to light. When the rains started a few days ago, the tent flooded, said the man, who also declined to give his name. “The place was a swamp,” he said. “We propped up wood above the water and slept on that.”
In the corner, 9-year-old Ibrahim was curled under a blanket. “He’s already almost dead,” his mother said, pulling one scrawny arm out from under a blanket. “He barely eats. We can do nothing but use our bodies to keep them warm.”
Roberta Russo, a UNHCR spokeswoman, said the agency’s top priority was refugees at higher altitudes, where snow was falling, but she said assistance would be expanded where possible.
“We are extremely concerned about the onset of winter,” Russo said. “We are giving out blankets and materials. But as long as people remain in tents, there’s only so much you can do.”

Al-Qaeda-Linked ISIS Declares War on Kurdish PYD in Syria

Turkey’s governing AKP party of Prime Minister R. Tayyip Erdogan has pushed al-Qaeda-linked ISIS against the PYD after the latter declared autonomy. The PYD and PKK want to lift the border between northern Syria and southern Turkey and create an independent Kurdistan.
PYD_ISISThe Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), a terrorist organization and an associate of al-Qaeda, has stated that it has declared war on the Kurdish nationalist group and PKK’s wing in Syria, the Democratic Union Party (PYD).
The PYD has recently announced autonomy in the north of the war-torn Syria. Al-Alam television reports that ISIS had begun an operation near the town of Manbij, northeast of Aleppo and 35 km from the Turkish border, to ‘clear’ the area of Kurdish groups.
In a declaration made in Aleppo, ISIS announced that “Operations in the region of Manbij are a reply to the founding of a secular state in the north of Syria by armed Kurdish groups.”
ISIS, which asserted that its attacks would be directed solely at armed Kurdish groups, said in their declaration that they saw other Kurds as brothers, and that they did not distinguish between Kurds and Arabs.
ISIS had previously disclosed that they had blocked roads around Aleppo in Syria and Kirkuk in northern Iraq, and had kidnapped 25 Kurdish civilians who had given them Kurdish administration passports.

Egypt bans Turkish Diplomats for Interference into Egypt’s Internal Affairs

The Egyptian Government of interim P.M. El-Biblawi, has banned Turkish Diplomats from Egypt for interference into the country’s internal affairs. The announcement followed last week’s revelation, that Turkey’s intelligence service MIT is behind the establishment of the Istanbul based TV channel Rada as a propaganda instrument for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. El-Biblawi warns that Egypt is facing a psychological war.
El-BeblawiEgypt’s interim Prime Minister, Dr. Hazem el-Biblawi, has announced that the government is prepared to confront schemes by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), adding that the government will use its force and full wisdom in confronting these schemes, reports Egypt’s State Information Service.
El-Biblawi added, that Egypt is facing a psychological war. El-Biblawi’s announcement was made during a press conference, following a Cabinet meeting.
The Egyptian interim Prime Minister announced the commencement of a diplomatic embargo against the AKP – led government of Turkey’s Prime Minister R. Tayyip Erdogan and added, that the embargo will be maintained until the AKP stops interfering into Egypt’s internal affairs.
Hakan Fidan, MIT behind Rabia TV
Hakan Fidan, MIT behind Rabia TV
On Monday, nsnbc international reported, that Rabia has been founded by Turkey’s National Security Service (MIT) and under the leadership of the undersecretary of the intelligence service, Hakan Fidan.
The establishment of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s TV channel by Turkey’s intelligence service MIT comes against the backdrop of a political and military reorganization of the Qatar-based international Muslim Brotherhood as well as Muslim Brotherhood organizations in Northern Africa and the Middle East, after the Libyan, Tunisian and Turkish MB increasingly began to lose political influence.
The ousting of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who planned to deploy the Egyptian military to fight against the Syrian Arab Army, has added to the decline of the Muslim Brotherhoods power in the region, and has been a severe blow to Core NATO member state’s attempt to oust the government of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
The Egyptian ban on Turkish diplomat comes also against the backdrop of an increasing amount of evidence that suggests, that the Turkish government of P.M. Erdogan, the international and national MB organizations as well as the intelligence services of the USA and other core NATO members attempted to subvert Egypt, to throw it into a crisis and civil war, and to seize control over the Sinai peninsula and the Suez Canal.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Jordan applies for U.N. Security Council seat

Jordan has applied for a two-year term on the U.N. Security Council, the information minister said on Monday, after Saudi Arabia won a seat and then turned it down.
“Jordan has officially applied for a non-permanent seat on the U.N. security Council. The kingdom is interested in this seat and realises its political and diplomatic responsibilities,” Mohammad Momonai told Agence France-Presse.

“The country hopes to receive international support for this application, which comes as a result of Jordan’s balanced and rational policies.”

Last week, Saudi Arabia officially turned down the seat it had won on Oct. 17, with the kingdom’s envoy sending a letter to U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon to inform him of the move.
“I wish to inform you that the government of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia has decided to advise you that Saudi Arabia will regrettably not be in position to assume its seat in the Security Council to which it was elected,” Saudi U.N. envoy Abdullah al-Mouallimi wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Agence-France Presse.
Attached to the letter was a copy of a Saudi foreign ministry statement issued last month which slammed the Security Council’s failure to act over the 32-month-old Syria war.
Earlier this month, diplomats said Amman had been reluctant to take up the Asia-Pacific seat on the 15-nation Security Council but had been persuaded to do so by Riyadh.

Afshin Molavi, a research fellow at the Washington-based think tank, New America Foundation, told Al Arabiya News last month that Saudi Arabia rejecting the seat was closely related to Saudi King Abdullah’s “personal frustration over what he views as United Nations Security Council inaction on Syria.”
“I think that they have chosen this unprecedented symbolic step of refusal,” said Molavi, adding that such a decision would not have a significant effect on its influence.
“Saudi Arabia already has the power to influence [international] events. A membership in the U.N. Security Council would not have changed that,” he added.

Baghdad bombs worst in Iraq attacks that kill 22

A series of bombings struck near markets, cafes and the theatre in Baghdad on Sunday evening, the deadliest in nationwide attacks in which 22 people and 12 militants were killed.

The bloodshed, which left more than 70 wounded across the country, was the latest in a protracted surge in violence that has forced Iraq to appeal for international help in combatting militancy just months before its first general election in four years.

The deadliest attacks struck in Baghdad, where a wave of evening bombings targeted civilians in both Sunni and Shiite neighbourhoods of the capital.

From 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) onwards, four car bombs and three roadside bombs hit areas ranging from the Shiite slum neighbourhood of Sadr City in northeast Baghdad to the western Sunni suburb of Radhwaniyah.

A car bomb went off near the National Theatre in the centre of the capital, while blasts also struck a market in south Baghdad and a cafe in the north.

Overall, at least 17 people were killed and more than 50 wounded, according to security and medical officials.

The explosions are part of a months-long trend of attacks timed to go off in the evening as Iraqis mass at public meeting places, with restaurants, cafes, and football pitches all hit as violence has surged.

In previous months and years, attacks had typically been timed to coincide with morning rush hour.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bloodshed, but Sunni militants linked to Al-Qaeda often set off coordinated bombings across Baghdad, ostensibly in a bid to undermine public confidence in the Shiite-led government.

Earlier on Sunday, violence in Baghdad and north of the capital left five people dead, while security officials claimed to have killed a dozen militants attempting to carry out attacks.

Two civilians and three insurgents died in the northern town of Tuz Khurmatu when a car bomb that attackers were moving to their apparent target went off -- apparently by mistake -- with the militants inside.

Twelve other people were wounded, including two Kurdish security forces guarding the Kurdish-majority neighbourhood in the ethnically-mixed northern town.

"God foiled a massacre that was about to happen today," Tuz Khurmatu Mayor Shallal Abdul told AFP.

Attacks on Sunday also targeted Sunni anti-Qaeda tribal militiamen on Baghdad's southern outskirts and north of the capital in Salaheddin province, killing six people including four militants.

From late 2006 onwards, Sunni tribal militias, known as the Sahwa, turned against their co-religionists in Al-Qaeda and sided with the US military, helping to turn the tide of Iraq's insurgency.

But Sunni militants view them as traitors and frequently target them.

North of Baghdad, a soldier was killed and three wounded in a bomb attack, while clashes between police and militants in the disputed city of Kirkuk left a gunman dead. Another was arrested and a third fled.

Four militants were also gunned down by police in two separate incidents while trying to plant roadside bombs in Baghdad's south.

The unrest is the latest in a protracted surge in bloodshed that has pushed violence to its highest level since 2008, when Iraq was recovering from the worst of its Sunni-Shiite sectarian war.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has called for Washington's help in the form of greater intelligence sharing and the timely delivery of new weapons systems in an effort to curb the bloodshed.

In addition to failing to curb the bloodshed, authorities have also struggled to provide adequate basic services such as electricity and clean water, and corruption is widespread.

Political squabbling has paralysed the government, while parliament has passed almost no major legislation in years.

One Libyan intelligence official killed, other kidnapped

General Yusuf al-Atrash, intelligence chief for Libya’s western city of al-Ujailat has been killed, sources told Al Arabiya News Channel late Sunday.
No-one has yet claimed responsibility for his death.
Meanwhile, Libya’s deputy intelligence chief Mustafa Nuh was also abducted in Tripoli, a security official told Agence France-Presse
Tensions ran high in the capital following deadly violence over the weekend.
“The vice president of intelligence was abducted shortly after his arrival in Tripoli from a trip abroad,” the official, who wished not to be named, told AFP.
Former rebel commander Ala Abu Hafess told the channel he was in a car with Nuh when armed men ambushed them as they were leaving the airport.
Libya’s weak central government has struggled to rein in former rebel brigades that helped end former leader Muammar Qaddafi’s 40-year rule but have since grown into increasingly threatening militias.
In October, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was abducted for several hours by gunmen before being released unharmed.
A security chief claimed responsibility for the abduction and said he was “proud” of it.
Nuh’s and Atrash’s targeting came amid high tension in Tripoli where more than 40 people were killed and hundreds wounded when city residents rebelled against a militia.
The violence erupted on Friday when protesters, urged by local official to demonstrate peacefully against unruly militias, marched on the headquarters of a group from Misrata and were shot at from inside.

Top Syrian rebel commander dies

A top Syrian opposition commander has died from wounds suffered in an air raid on the city of Aleppo, rebel sources said on Monday.
The death of Abdelqader Saleh, head of the Islamist al-Tawhid Brigades, has dealt a blow to the armed opposition battling against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
“We declare the martyrdom of Abdelqader Saleh,” a statement by Tawhid said, according to Reuters news agency.
Saleh was wounded on Thursday after Assad’s forces raided a Tawhid meeting and killed another commander on the spot, opposition sources said.
He was to a Turkish hospital, where he later died.
Abdelqader pictured in Aleppo last year. (File photo: AFP)
In an interview with the Opposition Orient Television from a battlefield in eastern Aleppo last week, Saleh said: “We will not let Iran and Hezbollah advance except on our dead bodies,” in reference to Assad’s forces being backed by Shiite militia from Iran and the Lebanese party Hezbollah.
Saleh, known by the nom de guerre Hajji Mareh, was a merchant from the town of Mareh in the countryside north of Aleppo.
As a former army conscript, he was known to have organized rebel brigades in the region under the Tawhid banner.
Tawhid issued a statement last week, along with other Islamist formations that included al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate, declaring an emergency and summoning all fighters to head to the fronts, according to Reuters.
Fighting is still raging in central parts of Syria, with reports that least 31 troops, among them four officers, were killed in a bomb attack on an army base near Damascus on Sunday.
“Three generals and a brigadier-general were among 31 troops killed in a bomb attack that caused a building in the army transport base in Harasta to collapse,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman told Agence France-Presse.
“The timing of the attack is significant,” as it comes amid a major regime offensive on rebel positions all around Damascus, Abdel Rahman said.
(With Reuters and AFP)

Syrian delegation holds talks in Moscow on peace conference

A Syrian government delegation met Russian officials on Monday to discuss plans for an international peace conference on the conflict in the Middle East nation.
The United States, Russia and the United Nations are trying to convene the conference in Geneva to try to end the civil war in the Middle Eastern nation. Interfax news agency said a senior Iranian official was also due in Moscow for talks on Syria.
The meetings follow a telephone call on Thursday between President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad which the Kremlin said was their first since Putin returned to the Russian presidency in 2012.
Russia has been Assad's most powerful backer during the conflict, sending arms and blocking Western efforts to condemn or pressure Assad.
The Syrian delegation, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, entered the Foreign Ministry building in Moscow, where Russian news agencies reported they were to meet Deputy Foreign Ministers Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov.
A Russian diplomatic source said the Syrians might meet Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday.

Syrian delegation holds talks in Moscow on peace conference

A Syrian government delegation met Russian officials on Monday to discuss plans for an international peace conference on the conflict in the Middle East nation.
The United States, Russia and the United Nations are trying to convene the conference in Geneva to try to end the civil war in the Middle Eastern nation. Interfax news agency said a senior Iranian official was also due in Moscow for talks on Syria.
The meetings follow a telephone call on Thursday between President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad which the Kremlin said was their first since Putin returned to the Russian presidency in 2012.
Russia has been Assad's most powerful backer during the conflict, sending arms and blocking Western efforts to condemn or pressure Assad.
The Syrian delegation, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, entered the Foreign Ministry building in Moscow, where Russian news agencies reported they were to meet Deputy Foreign Ministers Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov.
A Russian diplomatic source said the Syrians might meet Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday.

Egypt constitution body finalises judicial articles


Mohamed Salmawy, spokesman for the 50-member committee tasked with writing the final draft of Egypt's new constitution, announced on Monday that the committee has finished voting on articles related to judicial authority.

He added that the committee is expected to finish its work by the end of November. According to Salmawy, the only articles that remain for vote are those regarding the military, a transitional article on the upcoming parliamentary elections, and the constitution's preamble.
Among the most controversial army-related articles in the constitution is the one concerning military trials of civilians. 
Article 198 in the suspended 2012 constitution states that civilians may not be tried before military courts, except for crimes that "harm the armed forces" and are specified by law.
The article has sparked public debate, as rights activists campaign to amend the article to completely prohibit military trials for civilians.
There have been several suggestions to amend the controversial article so that the new draft allows military trials only for crimes that "represent a direct assault on the armed forces." 
Egypt's 2012 constitution, drafted by an Islamist-dominated constituent assembly, was suspended pending amendment following the ouster of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July.
Once an amended draft is finalised, the constitutional committee will refer the charter to Interim President Adly Mansour before it is put up for national referendum. Parliamentary, and then presidential, elections will follow.

EU’s Ashton sounds optimism on reconciliation potential in Egypt

Catherine Ashton said on Monday that the situation is changing in Egypt after the lifting of the state of emergency last week.

"We have seen some interesting developments in the country. We have seen the state of emergency changing," said Ashton, in a statement published by the Delegation of European Union to Egypt, adding that she is hoping to receive the deputy prime minister soon."We have seen of course trials beginning and we have seen the potential perhaps for some form of reconciliation," said the EU's foreign policy chief.
She added that an EU mission has just returned from Cairo and that she is "looking forward today to catching up with them."
"But we continue to stay very close to Egypt and to try and support the people of Egypt through this at times quite difficult transition," she added.
However, Ashton also condemned continued violence.
The EU diplomat has repeatedly urged Egypt to adopt an inclusive democratic process that engages all factions.
Ashton has voiced alarm over the use of violence against Morsi supporters and a deepening polarisation since his exit, but has also condemned acts of violence against the authorities by Morsi supporters.
Ashton visited Egypt in October and met with several political groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, armed forces chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, and President Adly Mansour.
Analysts have interpreted Ashton's three-day visit to Cairo as a renewed attempt to broach a settlement between the transitional.
On Saturday, the pro-Morsi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy called for a national dialogue as a way out of the country's political strife, and in respect for "political plurality."
A Muslim Brotherhood source speaking on condition of anonymity told Ahram Online that the "national dialogue" proposed by group was a result of "external pressure exerted on the group and their allies" to push "for integration into the current political scene."
Minister of Social Solidarity Ahmed El-Borai stated earlier Sunday that the Egyptian government could agree to reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood if it accepts the transition roadmap as a starting point.

Egypt transportation minister blames 'human error' for Giza train crash

Hours after the collision that killed 27 Egyptians in a train crash south of the capital, Egypt's prime minister and transportation minister have distanced themselves from the accident, dubbing it a "human error."

Meanwhile, Transportation Minister Ibrahim El-Dmeeri expressed cautious regret over the mistake that could lead to his resignation.In a press conference on Monday, Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi stated that this is not the first of such "unfortunate" accidents to occur.
Almost one year ago to the day, 51 children were killed when a train crashed into their school bus in Assuit. Both the transport minister and the railway authority head were forced to resign as a result of that accident, which was blamed on a train signal operator who fell asleep on the job.
Beblawi added that an investigation was underway to determine who should be held accountable for Monday's crash.
Twenty seven people were killed early Monday when a cargo train ploughed into a truck and a minibus at a railway crossing near Dahshour in Giza governorate, 35 km south of Cairo. Another 34 people were injured in the accident, some of them in critical condition.
Local police chief Kamal El-Dali told state television that the minibus was carrying guests returning home from a wedding.
"This accident is one of many accidents that happen every day at the train crossings," El-Dmeeri said.
The Egyptian railway system is infamous for its poor safety record and frequent accidents. The service is crumbling from outdated and poorly maintained equipment. In Egypt's deadliest railway tragedy, the bodies of more than 360 passengers were recovered from a train after a fire in 2002.
Successive governments have formed fact-finding commissions to investigate these accidents, but they did little to shed light on the details and less still to bring about accountability.
"The state has put out a program to develop and secure the crossings, which will be completed by June of next year," El-Dmeeri said, adding that a bridge will be constructed at the Dahshour accident site so that cars do not have to cross the tracks.
The transportation minister said that only 891 train crossings in Egypt are official, whereas another 4500 are make-shift crossings established by local residents.
El-Dmeeri confirmed an earlier report by the Egyptian Railways Authority, which asserted that the Dahshour crossing was closed off by chains before the accident and that the warning lights were working properly.
"Vehicles ignored warning lights and chains blocking entry, and tried to drive through the crossing," the report stated.
However, two watchmen at the crossing told Al-Ahram's Arabic news website that the manual alarm bells and warning lights for approaching trains were out of service.
Monday's accident comes as train services across the country resume operations following a three-month halt due to the overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi in July.
"I just wish that people would abide by the traffic guidelines, because we all suffered when the trains stopped," El-Dmeeri said.
"Civilians, drivers and everybody in this country should cooperate with us to keep this service going," added the one-time Mubarak-era minister who oversaw the minstry during the 2002 disaster.

Monday, October 28, 2013


JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's prime minister faced a political uproar from across the political spectrum on Monday over the planned release of 26 Palestinian prisoners, all according to authorities convicted on murder charges connected to deadly attacks on Israelis.
Tuesday's release is part of a U.S.-brokered agreement that restarted peace talks with the Palestinians over the summer. It is the second of four planned releases of the longest-serving Palestinian prisoners held by Israel in the coming months.
The overnight announcement of the prisoner names triggered a storm of criticism. Among those going free are people jailed in connection to the killings of Israelis including a reservist and a Nazi death camp survivor, according to the list provided by Israel's prison service. Many of the killings occurred before the beginning of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in 1993.
Israel has a long history of lopsided prisoner exchanges with its Arab adversaries. But this week's release appeared especially charged because Israel is receiving little in return except for the opportunity to conduct negotiations that few people believe will be successful.
"The release of terrorists is immoral, weakens Israel, endangers Israeli citizens," Naftali Bennett, leader of the hardline Jewish Home Party, wrote on his Facebook page. "Israel has humiliated itself for the last 20 years with terrorist release deals, and it is time to put an end to it."
Pini Rosenberg, whose father, a survivor of the Sobibor Nazi death camp, was killed in a 1994 ax attack, said government ministers did not consider the emotional toll on bereaved families. A man convicted in the killing was among those set to be released Tuesday.
"They look at these murderers as a bargaining chip that they will one day spend. If they started involving emotions, they wouldn't be able to do it," he told Army Radio.
Critics, including dovish members of his coalition, said Netanyahu could have avoided the release if he had accepted Palestinian calls to stop construction of West Bank settlements or base negotiations over the borders of a future Palestinian state on Israel's pre-1967 lines. The Palestinians claim the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, captured by Israel in 1967, for their future state.
"Netanyahu preferred in clear conscience, and out of fear from his political allies, releasing prisoners instead of freezing isolated settlements," said opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich. "It is also hard to digest and unconscionable, especially hurtful to the families of the murdered."
Netanyahu has already said he will announce new settlement plans, apparently to make up for the release. Addressing members of his Likud Party on Monday, he called the release one of the toughest decisions he has had to make.
"This is due to the injustice that these evil doers are being freed without completing their sentence. My heart is with the bereaved families and the heart hurts," he said.
The news was greeted with joy in the Palestinian territories, where prisoners are seen as heroes waging a national liberation struggle against Israeli occupation. In Gaza and the West Bank, families sang, displayed pictures of their loved ones and played music. Israel plans on freeing the men late at night to avoid public celebrations.
"Thank God that I'm still alive," said Amouneh Abed Rabo, a woman in a wheelchair whose son Issa was arrested in 1984 for allegedly killing two Israelis. "My son will be released and I will be able to hug him," she added.


CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's top prosecutor has ordered an investigation into a complaint that alleges satirist Bassem Youssef, known as the country's Jon Stewart, harmed national interests by ridiculing the country's military.
Monday's decision by chief prosecutor Hesham Barakat, announced in a statement by his office, could be a prelude to further action against Youssef such as questioning and a possible trial.
Several complaints were filed against Youssef after he mocked the pro-military fervor gripping Egypt in his first program of the season last week. Youssef also took jabs at military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, lionized in the local media as a hero after leading a July 3 coup that ousted the Islamist president.
Making matters worse, the private TV station that airs the program sought to distance itself from the comedian.

Watchdog: inspectors can’t access two Syria chemical sites

Al Arabiya
International inspectors are not able to visit two remaining chemical weapons sites because of the security situation in the war-torn Syria, the global watchdog said Monday.
Inspectors had by Sunday visited 21 of 23 chemical sites, but “the two remaining sites have not been visited due to security reasons,” Agence France-Presse quoted The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons as saying in a statement.

Efforts by the joint OPCW-United Nations mission charged with destroying Syria’s chemical arsenal by mid-2014 “to ensure the conditions necessary for safe access to those sites will continue,” said the OPCW.
Syria has submitted a formal declaration of its chemical weapons program ahead of an October 27 deadline, together with a general plan of destruction.
Inspectors, who are on the unprecedented mission in a war zone, were supposed to have visited all sites declared by Syria by the same deadline of Sunday.

The sites declared by Damascus are part of its poison gas and nerve agent program.
Meanwhile, the mission didn’t clarify who was responsible for the security problem, but that negotiations “to ensure the conditions necessary for safe access” to the two remaining sites will continue.
(With AFP and Associated Press)

Three policemen shot dead in Egypt

AFP, Cairo
Gunmen on Monday killed three policemen in Egypt, where attacks against security forces have been on the rise in the face of a bloody crackdown against Islamists, security officials said.

The assailants opened fire on the policemen who were posted near the University of Mansura in Egypt's Nile Delta region, before fleeing, one source said.

Since the army's ouster of the country's first freely elected president, Islamist Mohammad Mursi, near-daily attacks targeting security forces have left dozens dead, particularly in the lawless Sinai peninsula.

The interim government installed by the army accuses pro-Mursi Islamist groups of being behind the attacks.

Jihadist movements have claimed many of the attacks, slamming what they call a brutal military coup and have demanded Mursi’s return to power.

Since August 14, when policemen and soldiers killed hundreds of pro-Mursi demonstrators in Cairo as they dispersed two huge protest camps, over 1,000 have died in the crackdown.

More than 2,000 members and supporters of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood have also been arrested since August, including Mursi and its top leadership, who will face trial for inciting the killing of protesters.

Tunisia’s Ennahda will give up government but not power, says party leader

Rached Ghannouchi, chairman of Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda party said on Sunday that his party may be willing to give up the government but not power, in a televised interview with state channel al-Wataniya 1.
The party leader said that Ennahda will remain in power through the constituent assembly and the upcoming government.
The Tunisian opposition demands that the country’s Ennahda-led government commit to resign from power within three weeks of the start of talks, in order to make way for an interim cabinet.
Talks are scheduled over the next three weeks in the country to decide on a caretaker government and set a date for elections.
Ghannouchi warned against the delays in the political roadmap, adding that his government will resign in three weeks and the constituent assembly will finish its tasks in four weeks.
“[Tunisia’s] situation can no longer bear the prolonging of finishing the constitution. The cabinet and the deputies must fulfill their promises,” Ghannouchi was quoted as saying to Al Wataniya 1 channel.
The Islamist-party leader has also defended radical Muslim Salafists in his interview.
“Salafists are Tunisia’s sons just like communists and liberals are. We must not [launch] a war against this group and we must not eliminate it from society,” he said, adding that the rejected resorting to violence as a means to impose one’s opinions.
Tunisia’s democratic transition has effectively been choked by disputes between the Islamist-led coalition and the opposition, nearly three years after President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was overthrown.
Ghannouchi said in his interview that democracy is not about eliminating opponents but about resolving disputes in a civil and peaceful manner.
“The current phase is not one of struggle or mobilization. The ship must carry all Tunisians, whether Islamists or not, to safety.” 

Main Syrian rebel groups declare opposition to Geneva peace talks

About 22 mostly Islamist brigades have signed a statement saying that they will not participate in Geneva II as long as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is staying in power. (Reuters
Main Syrian rebel brigades have announced their opposition to an international peace conference on Syria if it does not result in President Bashar al-Assad’s removal, piling pressure on the political opposition not to attend.

“Any solution will be totally rejected if it does not end Assad’s rule with all of its military and security pillars and if it does not hold accountable all those who took part in the state terrorism,” said the statement, dated Saturday and signed by some of the most formidable Islamist units fighting Assad.

“We consider attending Geneva 2 on any basis other than that mentioned above...treason that requires trials by our courts,” it said, referring to the proposed peace conference.

The declaration was signed by 22 mostly Islamist brigades, including Suqour al-Sham, al-Tawhid and Ahfad al-Rasul, which are seen as backed by Qatar, as well as Ahrar al-Sham Brigade, a major rebel force in eastern Syria, and the smaller al-Sahaba Brigades, which operates around Damascus.

Several officials, including Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, have said they expect the conference to convene on Nov. 23 in Geneva, though the United States, Russia and the United Nations have all said no date has been officially set.

This week, the Syrian National Coalition resisted calls from Western and Arab countries to commit to attending the peace talks, saying they would not take part if there was any chance that Assad could cling to power.

The coalition is due to meet on Nov. 9 to discuss taking a detailed position on Geneva, according to opposition sources.