<![CDATA[rss-Politics]]> All Rights Reserved for The Cairo post <![CDATA[Politics]]>]]> 100 29 <![CDATA[Egypt expects promising year of achievements, major events]]>

In the following lines, Egypt Today will shed the light on the most promising projects and events ahead for the Egyptians.

Presidential Election

The upcoming presidential election will be the most important event for the Egyptians in 2018. The National Election Authority (NEA) is expected to officially announce on February 24 the final list of candidates in the elections.

Chairperson of al-Ghad Party, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, will be the only challenger against President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi who is running for a second term.

Over the last few months, a number of political and public figures announced their bid for the election, but none of them continued the race, including human Rights lawyer Khaled Ali, former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik and former Military Chief of Staff Sami Anan who was basically removed from the voters’ database.

The NEA announced that the voting process in the 2018 presidential election will start on March 26, in a televised statement on January 8.

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Sixty million eligible voters will cast their ballots in the election on March 26-28 in Egypt, while expatriates will vote on March 16-18, said NEC Chairman Lasheen Ibrahim in a press conference.

He added that the deadline for any candidate to retreat will be on March 1. The primary results of the first round of the election will be announced on March 29, where decisions on appeals submitted by candidates, if any, will be made.

The final results of the first round will be announced on April 2.

Air links between Egypt and Russia

After more than 27 months of direct flights suspension between Cairo and Moscow, the Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov announced that commercial passenger flights between the two countries will resume in February. During that period, the Egyptian government spared no effort to find a solution to the issue, due to the importance of this anticipated step to Egypt.

In October 2015, the Airbus A321, operated by Metrojet, crashed over the Sinai Peninsula, which was carrying Russian tourists returning from the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh to St. Petersburg, killing all 224 on board.

Although Egypt-Russia investigations have yet to reveal the reason of the crash, Russia, along with England and some other countries, decided to suspend direct flights to Cairo and Sharm El-Sheikh for indefinite period. The decision decimated Egypt's vital tourism industry.

The tourism sector is one of Egypt’s main foreign currency earners, which has suffered badly from the travel ban that turned the once 100 percent occupied resorts to empty places.

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To understand the impact of a possible resumption of air links, one should know that Egypt is highly regarded as a tourist destination that can attract diverse types of tourists, such as those interested in exploring the country’s ancient culture, or those who want to enjoy sunny beaches.

Tourist inflow to Egypt peaked in 2010, when 14.7 million tourists visited the country, but the number fell to 4.5 million in 2016.

Russian and British tourists capture the largest portion of tourist inflows to Egypt. According to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), the Russian tourist inflow to Egypt reached its peak in 2014, with tourists recording 3.1 million. Following the Russian plane crash, this number went down to 2.38 million in 2015.

The British tourist inflow used to range between 800,000 to one million tourists, but this number also declined after the suspension of flights to Sharm El-Sheikh. British flights are now limited to the tourist areas in the Red Sea and the Upper Egyptian cities of Luxor and Aswan.

Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sharif Fathi visited Moscow in early December 2017 when he signed an air security agreement that will hopefully set the required procedures settle the issue permanently. It comes after several countries and international aviation bodies praised the security and safety measures adopted in the Egyptian airports following the Russian plane disaster in October 2015.

Sirius Aero, the largest Russian airline of business aviation, announced on February 17 that it has obtained the government's permission to launch its first commercial passenger flight from Moscow to Cairo since October 2015.

Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the resumption of regular air traffic between Moscow and Cairo on January 4 after the Egyptian authorities strengthened security measures at the Cairo International Airport, in compliance with Russian demands.

Egypt’s tourism recovers

There are indicators that suggest that tourism will bounce back, with the Ministry of Tourism announcing that tourist numbers are estimated at 8 million by the end of 2017, compared to 4.5 million tourists last year. How this can be possible?

The capacity of South Sinai’s hotels, including Sharm El-Sheikh, represent 35 percent of the total hotel capacity in Egypt, estimated at 225,000 rooms, of which about 65,000 rooms are in the Red Sea, 30,000 in Greater Cairo, and the rest in other provinces.

It means that the majority of Egypt’s hotel capacity lies outside the banned region. However, South Sinai represents 40-45 percent of Egyptian annual tourism income, and it can add $12 billion annually.

Meanwhile, the ministry said in a previous statement that a noticeable influx of Asian tourists started flocking to Cairo, Luxor and Aswan. The Asian visitors have mitigated the negative effects of the absence of Russian and British tourists.

China’s top public travel agency, China International Travel Service, reported a 58 percent increase in tourists flying to Egypt in 2016 compared to 2015, while Japan’s HIS travel agency said the number of tourists heading to Egypt was multiplied by four to five times last year.

The boom in Asian interest may be a result of the World Tourism Organization's decision to name Luxor the world’s tourism capital of 2016.

According to CAPMAS, the number of tourists who visited Egypt in fiscal year 2016/17 rose by 259,700 tourists to 732,700 tourists.

The return of Russian flights and tours could be a massive boost to tourist numbers that reached 5.3 million tourists in 2016, compared to 14.7 million visitors in 2010. However, it should be noted that the industry is already recovering gradually.

Administrative Capital

The first phase of the construction of Egypt's New Administrative Capital is expected to be completed by the end of 2018, according to government sources.

The first phase of the new capital, which was launched by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi in an official inauguration ceremony in October 2017, covered an area of 167 square kilometers.

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Upon completion, the country's ministries and presidency are set to be transferred to their new headquarters in the first half of 2019.

The new administrative capital will be divided into 20 districts that could house up to six million people. It is also planned to include educational institutions, hospitals, 40,000 hotel rooms, a theme park, solar plants and a new international airport.

Counter-Terrorism in Sinai

The Egyptians were shocked with the bloody terrorist attack that hit the main mosque in North Sinai’s Al-Rawdah Village on 24 November 2017. It took the lives of 311 people, roughly 22 percent of the village’s male residents, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics’ (CAPMAS) 2016 report.

Although the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2017, issued in late November, excluded Egypt from its list of the ten countries most affected by terrorism, this year witnessed the deadliest attack in the history of the country, raising a question: when will the ongoing terror attacks in Egypt, particularly the Sinai Peninsula, end?

The Sinai insurgency initially consisted of separate militants who exploited the chaotic situation in Egypt following the 25th January Revolution and launched a series of attacks on government forces in Sinai. Since 2014, the terrorist attacks started to take shape of regular and organized operations. The most dangerous terrorist group, Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis (ABM), pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) threatening of more raucous attacks.

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The Egyptian authorities have attempted to restore security in the Sinai through both political and military measures. Egypt launched several military operations, including Operation Eagle in mid-2011, Operation Sinai in mid-2012 and Operation Martyr's Right from 2015 till present. The ongoing operation was considered to be the largest military action in the Sinai Peninsula in years. The operation targets sites in Rafah, Arish and Sheikh Zuweid, all towns in northern area of the peninsula.

The army announced in mid-2017 that the military’s Martyr's Right operation resulted in the death of about 500 militants and destroyed hundreds of hideouts and vehicles used by terrorists since its beginning in September 2015. The army’s strategy to face terrorism was based on three stages. The first depended on monitoring terrorism regional and international networks that provide logistical and financial support to terrorists in the country.

The second stage was based on the execution of military sweeping operations in cooperation with police forces and the residents of the Sinai Peninsula, aiming to achieve full elimination of the terrorists’ presence. The third stage sought to launch comprehensive development projects to improve the living status of the residents in Sinai.

In early February, the army spokesman Colonel Tamer el-Rifai announced in a strongly worded televised statement Friday morning that the military and police forces were initiating a large-scale security operation. He said that, in addition to the northern Sinai Peninsula, this will involve actions in the Nile Delta, Central Sinai and the Western Desert along the porous border with Libya, strongholds of a persistent Islamic State group insurgency that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police.

Operation Sinai 2018 is targeting “terrorist and criminal elements and organizations”, el-Rifai said. He did not say how long it would last, but said that it involved land, sea and air forces. The air force has launched attacks against militant hide-outs in North and Central Sinai, and the navy has tightened control of the waterways to cut off supply lines, he said.

Meanwhile, a source from the Interior Ministry told state agency MENA that the country has raised the security alert to its highest level nationwide, in light of the “fierce war” by the police in coordination with the armed forces to eradicate “the roots of terrorism.”

According to the source, security measures in the vicinity of major state institutions, houses of worship and tourist hotspots have been intensified.

Egypt achieves gas self-sufficiency

Minister of Oil Tarek al-Mula stated in January that Egypt’s natural gas production had reached 5.5 billion cubic feet, and is projected to increase production to six billion cubic feet by the end of 2018, to make Egypt self-sufficient in natural gas.

Egypt’s newly discovered Zohr gas field was considered the largest natural gas well in the Middle East within the last 50 years. The project comes at a crucial time for the Egyptian economy, with various economic organizations lauding the discovery.

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Egypt is currently highly import-reliant on gas: being the world’s 8th biggest importer of natural gas worldwide. However, by its second phase, the Zohr gas field is expected to reverse Egypt’s position and make it an exporter of natural gas, rather than an importer.

The Zohr gas field project has come at a cost of $15 billion in investments, provided through collaboration between Egypt and Italy. The field may have a potential of up to 850 billion cubic meters of gas and is therefore one of the largest gas discoveries in the world.

FIFA World Cup

Egypt’s national team will be among 32 squads from around the globe taking part in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia which will begin on June 14 and end on July 15.

This will be Egypt’s first time to qualify for the World Cup since 1990.

Egypt qualified for the football's most prestigious tournament after a thrilling 2-1 win against Congo at Borg El Arab Stadium on in October 2017.

Mohamed Salah scored the first goal in minute 63 of the match while the second goal came after a penalty sending the Pharaohs to the World Cup finals.

Salah is now Egypt’s fifth top scorer in history with 31 international goals.

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2/23/2018 8:28:14 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. gun lobby slams anti-gun 'elites' after Florida school massacre]]>
NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre echoed President Donald Trump's call to arm teachers to prevent school shootings, and weighed in on a long-running political and cultural divide over access to weapons that has been inflamed by last week's massacre at a Florida high school that killed 17 students and staff.

"The elites don't care not one whit about America's school system and school children," LaPierre told a friendly audience of conservatives outside Washington. "Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms so they can eradicate all individual freedoms."

The U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms.

At the White House, Trump told local and state school officials he had discussed his ideas to stem gun violence in schools with the NRA, the politically influential gun lobby that backed him in the 2016 campaign. He called the group "Great American Patriots."

"There's a tremendous feeling that we want to get something done," he said. "The NRA wants to do the right thing."

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer condemned LaPierre's comments and said the NRA was "once again spewing pathetic, out of touch ideas, blaming everything but guns."

The Feb. 14 rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was the latest in a series of deadly shootings at U.S. schools and has spurred unprecedented youth-led protests in cities across the country. Many of the teenagers and their parents taking part have called for more curbs on guns.

LaPierre, speaking at the annual gathering of the Conservative Political Action Conference, portrayed the NRA as the true protector of the country's schoolchildren and offered free training to those who want to bear arms to protect schools.

"We must immediately harden our schools," he said. "Every day, young children are being dropped off at schools that are virtually wide open, soft targets for anyone bent on mass murder." It should not be easier to shoot up a school than a bank or a jewelry store, he added.

The NRA set up a booth at the conference to sign up new members and recruit campaign field workers for the November mid-term elections in which Democrats are trying to take over control of Congress from Trump's fellow Republicans.

ARMED TEACHERS

"I'm strongly for concealed carry, strongly for arming the teachers like Trump said," said Nick Fuentes, 19, from Chicago, as he stood outside the booth. "Teachers who are adept at firearms should be armed."

LaPierre attacked Democrats by name including Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Christopher Murphy and also took a swipe at the FBI for failing to follow up on a tip about the alleged shooter in the Parkland massacre. The FBI has said it failed to act on the tip.

Florida Governor Rick Scott also criticized the FBI for failing so far to provide details about why it did not respond to the tip. "Family members and loved ones of the victims deserve answers today," Scott said in a statement.

Trump reiterated his idea, first raised on Wednesday during an emotional discussion with people affected by the shooting, to arm teachers, a notion raised by some politicians in the past but dismissed by critics as fraught with danger.

"Anyone who pushes arming teachers doesn't understand teachers and doesn't understand our schools. Adding more guns to schools may create an illusion of safety, but in reality it would make our classrooms less safe," said Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers union.

At an hourlong meeting on school safety with 10 state and local officials, Trump said armed teachers with an aptitude for guns would deter would-be shooters.

"A gun-free zone to a killer, or somebody that wants to be a killer, that's like going in for the ice cream," Trump said. "They're not going to walk into a school if 20 percent of the teachers have guns."

Trump repeated his support for tightening background checks for gun buyers, with an emphasis on mental health, and lifting the age limit to buy some kinds of guns. He also said he would push for an end to the sale of bump stocks, which allow rifles to shoot hundreds of rounds a minute.

The White House said Trump does not want to ban sales of an entire class of firearms despite mounting pressure to put assault weapons such as the one used in the Florida shooting out of civilian reach.

While gun laws vary widely by state, most federal gun control measures would require Congress to act.

A 19-year-old former student at Stoneman Douglas, Nikolas Cruz, has been charged with carrying out the Parkland shooting. Authorities say he was armed with a semiautomatic AR-15 assault-style rifle that he had purchased legally last year.]]>
2/23/2018 7:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Kremlin critic Navalny held, then released ahead of Russian election]]>
The 41-year-old anti-corruption campaigner was repeatedly jailed last year for organising some of Russia's biggest protests, targeting what he says are the luxury lifestyles of President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle.

Navalny's detention on Thursday came shortly after his campaign chief, Leonid Volkov, tweeted that he had been detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport. Volkov later tweeted that he had been sentenced by a court to 30 days in jail.

Navalny said Volkov had been planning to fly to the Russian regional republic of Bashkortostan to organise election-monitoring activities.

Navalny's spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said Volkov had been found guilty of organising illegal protests, and that it was "obvious" he was being punished for Navalny's calls for a boycott of the March 18 election, which Putin is expected to win easily.

"As a high turnout is the Kremlin's main goal, the authorities are very sensitive about our efforts to reduce it," she said, adding that Navalny would keep up his calls.

Navalny has been barred from running in the election over what his supporters say is a trumped-up suspended prison sentence. Instead, he hopes for a boycott to undermine Putin's legitimacy.

Navalny tweeted that he had been detained by police on Thursday as he left a dental appointment. He was released just under an hour later, saying police had opened a case against him for organising illegal protests.

"They offered me a lift somewhere, but I declined and have gone to work. I don't understand what happened and why it took seven people to detain me," he said.

If found guilty, Navalny could also be jailed for 30 days, which would keep him behind bars until after the election.

INCREASING PRESSURE

Navalny has come under increasing pressure from authorities as he has sought to rally Russians against the election, which he says is a sham and a rigged contest.

Although Putin looks certain to secure a fourth term against rivals of little standing, analysts say the Kremlin is keen to boost his legitimacy with a high turnout, and avoid the impression that voters have stayed home in protest at falling living standards.

Navalny was detained at an anti-election protest in Moscow in late January and had his website blocked earlier this month after refusing to remove material covered in a court injunction.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday but has previously said Navalny does not represent any real threat to Putin.

Yarmysh said the head of Navalny's Anti-corruption Foundation had been sentenced to 10 days in jail on Tuesday for organising an unsanctioned protest in January.]]>
2/23/2018 4:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Upper Egypt witness first victory for girl against harasser ]]>
“It all began while I was out on an August Friday to do some house shopping, when a guy sexually harassed me in the street. I shouted at him but he started to beat me so I responded by beating him back with my bag,” Rania told TV presenter Wael el-Ebrashy during his daily show ‘Al Ashera Masa’an - 10 pm’ on the private TV channel of Dream.


“What surprised and annoyed me the most was the reaction of the pedestrians who were passing by during the incident, not only they didn’t help me out to stop or catch him, they even tried to release the harasser from my grip and let him escape,” Rania expressed her disappointment during her phone interview with Ebrashy.


Out of Rania’s decision to act positive, she asked the owners of the surrounding shops to provide her with the CCTV footage of the incident, in order to prove the violation against her to the police.

Rania is a girl from a little village in Qena, Upper Egypt, lives with her mother and other three sisters .She graduated from the Faculty of Science.

Residents of Upper Egypt are usually more conservative more than other Egyptian regions; they wear traditional customs with giving less space of women freedom. There is also a culture where each family member is responsible for the integrity and the behaviors of other members.

Although this is the first harassment case brought to court in Upper Egypt, it is not the first in Egypt. The first harassment case in Egypt was in 2008 when Noha Ostadh filed a case against Sherif Gomaa who harassed her from his car as he drove slowly alongside her.

The video of Rania and the harasser went viral on different social media platforms where most of the comments expressed support to her stance, and stood up for her brave retaliation against the defendant.

The harassment law was first issued in Egypt in June 2014 during the tenure of the interim president Adly Mansour, it states that the minimum term of imprisonment for the assaulter is 6 months and/or paying a minimum fine of LE 3000 ($170) and maximum fine of LE 5000 ($283).

Ahmed Abd el-Moghny, a lawyer for the Women’s Center for Guidance and Awareness declared that the judgment can be seen as a deterrent for others as the harasser committed an outrageous act in public, according to Al Masry Al Youm newspaper.]]>
2/23/2018 1:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. official focused on election security being shoved aside]]>
Matthew Masterson, currently chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and a former Ohio state official, has been passed over for a second four-year term as one of the agency's four commissioners, according to sources familiar with the matter.

It is up the House speaker to recommend a nominee for the commissioner post that Masterson currently holds, with the president then making a formal nomination.

Masterson has been a popular figure among state election officials, many of whom have praised his expertise and leadership on cyber security issues and expressed chagrin at his pending departure. The agency was created by Congress in 2002 to assist states in complying with federal election standards.

The action raises fresh questions over the degree to which Republican President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans who control Congress are taking steps to protect the security of American elections, and some state officials have accused them of doing too little to address the threat.

U.S. voters in November will go to the polls in midterm elections, which American intelligence officials have warned could be targeted by Russia or others seeking to disrupt the process.

There is intense scrutiny of the security of U.S. election systems after a 2016 presidential race in which Russia interfered, according to American intelligence agencies, to try to help Trump win with presidency. Trump in the past has been publicly skeptical about Russian election meddling.

The reason for passing over Masterson and whether the decision originated with Ryan or the White House remained unclear. Some Republicans over the years have sought to eliminate or reduce the agency, arguing that it represents a federal overreach into the role of states in running elections.

Masterson originally was picked by former Speaker John Boehner, a Republican and fellow Ohioan, and nominated by former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, before being confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate in 2014.

House speakers have discretion to make recommendations for certain federal positions, a Ryan spokeswoman said. She declined to say whether a replacement had been selected for Masterson or whether cyber security would be a priority in filling the post, referring further questions to the White House.

A White House spokeswoman declined to comment. Masterson also declined to comment.

Masterson, who already was due to give up his rotating chairmanship this month, is expected to remain a commissioner until his replacement is chosen by Ryan, formally nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate.

'PRETTY REMARKABLE'

Masterson has spent the last year as the commission's chairman, focusing largely on election cyber security, state election officials said. Twenty-one states experienced probing of their systems by Russian hackers during the 2016 election, according to U.S. officials.

Though a small number of networks were compromised, voting machines were not directly affected and there remains no evidence any vote was altered, according to U.S. officials and security experts.

"It is pretty remarkable that in this environment, given the importance of this issue, that the speaker would choose this moment to not reappoint the person doing the most work in this area," said Judd Choate, Colorado's election director and the immediate past president of the National Association of State Election Directors.

The commission was formed in the aftermath of the 2000 U.S. presidential election won by Republican George W. Bush that came down to disputed paper ballots cast in Florida. Its responsibilities include maintaining voluntary guidelines for voting systems, including cyber security standards, that most states use when purchasing new voting equipment.

Since the 2016 election, almost all 50 states have taken steps to purchase more secure equipment, expand the use of paper ballots, improve cyber training or seek federal assistance, according to groups that track election security.

U.S. intelligence officials have described the targeting of state election systems as part of a wide-ranging effort by Moscow that also included propaganda efforts and hacking to sow discord during the 2016 campaign, boost Trump and disparage his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Special counsel Robert Mueller's office last Friday indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies for their alleged involvement in a criminal and espionage conspiracy to tamper with the 2016 election.

Under law, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate and House each recommend one commissioner to be nominated by the president to fill the agency's four spots. The Republican-led House Administration Committee last year passed a measure that would terminate the agency on the grounds that it has outlived its usefulness.]]>
2/23/2018 12:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Trump says arming some teachers would stop shootings "instantly"]]>
His idea has already drawn a strongly divided reaction in a country where there are fierce divisions on how to curb mass shootings and everyday gun violence.

Trump, a Republican who has backed gun rights, raised the idea of arming teachers during an emotional, hour-long discussion on Wednesday with students who survived the attack on a Florida high school and a parent whose child did not.

"Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!" Trump wrote in a series of posts on Twitter early on Thursday.

Seventeen students and staff members were killed in the Feb. 14 attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the second-deadliest shooting at a U.S. public school.

A 19-year-old former student at the school, Nikolas Cruz, has been charged with carrying out the shooting. Authorities say he was armed with a semiautomatic AR-15 assault-style rifle.

Trump said on Wednesday he would tighten background checks for gun buyers and consider lifting the age limit to buy some kinds of guns.

At Wednesday's meeting, Trump said, "If you had a teacher ... who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly."]]>
2/22/2018 3:38:35 PM
<![CDATA[11 Consumer Protection Law articles that save buyers’ rights ]]>
1- Businesses have an obligation to provide proof of purchase to consumers for goods or services, i.e. receipts. If the business refrains from issuing a receipt, it shall pay a fine of no less than LE 30,000 ($1,698.30) and no more than LE 1 million.

2- A fine of no less than LE 30,000 and no more than LE 1 million shall be imposed on the businesses that don’t declare the prices of their goods, or for those that sell trade goods that incite racism or religious hatred.

3- Misleading ads entail a fine that ranges from LE 50,000 to LE 1 million.

4- The producers and companies are prohibited from announcing fake sales or sharing misguided information of prices under the pretext of taxes. They are also warned of changing the expiry date.

5- It’s prohibited to declare a project, without getting the license and setting the date of the project’s delivery. The producers and companies are obligated to declare the cost of services and products.

6- The producers are obliged to provide spare parts even after the warranty period as long as the product's actual life is valid.

7- It’s prohibited to import, produce, trade, or even advertise products that may abuse citizens and differ between races, colors, or religions.

8- It’s forbidden to advertise competitions on products without getting the approval of the Consumer Protection Agency.

9- The consumer has the complete right to replace the damaged or defective Item within 30 days not 14 days.

10- Street vendors are not allowed to sell their products at homes without getting the permission of the consumer him/herself.

11- This law grants the authority of judicial seizure to some workers in the Consumer Protection Agency.

Atef Yaacoub, head of Egypt's Consumer Protection Agency (CPA) stated that this draft law overcomes the flaws in the current law, stating that the current law does not provide consumers with enough protection.

He said that the CPA received 38,000 complaints last year, compared to 13,000 in 2011.
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2/22/2018 3:14:37 PM
<![CDATA[AFDA head: Sisi's visit to Algiers had 'profound impact']]>
In statements to MENA on Thursday on the sidelines of a ceremony to honor Algerian Freedom Fighter Djamila Bouhired in Aswan, Abu Ayesh described as "distinguished" Egyptian-Algerian ties following the June 30 Revolution in 2013.

Algerian people never forget Egypt's support for Algeria's revolution against the French occupation in 1954, said Abu Ayesh, the spouse of the Egyptian ambassador in Algiers.

Also, Egyptians never forget the Algerian people's support for Egypt after the June 30 Revolution, she stressed.

She further noted that she organized a visit for 25 diplomatic spouses in Algiers to Egypt, saying the visit will include must-see tourist attractions in Luxor and Aswan.

The visit aims at getting them acquainted with the Egyptian civilization, promoting tourism and bringing closer Arab and foreign diplomats, she said.

The Association for Diplomatic Spouses in Algiers organizes three main activities each year; an international food day in March, a tourist trip of Luxor and Aswan in February and the annual International Bazaar, she said.

Revenues from the bazaar, which is a charity event, are channeled to fund civil society organizations operating in the humanitarian fields, including maternal and child healthcare, persons with special abilities and cancer patients, she noted.

She extolled Egypt's honor of Algerian revolution icon Djamila Bouhired, urging youth to follow in her footsteps, particularly in light of the current conditions in the Arab region and the celebration of the International Women's Day.

Algerian Freedom Fighter Djamila Bouhired is currently visiting Aswan to participate as a guest of honor in the 2nd Edition of the Aswan International Women's Film Festival.
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2/22/2018 2:03:52 PM
<![CDATA[The ‘e-mail girl’ who split civil society apart]]>
That was a short paragraph of a long e-mail that shocked the NGO society and some of the political parties, leading to the sudden and huge resignation of prominent politician Khaled Ali who could have been named president twice.

Two separate stories loaded with a lot of anger, sorrow, vulnerability and, sometimes, grievance were included in an e-mail sent by an anonymous girl to some of her female friends and colleagues, most of whom are working in the civil society community and NGOs. The girl herself turned out later to be one of the prominent NGO activists. Her work is mostly affiliated with the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR). However, as the story was building, the girl was keen to preserve her privacy for many reasons.

The details inside the activist girl’s e-mail directly accuses two politicians of sexual harassment and even rape. The first one is prominent lawyer Khaled Ali, and the second, identified later, is a non-active member of the Bread and Freedom Party and activist, named Mahmoud Belal, known for his passion for working as a lawyer in human and women’s rights causes.

The real bang in this story came at its end, not at the beginning. Many uninterested or uneager followers for the NGO news or circles got to know the intricate details very recently —especially when Ali announced his apology and resignation from both Bread and Freedom Party and ECESR on February 19.

Khaled Ali resignation

Considered as a first in the Egyptian political and social community, veteran lawyer and human rights activist Khaled Ali issued a long statement on his official Facebook account on February 19, announcing his resignation as a member of the Bread and Freedom Party and as counselor for ECESR. He apologized to the e-mail girl for the harm that he might have caused previously and for affecting her feelings or making her think of him as a harasser. He apologized to his kids, family and all the women he worked with previously.

Ali made it clear that he was surprised by the e-mail that went viral between the NGO members. He said that he used to work with her and that he had nothing but respect for her during the long period of their working together.



“I thought a lot, and even talked about it with some of my friends, colleagues, and political and NGO activists. I heard a lot of suggestions – some of them advised to ignore the whole issue and others accused her of not being serious, as she didn’t issue a formal complaint to the prosecution. But I was only thinking about one thing, which is my willingness to undergo an investigation in case she asked for it, but later I wondered, what if she didn’t?” Ali wrote in his long statement.

Finally, he demanded that an investigation should be opened, regardless of whether she asked for it or not. “I asked some of my presidential election members to cooperate with other colleagues from the Bread and Freedom Party and form a committee to investigate me over the incident. Shortly later, one of the party members complained against the second lawyer (Mahmoud Belal), who was also accused by the e-mail. The same committee was investigating me and him as two separate incidents.”

“All what was described by the girl in her e-mail cannot be identified as sexual harassment. Accordingly, we believe that Ali didn’t commit anything that could be considered as sexual abuse of any kind.” That was the committee’s final judgment regarding Ali’s incident.

He didn’t mention Belal’s incident in any way, unless saying that some media outlets intended to mix between the two incidents. Further details, however, come from the Bread and Freedom Party statement issued February 17.

According to the statement, Belal’s incident was described by the committee as a “shameful act”, not harassment and not rape.

Many points missed...

Reading the statements raises a lot of questions: What is this committee? Who are its members? How were they chosen? What are the incidents exactly to be judged or identified as any kind of sexual abuse?

As far we know, the committee was formed as per Ali’s request. It was formed by two women and one man, all of whom are unidentified (officially). None of the statements issued by Ali or Ali’s political party named the committee members or mentioned anything about the mechanism of their work.

Many critics were directed to the committee by some of the NGO members and especially the e-mail girl’s friends and supporters. Accusations of not being transparent were circulated.

The committee started its work in December 2017. The Bread and Freedom Party said it was keen to assign members with a long history in feminist and legal matters. All three members were supposed to contact the e-mail girl as a crucial part of the investigation, along with other witnesses of the two incidents, but some refused to cooperate, including the e-mail girl herself.



On February 20, another statement, signed by 129 activists (until now), was issued regarding the incident, titled “a clarifying statement about the two sexual harassment incidents, approved by the complainer.”

The e-mail story

On October 13, 2017, the girl started to share the email with some of her friends, supporters and a mainly small circle of activist females. She then demanded, according to the signed statement, a formal and official apology from the activist who was accused of raping her. She wanted him to be banned of using any legal suit that could give him the privilege of being an activist lawyer specialized in women’s rights cases.

It was explained clearly that the girl refused to go to the prosecution, as she denies the “jailing punishment” idea from her perspective as an activist. Moreover, the girl believed that any legal investigation will only cause her more psychological harm, as no serious procedures would be taken as a result of the lack of eyewitnesses for the two incidents.

“She preferred instead to warn her colleagues and friends rather than issuing a legal complaint. The main purpose of the email was to open a real dialogue between the NGO community members about consent and sexual exploitation of women who work within the civil society,” the statement read.

The e-mail dates the Khaled Ali incident to 2015 at the headquarters of ECESR, and the second (rape accusation) in 2014, as she was at her friend’s apartment under the influence of alcohol.

When she was first requested by the committee to join the investigation, she refused. But later, she demanded some guarantees, including knowing the committee members’ names. She also wanted to know some details about the committee’s work strategy and whether the final results were to be announced to the public. Finally, she wanted to name one or two members to join the committee.

The response was that they will look at her demands after her approval to join the investigation. Accordingly, she turned the whole investigation down.

Women’s rights within the NGO community

The whole resignation and the investigation were not mentioned within the joint statement as the core of the case. Surprisingly, the core was the problem the civil society is facing when a similar incident take place. “NGOs tend to separate the political affairs from the feminine causes and sexual freedom issues, which is a naïve belief,” the statement read. It also criticized the ignorance of women's rights defenders of the basics of dealing with sexual harassment survivors and ways of investigating the cases in which only the testimonies of both parties (abuser and victim) are available.

It was said that all the consequences that took place recently were just a result of the lack of transparency and the “right of knowledge” principle.

Finally, the statement described the incident and its consequences, including the committee’s work, as “ignorance, inaction and deliberate blackout for the favor of political interests.” The statement continued, “what is really shameful is using the female card only when it’s proper for the political and personal interests.” The statement concluded by calling on civil society’s prominent leaders to take an initiative to open the sexual abuse issue and set rules for providing a “safe place” for the survivors.

Egypt Today tried to contact several NGO lawyers, leaders and even some of the members that we knew were part of the investigation; however, all of them either refused to comment or did not feel comfortable being quoted.

Excluding the law in this incident was explained by two reasons. The first one was the girl’s refusal for the “jailing punishment” idea, and the second was all of the gaps that the law suffers from, especially when it comes to women’s issues. However, does it sound a persuading reason for not going to police?

As explained to Egypt Today by sources refused to be quoted in this story, NGOs are supposed to be the same as any other body inside the state, having their own administrative regulations against sexual harassment at work that do not conflict with state regulations, as all the bodies and organizations eventually adhere only to the state’s law.

So many “no’s” were heard from sources who refused to comment on anything related to this story, either the committee’s work or the NGO regulations for protecting female activists working with them. It was obvious that NGO members do not feel comfortable talking about their colleagues or any issues and challenges that they may be facing inside. Additionally, the dispute this issue caused between the activist members and NGOs regarding the investigation mechanism, excluding law and using the female card for certain interests, cannot be ignored.

The NGOs and female activists in Egypt had a crucial role regarding breaking the silence on harassment and all kinds of violence against women. Years of campaigns and hard work improved the situation and melted the ice that was culturally inherited as a Middle Eastern society in which a girl is blamed for her loud voice as inappropriate.

Worthy to know

Lawyer and human activist Khaled Ali was formally a presidential candidate during the 2012 elections; however, he got only 134,056 votes, according to the National Election Authority (NEA) statement. Also, on November 6, 2017, Ali officially announced his intention to run for the 2018 presidential elections, but he later retracted his decision for political reasons. Ali is also considered one of the left-wing political figures in Egypt. He has several well-known political stances that earned him a popular base. It is unconventional for an Egyptian politician to apologize and resign after being charged with sexual harassment; more stubborn attitudes are common in similar cases.

Several sexual harassment and abuse incidents were spotted in Egypt’s streets for a period of time, especially after the 2011 Revolution. In a study by the United Nations in 2013, it was assumed that about 99 percent of Egyptian women experienced different forms of sexual harassment. According to Egyptian law, sexual harassment punishment could reach one year in prison, while that of rape could be up to fifteen years.
]]>
2/22/2018 10:51:36 AM
<![CDATA[US says drone strike in Somalia kills 3 al Shabab extremists]]>
The US Africa Command statement says the airstrike occurred Monday near Jilib town in Middle Juba region. "We assess no civilians were killed in this strike."

The US has carried out a growing number of drone strikes in the Horn of Africa nation in coordination with Somalia's government. Most are against al-Shabab but a small number have targeted Daesh group-affiliated fighters in the Puntland region in the north.

The US carried out more than 30 drone strikes last year in Somalia after President Donald Trump approved expanded military efforts against al Shabab. The US says it has carried out four such strikes so far this year.

The al Shabab extremist group is blamed for the October truck bombing in the capital, Mogadishu, that killed 512 people
]]>
2/22/2018 12:27:19 AM
<![CDATA[Shoukry to Azeri min. : Cairo keen to boost ties with Baku]]>
Also, he hailed existing cooperation between Egypt and Azerbaijan in different issues and multilateral organizations.

Shoukry made the remarks during a meeting with Azeri Minister of Economy Shahin Mustafayev, who is currently on a two-day visit to Cairo, where he leads his country's delegation in the meetings of the joint committee between the two countries.

Egypt pays great attention to convening the joint committee meetings in Cairo on February 21-22, with an eye to fostering bilateral cooperation in a number of areas of common concern, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry Ahmed Abu Zeid quoted Shoukry as saying.

Moreover, Shoukry briefed Mustafayev on available investment opportunities in underway mega projects, especially in light of the Egyptian government’s plans to develop infrastructure and support various economic sectors, notably the oil and natural gas, Abu Zeid said.

Egypt looks forward to cementing cooperation with Azerbaijan and pumping further Azeri investments into the domains of major national projects, natural gas and the Suez Canal Development Corridor, the spokesman cited Shoukry as saying.

For his part, Mustafayev commended political rapprochement between the two countries and joint cultural commonalities, citing the Azeri president’s directives to bolster cooperation with Egypt, the spokesman added.

The Azeri minister posted Shoukry on mega economic projects carried out by his country, especially in the fields of infrastructure, gas export, oil and railways.

The two ministers touched on means of reinforcing bilateral relations in various domains, including increasing the number of tourist groups, Abu Zeid noted.
]]>
2/21/2018 10:18:34 PM
<![CDATA[Sisi’s message on gas import from Israel]]>and working towards becoming the Middle East’s energy hub.

Around 64 BCM of natural gas worth $15 billion from Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan reservoirs will be exported to the private Egyptian company Dolphinus over a decade, according to a Monday statement by Delek Drilling, one of the two companies leading gas projects in the reservoirs. Egypt has another agreement with Cyprus to transmit gas from Cypriot gas-filled Aphrodite to the Egyptian coast.

In light of the recent public interest in the deal, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi spoke Wednesday, clarifying Egypt’s position and the government’s role in the deal.

Sisi started off his speech by explaining that he will address the issue in light of this public interest concerning the import of gas by a private company from Israel. Sisi said, “During the past couple of days, there has been much public attention on the subject of gas; this has made me very happy. It is important for me that Egyptians be happy with their country, keen on it and its interests, and looking out for its future.”



The President clarified that the import of gas is done through the private sector. Private companies will import gas in the framework of their own needs, and will liquefy and export them again; thus, the government is not involved in the deals, explained Sisi.

Sisi assertively said, “As a country, we have nothing to hide, but there are some things that I can say, while others I cannot.” As it stands, explained Sisi, Egypt's consumption of petroleum derivatives ranges between $800 million to $1.3 billion per month, meaning $12-13 billion annually. He continued, “If one buys gas worth $1.5 billion from Israel annually; that means $125 million per month.”

The two newly opened investors’ centers are located in 6th of October City in Giza governorate and Gamasa city in the northern Delta. Through these centers, investors will be able to finalize all related regulations without dealing directly with the Ministry of Investment.

Sisi urged to make the best use of gas in petrochemical industries, which in return will be added-value, instead of solely using it as a fuel, which brings the lowest revenue.

During his speech, Sisi also spoke about Egypt’s route to becoming a regional energy hub. “Every gas that comes from countries around us comes to us first. We then work on it, take money for this work, of course, and then we import it to other countries or keep it if it will still enter production phases.… There are many ways to make profit from gas…but the best way to do so is through importing it and adding value to it. The more that we develop our technologies in this field, the more we will gain, the more we will profit and the more returns we can get from their value-added approach. I do not like to give examples of countries; however, if we look at South Korea, we will see that it does this using its advanced technology; we will do the same.”



The president noted that Egypt’s path to becoming the Middle East’s energy hub is facilitated by the fact that Egypt has many facilities and infrastructural capabilities that other countries within the region lack. Dealing with raw natural gas is not easily found in the region, especially given the high quality that Egypt has. Egypt also has three options to becoming the regional energy hub, explained Sisi; namely, exporting gas through Turkey; exporting gas through the producing countries themselves, which are Cyprus, Egypt, Israel and Lebanon; or through Egypt.

Sisi then clarified why private companies have been allowed to import gas in this way, explaining that some of the investors, who use gas a lot in their work, believed that the country had harsh laws on the matter. As per the president’s speech, they thought that the state was imposing a heavy cost on them, saying, “If we were to import gas, we would be able to reduce the cost, but give us a chance.”

“So, we thought we would give them a chance. It’ll be a free market, and we let private companies import gas. As a country, of course, we will take fees in exchange for this easing. Investors will import raw gas and use Egypt’s network and infrastructure for purification, refining and treatment, and then this gas will be pumped through our network and we will take money in exchange. We have scored a key goal. Today, Egypt has climbed the first few steps in becoming the regional energy hub; this is what we have been dreaming about. We dreamt of becoming the regional energy hub; we are now on track. Being the regional energy hub has many positive aspects to it, of course.”

Sisi noted that the new law recently passed by the parliament guarantees Egypt’s benefit from the gas, either by manufacturing or exporting it to other countries. “I want people to know, to be certain and sure, that we have allowed for this new law, this easing in the system, as well as many other facilitations, in order for the country [Egypt] to become the regional energy hub. All the gas from the region will come to us first.

The president finished his important speech with a hope that his words clarified the situation for people who may have been concerned. “I hope that my words today have explained the point to all that we are doing. With this action [gas import easing law], and with God’s blessing, of course, Egypt has a huge win in many fields and sectors. This gas was going to be imported and exported anyway. If not through us [Egypt], it would go through somewhere else. You do not know the cost that the private companies that bought the gas paid, but no one in the private sector loses.”

Sisi proudly ended on a note of gratitude and appreciation towards the Egyptian people. “Your attention to the subject is appreciated, respected and cherished by me. I ask of you to continue to keep your eyes on your country and continue to be scared for it, pushing it to be better,” he said.



Agreements signed by private companies to import gas from Middle Eastern countries strengthens Egypt against Turkish ambitions to control the sector in the region, a sector that Egypt has continuously pioneered, an energy expert told Egypt Today on Monday.

Likewise, Medhat Youssef, former head of the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation, pointed out that Cairo has won the competition with Ankara over the sources of gas in the eastern Mediterranean. Egypt also continues to consolidate its alliance with Greece, Cyprus and the region at large, explained Youssef.

Such deals accelerate Egypt’s plan to be transformed into a regional energy hub. Meanwhile, the government is not committed in the short or long terms per the agreement, as Dolphinus will import the gas to use in privately-owned factories or to liquefy and re-export, according to Youssef.

In the Mediterranean, the Egyptian-Cypriot alliance is the strongest of its kind in the region, because the two countries have large gas reservoirs, and it is also friendly with the European Union, which wants to secure its needs for gas away from Russian domination, Youssef emphasized.

The location of Egypt on the map, its infrastructure and recent gas discoveries make the country “pivotal” in connecting the Cypriot and Greek gas with the Egyptian liquefaction plants, he said.

When a gas pipeline is established between Cyprus and Greece from one side to Egypt on the other side, Egypt will be the sole center for the disposal of eastern Mediterranean gas to Europe or any other place in the world via the Egyptian liquefaction stations, the petroleum expert added.

Agreeing with Youssef, Yossi Abu, CEO of Delek Drilling, said, “The export deals establish Egypt’s status as a regional energy center, which allows the supply of gas both to the Egyptian domestic market and for export.” Abu added, “Concurrently with the implementation of the transactions, we are continuing to promote additional agreements.”

From a political perspective, the agreement is expected to strengthen bilateral relations. “This is the first time since the signing of peace treaties in the Middle East that such significant deals between the countries have been signed,” Israeli Minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz said in a statement.



On February 13, the Egyptian cabinet issued the executive statute of a law issued in September 2017 to regulate the gas market, allowing private companies to operate in the field. The new law regulates the activities of the gas market and will help attract the private sector to invest in storing and selling natural gas directly to consumers.

Egypt is also set to become the biggest exporter in the region with the Zohr gas field and other fields in the Egyptian Mediterranean and Delta.

Egypt is expected to stop importing liquefied gas by June 2018, after the production of its giant Zohr gas field began by the end of 2017. Zohr contains about 850 billion cubic meters (30 trillion cubic feet) of gas. In addition to Zohr, Egypt accomplished three other gas production projects, which are Torres and Libra, Atoll, and Norse.

These four projects added 1.6 billion cubic feet of gas per day, raising Egypt’s daily production to 5.5 billion cubic feet a day. The new discoveries are expected to turn Egypt into a net exporter of natural gas, as the country is expected to halt gas imports by mid 2018.

Mohamed Abdel Azim, deputy chairman of the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) for production and fields’ development, said earlier that Egypt’s natural gas production will reach some 6 billion cubic feet a day by the end of fiscal year 2017/18.
]]>
2/21/2018 6:47:18 PM
<![CDATA[Trump moves to outlaw 'bump stocks' after Florida shooting]]>
Tightening gun laws would mark a change in course for Trump, who has championed gun rights during his campaign and presidency. The mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school - where 17 people were killed - has reignited a drive to curb access to firearms.

Trump directed the U.S. Justice Department to quickly complete a proposed rule that would treat "bump stocks" as machine guns, which could effectively outlaw them in the United States.

"I expect that these critical regulations will be finalized very soon," Trump said at a White House event. "We cannot merely take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference, we must actually make a difference."

The move came in response to an October massacre in Las Vegas, where a gunman used a bump-stock-equipped rifle to kill 58 people. It put Trump at odds with the powerful National Rifle Association, which has opposed bump-stock restrictions, and would allow him to bypass Congress, where a bump-stock ban has failed to advance.

His announcement came shortly after White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump would not rule out other options as well, such as raising the minimum age for rifle buyers or banning the AR-15-style "assault rifles" used in a number of high-profile mass shootings, including last week's shooting in Florida.

The suspect in that shooting, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, was armed with an AR-15 style rifle that he had purchased legally, authorities said.

Under federal law, people must be at least 21 years old to purchase a handgun from a licensed dealer. But they only have to be 18 to buy a rifle or shotgun.

The NRA said it could not comment on Trump's proposed bump-stock ban until it saw the specifics of the regulation.

"Banning semi-automatic firearms and accessories has been shown time and time again to not prevent criminal activity and simply punishes the law abiding for the criminal acts of others," said Jennifer Baker, a spokeswoman for the NRA's lobbying arm.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein warned that the order could be tied up in court for years unless Congress also passes a bump-stock ban.

STUDENTS ENERGIZED

The Florida shooting has galvanized students across the country to rally in favor of stronger gun laws. Previous mass shootings in the United States have also stirred outrage and calls for action, with few results in Congress.

Trump is scheduled to meet on Wednesday with students, parents and teachers from Parkland and other survivors of school shootings in Colorado and Connecticut as the White House considers options to make schools safer.

The White House has already thrown its weight behind legislation that would tighten the national criminal background check system for gun buyers by ensuring that states and federal agencies share their records.

That bill passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in December, but it has stalled in the Senate because it is paired with another measure that would make it easier for gun owners who have a concealed-carry license to bring their weapons into other states. Democrats say that is a non-starter.

A Democratic Senate aide said that simply improving the background reporting system would be "very underwhelming" and would not have stopped the Florida shooter from buying a weapon.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, who sponsored the measure, said he was nevertheless encouraged that the White House was considering new firearms restrictions.

"Sign after sign this week that we've hit a fulcrum point in this debate where politicians are, for the first time, scared on the political consequences of inaction on guns," Murphy wrote on Twitter.

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence advocacy group has called on Congress to make it easier for police to temporarily take away weapons from people deemed to be dangerous. Five states have enacted so-called red flag laws, but the effort has not gained traction in Congress.

Gun rights groups argued that ownership restrictions would be ineffective, saying future incidents could be averted or the harm from them minimized by letting teachers carry guns and fortifying classroom doors.

"You can't just legislate away evil," said Sean Caranna, executive director of gun rights group Florida Carry.]]>
2/21/2018 4:50:33 PM
<![CDATA[Overview on key events of Ahmed Douma’s case ]]>
In December 2011, security forces dispersed a three-weeksit-in at the Cabinet building which caused clashes at the area surrounding the cabinet and Shura council, and led to the burning of the scientific Institute.

Douma, who played a key role in the 2011 uprising against President Hosni Mubarak, along with 268 other defendants were convicted of the following charges: attacking the Cabinet's building, attacking security personnel, and the Scientific Institute; protesting; possession of weapons and Molotov cocktails; and assaulting members of the armed forces and police. Consequently, he was handed a life sentence and a LE 17million fine in February 2015.

Upon hearing the verdict, Doumaclapped his hands, saying that he is happy with the verdict. Hence, the judge sentenced him to three more years in prison.

He also received a three-year-sentence in two separate cases; the first for staging protests in January 2015 without a permit, violating Egypt’s protest law, and the second for insulting and criticizing the judiciary in 2014.

During his trial in December 2014, Douma accused the judge presiding over his case of publishing extreme political views on his Facebook account, violating the law that bans judges from publicly expressing political views.He was thus handed three years in prison and a fine of LE 10,000.

Douma was one of 231 defendants who were sentenced to life; however, Douma is the only one who appealed the sentence.

He also appealed against the three-year-sentence he received for insulting the judiciary during one of his sessions in the "Cabinet clashes" case.

On January 3, 2018, Douma denied all charges; on February 18, the court showed a video proving that he burned public premises, including the headquarters of the Cabinet, Parliament, Al-Shura Council, and Ministry of Interior.
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2/21/2018 2:54:25 PM
<![CDATA[Syria's Ghouta residents "wait to die" as bombs fall]]>
Five died and over 200 were injured early on Wednesday in the area, hammered by one of the heaviest bombardments in seven years of war that has killed at least 250 people in 48 hours, a war monitor said.

The pace of the bombardment appeared to slacken overnight, but its intensity resumed later on Wednesday morning said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It followed a massive escalation in strikes that began late on Sunday. The enclave is home to 400,000 people.

Pro-government forces fired rockets and dropped barrel bombs from helicopters on the towns and villages of the rural district just outside Damascus, where rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad have their last big redoubt near the capital, it added.

"We are waiting our turn to die. This is the only thing I can say," said Bilal Abu Salah, 22, whose wife is five months pregnant with their first child in the biggest eastern Ghouta town Douma.

They fear the terror of the bombardment will bring her into labour early, he said.

"Nearly all people living here live in shelters now. There are five or six families in one home. There is no food, no markets," he said.

The United Nations has decried the assault on eastern Ghouta, where hospitals and other civilian infrastructure have been hit, as unacceptable, warning that the bombings may constitute war crimes.

The Syrian government and its ally Russia, which has backed Assad with air power since 2015, say they do not target civilians. They also deny using the inaccurate explosive barrel bombs dropped from helicopters whose use has been condemned by the U.N.

Conditions in eastern Ghouta, besieged since 2013, had increasingly alarmed aid agencies even before the latest assault, as shortages of food, medicine and other basic necessities caused suffering and illness.

Rebels have also been firing mortars on the districts of Damascus near eastern Ghouta, wounding two people on Wednesday, state media reported. Rebel mortars killed at least six people on Tuesday.

"Today, residential areas, Damascus hotels, as well as Russia’s Center for Syrian Reconciliation, received massive bombardment by illegal armed groups from Eastern Ghouta," Russia's Defence Ministry said late on Tuesday.

Eastern Ghouta is one of the "de-escalation zones" agreed by Russia, Iran and Turkey as part of their diplomatic efforts. But a former al Qaeda affiliate is not included in the truces and it has a small presence there.]]>
2/21/2018 11:16:10 AM
<![CDATA[Stakes rise in Turkish Afrin attack as pro-Assad militia arrive]]>
It opens the door to a further escalation in Syria's messy northern battlefront where Turkey, Syrian rebels, the army, Iran-linked militias backing the Damascus government, Kurdish fighters, Russia and the United States are all present.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Turkey's month-long offensive against Afrin, backed by Syrian rebel groups, continued and included shelling of the main town there overnight.

Ankara aims to drive the Kurdish YPG militia from Afrin, seeing it as linked to an insurgency inside Turkey and as a threat to its border.

On Tuesday, militias that back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in Afrin at the Kurds' invitation to help thwart the Turkish assault, and Turkey and its allies tried to force them back with artillery fire.

A commander in the pro-Assad alliance said late on Tuesday that the militias had returned fire on the Syrian rebels fighting alongside Turkey.

The new phase of confrontation, pitting the Turkish army and its allies directly against pro-Assad forces, further scrambles the complex web of alliances and rivalries already at play in northern Syria.]]>
2/21/2018 10:51:42 AM
<![CDATA[Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh now on Egypt’s terror list ]]>
The case file issued decreeing their addition to the terror list by the Public Prosecution was based on Article 74 of the Egyptian Constitution, which outlaws the establishment of any party based on religious ideologies, or with any religious affiliations. It was also based on Presidential Decree No. 8 of February 17, 2015, which grants the Public Prosecution the jurisdiction to decree any individuals and/or organizations as terroristic.

The case file detailed the arrest of Aboul Fotouh and the other members of the party on February 14, and further detailed the charges against them, which include incitement, calling for obstructing the law, calling for boycotting the presidential election, being a member of the terrorist-labelled Muslim Brotherhood, communicating with fleeing elements of the Brotherhood abroad, attempting to overthrow the regime, being a national threat, and spreading chaos.

According to the Public Prosecution’s case file, Aboul Foutouh and the others were found to be members of the Brotherhood, thus rendering their party, the Strong Egypt Party which Aboul Fotouh heads, as a political arm to the terrorist organization.

The Public Prosecution is due to resume investigations with Aboul Fotouh on Thursday.

Profile: Who is the Man of the Hour?

In light of Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh’s arrest in recent days over six charges, including incitement, Egypt Today takes a look at the man of the hour’s life and deeds.

Perhaps one of Aboul Fotouh’s most notable moves was when he decided to secede with the Muslim Brotherhood after joining them and working with them since 1987, for choosing to run for presidency in 2012. While he cited the reason for their divorce as “an incompatibility of ideologies”, the real motive behind their secession was probably the Muslim Brotherhood’s intention to have another member run for presidency and win.

Yet, while their divorce was widely displayed, many still believe that he is very much affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood till this day. A former Brotherhood leader, who split from the group in 2002, Tharwat al-Kherbawy said in statements on Wednesday night to DMC channel that Aboul Fotouh is going to be tried due to being a member of a terrorist group, not just because of his connections with them.

“He never split from them, despite pretending the opposite. He still has strong connections with them, and can’t really judge anything properly,” Kherbawy added.

While very much logical, seeing that the Egyptian state has been targeting any activists rooting for instability lately, many suspect that Aboul Fotouh was indeed part of a bigger plan devised by the Brotherhood to undermine the stability of the state.


So who is Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh?

By profession, or one of his professions, he’s a physician. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh graduated from Al-Kasr Al-Einy Medical School. But he also graduated from Cairo University with a degree in law. He then went on to pursue a Master’s in Hospital Management from Helwan University.

An activist from a young age, Aboul Fotouh took on the position of Student Union president when he was still studying medicine. He then took up the same position in Cairo University when he was studying law. According to the BBC, “The doctor's own generation helped revitalise political Islam and the Brotherhood as student activists in the 1970s.”

Of Aboul Fotouh’s most memorable moments of his youth, was his public debate against late President Anwar Al-Sadat. “He openly criticized the restrictions on campus protests and Muslim preachers, making the president angry about his lack of respect,” the BBC reported.

But that was simply the making of an activist. Unfortuantely, Aboul Fotouh would become a hardcore Islamist in his youth – and possibly in modern day.

“As a co-founder of the first cell of the Islamic Group (al-Gamaat al-Islamiyah) he believed that violence was permissible to spread the message of Islam and establish an Islamic state,” BBC wrote.

As the 2011 uprising came about, Aboul Fotouh was standing in the Muslim Brotherhood’s ranks; waiting and rooting for the right moment to appear. The BBC reports in 2012 that he was “exhorting” Western powers to rest at ease should and when an Islamist takeover happens.

“Contrary to fear-mongering reports, the West and the Muslim Brotherhood are not enemies,” Aboul Fotouh voiced in The Washington Post.

Yet one must value Aboul Fotouh’s ability to connect with the youth nicely – having taken to social media platforms for communicating with them. While campaigning for his presidential candidacy, Aboul Fotouh promised youth that 50 percent of the appointed officials would be under 45 years of age.

During an interview with the Middle East Institute in 2013, Aboul Fotouh stated his reason for separation from the Brotherhood was due to his desire to run as an independent candidate in the presidential elections. “I also opposed the Brotherhood’s mixing of religious and political life. The Brotherhood was established as an Islamic call and education organization that intended to change society from the grassroots level. Its biggest mistake is its involvement in politics.”

Furthermore, Aboul Fotouh also stated that religion and politics should never mix. “This does not mean that religion should play no role in politics, but I am against a religious state. A religious state means that those ruling the country are representatives of God. A religious state creates discrimination among citizens, when they should be treated according to the rights of citizenship. Gender, race, or religion should not determine your rights. You are an Egyptian and that alone determines your rights.”

Having read that statement was quite ironic, since in 2012 he had assured Western governments that an Islamist takeover would be a good thing in Egypt. But not only is it ironic because of the clear contradiction in ideology, it is also ironic because intel from the government revealed that he had been in contact with Brotherhood leaders in London.

Aboul Fotouh, according to the Interior Ministry’s statement on Thursday, conducted a series of secret meetings abroad, including the latest meeting in London on Feb. 8, when he communicated with member of the international MB organization Lotfi al-Sayed Ali Mohamed, and two MB members who fled to Turkey, namely Mohamed Gamal Heshmat and Hossam ad-Din Atef al-Shazly.

“The aim behind the meeting was to set the mechanisms of carrying out MB chaotic schemes and exploiting the accompanying political atmosphere,” the statement read.
Pleading transparency, Aboul Fotouh is not an easy character to detect. His dealings and ties seem illusionary, but Aboul Fotouh was indeed in London, because he broadcasted an interview from there. He returned from London on February 14 and was detained the day after.

So, who is Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh? Another contradictory character that resurfaces every once in a while, pleading transparency and reform? Or simply another activist calling for ‘democracy’?

Is ‘democracy’ an Islamist takeover that shouldn’t be feared?
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2/21/2018 1:33:22 AM
<![CDATA[Israel: Middle East axis of evil backs terrorism in Syria]]>
Tel Aviv has been financing and backing terrorist groups in the Middle East region, causing turmoil and disorder in its neighboring countries. Israel has been insisting on being forever an enemy to Arab, Islamic and Mideast countries.

Israel has funded rebels and terrorist groups fighting against Syrian regular forces in the Golan Heights and in other sites, only to secure its territory and border indirectly.

Israeli relations with Syrian militants

Following the downing of the Israeli F-16 jet by Syrian fire, Israeli media outlets revealed “suspicious ties” between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and various armed terrorist groups inside Syria, most notably the Free Syrian Army.

Well-known Israeli blogger Elizabeth Tsurkov revealed Israel's deep ties with Syrian rebels in his article entitled “ISRAEL’S DEEPENING INVOLVEMENT WITH SYRIA’S REBELS” on War on the Rocks website on February 14, disclosing that Israel had increased the volume of aid it has been offering to militants in Syria upon verified statements from Syrian fighters.

Elizabeth Tsurkov reveals Israel's deep ties with Syrian rebels
Elizabeth Tsurkov reveals Israel's deep ties with Syrian rebels


Tsurkov stated that seven Sunni organizations, affiliated to armed opposition factions in the occupied Golan Heights, have received ammunition and funds needed to buy military equipment from Israel.

“Israel intends to increase support to Syrian rebels and intervene in Syrian domestic affairs…This matter shall cause a gap among the Syrian militant groups, as Israel has been deceiving them, seeking to overthrow the Syrian regime in favor of them,” Tsurkov added.

Israel has recently begun helping them by launching drone strikes and anti-tank missiles at Islamic State positions during these battles, according to Tsurkov.

Haaretz media expert Amos Harel reveals Israel's support to Syrian militants on February 20, 2018- screenshot
Haaretz media expert Amos Harel reveals Israel's support to Syrian militants on February 20, 2018- screenshot


Israeli writer Amos Harel revealed that the Israeli government has changed its policies and had decided to back Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights in an attempt to push Iran away from the Syrian-Israeli border.

Israel aims to increase airstrikes in Syria on one side and fund Syrian militants on the other side, stressed Harel in his report, entitled “To Push Iran Back, Israel Ramps Up Support for Syrian Rebels, Arming 7 Different Groups”, in Haaretz newspaper on February 20.

“Last summer, Israel admitted for the first time that it provides civilian aid to villages in the Syrian Golan Heights, but declined to confirm claims that it also provides military aid,” Harel added. “At the same time, Israel has also increased its civilian aid to villages controlled by the rebels, including supplying medicine, food and clothing.”




Israeli aggression of Syrian airspace

On February 10, eight Israeli fighter jets attacked sites inside Syria. The Israeli F-16 jets targeted twelve targets. Syrian state news agency SANA reported one Israeli aircraft was shot by Syria’s defense systems.

"The Syrian system has already hit several missiles and an Israeli aircraft carrying out attacks south of the capital of Damascus, west of the capital and on the outskirts of Homs," a military source told Lebanese news site Elnashra.

Downing an Israeli fighter jet by Syrian fire marks one of the rarest and most serious escalations in the region. "The downing of the fighter jet was a clear warning to Israel,” the Iranian National Security Council’s spokesperson told Doha-based Al-Jazeera network following the Israeli jet crash.

Such “terrorist action by Israel would be met with a severe and serious response,” announced the military alliance fighting in support of the Syrian regime in a statement following the downing of the jet.

The Israeli air force has targeted Syrian military sites on an almost regular basis, on allegations that they are affiliated to Iranian and Hezbollah militias.

According to the Israeli Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit, Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked Iranian sites inside Syria. They all returned safely to Israel except one, which crashed due to Syrian anti-craft fire.

Fighters from the Free Syrian Army near the town of Qabasin, some 30 kilometres from Aleppo, on 8 January- AFP
Fighters from the Free Syrian Army near the town of Qabasin, some 30 kilometres from Aleppo, on 8 January- AFP

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2/20/2018 5:55:44 PM
<![CDATA[Parliament guide: how does Parliament discuss MPs questions?]]>
Each MP can submit questions to the prime minister, one of his deputies or a minister for an answer either orally or in writing to seek information from ministries and to press them for action. The questions should be concise and in courteous language.

The government should orally answer these questions during the same parliamentary round if they are not one of the questions that should be answered in writing in accordance to the Constitution.

The answer could be replied in writing if the MP asked for that. The question aims to obtain data and statistical information, requiring the specialized minister to answer.

If the specialized official is not present in the session to answer orally, the Parliament inserts the question in one of the agendas of the nearest session, and the answer should be given in not more than a month.

As for approving bills proposed to the Parliament, if the government or any parliamentarian has a proposal for a bill, they must submit it to the Parliament to be discussed. Then, the Parliament shall refer it to a plenary session to be considered and voted on.

If it is approved, it is then sent either to a specialized committee in the Parliament, based on the field that bill tackles, or to a joint committee, in case the bill tackles more than one field, to discuss and amend it as required.

Yet, if Parliament rejects it from the beginning, it should provide a report about the reason. Furthermore, a bill that the chamber has rejected must not be reintroduced in the same legislative session.

If the specialized committee approves the bill, it starts discussing each article in it and introduces it to the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee to consider and coordinate its articles, before the specialized committee presents a report about it to a full chamber of the Parliament to be discussed in the plenary session.

However, for the parliamentarians to introduce a bill to the Parliament, 60 MPs should sign it before being sent to the Parliament. However, if less than 10 members proposed the bill, the Parliament refers it to the Complaints and Proposals Committee, not to a specialized committee, to prepare a report on it, and if it is approved, it is passed to the specialized committee.

The plenary session agrees on it and refers it to the State Council to revise it, and then it is sent again to the Parliament. Once the parliament approves the bill after voting on it, the bill becomes a law.
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2/20/2018 3:35:25 PM
<![CDATA[Sisi: Egypt ready to help restore stability in South Sudan]]>
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Acting General Intelligence Chief Abbas Kamel also attended the meeting with Deng.

Ambassador Bassam Radi, official spokesperson of the Presidency, said that Minister Deng had conveyed warm greetings from South Sudan’s Kiir to President Sisi and handed over a message to Sisi that stresses Kiir’s keenness to boost bilateral relations between Juba and Cairo.

Sisi and Deng tackled various recent developments, including the recent political developments in Juba and the exerted efforts to restore order and stability in South Sudan, Radi added.

“Deng expressed his country’s recognition of the role Egypt played in restoring order in South Sudan in light of the historical relationship between the two countries,” manifested Radi.

Radi stated that President Sisi had asked Deng to deliver his sincere greetings to President Kiir, stressing the strength of the bonds between Juba and Cairo, adding, “Sisi affirmed that Egypt is ready to contribute in restoring stability and order in South Sudan, and to provid logistic and technical assistance for further development and a better future.”

In a related context, Arab League's Spokesman Ahmed Abul Gheit received on Tuesday a message from South Sudanese President Slava Kiir in which he expressed his desire to promote relations with Arab countries, MENA stated.

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President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi receives Minister of presidential affairs in South Sudan Mayik Aye Deng in Cairo on February 20, 2018- Press Photo


For his part, South Sudanese presidential envoy Deng said his country is proud of its relations with the Arab countries and is keen on promoting its relations with the Arab states at the political, economic and diplomatic levels, added the Arab league’s spokesman to MENA.

On Saturday, Shoukry stressed Egypt’s support of South Sudan to achieve peace and stability within the framework of the initiative that aims to re-unite Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and to launch a national dialogue during talks held on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference with First Vice President of South Sudan Taban Deng.

For his side, Shoukry voiced Sisi’s appreciation of the current cooperation between both countries as well as his keenness to support South Sudan in the educational, agricultural and healthcare sectors, Foreign Minister Spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid stated.

South Sudan has been suffering a civil war for five years; tens of thousands were killed, while millions were displaced as the country plunged into famine.

Cairo hosted a three-day meeting with the South Sudan People's Liberation Movement on November 13 at the headquarters of the Egyptian Intelligence Service as it witnessed the signing of a political agreement between South Sudan's rivals.

The agreement was signed under the auspices of President Sisi and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

Signing the agreement is deemed a crucial step towards a permanent cease-fire in South Sudan before the renewed peace talks that are scheduled to take place in early February in Ethiopia.

Sixteen people have been killed, including three children, since South Sudan's cease-fire started less than a month ago, reported monitors.

Government and rebel forces have been fighting since December 2013 due to infighting among rows of the popular movement.

Both sides agreed that Egypt's General Intelligence will make the necessary coordination to carry out what was agreed upon during the meeting.

p (31)President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi receives Minister of presidential affairs in South Sudan Mayik Aye Deng in Cairo on February 20, 2018- Press Photo
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2/20/2018 3:28:23 PM
<![CDATA[Quartet to restore ties when Doha stops funding terrorism: Jubeir]]>
“If Qatar stops funding terrorism, the Arab quartet will definitely be ready to restore normal ties with it,” said Jubeir in Vienna on the sidelines of a meeting with the Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl.

Jubeir and Kneissl discussed the bilateral ties between Riyadh and Vienna and the recent global developments, affirming that Saudi Arabia has exerted its best efforts to achieve progress in Yemen.

“Riyadh and Abu Dhabi announced a full-scale human plan to be achieved in Yemen…All Yemeni ports will open as soon as possible,” Jubeir manifested.

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Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir and his Austrian counterpart Karin Kneissl in Vienna on February 19, 2018- AFP

He pointed out that Yemen, as a neighboring country, is important to Riyadh and “enhancing its situation” is a regional priority.

Jubeir accused the Houthi militias of being the reason behind the inhumane conditions that many Yemeni villages and provinces have witnessed, stressing his condemnation for the forced recruitment of young Yemenis by the Houthi militias.

In June 2017, four Arab countries cut diplomatic ties with the state of Qatar on charges of supporting extremism and funding terrorism. For its part, Doha denied the charges.

Although Kuwait has played the role of mediator in the Arab Quartet-Qatar fallout, Tarek Fahmi, professor of political science in Cairo University, said that Kuwait and the countries of the world stopped mediating.

"The Middle East countries should put their differences aside and forge a security pact similar to that of the EU," said Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad on Friday during a security conference in Munich.

On January 25, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani said that Doha aims to improve relations with Cairo.

Thani said, during the four-day World Economic Forum (WEF) 2018, that Qatar supports Egypt’s stability. “Those who said that Qatar is trying to destabilize Egypt are making false allegations,” Thani said, despite several cases revealed by the Egyptian security authorities that prove Qatar's involvement in providing financial support to terrorist groups in Egypt.

Regretting the currently severed relations between Egypt and Qatar, Thani said that Qatar usually hopes to “bridge the gap” with Egypt, RT reported.

During his speech at the Nixon Center in Washington in November 2017, Thani said that Egypt’s stability and security is an integral part of Qatar's interest, denying the Qatari regime's responsibility for cutting relations with Egypt, Sputnik reported.

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2/20/2018 2:11:59 PM
<![CDATA[MP calls for establishment of effective studies centers ]]>
Bakry added that centers, consisting of specialized experts, researchers and journalists, should refute the allegations and rumors spread abroad about Egypt with clear evidence that should be issued in statements in different languages.

“It is very important to spread globally, and we call on all media outlets to present to the world the specialized official and the popular responses on behalf of Egypt,” he remarked.

He further explained that the center should be more developed and inclusive, and could be affiliated to the State Information Service (SIS) to respond to the entities that are funded by foreign sources and that have political agendas to attack Egypt.

SIS, a governmental entity for official media and state public relations, is responsible for responding to any faulty foreign reports about Egypt. Since it was established in 1954, SIS has played an essential national and international role to elucidate Egypt’s policy in the political, economic, social and cultural fields and its stance toward different issues. In 2012, a decree was issued to transfer the affiliation of SIS from the Ministry of Information to the Presidency.

It is also responsible for transferring the correct information about Egypt to the international public opinion by facilitating the work of international journalists operating in Egypt through its Foreign Press Center and its recently established Cairo Foreign Policy Press Club that publish transparent and correct news about Egypt.

Among the flawed reports that SIS responded to are the British and U.S. media outlets' reports that included misguided information about Egypt, particularly about the country’s fight against terrorism.

On October 21, SIS condemned Reuters and BBC's inaccurate coverage of Al-Wahat incident that took place on October 20 as they didn't resort to the security authorities to get correct and official information.

Moreover, the New York Times' report penned by David Kirkpatrick on January 6 was refuted by the SIS for containing incorrect information. The report claimed that Egypt’s official foreign policy towards Israel and Jerusalem is a fabrication, and that the state is undermining the global consensus regarding the status of Jerusalem through media manipulation. The evidence for this: an alleged, withheld and unverified audio recording; the author failed to give evidence of the identities of the individuals involved in the recording.

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2/20/2018 2:03:11 PM
<![CDATA[Parties aim to amass 30M in 2018 presidential election]]>
On the other side, Egyptian political parties have confronted these malicious boycott calls, which only aim to defame the political image of the Egyptian state under the current leadership.

Essam Khalil, Free Egyptians Party chairman, told Egypt Today on Monday that his party has followed the door knocking policy to encourage Egyptians to participate in the presidential election. “The door knocking campaign does not support a particular candidate in the presidential election, but it’s a call to take part in this important event,” Khalil added.

The door knocking campaign is expected to remain until February 24, which represents the last day of the presidential campaigns, as set by the National Election Authority (NEA). Some foreign media outlets abroad have fabricated reports about “scripts” to push incumbent President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi out of the Egyptian political scene so that Egypt can be easily torn apart and ruined, according to Khalil.

Khalil indicated that his party has printed pamphlets about Sisi’s achievements, adding, “All members of the Free Egyptians Party have been assigned to enlighten ordinary citizens of Sisi’s successes.”

voter-veiled-woman-1024x707

He denied being an arm of Sisi’s official campaign, but the party is welcoming it for more coordination. He asserted that MP Tarek Radwan will pay regional visits to Jordan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia as part of the party’s campaigning efforts. “Canada tops our destinations,” said Khalil.

“The participation of 30 million voters is our target, which we are going to achieve to defeat the outlawed Brotherhood’s plots that seek to discourage voters from electoral participation,” Khalil asserted.

In response to rumors circulated abroad that the result of the upcoming presidential election is already determined with Sisi winning, the Free Egyptians Party has sought to encourage more than 30 million voters to take part in the election and express their opinion, according to Khalil.

“Sisi is the only person capable of continuing achievements and successes that have been fulfilled in the last four years,” Khalil asserted.

egypt-5

Khalil accused former potential presidential candidate Khaled Ali of seeking a media show, adding, “Khaled Ali entered the presidential race just to withdraw from it...Former potential candidate and former chief of staff Sami Anan’s candidacy for the presidential election seemed so weird too.”

Khalil claimed that the parliamentarian 25-30 coalition has done its best to play an opposition role under the dome of the House of Representatives in the last three years, but it failed to convince the public of that role. “Why did the 25-30 coalition not support Khaled Ali as a presidential candidate?” he wondered.

Egypt has witnessed an “exceptional era, which needs an exceptional man to lead” the country and close the door before failures, Khalil said.

He promised that the Free Egyptians Party will prepare young cadres to be successful statesmen. “I blame the Wafd Party for not leading the political scene post-2011 revolution,” added Khalil.

Khalil denied his intention to meet with potential candidate Moussa Mostafa Moussa; however, he defended his candidacy, which has enriched the political life.

“The Free Egyptians Party will never change its stance, as backing Sisi for a second presidential term is unquestionable. If Sisi asks for another popular authorization, we will definitely do so,” Khalil added.

He defended Sisi’s vision in leading the country, saying that “Sisi is not required to show a platform, because he is used to revealing achievements after they are completed.”

Khalil demonstrated that, financially, Egypt needs loans for building infrastructure and to ease pressure on hard currencies, stating, “Sugar, meat and other commodities’ prices have already decreased.”

“The Free Egyptian Party has prepared a report about human rights violations committed by Qatar and Turkey, and this report is backed by documents from the United Nations,” Khalil mentioned.

On July 26, 2017, the Free Egyptians Party held an event at the Pyramids area to announce their support for Sisi, explaining that he is the man that can lead the nation in such a critical period.

voters-egypt-men-1-1024x693

“In the memory of mandating President Sisi to counter the terrorism practiced by the most dangerous group in history, the Muslim Brotherhood, back in 2013, we declare that the president is our party’s choice in the upcoming presidential election, since we believe that Egyptians deserve the best future,” Khalil said during the event.

The chairmen of a number of political parties held an emergency meeting on February 11 in the headquarters of the Wafd Party to discuss plans to amass people to participate in the upcoming presidential election amid calls for a boycott.

The meeting was attended by El-Sayed el-Badawi, chairman of the liberal Wafd Party; Ashraf Rashad, chairman of the Nation's Future Party; Akmal Kortam, head of the Conservative Party; Ahmed Khalil Khairallah, head of Al-Nour Party's parliamentary bloc; and other representatives of Egyptian political parties.

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"There is a plot set by foreign parties to affect the independency of the country through pushing people not to participate in the upcoming presidential election, impacting Egypt's national independence. However, the Egyptian citizen is fully aware of the current challenges and will confront them strongly," Badawi stated.

He said that the Egyptian parties are currently working on a plan to mobilize citizens to participate in the presidential election.

Rashad, chairman of the Nation's Future Party, said to Egypt Today that all parties agreed to establish a forum including all Egyptian political parties in the upcoming period.

The heads of the political parties set a plan to amass the citizens through holding a series of conferences in the governorates, calling on people to participate and vote in the election.

The parties will also issue a statement supporting the Egyptian army in their fight against terrorism in the "Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018".

Incumbent President Sisi and President of Al-Ghad Party Moussa Mostafa Moussa are the only two candidates who were found eligible by the authority to campaign in the election.

The Wafd Party announced its support for President Sisi, following a long debate between the members of its supreme committee, rejecting the candidacy of its chairman, Badawi.

"Following prolonged discussions, the supreme committee renewed its previous decision to support President Sisi for a second term, considering the current circumstances and challenges that Egypt faces," Wafd announced in a statement released on January 27.

Voting in the 2018 presidential election in Egypt will commence on March 26, as announced by the National Electoral Authority (NEA) on January 8. Sixty million eligible voters will cast their ballots in the election between March 26 and 28 in Egypt, while expatriates will vote between March 16 and 18.

Sisi officially announced his candidacy in the 2018 presidential election on January 19.

Sisi took office in 2014 after protesters toppled Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated ex-President Mohamed Morsy.

an egyptian woman
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2/20/2018 3:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egyptian-Israeli gas deal destroys Turkish ambition: expert]]>
Around 64 BCM of natural gas from Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan reservoirs will be exported to private Egyptian company Dolphinus over a decade for $15 billion, according to a Monday statement by Delek Drilling, one of the two companies leading gas projects in reservoirs. Egypt has another agreement with Cyprus to transmit gas from Cypriot gas-filled Aphrodite to the Egyptian coast.

Cairo has thus won the competition with Ankara over the sources of gas in the eastern Mediterranean, while Egypt continues to consolidate its alliance with Greece, Cyprus and the region at large, said Medhat Youssef, former head of the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation.

Such deals accelerate Egypt’s plan to be transformed into a regional energy hub. Meanwhile, the government is not committed in the short or long terms per the agreement, as Dolphinus will import the gas to use in privately-owned factories or to liquefy and re-export, according to Youssef.

“The export deals establish Egypt’s status as a regional energy center, which allows the supply of gas both to the Egyptian domestic market and for export,” said Yossi Abu, CEO of Delek Drilling.

“Concurrently with the implementation of the transactions, we are continuing to promote additional agreements,” Abu added in the Delek Drilling statement.

On Feb. 13, the Egyptian cabinet issued the executive statute of a law issued in September 2017 to regulate the gas market, allowing private companies to operate in the field. The agreement awaits prerequisite regulatory and government approvals in both countries, according to the contract. The gas price will be based on a price formula linked to the Brent oil barrel prices.

In the Mediterranean, the Egyptian-Cypriot alliance is the strongest of its kind in the region, because the two countries have large gas reservoirs, and it is also friendly with the European Union, which wants to secure its needs for gas away from Russian domination, Youssef emphasized.

The location of Egypt on the map, its infrastructure, and recent gas discoveries make the country “pivotal” in connecting the Cypriot and Greek gas with the Egyptian liquefaction plants, he said.

When a gas pipeline is established between Cyprus and Greece from one side to Egypt on the other side, Egypt will be the sole center for the disposal of eastern Mediterranean gas to Europe or any other place in the world via the Egyptian liquefaction stations, the petroleum expert added.

Egypt is planned to acquire self-sufficiency in gas in 2018 with the Zohr gas field and other fields in the Egyptian Mediterranean and the Delta, and turn into a major exporter of its own.

The means of supply from Israel to Egypt is still being studied; hence, the date of transmission has not yet been determined. Possible options are the East Mediterranean Gas Company’s pipeline from Arish to Ashkelon, which has repeatedly been attacked, and the Jordanian-Israeli pipeline.

However, the agreement stipulates that the supply will continue until 2030, or until the 64 BCM have been fulfilled, whichever is sooner.

Additional reporting by Hanan Fayed

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2/19/2018 8:35:17 PM
<![CDATA[Sinai 2018 wrap up: 67 terrorists killed, hundreds arrested ]]>
The operation has been considered by experts and parliamentarians as a strong and firm message to the world that Egypt is facing a fierce war against terrorism and is capable on its own.

After the seventh statement about the operation from the army on Tuesday, February 15, army spokesperson Tamer al-Refai held a conference to reveal the latest developments of the operation.

He announced that 53 takfiri elements were killed and four others were detained, while 675 additional escaped and suspected criminals were detained.

Refai also said that 57 four-wheel vehicles and 88 motorcycles used by terrorists were destroyed. Moreover, security forces destroyed 378 terrorist hotbeds, weapons and ammunition stores in Sinai. Amongst these hotbeds was a media center used by takfiri elements.

Refai announced the discovery and destruction of 177 explosive devices and up to 1,500 kilograms of TNT explosives, including C4.

At last, he stated that the military forces managed to discover and destroy three holes on the border strip of Sinai. In addition, they succeeded in the destruction of 35 farms of “bango” (marijuana) plants and seized 8.3 tons of narcotic substances.

The army's spokesperson answered the reporters’ questions regarding the results of the operation and whether the army achieved its goals.

When asked about securing the economic objectives of the Mediterranean Sea, Refai stated that the navy forces secure and protect the Egyptian territorial and economic waters in the Red and Mediterranean seas.

Tenth Statement:



- Egyptian military jets have destroyed five targets of terrorists in Sinai.

- 166 targets have been shelled in North and Central Sinai.

- Four armed takfiris were killed in a shootout with troops.

- Military engineers also destroyed 101 explosive charges that had been planted in areas of the operation.

- Four caves and hideouts were destroyed.

- A media center of terrorists has also been detected containing computers, weapons and wireless communication devices.

- The troops destroyed 244 hideouts and caches that contained machine guns, ammunition and wireless communication devices.

- More than 11 tons of drugs have been seized.

- Twenty-seven vehicles and 100 unlicensed motorcycles used by terrorists were destroyed.

- 417 criminals, wanted elements and suspects were arrested.

- one officer and two conscripts were killed, and two other officers were injured during the face-off with terrorists.

Ninth Statement:



- Eight targets of terrorists were destroyed.

- Three takfiri elements were killed and a 4x4 vehicle was destroyed in Central Sinai.

-A terrorism hotspot in North Sinai was targeted and four armed takfiri elements were killed in a shootout.

- Military engineers destroyed 45 explosive charges that had been planted in areas of the operation.

- 158 hideouts and caches were destroyed during combing operations, as well as seven vehicles and 32 motorcycles.

- 408 criminals, wanted elements and suspects were arrested.

Eighth Statement:



-Up to 68 targets, including terrorist hideouts, weapons and ammunition depots, were destroyed by artillery shelling.

-Security forces managed to seize a dangerous terrorist hotbed in Central Sinai and kill three wanted terrorists involved in attacks against the armed forces.

- 224 criminals and suspects were arrested, possessing weapons and bullets.

-Ten 4×4 vehicles were seized and 22 unlicensed motorcycles destroyed.

-Security forces destroyed 150 warehouses, in which a large quantity of narcotic substances and communication devices used by terrorists were found.

-Military engineering units also destroyed 28 explosive devices.

-Five hashish farms were discovered and destroyed, and 2.5 tons of narcotic substances were seized.

Seventh Statement:



- The air force destroyed 11 targets used by terrorists.

- Fifteen takfiris were killed during a shoot-out with anti-terror forces.

- Two underground warehouses, containing more than 1,500 kilograms of explosive materials, including C4 and TNT and used in manufacturing explosives, 56 detonators and 13 circuits used to detonate IEDs, were destroyed.

- A tunnel and 38 trenches were destroyed on the northern border of North Sinai.

- Some 153 criminal elements and wanted criminals were arrested.

- As many as 181 huts, hideouts and warehouses containing explosives and chemical materials and large quantities of auto spare parts and fuel used by terrorists were destroyed.

- Six vehicles and 17 unlicensed motorbikes were seized and destroyed.

- Sixty-three explosive devices were dismantled.

- Thirteen bango and hashish farms were destroyed, and more than 800 kilograms of narcotics were seized.

Sixth statement:



- The air forces impounded seven vehicles used by terrorists.

- Ten takfiris were killed during a shoot-out with anti-terror forces.

- Large amounts of arms and ammunition were seized.

- Four hundred criminal elements and wanted criminals were held.

- Six vehicles and 13 unlicensed motorbikes were impounded and destroyed.

- As many as 143 huts, hideouts and warehouses, containing explosive charges and large quantities of auto spare parts and drugs, were destroyed.

- Seventy-nine explosive devices were dismantled and an underground warehouse, containing 10 anti-tank mines, was destroyed.

- An underground tunnel, with a width of 1.5 meters and a depth of 25 meters, was destroyed in the northern border of North Sinai.

- Nine bango and hashish farms were destroyed, and more than seven tons of narcotics and a truck loaded with more than 1.2 million tramadol pills were seized.

- The naval forces launched four ground-to-sea and surface-to-sea rockets.

- Around 479 security patrols checkpoints were already set up across the country.

Fifth Statement:



- Twenty-three explosive devices were discovered and defused.

- Seven farms of marijuana were discovered and burned.

- Half a ton of cocaine and other smuggled drugs was impounded.

- Four vehicles carrying ammunition and arms, as well as 27 motorbikes, were targeted by the air forces.

- Several air strikes were launched, targeting 30 hideouts for terrorists.

Fourth Statement:



-Sixteen militants were killed and four others were arrested.

-Thirty suspected militants were also arrested.

- The air forces destroyed a total of 66 hideouts.

- Four ammunition stores were also destroyed.

- Thirteen four-wheel drive vehicles and 31 motorbikes were targeted.

- Twelve roadside bombs were discovered by security officers and defused.

- A militant-operated chemical laboratory was raided by the air forces in Sinai.

- Twenty feddans (approx. 20 acres) of marijuana were burned.

Third statement



- Several airstrikes targeted terrorist concentrations and strongholds throughout the night and during the wee hours of Saturday morning.

- Military jets hit storehouses of weapons, ammunition, explosive materials and logistic areas of terrorists.

Second Statement:



- Several pits, hideouts, and ammunition and weapons' warehouses were targeted by the air forces.

- Units from the naval forces enhanced maritime security operations at vital seaports.

- The Border Guard Forces and Civilian Police also tightened security procedures at land borders and navigational courses.

First Statement:



- The comprehensive counter-terrorism military operation “Sinai 2018” was officially announced by armed forces spokesman Tamer al-Refae.

- The statement highlighted that "Sinai 2018" came within the framework of the mandate, given by Egypt's Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to the General Command of the Armed Forces and Ministry of Interior, to coordinate with all the country’s institutions to confront terrorism and all other related operations by extremists.

The Egyptian armed forces announced the new major military operation dubbed "Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018" to purge the country from terrorism on the morning of Friday, February 9.

Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018 comes within the armed forces’ ongoing counterterrorism operations in Sinai that are aimed at eliminating terrorists and takfiri elements, and eradicating their breeding grounds and hotbeds.

Since the ousting of ex-Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt has seen growing waves of extremism washing over the society and spawning numerous deadly attacks. Among these attacks was the terrorist attack that hit Al-Rawdah Mosque and left more than 302 Friday prayer congregants dead in late November.
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2/19/2018 7:42:59 PM
<![CDATA[ANALYSIS: Turkey is isolated, is its military to blame?]]>
Turkey’s newfound confidence to use military pressure in the Middle East follows the path in which the state has transitioned from a passive observer – as it adopted during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 for example – to an active interferer. This new position that favors hard power is based on the conviction that intervening and spreading influence across the region is more beneficial than sitting idly by, however it has led to a growing grey area between Turkey and its allies.

Erdoğan’s confidence in using military pressure was largely born in the Syrian civil war, where perceived threats to Turkish national interests became paramount, and where a reliance on hard power has become commonplace. The Turkish army’s operations in Syria have seemingly introduced a growing air of confidence in Ankara, leading to Erdoğan’s resurgent breath of belligerence has also been directed towards Cyprus.

Putting Turkey’s ambitions into context

While Turkey has grown used to sourcing legitimacy and political pressure from its western allies, in the eyes of Erdoğan the EU, the United States and NATO, are losing their influence and prosperity, and

Turkey’s EU membership process is

dragging.

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German Chancellor Merkel meets Turkish President Erdogan during the G20 Summit in Hangzhou – REUTERS/Jesco Denzel

Turkey joined NATO in 1952; however the influence that NATO and its members exerted over the Middle East is waning. The United States is finding the Middle East less receptive to its maneuvering, and it is less able to act with the freedom it once enjoyed. Military bases and aircraft carriers are only half the story. The balance of power in the Middle East on the brink of shifting. The U.S. is mostly on the sidelines, while Russia’s interference in Syria has assured its continued influence in the region and Iran is successfully entrenching a crescent of influence stretching from Tehran to the Mediterranean Sea.

Turkey is losing its neighborhood security, and the incentives to operate regardless of NATO concerns have increased. This being said, a

poll published recently

by the Centre for American Progress found that Russia is more popular in Turkey than the U.S. or NATO. However, only 28 percent of respondents viewed Russia favorably.

As the Cold War wound down and NATO-Warsaw aggravations came to a conclusion, Turkey no longer found itself caught amongst the political and military tensions which shaped the bipolar global order. Turkey has enjoyed membership of NATO since the early-Cold War era, and has a long standing relationship with the EU dating back to the Ankara Agreement of 1963, however neither organization offers the distinct rewards they once did.

Changing economic balances have also played an important role in Turkey shift from the West. While Turkey used to sit on the periphery of the West, the potential economic opportunities of the EU diminished as the probability of Turkey gaining

full membership of the Union has all but gone

. As power shifts over time from the G7 to the BRICS and emerging economies, theoretically Turkey is able to take advantage of its geographic centrality. As emerging actors demand a power shift to the periphery from the old power of Europe and the exhaustive influence of the United States, Turkey can harness this shift to advance its regional ambitions.

Photo_3 (2)
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan makes his speech during a rally against recent Kurdish militant attacks on Turkish security forces in Istanbul, Turkey, September 20, 2015 – REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Turkey, under Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), has been growing hostile to the West in favor of self-serving unilateral action. In turn the West is at risk of losing Turkey as a strategic ally. But, the fear than Turkey would move east to find new allies has not materialized, and Turkey has been unable to forge meaningful relations with the likes of Russia and Iran, who are more entrenching their influence in receptive countries. Turkey’s taunting of its eastern neighbors leaves Ankara in a tough position in which it must balance its national interest with its desire to bolster strategic relationships.

Syria has evolved as a battleground in which Turkey’s sovereign interests stand in stark contrast with other major stakeholders in the conflict, which has driven a wedge between Ankara and the likes of Iran, Russia, Syria and the United States. As the so-called Arab Spring unfolded, Turkey was forced to

rethink its foreign policy

as many of its allied strongmen in the region fell. It found favor in the tide of political Islam which swept the region, which saw Turkey begin to lean away from many of its allies.

For example, Turkey largely stood in harmony with ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the ruling Muslim Brotherhood. While the Obama administration decided to play ball and work with his successor President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Erdoğan favored the Islamic tide. He went as far as to adopt the

Rabaa symbol

in Turkey, which served as a characteristic icon of the Muslim Brotherhood. Not only did this put Turkey at odds with the United States, Turkey stands against the likes of the UAE and Egypt who also oppose political Islam, and

stands with Qatar

during the ongoing crisis.

How has Turkey’s military aggression isolated it from the world?

In the context of the so-called Arab Spring, Erdoğan opted against using Turkey’s military strength until the war in Syria showed no sign of abating. When conflict broke out in Syria, Erdoğan maneuvered the state position to side with the United States and much of the international community; he has

supported

opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces and

called for Assad to step down

. While the international community focused on ISIS, Turkey has stayed rooted in this position.

Photo_4 (2)
Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighters hold a mortar outside of Afrin, Syria February 17, 2018 – REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Step forward

Operation Olive Branch

(OOB). To Ankara’s alarm, the Trump administration

has embraced the YPG

as its preferred partner on the ground against ISIS. The U.S. has armed, trained, and supported the People's Protection Units (YPG) – part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – with special forces and substantial air support. Fearing the newfound confidence of the YPG and its associated Kurdish militia and political groups, Turkey reframed its foreign policy in Syria to directly confront Kurdish forces and remove the possibility of an independent Kurdish state in Syria. The Iraqi government forces and Iran-backed Shiite militia

used military force

to diminish support for Iraqi Kurdish independence after the September 2017 referendum, and Erdoğan wants to replicate this success in Syria.

The Kurdish question is a fault line between Turkey and the United States; far from pushing a multi-lateral resolution, the Turkish military campaigns have exacerbated divisions and instability. As Turkish and its allied Syrian rebel forces push through Afrin as part of OOB, Turkish and U.S. forces are dangerously close to clashing militarily. Turkish forces are close to the YPG-held territory of Manbij where many U.S. forces are based, and

Turkey has demanded

that Kurdish militia and U.S> forces withdraw to east of the Euphrates river in Syria. Turkey sees the YPG as one and the same with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a designated terror organization in the eyes of Turkey, the U.S. and the EU, and a threat to national security.

“Our mission is to strangle it before it’s even born,” said Erdoğan in response to plans from Washington to form a 30,000-strong “terror army” on its southern border. Consisting of predominantly Kurdish forces, Washington hopes this force will help protect territory held by the YPG in northern Syria.

Although U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged that the relationship was at a “crisis point,” there are signs the hostile back and forth is subsiding and the two sides are trying to close the grey-zone. “We’re going to act together from this point forward,” Tillerson went on to say. However, he made it clear that “it’s not just Manbij. We have to think about all of northern Syria.” Turkey has proposed that Turkish and U.S. forces

deploy together in Manbij

.

Photo_5 (3)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Ankara, Turkey February 15, 2018 – REUTERS/Kayhan Ozer

Ten steps back and a half step forward; the future of the U.S.-Turkish relationship is a matter of rebuilding broken bridges, and not bi-lateral benefit. Rebuilding broken bridges will not come easily, and there have been

calls from some analysts

to remove Erdoğan’s Turkey from NATO on account of its hostility. According to a

poll published recently

by the Centre for American Progress, 83 percent of Turkish people view the United States unfavorably.

Turkey in the face of Russia, Iran and the Syrian Government

Neither Russia nor Iran, have been able to compensate Turkey for its weakening relationship with the U.S., and neither seem willing to support Turkish interests. In fact, they have stood directly against each other on the battlefield.

Idlib province, one of the “de-escalation zones” set out during the Astana process, has become a hot spot for disagreement and conflict between the three pillars of the process – the Trio: Russia, Iran and Turkey, and the Syrian government. The Syrian government’s objective is to control the entire province, and most importantly the city of Idlib. The first phase of the new Russian-backed Syrian Arab Army (SAA) operation to recapture the territory began in late December. The Turkish Foreign Ministry, uneasy that the operation is confronting moderate opposition groups,

summoned

the Russian and Iranian ambassadors on January 9. Turkey considers the operation a

severe violation

of the Astana process.

Turkey sees the situation different to Russia, Assad and Iran. Erdoğan has pledged to protect civilians and moderate opposition group; groups which Turkey has supported as a means to overturn the Syrian government. All-out war in Idlib province could prove completed for Turkey, with the risk that many of the province’s 2.6 million people

could pour over the Turkish border

to relative safety.

Photo_6 (2)
Relatives of a Kurdish herder who was killed in a Turkish airstrike on their village in Syria’s Afrin region mourn on January 28, 2018 – AFP

Russia, Iran and the Syrian government do not accept that the cease-fire applies to all elements of the opposition. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a jihadist group with ties to al-Qaida, must be eliminated in Russia’s point of view to maintain the integrity of the de-escalation zones. Russia expected Turkey to pressure HTS into withdrawing from Idlib; however with its growing confidence Turkey has adopted an opposing position. In fact, Turkish troops

were escorted by HTS forces

through Idlib, in response.

When a MANPADS downed a Russian Su-25 fighter jet over Idlib on February 3, HTS claimed responsibility. In retaliation Turkish aircraft were

temporarily suspended

from operating in Syrian airspace and Turkish artillery bombarded areas of Idlib.

Even a bird needs Russian permission to fly over Syria these days, and it is certain that Turkey was granted permission by Russia to conduct its campaign against the Kurds in Afrin, north of Idlib. Erdoğan’s announcement of OOB on January 20 coincided with Syrian troops seizing the strategically important

Abu al-Duhur

airbase from rebels in Idlib governorate, indicating that a territorial swap was at play and Turkey was given a green light by Russia to interfere.

Russian observers were also withdrawn from Afrin

.

Nevertheless, in Afrin, tensions between the Trio, Syria and the U.S., are close to breaking the surface. Turkey’s brash actions against the YPG in Afrin severely risks pitting Turkey directly against the SAA, and its allied Russian and Iranian forces. While it is likely a Russian-led deal was in place, Turkey’s operation was publicly condemned by the Trio and

reports point towards

Russian, Iranian and SAA support for the YPG. The SAA and Kurdish dominated SDF forces have clashed previously, but realities change at light speed in Syria, and currently they share a common interest in quashing Turkish advances.

Photo_7
Turkey is fighting the YPG in northern Syria and has declared it a terrorist organization – AFP

Despite finding consensus in Iraq regarding the Kurdish nationalist aspirations, the rivalry between Turkey and Iran is growing. Turkey views Iran as a long-term rival that has gained a remarkable advantage over Turkey in Syria, which needs to be cut back down. Iran on the other hand has tied itself to the Syrian and Russian governments, following the “status quo” in Syria in order to improve its opportunity to influential a political resolution.

Iranian-built Toophan anti-tank missile systems

are reportedly being used

by Kurdish forces, as well as 107-mm artillery rockets, which are characteristically used by Iranian-backed forces. In addition, for weeks Damascus has assisted Kurdish forces moving through its territory in eastern Syria, toward Afrin.

“There are different ways to get reinforcements to Afrin but the fundamental route is via regime forces. There are understandings between the two forces ... for the sake of delivering reinforcements to Afrin,” Kino Gabriel, spokesman for the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces, stated to Reuters.

This stems from the fear in Damascus that Turkey is using national security concerns as a cover to consolidate territory in northern Syria, as well as improving supply lines to rebel groups which the SAA are engaged in fighting. For these reasons, both the Syrian government and Iran aim to bog Turkey down in Afrin. A

deal struck

between Kurdish fighters in north-western Syria and Damascus on February 18, will see army troops deploy along some border positions and could enter the region within the next two days, senior Kurdish adviser Badran Jia Kurd said to Reuters. Turkey’s military is facing new and more ferocious opposition in north-western Syria.

If Afrin and Manbij are won and Kurdish forces are pushed east of the Euphrates, the victory over Washington would be greater than that over the Kurds, and would alienate Turkey further from the U.S., the West, and the Syrian government. The Syrian government

has previously said

it will resolve the Kurdish question in Syria after conflict in the country has subsided. However, if the Turkish campaign fails to push back the Kurds, the PKK/YPG threat will remain and the Turkish army will be dealt a major reputational blow.

Photo_8
Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighter stands on rubble in Northern Afrin countryside, Syria, February 16, 2018 – REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Turkey’s resurgent military interference has left Ankara with few allies. The mismatched “alliance” within the Trio is a perfect example of the old adage: two’s company, three’s a crowd. The alliance was formed on limiting the West’s aspiration to hold leverage over a political resolution to the conflict; however it has brought together three states with competing ambitions into a tenuous alliance. Ankara’s inability to coordinate with the Trio, the Syrian government and the U.S., as well as its support for disputed “moderate” groups in Syria, leaves Qatar as its only remaining regional ally.

But why has Erdoğan embarked on a path which favors an independent and brazen foreign policy, with little pragmatic concern for regional alliances? Much like “Resurgent Russia,” there is a desire in Turkey to reclaim its position as a major regional state. Turkey has been deeply invested in forging ties with the West for many decades, and has been under intense scrutiny from its allies in the West to follow the status quo. Erdoğan dreams of Turkey returning to the leading global position it held during the Ottoman Empire era, meaning expansionism is a fundamental aim. However this comes at the cost of neighboring national sovereignty; national security is the justification, and Syria the starting point. Erdoğan has led the country to believe it has a duty to expand. However expansion requires a strong military force, and will pit Turkey against powerful competitors with actionable alliances.


Twitter:

@joseph_colonna


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2/19/2018 6:54:39 PM
<![CDATA[Report: Will Egypt’s future leaders be PLP alumni? ]]>
No Egyptian leader thought about his successor, but incumbent President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi does. In September, 2015, Sisi revealed launch of the Presidential Leadership Program (PLP) which seeks to educate and enlighten junior cadres who can be the country’s future leaders.

Comparing Sisi to France’s Chales du Gaulle may be not fair. Gaulle is the founder of the fifth republic of France and was the head of state for ten years (1959-1969).

Sisi has been leading the country in difficult circumstances, following the removal of the Brotherhood-affiliated President Mohamed Morsi. Since June, 2013, Egypt has been rebuilding with hands of its patriots, despite the acts of terror that it has suffered.

Sisi is Egypt’s savior who rescued Egypt from autocracy of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group. American researcher Andrew MacGregor described Sisi as “Egypt’s second modern state’s founder.”

Sisi is running for the upcoming March’s presidential election and is expected to win a second four-year term in office due to impressive successes that he has achieved throughout his first presidential term.

By success of Sisi’s projects for youth, he will be able to prepare and present Egypt’s future leaders and may be presidents as well.

The PLP’s successes

Two batches of students have successfully graduated from the PLP and the third batch is still attending the program.


الرئيس يشهد إفطارا مع شباب البرنامج الرئاسي لتأهيل الشباب للقيادة 20-6-2016 (2)

In October, 2016, Sisi attended a session on an integrated simulation model of the Egyptian state, where members of the PLP simulated some of the government's ministries and offered ways to address various issues and crises. The relevant ministers attended the session and evaluated the performance of the PLP youth.

Sisi contributes to prepare Egypt’s future leaders

“The PLP aims to inject new blood into the state's apparatuses and not to establish a platform with political nature or objectives,” stressed President Sisi during the first National Youth Conference held in Sharm el-Sheikh.

In February, 2017, Sisi met with the participants in the PLP’s second batch, reviewing achievements made over the past three years in terms of consolidating the state and launching national projects to enhance economic progress.

selfie

Charles du Gaulle’s model

After the Second World War, Charles du Gaulle founded in 1945 the National School of Administration (ENA) to train civil servants who would rebuild France.

France’s current President Emmanuel Macron is an ENA graduate

The ENA stands as one of the main pathways to high positions in the public and private sectors; most notably in politics and business. It is one of the most prestigious French and international institutions in the field of preparing officials and qualifying them to assume senior management positions.

ENA graduates are often recruited as aides and assistants by state ministers and statesmen. Four French presidents are graduates of the ENA: Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, Jacques Chirac, François Hollande and current President Emmanuel Macron.

Current ministers who graduated from the ENA:

● Édouard Philippe: France’s Prime Minister since May 15, 2017.

● Florence Parly: France’s Minister of the Armed Forces since June 21, 2017.

● Bruno Le Maire: France’s Minister of the Economy since May 17, 2017.

Egyptian-French partnership

President Sisi received on Sunday director of the (ENA) Patrick Gerard, to discuss cooperation between the school and the Youth Academy to hone the skills of officials and enable them to advance their posts.

Sisi stressed Egypt's aspiration to benefit from the experience of the French National School by establishing a full partnership with the Egyptian Academy of Youth to prepare cadres trained at the highest scientific level, so that the Egyptian Academy will become the main source for selecting leaders in the country according to the criteria of efficiency and equal opportunities.

Egypt’s former interim President Adly Mansour also is an ENA alumni

“Egypt is looking forward to benefiting from a French experiment in training cadres through a partnership between the Ecole Nationale d'Administration (ENA) and Egypt's Youth Academy,” said Sisi.

2017-09-15t161933z_1756985971_rc11dce683f0_rtrmadp_3_olympics-2024-macron_0
French President Emmanuel Macron (2ndR) and his wife Brigitte Macron (L) arrive with former French Presidents Francois Hollande (R) and Nicolas Sarkozy (2ndL) during a ceremony at the Elysee Palace.


Youth empowerment during Sisi’s era

Since he took up office in 2014, Sisi has been empowering young generations to occupy senior and high-profile positions in the near future. Sisi’s has surrounded himself with youth. His media office’s staff members are youth inspired.

Sisi declared 2016 as the year of the youth, followed by five national conferences for young people. The first conference was held in Sharm el-Sheikh in October, 2016. The second was held in Cairo in December, 2016. The third was held in Aswan in January, 2017. The fourth was held in Ismailia in April, 2017, while the fifth was held in Sharm el-Sheikh in October, 2017, under the title of “World Youth Forum”.

The first Youth Conference was deemed the most important conference as it drew the relationship between Sisi and youth. “I’m very proud of you,” Sisi said during the first Youth Conference.

Sisi has empowered youth to occupy high-profile positions in the state

Sisi also paid attention to the young detainees and ordered the establishment of a national committee to review the statuses of the young prisoners. As a result, three groups of young prisoners were released upon a presidential pardon from President Sisi.

The fourth pardon list is being prepared by the relevant and concerned authorities. MP Tarek al-Khouly, member of the Presidential Pardon Committee, said on November 11, 2017, that they have been working to finalize the list, in order to prove to the whole world that the outcome of the previously held youth conferences is being executed.

President Sisi confirmed that those who are not proven to be members of terrorist organizations or to be involved in acts that contradict the constitutional presidential pardon standards will be on the list, according to Kholy.

87f35d37-cf22-4a1d-b259-0418ea930dbb_16x9_788x442
Members of President Sisi’s presidential campaign count boxes at the National Election Authority in Cairo on January 24, 2018. (Reuters)

In December 2017, the Egyptian cabinet approved a bill to amend some provisions of law No. 3396 of 1956, concerning the organization of prisons.

Article 155 of the Egyptian constitution gives the president the power to pardon or commute the sentence of prisoners following consultations with the cabinet; on the condition that their offences do not include violence or attacks on public or security properties. The pardon, that usually take place during official and religious holidays, entails:

1. Ending any freedom-restricting penalties.

2. Canceling fine penalties, if applicable.

3. Pardoning the prisoner from police surveillance.

4. The legal effects of the sentence continue to be shown on the criminal record of the released prisoners.

(15)

Sisi issued a presidential decree 434/2017 to establish the National Academy for Youth Training which aims to develop human skills and young cadres under the direct auspices of the President of the Republic.

If Sisi has accomplished his promises given to the youth, he will write his name in gold in the Egyptian history as he will be one of the creators of Egypt’s future leaders.
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2/19/2018 3:58:45 PM
<![CDATA[Russian FM: Egypt plays important role in settling Libyan crisis]]>
“We witness the role played by Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria in helping Libya to settle down its disputes,” said Lavrov during the forum entitled “Russia in the Middle East…Player in all arenas,” adding that Russia support a UN special envoy’s efforts to achieve stability in Libya.

As for Russia, Lavrov stressed the importance of preserving Russian sovereignty and unity, referring that violations are being committed in the de-escalating regions, which Russia is exerting efforts to suspend in order to reach a political consensus for the Syrian crisis.

He confirmed that the Syrian national dialogue held recently in Sochi is very important as Syrian political powers have agreed on the importance of the Syria’s future, calling the international community to revive the Syrian economy.

“There are some concerns in the U.S. plans in Syria particularly in the eastern Euphrates region and the borders between Syria, Iraq and Turkey, and we cannot see any evidences on what Washington has declared of combating Islamic State and preserving Syria’s unity,” added Lavrov.

He further remarked that the U.S. deeds will lead to destroying Syria’s unity and its support for Kurdish units concerning Turkey as it will undermine Syrian unity.
He expressed his concerns toward the attempts to divide the Syria as the United States should provide practical evidence of preserving Syrian unity.

He referred also to the Palestinian cause, confirming that his country seeks not to destroy the peaceful peace settlement between the two parties and that Russia is able to host dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis.

Egypt’s officials held several meetings with their Libyan counterparts as well as members in Tobruk’s House of Representatives to resolve the Libyan crisis and amend the Skhirat agreement. In December 2016, Cairo hosted a conference attended by Libyan officials and representatives from the country’s numerous factions, where they issued five proposed amendments to the agreement. The conference concluded with an agreement to amend the 8th article of the Skhirat agreement that outlined the jurisdiction of the Libyan army chief commander. In January 2017, Egypt invited the two major Libyan factions to discuss the amendments to the agreement, which mainly included a change in the duties of the army commander and measures to maintain the independence of the armed forces and separate them from political conflicts.

Egyptian Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Mahmoud Hegazy met with Libya’s Haftar in Cairo to discuss the proposed amendments, while Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi met with Sarraj, because the two Libyan rivals refused to meet face to face. Afterwards, the two sides agreed to form a joint committee that would make key changes to the UN-brokered peace deal. However, Haftar refused to accept Serraj’s suggestion for a three-man presidency council that will include the position of commander-in-chief (Haftar), head of the House of Representatives (Aqila Saleh) and the head of separate government.

Egypt has continued pressuring Haftar to meet Serraj and agree on a compromise that would bring the conflict in Libya to an end. Until last month, Haftar refused to do so. In May 2017, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) invited the Libyan rival leaders to meet in Abu Dhabi and discuss again the amendments to the 2015 agreement. According to a local Libyan TV channel, the Abu Dhabi meeting reached a preliminary agreement to form a unified presidential council where the commander of the army and the heads of both the Libyan government and the House of Representatives would be members.
]]>
2/19/2018 3:49:43 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt is always proud of belonging to Africa: Supreme Constitutional Court head]]>
Speaking at the inauguration of the second conference of Chief Justices, Presidents of Supreme Courts, Constitutional Courts and Heads of Judiciaries throughout Africa, Counselor Abdel Razek said "We must prove to the whole world that Africa will take the lead in the future," hoping this will take place in the near future.

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Any civilized nation is measured by law enforcement and justice, he said.

The judicial system undertakes the duty of preserving civilizations and nations, Abdel Razek stressed, making it clear that there is no room in a civilized nation for terrorism, corruption, breaching law and legitimacy and perverting the course of justice.

He also thanked President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi for his patronage of the conference and his keenness on consolidating ties with African countries.

Vice President of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) Adel Omar Sherif said ties between Egypt and African countries are time-honored and deeply rooted.

Egypt is looking forward to promoting cooperation with African countries at all levels, particularly in the judicial domain, Sherif said.

He also urged all African countries to work together to establish an African Judicial Center as an electronic platform involving all actors to resolve issues of common concern.

Sherif hoped the conference would help boost the judicial performance and its determinants in Africa.

He also said the African people are facing major and common challenges, stressing the necessity of elevating the level of cooperation and boosting joint efforts to face them.

a

Combating corruption, addressing the threat of terrorism and confronting human trafficking are common problems that should be considered in order to reach common visions on means of solving them, Sherif added.

He also expressed the SCC's appreciation of President Abdel Fattah El Sisi's patronage of the second edition of the conference in Cairo.

He thanked government bodies and the Egyptian Agency of Partnership for Development (EAPD) for helping the SCC in organizing the conference.

Nearly 45 African countries are participating in the three-day conference that aims at promoting the role of the constitutional judiciary in fighting terrorism, corruption and organized crimes.

a ]]>
2/19/2018 2:36:15 PM
<![CDATA[Parliament considers draft law on reconciliation in building violations]]>
The head of the Housing, Public Utilities and Reconstruction Committee Moataz Mahmoud said that the draft law will be considered with the concerned ministries and entities, adding that they are scheduled to reach a decision on the draft law inMonday’s meeting.

The draft law comes within the framework of legal and practical solutions to the problem of building violations, recently causing collapsing buildings, to combat the phenomenon of cases related to building violations.

The draft law stipulates reconciliation in the acts committed in violating the law governing the building, including the case of change of use of the building.

The draft law aims to preserve and protect architectural and archaeological heritage and organize measures of reconciliation.

Under the draft law, building violations could be reconciled with exception for acts that violate construction safety and facilities of distinctive architectural styles. Infringements include the approved regulatory lines and the statutory heights rights as well as building on state owned land and agricultural land or land subjected to the law on the Protection of Antiquities.

To consider the reconciliation request and issue a decision in this regard, a technical committee shall be formed in each concerned administrative authority, and be led by civil and architectural engineers, who are accredited at the administrative authority, along with a representative from the Interior Ministry.

The reconciliation shall be submitted to the concerned administrative authority at a date no later than three months from the draft law’s executive regulations that would determine the fees for reconciliation.

According to the Article 2, the committee shall inspect the violated site in order for the two engineers to prepare a report about the safety of building and the other necessary documents to take a decision on the reconciliation issue in a date not later than four months after submitting the required reconciliation papers.

All the receipts, in accordance to the draft law, shall be sent to the state’s public treasury, of which 15 percent will be specialized in development acts, establishing infrastructure projects and social housing and 5 percent shall go to the committee members.

Recent collapsing buildings highlight the longtime problem of the construction business across Egypt due to poor maintenance, violations of building codes, and illegal extensions and constructions. 2017 witnessed several collapsed of buildings, killing 15 people and injured 55 others.

The latest tragedy happened because of construction violations on three residential buildings in the central Cairo district of Rod al-Farag in December. The initial collapse of one of the buildings resulted in the crumbling of the two adjacent buildings due to poor infrastructure, leaving two people dead, including a four-year-old girl, and another seven injured.

To combat this phenomenon, the Egyptian Parliament has discussed the unified construction law No. 119 during a meeting held on July 18, 2016 to submit amendments to the law. The law is aimed at those who violate the license and build illegal constructions by imposing fines, prison sentences or higher utilities tariffs.

Besides the illegal constructions, Egypt is plagued by unplanned construction and poor infrastructure. There are 400 areas of unplanned housing, with a population in excess of 7 million.

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2/19/2018 12:43:12 PM
<![CDATA[Head of Russian Contact Group in Libya prioritizes elections]]>

Dengov called on Libyan political factions to unify their views on this matter, in order to reach a settlement.


Dengov also mentioned that Head of the Libyan National Army Khalifa Heftar asked for building a Russian military base in Russia, clarifying that the Russian Ministry of Defense has complete intel on the nature of cooperation between the two countries.


On the matter of Russian support to Libya, Dengov clarified that Russia is not providing Libya with weapons as per the UN’s weapon ban. Furthermore, he stated that Russia respects the country’s leaders and “works in the framework of providing advice to settle the crisis.”


Included below is the full text of the interview.


How do you feel about holding national Libyan elections before issuing a Libyan constitution?


Holding elections in Libya is a necessity and has to happen as soon as possible. The different political leaders and different authorities present in Libya need to unify their efforts and they need to communicate in order to reach a unified decision on this matter. Mainly they need to hold a referendum for the Libyan people and they need to ensure that all voters are participating in the elections.


In my opinion, marginalizing some voters could upset some people therefore this has to be avoided at all costs, and is going to require critical analysis and cautiousness. We support Ghassan Salama’s initative, who exerted huge efforts to render these elections possible, as he works directly on ground.


In December 2017, the Supreme National Elections Commission of Libya launched a registration of all voters and it is going well. We hope the elections process will proceed in an atmosphere of understanding between all factions and in transparency. Security procedures need to be ensured and it is important for all Libyans and all parties of the conflict to accept the results of the elections. This way, the elections may lead to the desired results and might help in settling the conflict and the regaining of the normal political environment of the country.


Two years have passed since the signing of the Skhirat agreement in Morocco. What is Russia’s current stance on the political agreement? Do you think that the agreement has expired?


The Skhirat agreement is a political document, and the implementation of the agreement’s provisions need to lead to a political settlement of the Libyan crisis, which is essential for the electoral process. Last December, the international community unanimously agreed on the necessity of committing to the written principles of the Skhirat agreement, and in turn, the Libyan people have exhibited their keenness on preserving peace with their actions.


As for the expiration of the agreement, it is a relative matter. Sadly, many agreements between the conflict’s parties are not carried out on time, and officially the agreement has expired but there is no other option because no other agreements were signed. Thus, the Skhirat agreement still holds as an official political document, which was supported by all parties of the conflict, and because of that it is important for the international community to express their commitment to the principles of the agreement and to aid in maintaining all that was agreed on. If one of the conflict’s parties rejects one of the agreement’s principles, it will lead to a new wave of instability.


Is Russia providing military aid to any parties of the conflict, whether in the east or west of Libya?


Russia’s stance on military aid has not changed. We respect the country’s leaders and work in the frame of banning the supplying of weapons to Libya, and we can help by providing advice which would be aiding in the political settlement process.


Today Russia is uninterested in settling the military crisis and we are continuously supporting the United Nations Envoy and his role. Additionally, we consider implementing the Skhirat agreement an important matter. For us, it is important to maintain the unity of the Libyan state, and providing weapons to one of the political factions or providing military aid could be politically risky to the issue of stability.


Has the Russia provided the Libyan army, led by Khalifa Haftar, with weaponry spare parts in the period between 2015 and 2016?


Russia works with all factions in different ways, and I think it’s best to direct this question to the Russian Ministry of Defense that has worked with the National Libyan Army since its inception.


When will the contracts entailing provision of weaponry to Libya, which were signed during Qaddafi’s reign, be renewed?


Providing Libya with weapons will resume after the weapon ban enforced by the UN is lifted. Libyan parties, Fayez Al-Sarraj on one end, and Khalifa Haftar on another, have requested several times the renewal of the contracts signed during Qaddafi’s era and their reactivation.


There are also economic contracts signed with civil parties only, as for military parties, the development of some projects and the revitalizing of relations are currently underway. Previously also, the Russian-Libyan Trade Center was established.


As for military contracts, they can be undertaken after the weapon ban has been lifted.


What are the updates on the building of the railway lines between Sirte and Benghazi? Why did the project stop? Are there plans to resume?


The contract for building the railway lines between Sirte and Benghazi was signed before the revolution of February 17, and all preliminary contracts have been kept. Currently, we are drawing a map of the line to resume with the project, and a series of meetings took place with the Ministry of Transportation and the Russian Railway Company. I hope that the project restarts and is seen through as soon as possible. We understand the importance of this project to all of Libya and Russia, and the bolstering of the bilateral relations.


How do you assess Washington’s role in the Libyan conflict, especially during the process of liberating Sirte from the Islamic State (IS)?


We appreciate any efforts or parties that aim to settle the Libyan crisis, and we treasure the efforts of international actors in combatting terrorism, whether in Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, or any other country. We support the efforts of the countries that battle terrorism. In the case that the United States have destroyed IS in Sirte, we appreciate that.


Is there a relation between Russia’s concern for the Libyan crisis of recent and the U.S.’ and EU’s concern with the same issue?


No, on the contrary; Russia and Libya have strong historical ties. It is important for us to maintain the unity of this country and to prevent it from breaking apart, and helping the Libyan people establish stability and build a future, in addition to electing their rightful government and stopping Libya from turning into a fertile land for terrorism.


And that is why it is important to prioritize the security of the region, and there are signs that Libyans view our support positively and show interest in developing the bilateral relations.


Russia was interested in supporting Muammar Qaddafi during his reign. How would you comment on that?


Russia was accused many times of that which it has no relations to, yet I have never heard of these serious claims from Libyans or Libyan leaders at all. Thus, if someone claims that Russia supported Qaddafi, I am ready to confront them. Russia only supports rightful leaders, and we see that forcefully creating a power vacuum does not benefit the Libyan people or the state.


If tension takes place as has happened in Libya, we would never support any party against the people’s will.


I repeat, there are agreements confessed of by the international community and ones that have to be respected in order for the conflict to end. Russia does not doubt the legality of the legally elected leaders, and will not seek to confront or oppose them against the good of the people.


Does Russia truly seek to establish a military base in eastern Libya? Is Moscow ready to support the Libyan army?


It is best to direct this question to representatives from the Russian Defense Ministry, who have complete knowledge on the requests made by representatives from the military institutions of other states. According to the information I have, such a request has been made by the head of the National Libyan Army, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, but I don’t know if supporting this request is possible or not.


Did Russia come across any operations entailing the transfer of IS fighters from Syria and Iraq to Libya? Are there any regions according to your knowledge where IS fighters centralize?


According to the last terrorist operations, including those in the cities of Benghazi and Sirte, there are terrorist groups in Libya, and terroristic activities are evident there. We have to combat these organizations and we are exerting all efforts to confront this danger with all possible means according to international legislations.


What do you think of Italian military activities taking place on Libyan land?


We know that Libya is an important strategic country for Italy and Egypt, and that their foreign policies towards Libya spring from internal decisions but it is important for their foreign policies to target settling the crisis and maintaining the unity of the country.


Could you clarify the intentions behind the Libyan Government of Reconciliation’s delegations visits to Russia and what kind of cooperation they ask of Moscow?


This is an interesting question. Russia is currently participating in settling many crises, as it is a main actor in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, where the Soviet Union was previously. Therefore, it is not surprising that many different Libyan representatives, including those from the Government of Reconciliation, are visiting Russia. Those representatives include those from the Government of Reconciliation, members of parliament, National Libyan Army, and different tribes from southern Libya; they all visit Moscow asking for support, aid, and advice. They are all asking Russia to help settled the crisis using its expertise and power.


There are different types of cooperation between us and we are working on resuming our economic relations, as we are also helping Libya solve its humanitarian issues, including providing advice regarding the establishment of social organizations that can also help in settling the crisis.


What is Russia’s stance regarding extremist Libyans who have broken through the Libyan political life and who intend on running for the upcoming elections?


The Libyan people alone can decide this, and I think after several years of internal strife, Libyans can solve their own problems and choose the future they desire.


Soon it will become clear who will run for president, and I don’t think that the electoral procedure will be this simple. Until now it isn’t known if it is possible to issue a new constitution before the elections, and will the prime minister or the president be elected. I also think that the Libyan people, who is exhausted by the crisis, will choose those who reflect a vision of the Libyan future. And if a balanced variety of candidates is chosen, this will signal the country’s readiness for the elections.


How are Russia and Egypt cooperating on the Egyptian-Libyan borders?


There is a cooperation agreement in the technical military field between Egypt and Russia; our shared priority is to provide security for both countries, and this cooperation is very important in light of the common combat against terrorism. Cooperation between both countries is important. In terms of Libya; if Libya requests aid in fighting terrorism, and this has happened indeed, then we will help destroy it based on the Libyan state’s or the UN’s request. ]]>
2/19/2018 11:53:38 AM
<![CDATA[Bouhired, the woman who sang “Algeria is our Mother” in French Schools ]]>
Upon her arrival to Cairo; the National Council for Women (NCW) in Egypt honored Bouhired in a ceremony attended by the Minister of Culture Enas Abdel Dayem, the Egyptian ambassador in Algeria Omar Abu Aish and other key figures from Egypt and the Arab world.

This is not the first time for Bouhired to visit Egypt and surely not her first time to be honored in the Arab world, and especially in Egypt. She was officially received and honored by former Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, who was known for his support of the Algerian resistance against the French colonialism since 1952. Moreover, she was the subject of Egyptian director Youssef Chahine’s 1958 film “Jamila the Algerian” and a number of prominent Arab poets wrote about her as a freedom icon and example of women role in the fight for freedom and liberation.

Moreover, the legendary Lebanese singer, Fairuz, glorified and sang the Algerian Revolution through “a letter to Djamila” a song released in 1959 and dedicated to Algerian female fighters in the Algerian Revolution, among which the heroine Djamila Bouhired is mentioned. On the international level, Bouhired was one of three Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) female bombers depicted in the 1966 film “The Battle of Algiers” and the documentary film “Terror’s Advocate”.

Currently in her 80s, Algerian nationalist, activist and revolutionary Bouhired is considered a freedom fighter, Arab icon and a hero. She is best known for her contributions to the fight against French colonial rule in Algeria as a member of the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN). Despite being educated in French schools, she refused to sing the French anthem, and instead she would say “Algeria is our Mother”.

Bouhired was born to a middle class family; from an Algerian father and a Tunisian mother and she was the only daughter amongst seven sons. Aged 20, she started her national activism against the French colonization when the revolution broke in 1954 after 130 years of French occupation. She worked as a liaison officer and personal assistant to FLN commander Yacef Saadi in Algiers, and was the first to volunteer to plant bombs on roads used by the French military occupation. Her brothers were also involved in the underground struggle.

Due to her slightly European appearance, Bouhired was able to pass through roadblocks set up by French authorities; a major asset in the struggle against the FLN. During a raid in June 1957, Bouhired was arrested and accused of planting bombs in French restaurants around the Algerian capital. Bouhired said that she was severely tortured to force her to reveal about FLN leader, but she did not and for that reason she was sentenced to death.

In the same year (1957), Bouhired was tried, convicted and sentenced to death by guillotine. However, Jacques Vergès, a French lawyer who was against France’s occupation of Algeria represented her during the trials. The Arab countries started a campaign that resulted in immense pressure being put on France by international governments and human rights organizations. As a result, Bouhired was sentenced to life imprisonment. Following the end of the French occupation in Algeria in 1962 Bouhired was released.

She eventually married Vergès in 1965 and had two children, Maryam and Fatima. The couple also established Révolution africaine, a publication that focused on Pan-Africa and African nationalism movements. She also served for two years as the head of the Algerian Women’s Union.

In addition to her vital role in the struggle for the freedom of Algeria, she continues to be a strong promoter of Human Rights in general and women’s rights in particular. She calls for legal, social, political and economic reform to empower women and enhance their circumstances. After Algeria’s independence, Bouhired organized the first demonstration on women’s rights and presented a progressive family law draft that was not adopted by the government.

In her book “Sheroes of History”, the Director of the Center for Transnational Development and Collaboration, Nof Nasser Eddin, met Bouhired and quoted her saying, “I am pleased that my life has meaning and a direction that I chose from the very beginning, which is that of the Algerian people’s struggle against colonialism and oppression from foreigner.”]]>
2/19/2018 10:52:42 AM
<![CDATA[Turkey denies allegation of chemical attack in Syria]]>
"It's just a fabricated story. Turkey has never used any kind of chemical weapons," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters at the Munich Security Conference.

Cavusoglu dismissed the reports as propaganda by organisations close to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has waged a three-decade insurgency on Turkish soil.

He said Turkey took the utmost care to protect civilians in the military operation, while the YPG was using civilians as "human shields" in areas under its control.

Syrian Kurdish forces and a monitoring group said the Turkish military carried out a suspected gas attack that wounded six people in Syria's Afrin region on Friday.

Turkey launched an air and ground offensive last month on the Afrin region, opening a new front in the multi-sided Syrian war, to target Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.

Birusk Hasaka, a spokesman for the Kurdish YPG militia in Afrin, told Reuters that Turkish bombardment hit a village in the northwest of the region, near the Turkish border. He said it caused six people to suffer breathing problems and other symptoms indicative of a gas attack.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters that Turkish forces and their Syrian insurgent allies hit the village on Friday with shells. The Britain-based war monitoring group said medical sources in Afrin reported that six people in the attack suffered breathing difficulties and dilated pupils, indicating a suspected gas attack.

Syrian state news agency SANA, citing a doctor in a Afrin hospital, said Turkish shelling of the village caused choking in six people.

On Feb. 6, the United Nations called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Syria.

Since the onset of the conflict in 2011, the YPG and its allies have set up three autonomous cantons in the north, including Afrin. Their sphere of influence expanded as they seized territory from Islamic State with U.S. help, though Washington says it opposes their autonomy plans.

U.S. support for Kurdish-led forces in Syria has infuriated Ankara, which views them as a security threat along its frontier. Turkey sees the YPG as terrorists and an extension of the banned PKK.]]>
2/19/2018 4:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Analysis: Finding Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh’s true ideology ]]>
Perhaps one of Aboul Fotouh’s most notable moves was when he decided to secede with the Muslim Brotherhood after joining them and working with them since 1987, for choosing to run for presidency in 2012. While he cited the reason for their divorce as “an incompatibility of ideologies”, the real motive behind their secession was probably the Muslim Brotherhood’s intention to have another member run for presidency and win.

Yet, while their divorce was widely displayed, many still believe that he is very much affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood till this day. A former Brotherhood leader, who split from the group in 2002, Tharwat al-Kherbawy said in statements on Wednesday night to DMC channel that Aboul Fotouh is going to be tried due to being a member of a terrorist group, not just because of his connections with them.

“He never split from them, despite pretending the opposite. He still has strong connections with them, and can’t really judge anything properly,” Kherbawy added.

While very much logical, seeing that the Egyptian state has been targeting any activists rooting for instability lately, many suspect that Aboul Fotouh was indeed part of a bigger plan devised by the Brotherhood to undermine the stability of the state.


So who is Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh?

By profession, or one of his professions, he’s a physician. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh graduated from Al-Kasr Al-Einy Medical School. But he also graduated from Cairo University with a degree in law. He then went on to pursue a Master’s in Hospital Management from Helwan University.

An activist from a young age, Aboul Fotouh took on the position of Student Union president when he was still studying medicine. He then took up the same position in Cairo University when he was studying law. According to the BBC, “The doctor's own generation helped revitalise political Islam and the Brotherhood as student activists in the 1970s.”

Of Aboul Fotouh’s most memorable moments of his youth, was his public debate against late President Anwar Al-Sadat. “He openly criticized the restrictions on campus protests and Muslim preachers, making the president angry about his lack of respect,” the BBC reported.

But that was simply the making of an activist. Unfortuantely, Aboul Fotouh would become a hardcore Islamist in his youth – and possibly in modern day.

“As a co-founder of the first cell of the Islamic Group (al-Gamaat al-Islamiyah) he believed that violence was permissible to spread the message of Islam and establish an Islamic state,” BBC wrote.

As the 2011 uprising came about, Aboul Fotouh was standing in the Muslim Brotherhood’s ranks; waiting and rooting for the right moment to appear. The BBC reports in 2012 that he was “exhorting” Western powers to rest at ease should and when an Islamist takeover happens.

“Contrary to fear-mongering reports, the West and the Muslim Brotherhood are not enemies,” Aboul Fotouh voiced in The Washington Post.

Yet one must value Aboul Fotouh’s ability to connect with the youth nicely – having taken to social media platforms for communicating with them. While campaigning for his presidential candidacy, Aboul Fotouh promised youth that 50 percent of the appointed officials would be under 45 years of age.

During an interview with the Middle East Institute in 2013, Aboul Fotouh stated his reason for separation from the Brotherhood was due to his desire to run as an independent candidate in the presidential elections. “I also opposed the Brotherhood’s mixing of religious and political life. The Brotherhood was established as an Islamic call and education organization that intended to change society from the grassroots level. Its biggest mistake is its involvement in politics.”

Furthermore, Aboul Fotouh also stated that religion and politics should never mix. “This does not mean that religion should play no role in politics, but I am against a religious state. A religious state means that those ruling the country are representatives of God. A religious state creates discrimination among citizens, when they should be treated according to the rights of citizenship. Gender, race, or religion should not determine your rights. You are an Egyptian and that alone determines your rights.”

Having read that statement was quite ironic, since in 2012 he had assured Western governments that an Islamist takeover would be a good thing in Egypt. But not only is it ironic because of the clear contradiction in ideology, it is also ironic because intel from the government revealed that he had been in contact with Brotherhood leaders in London.

Aboul Fotouh, according to the Interior Ministry’s statement on Thursday, conducted a series of secret meetings abroad, including the latest meeting in London on Feb. 8, when he communicated with member of the international MB organization Lotfi al-Sayed Ali Mohamed, and two MB members who fled to Turkey, namely Mohamed Gamal Heshmat and Hossam ad-Din Atef al-Shazly.

“The aim behind the meeting was to set the mechanisms of carrying out MB chaotic schemes and exploiting the accompanying political atmosphere,” the statement read.
Pleading transparency, Aboul Fotouh is not an easy character to detect. His dealings and ties seem illusionary, but Aboul Fotouh was indeed in London, because he broadcasted an interview from there. He returned from London on February 14 and was detained the day after.

So, who is Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh? Another contradictory character that resurfaces every once in a while, pleading transparency and reform? Or simply another activist calling for ‘democracy’?

Is ‘democracy’ an Islamist takeover that shouldn’t be feared?
]]>
2/19/2018 1:56:13 AM
<![CDATA[Belarus President invites Sisi to visit Minsk: Shoukry ]]>
Shoukry held a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart, in the framework of his current participation in the Munich Security Conference during the period 15-18 February.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Belarusian Foreign Minister expressed his deep gratitude for the development of relations between the two countries and the positive results of the recent visit of Sameh Shoukry to Belarus in August.

With regard to efforts to combat terrorism, the Belarusian Foreign Minister expressed his country's wishes for the success of the 2018 Sinai military operation 2018, stressing his confidence in Egypt's ability to root out terrorism.

The two ministers stressed the importance of following up the coordination between the Egyptian foreign ministry and the Belarusian embassy in Cairo to finalize a MOU to establish a mechanism of political consultation between the foreign ministries in the field of information and communications technology.

The two sides discussed the efforts of the two countries to push forward bilateral relations in various fields. The two sides are keen to expand cooperation in the political and economic fields as well as in the tourism sector as Egypt is the second largest destination for the Belarusian tourist. The number of Belarusian tourists coming to Egypt reached about 147 thousand in 2017.

Abu Zeid pointed out that the meeting also touched on Egypt's vision of the regional situation in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq, as well as Egypt's efforts to resolve the Palestinian case.

Additionally, in March The National Academy of Sciences of Belarus met a large delegation of Egyptian scientists to open a technology center in Egypt to facilitate the transfer of technology, stated Chairman of the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus (NASB) Vladimir Gusakov, reported Belarus news.

In January 2017, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko visited Egypt and signed an agreement on cooperation in science and technology between Egyptian Academy for Scientific Research and Technology and the Belarusian Academy of Sciences.
]]>
2/19/2018 1:40:01 AM
<![CDATA[Czech Social Democrats pick leader, bring viable government closer]]>
Prime Minister Andrej Babis is still trying to find allies after his minority government lost a confidence vote in January, mainly because of allegations that he fraudulently claimed European Union subsidies worth 2 million euros a decade ago.

Babis has denied any wrongdoing, but almost all other parties have declined to cooperate with his ANO movement which has only 78 seats in the 200-strong lower chamber of parliament and thus needs partners to form a majority.

Hamacek, whose Social Democrats ruled in coalition with ANO and the Christian Democrats (KDU) from January 2014 until last December, won 272 votes at the CSSD congress, beating former regional government chief Jan Zimola, who got 224 votes.

He had said before the congress that party members should decide whether the CSSD with its 15 lawmakers joins a coalition with ANO or supports its minority government.

Hamacek said in a letter to party members that Babis should not be part of such a government. This could change if the only other option was to hold an early election, he said in an interview for www.idnes.cz news website.

Only the Communist party, with 15 lawmakers, has said it might lend Babis' government external support, although the centre-right Mayors movement (STAN) said this week it could negotiate with ANO, something it had previously ruled out.

Analysts have said mainstream opposition parties might change their positions in order to prevent possible cooperation between ANO and the Communists or the far-right, anti-EU Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party.]]>
2/19/2018 1:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Presidential candidate denies 'insulting' Sisi, offers platform to gov't]]>
Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper published an article February 15 entitled “Moussa Mostafa: my competition with Sisi is real, I keep position for him upon arrival to power,” but Moussa described it as an attempt to drive wedges between him and Sisi and to make propaganda for the newspaper.

He added that it is known how much he greatly respects to Sisi, confirming that he cannot issue any statements that insults or shames the current president, who has risked his life since the June 30 Revolution.

He stated that everyone should be aware that the two candidates in the election express their solidarity with Egyptians in combating Egypt’s enemies, stressing that it is necessary to face this risk threatening Egypt.

In this regard, he called on Egyptian journalism to preserve its transparency and refute any method that undermines any respectful figures.

Moussa declared that his electoral campaign program focuses on running the suspended factories and closing the gap between salaries and prices, adding that development in Upper Egypt is the priority of his program. He praised the current government, but accused them of "sluggishness." He said he does not mind them taking his electoral platform to "benefit from it."

Consequently, Moussa’s electoral campaign spokesperson Adel Esmat declared on February 14 in a statement that the electoral program of Moussa aims to support national capitalism.

Moussa's national capitalism campaign is based on stock offerings, forming partnerships between public and private sectors and expanding the youth’s ownership.

He asserted that the electoral program, prepared by experts and specified committees of Al-Ghad Party, will propose the key ideas and new visions that would benefit all citizens and achieve a public interest to conclude the transitional stage of the June 30 Revolution.

Furthermore, his program will be topped by continuing Egypt’s comprehensive development, started by Sisi to establish major projects, and providing job opportunities in Upper Egypt through investment projects.

It includes a training program tailored for youth to increase local production and exports by reopening suspended factories. The program also plans to form an agreement with banks and demand international agricultural companies to help reap the benefits of agricultural lands.

The training program will be given by international experts to youth and laborers, benefitting from their experiences to increase exports and be able to compete in the international markets.

The program will push the foreign companies to employ Egyptian youth who will be part-owners of the projects and 25 percent of production should be exported.

Voting in the 2018 presidential election in Egypt will commence on March 26, as announced by the National Electoral Authority (NEA) on January 8. Sixty million eligible voters will cast their ballots in the election between March 26 and 28 in Egypt, while expatriates will vote between March 16 and 18.

Sisi officially announced his candidacy for the 2018 presidential election on January 19.

President Sisi took office in 2014 after protesters toppled the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated ex-President Mohamed Morsi.
]]>
2/18/2018 4:26:30 PM
<![CDATA[Brotherhood's 'contempt of court' leads them to jail]]>
The most recent penalty for contempt of court was imposed on Mohammed El-Beltagy, who was sentenced for a year for the contempt of court while the court was considering his charges in the well-known case of breaking into the eastern border.

The court usually uses Article 244 of the criminal law measures to file a suit against El-Beltagy, stipulating that if any violations or discourteousness have been committed in the court hearing, the court shall immediately file a suit against the defendant and shall sentence it after hearing his lawyer and the prosecution.

Under the law, the defendant charged of court contempt shall face sentences ranging from 24 hours in prison to three years, and the head of court uses Article 184 of the Penal Code to identify which penalty to impose on the defendants if any actions were committed to insult or undermine the court, Parliament, army and any other authorities. Under Article 184, he shall be punished with prison or fines.

Muslim Brotherhood members who were sentenced with charges of contempt of court include President Mohamed Morsi and 18 co-defendants.

According to the prosecution investigations, the convicts faced charges of insulting the judges and the judicial authority with their comments and speeches to media outlets; such comments and speeches carried insulting innuendos against the judicial authority.

The investigations stated that Morsi, during his televised presidential speech on June 23, 2013, insulted Judge Ali Mohamed Ahmed al-Nemr, describing him as “an impartial judge”. Nemr was the presiding judge of a Cairo Criminal Court, which acquitted Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, sons of former President Hosni Mubarak, along with former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, over charges of corruption in the case known as “The Pilots’ Land” on December 19, 2013. He was also one of the supervisory judges during the 2005 Presidential Elections.

Egypt’s Court of Cassation has overturned the one-year prison sentence against a nephew of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi over charges of “contempt of court” on February 8.

Furthermore, the court sent the conservative Islamist Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail to prison for insulting the judiciary during his trial.


]]>
2/18/2018 2:10:48 PM
<![CDATA[After Sinai 2018 comes development: N. Sinai parliamentarian]]>
Can you talk to us more about “Sinai 2018”?
Sinai 2018 marks the end of terrorism in Sinai, which used to terrify Sinai citizens and made their lives hell. The terrorists kept killing citizens in Sinai, targeting both Muslims and Christians.

How have Sinai’s residents reacted to the military operation?
They have waited for this operation for many years; the salvation from terrorists. Sinai’s residents feel satisfied and contented with the outcomes of the full scale operation “Sinai 2018”. As the operation kicked off, the army was constantly reassuring Sinai’s residents about their safety. Sinai 2018 is no less important than the 1973 Arab–Israeli War. We are in a war and we will win.

Would you tell us about the living conditions in Sinai currently? Has life in Sinai halted?
Life has not stopped there, the schools are closed for fear of students’ lives, as terrorists could target them. Sinai is supported by strategic goods and food. Life will not stop in Sinai, but there is attention being paid to the lives of civilians. In addition, Sinai’s stores have returned to work normally and residents practice their everyday activities without any obstacles. The army and policemen are working hard to maintain the normal lives of the residents. Moreover, there is no shortage of fuel.

How is the army and Sinai tribes coordinating together?
There is a high level of coordination among the armed forces, tribes and Sinai youth. The tribes support the military forces with information and road maps. There are regular meetings held between all parties to follow up with the updates of the operation.

There are news stating that the operation is targeting civilians, what would you comment on that?
This is absolutely false. The army is very keen to preserve the lives of citizens. Moreover, the army is taking into consideration the sanctity of homes. The Muslim Brotherhood is behind these rumors.

When will the results of the Sinai operation show?
The outcomes of the operation will appear within a month from now and its effects will be widespread. However, the results are already clear. The terrorists are hiding in the burrows for fear of army strikes. The results of the attacks appeared the day after “Comprehensive Sinai Operation 2018” started.

In your opinion, are there agencies supporting terrorists?
Yes, definitely. There are countries that have supported Egypt's instability for years following a plan to transfer terrorists from Syria, Libya and Iraq to Egypt. This plan hasn’t succeeded due to the efforts of the army and citizens but I confirm that there are parties who are supporting terrorists financially and logistically.

Do you expect that an act of retaliation may be conducted during the upcoming days?
It may happen but our military forces will confront it fiercely and decisively. They will work to eliminate the terrorist strongholds completely at a steady pace.

How will people’s lives change after Sinai 2018?
By the end of the military operation, Egypt will launch an extensive development process and there will be large projects in Sinai to provide opportunities for the people and youth of Sinai. After the eradication of terrorism, Sinai will be transformed to new Sinai. President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi will order the acceleration of Sinai’s development. Moreover, the infrastructure of a number of Sinai’s cities and villages, including the area of Bi’r al-Abd, will be developed.
]]>
2/18/2018 2:00:00 PM
<![CDATA[U.S. calls for action to halt Iran's growing "network of proxies"]]>
McMaster accused Iran of escalating a campaign to increase its influence in the Middle East by building and arming "Hezbollah-style" proxy armies in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere as it has done in Lebanon.

The goal was to weaken Arab governments and turn the proxy forces against those states if they pursued policies that ran counter to Tehran's interests, he said.

"So the time is now, we think, to act against Iran," he told the Munich Security Conference, calling on U.S. allies to halt trade that was helping underwrite the expansion of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the most powerful military and economic force in the Islamic Republic.

The United States deems Lebanon's Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

"What's particularly concerning is that this network of proxies is becoming more and more capable," he said.

Iran has denied accusations that it meddles in the affairs of its Middle East neighbours and has dismissed suggestions it stop supporting groups such as Hezbollah.

NUCLEAR DEAL

McMaster also railed against the 2015 nuclear accord signed by Iran and six other countries, saying investments made by German firms and others were helping fund Iran's missile program and its other activities in the Middle East.

Echoing President Donald Trump's view, he said it was time to address "serious flaws in the Iran deal and counter Iran's destabilising activities including its development and proliferation of missiles."

Trump has been pushing for changes to the 2015 nuclear agreement under which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of many sanctions.

Iran insists it is implementing the nuclear agreement and has warned Washington of consequences if the accord is scrapped.

McMaster said those who invested in Iran were essentially funding activities by Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

He said Iran's biggest trading partners were Russia and China, but also included Japan, South Korea and Germany.

"As a matter of international security and moral conscience we must stop doing business with (Iran Revolutionary Guard) affiliated interests, encourage the development of a true commercial sector in Iran and pressure the regime to respect the rights of its people," he said.

A senior Russian diplomat, Sergei Kislyak, said that Washington's efforts on the Iran nuclear deal would represent an "enormous blow" to non-proliferations efforts.

"We want this treaty ... to continue," he said. "We hear more and more signals from Washington to the extent that they are considering revisiting the participation in the treaty. If that is going to happen, that would be an enormous blow to the collective effort to make sure that non-proliferation efforts survive." ]]>
2/18/2018 12:10:00 PM
<![CDATA[U.S. says it "strongly disagrees" with Ethiopia's state of emergency]]>
"We strongly disagree with the Ethiopian government’s decision to impose a state of emergency that includes restrictions on fundamental rights such as assembly and expression," the statement said.

"We recognize and share concerns expressed by the government about incidents of violence and loss of life, but firmly believe that the answer is greater freedom, not less," it said.]]>
2/18/2018 3:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.N. council mulls condemning Iran over Yemen's Houthis' getting missiles]]>
The draft text to renew U.N. sanctions on Yemen for another year would also allow the 15-member council to impose targeted sanctions for “any activity related to the use of ballistic missiles in Yemen.” Britain drafted the resolution in consultation with the United States and France before giving it to the full council on Friday, diplomats said.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has been lobbying for months for Iran to be held accountable at the United Nations, while at the same time threatening to quit a 2015 deal among world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear program if “disastrous flaws” are not fixed.

“Since the signing of the nuclear agreement, the Iranian regime’s support of dangerous militias and terror groups has markedly increased. Its missiles and advanced weapons are turning up in war zones all across the Middle East,” the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, wrote in an essay published in the New York Times on Saturday.

A proxy war is playing out in Yemen between Iran and U.S. ally Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting Iran-allied Houthi rebels. Iran has denied supplying the Houthis with weapons.

The draft U.N. resolution, which needs to be adopted by Feb. 26, is likely to face resistance from Russia. A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, France or Britain to pass.

The Russian mission to the United Nations was not immediately available for comment on the draft resolution.

Independent U.N. experts monitoring the sanctions on Yemen reported to the Security Council in January that it had “identified missile remnants, related military equipment and military unmanned aerial vehicles that are of Iranian origin and were brought into Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo.”

While the experts said they have “no evidence as to the identity of the supplier, or any intermediary third party” of the missiles fired by the Houthis into neighboring Saudi Arabia, they found Iran had violated sanctions by failing to prevent the supply, sale or transfer of the missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles to the Houthis.

The U.N. Security Council has banned the supply of weapons to Houthi leaders and “those acting on their behalf or at their direction.” It can also blacklist individuals and entities for threatening the peace and stability of Yemen or hindering aid access.

Haley took her Security Council colleagues to Washington in January to view pieces of the weapons in a bid to boost the U.S. case against Iran. Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said after the visit that he does not believe there is a case for United Nations action against Iran. Iran has described the arms displayed in Washington as “fabricated.”

“Some members of the United Nations don’t want to hear it because it is further proof that Iran is defying Security Council resolutions, and the pressure will be on the U.N. to do something about it,” Haley wrote in the New York Times.]]>
2/18/2018 12:34:30 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt's House refutes European Parliament's decision on death penalty]]>
"The decision reveals ignorance of the reality of the situation in Egypt," a statement by the head of the parliament's Committee of Foreign Relations Tarek Radwan read.

"It also overlooked lengthy discussions with EU lawmakers, the European Commission and the EU member states on various issues of common concern," Radwan said.

"The decision, which includes fabricated data that undermines the credibility of one of Europe's most prominent institutions, represents an impenetrable interference in Egypt's internal affairs", said the senior lawmaker.

In view of the death penalty's gravity, the Egyptian laws have provided several guarantees to those facing such punishment in a fair trial offering them an opportunity to defend themselves in accordance with international standards, the statement said.

The Egyptian law limits the death penalty to the most serious crimes, and states that such sentence requires the unanimous opinion of all judges of the criminal court that hears the case, it added.

The Egyptian law affirms that all death penalties have to be issued in the defendant's' presence and to be heard by the Court of Cassation, Radwan said.

The law also provides that a person who has not attained the age of eighteen at the time of crime will not be sentenced to death, the statement read.

It also allows the President of the Republic to consider a pardon or replace the sentence within 14 days, it added.

The provisions of Egyptian law on the death penalty are consistent with the international standards and controls embodied in article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights signed by Egypt, he added.
]]>
2/17/2018 9:05:40 PM
<![CDATA[ET Guide to 2018 presidential election for expats]]>
According to the Egyptian constitution, Egyptian citizens inside and outside the country are eligible to cast votes if they meet the constitutional and legal terms. The constitution sets a maximum of two terms for presidents to serve.

Here is Egypt Today’s guide for Egyptian expatriates to 2018 Presidential election:

When will the election take place?

Voting in the 2018 presidential election in Egypt will commence on March 26, as announced by the National Electoral Authority (NEA) on January 8. Sixty million eligible voters will cast their ballots in the election between March 26 and 28 in Egypt, while expatriates will vote between March 16 and 18.

On February 24, the NEA will announce the final symbols for candidates in the race. Then, the presidential campaigns will officially begin until March 23. No presidential candidate has the right to withdraw from the presidential race after March 1.

On March 14 and 15, the presidential campaigns will stop abroad, as the Egyptian expatriates will cast vote from March 16 to 18.

The results of the first round will be announced on April 2. If there is a need to hold a run-off round, the Egyptian expats will cast their vote again on April 19, 20 and 21. The final 2018 presidential election results are expected to be announced on May 1.


Who are the presidential candidates?

The National Election Authority has approved two official candidates for the 2018 presidential candidate as follows:

1- Abdel Fatah Saeed Hussein Khalil al-Sisi

Sisi is the sixth and incumbent president of the Arab Republic of Egypt. He has been in office since 2014. He was born in November 19, 1954 to two Egyptian parents and got married to his relative Entissar Amer.

Sisi has three sons and one daughter. He has served in the Egyptian Armed Forces from 1977 to 2014. He announced his intention to run for the election during his closing speech at the end of the three-day “Tale of Homeland” conference on January 19, along with his announcement on his official Twitter account. Over 500 MPs have also signed endorsements for Sisi.

Capture
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gestures after casting his ballot in Cairo, May 26, 2014. (photo credit: REUTERS)


2- Moussa Mostafa Moussa

Moussa is the chairman of the Ghad Party. He collected the minimum required endorsements of 20 members of Parliament to run in Egypt’s presidential elections. He claimed that he also garnered the support of 40,000 citizens in various governorates.

Lawyer Samir Elaiwa submitted Moussa’s candidacy documents with the NEA 15 minutes before the deadline for filing the candidacy papers.

Moussa studied architecture in France and heads the Egyptian Council for Arab Tribes. He became the chairperson of the Ghad Party in September 2005, following fierce disputes with the party's founder, Ayman Nour, who founded the party in 2004.

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Moussa Mostafa Moussa among his supporters after submitting his candidacy request to the National Election Authority on January 29, 2018- Egypt Today


Who are eligible to vote?

Eligible voters abroad are those whose names are registered in the voters’ database; they can cast their vote using their national IDs or passports with the ID numbers identified.

In October 2017, the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) announced that 9.5 million Egyptians live outside the country, with the majority located in Arab countries.

Egyptian expatriates will cast their ballots in the upcoming presidential election in 139 polling stations in Egypt’s embassies and councils abroad, NEA spokesperson Mahmoud el-Sherif told Egypt Today Wednesday.

Constitutionally, policemen and members of the armed forces are not allowed to cast their votes, as long as they are serving in the state.

On the voting day, Egyptian expats intending to cast vote should show their identification card or national passport to the embassy or the consulate staff members to verify his data.

The expat who already casts a vote abroad is not permitted to re-vote again inside Egypt during the voting period designated for the election inside the territory of Egypt.

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Egyptians living in Jordan cast their ballots for the presidential election at the Egyptian embassy in Amman. REUTERS


How can expats be sure their vote is correctly verified?

The expats’ voting will be null in certain cases as follows:

If no candidate is chosen.
If the voter writes his name on the voting card.
If the voter draws or writes any symbol on the voting card.
If the voter writes an opinion or comment on any candidate.
If the voter uses a pencil, not a pen.
If the voting card is not stamped.

How long does the voting last?

The voting process takes place for 12 hours on the three voting days, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

How many countries will the election take place in?

The 2018 presidential election will be held in 124 foreign countries where Egyptian expatriates exist and live.

How many foreign countries will not witness the election?

Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia will not be included in the 2018 presidential election. Therefore, Egyptian expats in these four countries will not be able to cast vote there due to security instability.

State measures to assist expats’ voting

Immigration Minister Nabila Makram said last week that the NEA will be receiving requests and inquiries of Egyptian expats on its website https://www.elections.eg, urging Egyptians abroad to “positively and effectively” participate in the voting process.

Local and international organizations are being registered to observe the elections across Egyptian governorates with the registration deadline set to be on Thursday. For the expatriates’ voting process, it will be supervised by members of diplomatic missions and consulates along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff.

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Voters present papers at a polling station in the El Sayda Zeinab area on the third day of voting in the Egyptian presidential elections in Cairo, May 28, 2014. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
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2/17/2018 4:45:46 PM
<![CDATA[Will reducing cultivated rice areas rationalize water?]]>
Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel Aty recently decided to reduce the rice agriculture area in Egypt from 1,700,000 feddans to 724,200 feddans (1 feddan = 1.038 acres) in order to rationalize water in Egypt.

The decision identified nine governorates to grow rice according to the relevant studies: Kafr El-Sheikh, Sharqia, Damietta, Dakahlia, Beheira, Alexandria, Ismailia, Port Said and Gharbia. The ministry stressed that those who do not comply with the decisions will be subject to penalties.

Rice agriculture in Egypt – CC Reuters
Rice agriculture in Egypt – Reuters

Egypt’s fare of water is 114 billion cubic meters from all different sources. There is a national strategy for water resources from 2017 to 2037, and one of its main pillars is to rationalize water use by reducing the water consuming crops, Ministry of Irrigation spokesperson Hossam el-Emam told the “Ra’ay Aam” (Public Opinion) TV show on January 27.

The majority of rice is grown under irrigated conditions in which the fields are flooded from planting to harvest. Because of this flooding, rice is said to use a lot of water, about two and a half times the amount of water needed to grow a crop of wheat or maize, according to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

On the other hand, some experts expect that reducing the rice cultivated areas will lead to a decrease in production, decrease the quantities offered in the markets and lead to higher prices and a trend towards imports to cover the needs of the local market to insure food security.

Rice agriculture in Egypt - Reuters
Rice agriculture in Egypt – File photo

The start of determining rice cultivated areas

This leads us to search for the nature of the laws governing rice cultivation in Egypt. This is what Dr. Mohamed Nasr El Din Allam, professor of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering and former minister of irrigation, answers in a book published in 2001 with a group of researchers, titled “Water and Agricultural lands in Egypt past and present”.

Law No. 71 for year 1953 regulates rice cultivation, giving the Ministry of Irrigation the authority to identify rice growing areas and to sign a fine of LE 25-30 ($1.42-1.70) per feddan on the area that violates the decision, Allam said.

Then Law No. 31 for year 1961 was issued, which stipulates that the minister of irrigation shall determine the areas of rice cultivation and determine the percentage of rice cultivation in each area, and to raise the fines paid for violating that law to LE 35-50.

According to Allam, the total area planned for rice cultivation after the construction of the high dam was about 700,000 feddans, and there was no significant increase until 1988, as the planted areas were less than one million feddans. In Egypt, rice used to be planted in coastal areas to reduce sea water intrusion with the underground water stock in the Delta region.

Along with the liberalization of the prices of agricultural crops, rice became one of the most profitable crops for farmers. The cultivated area increased gradually to 1.3 million feddans in 1992 and 1.6 million feddans in 1997, Allam added.

Crop area for rice in Egypt 2002-2015 CC CAPMAS
Crop area for rice in Egypt 2002-2015 CC CAPMAS

The highest cropped area for rice was 1.8 million feddans in 2007/2008, and then the area wasn’t stable in the following years, reaching its lowest in 2015 at 1.2 million feddans, according to the Central Agency for Capital Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).

The highest rice production through the past 10 years was in in 2007/2008, as it reached 7.3 million tons, while the lowest was in 2010.


Rice production in Egypt cc CAPMAS
Rice production in Egypt cc CAPMAS

The highest rice production through the past 10 years was in 2007/2008, as it reached 7.3 million tons, while the lowest was in 2010, as it reached only 4.3 million tons, and Egypt’s rice self sufficient reaches 100.4%, according to CAPMAS.


22583-Geographical-Distribution-for-Rice-Production-in-Egypt-(CAPMAS)
Geographical Distribution for Rice Production in Egypt (CAPMAS)

According to CAPMAS, the five highest areas in producing rice in the year 2014/2015 are Dakahlia governorate, producing 1.7 million tons; Kafr el-Sheikh with 1.1 million tons; Sharqia with 0.9 million tons; Beheira with 0.6 million tons; and Gharbia with 0.4 million tons.


32801-Governorates-Distribution-on-Map-for-rice-production--Year-20142015--CAPMAS
Governorates Distribution on Map for rice production –Year 2014/2015 – CAPMAS

The cultivation of rice acres consumes around 6,000 cubic meters of water per year. The area of cultivated rice in Egypt is about 9 billion cubic meters of water per year of Egypt's share of Nile water of 55 billion cubic meters. But rice is not the most water-consuming, as banana uses three times the amount of water consumed by the acres of rice, so more solutions should be seen instead of reducing the areas of rice, which is threatening thousands of farmers in the Delta, said Gamal Syam, professor at the Faculty of Agriculture.


More ways to reduce water consumed by rice

The Ministry of Agriculture has identified 53 varieties of some varieties of strategic water-saving crops that are adapted to the different environmental and climatic conditions, focusing on breeding during the coming period, which included seven varieties of rice.

These varieties give high productivity, resistance to disease, and adapt to various water and climatic conditions, as well as short life in the soil, to achieve high efficiency in the use of irrigation water and a major rational in consumption, which provides water quantities that can be used for cultivation and other crops.

The head of the farmers syndicate, Hussein Abu Sadam, criticized the way of rationalizing water by reducing the area of cultivated rice, saying, “Egypt is still growing enough quantities of domestic consumption and surplus for export, after wheat, cotton and reed crops have declined. Rice is also the most profitable crop for Delta farmers under the low profitability of vegetables.”

Sadam suggested using modern irrigation methods and cultivating non-irrigated rice strains, also announcing clear policy for the Ministry of Agriculture to determine the land where rice will be grown or not.


A general view of Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam Reuters
A general view of Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam, as it undergoes construction, is seen during a media tour along the river Nile in Benishangul Gumuz Region, Guba Woreda, in Ethiopia March 31, 2015. Picture taken March 31, 2015 - REUTER/Tiksa Negeri

At the same time, Egypt is negotiating with the African front to guarantee its rights in Nile water amid establishing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Recently a tripartite summit occurred between Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and resigned Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn at Sisi's presidential residence in Addis Ababa during the African Union (AU)’s 30th summit.

The three countries affirmed an agreement on a single vision based on the Declaration of Principles signed in Khartoum and raising the no-harm principle of the three countries’ interests.

tripartite summit at the AU's 30th summit
Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi (R), Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (C) and Sudanese counterpart, Omar Hassan al-Bashir (L) during a tripartite summit at the AU's 30th summit on January 29, 2018 – Press photo

They agreed to hold a joint meeting between the ministers of irrigation and foreign affairs of the three countries and the National Tripartite Commission, then raise a final report in a month that includes a solution to all pending technical issues. They also agreed to exchange technical information and studies between the three countries.
]]>
2/17/2018 4:40:05 PM
<![CDATA[No evidence behind U.S. indictment of Russians for election meddling: Moscow]]>
The office of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has charged 13 Russians and three Russian companies, including the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, known for its trolling on social media. ]]>
2/17/2018 3:39:03 PM
<![CDATA[Maldives seeks foreign help to investigate arrested judges' wealth: envoy]]>
The tiny Indian Ocean archipelago, best known for its luxury hotels and dive resorts, imposed a 15-day state of emergency on Feb. 5 to annul a ruling from the court ordering the release of nine leading opposition figures.

“That was a direct attempt by the Supreme Court to halt the whole country and go into a deadlock,” said Ahmed Shiaan, Maldives ambassador to the European Union.

He showed Reuters a Maldives police statement which said a bag containing $215,000 and 150,000 rufiyaa ($9,700) belonging to one Supreme Court judge had been found, and that $2.4 million had been separately wired to the judge by a private firm.

Shiaan said that judge, and a second judge on the Supreme Court, had been arrested on suspicion of accepting bribes from former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to deliver certain verdicts in his favor. Gayoom himself has been arrested over allegations that he solicited bribes to topple the government.

“Together, it amounted to collusion to use the Supreme Court to overthrow a democratically elected and constitutional government,” Shiaan said in the interview.

Gayoom’s lawyer Maumoon Hameed said he was detained under the state of emergency without any evidence or due process, which was unacceptable.

“If this is such a huge investigation and Gayoom is a dangerous person of interest why have they not questioned him in over 140 hours?”

Lawyers for the two judges said their clients also denied all the charges. One said his client had been refused permission to deny the charges.

CALL FOR FOREIGN ASSISTANCE
“So far what we know is that they (the two judges) have made at least 12 visits in the past few months to various countries, including India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Netherlands and UK. And they have bought or acquired very expensive items (or) properties,” Shiaan said.

“So the investigation is not limited to Maldives. Hence, we would need assistance from other countries for the investigation.”

Property purchases abroad needed to be disclosed and $2.4 million is beyond the reach of a judge’s salary, Shiaan said.

He said the two judges had persuaded the other three Supreme Court justices to pass rulings “at midnight, out of the blue and without any new evidence”, to free political prisoners and order the retrial of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2015.

Shiaan said they also tried to remove the attorney-general, prosecutor-general, police commissioner and President Abdulla Yameen, who declared the emergency to reverse the court’s actions.

“I think when that happened the other three (judges) basically came out and said how everything was hijacked and how this actually unfolded,” Shiaan said.

Opposition legislators in the past have complained of authorities targeting them with false allegations. Yameen has denied such accusations. Most of the opposition leaders likely to challenge Yameen in a presidential vote later this year are facing jail sentences. Some have urged India to intervene.

The United Nations, United States, Britain and India have called for the judges to be freed, while independent experts reporting to the U.N. Human Rights Council have said the rule of law in the Maldives is “under siege”.

The Maldives wants to hold “all party” talks and has asked the United Nations to facilitate them, Shiaan said.

Yameen is expected to run for re-election later this year, but neither Gayoom nor Nasheed, who was granted asylum in Britain in 2016, will be eligible to run, Shiaan said.]]>
2/17/2018 11:22:53 AM
<![CDATA['New dawn' for S.Africa, says new president Ramaphosa]]>
"We should put all the negativity that has dogged our country behind us because a new dawn is upon us and a wonderful dawn has arrived," Ramaphosa told parliament in the annual State of the Nation address.

In an ambitious and wide-ranging speech, Ramaphosa vowed to revive South Africa's stagnant economy, tackle the country's dire unemployment rate and control spiralling government debt.

"Tough decisions have to be made to close our fiscal gap, stabilise our debt and restore our state-owned enterprises to health," he said.

Zuma was forced to resign on Wednesday after the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party turned against him, with pro-business reformist Ramaphosa sworn in as president only on Thursday.

Zuma reluctantly resigned, saying he had received "very unfair" treatment from the ANC.

Ramaphosa, 65, is a former trade unionist who led talks to end apartheid in the early 1990s and then became a multi-millionaire businessman before returning to politics.]]>
2/17/2018 5:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[Russians charged with 2016 U.S. election tampering to boost Trump]]>
The charges by the office of Robert Mueller described a conspiracy that started in 2014 to disrupt the U.S. election by people who adopted false online personas to push divisive messages; traveled to the United States to collect intelligence; and staged political rallies while posing as Americans.

Russia's Internet Research Agency "had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election," the indictment states.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told reporters in announcing the charges that the investigation was not finished.

"Defendants posted derogatory information about a number of candidates, and by early to mid-2016, Defendants' operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump ... and disparaging Hillary Clinton," the court document said.

The indictment broadly echoes the conclusions of a January 2017 U.S. intelligence assessment, which found that Russia had meddled in the election, and that its goals eventually included aiding Trump. In November 2016, the Republican candidate won a surprise electoral college victory over Democratic Party candidate Clinton, who won the popular vote.

A Kremlin spokesman said he was not yet familiar with the U.S. indictment.

Trump has never unequivocally accepted the intelligence report and has denounced Mueller's probe into whether his campaign colluded with the Kremlin as a "witch hunt."

President Trump has been briefed on the indictment announced on Friday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

Some of those charged, posing as Americans, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign, the indictment said. Last year, two former Trump campaign aides pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI - charges brought by Mueller's office.

The indictment of the Russians, coupled with the FBI disclosure that it failed to heed a warning about the Florida high school shooter, were blows to the White House, still reeling from the fallout of a scandal involving a former aide accused of domestic abuse by two ex-wives.

Trump, who had hoped to focus the entire week on his infrastructure proposal, was closeted in the Oval Office as the reports rolled in, and his communications team was slow to respond to the ever-growing list of queries.

'CONSPIRATORS'

Rosenstein told a press conference "the indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed."

The indictment appeared likely to provide ammunition to Democrats and others arguing for a continued aggressive investigation of the election interference.

It names the Internet Research Agency, based in St. Petersburg, Russia, 13 Russian nationals and two other companies.

The indictment describes a sophisticated, multi-year and well-funded operation, dubbed "Project Lakhta," by Russian entities to influence the election, beginning as early as May 2014.

It reveals a deeper level of sophistication and planning than previously known behind Moscow's purported attempts to interfere.

The indictment said that Russians unlawfully used stolen social security numbers and birth dates of Americans to open accounts on the PayPal digital payment platform and to post on social media using those fake identities.

It said the defendants and others began producing, purchasing and posting political advertisements of U.S. social media.

They included "I say no to Hillary Clinton/I say no to manipulation," "JOIN our #HillaryClintonForPrison2016,” “Donald wants to defeat terrorism . . . Hillary wants to sponsor it,” and “Trump is our only hope for a better future."

Facebook and Twitter, the social media companies whose platforms were used, both declined to comment on the indictment.

The Russians sought to measure the impact of their online social media operations, tracking the size of U.S. audiences reached through posts and other types of engagement, such as likes, comments and reposts, according to the indictment

The Internet Research Agency was registered with the Russian government as a corporate entity in July 2013 and the St. Petersburg location "became one of the organization’s operational hubs" through which the defendants and others "carried out their activities to interfere in the U.S. system," including the presidential election, the indictment said.

The organization employed hundreds of people, ranging from creators of fictitious person to technical experts, and by September 2016, its budget was in excess of $1.2 million, the court document said.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that he had already seen evidence Russia was targeting U.S. elections in November, when Republican control of the House of Representatives and Senate are at stake, plus a host of positions in state governments.

"Frankly, the United States is under attack," Coats said at an annual hearing on worldwide threats.]]>
2/17/2018 1:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[US indicts 13 Russian nationals for election interference]]>
According to the unsealed indictment the accused conspired -- from 2014 until today -- to interfere "with the US political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016."

Mueller alleges that the group posed as Americans and controlled social media accounts that focused on divisive social and political issues.

Under the management of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Vladimir Putin, the group reached "significant numbers" of Americans, according to the indictment.

They had a "strategic goal to sow discord in the US political system" and by mid-2016 were supporting Donald Trump's campaign and disparaging Hillary Clinton.

The group was based in Putin's home town of Saint Petersburg, but some of the accused traveled to the United States.

Stops included Nevada, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia and New York.

An unnamed Texas-based American political operative is said to have instructed them to focus on so-called "purple states" which swing between Republican and Democratic control.

"Hundreds" of people were said to have been involved in the operation, working in shifts and with a budget of millions of dollars.

They allegedly targeted social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

Two of the firms are said to have Russian government contracts.]]>
2/17/2018 1:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Russia calls US allegations of election meddling absurd]]>
A U.S. federal grand jury on Friday indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities accused of interfering with U.S. elections and political processes.

"13 people interfered in the U.S. elections?! 13 against an intelligence services budget of billions? Against intelligence and counterintelligence, against the latest developments and technologies? Absurd? Yes," Zakharova wrote in a post on Facebook.]]>
2/17/2018 12:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Iraq: $30 billion is simply not enough]]>
So the United States steps forward with the might of its global coalition. At the invitation of the Iraqi government, the United States led a coalition of the willing in Iraq to counter the threat which challenged the existence of the Iraqi state as we know it today. Working in cohorts with Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi government forces, the U.S. led coalition was rooted in its single goal: the eradication of ISIS, which it was highly effective at. The Iraqi government announced in December of last year that its war against ISIS was over almost three and a half years after the group began commanding territory in the country.

For a campaign to be largely effective, a single goal cannot be achieved through a single measure. Cities under ISIS control have faced indiscriminate bombing as the group has been militarily battered, but so has everything else. It became apparent that regular warfare on the ground was not simply supplemented by airstrikes, but overtaken by them. With the difficulty of distinguishing between civilian and militant, family-house or training compound; the refugee communities’ worst fears are being realised when they returned to what was left of their cities. Key infrastructure had been destroyed and people were often unable to return to the rubble which was once their home.

Multifaceted campaigns are essential, a point stressed by the U.S. to its allies in the Middle East, however it’s too late to dwell on this point. Now the military contest is over, a coordinated approach to regenerate these cities is crucial for a return to normal life and to avoid a re-invigorated discontent and violence. Yet again however, the disturbingly single minded nature of foreign policy has come to the forefront of the world’s attention. Cities have been reduced to rubble, people aren’t willing to rebuild.

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An Iraqi boy sells water in front of destroyed houses on a street in Western Mosul, Iraq August 7, 2017. Picture taken through a glass window – REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

A global donor conference – Kuwaiti International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq (KICRI) – has pledged almost $30 billion to help Iraq rebuild. All of the conference attendees were trying to reach agreements to reconstruct destroyed houses, infrastructure, roads, hospitals, schools and public facilities. However, the funds raised are meagre in contrast to the $88 billion the country estimates it will need to rebuild.

The conference enjoyed the participation of 70 humanitarian organizations, the representatives of 1,850 global companies and the officials of 70 countries worldwide, however Iraq still faces a financial crisis. Turkey, one of Iraq’s largest trading partners, promised $5 billion in investment loans, and Kuwait promised $1 billion in investment and $1 billion in loans. However, Iraq is in dire need of around $22 billion in urgent reconstruction.

The NGP Transparency International ranks Iraq as the 10th most corrupt country in the world, and accordingly the political and security risks of doing business in Iraq is damaging commercial interests.

Notably however, the U.S. was absent. While officials said in advance that Washington would not attend the conference, the fact that the U.S. will not stand front is centre in helping the country rebuild is indicative of the foreign policy it currently employs; first to enter, first to leave.

The country is in desperate need of short term and long term financial support. As the government hopes to diversify the economy away from reliability on oil rents, key infrastructure is needed to help mobilise the workforce. From hospitals to homes, roads to runways, schools to social centres; the material necessities which provide a basic quality of life are absent is large swathes of territory. If the world, and notably those deeply invested in Iraq, cannot appropriately finance Iraq’s reconstruction, there is a risk that factors leading to instability will become prevalent again.]]>
2/16/2018 6:29:34 PM
<![CDATA[How does Desalegn’s resignation affect GERD negotiations?]]>CAIRO – 16 February 2018: After the protracted Egyptian-Ethiopian negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) have undergone a significant development recently, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn unexpectedly resigned on Thursday, saying he hoped to end years of unrest and political upheaval.

"I see my resignation as vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy," Desalegn said. The ruling coalition has accepted his resignation, state-affiliated outlets said.

Egyptian experts warn of negative impact on GERD negotiations

Mona Omar, former assistant to the secretary of state for African affairs, stated that Desalegn’s decision could have a negative impact on the GERD issue, expressing hopes that the country's parliament does not accept his resignation.

Desalegn has a strong, friendly relationship with President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, as he is one of the positive figures in dealing with Egypt’s issues, Omar told Al-Watan newspaper, adding that she wishes the new premier will not have a different approach.

Former Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and Secretary-General of the Arab Investors Union Gamal Bayoumi agreed with Omar, saying that this resignation could affect the latest negotiations between Egypt and Ethiopia over GERD and the relations in general if he is followed by a premier with a different approach.

In January 2018, Sisi and Desalegn had a fruitful meeting at Al-Ittihadia palace in Cairo to address the bilateral relations between the two countries.

In this meeting, Desalegn asserted the depth of the relationship between the two countries, saying, “Since President Sisi took office, we have met ten times; you can imagine the depth of the relations between us.”

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Egypt - Ethiopia joint press conference in Cairo Thursday, January 18, 2018 – Photo courtesy of Facebook page of the Spokesman of Egyptian Presidency.


Ethiopian Prime Minister Desalegn asserted that his country will not put Egyptians’ lives at risk, assuring that the Nile River will continue to flow between the two countries.

The resignation could negatively affect the latest GERD negotiations and the work of the technical committee that was formed to study the impacts of the GERD construction, former Foreign Minister Mohamed el-Orabi said, stressing the importance of following the repercussions of Desalegn’s resignation on Egypt during the upcoming hours.

Ethiopian ambassador assures this move won’t harm bilateral talks

However, while Egyptian experts and politicians asserted that Desalegn’s resignation would harm the latest talks between Cairo and Addis Ababa over GERD, Ethiopian Ambassador to Egypt Taye Stke-Selassie Amde's statements to Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper came with assurance that this new move will not affect in any way the bilateral talks on the dam.

“Ethiopia respects its commitment towards the downstream countries (Egypt and Sudan) and will work according to the directions that were issued by the presidents of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan during their tripartite summit held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa,” Amde asserted.

Moreover, he said the three countries are expected to hold an important meeting next week, but the details of the meeting’s place and date have not yet been determined.

According to Ethiopian journalist Anwar Ibrahim, Desalegn’s resignation came in response to the demands and will of the Ethiopian people, and to calm the tense situation in the country.

He added that the “Ethiopian parliament is currently considering the resignation and the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) held several meetings throughout the last period, and based on these meetings, Desalegn’s resignation decision was taken.”

Ethiopia PM Hailemariam Desalegn in surprise resignation

In a sudden move, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said on Thursday that he had submitted his resignation as both premier and chairman of the ruling coalition in an effort to facilitate reforms following years of widespread unrest, according to Reuters

"Unrest and a political crisis have led to the loss of lives and displacement of many," Desalegn said in a televised address to the nation.

Hundreds of people have died in violence sparked in 2015 and 2016 in the country's two most populous regions – Oromiya and Amhara. The unrest began as opposition to an urban development plan for the capital Addis Ababa, but morphed into public demonstrations against political restrictions, land grabbing and human rights abuses.

Desalegn said he would stay on as prime minister in a caretaker capacity until the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and the country's parliament accepted his resignation and named a new premier. It was not immediately clear when a new premier was to be announced.

Most of the released prisoners, which included high level opposition figures and journalists, were detained for alleged involvement in the mass protests.

The prime minister had pushed for even more releases, said a regional analyst familiar with Ethiopian politics, who asked not to be named in order not to jeopardize his relationship with the government.

Years of Egyptian-Ethiopian negotiations over GERD

Egypt has gone through years of negotiations, since May 2011, with Ethiopia and Sudan over GERD. Egypt has voiced its concerns regarding the dam’s capacity of water storage, fearing that it may negatively affect its share of Nile water.

Lately, after a number of meetings and negotiations between the three countries, Sisi reassured that none of the Egyptian, Ethiopian or Sudanese people will be harmed by the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

When asked by one of the reporters if the dam's crisis is over, Sisi answered, "There is no crisis."

Sisi’s statement came after the tripartite summit that was held on January 29 between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia on a presidential level. In the meeting, the three countries affirmed an agreement on a single vision based on the Declaration of Principles signed in Khartoum and raising the no-harm principle of the three countries’ interests.

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Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi (R), the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (C) and Sudanese counterpart, Omar Hassan al-Bashir (L) during a tripartite summit at the AU's 30th summit on Jan.29, 2018 - Egypt Today

Days before the tripartite summit, during a joint press conference in Cairo in which the two countries presented their views concerning the Ethiopian establishment of GERD, Desalegn assured that “they will not cause any harm to Egypt’s entity and its people.”

During the joint conference, Sisi said he appreciated Ethiopia’s repeated assurances that the dam would not have a negative impact on Egypt. However, the required technical studies, set as a condition to determine the dam’s operation mechanism before the filling of the reservoir, according to the Declaration of Principles signed in 2015 between the three states, must be completed and all sides should abide by their findings.

Cairo has long repeated its concern over how the dam can reduce the country’s annual share of more than 56 billion cubic meters of Nile water. Egypt’s average water per-capita is expected to drop from 663 cubic meters per year to 582 cubic meters by 2025, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).

However, Addis Ababa claimed that the dam is necessary for Ethiopia’s development and that it will not harm downstream countries.

]]>
2/16/2018 6:10:59 PM
<![CDATA[Profile: Meet South Africa’s new President Cyril Ramaphosa]]>
Jacob Zuma resigned as president of South Africa on Wednesday in a televised address to the nation, and his deputy showed to succeed him and vowed to fight corruption in a direct reference to accusations leveled at Zuma.




Zuma’s resignation over political pressures

Former President Jacob Zuma resigned following intense pressure against him from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) after having been president for nine years. Zuma took office as president in 2009.

In 2005, he was suspected of receiving a large amount of bribes over weapons trading and was also charged with women's assault charges.

Ramaphosa played a major role in the resignation of Zuma, but now he faces many challenges in correcting the political path of his country, which has been suffering due to corruption.




Ramaphosa’s political life

Cyril Ramaphosa, born in 1952 in Soweto near Johannesburg, studied law at the University of the North at Turfloop. In the 1970s, during the period of student uprisings in South Africa, he started his political activism and supported the black consciousness movement, which came to head during the June 16, 1976 massacre.

He founded the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) that was established mainly to improve the rights of black African workers in the early 1980s.

From the first half of the 1980s, he emphasized efforts of union workers and worked hard to improve the rights of black workers.

In 1987, he led the NUM, staging one of the largest and most effective industrial strikes in South Africa, which led to a three-week shutdown of the entire mining industry.


South_African_president_Jacob_Zuma
South African president Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa are seen attending Cabinet Committee meetings in this government handout picture, in Cape Town, South Africa, February 7,.JPG



In 1991, Ramaphosa pursued a career in politics and was elected to the position of ANC secretary-general at the National Conference under the presidency of Nelson Mandela, who saw Ramaphosa as his “successor.”

He is an anti-apartheid activist who held the microphone for Mandela during his famous City Hall speech. In the early 1990s, Ramaphosa was a key negotiator during the nation's transition to democracy.

In 1994, Ramaphosa became a member of parliament following South Africa’s first fully democratic election. He was considered a potential deputy for Mandela.




In 1997, Ramaphosa resigned from the parliament, starting a new investment firm, called Shanduka Group. He became a multi-millionaire businessman. His wife Tshepo is the sister of fellow South African tycoon Patrice Motsepe. He bought shares of Coca-Cola and McDonald, with estimated assets of $450 million.

In 2014, Ramaphosa returned to politics and became deputy president of the Republic of South Africa.

In 2015, Forbes listed Ramaphosa among the 50 richest people in Africa, with a net worth of $450 million.

He was elected as head of the ANC in December 2017, considered the 13th president of the ANC since its founding in January, 1912.




Ramaphosa vowed to fight Zuma’s corruption

Ramaphosa has pledged to boost growth and combat corruption, while Zuma faces over 780 criminal charges, including money laundering. According to South Africa’s top court, Zuma violated the constitution following an investigation of multi-million-dollar upgrades to his private home. The investigations stated those amounts of money were paid from the state treasury.

One day before submitting his resignation, Zuma denied corruption in a speech given to the nation, alleging that he “has done nothing wrong.”

“Zuma must go to jail if found guilty after investigating corruption charges against him,” said opposition leaders, according to local media outlets.





ANC is a prestigious party chaired by Mandela, a leading figure who led to the end of apartheid (race isolation). Zuma also joined ANC at the age of 17 and was active as a fighter of the black liberation movement.

South Africa has achieved steady economic growth. Along with Russia and other countries, it has occupied a part of "BRICS" (five emerging countries), but under the rule of Zuma the unemployment rate has reached 28%, limited to young people. There is also a view that it will exceed 50%. The economic downturn put pressure on people's livelihoods, and anti-government demonstrations were an everyday occurrence.

]]>
2/16/2018 4:29:00 PM
<![CDATA[FM concerned about security conditions in several Libyan cities]]>
This came at his meeting on Friday with UN Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame on the sidelines of his participation in the 54th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Germany's Munich city.

In statements, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said that the two sides discussed the latest developments in Libya and efforts exerted to resolve the Libyan crisis.

During the meeting, Shoukry expressed Egypt's support for UN efforts exerted in this regard, urging all regional and international parties to back these efforts.

The UN envoy also posted Shoukry on the outcome of contacts with all Libyan parties, in addition to efforts exerted to amend the Libyan Political Agreement, which was signed in Skhirat in Morocco in December 2015, known as "Skhirat Agreement".

Salame also posted Shoukry on measures taken to register eligible voters ahead of Libya 2018 elections, saying the Libyans are awaiting for the issuance of the election law.

Shoukry also stressed the necessity of continuing efforts to bring closer the disputing parties in Libya with the view to reaching a national vision on Libya's future.

Shoukry also underlined efforts exerted by Egypt to unify the Libyan military institution to undertake its duties in restoring peace and stability and eradicate terrorism in the country.

Shoukry also reiterated Egypt's deep concern about the growing terrorist threat, especially with the return of terrorists from Syria and Iraq and their attempts to flee to Libya and the Sahel region, a matter that poses serious threats to security and stability of the entire region. ]]>
2/16/2018 3:57:10 PM
<![CDATA[U.S. and Turkey agree to mend ties; Turks propose joint deployment in Syria]]>
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met President Tayyip Erdogan during a two-day visit that followed weeks of escalating anti-American rhetoric from the Turkish government.

While relations between Washington and its main Muslim ally in NATO have been strained by a number of issues, Turkey has been particularly infuriated by U.S. support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which it sees as terrorists.

Turkey launched an air and ground assault last month in Syria's northwest Afrin region to sweep the YPG away from its southern border. The United States has armed, trained and aided YPG fighters with air support and special forces, as the main ground force in its campaign against Islamic State.

"We find ourselves at a bit of a crisis point in the relationship," Tillerson told a news conference after meeting with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday morning. He had met with Erdogan for a more than three-hour discussion on Thursday night.

"We've decided and President Erdogan decided last night we needed to talk about how do we go forward. The relationship is too important."

The United States has no troops on the ground in Afrin, where the Turkish offensive has so far taken place. But Turkey has proposed extending its campaign further east to the town of Manbij, where U.S. troops are based, potentially leading to direct confrontation with U.S.-backed units.

In a proposal that could signal an important breakthrough in efforts to overcome the allies' stark differences over Syria, a Turkish official told Reuters that Turkey had proposed that Turkish and U.S. forces could deploy jointly in Manbij.

Such a joint deployment could take place if YPG fighters first withdrew to positions east of the Euphrates river, long a Turkish demand.

MANBIJ

Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, said Turkey would be able to take joint steps with the United States in Syria once the YPG left the vicinity of Manbij.

"What is important is who will govern and provide security to these areas," he said. "We will coordinate to restore stability in Manbij and other cities. We will start with Manbij. After YPG leaves there, we can take steps with the U.S. based on trust."

He also said the two countries had created a "mechanism" for further talks and would meet again by mid-March to further hash out their differences.

Tillerson said issues around Manbij would receive priority in the talks.

Tillerson said he recognised Turkey's legitimate right to defend its borders, but called on Ankara to show restraint in the Afrin operation and avoid actions that would escalate tensions in the area.

He also said the United States had serious concerns about local employees at its missions in Turkey and called on Ankara to release a U.S. pastor and other Americans detained in Turkey. ]]>
2/16/2018 2:16:53 PM
<![CDATA[EU will not lift visas unless Turkey eases terrorism laws]]>
The EU has been taken aback by President Tayyip Erdogan's security crackdown following a botched coup in 2016 that saw some 50,000 people, including journalists, arrested and 150,000 more, from teachers to judges to soldiers, sacked or suspended from their jobs.

That has soured the bloc's relations with its NATO ally that is also instrumental in keeping a lid on Middle East immigration to Europe.

Turkey has been seeking to mend ties, telling the EU this month it had met all criteria for visa-free travel to the bloc.

But Belgium Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said Ankara must first ease its terrorism laws, which Turkey has long declined to do. Turkey says it needs them, given the severity of security threats it faces on its own soil and in the region.

"If it is possible to align the legislation with the values of the European Union, it will be possible to make some progress," Reynders said on the sidelines of an EU foreign ministers' meeting joined by Turkey's EU minister, Omer Celik.

"The link is this - a real evolution in Turkey in the legislation on terrorism and the possibility to move on the visas."

The EU suspended Turkey's long-stalled membership talks last year over democracy concerns under Erdogan and his jibes at some of the bloc's members. But next month it is expected to offer Ankara more money for hosting Syrian refugees.

The EU's top enlargement official, Johannes Hahn, said the bloc's executive European Commission in Brussels was analysing the Turkish visa documents.

"Turkey understands that in principle Europe is the most reliable and predictable neighbour they have, and they are well advised to have a good relationship," he told reporters. "There are some signals but when it comes to issues of rule of law, the situation is still not satisfactory."

Celik, who did not speak to journalists on arriving for the talks, will also discuss with the EU ministers Turkey's latest military intervention in the Syrian province of Afrin, which the bloc has expressed concern about.

Erdogan on Thursday hosted the top U.S. diplomat, Rex Tillerson, in a bid to ease the latest tensions between the two over their policies in the multi-sided war in Syria.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday also demanded a fast and fair judicial process to secure the release of a German-Turkish journalist jailed in Turkey a year ago.]]>
2/16/2018 12:49:59 PM
<![CDATA[Tillerson: U.S. recognizes Turkish right to secure borders]]>
At a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara, Tillerson also said that the United States has serious concerns about local employees at its missions in Turkey and called on Ankara to release a U.S. pastor and other Americans detained in Turkey.

Tillerson arrived in Turkey on Thursday for two days of what officials have said would likely be uncomfortable discussions between the allies, whose relations have neared a breaking point over a host of issues, but particularly Syrian policy.]]>
2/16/2018 12:24:49 PM
<![CDATA[S.Africa's new president vows to tackle state corruption]]>
Tainted by scandal, Zuma resigned on Wednesday following intense pressure from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) that he had dominated for his nine years in power.

"Issues to do with corruption, issues of how we can straighten out our state-owned enterprises and how we deal with 'state capture' are issues that are on our radar," Ramaphosa told lawmakers in parliament.

"State capture" refers to the alleged corruption of government institutions and state-owned businesses by Zuma's associates.

"Tomorrow we will also have an opportunity to outline some of the steps we are going to be taking," he said.

ANC lawmakers celebrated his appointment with songs, dancing and a standing ovation.

Ramaphosa, a hugely wealthy former entrepreneur, will deliver his first State of the Nation address to parliament in Cape Town on Friday evening.

After multiple corruption scandals, economic slowdown and falling popularity among voters, the ANC had threatened to oust Zuma via a no-confidence vote in parliament.

Hours before his resignation, Zuma said he had received "very unfair" treatment from the ANC, which he joined in 1959, spending decades in the party fighting white-minority rule.

He said he was angry over the way in which the decision had been carried out "as there is no evidence of if I have done anything wrong."

Zuma, 75, has been locked in a divisive power struggle with Ramaphosa, his deputy who won control of the ANC in December.

- Markets soar -

The political turnaround saw benchmark South African stocks scoring their biggest gains since June 2016 following news that the pro-business reformist would be taking the helm.

The FTSE/JSE Africa All Share Index rose as much as 2.7 percent, while the rand, already the world's best-performing currency over the past three months, rose 0.4 percent to 11.6667 per dollar.

"Ramaphosa's arrival in the presidency will be met by a surge in investor and consumer confidence over the coming weeks in anticipation of his reform agenda," said the London-based Eurasia consultancy group.

During the apartheid era, Zuma, who had no formal education, spent 10 years in jail on Robben Island alongside Nelson Mandela before rising through the ANC ranks to take power in 2009.

Local media said he had been pushing for a resignation deal that would include his legal fees to fight a series of criminal charges -- but Zuma denied it in his speech.

One case against him relates to 783 payments he allegedly received linked to an arms deal before he came to power.

Other graft allegations have centred on the three Gupta brothers, who are accused of unfairly obtaining lucrative government contracts and even hand-picking Zuma's ministerial appointments.

Police on Thursday said an arrest warrant had been issued for one of the brothers, Ajay Gupta.

The political standoff had plunged South Africa -- the continent's most developed economy -- into confusion over who was actually running the country.

- Tricky election looms -

Zuma, a Zulu traditionalist with four wives and a proud singing voice, had been scheduled to stand down next year after serving the maximum of two terms.

In local polls in 2016, the ANC recorded its worst electoral result since coming to power in 1994 under Mandela as white-minority rule fell.

Ramaphosa, 65, must now work to revive the economy and crack down on what he has admitted is rampant government corruption if he is to repair the party's tarnished reputation before a tricky general election next year.

He is a former trade unionist and Mandela ally who led talks to end apartheid in the early 1990s and then became a multi-millionaire businessman before returning to politics.]]>
2/16/2018 3:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. House intel panel leaders: Bannon refuses to answer many queries]]>
Republican Representative Mike Conaway and Democratic Representative Adam Schiff said Bannon would only answer 25 questions approved by the White House. He claimed executive privilege and special protections for White House communications in refusing to say more, they said.

"He did not answer all the questions we'd like answered, so there was frustration among committee members with respect to that," said Conaway, who has been overseeing the committee's investigation of Russia and the 2016 U.S. election after U.S. intelligence agencies determined that the nation sought to interfere in the campaign.

Russia has denied trying to meddle in the election. Trump has denied collusion between his associates and Moscow.

"That is not how privilege works. That is how stonewalling works," Schiff told reporters.

Schiff called for the initiation of contempt of Congress proceedings against Bannon.

When Conaway was asked whether he would back such a contempt proceeding, he said the decision was not his to make. "I think he (Bannon) should answer our questions," he told reporters.

Bannon left after less than three hours of testimony. It was his second appearance before the committee.]]>
2/16/2018 1:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Republican Romney to announce U.S. Senate bid Friday - source]]>
Romney, a fierce critic of fellow Republican President Donald Trump, had earlier said he would announce his decision on Thursday but postponed it because of a deadly school shooting in Florida.

The source said Romney, 70, will issue the video announcement on Friday morning. Later on Friday he is scheduled to speak at a Republican Party dinner in Provo, Utah.

Earlier this week, a source familiar with Romney's plans said he would pledge to "bring Utah values to Washington, D.C." and planned to run a very Utah-centric campaign.

Romney, a successful businessman, lost the 2012 presidential election to Democratic incumbent Barack Obama. He had served as governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007, after stepping in to lead the organizing committee for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics following a bribery scandal.

When Trump's candidacy gained strength in the 2016 campaign, Romney urged Republicans not to support him, an effort that fizzled as the New York real estate magnate went on to win the nomination and the November election.

Trump had urged incumbent Republican Senator Orrin Hatch to run for re-election in Utah, but Hatch opted not to do so, opening the door to Romney's candidacy.]]>
2/16/2018 12:17:08 AM
<![CDATA[Exclusive: IS, Al-Qaeda conflict affirms Sinai 2018's success]]>
A group calling itself Minbar Sinai (Sinai Pulpit) issued a statement on the group's Telegram channel on Tuesday, saying that the channel was hacked by members of the Islamic State after it released an earlier statement stressing the terrorists' defeat in the ongoing Operation Sinai 2018 launched by the Egyptian security forces.

A statement appeared on Minbar Sinai's Telegram channel that said, "We closed your channel, enemies of Allah! We will keep closing your channels whenever you create others, and we will make you shut them for fear of termination."

Minbar Sinai, believed to be linked to the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jund al-Islam (Soldiers of Islam) organization operating in Sinai, posts updates about events in Sinai, complaints about the circumstances of the residents, and reports of wrongs inflicted on them by IS operations.

"We stopped our attacks during the army campaign to support our people in the Sinai while they – ISIS militants – fled like rats and abandoned their children and women. We will continue to expose this group's moldy approach," Minbar Sinai announced on alternative Telegarm channel.

The anti-IS Telegram channel published a photo that took credit for an attack targeting IS affiliates in Syria. It documented the first moments of IS militants' surrender in Idlib after their defeat at the hands of Al-Qaeda-affiliated group Al-Nusra Front.

The Islamic State has become a bitter rival of Al-Qaeda, its parent organization. Its leaders represent a new generation of Islamist militants who have broken with Al-Qaeda in a power struggle over Syria and the future of the global Islamist revolution.

Both groups share the same ultimate goal: the establishment of a global caliphate, to be ruled under a harsh brand of Sharia (Islamic law). But they clash over what strategy and tactics are best, as well as who should lead the global jihad (holy war) to build the caliphate.

Operation Sinai 2018



Egypt launched Operation Sinai 2018 on Friday in the North Sinai, Central Sinai, Nile Delta and the Western Desert along the porous border with Libya. The operation showed the high efficiency of the Egyptian military and police in combating terrorism threats, without causing any danger to residents. The military operations were even heartwarming to the civilians, who praised the good treatment they experienced from the officers and soldiers, who are spread in the villages of Sheikh Zuwaid and Rafah and seized control of the area.

The operation came in response to the Rawda mosque attack near Arish, which killed at least 313 and injured dozens in last November. The attack is deemed to be the deadliest in Egypt’s modern history.

Army spokesman Colonel Tamer el-Refai announced in a strongly worded televised statement Friday morning that the military and police forces were initiating a large-scale security operation. He said that, in addition to the northern Sinai Peninsula, this will involve actions in the Nile Delta, Central Sinai and the Western Desert along the porous border with Libya, strongholds of a persistent Islamic State group insurgency that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police.

Operation Sinai 2018 is targeting “terrorist and criminal elements and organizations”, Refai said. He did not say how long it would last, but said that it involved land, sea and air forces. The air force has launched attacks against militant hide-outs in North and Central Sinai, and the navy has tightened control of the waterways to cut off supply lines, he said.

Meanwhile, a source from the Interior Ministry told state agency MENA that the country has raised the security alert to its highest level nationwide, in light of the “fierce war” by the police in coordination with the armed forces to eradicate “the roots of terrorism.”

According to the source, security measures in the vicinity of major state institutions, houses of worship and tourist hotspots have been intensified.

Sinai has been in a state of insurgency following the ouster of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. Militants and the security forces have been caught in a crossfire that led to the killing of hundreds from both camps. The state has been attempting to regain control over afflicted North Sinai, along with securing Copts, as security forces in the area have been widely targeted over the past few years.

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Additional reporting by Hesham Al-Sorogi]]>
2/15/2018 10:28:35 PM
<![CDATA[INSIGHT-Russian toll in Syria battle was 300 killed and wounded: sources]]>
A Russian military doctor said around 100 had been killed, and a source who knows several of the fighters said the death toll was in excess of 80 men.

The timing of the casualties coincided with a battle on Feb. 7 near the Syrian city of Deir al-Zor where, according to U.S. officials and associates of the fighters involved, U.S.-led coalition forces attacked forces aligned with Moscow's ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russian officials said five citizens may have been killed but they had no relation to Russia's armed forces.

The clashes show Moscow is more deeply involved in Syria militarily than it has said, and risks being drawn into direct confrontation with the United States in Syria.

The casualties are the highest that Russia has suffered in a single battle since fierce clashes in Ukraine in 2014 claimed more than 100 fighters' lives. Moscow denies sending soldiers and volunteers to Ukraine and has never confirmed that figure.

The wounded, who have been medically evacuated from Syria in the past few days, have been sent to four Russian military hospitals, according to five sources familiar with the matter.

The military doctor, who works in a Moscow military hospital and was directly involved in the treatment of wounded men evacuated from Syria, said that as of Saturday evening there were more than 50 such patients in his hospital, of which around 30 percent were seriously wounded.

The doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to disclose information about casualties, said at least three planeloads of injured fighters were flown to Moscow between last Friday and Monday morning.

He said they were flown back on specially equipped military cargo planes which can each accommodate two or three intensive care cases and several dozen less severely wounded patients.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, said initial information was that five Russian citizens in the area of the battle may have been killed, but they were not Russian troops. She said reports of tens or hundreds of Russian casualties were disinformation inspired by Russia's opponents.

The Russian defence ministry did not respond to Reuters questions about casualties in Syria. A Kremlin spokesman, asked about Russian casualties on Thursday, said he had nothing to add to previous statements. The Kremlin said earlier this week it had no information on any casualties.

Reuters was unable to make direct contact with the contractors' employers, the Wagner group, whose fallen fighters have in the past received medals from the Kremlin.

The military doctor said that a fellow doctor who flew to Syria on one of the recent medevac flights told him that around 100 people in the Russian force had been killed as of the end of last week, and 200 injured.

The doctor who spoke to Reuters said most of the casualties were Russian private military contractors.

Yevgeny Shabayev, leader of a local chapter of a paramilitary Cossack organisation who has ties to Russian military contractors, said he had visited acquaintances injured in Syria at the defence ministry's Central Hospital in Khimki, on the outskirts of Moscow, on Wednesday.

He said the wounded men had told him that the two units of Russian contractors involved in the battle near Deir al-Zor numbered 550 men. Of those, there are now about 200 who are not either dead or wounded, the wounded men had told him.

Shabayev said the ward he visited contained eight patients, all evacuated from Syria in the past few days, and there were more in other wards in the hospital.

"If you understand anything about military action and combat injuries then you can imagine what's going on there. That's to say, constant screams, shouts," Shabayev told Reuters. "It's a tough scene."

A source with ties to the Wagner organisation, and who has spoken to people who took part in the Feb. 7 clashes, told Reuters his contacts told him more than 80 Russian contractors were killed.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the total of about 300 killed or injured was broadly correct.

He said many of the injured had shrapnel in their bodies that was not showing up on X-rays, making treatment difficult. "The prognosis for most of the wounded is dismal," he said.

PROXY WAR



Other military hospitals treating the contractors are the Third Vishnevskiy hospital in Krasnogorsk, near Moscow, the Burdenko hospital near Moscow city centre, and the Military Medical Academy in St. Petersburg, according to the doctor, Shabayev, and three other people who know dead or wounded fighters.

When Reuters contacted those hospitals by phone on Thursday, staff either declined to comment or denied having any patients evacuated from Syria.

A Reuters reporter visited the Burdenko hospital on Wednesday and spoke briefly to patients who said they knew nothing about anyone evacuated from Syria. Reporters also visited the hospital in Krasnogorsk, and a fifth military hospital, at Balashikha near Moscow, but were denied entry.

Russia launched a military operation in Syria in September 2015 which has turned the tide of the conflict in favour of Assad.

Russian officials deny they deploy private military contractors in Syria, saying Moscow's only military presence is a campaign of air strikes, a naval base, military instructors training Syrian forces, and limited numbers of special forces troops.

But according to people familiar with the deployment, Russia is using large numbers of the contractors in Syria because that allows Moscow to put more boots on the ground without risking regular soldiers whose deaths have to be accounted for.

The contractors, mostly ex-military, carry out missions assigned to them by the Russian military, the people familiar with the deployment said. Most are Russian citizens, though some have Ukrainian and Serbian passports.

The United States and Russia, while backing opposite sides in the Syria conflict, have taken pains to make sure that their forces do not accidentally collide. But the presence of the Russian contractors adds an element of unpredictability.

PROBING MISSION



A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said last week that a force aligned with Assad, backed with artillery, tanks, rockets and mortars, had on Feb. 7 attacked fighters with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces near Deir al-Zor.

U.S. special forces were accompanying the SDF forces that came under attack, officials in Washington said.

The U.S.-led coalition in Syria retaliated, killing about 100 of the pro-Assad forces, according to the official.

Since the battle, associates of Russian military contractors have said Russians were part of the pro-Assad force involved in the battle, and among the casualties.

Shabayev, the Cossack leader, said casualties were so high because the force had no air cover, and because they were attacked not by poorly equipped rebels, their usual adversaries, but by a well-armed force that could launch air strikes.

"First of all the bombers attacked, and then they cleaned up using Apaches (U.S.-made attack helicopters)," Shabayev said, citing the wounded men he visited in hospital.

The source with ties to Wagner said they told him the force struck by the U.S.-led coalition was made up mainly of Russian contractors, with a few Syrians and Iranians in support roles.

He said that on Feb. 7 the force had advanced towards the settlement of Khusham, in Deir al-Zor province, into a zone designated as neutral under a deal between the Russian military and the U.S.-led coalition.

The aim was to test if the U.S.-led coalition would react. The force advanced to within less than 5 km (3 miles) of the SDF and American positions, he said.

He said that the U.S.-led forces, in line with procedure agreed with the Russians, warned Russian regular forces that they were preparing to strike. He does not know if the warning was passed on to the contractors.

"The warning was 20 minutes beforehand, in that time it was not feasible to turn the column around," said the source.

He said once the strikes began, the contractors did not return fire because they believed that would provoke even more strikes from the U.S.-led coalition.

(Additional reporting by Anton Zverev in MOSCOW; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Giles Elgood)]]>
2/15/2018 7:34:37 PM
<![CDATA[U.S. secretary of state heads to Turkey after short visit to Lebanon]]>
Tillerson's talks in Beirut focused on developments in the region in addition to several issues related to Lebanon and its latest tension with Israel.

The U.S. is working with the Lebanese and Israeli governments to maintain calm in Lebanon's south, the U.S. minister said during the visit.

Tillerson also stressed Washington's support for the Lebanese people and legitimate institutions.]]>
2/15/2018 7:26:54 PM
<![CDATA[Aboul Fotouh ordered detained for 15 days over incitement]]>
The list of charges include, “inciting against the state and the constitution, call for boycotting the upcoming Presidential elections in March, being a member of a law-labeled terrorist group and communicating with fugitives, destabilizing Egypt’s stability and security aiming to topple the current regime, calling for chaos and spreading rumors and finally hindering the state’s organizations from practicing their role regarding stabling and securing the country.”

On Monday, an Egyptian lawyer submitted an official complaint to the public prosecutor, calling for the arrest of Aboul Fotouh, after appearing on an Al Jazeera television show from London. Lawyer Samir Sabry accused Aboul Fotouh of “spreading fake news” and demeaning Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

Aboul Fotouh was one of many who announced years ago, specifically after 2011 their abandoning of the MB due to crucial differences between the group’s thoughts and their own. The main reason behind his dispute with the MB after years of cooperating, was announcing his intentions to run for presidency 2012.

He succeed to gain the support of huge number of Egyptians including several celebrates. However, he didn’t become president despite getting about 4 million votes, as Mohamed Morsi won in that year.

Despite his disputes with the legally-labeled terrorist, Muslim Brotherhood group, many politicians still think that he has strong relations with them.

Former Brotherhood leader, who split from the group in 2002, Tharwat al-Kherbawy said in statements on Wednesday night to DMC channel that Aboul Fotouh is going to be tried due to being a member of a terrorist group, not just because of his connections with them.

“He never split from them, despite pretending the opposite. He still has strong connections with them, and can’t really judge anything properly,” Kherbawy added.

He explained that Aboul Fotouh traveled to London for almost two months during the last period and met several members of the group’s international office.”During his meeting with them he attacked the current regime and accused it of violating human rights.”

Furthermore, Kherbawy noted that Aboul Fotouh’s real intentions are to create chaos inside the country to affect the Egyptians people. “Without chaos they won’t ever be able to come back to the country.”

Sources told Egypt Today on Thursday that Aboul Fotouh’s connections with the MB during the past period was a kind of preparation for a huge plan that aims to target the state’s stability during the coming presidential elections.

“His interview with al Jazeera-Qatari channel was just a cover fora secret trip to London. The real purpose was meeting several MB leaders and comeback to implement their targets,” the sources added.

According to the source, Aboul Fotouh would have used his political party Masr al-Kawya (Strong Egypt Party) in implementing the MB plans.”He has always dreamed of getting back with them again as a leader,” the sources added.

Masr al-Kawya is an Egyptian centrist political party founded in 2012 by Aboul Fotouh. It played a key role after the revolution and the era of Muslim brotherhood affiliated-Mohamed Morsi, However after labeling the group legally as terrorist, the party’s supporters and influence gradually faded.

During his interview with al-Jazeera, on Saturday February 11, Aboul Fotouh said that he didn’t nominate himself for the upcoming elections in March because he doesn’t think there will be real elections in Egypt. “The most important condition for any elections is his having an environment that allows competition. This is not the situation in Egypt,” he added.

abul_ftouh
Aboul Fotouh during interview with al-Jazeera, on February 11, 2018

On Tuesday, January 28, five political figures released a joint statement calling for Egyptians to boycott the process because the elections will not be fair.

The figures include Aboul Fotouh; former parliament member and chairman of the Reform and Development Party Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat; former science consultant for the presidency Essam Heggy; former chairman of the Central Auditing Authority Hisham Genena; and political science professor Hazem Hosni.

The five political personnel expressed in the statement their discontent with alleged security and administrative practices undertaken to inhibit competition in the upcoming election. However, they did not mention any details about the allegations.

Al-Jazeera has a long history of inciting violence against Egypt. Shutting down al-Jazeera is one of Egypt’s and the quartet countries’ (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE) main demands to restore the diplomatic relations with Qatar.]]>
2/15/2018 4:34:23 PM
<![CDATA[€1b, $22b total donations for Iraq in KICRI]]>
The conference kicked off on Monday, February 21 under the auspices of Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah with the participation of 70 humanitarian organizations, the representatives of 1,850 global companies and the officials of 70 countries worldwide.

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Kuwaiti International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq – Press photo

The three-day conference aimed to fix the damage caused by war and disputes, according to official statements. All of the conference attendees were trying to reach agreements to reconstruct destroyed houses, infrastructure, roads, hospitals, schools and public facilities.

The UAE pledged about $1 billion as loans to Iraq, along with another $1 billion as investments. The European Union also announced that it will contribute about €400 million from its own budget for Iraq’s reconstruction.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said in her speech that the donation will be invested and offered as aid for the Iraqi people. She demanded that the Iraqi government not spend all of the donation money only on building, but also on education and health as well.

Saudi Arabia announced during the conference that it will offer Iraq about $1 billion as investments within the country, along with another $500 million to back Iraqi exports. Qatar also pledged about $1 billion as investments and loans.

Italy pledged loans estimated at €260 million, along with $6.5 million in donations and $5 million in aid. Other international organizations are also contributing, including the World Bank and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), which participated in Iraq’s reconstruction.

The AFESD chief pledged to finance Iraq with about $1.5 billion, while Jim Yong Kim, head of the World Bank, announced participating in Iraq’s construction with about $4.7 billion.

Egypt participated in the conference with a delegation headed by Presidential Assistant for National and Strategic Projects Ibrahim Mahlab. He said in statements to MENA on Monday that Egypt's participation in KICRI came from the state’s similar experiences. “We will stand with Iraq and help it with all the knowledge and experience we have gained during the past four years,” Mahlab said.


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Kuwaiti International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq – Press photo

He added that Egypt's participation in KICRI reflects its pioneering role on Arab, regional and international levels. Mahlab affirmed that President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi made directives on the necessity of standing by Iraq in order for it to benefit from Egypt's pioneering expertise in the field of reconstruction and to help Baghdad rebuild areas damaged by terrorists.

He assured that Egypt is keen on extending its unique expertise in the quick completion of national projects in Iraq, especially since the war-torn country needs a lot of logistic services as soon as possible, including projects in the fields of energy, hospitals and schools, to pave the way for the return of thousands of displaced people.

After a long struggle

, and with the aid of the American-led military intervention in Iraq known as the International Coalition, the Iraqi government announced defeating IS on December 2017.

Speaking in a televised speech, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi thanked all of those who participated in the Iraqi war, including Iran’s Shia Marja' (senior cleric) and Iraq’s Ali al-Sistani for issuing his known fatwa (Islamic edict) on the religious obligation of fighting against IS.


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Kuwaiti International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq – Press photo
]]>
2/15/2018 10:23:30 AM
<![CDATA[Iraqi elections will be on time despite challenges: Maliki]]>
He affirmed in an interview with Egypt Today on Wednesday, February 14 that there are still several powers trying to manipulate the country’s destiny. However, the Iraqi government and people are still managing to achieve several positive steps and small victories, including defeating the Islamic State (IS).

Maliki noted that several foreign governments are pushing to cause chaos within Iraq, thereby leading to the failure of the state and ending its democratic experience and political process. He accused several countries of backing and financing IS. “IS moved to Iraq as a result of Syria’s crises. Some regimes sought to create chaos in our country,” Maliki added.

Commenting on Kurdistan’s referendum held on September 25, 2017, Maliki described it as “illegal” and “opposed to the constitution.” Maliki said, “I believe that the most realistic solution for the crises came through Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court in November 2017, which affirmed that the referendum is not constitutional and, accordingly, everything that follows becomes invalid.”

He affirmed that the government excluded any military solutions then because of its refusal to use arms against the Iraqi people. “We still call all of the Iraqi parties to a national dialogue in order to find proper solutions for our problems.”

Maliki described Egyptian-Iraqi ties as “strong and deep.” He affirmed that his government is aiming to strengthen bilateral relations even more during the upcoming days. “Egypt is a key player in the region, with whom we share long history, relations and interests. We are looking for enhancing our relations more and hope that Egypt has a more effective role regarding our country’s reconstruction,” Maliki said.

For three days until Wednesday, February 14, several countries, humanitarian organizations and donors gathered in Kuwait to help reconstruct Iraq.

The Kuwaiti International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq (KICRI) kicked off on Monday, February 21 under the auspices of Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah with the participation of 70 humanitarian organizations, the representatives of 1,850 global companies and the officials of 70 countries worldwide.

The three-day conference aimed to fix the damage caused by war and disputes, according to official statements. About $100 billion in donations are estimated to be needed for Iraq to revive and rebuild.

Egypt participated in the conference with a delegation headed by Presidential Assistant for National and Strategic Projects Ibrahim Mahlab. He said in statements to MENA on Monday that Egypt's participation in KICRI came from the state’s similar experiences. “We will stand with Iraq and help it with all the knowledge and experience we have gained during the past four years,” Mahlab said.

He added that Egypt's participation in KICRI reflects its pioneering role on Arab, regional and international levels. Mahlab affirmed that President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi made directives on the necessity of standing by Iraq in order for it to benefit from Egypt's pioneering expertise in the field of reconstruction and to help Baghdad rebuild areas damaged by terrorists.

Iraq managed to collect billions of dollars during the conference as donations from its allies, according to Reuters. Saudi Arabia announced that it will provide Iraq with a $1 billion loan through its Saudi Fund for Development and $500 million in export credit. Also, Turkey said it would give Iraq $5 billion in credit lines.

UAE pledged to offer Iraq $500 million, while Britain pledged another $1 billion annually in export credit over 10 years.

Additional reporting by

Aya Samir


]]>
2/15/2018 10:17:55 AM
<![CDATA[Cabinet refers draft cybercrime law to Parliament ]]>
The long-awaited draft cybercrime law was sentto the Parliament to be discussed,as the law has an indispensable role to deal with the rumors that are not easily monitored on social media.

First introduced before the Parliament in May 2016, the 33-article draft law was proposed to criminalize illegal electronic practices, such as electronic fraud and encouraging terrorist practices; however, activists and rights defenders perceive the penalties stipulated by the law as very harsh and would restrict the freedom of expression, according to various news outlets.

The punishments in the draft law range from a month in prison to a death penaltyshould, in the latter case, the cybercrime result in the death of someone or is considered a threat to national security. The law also stipulates other penalties of blocking sites and canceling theirlicenses according to court judgments.

First, Article 11 stipulates the imprisonment of no less than three years and a fine of no less than LE 100,000 for those who establish a website with the aim of promoting a commission of crime,stipulated in the Penal Code or any of the State's special laws.

Meanwhile, "whoever commits any crime mentioned in this act with the aim of harming public order; endangering safety and security or society; endangering the life and security of citizens; preventing authorities from undertaking their duties; suspending the Constitution, laws or regulations; harming national unity or societal peace; defaming a heavenly religion; and assaulting rights and freedoms enshrined by the Constitution could face either life imprisonment or aggravated imprisonment," according to Article 23.

Furthermore, Articles 12 and 13 in the draft law punishinformation technology system managers with three years in prison and a fine of up to LE 200,000 if their information technology system is subject to any crimes mentioned in the draft law, and have not filed a report against it.

Several members in the Parliament called for accelerating the approval of the draft law, as it is deemed essential to combat cybercrime as an Interior Ministry official told the news agency MENA on December2016.He said, “1,045 Facebook pages were shut down in 2016 for inciting violence actions against police and army officers, and calling for marches and blocking roads."

This is a first-of-its-kind draft law proposed in Egypt to criminalize cybercrimes, as internet crimes are regulated by Egypt’s anti-terrorism law, which was issued in late 2013, as well as older legislations, such as the Penal Code and the Communications Law.

Under the draft law, Egyptian authorities can monitor and shut down pages through a court order.




]]>
2/15/2018 10:17:02 AM
<![CDATA[Muslim Brotherhood’s deceptive stunt of forced disappearance]]>
The group was keen in more than an incident to promote false information which accused Egyptian Ministry of interior of kidnapping and assassinating civilian victims, only to be discovered later that those very victims have joined terrorist militias such as The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Sinai Province, or ISIS militias in Libya and Syria.

Forced disappearance is a term coined by the International human rights law, It refers to cases of citizens secretly abducted or imprisoned by the State’s apparatuses.

The abduction cases witnessed a sharp increase following former President Mohammed Morsi’s ouster; some of the cases were based on vague information and misrepresentation.

However, Muslim Brotherhood propagandas managed to utilize the forced disappearance to provide a cover for young individuals lured into joining terrorist groups.

Terrorist groups have been active in recruiting young volunteers lately; a process was successful thanks to Muslim Brotherhood media outlets which were eager to blame the Minister of Interior for those young citizens’ disappearance.

Mohammed Al Dola’i


Mohammed Al Dolai was reported forcibly disappeared in April 2015. The engineering student was claimed to be in Security custody by several News outlets affiliated with Muslim Brotherhood. Al Dola’i was later found to be operating as a terrorist militia fighter in Sinai under the Alias “Abu Mosa’ab El Masri”. El Masry appeared in a video footage released by ISIS in 2017, the young terrorist threatened to assassinate as many security officers as possible, calling citizens against ISIS ignorant infidels.

Hisham Abdel Wadood


Another college student from Sharqia governorate, Hisham Abdel Wadood was reported a victim of enforced disappearance in August 2015. Abdel Wadood’s messages to his own family were intercepted by Libyan Army fighting ISIS militias there. The Muslim Brotherhood Propagandas falsely named Abdel Wadood a victim of Security forces violations, alas Abdel Wadood was known as an ISIS fighter in Libya.

Omar Ibrahim al-Deib


In their latest video released concurrently with Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018, the Islamic State (IS) announced that one of the Egyptian young men who were claimed by TV programs affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood to have been arrested by police, had actually joined them as a terrorist in Sinai a long time ago.

In the video released on February 11, Omar Ibrahim al-Dieb appears laughing, telling how he and his colleagues “proudly” targeted several checkpoints affiliated with the Egyptian army and police. “We are getting stronger every day. We promise you with more harsh days to come,” Dieb said.

The intended message of the video was to say that the terrorist group has not been affected by the latest army operation; however, they proved that Brotherhood-affiliated media was lying. The video showed a number of well-known anchors saying that Dieb was studying abroad and that his only guilt is that he is the son of one of the senior MB leaders.

“When he came back home to his family, the police arrested him,” one of the TV anchors said, claiming persistently that it was a forced disappearance.

“Omar left his home and family and came to join us in Sinai after knowing that the Muslim Brotherhood’s method was not the right or proper way to implement Sharia Islamic law within societies,” the IS video stated.]]>
2/15/2018 1:12:38 AM
<![CDATA[Trump urges Senate to pass new Republican immigration bill]]>
“I am asking all senators, in both parties, to support the Grassley bill and to oppose any legislation that fails to fulfill these four pillars — that includes opposing any short-term ‘Band-Aid’ approach,” Trump said in a statement.

The president was referring to the four pillars contained in the White House’s immigration framework: a “lasting solution” for young immigrants living illegally in the US, building a border wall, scrapping the diversity visa lottery and reforming family-based immigration.

Trump's statement also appeared to rule out any pared-down proposal that deals with the young immigrants, often called "Dreamers," and border security, indicating he is unwilling to budge from his original demands.

Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Monday introduced legislation that largely mirrors the White House plan.

It would provide a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants brought to the country illegally as children in exchange for $25 billion to fund a southern border wall and other security measures, as well as new limits on family visas, which conservatives refer to as "chain migration."

Senators are debating a number of immigration proposals this week to address young immigrants who benefit from the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump rescinded in September with a six-month delay. That delay ends on March 5.

But it’s unclear any legislation can attract 60 votes.]]>
2/15/2018 1:03:05 AM
<![CDATA[Quick wrap-up of armed forces' statements on 'Sinai 2018']]>CAIRO – 14 February 2018: On Wednesday morning, The Armed Forces released the seventh statement concerning the outcomes and consequences of the comprehensive counter-terrorism operation "Sinai 2018", which was officially launched on Friday.

From latest to earliest, Egypt Today provides a quick wrap up of the contents of the previous statements issued in the same regard.

Seventh Statement:

- The Air Forces destroyed 11 targets used by terrorists.

- Fifteen takfiris were killed during a shoot-out with anti-terror forces.

- Two underground warehouses, containing more than 1,500 kilograms of explosive materials, including C-4 and TNT and used in manufacturing explosives, 56 detonators and 13 circuits used to detonate IEDs, were destroyed.

- A tunnel and 38 trenches were destroyed in the northern border of North Sinai.
- Some 153 criminal elements and "wanted" criminals were arrested.

- As many as 181 huts, hideouts and warehouses containing explosives and chemical materials and large quantities of auto spare parts and fuel used by terrorists were destroyed.

- Six vehicles and 17 unlicensed motorbikes were seized and destroyed.

- Sixty-three explosive devices were dismantled.

- Thirteen bango and hashish farms were destroyed and more than 800 kilograms of narcotics were seized.

Sixth statement:

- The Air forces pounded seven vehicles used by terrorists.

- Ten takfiris were killed during a shoot-out with anti-terror forces.

- Large amounts of arms and ammunition were seized.

- Four hundred criminal elements and "wanted" criminals were held.

- Six vehicles and 13 unlicensed motorbikes were impounded and destroyed.

- As many as 143 huts, hideouts and warehouses, containing explosive charges and large quantities of auto spare parts and drugs, were destroyed.

- Seventy-nine explosive devices were dismantled and an underground warehouse, containing 10 anti-tank mines, was destroyed.

- An underground tunnel, with a width of 1.5 meters and a depth of 25 meters, was destroyed in the northern border of North Sinai.

- Nine bango and hashish farms were destroyed and more than seven tons of narcotics and a truck loaded with more than 1.2 million tramadol pills were seized.

- The Naval Forces launched four ground-to-sea and surface-to-sea rockets.

- Around 479 security patrols checkpoints were already set up across the country.

Fifth Statement:

-Twenty three explosive devices had been discovered and defused.

-Seven farms of marijuana were discovered and burned.

- Half a ton of cocaine and other smuggled drugs was impounded.

- Four vehicles carrying ammunition and arms as well as 27 motorbikes were targeted by the Air Forces.

- Several air strikes were launched, targeting 30 hideouts for terrorists.

Fourth Statement:

-Sixteen militants were killed and four others were arrested.

-Thirty suspected militants were also arrested.

- The Air Forces destroyed a total of 66 hideouts.

- Four ammunition stores were also destroyed.

- Thirteen four-wheel drive vehicles and 31 motorbikes were targeted.

- Twelve road-side bombs were discovered by security officers and defused.

-Militants-operated chemical laboratory was raided by the Air Forces in Sinai.
- Twenty feddans (approx. 20 acres) of marijuana were burned.

Third statement

-Several airstrikes targeted terrorist concentrations and strongholds throughout the night and during the wee hours of Saturday morning.

-Military jets hit store houses of weapons, ammunition, explosive materials and logistic areas of terrorists.

Second Statement:

-Several pits, hideouts, and ammunition and weapons' warehouses were targeted by the Air Forces.

-Units from the Naval Forces enhanced maritime security operations at vital seaports.
-The Border Guard Forces and Civilian Police also tightened security procedures at land borders and navigational courses.

First Statement:

-The comprehensive counter-terrorism military operation “Sinai 2018” was officially announced by Armed Forces Spokesman Tamer al-Refae.

-the statement highlighted that "Sinai 2018" came within the framework of the mandate, given by Egypt's Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, to the General Command of the Armed Forces and Ministry of Interior, to coordinate with all the country’s institutions to confront terrorism and all other related operations by extremists.

Since the ousting of ex-Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt has seen growing waves of extremism washing over the society and spawning numerous deadly attacks. Among these attacks was the terrorist attack that hit Al-Rawdah Mosque and left more than 302 Friday prayers congregates dead in late November.

A month earlier, The Interior Ministry announced that 16 security officers were killed during clashes with militants in Wahat in the Western Desert; the clashes also led to the killing of 15 militants.
]]>
2/14/2018 3:32:02 PM
<![CDATA[Moussa to adopt national capitalism in his electoral program]]>
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Esmat stressed that the program aims to restore the state's role in changing the way of life in Egypt.

Moussa's national capitalism is based on stocks offering, forming partnerships between public and private sectors and expanding the youth’s ownership.

He asserted that the electoral program, prepared by experts and specified committees of al-Ghad Party, will pose the key ideas and new visions that would benefit all citizens and achieve a public interest to conclude the transitional stage of the June 30 Revolution.

Esmat further clarified that the party is still preparing a list for the campaigning committee that will be responsible for promoting Moussa's program and all organization activities nationwide during the upcoming days.

A few hours before the election candidacy closure, Al-Ghad party nominated Moussa to run for president and be a contender against President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

Voting in the 2018 presidential election in Egypt will commence on March 26, as announced by the National Electoral Authority (NEA) on January 8. Sixty million eligible voters will cast their ballots in the election between March 26 and 28 in Egypt, while expatriates will vote between March 16 and 18.

Sisi officially announced his candidacy for the 2018 presidential election on January 19.

President Sisitook office in 2014 after protesters toppled the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated ex-President Mohamed Morsi.]]>
2/14/2018 12:44:18 PM
<![CDATA[U.S. urges help for Iraq, extends $3 billion credit line]]>
The United States leads the coalition and hopes that after a three-year fight to defeat the militants it can count largely on Gulf allies to shoulder the burden of rebuilding Iraq. It is also counting on a Saudi-Iraqi rapprochement to weaken Iran's influence there.

Iraq declared victory over Islamic State in December, having taken back all the territory captured by the militants in 2014 and 2015. The fighters have also been largely defeated in neighbouring Syria.

"If communities in Iraq and Syria cannot return to normal life, we risk the return of conditions that allowed ISIS to take and control vast territory," U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told a donors' conference for Iraq hosted by Kuwait. ISIS is another acronym for Islamic State.

"We must continue to clear unexploded remnants of war left behind by ISIS, enable hospitals to reopen, restore water and electricity services, and get boys and girls back in school."

Although the U.S. government was not expected to pledge direct financial aid at the conference, Tillerson said the official U.S. export credit agency, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM), would sign with Iraq's finance ministry on Tuesday a $3 billion memorandum of understanding "that will set a stage for future cooperation".

Iraq has suffered from decades of war and it is striking that it is holding its reconstruction conference in Kuwait, which it invaded in 1990, leading to defeat by a U.S.-led coalition and more than a decade of sanctions.

Kuwait will celebrate Liberation Day from Iraq in two weeks and Iraq still pays it reparations.

BALANCING ACT

Iraq's Shi'ite-led government is pursuing a difficult diplomatic balancing act by trying to maintain good relations with both the United States and its Sunni Gulf Arab allies and with their main regional foe, Shi'ite Iran.

Arriving in Kuwait for the conference, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said his country would "stand by the Iraqi people forever".

"At a time when only a few countries were participating in the reconstruction of Iraq, Iranian companies were active in building roads in the country and providing Iraqis with engineering services," he was quoted by state news agency IRNA.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, whose government puts the costs of reconstruction at more than $88 billion , said Iraq could not rebuild without outside help.

Iraq has published a list of some 157 projects for which it is seeking investment. Baghdad has said it is determined to tackle the red tape and corruption that hamper investment.

"Doing business in Iraq can be complicated, but the Iraqi market has vast potential," said Tillerson.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was ready to answer a U.S. call for it to expand its small training mission in Iraq to support reconstruction.

Tillerson also cautioned that the end of major combat operations in Iraq did not mean the United States and its allies had achieved final victory over the militants.

"In Iraq and Syria, ISIS is attempting to morph into an insurgency. In places like Afghanistan, the Philippines, Libya, West Africa, and others, it is trying to carve out and secure safe havens," he said.

U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis echoed those comments, saying the fight against Islamic State had been discussed on Tuesday at a meeting in Rome of about a dozen coalition defence ministers.

"ISIS is not down, the fight is not over... not even the caliphate is completely down... We have to work against this ideology, we have to work against (the) financing," he said.]]>
2/14/2018 10:51:03 AM
<![CDATA[In long Afghan war, U.S. Army tries new way to deploy trainers]]>
Ortega is heading soon to the 16-year-old war as part of a new kind of U.S. Army training brigade specifically created to mentor Afghan soldiers in the field and taught to resist taking over missions, even in the event of a Taliban attack.

"It would be hard for me," acknowledged Ortega, 30, who treated wounded Iraqi forces when he deployed to Mosul in 2005 and 2006.

"But that's a big piece ... not to get my hands dirty. To step back (and advise them)."

In America's longest war, Ortega's comments carry echoes of the many trainers who came before him, who wrestled with when to intervene directly, when to stand back and where to set expectations for Afghan soldiers who have long struggled against a Taliban insurgency.

But the U.S. Army is hoping that Ortega and his more than 800 colleagues are the start of something new, as members of the inaugural Security Force Assistance Brigade, or SFAB, whose creation aims to institutionalize and improve the advising of foreign soldiers that until now was more ad hoc.

The Army proudly points to the more rigorous training and deep combat experience of the brigade's recruits, who are ready to deploy down to small-sized Afghan troop formations - bringing with them the ability to help direct U.S. air strikes.

Still, the brigade's creation has drawn scrutiny and questions about whether it is deploying too quickly and if expectations are set too high for soldiers whose goals of mentoring Afghan forces are, by definition, long-term.

"It's an evolution, not a revolution," said Jason Amerine, an Afghan war veteran and a fellow at the New America Foundation think tank in Washington, who broadly supports the SFAB's creation.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis expressed confidence in its readiness and acknowledged he had been keeping a close eye on the brigade's development, part of his efforts to ease pressure on overstretched special operations forces.

"You'll see more and more of this," Mattis told Reuters after a visit to the troops last week at Fort Benning, Georgia.

The deployment in the coming weeks is another sign of deepening U.S. involvement in Afghanistan under President Donald Trump, even as critics warn his military cannot promise to defeat the Taliban anytime soon or overcome Afghanistan's vast political divisions and entrenched corruption. More than 2,400 U.S. forces have died in the war.

NOT SPECIAL FORCES

Sergeant First Class Jeremiah Velez, 34, said he was well aware that his brigade's creation had triggered some anxiety in parts of the U.S. special operations community. But he was not letting it get to him.

"In one ear, out the other," said Velez, whose next deployment to Afghanistan will be his fifth.

Last year, a photo of a green-colored beret that appeared to be a prototype for the SFAB drew unwelcome comparisons with Army Special Forces, known as Green Berets.

Anger over the berets even led to an online petition with more than 88,000 signatures.

Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Donald Bolduc, who once led commandos in Afghanistan, said the SFABs were expensive, unnecessary and risked mission creep into special operation forces' (SOF) terrain.

"The whole thing smells of mimicking SOF," said Bolduc, who served 66 months in Afghanistan.

The Army, which ultimately chose a brown beret for the brigade, has stressed the SFAB is not special forces, whose responsibilities typically include training foreign militaries, particularly commandos.

The SFAB's debut reflects an attempt by the Army to deal better with open-ended counter-insurgency battles in a way that does not undermine growing U.S. focus on high-end military challenges from China and Russia.

By creating six planned U.S. Army training brigades, the Pentagon hopes to let other brigades and special operations forces prepare for different missions.

Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley has championed the SFABs as a way to institutionalize a role the Army performed more haphazardly during the war, ripping apart brigades to find soldiers to train Afghans.

"We were pulling it out of our butts, so to speak," Milley said at the brigade's activation ceremony at Fort Benning last Thursday. "We made it happen. But it wasn't as good as it could have been."

THE LONGEST WAR

First Sergeant Sammy Walker, who deployed four times to Iraq, bristles at the idea of walking away from Afghanistan or Iraq and points to the sacrifices of friends who lost their lives.

"Over the years, 16 years, you start counting back how many people you've known who have been hurt or killed. It's a lot of people," said Walker, part of a team of SFAB logistics advisers.

Trump long identified with war-weary Americans skeptical about the Afghan war, even advocating a pullout. But faced with the risks posed by the Taliban, he reversed himself and last August approved a more aggressive war strategy.

Yet a battlefield defeat for the Taliban seems distant.

"I'm not entirely convinced that the SFABs are going to make a strategic difference in winning the war," said Seth Jones, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He said a best-case scenario would see the Taliban realize it cannot win, leading to peace negotiations.

Walker and his team are well aware of Afghanistan's many shortfalls, including accusations of corruption. But they are taking a longer view.

"Everything takes time," said Sergeant First Class Keisha Jumpp, another SFAB adviser. "It's just baby steps, baby steps." ]]>
2/14/2018 10:48:41 AM
<![CDATA[NATO chief backs bigger alliance training mission in Iraq]]>
U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis sent a letter to NATO last month calling for a formal NATO training mission, Reuters reported,, stressing there would be no combat role.

"We have to win the peace," Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference, saying he expected NATO defence ministers to start planning for a bigger mission at a meeting in Brussels on Thursday, with a decision to launch the mission in July.

"It is extremely important to stabilise the country after the combat operations have ended," said Stoltenberg, who visited the U.S. president at the White House last year.

A NATO mission would channel the financial resources of the 29 allies, allow for military commanders to drum up troops and broaden training beyond the capital.

Stoltenberg, who will meet Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at a security conference in Germany later this week, declined to go into troop numbers for Iraq, but said training could include at the defence ministry and on bomb disposal.

NATO currently has a small training team of fewer than 20 people working out of the British embassy in Baghdad that started in early 2017, but is considered by Washington as too small for an alliance of 29 countries with training experience that reaches from the Balkans to Afghanistan.

Stoltenberg's support for a bigger mission is a sign the alliance may be willing to drop its earlier resistance.

OPEN-ENDED COMMITMENT?

European NATO allies fear another open-ended foreign assignment after more than a decade in Afghanistan, but diplomats said France and Germany were showing more openness to a larger Iraq mission, as long as it remains limited in scope.

Turkey will need to be convinced, the diplomats said, noting that a dispute between Ankara and Washington in the fight against Islamic State in Syria had complicated talks on Iraq.

NATO's potential involvement comes as Iraq faces a bill of more than $88 billion to rebuild the country, officials told a donor conference in Kuwait this week. Iraq declared victory over Islamic State in December, having taken back all the territory captured by the militants in 2014 and 2015.

Trump, who as a candidate during the 2016 presidential campaign said NATO would be "obsolete" if it did not do more to combat militants, has urged the allies to act or face more attacks in European cities.

Katie Wheelbarger, principal U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defence for international security affairs, said Mattis was seeking "an enduring NATO presence in Iraq". ]]>
2/14/2018 10:46:11 AM
<![CDATA[Military ‘brute force’ secures Sinai, no civilians harmed]]>
Operation Sinai 2018, launched on Friday in the North Sinai, Central Sinai, Nile Delta and the Western Desert along the porous border with Libya, showed the high efficiency of the Egyptian military and police in combating terrorism threats, without causing any danger to residents. The military operations were even heartwarming to the civilians, who praised the good treatment they experienced from the officers and soldiers, who are spread in the villages of Sheikh Zuwaid and Rafah and seized control of the area.

The president’s speech came in response to the Rawda mosque attack near Arish, which killed at least 313 and injured dozens. The attack is deemed to be the deadliest in Egypt’s modern history.

“It is your responsibility to regain control over Sinai in the next three months,” Sisi said, addressing new Chief of Staff Mohamed Farid Hegazy and Minister of Interior Magdy Abdel Ghaffar.

Sinai has been in a state of insurgency following the ouster of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. Militants and the security forces have been caught in a crossfire that led to the killing of hundreds from both camps. The state has been attempting to regain control over afflicted North Sinai, along with securing Copts, as security forces in the area have been widely targeted over the past few years.

Sinai 2018
Egyptian military forces are attacking terrorists in Sinai during the full-scale operation dubbed Sinai 2018 (Egypt's Armed Forces Official Website)


Army launches "Sinai 2018"

Army spokesman Colonel Tamer el-Rifai announced in a strongly worded televised statement Friday morning that the military and police forces were initiating a large-scale security operation. He said that, in addition to the northern Sinai Peninsula, this will involve actions in the Nile Delta, Central Sinai and the Western Desert along the porous border with Libya, strongholds of a persistent Islamic State group insurgency that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police.

Operation Sinai 2018 is targeting “terrorist and criminal elements and organizations”, el-Rifai said. He did not say how long it would last, but said that it involved land, sea and air forces. The air force has launched attacks against militant hide-outs in North and Central Sinai, and the navy has tightened control of the waterways to cut off supply lines, he said.

Meanwhile, a source from the Interior Ministry told state agency MENA that the country has raised the security alert to its highest level nationwide, in light of the “fierce war” by the police in coordination with the armed forces to eradicate “the roots of terrorism.”

According to the source, security measures in the vicinity of major state institutions, houses of worship and tourist hotspots have been intensified.

Eyewitnesses applaud military operations

Eyewitnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the air strikes by the Egyptian Air Force were very precise and successfully targeted the terrorist strongholds, without causing any casualties among civilians or damages to homes and facilities.

Another eyewitness from Sheikh Zuwaid said that military operations that targeted terrorists in Syria and Iraq used to cause casualties among civilians by mistake, but Operation Sinai 2018 was carried out accurately from the first moment.

"We have not heard of injuries or deaths among women or children, because the fighter jets' strikes were precise and accurate," the eyewitness stated.

Another resident in Sheikh Zuwaid stressed that the soldiers and officers participating in Sinai 2018 behaved in a good manner with civilians and showed respect for the customs and traditions of the Bedouin community.

He pointed out that most of the clashes and shelling occur in areas that were previously evacuated of civilians and controlled by terrorists, such as the villages of Naja Shaibana, Mahdia, Tuma and others.

Sinai 2018 (2)
Egyptian air force launched airstrikes against terrorists in Sinai during the full-scale operation dubbed Sinai 2018 (Egypt's Armed Forces Official Website)


Activists praise Sinai 2018

Political activist Hassan Hantoush, coordinator of former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi's campaign in North Sinai, wrote on his Facebook page, "I am very happy with the deployment of army and police forces around the city of Sheikh Zuwaid. I am also pleased with officers’ and soldiers' kindness in dealing with civilians."

He added, "The situation in eastern Arish, Sheikh Zuwaid and Rafah is almost stable. The areas of Shibana and Chalalfh – uninhabited areas – were shelled."

A member of the Sawarka tribe, Mousa al-Menaii, wrote on Facebook that a number of civilians who were kidnapped by terrorists managed to escape after the security forces tightened the siege on the terrorist group.

Volunteer efforts

A number of volunteers from the Suez Canal cities provided a large number of apartments to receive the stranded Sinai people who could not return due to the start of Operation Sinai 2018. Meanwhile, four apartments were allocated in Arish for the people from outside the province who could not leave the city before the operation.

In addition, four private hospitals in Cairo announced their readiness to offer treatment for any civilian from Sinai during the operation, and have provided two ambulances in Ismailia since Saturday. Meanwhile, a number of traders in Arish announced huge cuts in all commodities' prices during the military operation. ]]>
2/13/2018 9:37:17 PM
<![CDATA[Grand Continental Hotel: from the debris, a new opportunity emerges]]>

Its important history



Built in 1860 as part of the government’s modernization efforts that also included the building of the Suez Canal, the hotel overlooks Opera Square and Azbakiya Botanical Garden. The former gained its name from the Cairo Opera House that was gutted in the famous 1971 fire. The latter spans 18 acres and was established in 1872 in an effort by Khedive Ismail to make the Egyptian capital look like Europe. The whole area is known as the Khedival Cairo, referring to the project by Khedive Ismail, who ruled Egypt between 1863 and 1879.




Throughout its magnificent history, the venue saw many important events, including Egypt’s declaration of independence from Britain in 1922. It also hosted much-celebrated personalities, like King Farouk (r. 1936-1952), who reportedly enjoyed the view from the grand terrace, Egyptian nationalist icon Saad Zaghloul and T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia).

Historians looking at Egypt’s great history have concluded that the glorious building was built as part of Egypt’s celebration marking the 1869 inauguration of the Suez Canal.



Fun Fact:


Part of the hotel was destroyed by the 1952 Cairo fire that took down many of the city’s central districts. Fortunately, it was reopened soon afterwards by a member of the Free Officers Movement that toppled the British-backed monarchy.





If it is so important, why are we not saving it?



In short, the hotel is being saved. The demolition order is strictly likened to rebuilding the hotel in the same architectural style.

In a TV interview on Al-Asema (The Capital) channel, Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass expressed his sadness concerning the demolition, stating, “The Continental is part of the heart of historic Cairo and must be preserved.” He added, “Cities are built to look nice as they are, as a whole. When you demolish a certain building and rebuild the plot of land, it ruins the scenery. It becomes a sore to the eyes; a source of visual pollution.”



Activists around Cairo have expressed dismay concerning the decision to demolish the building. Online, many have labeled the demolition a “crime against history.” Many have also blamed the government for allowing the hotel to fall to such bad shape. Shop owners near the area, who have been renting as per the old renting system, have also complained, suggesting that the demolition will have a negative impact on their livelihoods.

On the livelihood angle, the company has agreed to pay those renting compensation for the expected three years that will taken for the hotel to be rebuilt. Furthermore, they will be offered shops in the new hotel and shopping mall, in the same location that they currently hold. Still, shop owners fear that the new shops’ rent will be too high for them to afford, complaining that their future is uncertain.

Despite their concerns, reports suggest that the falling down hotel is a threat to public safety. Affirming this in statements to Gulf News after the demolition plans were first announced in August 2016 by the hotel’s owners, Egyptian General Company for Tourism and Hotels (EGOTH), the company’s deputy chairman, Mamduh Rutab, said that the building will remain a “threatening humanitarian disaster until we [the company] demolish it.”




In a statement, the company tied their concerns to the unfortunate event of 1999, whereby the poor state of the hotel and the lack of care led to one of the external air conditioning units falling, leaving Reham Mounir El-Shazly dead. The unit was hung on one of the shops rented to Mohamed Said al-Askary. The company pointed out that the case was taken to court and that the company compensated the Shazly’s family financially, while acknowledging that money is no compensation for a lost life. The company stressed that this incident cannot happen again and that action needs to be taken now before the occurrence of any more similar incidents.

Stuck between fixing up the building yet another time, something that has made many spectators argue that the hotel is no longer as historic as it once was due to its changed characteristics; leaving it as it is; or tearing it down but retaining its historic value and the cultural undertone it holds. The company has chosen the latter.

“This hotel is listed under category C of Law No. 144 for the year 2009 that designates buildings of distinct architecture, but allows their demolition and reconstruction of inner parts on condition the facades are kept in order to preserve architectural harmony of the surrounding area,” said Mohammad Abu Seda, who heads a governmental urban landscaping agency.

“The decision to demolish the Continental was taken because the hotel includes rickety parts and ceilings that pose a serious threat,” Seda added.

Photo_1_-_EGOTH_Press_Release


Photo_2_-_EGOTH_Press_Release


Many of those who have rented shops have alleged the existence of a court order that restricts that the hotel be demolished. In response to these claims, Deputy Governor of Cairo Major General Mohamed Abdel Tawab said, “We respect the judiciary and enforce its provisions, but we have not received any ruling in this matter. If a ruling does exist, shop owners need to inform us so that we can abide by this ruling.”



In a press conference, Dr. Aly Abdel Rahman, the project’s advisor, highlighted that the historic value behind the hotel is in the fact that it only faces Adly Street. He confirmed that tearing down the hotel will take three months and the rebuilding process will take a long three years to ensure that the historic significance of the hotel is preserved. To maintain the history of the city, the new hotel will be constructed according to the same architectural style as the old one, Mantiqty reports.

On the site of the now-standing hotel, a new luxury hotel and adjacent shopping mall is expected to be erected. Local media has estimated the investment to be around LE 1.2 billion ($67.75 million). The new hotel is expected to house more individuals than the old one, meaning that it will help fill the infrastructure gap that is expected to appear over the next couple of years due to the increased influx of tourists. This means that more tourists will be able to stay in Cairo, meaning that shop owners, workers, hotel staff, people working in the tourism sector and pretty much all other sectors will be positively affected due to the market’s domino effect.
]]>
2/13/2018 7:07:23 PM
<![CDATA[Sinai 2018 naval drills ensure Egypt’s security: experts]]>
On the fifth consecutive day of the full-scale security operation, the naval forces continue to tighten their grip along the coastal area, according to the armed forces’ statement no. 6 released on Tuesday.
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Egyptian Comprehensive Security Operation_ Sinai 2018_ launched on Feb 9, 2018- Press Photo


Sinai 2018 naval drills deemed deterrent messages

Military expert Major-General Adel El-Omda stressed that the recent naval drills using live ammunition are considered as a “direct deterrent to whoever seeks to breach the Egyptian rights in regional waters.”

“The Sinai 2018 operation carries various strategic dimensions…The Egyptian naval forces’ drills prove our sophisticated readiness that our forces are enjoying,” Omda told Egypt Today on Tuesday.

He added that Egypt’s economic interests in regional waters are completely secured, revealing that Egyptian military deals have been concluded according to potential threats and aggressions expected to occur in the near and far future.
_-(4)
Egyptian Comprehensive Security Operation_ Sinai 2018_ launched on Feb 9, 2018- Press Photo


Egypt is capable of securing Red Sea and Mediterranean waters

“The military statement released on Tuesday referring to launching four rockets has given a strong message that Egypt will not hesitate to use live ammunition against violations that may threaten Egypt’s sovereignty, land, airspace and waters,” Major-General Hisham al-Halaby told Egypt Today.

Halaby, a consultant at Nasser Military Academy, added that the armed forces’ sixth statement affirmed that Egypt’s naval forces “are capable of carrying out their divine task to protect the sovereignty of Egyptian waters.
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Egyptian Comprehensive Security Operation_ Sinai 2018_ launched on Feb 9, 2018- Press Photo


Navy continues tightening its grip along the coastal area

"As part of the comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018 carried out by elements of the armed forces, in cooperation with the combat units of the Interior Ministry, anti-terror units continue launching raids targeting terrorist hideouts and arms and ammunition warehouses in North and Central Sinai," the armed forces’ statement no. 6 read.

On the fourth consecutive day of Sinai 2018, the Egyptian military and security forces destroyed 30 hideouts used by militants to carry out their attacks against military and police personnel as well as civilians, destroyed 60 targets, killed 12 terrorists following exchange of fire, arrested 92 criminals and seized 20 vehicles that terrorists used in carrying out terror acts, according to the fifth statement released by the Egyptian armed forces on Monday.

Egypt launched the large-scale security operation early Friday morning, involving land, sea and air forces, in various areas across Egypt, including North Sinai, the Western Desert and the Nile Delta region. “The comprehensive security operation Sinai 2018 is targeting terrorist and criminal elements and organizations,” said army spokesman Col. Tamer el-Refai in a televised statement (no. 1) on Friday.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi authorized the army chief of staff to use “all brute force” against terrorism, and he gave security forces a three-month deadline to restore stability to North Sinai.

Refai said in video statement (no. 2) on Friday that the targeted hotbeds were used by the extremists to target law enforcement soldiers, as well as civilians, in North and Central Sinai. Moreover, security authorities are also tightening navy and land border security to cut off supply lines for terrorist elements.

Egypt-Cyprus Maritime Demarcation

On February 5, Turkish Foreign Minister Mouloud Jawish Oglu said during an interview with the Greek newspaper Kathimerini that Turkey does not recognize the 2013 Maritime Demarcation Agreement to demarcate the maritime boarder between Egypt and Cyprus to benefit from natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

In this regard, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry replied that any attempt to harm Egypt’s sovereignty is rejected and will be addressed, and no party can dispute the legality of the Maritime Demarcation Agreement between Egypt and Cyprus.

“No party can dispute the legality of the Maritime Demarcation Agreement between Egypt and Cyprus, as it is consistent with the international law, and it has been deposited with the U.N. International Agreement,” stressed Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid.

Jawish Oglu further explained during the interview that Turkey has set plans to look for oil and natural gas in the region, which would mean that Turkey violates the Maritime Demarcation Agreement between Egypt and Cyprus. However, he claims that the agreement does not have any validity.

He added that his country has submitted a request to reject the agreement, claiming that it violates the Turkish continental shelf, and no foreign country, party, company or ship can conduct illegal scientific research or excavate oil and natural gas in this region.

Signing maritime agreements with several countries has allowed Egypt to search for and discover oil and gas wells in the Red and Mediterranean seas, including the Zohr natural gas field.

“Maritime border delimitation has contributed in achieving the Zohr field project,” said President Sisi during the inauguration ceremony of the Zohr natural gas field on January 31.

Egyptian-Greek-Cypriot tripartite summit in November 2017

Since the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, Turkey has interfered in Egypt’s internal affairs, which has caused several diplomatic and political disputes between Cairo and Ankara.

To avoid such conflicts in the Mediterranean region, Egypt has sought to hold negotiations with Cyprus and Greece over maritime borders, and to promote Egyptian relations with Cyprus and Greece as Turkey and Israel attempt to take control of gas wells in the Mediterranean.

Consequently, one of the bilateral agreements signed between Egypt and Cyprus was the 2003 Delimitation of Maritime Borders Agreement, followed by the 2006 framework agreement.

Also, in 2012, a cooperation agreement between the two countries was signed to explore for gas in the Mediterranean on the Egyptian-Cypriot borders, as the region is rich in natural gas.

Several meetings have been held between Egypt, Cyprus and Greece, and the most recent one is the fifth Egyptian-Greek-Cypriot tripartite summit, which took place in November 2017. During the summit, several topics were tackled, including coordination between the three countries, as well as enhancing relations in the political, economic, trade, security and tourism fields.

However, Jawish Oglu declared that the outcome of the tripartite meeting is not recognized by Turkey.

The first tripartite summit between Egypt, Greece and Cyprus was held for the first time in Cairo in 2014, and then in Nicosia in April 2015. The third summit was held in Athens and the fourth was in Cairo in 2016.


Additional reporting by Marina Gamil
]]>
2/13/2018 5:20:21 PM
<![CDATA[Maldives opposition calls for Indian intervention as president imposes emergency rule]]>
“We have managed to ensure the failure of the coup attempt by some people,” Defence Minister Adam Shareef Umar said on state television.

While the government seemed in control on Tuesday, it was unclear whether the political crisis in the Indian Ocean island nation, best known as a luxury holiday destination, was over.

On the same day, an exiled former president urged regional power India to send an envoy backed by its military to release Maldivian political prisoners.

The Maldives plunged into crisis last week after the Supreme Court quashed terrorism convictions against nine leading opposition figures including the exiled, first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed.

Tensions came to a head when Yameen’s government rejected the ruling and on Monday imposed an emergency and then in the early hours of Tuesday morning arrested the chief justice and another judge of the court. In doing so, the government ignored calls from the United States and the international community to respect the court’s verdict.

By Tuesday evening, Yameen appeared to have gotten his way with the court when he lifted his suspension of an article of the constitution that establishes the Supreme Court as the final authority on legal matters.

That move was quickly followed by the three remaining court justices who are still free annulling the court’s decision to drop charges against the nine opposition figures, according to a statement on the court’s website.

Yameen’s office released a statement saying his government “welcomed the Supreme Court’s revision”.

Meanwhile, Nasheed, who was granted asylum by Britain after the Male government allowed him to leave jail for medical treatment abroad in 2016, sought Indian intervention to resolve the nation’s most serious political crisis in years.

“On behalf of Maldivian people we humbly request: India to send envoy, backed by its military, to release judges & pol. detainees... We request a physical presence,” Nasheed, who is currently in Colombo, Sri Lanka, said in a Twitter post.

He also urged the United States to block the financial transactions of Yameen’s government.

Since Yameen took power in 2013, his government has faced heavy criticism over the detention of opponents, political influence over the judiciary and the lack of freedom of speech.

Addressing the nation on state television, Yameen said he had acted to prevent a coup, and suggested that the judges had chosen to side with his opponents because they were being investigated for corruption.

“I declared the state of emergency because there was no way to hold these justices accountable. This is a coup. I wanted to know how well planned this coup is,” he said.

As part of the crackdown, police also detained Yameen’s half-brother, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had ruled the Maldives for 30 years until 2008 and now stands with the opposition.

Gayoom was detained at his residence along with his son-in-law. But Gayoom’s son Faris, who was one of the imprisoned opposition leaders whom the court ordered to be freed, was released on Tuesday, his lawyer told Reuters.

Other opponents of Yameen remained in prison.

RIVAL INFLUENCES

Located near key shipping lanes, the Maldives have assumed greater importance since China began building political and economic ties as part of its so-called “String Of Pearls” strategy to create a network of ports in the Indian Ocean.

Having historically held more clout in the islands, India has sought to push back against China’s growing influence there.

India, the United States and Britain have urged Yameen to honor the rule of law and free the detainees.

“President Yameen has systematically alienated his coalition, jailed or exiled every major opposition political figure, deprived elected members of parliament of their right to represent their voters in the legislature, revised laws to erode human rights ... and weakened the institutions of government,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

Indian intervention in the Maldives would not be unprecedented, as New Delhi sent troops in 1988 to foil a coup.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said it was an internal matter for the Maldives.

“We believe that the Maldives government, political parties and people have the wisdom and ability to cope with the present situation themselves,” Geng told a daily news briefing.

China has had good ties with Yameen’s government and a free trade agreement between the two countries was signed in December, despite criticism from the opposition.

Any Indian involvement would risk raising tensions further in the overwhelmingly Muslim archipelago of 400,000 people and intensify the rivalry with China.

Aside from the 1988 intervention, India has generally tried to avoid meddling in the Maldives’ internal affairs, although it has continued to provide military and economic assistance.

TOURIST PARADISE

The tumult comes during the peak tourism season in Maldives, which earned $2.7 billion in 2016 from holidaymakers visiting luxury hotels and scuba diving resorts scattered round the myriad tiny tropical islands and coral atolls.

China, the United States and India have already issued advisories against traveling to the Maldives, though most tourists would only pass through rather than stay in Male, the densely populated capital where political tensions are highest.

“It has affected business. We have advised our operators to not sell Maldives packages,” said Raman Singh Taneja, Managing Director, Flexi Tours Pvt Ltd in New Delhi that sends tour packages. “It’s like a coup there, worse than earlier.”]]>
2/13/2018 4:46:52 PM
<![CDATA[Samir Anan affirms his father’s respect for military ethics ]]>
Anan Junior said that his father was part of the regime ruling Egypt post January 2011, thus it does not make any sense that the former chief of staff keeps under his custody documents that will have him involved in illegal actions.

"Former top auditor Hisham Genena has been reportedly arrested by Egyptian security forces on Tuesday," Genena's daughter Nada told Reuters, the news that no Egyptian official authority has confirmed yet.
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Anan jr's post on his official Twitter account- photo via Twitter


Nada added that 30 security personnel have taken her father from his home, located at Cairo's fifth settlement, adding that she does not know where her father is.

"Genana might stand for trial either before the military prosecutor or the High State Security Prosecution," Genana's lawyer Ali Taha revealed to local media outlets just few hours before Genena’s arrest news reports.

Samir Anan refuted all the allegations by former top auditor Hisham Genena who alleged that Anan possesses documents exposing the Egyptian State's violations after January 25 Revolution in 2011.

“I contacted my family’s lawyer to file a lawsuit against Genena, accusing him of inciting a social strife in Egypt amid a war against terrorism,” said Anan Junior.


Anan’s son later denounced, on an alleged Twitter account, Genena’s allegations calling them false and convincingly suspicious. Anan Junior strongly criticized the former auditor’s role in spreading pro-Muslim Brotherhood rumors and Propaganda that he deemed as despicable schemes targeting the Egyptian national security.

Anan’s lawyer, Nasser Amin announced through his official Facebook account that he will press charges against Genena, adding that all of the latter’s statements contravene the truth.

Amin asserted that Anan has nothing to do with such statements, adding that he will take the needed legal procedures to prevent anyone from giving away statements on behalf of his client in the future.

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Nasser Amin's post on his official Facebook account- photo via Facebook


Military Spokesperson Tamer el-Refai said on Monday that the Egyptian Army will investigate statements previously given by the former top auditor claiming that former candidate Sami Anan possesses documents which expose the Egyptian State’s violations.

Refai said that those statements drive a wedge between the Egyptian Army and the citizens amid a war against terrorism, adding that the Army will act according to the right granted to it by the constitution.


Anan led the Egyptian Army from 2005 to 2012, he was also the deputy head of the Supreme council of the Armed Forces which has ruled Egypt after January 25 Revolution. The former Chief of Staff was ousted by former President Mohammed Morsi in 2012.

After he was forced into retirement, Anan founded the Arabism Egypt Party. The political party attempted to join the parliamentary elections in 2014; however, it was turned down by the Supreme Electoral Commission. Anan withdrew from the Presidential race back in 2014.

Anan posted a video Saturday, January 20, on his official Facebook page where he announced his Presidential bid, vowing to amend what he described the “Wrong Policies” undertaken by the current authority.

Anan called on the State’s institutions to stay neutral towards all the candidates who showed intentions to join the Presidential Race.

The Former Chief of Staff vowed to fix what he described as the deteriorated living standards in Egypt. He also revealed that he will appoint two civilian vice presidents, former top auditor Hesham Geneina for Human Rights and Transparency and Cairo University Political Science Professor Hazem Hosny for knowledge, besides, acting as a Presidential Spokesperson.

Anan rejected the Egyptian/Saudi maritime demarcation agreement ratified by the Egyptian Parliament in June 2017. The agreement handed over the two Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia.


A statement on state television by the Armed Forces accused Anan of a “serious breach of the laws of military service.”

The speech also said Anan was “blatantly inciting against the Egyptian armed forces to try and "drive a wedge between the armed forces and the great Egyptian people.”
]]>
2/13/2018 2:02:34 PM
<![CDATA[U.S. military aid to Egypt to be fully allocated: Abu Zeid]]>
In an interview with Lamis al-Hadidi on CBC, Abu Zeid said that United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s remarks about a $1 billion U.S. aid to Egypt did not mean aid deduction, but perhaps he wanted to say it is approximately $1 billion.

In August 2017, Tillerson announced a decision to slash $95.7 million in grants and aid to Egypt, and to delay the disbursement of $195 million in military aid because of alleged human rights violations.

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi met with Tillerson in Cairo on Monday to discuss ways of enhancing the U.S.-Egyptian relations, the recent efforts to counter terrorism, as well as the regional and international issues of mutual concern.

Heather Nauert, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, described the meeting as “productive” and said that the two parties agreed to resume a new joint strategic dialogue, and enhance strong ties between the two countries, the U.S. Department of State reported.

In a press conference with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, Tillerson said the U.S. stands with Egypt in its operations against terrorism in Sinai. “The U.S. commitment in continuing to support Egypt in its fight against terrorism and bringing security for the Egyptian people is steadfast and will continue,” Tillerson stated.


Picture_1
Closed bilateral meeting between Minister Shoukry and Secretary Tillerson commence at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Tahrir, Cairo – Egypt MFA Spokesman Twitter account


Tillerson added that Egypt has suffered from terror attacks by the Islamic State (IS) group and other terrorist organizations for several years. Tillerson also praised the economic development Egypt has achieved and stressed on the important role Egypt plays in the region, Abu Zeid said.

Tillerson started his Middle East tour on Monday; the tour includes Amman, Ankara, Beirut, Cairo, and Kuwait, and takes place from February 11–16.

On Friday, the army and naval forces began a military operation named “Full-Scale Operation in Sinai 2018” against terrorists affiliated to the Islamic State (IS) in Sinai (previously known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis), Military Spokesman Tamer al-Rifai announced.

The Egyptian Armed Forces killed 16 militants and arrested four others in the full-scale military – "Sinai 2018” – launched on Friday, said Armed Forces Spokesperson Refai in a statement on Sunday.




According to the fifth statement released by the Armed Forces on Monday, Egypt’s security forces destroyed 60 targets, killed 12 terrorists following exchange of fire, arrested 92 criminals and seized 20 vehicles that terrorists used in carrying out terror acts.]]>
2/13/2018 12:07:33 PM
<![CDATA[Could Julian Assange be on brink of freedom?]]>
If the judge rules in his favour, then Assange, 46, would be free to leave the Ecuadorean Embassy in London where he has been holed up for more than five years.

However, he might still elect to remain in the embassy, where he has been granted political asylum, because he fears Britain would arrest him under a U.S. extradition warrant, the existence of which has neither been confirmed nor denied.

WHO IS JULIAN ASSANGE?

Assange was born in Townsville, Australia, in July 1971, to parents who were involved in theatre and travelled frequently.

In his teens, Assange gained a reputation as a sophisticated computer programmer and in 1995 he was arrested and pleaded guilty to hacking. He was fined, but avoided prison on condition he did not reoffend.

In his late 20s, he went to Melbourne University to study mathematics and physics.

WIKILEAKS

Assange launched WikiLeaks in 2006, creating a web-based "dead letter drop" for would-be leakers. It says it is a non-profit organisation funded by human rights campaigners, journalists and the general public, with the aim of fighting government and corporate corruption.

The website rose to prominence in April 2010 when it published a classified video showing a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack that killed a dozen people in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, including two Reuters news staff.

In July that year, it released more than 90,000 classified U.S. military documents on the war in Afghanistan and then in October, it published about 400,000 more secret U.S. files on the Iraq war. The two leaks represented the largest security breaches of their kind in U.S. military history.

It followed these up with the release of 250,000 secret diplomatic cables from U.S. embassies around the world, with some of the information published by newspapers such as the New York Times and Britain's Guardian.

The leaks angered and embarrassed U.S. politicians and military officials, who said the unauthorised dissemination would put lives at risk, and drew similar condemnation from U.S. allies such as Britain.

ARREST IN 2010

On Nov. 18, 2010, a Swedish court ordered Assange's detention as a result of an investigation into allegations of sex crimes.

He had spent much of the year in Sweden and the accusations of misconduct were made by two female Swedish WikiLeaks volunteers. On Dec. 7, 2010, Assange was arrested by British police on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by Sweden.

Assange denied the allegations and was eventually granted bail on Dec. 16. He said from the outset that he believed the Swedish case was a pretext to extradite him to the United States to face charges over the WikiLeaks releases.

His extradition to Sweden for questioning was ordered in Feb. 2011. Subsequent appeals failed and an order for his surrender was issued for June 29, 2012. On June 19, he entered the Ecuadorean Embassy in the upmarket Knightsbridge area of London seeking asylum.

Ten days later a judge at London's Westminster Magistrates' Court issued a warrant for his arrest.

ECUADOREAN EMBASSY

Ecuador granted Assange asylum on Aug. 16, 2012 and at the time he said he expected to wait six months to a year for a deal which would allow him to leave the embassy. British police mounted a round-the-clock guard to prevent his escape, saying he would be arrested should he leave.

The impasse left Assange living in cramped quarters in the embassy with no political or legal solution to the saga in sight. A United Nations panel said in Feb. 2016 that Assange had been arbitrarily detained. Britain called that description "ridiculous", saying his detention was voluntary.

British police ended their permanent guard in October 2015, having spent an estimated 12.6 million pounds, but said they would maintain "covert tactics" to arrest him if he left the embassy.

SWEDISH CASE DROPPED

On Nov. 14, 2016, Swedish prosecutors questioned Assange at the embassy in London about the alleged sex crimes for about four hours.

Swedish prosecutors announced on May 19, 2017, that they had dropped their investigation and withdrawn their EAW. However, British police said he would still be arrested if he left the embassy because there was an outstanding warrant for failing to surrender to bail.

In January this year, Ecuador granted Assange citizenship after Britain refused a request for him to be given diplomatic status, saying he would face justice if he left the embassy.

NEW COURT CHALLENGE

On Jan. 26, Assange's lawyers asked London's Westminster Magistrates Court to drop the arrest warrant against him because it no longer applied as Sweden's EAW had been withdrawn.

They said Assange and his guarantors had forfeited more than 110,000 pounds ($156,000) when he failed to surrender and he had already spent 5-1/2 years in conditions which were "akin to imprisonment".

Last Tuesday, Judge Emma Arbuthnot rejected his bid to have the warrant withdrawn. However, she then agreed to consider whether, even if Assange were arrested and brought to court, it would actually be in the interests of justice to take any further action against him.

Her ruling will be made on Tuesday and if he is successful, it would mean there was no public, legal case in Britain against him.

U.S. CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION

During his successful election campaign, U.S. President Donald Trump praised Assange's organisation for releasing hacked emails from Democratic National Committee (DNC) computers, telling a rally in Oct. 2016 "I love WikiLeaks".

There is no public record or evidence demonstrating any U.S. criminal charges are pending against Assange. When Barack Obama was president, the U.S. Justice Department leadership concluded it would be inappropriate to prosecute WikiLeaks because it was too similar to a media organization.

However in March last year, U.S. federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Virginia, expanded a long-running grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks and its personnel including Assange. A Justice Department official recently confirmed to Reuters this investigation was still open.

Last April, CIA Director Mike Pompeo described WikiLeaks as a "hostile intelligence service" abetted by states such as Russia, who had used it to distribute hacked material from DNC computers during the 2016 presidential election. He also called Assange a "fraud" and a "coward".

Assange and his supporters believe that U.S. prosecutors have a sealed, therefore secret, indictment against him. They also suspect that Britain has received a U.S. extradition warrant linked to these charges and that he would be arrested by British police were he to leave the embassy.

They hope if his court case is successful, it will put pressure on the British authorities to disclose what, if any, U.S. efforts are in place to prosecute him. ]]>
2/13/2018 10:19:14 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt backs Palestinian reconciliation: Fatah leader]]>
Ahmad and Kamel tackled the necessary procedures needed to implement the agreement signed by Fatah and Hamas in Cairo under Egyptian auspices. “The formation of a national consensus government is the first step to end the Palestinian internal dispute,” Ahmad added in press statements on Monday.

The Palestinian reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas has moved slowly, as the Palestinian government, led by Prime Minister Ramy Hamdallah, has still faced various obstacles, disabling it from doing its normal tasks, Ahmad revealed.

On Sunday, Ahmad discussed the latest updates on developments of the Palestinian parties' reconciliation with Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry in a meeting in Cairo.

According to an official statement by foreign ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid, Shoukry listened to Ahmad’s evaluation of the current situation and his administration's latest efforts in the peace process, especially concerning excluding the United States from the peace talks as a mediator following U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent decision regarding Jerusalem.

During the meeting, Ahmad assured that the Palestinian administration is considering Jerusalem as a no-bargaining case. According to Abu Zeid’s statement, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is going to give a speech to explain his country's perspective about the peace process’ future within the current developments.

Shoukry affirmed Egypt's firm stance on the Palestinian cause to Ahmad. He gave him detailed information about the extraordinary ministerial meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) on January 30 in Brussels.
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Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R), Fatah Leader Azzam al-Ahmad (C) and Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid (L) in Cairo on Feb 11, 2018- Press Photo


In his speech to the AHLC, Shoukry said that a fair solution to the Palestinian problem will maintain security as well as stability. It also backs efforts combating terrorism in the region.

The meeting came within the framework of the European initiative targeting tackling the latest developments of the Palestinian problem, in light of the dedication from regional and international parties in coordinating efforts supporting the Palestinian cause, according to a statement by Abu Zeid.

Shoukry stressed the importance of exerting the utmost efforts to push forward the Middle East peace process. The AHLC is a 15-member committee serving as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for providing development assistance to the Palestinian people.

Ambassador Mohamed Sobeih, permanent representative of Palestine to the Arab League, described Trump’s decision of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on December 6 as "illegal" in statements to media outlets on Saturday after the third Arab Parliament conference.

Egypt has been playing a key role in the reconciliation process between the rival movements Fatah and Hamas. In October 2017, a reconciliation agreement between them was signed in Cairo.

On September 17, Hamas announced the dissolution of the administrative committee in the Gaza Strip, inviting the Government of National Reconciliation to assume its duties and hold general elections. The movement affirmed it would comply with the Social Reconciliation Accord signed in 2011.

On November 2, 2017, about seven borders in Gaza were handed over to the Palestinian national reconciliation government after a long period of conflict between Fatah and Hamas that severely affected their capability to negotiate their cause internationally.

However, after the reconciliation conducted between Fatah and Hamas under Egypt's sponsorship in October, several things changed as the Palestinian factions announced their unity.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that there is no country as vital to the Palestinian cause as Egypt, given its historical and political position in the region. “Egypt has an opinion, a position and an interest in the Palestinian cause,” said Abbas.

Egypt has frequently opened the Rafah crossing in both directions to allow the passage of humanitarian cases. The last time the border was opened was on February 7, for three consecutive days.

The decision came amid tensions in the Middle East after U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement to recognize Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel instead of Tel Aviv, which has attracted a huge regional and international backlash, criticizing the decision as “unilateral” and not serving the sake of the peace process.

In turn, the Palestinian administration announced that the U.S. will not engage in the peace talks any further, describing it as unfair and disqualified.
]]>
2/13/2018 9:54:45 AM
<![CDATA[Bloody IS video reveals facts about MB lies]]>
In the video released on February 11, Omar Ibrahim al-Dieb appears laughing, telling how he and his colleagues “proudly” targeted several checkpoints affiliated with the Egyptian army and police. “We are getting stronger every day. We promise you with more harsh days to come,” Dieb said.

The intended message of the video was to say that the terrorist group has not been affected by the latest army operation; however, they proved that Brotherhood-affiliated media was lying. The video showed a number of well-known anchors saying that Dieb was studying abroad and that his only guilt is that he is the son of one of the senior MB leaders.

“When he came back home to his family, the police arrested him,” one of the TV anchors said, claiming persistently that it was a forced disappearance.

“Omar left his home and family and came to join us in Sinai after knowing that the Muslim Brotherhood’s method was not the right or proper way to implement Sharia Islamic law within societies,” the IS video stated.

The video, full of blood and terrorist attacks on army, police and even civilians in Sinai, aimed to send threatening messages to Egyptians, urging them not to participate in the upcoming elections as voters. “Stay away from the voting ballots, because they are our coming targets,” one said in the video.

He described democracy as “infidelity” and peace as “disgrace”.

In a rigorous message that affirms Egypt's serious intentions to eliminate terrorism in all its forms, the Egyptian Armed Forces announced a new major military operation dubbed "Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018" on February 9 to purge the country of terrorism and preserve its security and stability.

“This operation has very strict and clear meanings and messages that need to be delivered to the whole world; it says that the army is completely capable of protecting our homeland and determined to uproot terrorism from the whole state and especially Sinai,” Staff Officer Mohamed al-Shahawy told Egypt Today on Friday, February 9.

He added that this operation will raise the morale of the armed forces members and increase their combat efficiency. “This operation will not just end in one day. I believe it will take time and effort, not because of the militia response, but I believe that the army will not end the operation until completing all its goals.”

The army released two video statements to announce the launching of the operation.

Army spokesperson Tamer el-Refai released the army statement "Communique 1 from the General Command of the Armed Forces" on state TV. It detailed the launch of the operation and the state of high alert declared across different governorates.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior said that it was raising the state of alert and security preparedness to the maximum level nationwide, taking all precautionary measures to maintain security throughout the country, especially in light of the fierce operations conducted by police forces in coordination with the armed forces, to root out terrorism.

Since then, until Monday, February 12, five statements have been released, including the initial results of the military operation.

“Egypt’s security forces destroyed 60 targets, killed 12 terrorists following exchange of fire, arrested 92 criminals and seized 20 vehicles that terrorists used in carrying out terror acts,” the fifth statement released by the Egyptian Armed Forces announced on Monday.

On the fourth consecutive day of the full-scale security operation, the Egyptian military and security forces destroyed 30 hideouts used by militants to carry out their attacks against military and police personnel as well as civilians, added Refai in his statement.

The statement revealed that 23 explosive devices had been discovered and defused, and seven farms of marijuana were burned, in addition to finding more than half a ton of drugs ready for immediate usage. Four vehicles carrying ammunitions and arms and 27 motorbikes were targeted by the Air Forces, Refa'i continued.

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Omar’s case is not the first

Omar was not the first to be claimed to have disappeared in Cairo while accusing the Egyptian police of orchestrating it.

The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood pressured the Egyptian state on claims that the security forces detained and secretly hid their members and supporters so that the Brotherhood could falsely accuse and sue the Egyptian state in international courts.

In 2016, the Egyptian security forces succeeded to identify extremists in the Delta governorates who recruited youth, deceiving them that they would obtain lots of money when they fight for the militant group of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

On the other hand, these recruited youth’s families did not know about their sons’ recruitment to IS and other militant groups. Therefore, they directly accuse the security forces of detaining their sons.

Egypt’s state news agency MENA reported in August 2016 that two brothers formed a terrorist cell in the Sharqia governorate, where they convinced young men of “the importance and necessity of Jihad in Libya and Syria against their national armies.”

According to MENA, the investigations revealed that false allegations claimed by the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood accusing the security forces of arresting, torturing and hiding the Brotherhood supporters were baseless after the disclosure of that terrorist cell in the Delta governorate.

In August 2017, a 25-minute video circulated on social media platforms revealing that student Mohamed Magdy al-Dalaay had joined the Islamic State militant group, despite widespread claims that he had been abducted by security forces.

Dalaay appeared in the video with the moniker Mosaab al-Masry, and he was reciting hateful words and subversive ideas that sought to spread chaos throughout the Egyptian society.

The student was said to have disappeared after being forcibly arrested two years ago.

Previously in April 2015, the Romana police station located in North Sinai received a report regarding the disappearance of the student, who was born in the Kafr el-Sheikh governorate.

On November 24, 2015, the Swiss Inn Hotel in Arish City witnessed a huge blast from a car bomb. One of the two attackers managed to get inside the hotel, where a number of people were injured and killed as a result of gunfire and a subsequent suicide bombing.

Authorities reported at least seven dead, including two judges who had been in Arish to supervise the country's second round of parliamentary elections, which were held the day before.

The IS-affiliated Wilayat Sinai claimed responsibility in a statement released later the same day.

Later on, it was disclosed that one of the attackers was “abducted” by the Egyptian security forces; however, the terrorist attack revealed that he had joined IS without the knowledge of his family, who accused the police of their son’s disappearance.]]>
2/13/2018 7:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[On U.N. deaths, Haley asks Congo's Kabila: what happened to my list?]]>
The list, which Haley told Kabila about when she met with him in Kinshasa in October, is of verified names of individuals involved in the murders of Zaida Catalan and Michael Sharp in March 2017, said the U.S. mission to the United Nations.

Haley told Kabila "that justice for their murders was a priority for the United States," the U.S. mission said.

Sharp, an American, and Catalan, a Swede, were killed in central Congo while carrying out independent investigations for a report to the U.N. Security Council. The bodies of Sharp and Catalan were found in a shallow grave two weeks later.

Addressing Congolese Foreign Minister Foreign Minister Leonard She Okitundu during a U.N. meeting on Monday, Haley said: "I gave (Kabila) a list, and no action has been taken. That list is what we know needs to be looked at, and it is a serious list in reference to the deaths of those two people."

A U.N. inquiry found in August that Sharp and Catalan were murdered by a group of Congolese, likely militia members from central Congo, but an absence of evidence "does not preclude the possibility that others are involved."

Government spokesman Lambert Mende said in December that the authorities have not excluded the possibility that state agents were involved.

A trial of a dozen suspected Kamuina Nsapu militia members started in June but was suspended in October pending the arrival in Congo of four U.N. experts in November to assist with additional investigations.

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations said on Monday: "To date no serious action has been taken by President Kabila or the DRC government to investigate and arrest those involved with the murders of Michael and Zaida."

Okitundu said investigations were ongoing and there must be a fair trial. He reacted angrily to a suggestion by Human Rights Watch during the U.N. meeting - on the Congolese electoral process - that the government was responsible.

"You have to make sure you have proper serious evidence before you can accuse the government of murdering the U.N. experts," he said. "This is a serious accusation that can make your organization lose credibility." ]]>
2/13/2018 5:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. sends conflicting signals over North Korea diplomacy]]>
The prospect of negotiations comes after months of tensions over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, in which U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un traded insults and threats while the U.N. tightened sanctions.

Speaking on his way home from the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea and the first high-level North-South talks in years, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Washington would keep up its "maximum pressure campaign" against Pyongyang, but at the same time would be open to talks without pre-conditions.

“No pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization,” Pence was quoted as saying by the Washington Post. “So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we’ll talk.”

Trump and his senior aides have given conflicting signals in the past year over the potential for diplomatic engagement to resolve the crisis over North Korea's development of nuclear weapons capable of hitting the United States.

During his 2016 election campaign Trump proposed a major shift in U.S. policy by saying he was willing to talk personally to Kim.

Repeated missile tests by North Korea and its biggest ever nuclear detonation last September led Trump to dub Kim "little rocket man" and warn that he might have no choice but to totally destroy his country.

Officials have since said the administration has discussed the possibility of preventative strikes to press North Korea to give up its weapons program, raising fears of a catastrophic new Korean War.

At the same time, Washington has repeatedly held out the prospect of talks with North Korea, but stressed that they must have the ultimate aim of it giving up its weapons program, something Pyongyang has repeatedly rejected.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has at times appeared at odds with the White House in his advocacy of dialogue and in October, Trump publicly admonished him not to waste his time trying to negotiate.

In December, Tillerson said the United States was “ready to talk any time North Korea would like to talk" without pre-conditions, but was quickly slapped down by the White House, which said Pyongyang would have to improve its behavior first. Tillerson subsequently urged a "sustained cessation" of weapons testing to allow for talks.

Trump's hardline approach softened after the first North-South talks in two years in January and he again expressed a willingness to hold direct talks with Kim.

Tillerson said last month Washington was supportive of the North-South dialogue, even though North Korea had a record of seeking to drive a wedge between the United States and its allies through "charm offensives."

He said he was confident the sides would eventually get to the negotiating table, but if Kim wanted to talk "he's got to tell me he wants to talk. We're not going to chase him."

Tillerson again said on Monday it was up to North Korea to decide when it was ready to engage in a "sincere" and "meaningful" way and that it was too early to judge whether a new diplomatic process was underway.

"They know what has to be on the table for conversations," he said.]]>
2/13/2018 5:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Trump unveils infrastructure plan; uphill battle awaits in Congress]]>
Trump asked Congress, controlled by his fellow Republicans, to authorize $200 billion over 10 years to spur a projected $1.5 trillion in road, bridge and other projects to rebuild what he called "America's crumbling infrastructure."

The proposal came under immediate fire from Democrats who said it would put a huge burden on local governments without providing enough federal dollars, and administration officials acknowledged that it faces a tough road ahead.

Trump, who as a candidate promised a major infrastructure plan, said he looked forward to working with lawmakers, but added, "If for any reason they don't want to support it, hey, that's going to be up to them."

"What was very important to me was the military. What was very important to me was the tax cuts. And what was very important to me was regulation. This is of great importance, but it's not nearly in that category," Trump told a meeting of state and local officials at the White House.

The plan, which Trump called the "biggest and boldest infrastructure investment in American history," would reshape how the federal government funds infrastructure projects. It also seeks to sweep away environmental and other regulatory hurdles to new projects.

If the proposal comes to fruition, many Americans could face higher local taxes, fees and tolls imposed by states to pay for new repairs in order to get federal matching funds.

The proposal is intended to spur state and local governments and the private sector to increase spending on infrastructure without a major infusion of federal dollars. It offers relatively little in the way of new federal money considering the magnitude of infrastructure needs, and its $1.5 trillion projection relies on states and cities accepting far less in matching funds for infrastructure projects than they would receive for traditional federal funds.

The plan also calls for eliminating hurdles to selling federal property and lists as examples of potential properties to sell Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport in Washington's Virginia suburbs as well as two key roadways in the Washington region operated by the National Park Service.

Under the proposal, the Interior Department could tap some funds from energy and mineral extraction to pay for infrastructure improvements on government-owned land such as national parks.

Trump has made his infrastructure plan one of his top legislative priorities this year, ahead of the November mid-term congressional elections in which Democrats will try to take over control of Congress from his party.

Democrats said the administration's budget blueprint would actually cut at least $168 billion in planned infrastructure spending to pay for the proposal.

Representative Peter DeFazio, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, called Trump's proposal "embarrassingly small," adding, "President Trump's plan slashes real federal investments and shifts the burden to cash-strapped states and local governments."

DeFazio said it would "pay for Wall Street and foreign investors to toll our roads, and it would gut bedrock environmental, clean water, and clean air protections under the guise of speeding up projects."

'MAGICAL THINKING'

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said Trump's plan "relies on magical thinking, massive private profits, and a pittance of public investment."

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao told reporters that the government should lift hurdles to private sector infrastructure funding and encourage state and local participation. The federal government cannot do it alone, she said.

"Unfortunately there's not enough money to be able to pay for all the infrastructure needs of our country," Chao said.

The plan does not offer nearly as much new federal funding as Democrats wanted nor does it directly address how the federal government will find the money it does call for, instead pointing to a variety of proposed cuts in its budget released on Monday. The administration called the proposal a starting point for negotiations.

The Republican chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Greg Walden, said in a joint statement with fellow Republicans that "Trump hit the nail on the head when constructing this plan to rebuild America's infrastructure."

Congress has not raised the gas since 1993 and has added $137 billion since 2008 to make up highway repair shortfalls. Congress must find another $107 billion through 2026 alone to keep spending at current levels.

Trump met at the White House with state and local officials including the governors of Wisconsin, Louisiana, Virginia and Maine on Monday, and was due to meet with congressional leaders on Wednesday on the proposal.]]>
2/13/2018 2:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[ANALYSIS - Press access to military operations: privilege or right?]]>
Countries adopt different policies and regulations to manage and organize the flow of information on its military operations, as well as the level of access provided to the press in covering any ongoing combats. Some countries guarantee - by constitution - the freedom and full access of press to report on any actions by the government or the military, others restrict information on ongoing operations and some allow certain media agencies to access military locations for logistical and safety considerations.

It is a fact that the relationship between press and military is always controversial in any area around the world. Journalists demand full and unrestricted access to all military locations, operations, plans even during the combat – but the situation on the ground does not always go their way and such access becomes rare.

According to a paper prepared by the Defense Information School in Maryland to discuss Media Coverage of Military Operations in the U.S., “the media may see limited access simply because the command is trying to be respectful of their service member’s privacy and ensure that open dialogue in command and staff meetings is not restrained by having members of the media present.”

Development of press access to military operations:

A solid example of the development of policies regulating the press access to military operations is the U.S. It was not until 1984, after the U.S. invasion of Grenada in 1983, when the U.S. made recommendations to provide access to military operations for news organizations. However, the recommendations made it clear that “military security would remain the paramount consideration in guidelines for news coverage”. It was stated that there might be instances when the press would be barred from covering a military operation, such as the attempt in April 1980 to rescue the Americans hostages in Iran.

But policies around the world change to respond to developments on the ground. Following the Desert Storm (17 January 1991 – 28 February 1991), the news media representatives expressed dissatisfaction with their treatment by the U.S. military. As a result, in 1992 a committee representing the major news media and the U.S. government agreed on some press rules to ensure independent reporting for all wars and military operations. These rules also allowed the government to accredit independent journalists who must observe "a clear set of military security guidelines that protect U.S. forces and their operations. One principle remained un agreed upon which was about military reviewing the news material when operational security is a consideration.

On the public level, Americans supported the military's control of the press during the Gulf War. According to a public-opinion poll that run after the Gulf War, 68 percent of those surveyed believed military control of the news was about right, 17 percent wanted more control, and only 13 percent wanted less control.

In 2009 the news media were allowed to photograph the flag-draped coffins of American military forces killed during wars if their families agree. This decision cancels a ban on such photographs adopted in 1991 under former U.S. president George Bush to protect the privacy and dignity of families of the dead. Journalists considered this ban as a way to mask the truth about the cost of war in Iraq and Afghanistan and therefore they welcomed the ban left.

Strategies to ensure press access to military operations against terrorism are still in process:

The war on terrorism by the Egyptian military in the Sinai peninsula, a war that Egypt is fighting on behalf of the world according to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is a unique and sensitive war. The army is fighting against militants who would never consider the safety or security of civilians in the fighting areas. They even would consider using civilians as shields to protect themselves and to limit the army’s strikes – as the army would never risk the lives of Egyptians who are caught in the middle of this combat. Therefore, including media personnel, other than the military co-responders who are specifically trained to be part of such operations and who obtained a written permission from the army general command to regulate their presence, would jeopardize the security and safety of the troops and the journalists themselves.

Also, considering the rapid developments in communications, control is necessary as current communication means allow direct broadcast from the battlefield which can allow the enemy to see reports that can unintentionally compromise the military forces security.

In accordance with the needs and security considerations on the ground, the military in Egypt adopts a “media pool” policy where a group of agencies and journalists, not limited to Egyptian media agencies serve as the source of information to their news organizations and other non-pool reporters. This approach is an international approach that follows a number of rules including; applying a military security review on all media pool members and that the military has the right to review all dispatches and could delete or change any military sensitive information.

Egypt is keen to inform the public of the progress made on fighting terrorist groups as it contributes to enhancing the popular confidence in the army and also increases the sense of security among the Egyptian people. Therefore, the army public affairs officer, army spokesperson and the State Information Service (SIS) regularly update the public with information on the ongoing combat using clips and statements that sometimes also counteract rumors. Moreover, the Egyptian army utilizes radio, television and social media to broadcast information on the ongoing combat.










The case is not limited to Egypt, a similar recent scenario was adopted during the Operation Iraqi Freedom, when media pools embedded with the combating forces of the U.S. army to cover the progress during the operation. Members of the media pool were screened and accredited according to specific criteria set by the U.S. command in charge of that area of operation in Iraq.

All states involved in combating terrorism around the world are still in the process of developing strategies on various levels to contend with terrorism. The discussed strategies include media and press censorship or access to areas of operations; what information about terrorists and combat strategies should or should not be released to the press? It is a very important yet complicated process to reach the balance between what people should know about their governments’ actions and what can be shared during combat or wartime.
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2/13/2018 1:07:57 AM
<![CDATA[INTERVIEW: President of Iraqi Parliament on sectarianism ]]>
Jabouri spoke to Egypt Today in utmost clarity and transparency about the upcoming elections, the stance taken by the Sunni powers, as well as the recent crisis between the Federal Government of Iraq and officials in the Kurdistan region.

Professor Jabouri talked about the recent hearsay regarding trans-sectarian alliances in Iraq, and he stressed that Iraq has not yet crossed over to a post-sectarian phase as in reality this has not yet been realized. He added that the political camps are concerned of taking the risk and the decisive steps to end sectarianism.

The president of the Iraqi Parliament also disclosed details about his meeting with Egyptian President’s Deputy for National and Strategic Projects Ibrahim Mahlab. He expressed gratitude for Egypt’s constant interaction and prompt reactions to Iraqi issues, and praised Egypt for its profound regional and Arab roles despite the challenges it has been facing.

Jabouri also stressed the fact that they are trying to unite efforts for the sustenance of Iraq in the coming period and amass international cooperation for this purpose; he further asserted that Egypt’s support in the present phase is crucial for Iraq as it contributes to its reconstruction and investment nourishment, stressing that Egypt’s role in the energy sector is going to be huge.


Below is the full interview.

How can we take definite practical steps in the upcoming elections to realize political stability in Iraq?

In fact, a lot has been said about trans-sectarian bodies and formations which transcend all affiliations; yet from a practical point of view, it’s difficult to overstep boundaries of sectarianism in Iraq. We have only taken a few steps in that direction, and that’s all we were hoping for. However, some people still believe that the recent changes mean that Iraq has crossed over to a trans-sectarian phase, which, in reality, is not true. There is also much concern felt by political camps regarding taking the risk of ending sectarianism, and some might actually refuse it so as not to come out as the ones who are calling for what the people don’t favor.

Coalitions, which were preceded by talks, were formed between several parties; however, till this very moment, we couldn’t finalize a project that we can present to the people as the expected trans-sectarian national project. I guess the reason is that all the coalitions formed were short-term, and that had they lasted longer, a project could’ve been crystallized under different headlines. It is also true that Sunni sects are apprehensive about grouping together in one listing which could lead to the creation of formations with an ideological nature, let alone Sunni parties with beliefs that differ from the rest. For all these reasons, political camps and parties decided to join the elections individually.

What about the fragmentation of Sunni camps' power in Iraq? Can you cause them to get united in the coming period?

I’ve actually been hoping to unite all Sunni factions, not so that our side could rule and impose its will on their side or vice versa; on the contrary, we have a desire to change the Sunni mentality as far as the Iraqi state is concerned. Recently, a state of mutual trust has been established between Sunnis and the state, and they have even developed a consideration to the state’s referentiality and are calling others to respect the law as it protects both the citizens and the state, acknowledging the state as the backbone of all Iraqi people's security.

What are the reasons behind the fragmentation of Sunni powers and the reciprocal accusations? I’m referring here to the crisis with former Iraqi Minister of Defense Khalid al-Obaidi, and his accusations against you on grounds of corruption?

It has been two years since the issue with Obaidi and his accusations against me on grounds of corruption; right now I only look at it from a professional perspective. There has been an interpellation for Obaidi in the Parliament, and this is a positive sign because an interpellation of a Sunni minister means that we are not targeting people on accounts of their affiliations.

What are your views on the coalitions being formed from different Iraqi bodies?
The dialogue that’s going on now can briefly be put as follows: some parties have joined coalitions that can be included in a political front for building the post-elections phase; the main objective of this phase is to create a bloc which embraces everyone but not necessarily include everyone.

Right now, we are working on creating a bloc that comprises the majority of parties in order to be non-dependent on the interests of a particular party or parties. If this bloc is successfully established; then the most important step to go past the present state of affairs is achieved. It requires months of negotiations and talks though, and that’s what we’re going to focus on in the coming period.

Can you talk to us about how you see the path of the Egyptian-Iraqi relations in the coming period?

To begin with, we are very grateful for Egypt’s constant interaction and prompt reactions to Iraqi issues because Egypt has always played profound regional and Arab roles despite the challenges it has faced. The most important aspect of cooperation now is the economic one; we are very keen on reinforcing economic cooperation with Egypt. The exchange of visits and the constant diplomatic efforts exerted by both countries are an indication of such keenness and of the fact that Egypt shares such ambition with us.

How did it go with Ibrahim Mahlab in his recent meeting with you? Have you agreed on the sectors in whose reconstruction Egypt is going to partake?

Iraq is trying to unite efforts for its sustenance in the coming period for amassing international cooperation for this purpose; Egypt’s support for Iraq in the present phase is crucial as it contributes to the rebuilding of the country and its investment. In addition, Egypt’s role in the energy sector is going to be huge, and there are bilateral committees working on this aspect. Moreover, knowledge and experience exchange between both countries on all levels is extremely important. All of these aspects were discussed and outlined with Mahlab in our recent meeting.

How do you see your alliance with Ayad Allawi, former vice president of Iraq?

When Sunnis started joining the alliances being formed, some of them had the conviction that joining alone was better than joining in groups, on account of their disagreements with other groups. The same approach is taken by the Kurds and the National Alliance of Iraq, for if Sunni factions had grouped into one listing, they would have encouraged others to take the same approach. I think that the National Alliance of Iraq led by Ayad Allawi and classified as being of a particular class and color, has moved beyond the state of entrenchment of other Iraqi powers and beyond their considerations.

What about Iraqi immigrants in other countries, how will they vote in the elections?
I sent a letter to the Higher Commissariat of Elections requesting the necessary action of opening voting centers in countries where Iraqi immigrants live, both in the centers and in peripheral regions, and the commissariat somehow responded to our request with positive affirmation. We have concerns about the integrity and transparency of the upcoming elections because voting might not be among the priorities of an Iraqi immigrant, but we believe that their participation is what would realize the country’s stability.

Has the Parliament devised a mechanism for overseeing and supervising the elections?

We trust that the commissariat will play its role within a framework of parliamentary supervision. Besides, the upcoming elections are going to be electronic as per the recent decree which put the biometric system of voting into use.

What about the political money spent on elections?

What happens in the streets reflects on the Parliament; we will work on curbing the role of political money and forbidding people, who seek parliamentary immunity, from taking part in the elections. Consequently, we have issued an amendment but it was appealed. The amendment, which stirred legal controversy, added the condition that a candidate has to be a bachelor degree holder as a minimum education requirement, and it would deny the return of 100 parliamentarians to the new Parliament, where another 100 would be chosen in their places by the people. Some parties, however, appealed the amendment on grounds of the constitution which stipulates that one of the rights of citizenship is that any citizen is eligible to stand for election. However, there are many other considerations that should be taken into account, and right now the case is pending in Iraqi courts.

When could an actual and complete national reconciliation be realized in Iraq?
National reconciliation in theory could not be realized; yet, societal reconciliation was practically realized. The elites could not come up with a well-defined national project because, in reality, problematic issues required swift measures that could stop bloodshed, not elitist political figures who take their time pondering before they come up with what they call a project.

You’ve paid a recent visit to Iran as part of the prime minister’s comprehensive plan for containing conflicts in the region. Is Iraq preparing to mediate a talk between conflicting parties of the region?

My visit to Iran was like any other visit to any other country. The purpose of the visit was to attend the meetings of the Islamic countries' parliament presidents in Tehran, during which we had a chance to talk to Iranian officials. Our policy throughout the recent years was to avoid having Iraq to pay for the ongoing conflicts in the region. We build our relations on a basis of common interests, and we advocate the common regional security project and the economic collaboration project with Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. Relations with Turkey and Saudi Arabia are developing, and we have recently held a coordinating committee with the Kingdom. Finally, we are hoping that the conflicts of the region get resolved, so that stability and security are established in the region.

Who bears the responsibility of the Iraqi army’s breakdown in the face of ISIS in 2014?

We have made a thorough report via an investigation committee which questioned a large number of army leaders. Grave mistakes were found out and files were open for further investigation.

When does the crisis of Iraqi Kurdistan end?

It has already ended, relations with the region have been restored, and Kurdish parliamentarians have resumed their jobs in the Parliament. Relations between the two governments are intact, the authority of the Federal Government on entry points is intact, a roadmap for the future has been laid down, and salaries of the employees of the region will be out very soon.

Has the crisis been settled through a mediator from your side?

No, but there was a desire from the Kurds' side to settle the matter, and it was received with positive responses from our side and things developed from there.
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2/12/2018 7:18:27 PM
<![CDATA[ANALYSIS: Will Russia mediate Israeli-Iranian confrontation in Syria?]]>
Changing realities on the ground in Syria are threatening to introduce a new phase of the civil war; one which would open up a new front to the conflict and offer a new threat to the Syrian government’s stability. As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is successfully regaining control of Syria, with the support of Russia and Iran, power dynamics are changing at the cost of Israel’s perceived security, and long-term peace in Syria.

The recent direct conflict between Israel and Iran has made apparent some major changes between the two sides, and threatens long-term stability in both Syria and the region as a whole. Iran and the Syrian government have shown a growing confidence against Israel, and in response, Israel has displayed a greater willingness to act. Israel’s desire to not get bogged down in the war on its north east border is being severely tested.

How has the conflict intensified in recent days?

Conflict between Israel and Iran, two long-standing adversaries, escalated sharply in recent days and threatens to introduce a new phase in the conflict.

On February 10, Israel identified and tracked an Iranian UAV which had reportedly violated Israeli airspace over the Golan Heights. Footage later released by the Israeli military depicted the drone being destroyed by an Israeli attack helicopter.




In retaliation, Israel sent jets to across the Syrian border and conducted airstrikes targeting the T4 Airbase in Eastern Homs where the drone was supposedly controlled from. Syrian Surface-to-Air Missile Systems engaged the jets on their return, and under “substantial Syrian anti aircraft fire” – allegedly upwards of 20 missiles fired from a Syrian base – an Israeli F-16 was brought down after its two-man crew ejected.

After the downing of the fighter jet, Israel launched a “large-scale attack” which targeted 12 military sites in Syria, including three air defense batteries and four military positions. It is said that several of these sites where Iranian, while the majority were Syrian.

This was the largest Israeli attack in Syria since 1982, and coincidently, the first combat loss for the Israeli Air Force since the same year.

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Israeli security forces examine the remains of an F-16 Israeli war plane near the village of Harduf, Israel Feb 10, 2018 – REUTERS

Iranian spokesman denied this provocation, yet—regardless of blame—Iran has learned a lot over the past few days. Iran was successful in baiting Israel into a reaction, which thus allowed Iran to assess how Israel interpreted the severity of the threat.

The Israeli Defense Forces distinguished the chain of events as “more than confrontation, but less than war,” and warned Iran and its allies against “playing with fire.” Hezbollah, Iran’s most influential satellite in the Levant, said in a threat to its adversary that the escalation of hostilities and developments show that “the old equalities have categorically ended.”

Putting the Israel’s role in the Syrian Civil War into context

Israel has adopted three distinct positions during the war in neighboring Syria: “Passive onlooker,” “good neighbor” and “active onlooker.” These positions have shifted in response to changing balances of power in the conflict, and represent the changing security threats facing the Israeli state. The two major threats to Israeli security in Syria are Islamic terrorism and Iran, with the latter being the foremost adversary to the Israeli state.

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An Israeli flag flutters above the wreckage of a tank on a hill in the Golan Heights overlooking the border with Syria on October 18, 2017 – AFP Photo/Jalaa Marey

Israel’s main concern is border security, and thus Israel’s north eastern border. As the war continued in Syria, fighting began to stray closer to the 1974 armistice line, where Israel is determined to prevent Iranian-backed Shiite militias and Hezbollah from advancing and setting up shop.

As the war in Syria has dragged on and the situation has evolved, Israel is threatened less by Islamic jihadist groups such as ISIS and its affiliates, and more by Hezbollah and Iranian-backed Shiite militia groups who may establish permanent bases on Israel's border as conflict slows down. Not only would Iranian advances towards this line open up a new hostile front on the Israeli-Syrian border, it would consolidate a Shiite belt stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean that would pose a far greater risk to stability in the region.

Israel has avoided any substantial interference in the conflict beyond its “good neighbor” policy thus far, as the international coalition, along with its domestic allies, focuses on destroying the military threat posed by ISIS. However the threat of Iranian expansion and entrenchment on its border is looking closer to reality. In response, Israel established three clear “red lines” that would necessitate a response if crossed: Israel will not allow for Iran to exploit the instability in Syria to transfer arms and advanced weaponry to Hezbollah; Israel will not allow the conflict to encroach on, or spill over its border; and finally, Israel will not allow radical groups to consolidate control.

Put simply, Israel will disrupt any Iranian attempt to consolidate a permanent presence in Syria. Iranian offensive military outposts or advanced weapon production facilities are considered a direct threat to national security, and can be shared with Hezbollah thus increasing the threat from the north.

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Hezbollah fighters giving a guided tour near the Lebanese-Syrian border on July 26, 2017 raise a Lebanese flag showing pictures of soldiers killed fighting jihadists – AFP

In order to prevent a new front to the war opening up on the Syria’s southern border with Israel, a Russian-backed “de-escalation zone” was established. This zone has helped keep Israel and its adversaries in Syria at a distance from each other—however, there have been signs of this breaking down. Notably, the latter half of 2017 saw conflict escalate between government forces and opposition fighters in the Quneitra province.

“Iran is busy making Syria a base for military entrenchment and wants to use Syria and Lebanon as fronts for the declared goal of the destruction of Israel. It is also building sites for producing precision guided missiles for this purpose in Syria and Lebanon, something that Israel cannot accept,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in August 2017.

Although Israel has avoided getting involved in the conflict, it has conducted dozens of clandestine airstrikes in Syria which have targeted Hezbollah weapon convoys and Iranian installations. While strategically important, these interventions have generally passed under the radar and have not received major media attention. Israel’s generally passive approach to the conflict has limited a Syrian response to these strikes; however, signs of a change became clear with the recent targeting of Israeli jets. With the Syrian government engaged in conflict on several fronts as President Assad attempts to regain control of the country, opening a new front on its southern border could severely dampen the government’s advances.

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Hezbollah and Syrian flags flutter on a military vehicle in Western Qalamoun, Syria August 28, 2017 – REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki


As of yet, the disputed border in the Golan Heights has remained relatively calm. However, as forces hostile to Israel creep closer to the border and begin encroaching into Israeli territory, it is likely that conflict like we have seen in previous days will continue to escalate and may lead to a sustained direct conflict between Israel, Iran and its allied groups.

"Iran and Hezbollah know in advance that they are planning two fronts of war against Israel, and it is our right not to allow the suffocating tie to tighten around Israel," said Netanyahu.

Russia must meet the challenges of its newfound role, and act as an effective mediator

The significance of the conflict in recent days between Israel and Iran is that they are have engaged in direct military aggravation with one another. The increased the frequency of such incidents is not likely to serve the interests of Russia or the Syrian government, since a sustained Israeli military campaign could severely damage the territorial gains the Syrian government has made thus far.

It is unlikely that a conflict between Israel, Iran and its allies is imminent, as both sides are aware of the risks and the cost on civilian life. However, the one lesson of the Syrian war is that nothing is certain in conflict. Nevertheless, all sides are aware that relative calm between Israel and Iran is vital if the Syrian war is to come to a close any time soon, but this poses the question of who presides over mediating this longstanding, aggressive tit-for-tat.

The diplomatic role of the United States in the Syrian war is minimal, as we have seen from the number of peace negotiations which have taken place without U.S. involvement. Russia is the major player in Syria and is likely the only actor with the diplomatic influence and military leverage to negotiate a deal between Israel and Iran.

“Only Moscow is in a position to mediate a bolstering of the de-escalation agreement. Unless it does, the rules of the Syrian game are likely to be worked out through attack and response, with risk of escalation,” said a recent report by the Crisis Group.

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Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, Russia's Vladimir Putin and Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan meet in Sochi, Russia November 22, 2017 – REUTERS/Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Kremlin

As the balance of power in Syria has dictated, Russia has found a place next to Iran and appears to be coordinating with Syria and Iran in its response to Israeli strikes.

In a press release, Russia stressed the need for all parties to act with “unconditional respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Syria. A respect for sovereignty and territory integrity has long been behind Putin’s support for Syria, meaning this statement does not come as a great surprise.

In reality, Russia is at odds with Iran over how its sees the future of Syria. Russia would like to see a strong Syria that will remain a close ally of Moscow. Whether this would require Assad at the helm is a different question. In contrast, Iran would like to Syria’s future to pan out much like Lebanon, in which the state is factionalized leading to Iran potentially building strong pillars of support.

Thus, it is likely Russia is the best party to mediate the conflict. Although Israel and Iran may be on the brink of a crisis, a full-blown war in unlikely to transpire. Russia aims to see a strong and stable Syria, and an Israeli-Iranian conflict would drag the country further down, where any light would be a speck on the horizon.

As the balance of power on the ground changes, it is looking clearer that the Syrian government will retain control of the state; however, it still has a long way to go. Renewed domestic and regional conflicts continue to make their way to the Syrian battleground, and there is no sign of these abating.


Twitter:

@joseph_colonna

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2/12/2018 6:21:55 PM
<![CDATA[15yrs of struggle seeking solutions in KICRI]]>
The conference kicked off on Monday, February 21 under the auspices of Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah and with the participation of 70 humanitarian organization, the representatives of 1,850 global companies and the officials of 70 countries worldwide.

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Kuwait's International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq (KICRI) that kicked off on Monday, February 21 – Press photo

The three-day conference aims to fix the damage caused by war and disputes, according to an official statements. All of the conference attendees are trying to reach agreements to re-construct destroyed houses, infrastructure, roads, hospitals, schools and public facilities.

About $100 billion is the estimated donation needed for Iraq to be revived and rebuild.

Egypt’s participation

Being threatened by terrorism is not something Egypt has not experienced. Egyptian Presidential Assistant For National and Strategic Projects Ibrahim Mahlab said that Egypt's participation in KICRI came out of state’s similar experiences. “We will stand with Iraq and help it with all the knowledge and experience we have gained during the past four years,” Mahlab told MENA in an interview on Monday.

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Kuwait's International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq (KICRI) that kicked off on Monday, February 21 – Press photo

He added that Egypt's participation in KICRI reflects its pioneering role at the Arab, regional and international levels. Mahlab affirmed that President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi made directives on the necessity of standing by Iraq in order for it to benifit from Egypt's pioneering expertise in the field of reconstruction and help Baghdad in rebuilding areas damaged by terrorists.

He assured that Egypt is keen on extending its unique expertise in the quick completion of national projects in to Iraq, especially because the war-torn country needs a lot of logistic services as soon as possible like projects in the fields of energy, hospitals and schools, to pave the way for the return of thousands of displaced people.

Commenting on Egyptian-Kuwaiti relations, Mahlab said they are "deeply rooted and historic", noting that Kuwait hosts thousands of Egyptians working in the various professions. He also noted that Kuwait's hosting KICRI emanated from its humanitarian role, describing Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir as "a humanitarian leader."

The conference kicked off with a meeting between high-level experts and a wide range of international figures. It will include a number of sessions and leaders from around the world that will talk about their humanitarian experiences.

Director General of the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development Abdel Wahab Badr, Secretary General of the Iraqi Cabinet Mahdi al-Alaaq and Head of the Iraq Fund for the Reconstruction of Damaged Areas from Terrorism Mostafa al-Heiti are in attendance at the conference.

Iraq’s long history of struggling

Since 2003, when the U.S. announced its invasion of the Middle-Eastern country due to claims of the existance of nuclear weapons, everything was destroyed.

It is hard to find real and accurate statistics regarding the number of civilians killed inside Iraq since the invasion because of the lack of official statistics released by Iraqi entities; however, according to statistics published on United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) website, 110,479 were killed during the period of 2003 to 2010.

After the withdrawal of the American troops from Iraq in 2011, Iraq was still full of rebels from all parties, including Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. The troops and militia affiliated with the Sunnis claimed that the government then lead by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was ignoring them and their demands, and that they were marginalized within the society. A long struggle between the Sunnis and the other parties along with the government continued until 2014.

In April 2014, The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant known also as (Da’esh or IS) began to take over several governorates inside Iraq and Syria including Tikrit, Fallujah and Mosul. According to the United Nations, war crimes were committed and historic places were destroyed.

Again, According to UNAMI about 357,754 civilians were killed since November 2012 to January 2018.

IRAQ Mission Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) affiliated with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced that about 2,615,988 persons (435,998 families) were internally displaced from January 2014 to 31 December 2017. They were dispersed across 97 districts and 3,711 locations in Iraq.

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Photo courtesy of IRAQ Mission Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) affiliated with International Organization for Migration (IOM)



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Photo courtesy of IRAQ Mission Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) affiliated with International Organization for Migration (IOM)


In February 2017, during a two-day International Coordination Conference on the Safeguarding of Cultural Heritage in Liberated Areas of Iraq at the UNESCO headquarters, Iraq’s Vice-Minister of Culture for Antiquities and Tourism Affairs Qais Rasheed said that violent extremists (Da’esh) have wreaked severe damage to archaeological sites of world importance, destroying up to 70 percent of Nineveh and 80 percent of Nimrud. “They systematically dug tunnels in Mosul and other heritage sites in search for antiquities to sell on the Internet and black market,” he added. “The damage was even greater than had been feared,” Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, said.

Defeating Da’esh

After a long struggle, and with the aid of the American-led military intervention in Iraq known as the (International Coalition), The Iraqi government announced defeating Dae’sh three years later, specifically on December 2017.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in a televised speech thanked all of those who participated in the Iraqi war including Iranian Shia Marja' (Senior cleric) in Iraq Ali al-Sistani for issuing his known fatwa (Islamic rule) with the religious obligation of fighting against Da’esh.

The KICRI agenda includes several meetings between high-level officials from different 70 countries. The attending donors include the European Union, Kuwait, the United Nations and the World Bank.




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2/12/2018 5:26:46 PM
<![CDATA[Is military escalation in Syria beginning a direct clash between Israel and Iran?]]>
Tel Aviv on Sunday raised its threats to Iran and accused it of over incursion to its airspace by an Iranian drone over its territory, according to the Israeli army.

The pilot and the sailor were taken to the hospital for treatment; the hospital spokesman confirmed on Sunday that the pilot is currently in moderate condition after undergoing surgery on Saturday, while the other was allowed to go home.

Some Israeli newspapers described the escalation as the first direct confrontation between Israel and Iran, such as Israel's Maariv newspaper, which called it “the first direct military confrontation between Israel and Iran,” while the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported “a day of fighting with Iran.”

Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said Israeli forces were “fully prepared for further action,” adding "Syrians are playing with fire when they allow Iranians to attack Israel."

"We sent a strong blow to Iranian and Syrian forces on Saturday,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Sunday at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting.

"We have made it clear to everyone that our rules of engagement will not change in any way, we will continue to hit anyone who tries to hit us," Netanyahu said.

The Minister of Intelligence Israel Katz stressed that the Jewish state "will not accept the Iranian military presence in Syria."

For his part, the Syrian military and its allies denied the drone violated Israeli airspace, saying that they targets (IS) Islamic Terrorist group, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Defense Ministry issued a statement on its website that it hit more than one Israeli plane, adding that the Israeli enemy once again attacked some of our military bases in the southern region, responded to our air defenses and foiled aggression.

The Lebanese Foreign Ministry has also announced that it will file a UN complaint against Israel after it used Lebanese airspace to launch attacks on Syria on Saturday.

Iran's Foreign Ministry refused to report Israel's objection to an unmanned Iranian drone launched from Syria on Saturday which he described as "ridiculous," state television reported.

"Reports of an Iranian drones flying over Israel and Iran's involvement in an attack on an Israeli fighter are very ridiculous," state television quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasimi as saying. "Iran only provides military advice to Syria.”

The Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Brigadier General Hussein Salami threatened that Iran would be able to destroy all American military bases in the region and Israel, stressing that Tehran would continue to develop its military capabilities.

"We strongly urge all parties to exercise restraint and avoid all actions that would further complicate the situation," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

On the other side, the United States declared on Saturday its strong support for Israeli aggression on Syrian territory, where State Department spokeswoman Heather Naort said that the United States strongly supported Israel's right to "defend itself".

On Saturday, the Russian Foreign ministry urged all sides in Syria to exercise restraint, warning that it is absolutely unacceptable to threaten Russian soldier’s lives in Syria to help in the war against terrorism.

Syria and Israel are still in a state of war, although the Golan’s armistice line remained largely quiet for decades until the civil war erupted in Syria in 2011.
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2/12/2018 4:21:41 PM
<![CDATA[Jerusalem borders to be determined later: U.S. Tillerson]]>
Shoukry and Tillerson tackled key regional developments, most notably developments regarding Jerusalem after U.S. President Donald Trump's decision, on December 6, 2017, to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv; a decision which was deemed as an official recognition from the American side of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Egypt affirms its commitment to resolve the Palestinian cause, in coordination with Arab countries, the European Union and the United States,” Shoukry added during the press conference.

Tillerson expressed the American support to the Egyptian state which has been engaging in an anti-terror war in Sinai and various districts across Egypt, within the framework of a full-scale security operation dubbed "Sinai 2018" against terrorism.

“The U.S.-Egyptian relationship is growing stronger every day as we work together to build a more secure, more prosperous region," Tillerson stated.




Both officials tackled the Egyptian-U.S. common challenges; most importantly the North Korean nuclear activities which have threatened the entire world. “Egypt has held several consultations with world powers such as the U.S., European countries and Japan so as to conclude diplomatic solutions for the North Korean issue and accomplish security and safety worldwide,” Shoukry added.

Syria’s ongoing war was also tackled by Shoukry and Tillerson as both countries stressed that “an open dialogue between the Syrian regime and the opposition is a must to resolve the Syrian crisis”, according to Tillerson.

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Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R) and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) at Tahrir Palace, central Cairo on Feb 12, 2018 (courtesy of U.S. Embassy in Cairo Twitter Account)


On Monday morning, Shoukry held discussions with Tillerson, where they tackled recent developments in the region. Tillerson has started his Middle East tour on Monday; the tour includes Amman, Ankara, Beirut, Cairo, and Kuwait, and takes place from February 11–16.

President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi will meet with Tillerson on Monday afternoon in Cairo to discuss bilateral partnership, how to further strengthen it, and how to coordinate on key regional issues including the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, following the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city; the decision which Egypt strongly rejected.

Tillerson will arrive in Kuwait in the evening of Monday leading the U.S. delegation to two international gatherings: That of the 74 members in the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition and a conference on Iraqi reconstruction. The three-day Iraq Reconstruction Conference will showcase private sector investment opportunities and international support for Iraq.

At 8 pm, Tillerson will attend a working dinner with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sabah al-Khalid Al-Sabah. He will also meet with Kuwaiti officials who are attempting to mediate a resolution to the disagreements between Qatar and its Arab neighbors; Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.




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2/12/2018 1:39:29 PM
<![CDATA[From Egypt’s launch pad, Tillerson kicks off Mideast tour ]]>
Shoukry received Tillerson on Monday at the Tahrir Palace, central Cairo, and tackled recent developments in the region. A press conference is expected to be held soon in which Shoukry and Tillerson are going to brief the media with their talks’ outcomes.

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Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry recieves U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at Tahrir Palace, central Cairo on Feb 12, 2018- Press Photo


President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi is meeting with Tillerson on Monday afternoon in Cairo to discuss bilateral partnership, how to further strengthen it, and coordinate on key regional issues including the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, following the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city; the decision which Egypt strongly rejected.

Tillerson will also arrive in Kuwait on the same day leading the U.S. delegation to two international gatherings: That of the 74 members in the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition and a conference on Iraqi reconstruction. The three-day Iraq Reconstruction Conference will showcase private sector investment opportunities and international support for Iraq.

At 8 pm, Tillerson will attend a working dinner with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sabah al-Khalid Al-Sabah. He will also meet with Kuwaiti officials who are attempting to mediate a resolution to the disagreements between Qatar and its Arab neighbors; Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.




Tillerson's third destination is Jordan where the U.S. Secretary will meet with His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Al-Hussein and Jordanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman al-Safadi. Tillerson is expected to sign a multiyear, multibillion dollar U.S. aid package with Jordan to shore up the relationship.

The secretary will underscore the enduring strength of the U.S.-Jordan relationship and discuss key regional issues, such as the ongoing crisis in Syria and Jordan’s support for Middle East peace.

In Beirut, the secretary will meet with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri on Thursday. The secretary’s visit to Lebanon will emphasize U.S. support for the Lebanese people and the Lebanese Armed Forces.

While Tillerson's visit and his meetings with the Lebanese state figures signifies the importance of the relationship and openness to all Lebanese parties except Hezbollah, it is wrong to understand any unconditional support for Lebanon.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (L) at the State Department July 26, 2017 in Washington, DC.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (L) at the State Department July 26, 2017 in Washington, DC.- Reuters

Tillerson will conclude the tour in Ankara, Turkey, with surely tense talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Tillerson will repeat warnings for Turkey to show restraint in military operations in Kurdish areas of Syria, according to U.S. officials who talked with foreign media outlets on Sunday.

Last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he would tell Tillerson during his visit that the two countries must repair damaged mutual trust, Reuters reported on Sunday.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Ankara, Turkey March 30, 2017
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Ankara, Turkey March 30, 2017. Yasin Bulbul/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

Tillerson’s five-nation tour comes three days after an Israeli F-16 fighter jet was shot down by Syrian fire on Saturday. Although Syrian state news agency SANA reported one Israeli aircraft was shot by Syria’s defense systems, Israel has not confirmed yet whether the F-16 jet was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire or not.

Tillerson may also be involved in mediating between Iran and Israel after Saturday’s escalation. Israeli local media reported that Netanyahu had demanded the mediation of Washington and Moscow to resolve the newly-reported developments in the region.

In September, 2017, President Sisi met with U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson on the sidelines of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 72).

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2/12/2018 11:54:24 AM
<![CDATA[FM follows up updates of Egyptian fishing boat held in Sudan ]]>
The Egyptian fishing boat was detained in North Sudan after it had trespassed an area of natural reserves while returning from Sudan to Egypt.

Abu Zeid remarked that the crew was referred tothe prosecution in Port Sudan, which formed a committee to inspect the fishing boat and check its documents. The committee confirmed that the boat fulfills all the requirements of marine safety, fishing license, the kind as well as the amount of authorized fish and the necessary security requirements.
Consequently, the prosecution dropped all charges against the boat except for entering the natural reserves area.

Abu Zeid stressed that the Consulate General is coordinating with the fishing boat’s owner, navigation agent and the crew’s lawyer to be provided with updates on the trial’s legal measures until the crew members are released and return back to Egypt.

The Egyptian Consulate in Port Sudan stressed that the Egyptian authorities provide the fishermen with all their needs of food and medicine since they were detained.
In April 2015, 101 Egyptian fishermen and their three boats were held in Sudan. They were put on trial for trespassing in Sudanese territorial waters.

In August 2015, the fishermen were released and returned to Egypt. This came within the framework of a prisoner-exchange deal between Cairo and Khartoum.Shortly after the release of the Egyptian fishermen, 44 Sudanese prisoners, who had been detained for crossing the border illegally, were released.

Moreover, several fishing boats were detained before in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They were released after the Foreign Ministry intervened.
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2/12/2018 11:43:18 AM
<![CDATA[Operation Sinai 2018’s soldiers send pride messages to Egyptians]]>
You can feel the surge of enthusiasm as you hear the young brave soldiers talking about their mission with honor, vowing to sacrifice their lives in the battlefield. The soldiers said they will keep fighting Egypt's enemies everywhere until they revenge the terrorist operations' victims.



Weeks before the scheduled presidential election in Egypt, the army launched a major offensive against militants in some areas, mainly in northern Sinai that has witnessed a bloody insurgency against the military forces since July 2013, following the June 30 Revolution that toppled Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated former President Mohamed Morsi.

The army spokesman announced in a strongly worded televised statement Friday morning that the military and police forces were initiating a large-scale security operation. He said that, in addition to northern Sinai, the operation would involve actions in the Nile Delta, central Sinai and the Western Desert along the border with Libya.

“Operation Sinai 2018” is targeting “terrorist and criminal elements and organizations”, Rafei said. Rafei did not say how long it would last, but he said that it involved land, sea and air forces. Rafei added that the air force had launched attacks against militants' hide-outs in north and central Sinai; also, the navy had tightened control of the waterways to cut off supply lines.

The Interior Ministry told state agency MENA that the country has raised the security alert to its highest level nationwide, in light of the “fierce war” by the police in coordination with the armed forces to eradicate “the roots of terrorism.”

According to MENA, security measures in the vicinity of major state institutions, houses of worship and tourist hotspots have been intensified.
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2/12/2018 11:41:54 AM
<![CDATA[British PM May to set out 'Road to Brexit' in speech]]>
Britain is hoping to seal a transition deal next month to smooth its exit from the EU, and reach agreement on a long-term trade agreement later this year. However, Brussels said last week a transition deal was not a certainty and that London needed to clarify what it wanted from the EU.

May's government will aim to address that in a series of six speeches by the prime minister and other senior ministers in the next few weeks, which her office dubbed "The Road to Brexit".

“Brexit is a defining moment in the history of our nation," a source in May's office said.

"As we move along the road to that future, we will set out more detail so people can see how this new relationship will benefit communities in every part of our country.”

A BMG poll on Sunday for the Independent showed 74 percent of Britons were unclear about May's overall Brexit strategy.

As well as facing pressure from Brussels, May also needs to unite a cabinet and Conservative party, still deeply split between those who voted for Brexit in 2016 and those who didn't, behind a single vision for Britain's future outside the European Union.

May will host senior ministers at her country residence, Chequers, to try to broker an agreement between the different factions in her cabinet.

RALLYING CRY

May's first speech, to be delivered at a conference in Munich next Saturday, will set out the security relationship Britain wants with the EU. She will deliver another setting out Britain's future partnership, although a date for that has yet to be confirmed.

Foreign minister Boris Johnson, a leading Brexit advocate, will begin the 'Road to Brexit' series with a speech on Wednesday, described by May's office as a "rallying cry to those on both sides of the Brexit debate".

Brexit minister David Davis will outline how Britain’s businesses can maintain their global reputation after Brexit in an as yet unscheduled speech. Trade minister Liam Fox and cabinet minister David Lidington will also give speeches.

Finance minister Philip Hammond, seen as the most pro-EU member of May's cabinet, will not give a speech.

May's authority on Brexit, already weakened after a failed gamble on a snap election last year, has been further damaged by ideological splits between ministers, exacerbating concerns that Brexit talks may fail and the government collapse.

Conservative lawmaker and prominent critic of May's EU exit strategy, Anna Soubry, warned on Sunday that the type of Brexit the government was seeking did not have majority support in parliament, which will get a say on the final exit deal.

Last week, Japanese businesses warned May that they would have to leave Britain if trade barriers after Brexit made them unprofitable. ]]>
2/12/2018 1:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[State Information Service uncovers Sinai 2018 international media coverage fallacies]]>
“Some international media outlets [claimed] that data available on the Comprehensive Military Operation “Sinai 2018” is so scarce, thus calling upon the Egyptian authorities to release more details on the number of fighting forces and troops participating in the Operation, the kind of weapons they use and the time and geographical scope of this military operation. In addition, some criticized the decision of banning Egyptian and foreign media representatives from being present in the confrontation scene in northern Sinai to conduct field media coverage. This kind of criticism has been repeatedly voiced before since the very beginning of the comprehensive military confrontation of terrorism in Sinai,” the statement read.

The SIS further ascertained that some international and Egyptian media personnel and journalists were already residing in Sinai, and that they were indeed covering the operation “without prejudice to the military and security considerations so as to safeguard the lives of the participating troops, ensure the success of the military operations and preserve the safety of correspondents.”

“The scope available for media coverage in Sinai is undoubtedly larger in comparison to that allowed for media coverage in many democratic countries all over the world in cases of war when no permission is given except to military correspondents who become embedded within the fighting forces,” the statement further explained.

The statement also aimed to stress Egypt’s full sovereignty over the Sinai Peninsula.

“The Comprehensive Military Operation ‘Sinai 2018’ comes to assert, leaving no room to doubts, that the Egyptian sovereignty over the Sinai Peninsula is complete, comprehensive and undiminished; the Egyptian Armed Forces, the police and all the state institutions are freely deployed on every inch of Sinai Peninsula, enjoying complete sovereignty with no single dispute or restriction from any party,” the statement read.

The statement heavily stressed that the operation was meant to signify Egypt’s sovereignty and hold over the Sinai Peninsula, and its ability to safeguard and defend it without any external interferences. “This rejection by the Egyptian state of any external interference has been clearly highlighted in the December 18, 2017 New York Times article entitled “Actually, Egypt Is a Terrible Ally”, by Andrew Miller and Richard Sokolsky. The article states that “Cairo consistently has ignored American offers to train Egyptian forces in the counterinsurgency doctrine and tactics that could help defeat the insurgency in Sinai,” and based on their own words, the article’s writers considered Egypt “A Terrible Ally”.”

Furthermore, the statement also indicated that the offensive came as part of the state’s plan to combat certain “lies” circulated. “The Spokesman of the Presidency rejected the blatant lies and the alleged claims of “resettling Palestinians in Sinai”, stating that “it is inconceivable to engage with such unrealistic and unacceptable propositions, given the countless sacrifices by the people of Egypt in Sinai throughout its history.” The Spokesman also stressed the “importance of not paying attention to such unfounded rumors which seek to create confusion and mistrust in the State.’”

Included below is the full statement:
Analytical Report by the State Information Service

"Sinai 2018": International Media Coverage between Muslim Brotherhood Propagated Lies and Tangible Realities

On February 9, 2018, the Comprehensive Military Operation “Sinai 2018” was launched to purge terrorism from Sinai and put an end to this threat that has been on the rise since the Egyptian people sparked their June 30, 2013 Revolution to topple the Muslim Brotherhood rule and break apart their alliance with all terrorist and extremist groups. Once launched, the Comprehensive Military Operation “Sinai 2018” gained tremendous and increasing attention from all international media outlets either through news or analytical coverage. In view of the intensity of such media coverage of “Sinai 2018”, the State Information Service is keen to highlight a number of basic remarks as regards the international media coverage of certain issues closely related to “Sinai 2018” as follows:

Issues Related to the Armed Forces

Based on the Egyptian Constitution preamble that forms with all its articles an indivisible text, the Egyptian Army has always been the “pillar of the Egyptian State” since Mohammed Ali established the modern Egyptian State; it was the Egyptian Army that backed the Egyptian national will in both the January 25 and the June 30 revolutions that called for freedom and human dignity under the umbrella of social justice, thus paving the way to restore Egypt’s independent will.

Henceforth, the Comprehensive Military Operation “Sinai 2018” that was launched by the Armed Forces and the Police in full cooperation with all the state institutions comes to crystallize the historical and constitutional role of the Egyptian Army being the shield and armor that protects the homeland, safeguards its security and preserves the integrity of its territories. On the other hand, “Sinai 2018” comes to unveil the blatant lies and sheer fraud harbored by the Muslim Brotherhood, its terrorist allies and the two countries that support them; lies that are blindly circulated by some international media outlets claiming that the developmental role undertaken by the Army overshadows its defensive role; a web of lies that has been demolished by “Sinai 2018”. Over the last four years, the Egyptian Army has relentlessly continued enhancing its operational combat capabilities, thus ranking for the first time as the tenth strongest army worldwide in 2017. Henceforth, this ranking stands as the clearest evidence that the Egyptian Army’s developmental role has never overshadowed its combat capabilities, bearing in mind the important fact that the Egyptian Army is an army composed only of Egypt’s sons.

Issues Related to Sinai

Lately, the Muslim Brotherhood, its terrorist allies and the two countries that support them fuelled some malicious rumors that are circulated by some international media outlets on conditions in Sinai. “The Comprehensive Military Operation Sinai 2018” came to expose the falsity of such rumors as follows:

-“The Comprehensive Military Operation Sinai 2018” comes to assert, leaving no room to doubts, that the Egyptian sovereignty over the Sinai Peninsula is complete, comprehensive and undiminished; the Egyptian Armed Forces, the police and all the state institutions are freely deployed on every inch of Sinai Peninsula, enjoying complete sovereignty with no single dispute or restriction from any party.

-In view of its large scale, being one of the most massive military operations led solely by the Egyptian Armed Forces in cooperation with all the state institutions, “The Comprehensive Military Operation Sinai 2018” comes to dispose the barefaced lies circulated lately by some international media outlets regarding alleged “military interference” by some regional parties in Sinai to combat terrorism; being the tenth strongest army worldwide, the Egyptian Army is in no need of any external assistance; in addition, it would never allow any external interference that may violate its complete sovereignty over every inch of Sinai.

-“The Comprehensive Military Operation Sinai 2018” comes to assert that Egypt’s stance towards attempts by some of the world’s super powers to impose their vision as regards combating terrorism in Sinai; the Egyptian leadership has firmly insisted to combat terrorism independently by the Armed Forces, police and all the state institutions. This rejection by the Egyptian state of any external interference has been clearly highlighted in the December 18, 2017 New York Times article entitled “Actually, Egypt Is a Terrible Ally”, by Andrew Miller and Richard Sokolsky”; the article states that “Cairo consistently has ignored American offers to train Egyptian forces in the counterinsurgency doctrine and tactics that could help defeat the insurgency in Sinai”, and based on their own words, the article writers considered Egypt “A Terrible Ally”.

-“The Comprehensive Military Operation Sinai 2018” comes to practically and unmistakably expose the nasty lies spread by the Muslim Brotherhood, its terrorist allies and the two countries that support them and circulated by some international media outlets as regards the “alleged Palestinian state in Sinai”; has the main target of “Sinai 2018” been purging terrorism from Sinai, it comes within the framework of the Egyptian state unshakable stance to practice its complete sovereignty on every inch of Sinai peninsula. Egypt has repeatedly rejected all these allegations and deem them as sheer fraud; the falsity of such allegations is asserted by a number of indicators as follows:

1.On January 31, 2015 and subsequent to a heinous terrorist act that targeted the Armed Forces and left dozens of causalities and injuries, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi firmly asserted in a televised address in the presence of military commanders “we will never leave Sinai to any one, either Sinai remains for the Egyptian or we would better die”.

2.On February 23, 2017, and subsequent to the meeting President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi held with members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the Supreme Council of the Police, the Spokesman of the Presidency rejected the blatant lies and the alleged claims of “resettling Palestinians in Sinai”, stating that “it is inconceivable to engage with such unrealistic and unacceptable propositions, given the countless sacrifices by the people of Egypt in Sinai throughout its history”. The Spokesman also stressed the “importance of not paying attention to such unfounded rumors which seek to create confusion and mistrust in the State.”

3.On February 28, 2017, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi met with the participants in the Presidential Leadership Program for the Youth and firmly said “day after day in Sinai, people are sacrificing their lives and die for Egypt to live; Sinai will remain always for the Egyptians and not as claimed by some who spread allegations to negatively affect the Egyptians.”

4.In the early morning of the first day of the “Comprehensive Military Operation Sinai 2018”, Hamas movement made an announcement that a senior leadership delegation from Hamas reached Cairo led by the Movement head of the political bureau Ismail Haniyeh; the visit comes as part of previous arrangements within the framework of consultations with Egypt to ease the life of Gaza’s residents. Furthermore, the visit is a follow-up on the implementation of the internal reconciliation based on the deals that were brokered by the government in Cairo.

Also on the agenda will be talks regarding the joint efforts to protect the Palestinian cause in the face of more Israeli settlements and the latest U.S. move on Jerusalem. Here pops up an important question that is sufficient to expose the barefaced lies and unfounded rumors as regards the alleged claims of “resettlement of Palestinians in Sinai” and the malicious failing attempts to find a link between these allegations and the “Comprehensive Military Operation Sinai 2018”: Can the most recent high-level visit paid by the senior leadership Hamas delegation, and their previous similar visit in September, 2017 be consistent with the blatant lie of “resettling Palestinians in Sinai” except in one case i.e. Hamas Movement would be a part of the “alleged attempt of this resettlement”? As it is well-known for all, both Hamas Movement and the Palestinian Authority adopt a firm rejection of the idea of “resettlement of Palestinians in Sinai”; this has always been reiterated by President Mahmoud Abbas who also asserted that this idea has never at any stage been proposed by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi; the same assertion that the Spokesman of the Egyptian Presidency has repeatedly made. On April 5, 2016, the Spokesman of the Egyptian Presidency said “all these are unfounded rumors; Egypt and the Egyptian President spare no effort to establish the aspired-for independent Palestinian state on June 4, 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital”. So here is a question that we all need to ask, “Do some international media outlets deal with both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority assertions as “lies” and deal with the blatant lies and malicious propaganda spread by the Muslim Brotherhood, their terrorist allies and the two countries that support them as “facts”?

Issues Related to Combating Terrorism in Egypt

A number of international media outlets circulated some false analysis regarding efforts of combating bloody terrorism in Egypt; their coverage focused on two main issues:

1. Terrorism Political Solution

It is both inconceivable and unreasonable to try to link between the bloody terrorism that Egypt confronts inside and outside Sinai with thousands of causalities and injuries on one hand and what some media outlets claim as “political solutions” to this heinous threat on the other hand; political solutions that these outlets falsely claim that the Egyptian State failed to adopt. A number of important questions are sufficient to expose the falsity of such claims as follows:

• Since the nineties of this century, as the phenomenon of international terrorism unmasked its ugly face with the appearance of al-Qaeda, and then with the emergence of ISIS, did any country agree to adopt any kind of negotiations with these terrorist groups; did international media outlets suggest that their governments should open channels for these terrorist groups to practice politics and be part of the society so as to stop their bloody terrorist practices?
• If the answer of the first question is “No” and that has never happened in the world before, why do some ask Egypt for what has never taken place before?
• Didn’t the United States, the most major democracy in the world, invade Afghanistan and Iraq, allegedly for combating terrorism without any prior political procedures with the two governments?
• Didn’t 70 states from all over the world unite in 2014 in one military alliance to confront ISIS, without raising the possibility of conducting negotiations with this terrorist group?

2. Media Block-out

This means the claimed allegations of some international media outlets that data available on the Comprehensive Military Operation “Sinai 2018” is so scarce, thus calling upon the Egyptian authorities to release more details on the number of fighting forces and troops participating in the Operation, the kind of weapons they use and the time and geographical scope of this military operation. In addition, some criticized the decision of banning Egyptian and foreign media representatives from being present in the confrontation scene in northern Sinai to conduct field media coverage. This kind of criticism has been repeatedly voiced before since the very beginning of the comprehensive military confrontation of terrorism in Sinai.

First, since the Comprehensive Military Operation “Sinai 2018” was launched, the State released a number of statements announcing the beginning of the Operation and its main objective; furthermore, more statements are released by the State covering the developments without prejudice to the military and security considerations so as to safeguard the lives of the participating troops, ensure the success of the military operations and preserve the safety of correspondents.

Second, some Egyptian and foreign media correspondents are already resident in Sinai, undertaking their mission according to the previously mentioned considerations.

Third, the scope available for media coverage in Sinai is undoubtedly larger in comparison to that allowed for media coverage in many democratic countries all over the world in cases of war when no permission is given except to military correspondents who become embedded within the fighting forces, not to mention the strict surveillance they are always prone to, leaving them with one task i.e. publishing official statements. Some journalists have been punished for violating these strict restrictions; what took place during the two U.S. wars in Iraq is still fresh and vivid in the international media memory.

3. Civilian losses in Combating Terrorism:

Muslim Brotherhood, their terrorist allies, the two countries that support them, in addition to some international media outlets have strived to propagate lies and allegations that civilians and their properties in Sinai have been affected by the ongoing operations to combat terrorism within the "Comprehensive Military Operation Sinai 2018". There are two aspects to clarify the falsity of these allegations and lies:

First: These allegations and lies come within a political war propaganda launched by those elements in their desperate battle to target the Egyptian State and its political system that the Egyptian people have chosen. Circulating those allegations and lies by the international media outlets requires adequate evidences. There are hundreds of thousands of Egyptian residents in Sinai and other workers and visitors who stay there, proving that these media outlets are lying. The international media outlets have fallen into the trap of black propaganda by describing the injured and dead from the terrorist elements as "civilians" which professionally violates the criteria that should be followed in asserting description. This is also in contradiction with the fact that the international law and local laws shall not grant the terrorists and their organizations the military status, they are "outlawed civilians "who have joined and led illegitimate military militias.

Second: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi is always keen to assert that the armed and law enforcement forces are committed to continuing operations to combat terrorism in Sinai while protecting the lives and properties of civilians. President Sisi gave his directives on 11 January, 2017 during a meeting with army and police commanders to firmly continue targeting the terrorist hotbeds, and simultaneously preserving the safety of civilians at scenes of confrontation. In his interview with CNBC, on 7 November, 2017, President Sisi said: "We are keen during our confrontation with such terrorism that no innocent civilians be harmed in a war in which they have no stake". On 19 January 2018, President Sisi said :" Protecting the lives of innocent citizens and civilians is the reason behind taking that long time in the confrontation between the State and terrorists".

Whereas some international media are circulating and spotlighting lies of the Muslim Brotherhood, their terrorist allies and the two countries that support them to distort the legitimate war Egypt is waging against terrorist groups in Sinai with ultimate protection of the innocent civilians, they are silent over, or just tacitly refer to the atrocities the civilians are exposed to in Syria and Iraq by the attacks of the international alliance in confrontation of Daesh. Some specialized organizations like “Airwars" estimate that number of dead innocent civilians ranges between 400-600 in Syria and Iraq during 2017 besides dozens of thousands of injured.
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2/11/2018 11:25:19 PM
<![CDATA[Journalist Mayada Ashraf rests in peace after murderers convicted]]>
The convicts, 47 members of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) group, received on Sunday verdicts from the court, ranging from acquittals to lifetime imprisonment.

A total of 17 defendants were sentenced to 25 years in prison, a further nine were sentenced to 15 years, three were sentenced to seven years, and a three-year prison sentence was handed down to three others. The final 15 defendants were acquitted of murder charges and inciting violence.

The court delayed its session set for September 27, 2017, because some members of the defense team were not present.

Ashraf, a reporter with the daily newspaper Al-Dostor, was shot dead on March 28, 2014, in the Cairo suburb of Ain Shams while covering clashes between security forces and MB protesters, alongside two other civilians: Sherif Abdel Raouf, a child who was shot in the head during the violence, and Mary George, who died of a gunshot to the chest while in her car.

Ashraf’s death stirred controversy and the public’s resentment against violent acts by the MB, which broke out after the ouster of MB president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, in an attempt for reinstating his regime.

The case was considered by the anti-terrorism court of South Cairo Criminal Court. The first trial session took place on September 15, 2015, at the Police Academy, where defendants faced charges of murder, attempted murder, possessing unlicensed weapons and ammunition, joining an unlawful group as well as vandalizing public and private properties.

Ashraf’s family expressed their dissatisfaction of the verdict. Her brother, Mohamed Ashaf, said they were expecting a death sentence against the murderers of his sister.

“I was hoping to sentence them to death, but now we are waiting for divine justice,” Mohamed told Al-Dostor newspaper on Sunday, following the court’s verdict. “Our whole village was waiting for the verdict, after four years of her death,” he added.

Throughout the 48-session trial, the prosecution managed to prove the charges against the defendants, who admitted to forming specified committees of armed men as a military wing of the prohibited Islamist group. They also admitted targeting media workers and Christians during the riots.

During the trial, Ashraf’s father submitted a request to the court to include the former Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim among the defendants, which the court ignored.

Prosecutors probing the case pointed out that the MB terror group and the so-called "National Alliance to Support Legitimacy" had formed specialized committees to group armed men who would serve in the group’s military wing.

Those committees were formed to target journalists and prevent them from unveiling MB crimes. They also aimed to target Christian citizens to destroy the national fabric and create chaos, according to a prosecution statement. They also acted to target government institutions aiming to topple the state.

The MB was declared a terrorist group later in 2013, following the bombing of several governmental buildings, such as the Cairo Security Directorate.

The MB has long been considered a banned group. Since its establishment in 1928, it went public for the first time after founding its first political party "Freedom and Justice Party (FJP)" following the 2011 revolution that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak. The party was later dispersed, and most MB leaders, including the supreme guide, were arrested and tried over terrorism as well as murder-related crimes.]]>
2/11/2018 10:36:12 PM
<![CDATA[Political parties mass people for 2018 election amid boycott calls]]>
The meeting was attended by chairman of the liberal Wafd Party, El-Sayed el-Badawi; chairman of the Nation's Future Party, Ashraf Rashad; head of the Conservative Party, Akmal Kortam; head of Al-Nour Party's parliamentary bloc, Ahmed Khalil Khairallah; and other representatives of Egyptian political parties.

Badawi stated that the political parties who attended the meeting represent more than 45 percent of the parliament deputies; they developed a plan to support the citizens in all governorates to participate in the upcoming presidential election.

"There is a plot set by foreign parties to affect the independency of the country through pushing people not to participate in the upcoming presidential election, impacting Egypt's national independence. However, the Egyptian citizen is fully aware of the current challenges and will confront them strongly," Badawi added.

He said that the Egyptian parties are currently working on a plan to mobilize citizens to participate in the presidential election.

Rashad, chairman of the Nation's Future Party, said to Egypt Today that all parties agreed to establish a forum including all Egyptian political parties in the upcoming period.

Yasser Koura, leading member of the National Egyptian Front Party, stated that the meeting came up with a plan to mass more than 30 million Egyptian citizens to participate in the upcoming presidential elections.

The heads of political parties set a plan to mass the citizens through holding a series of conferences in the governorates, calling people to participate and vote in the election.
The parties will also issue a statement supporting the Egyptian Army in their fight against terrorism in the "Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018".

Incumbent President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and President of Al-Ghad political party Moussa Moustafa are the only two candidates who were found eligible by the authority to contest in the election.

Al-Wafd announced its support to President Sisi, following a long debate between the members of its supreme committee, rejecting the candidacy of its chairman, El Sayyid el-Badawi.

"Following prolonged discussions, the supreme committee renewed its previous decision to support President Sisi for a second term, considering the current circumstances and challenges that Egypt faces," Al Wafd announced in a statement released on January 27.

Also, On July 26, 2017, Al-Masryeen Al-Ahrar party held an event at the Pyramids area to announce their support to Sisi, explaining that he is the man that can lead the nation in such a critical period.

“In the memory of mandating President Sisi to counter the terrorism practiced by the most dangerous group in history, the Muslim Brotherhood, back in 2013, we declare that the president is our party’s choice in the upcoming presidential election, since we believe that Egyptians deserve the best future,” chairman of the party, Essam Khalil said during the event.

Likewise, Al-Mo’tamar political party was one of the first parties to back Sisi’s candidacy on August 22, 2017, encouraging him to carry on the developmental projects he began in his first term.

Since establishing Mostakbal Watan party in November 2014, it has been a supporter of President Sisi and all his decisions. Moreover, its 57 MPs joined the "To Build It" campaign inside the Parliament which aimed at collecting signatures to urge Sisi to run for a second term.

Last September, the young leader of the party, Ashraf Rashad announced the party’s complete support to Sisi to run for a second term.

The Salafit Al-Nour party has announced its support to President Sisi to run for a second term in the presidential election due in March, according to statements of the party’s chairperson, Younes Makhioun, in a press conference on January 28.

On the other hand, former MP Ragab Hilal Hamida, the current secretary of the Egyptian Council of Arab Tribes, said that the council, including all the tribal leaders, has declared its support for Al-Ghad’s Moussa Mostafa.

The Farmers’ Union previously announced its support for President Sisi; however, Moussa said in statements that the union would support him and that they would open their headquarters for his hustings.

In the same context, Wagih Abu Hagar, member of the secretary general of Ghad Party and the follow-up secretary of the Egyptian Council of the Arab and Egyptian Tribes, said that all the tribes included in the council announced their support for Moussa Mostafa, head of the Ghad party.

Abu Hagar added that the tribal council includes about 86 tribes. He added that the council’s members are approximately 2,650,000.

Voting in the 2018 presidential election in Egypt will commence on March 26, as announced by the National Electoral Authority (NEA) on January 8. Sixty million eligible voters will cast their ballots in the election between March 26 and 28 in Egypt, while expatriates will vote between March 16 and 18.

Sisi officially announced on January 19 his candidacy in the 2018 presidential election.

Sisi took office in 2014 after protesters toppled the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated ex-president Mohamed Morsy. ]]>
2/11/2018 7:11:59 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt's House of Reps contests EU Parliament’s statement on death penalty]]>
The Egyptian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) rejected in a statement the EP’s interference in Egypt’s domestic affairs. “The death penalty is applied in more than one third of the world’s countries,” the statement read.

The statement stressed that Egypt has not signed the international agreement to prevent the death penalty implementation; the United Nations recognizes Egypt’s right to implement this penalty.

Egypt has the right to choose and set its legal and judiciary systems according to the constitution approved in 1923 and in accordance with judiciary independence constitutional articles 94/2014.

Egypt’s official response to EP’s report

“The Parliament will take an official detailed response to the EP’s statement within a few days,” said Tarek Radwan to Egypt Today on Sunday.

Radwan, who chairs the parliament’s FAC, stressed that any foreign intervention into Egypt’s domestic affairs is categorically rejected. “The European Parliament should have issued statements to support Egypt’s anti-terror war. End of the death penalty against terrorists, who have been proved guilty, does not seem a logical move, while several military, security and civilian lives have been taken.”

Tarek_Radwan_Photo
Tarek Radwan

Egypt rejects foreign interference in domestic affairs

Tarek el-Kholy, the FAC’s secretary, asserted that the EP’s statement demanding Egypt to abolish death penalties against terrorists is an “insistence to interfere into the Egyptian domestic affairs.”

He revealed that three international institutions have continued this interference; U.S. Congress, House of Commons of the United Kingdom and the European Union. “Some members affiliated to those three parties provoked topics related to human rights activities and attempted to draft bill laws against Egypt, but they failed,” Kholy added to Egypt Today.

Kholy manifested that the Egyptian Parliament has sent a report to the UK House of Commons about the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, following the report that the Britons had released over the MB. “The Parliament’s FAC also has successfully dealt with the U.S. Congress’s reports over alleged data about Copts in Egypt.”

Tarek_El-Kholy_–_File_photo
Tarek el-Kholy

Regarding the EP’s report related to the death penalty against terrorists, Kholy affirmed that many parliamentarian tours have been made to Europe to tackle this matter.

Kholy stressed that Egypt rejects any foreign attempt to interfere in its domestic affairs, adding, “These Parties do not pay attention to Egypt’s war against terrorism. They neither care about our martyrs nor about the violent and terrorist acts that the Egyptian street has witnessed.”

“Since toppling the MB-affiliated Mohamed Morsi from president post in 2013, Egypt has suffered dozens of terrorist and violent acts conducted by the Muslim Brotherhood group and its associated movements,” Kholy added.

As a concerned committee, FAC is fully aware of the responsibility that it bears to take responsive reactions to similar reports, according to Kholy who also stressed that those international parties are not conspiring against Egypt, but some of their members, in coordination with Qatar and Turkey, have negative stances towards Egypt.

MB_riot_photo
Muslim Brotherhood riots
EP’s report relies on unreliable sources

“The EP’s report’s data mainly counted on suspicious human rights centers’ reports,” revealed member of the Egyptian-EP Friendship Association and FAC’s member Ahmed Ali.

Ali added to Egypt Today on Sunday that a visit to the European Parliament was paid nine months ago; the Egyptian parliamentarians attended a hearing session where they were shocked to listen to untrue data about the detainees in Egyptian prisons and the enforced disappearance phenomenon. The Egyptian security senior officials have affirmed many times that this phenomenon is limited.

“The Egyptian expatriates should play an influential role in responding to similar rumors which only seek to defame the Egyptian state’s reputation,” Ali added.

Choas_Photo
Chaos

Partisan condemnation of EP’s report

Free Egyptians Party condemned the report released by the European Parliament on Thursday. “The EP looks unaware of Egypt’s judiciary system as the announced death penalties are not the final verdicts and are submitted to many constitutional and legal articles,” said Free Egyptians Party’s Chairman Essam Khalil in a statement on Friday.

Khalil added that the EP does not care about the death penalty as a punishment, but it only becomes interested in this topic when it comes to Egypt. “Can the EP interfere in any European country’s judiciary system?” Khalil wondered.

He called on the European Parliament to show support to the Egyptian people’s battle against terrorism and their right to save the lives of the innocent, adding, “The European Parliament should revise and double-check reports and data that it receives from unbiased organizations on the Egyptian domestic affairs, including the human rights file.”

Free_Egyptians_Party_Photo
Free Egyptians Party

EP session addressed Russia, Egypt and Haiti

On Thursday during the EP plenary session in Strasbourg, the European Parliament called for the “immediate release of Oyub Titiev in Russia”, condemned the “death penalty in Egypt” and urged Haitian government to end child slavery.

The EP called for reviewing all pending death sentences and reconsidering the Egyptian criminal codes. It also urged Egypt to “halt all planned executions.”

1
European Parliament
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2/11/2018 5:25:56 PM
<![CDATA[British PM May to set out 'Road to Brexit' in speech: BBC]]>
Britain is hoping to seal a transition deal next month to smooth its exit from the EU, and agree on a long-term trade agreement later this year. However, Brussels said last week a transition deal was not a certainty and that London needed to clarify what it wanted from the EU.

May's government will aim to address that in a series of speeches dubbed by her office as "the road to Brexit" and due to be delivered by senior ministers and May in the next few weeks, the BBC reported.

Her speech will set out the security relationship Britain wants with the EU, while others will touch on workers' rights, trade and the devolution of power within Britain, the reports said. May's office was not immediately available for comment.

Foreign minister Boris Johnson, a leading Brexit advocate, will begin the series with a speech on Wednesday, with trade minister Liam Fox and Brexit minister David Davis among those also scheduled to speak, the BBC said.

Finance minister Philip Hammond, seen as the most pro-EU member of May's cabinet, will not give a speech.]]>
2/11/2018 2:25:41 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt committed to awareness efforts on regional challenges: Shoukry ]]>
The statement were made by Shoukry during his meeting with President of Ana Lindth Foundation Elizabeth Guigou.

Shoukry greeted Guigou on assuming a second term as president of Ana Lindth Foundation, asserting that Egypt is fully ready to enhance cooperation framework between the foundation and the civil society organizations in Egypt, said the spokesperson.

The Egyptian top diplomat, for his part, expressed Egypt's appreciation for the important role played by Ana Lindth to extend bridges of dialogue and interaction among religions and cultures in the face of claims for violence, isolation and sectarian strife, added the spokesman.

President of Ana Lindth, for her part, praised Egypt's enlightenment role all over its history, adding that such role has recently acquired more importance in face of tyrant powers of terrorism which threaten the achievements of human civilization, the spokesman added.

She also voiced happiness over Alexandria hosting the premises of the foundation, noting that the coastal city is a unique model of interaction among civilizations and cultures, he said.

She also noted that the foundation is seeking to expand its activities and programs in Egypt, a matter which was greatly welcomed by the Egyptian top diplomat, he noted.

The Anna Lindh Foundation is an inter-governmental institution bringing together civil society and citizens across the Mediterranean to build trust and improve mutual understanding. Co-financed by the 42 countries of the Union for the Mediterranean and the European Commission, the ALF is governed by a Board of Governors composed by representatives of those countries.]]>
2/11/2018 1:40:21 PM
<![CDATA[Parliament speaker renews support for political leadership]]>
The panel also supports the Armed Forces, police and other state institutions in their comprehensive military operation (Sinai 2018), added Abdel Aal.

"The general committee, the parliament members, and all Egyptians are closely following up what the Armed Forces, police and all concerned agencies are doing in the Comprehensive Operation - Sinai 2018," he said.

The panel also realizes great economic achievements made by the state and the accomplishment of the democratic process in the country, said the speaker.

The state's success to restore the country's regional and international role is also hailed by the committee, he added.

The general committee is certainly aware of the malicious aims of terrorists who intensify their attacks, particularly before presidential elections.

"They seek to undermine the Egyptian people's confidence in the political leadership and all state bodies," said Abdel Aal.]]>
2/11/2018 1:27:11 PM
<![CDATA[OPINION: 'Foreign Affairs' and the fallacies about Egypt's foreign policy]]>
Though the writers tried to highlight the independence of Egyptian politics since 2013—pointing outits difference from its traditional regional and international partners, that it is characterized by three main features: anti-political Islam; adherence to the sovereignty of states; and non-interference in internal affairs—and attempt to rallynational feelings and raise the importance of the inevitability of the leading role of Egypt in the region, the article is full of fallacies.

The first of these fallacies is that Egypt’s adoption of an independent policy and diversification of relations came following the fall of former President Mubarak, offering as an example the visit of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi to China and Russia. Contrary to what happened at the time, the Brotherhood's gestures showed keenness to continue Egypt's traditional relations. They made sure to visit the United States to obtain US support for the elections and stressed that the peace agreement with Israel would not be compromised.

The second major fallacy is the attempt by the authors to show the contradiction between Egypt's principle of supporting the sovereignty of states and its behavior by supporting Saudi Arabia against Qatar. Here they forget that cutting off diplomatic relations with any country is not interference in its sovereignty. Rather, it is a protest against harming the interests of the boycotting countries and has nothing do with interfering in Qatar’s internal policies.

The authors also argue that the fight against political Islam is Egypt’s motive to combat all forms of its affiliated organizations in Libya and Syria, and the reason behind its opposition to the use of jihadist groups as agents in the conflicts. The opposition explains Egypt’s alignment with Russia, support for Bashar al-Assad, and the pressure it has put pressure on Hamas. This is an attempt by the authors to stress that the motive for any Egyptian move stems merely from its hostility to political Islam groups.

Yet Egypt's foreign policy strategy toward conflict issues in Syria, Libya and Iraq clearly confirms that this policy has since 2013 been based first and foremost on the unity of the national state, the support of official state institutions and the rejection of any role played by armed or unregulated groups or militias in dissolving states on the basis of ethnic, sectarian, ethnic or regional divisions. The second pillar is non-interference in the internal affairs of States. The third pillar is the peaceful settlement of conflicts and the rejection of any military intervention, especially that the issues of the region are resolved away from the self-will of the involved parties.

What the writers have ignored is the fact that those fighting in Libya and Syria are a group of jihadist factions, some of whom have links to al Qaeda and Daesh. In both conflicts, Egypt has proceeded in line with the founding principles of of its foreign policy, with the support of its national institutions such as the army to establish stability. It has played the role of mediator and created rounds of dialogue between opposing factions to support political and security tracks in parallel. As for the argument that Egypt put pressure on Hamas for its association with the Muslim Brotherhood, the authors have neglected the fact that the success of Egypt's reconciliation efforts is based in part on the reconciliation document signed by Hamas in May 2011—before the advent of the Brotherhood and their enforced rule. Moreover, the Hamas move came in response to internal and regional circumstances that encouraged Cairo to invite the parties to reconcile.

Finally, what the authors have presented as contradictory in Egypt's external strategy may in future put it in a difficult situation with its traditional partners. It is a conclusion that does not indicate the authors' knowledge of the dynamics of recent interactions in the region, especially that current hot-button conflict issues have revealed the absence of any rules or regulations governing the region. The conflicts in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Qatar have proven the absence of the concept of regional security and indicated a lack of awareness among involved parties sharing common interests that even in the presence of challenges, of differences and threats must be collectively overcome. In the context of this regional environment, which is characterized by temporary and often shiftingalliances based on sectarian, ethnic and ideological foundations, Egypt's foreign policy is defined by diversification of choices, due to its own internal challenges such as development.

The writer is a political analyst at the International Relations Department, Cairo University.]]>
2/11/2018 11:10:57 AM
<![CDATA[Merkel dodges question on Poland's new Holocaust law]]>
The law would impose prison sentences of up to three years for using the phrase "Polish death camps" and for suggesting "publicly and against the facts" that the Polish nation or state was complicit in Nazi Germany's crimes.

"Without directly interfering in the legislation in Poland, I would like to say the following very clearly as German chancellor: We as Germans are responsible for what happened during the Holocaust, the Shoah, under National Socialism (Nazism)," Merkel said in her weekly video podcast.

She was responding to a question from a student who had asked whether the new Polish law curbs freedom of expression.

Israel and the United States criticized President Andrzej Duda for signing the bill into law this week. Israel says the law will curb free speech, criminalise basic historical facts and stop any discussion of the role some Poles played in Nazi crimes.

A Polish government spokeswoman welcomed Merkel's remarks, the PAP news agency reported. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki will hold talks with Merkel in Berlin next week.

Poland's ruling Law and Justice party has clashed with the European Union and human rights groups on a range of issues since taking power in late 2015. It says the law is needed to ensure that Poles are recognised as victims, not perpetrators, of Nazi aggression in World War Two.

More than 3 million of the 3.2 million Jews who lived in pre-war Poland were murdered by the Nazis, accounting for about half of all Jews killed in the Holocaust.

Jews from across the continent were sent to be killed at death camps built and operated by Germans in occupied Poland - home to Europe's biggest Jewish community at the time.]]>
2/11/2018 1:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Amid Olympic thaw, Pence says allies united in isolating N. Korea]]>
"There is no daylight between the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan on the need to continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile program," Pence told reporters during a flight to the United States following his visit to South Korea, where the Olympic games are being held.

A senior administration official aboard Pence's airplane also told reporters that South Korea and Japan "are solidly with our alliance and the need to continue and intensify economic sanctions."

President Donald Trump's administration has taken a hard line on North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile program, saying there is no room for negotiations unless Pyongyang abandons it.

The official said Pence and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, while watching speed skating together on Saturday night, discussed intensifying sanctions.

The official said Pence and Moon did not discuss the North Koreans' invitation to Moon for a summit in Pyongyang, which would set the stage for the first meeting of Korean leaders in 10 years.

Pence did say, however, that Moon shared with him details of his meeting with North Korean leaders, without elaborating.

On his way to Asia earlier this week, the U.S. vice president told reporters he was not seeking direct talks with North Korean officials, "but we'll see what happens."

During an Olympics reception and at the sporting event's opening ceremony, Pence was not trying to avoid North Korean officials in attendance, the senior administration official told reporters on Saturday, adding that he was trying to ignore them.

The official also noted that while Trump believes in talking, in this case, the issue is not about words but about deeds on North Korea's part.]]>
2/11/2018 12:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Report: Israel downs Iranian drone, Syria hits Israeli jet]]>
Israeli authorities have not confirmed that the F-16 jet was shot down by the Syrian fire, saying that “the concerned authorities are still conducting investigations to determine the reason behind the jet’s crash.”

Israeli apache shot Iranian UAV

At four o’clock in the morning, an Israeli Apache helicopter intercepted an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) originating from an airfield near Palmyra, Syria. Twenty minutes later, alarm sirens sounded in Beit She'an and the Gilboa and Emek HaMa'ayanot Regional Councils, northern Israel.

The Iranian side denied the Israeli story, stressing that no Iranian drone had entered the Israeli airspace. “The Iranian presence in Syria aims only at consultations,” the Iranian Revolutionary Guard deputy chief announced on Saturday.

In a retaliation response, eight Israeli fighter jets attacked the site from which the Iranian drone was launched, according to the Israeli Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit. Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked Iranian sites inside Syria. They all returned safely to Israel except one, which crashed due to Syrian anti-craft fire.

"The Syrian system has already hit several missiles and an Israeli aircraft carrying out attacks south of the capital of Damascus, west of the capital and on the outskirts of Homs," a military source told Lebanese news site Al-Nashra.

Israel hits Iranian targets in Syria

“Twelve targets, including three aerial defense batteries and four Iranian targets that are part of Iran's military establishment in Syria, were attacked," the Israeli IDF said in a statement.

At 9 a.m., a new series of alarms sounded once again in the Jordan Valley and Upper Galilee. A Syrian SA-6 Grainful fell in northern Jordan while Damascus was trying to attack Israeli jets, sources reported to Sky News Arabia.

A military expert talked to Sky News Arabia TV, revealing that he obtained “news that the Israeli F-16 fell inside the Jordanian territory. As a result, I can say that the Israeli aircraft was attacked by direct fire from the southern Syrian area. The Israeli jet could not fly far, so it fell in Jordan. This also means the Israeli jet was targeted by sophisticated weapons.”

Israeli reactions to Syrian fire

Downing an Israeli fighter jet by Syrian fire marks one of the most serious escalations in the region, BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held security consultations and demanded his cabinet’s members refrain from commenting on the F-16 jet event.

Although Syrian state news agency SANA reported one Israeli aircraft was shot by Syria’s defense systems, Israel has not confirmed yet whether the F-16 jet was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire or not.

Israeli officials considered the Iranian drone’s presence in Israeli’s airspace “a serious attack on Israeli territory,” according to IDF spokesperson Ronen Manelis. “Israel identified an Iranian drone which took off from Syrian territory. The drone was identified by IAF systems and was downed by an IAF helicopter. The Iranian drone fell in our territory and is in our possession.”

Manelis added, “Whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price.”

The two F-16 pilots ejected in northern Israel and were taken to the hospital. One pilot is in serious condition, while the other one is in stable condition surrounded by his relatives and family members, Israeli media reported.

Iran denies and Syria is proud

"The downing of the fighter jet was a clear warning to Israel,” the Iranian National Security Council’s spokesperson told Doha-based Al-Jazeera network following the Israeli jet crash.

Pro-Iran Al-Mayadeen channel reported that Syria’s air defense systems intercepted more than 70 percent of Israeli missile attacks on Saturday – a claim that Israel categorically denied.

Such “terrorist action by Israel would be met with a severe and serious response,” announced the military alliance fighting in support of the Syrian regime in a statement following the downing of the jet.

The Israeli air force has targeted Syrian military sites on an almost regular basis, on allegations that they are affiliated to Iranian and Hezbollah militias.

Israel does not seek escalation

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to arrive for a regional tour in a few days. The tour will include Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and other countries. Tillerson may also be involved in mediating between Iran and Israel after Saturday’s escalation.

Israeli local media reported that Netanyahu had demanded the mediation of Washington and Moscow to resolve the newly-reported developments in the region. "We are willing, prepared and capable to exact a heavy price from anyone that attacks us; however, we are not looking to escalate the situation. This was a defensive effort triggered by an Iranian act of aggression and we are defending our airspace, our sovereignty and civilians," an Israeli military spokesman said on Saturday.

Israel has frequently asked the Russian government to mediate and pressure Tehran to pull out its military forces existing along the Syrian-Israeli borders. Moscow expressed its concerns over Saturday’s developments, warning against attacking its interests in Syria.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum commented on Syria's announcement of shooting down an Israeli aircraft in the Golan Heights, saying, “This is a natural response to the Israeli occupation targeting of the #Syrian territory and the continued aggression against it.”]]>
2/11/2018 12:04:00 AM
<![CDATA[Sinai 2018 set upon data availability, not late: experts]]>
Security experts believed that the timing of the current security operation is “perfect” because it must be preceded by different operations on intelligence and security levels. As an anticipated response, Egypt’s allies praised the security operation against terrorism, but anti-terror supporters see that Egypt is pretty late in taking the decision of launching a war against terrorist hotbeds.

Egypt has been struggling for years to contain terrorist activities in Sinai. Many military operations have been carried out by army and police forces, killing hundreds of militants and building a buffer zone along the border with Gaza, so that the Egyptian authorities can curb the flow of militants and weapons infiltrating through underground tunnels.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi authorized the army chief of staff to use “all brute force” against terrorism, and he gave security forces a three-month deadline to restore stability to North Sinai.




Operation Sinai 2018 timing depends on availability of security database

“The determination of any military operation mainly counts on completing intelligence databases needed to launch such massive security operations,” said military expert Brigadier-General Medhat Awwad to Egypt Today on Saturday.

Awwad denounced foreign media reports that have criticized the Sinai 2018 security operation launched on Friday by Egypt’s military and police forces to purge Sinai and various districts across the nation from terrorism.




“The outside world isn’t aware of the domestic circumstances that control the security operation’s dimensions,” Awwad added.

He stressed that criticizing the security operation only “aims to undermine the Egyptian role through the spread of rumors and negative news.”

The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group and Hasm movement issued press releases in the evening of Friday accusing the Egyptian security forces of “displacing Sinai’s inhabitants” and killing innocents.

Awwad revealed that MB and Hasm are groups of mercenaries that seek to ruin the Egyptian state’s pillars, most notably the armed forces and police, adding, “Sinai’s inhabitants have been cooperating with our security forces to purge the peninsula from terrorist hotbeds, which have threatened their cities and villages in the past years.”

Sinai 2018 a definite outcome of successful military rounds

The ongoing Sinai 2018 security operation has been a definite outcome of military endeavors and investigations that have been taken since 2013, Egypt’s presidential spokesperson Bassam Radi stressed in televised statements on Friday.

Following the Al-Rawdah terrorist attack on November 24, 2017, which claimed the lives of at least 311 people – roughly 22 percent of male residents of Al-Rawdah village in Sinai – both military and police forces have intensified their security operations against terrorist hotbeds.

“President Sisi has affirmed that the upcoming period will witness a comprehensive confrontation to purge Sinai Peninsula from terrorism,” Radi added.

He added that the ongoing security operation is a normal “outcome that succeeds several successful operations and strikes launched by police and military forces since 2013.”

Radi’s statements are seen as a response to critical reactions from foreign parties that claimed the Egyptian security operation in Sinai has taken a long time to be launched.

Sisi tweeted that he is proud to follow up on the military operations that were announced by the army and the police on Friday.

“I proudly follow up on the heroic acts of my sons in the armed forces and the police to purge the land of precious Egypt from terrorist elements who are enemies of life ... And always #LongLiveEgypt,” Sisi stated on his official Twitter account on Friday.


]]>
2/10/2018 5:13:33 PM
<![CDATA[Egyptian army’s anti-terrorism operations since 2011]]>
On Friday, the army and naval forces began a military operation named“Full-Scale Operation in Sinai 2018” against terrorists militants in Sinai affiliated to the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, Military spokesman Colonel Tamer el-Rafei announced.



Following the 2011 Revolution, terrorists found a home in the Sinai Peninsula, from which they have targeted military, security personnel and civilians nationwide. Since then the Armed Forces have carried out massive operations to root out terrorism. The latest is “Sinai 2018”, which came as “a result of a series of military efforts and investigations since 2013, particularly after the Rawdah Mosque attack,” on November 24, 2017, which claimed lives of more than 300 people in North Sinai, Presidential Spokesman Bassam Radi said on “Ten new” talk show on TEN channel on Friday evening.

The operation also came following the terrorist attack that targeted a number of security forces in Wahat Al-Baharyia (Western Oases) in the Western Desert, killing 14 police personnel in January. The effort was also spurred by a series of attacks against Coptic Christians in Helwan, Minya, Alexandria, and Tanta, in which more than 80 Copts were killed and dozens were injured over the course of 2017.

Major General Talaat Ahmed Moussa, the consultant at Nasser Military Academy told Egypt Today on Saturday that this operation is on “large-scale” because it is being carried out by all institutions and bodies affiliated with the Ministry of Defense such as the second and third Fields Armies, the Navy, the Air Force, Air Defense, Commando forces and Coast Guards all over the country.

“It is a knockout against the militant group of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and the (banned) Muslim Brotherhood and other sleeping agents,” Moussa stated.

Other previous operations were focussed on certain geographical areas, such North and Central Sinai, or the Western desert, but “Sinai 2018” covers all the country’s ground, maritime, air borders in response to President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s order to root out of terrorism within three months, Moussa added.

The Major General said that the operation depends on four axes; first, besieging the terrorists’ havens in mountainous areas and deserts all over the country simultaneously. Second, paralyzing the terrorists’ movements. Third is tightening the control over the border grounds, particularly in the Western Desert and Eastern and Southern borders, as well as maritime borders along 950 kilometers of the Mediterranean and 120 kilometers of the Red Sea. Fourth, the armed forces will conduct a combing operation to weed out any targets that were not caught in the other stages.

“It is the first time in Egypt’s history such a massive operation is being conducted, which is being carried out at day and night,” Moussa continued, noting that it could last days or weeks upon assessments by the military operation center.

Since the 2011 Revolution that ended former President Hosni Mubarak’s 30 years in power, militants groups created a hotbed in Sinai and attacked several military and security forces. The Armed Forces carried out two massive military operations; In August 2011, the army launched “Eagle 1” against militants who claimed responsibility for bombing the Egypt-Israel gas pipeline in Arish in July 2011.

On August 5, 2012, the army launched “Eagle 2” operation in North Sinai, following the deaths of 16 police soldiers during an attack on a police station in North sinai, near the Egypt-Israel border crossing Karam Abu Salem.


Operation Martyr’s Right

The attacks from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis against police and military personnel intensified following the dispersal of the pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins of Rabaa and Nahda squares on August 14, 2013. In 2015, Egypt’s Ministry of the Interior announced that the militant attacks in Sinai have killed more than 500 personnel since then.

After the dispersal, the first announced terrorist attack carried out by the militants was on July 29, 2013 against the Civil Protection Office in North Sinai’s Arish, killing a military conscript and injuring others. A year later, the city saw a deadly attack on October 24, 2014, where 31 soldiers were killed by the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which declared its loyalty to the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in November 2014.

Following the attack, President Sisi declared a state of emergency in parts of North Sinai for an additional three months starting from January 27, 2014. Since then, the state of emergency has been renewed.

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Operation Martyr’s Right led by Egyptian Armed Forces on Sep. 11

The Armed Forces, in cooperation with the ministry of interior, have carried out a long series of military operations against the militants, killing dozens of them. They have also conducted several massive operations.


First stage

On September 8, 2015, Egyptian air and naval forces waged the first large-scale military operation titled “Martyr’s Right” North Sinai in response to a series of attacks against military and police personnel and civilians. The 16-day operation, which aimed to achieve full control over North Sinai’s towns of Arish, Rafah and Sheikh Zuwayed killed 535 terrorists. Also, a total of 634 extremists were arrested, according to a statement from the Ministry of Defense on September 23, 2015.

The statement added that the military forces destroyed 613 terrorist hideouts, 111 four-wheel-drive vehicles and 66 smuggling tunnels used by insurgents, as well as reclaiming control over highways and roads in the three cities.

During the first phase, eleven military personnel were killed and 25 others were injured over the first ten days of the operation, according to the ministry’s figures.

According to an annual report issued by the U.S. State Department in June 2016 on global terrorist activity for 2015, the number of terrorist attacks on the security and military personnel declined in the second half of 2015, attributing the decline to the government and army’s efforts against terrorism nationwide.

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Operation Martyr’s Right led by Egyptian Armed Forces on Sep. 11

Second phase

On January 2, 2015, the second major phase of the Right of the Martyr operation was launched.

The phase aimed at coordinating with the police to control over the three cities, providing full-scale security for all vital institutions across the governorate, and providing Sinai residents with health and social care, as well as food basics.

Coincidentally, the Armed Forces Engineering Authority (AFEA) announced its plan of developing and constructing the governorate, particularly in the three cities. The AFEA sent large amounts of humanitarian aid to the local residents.

The authority continued constructing 1,200 housing units in Al-Massaeed town in Arish and central hospitals in towns of Rafah, Beir al-Abd, and Nakhl, as well as a number of schools. The authority also was mandated to build the New City of Rafah.

The third phase

On May 21, 2016, the air and ground forces launched the third phase of the Martyr’s Right operation, which, over the course of four days, killed over 85 terrorists, arrested three others, and destroyed a number of ammunition stores and more than 73 hideouts.



The third phase was carried out by the forces of the Second Field Army, which has its headquarters in Ismailia governorate (129.39 kilometers away from North Sinai), in cooperation with military command forces and naval forces to prevent any possible trafficking attempts.

WhatsApp Image 2018-02-10 at 4.00.51 PM
The army targets militants' hotbeds in North Sinai during the third phase of the Martyr's Right Operation- press photo

Fourth phase

The fourth and last phase of the Martyr’s Right Operation lasted for seven days. It was also carried out by the Second Field Army, killing 40 terrorists, arresting five others, and destroying 20 four-wheel drive vehicles, four motorbikes, four bomb cars, 52 hideouts and 100 bombs. They also seized a large amount of ammunition.

The phase was launched on July 19, in cooperation with the naval forces, according to the Defense Ministry’s data.
]]>
2/10/2018 4:24:56 PM
<![CDATA[Report: Operation Sinai 2018 follows up for second day ]]>
The statement said that concentrated airstrikes targeted terrorist strongholds that were detected in North and Central Sinai throughout the night and during the early hours of Saturday morning.

Several raids on different terrorist spots were carried out by border guards, police and law enforcement forces, while military jets hit stores of weapons, ammunition, explosive materials and logistic areas of terrorists. Meanwhile, the Naval Special Forces are intensifying security measures along the coast from Rafah to the west of Arish city in North Sinai, to cut off supply routes to terrorists, the statement read.

Egyptian Armys Armoured Vehicles are seen on a highway to North Sinai during a launch of a major assault against militants February 9 2018
Egyptian Armys Armoured Vehicles are seen on a highway to North Sinai during a launch of a major assault against militants February 9 2018 CC press photo

For his part, retired Major-General Hisham al-Halabi, advisor to the Nasser Military Academy, said that Operation Sinai 2018 is a comprehensive process that includes all strategic directions and works to pursue terrorist groups throughout the Arab Republic of Egypt to eliminate the terrorist elements in all places.

The successive statements by the armed forces show the extent of work on the ground, including the pre-preparation and collection of information that has been carried out over the past period. He also pointed out that all weapons in the armed forces and the police are working in an integrated system to eliminate terrorist groups.

Army continues strikes against terrorists under 'Operation Sinai 2018'

CAIRO - 10 February 2018: Egypt's Air Force continued on Friday night its airstrikes targeting terrorist hideouts and weapons in Sinai as part of the Operation Sinai 2018 that aims to eliminate extremists in different areas across the country, the army said in a third communique on the offensive posted on Twitter page of the Military Spkesman Colonel Tamel Al-Refai on Saturday.




The commander of the armed forces released three video statements on military spokesperson Colonel Tamer Al-Refai’s Facebook page to follow up on the updates of the operation. The first statement, issued on Friday morning, announced the launch of a major new military operation to purge the country from terrorism.

"Great people of Egypt, in accordance with the delegation issued by the president of the republic, the supreme commander of the Egyptian armed forces, to the general command of the Egyptian armed forces and the Interior Ministry to comprehensively confront terrorism as well other criminal activities, in close cooperation with all state institutions, law enforcement troops started to implement the plan of comprehensive confrontation of terrorist and criminal elements and organizations in North and Central Sinai and other areas in the Nile Delta and the desert areas west of the Nile Valley," he said.



The video is translated by Egypt Today

Only thirty minutes after the army’s statement, President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi said he is following with pride the heroics of the army and police in the comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018.

Afterwards, Refai read the General Command of the Armed Forces’ second statement, providing more details on the operation.

"Great people of Egypt, in a continuation of law enforcement forces' efforts, elements of our air forces targeted some of the pits, hideouts, and ammunition and weapons warehouses used by terrorist elements as a base to target the law enforcement forces and civilian targets in North and Central Sinai,” he said.

Study suspended in N.Sinai amid army's operation against militants

CAIRO - 9 February 2018: Study has been suspended in all North Sinai schools on Friday until further notice amid the Armed Forces' full-scale operation against terrorists in the region, according to North Sinai governor ِAbdel Fatah Harhour.




Residents told Reuters they saw warplanes flying above the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, which borders North Sinai to the west, and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip northeast of the vast desert region said they could hear explosions coming from across the border, but there was no immediate word on any casualties.


"Sinai 2018" in the press

Reuters said that Egypt’s military has struggled to put down the Islamic State insurgency in Sinai since the group set up a branch there in 2014. Islamist attacks against the army and police in Sinai had begun to escalate the previous year, having killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen.

Al-Azhar Grand Imam sends message to Egypt's Armed Forces

CAIRO - 10 February 2018: Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayyeb issued Friday night a statement commenting on the "Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018" announced by the Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior to purge the country from terrorism.




The Telegraph described the Sinai 2018 operations with “unprecedented assault against IS militants,” and added that Egypt launched a major assault against militants on Friday, focused on the Sinai Peninsula, where IS has staged deadly attacks, aiming to crush their insurgency by an end of February deadline set by President Sisi.

The Telegraph also said that the campaign by the army, navy, air force, border patrol and police is taking place ahead of a March election in which Sisi is seeking a second term and is widely expected to win.

The Financial Times mentioned that Egypt has launched a major security offensive against armed militant groups operating in the Sinai Peninsula and other parts of the country.

It added that the security forces have for years been fighting IS-affiliated militants in the Sinai, in areas bordering Gaza and Israel, representing a threat to Egypt’s political and economic stability.

President Sisi gave the military a three-month deadline at the end of November to clear terrorist groups from Sinai. He was responding to the slaughter of more than 300 Muslim worshippers attacked during Friday prayers at a mosque in northern Sinai. The attack was the worst single terrorist act in Egypt’s history, FT reported.

Egypt in mourning ... the story of deadly terrorist attack

"I heard gunshots as I was going to the prayers ... I arrived to find my brother Amir gunned down, my younger brother was alive and my father was shot more than three times," Mahmoud Magdy recalls the horrific scene, as he entered al-Rawdah Mosque, looking for his family, among hundreds of massacred worshipers laying on the bloody ground of the holy house.


]]>
2/10/2018 3:45:01 PM
<![CDATA[Arab League, Organization for Security in Europe discuss joint cooperation]]>
Abul Gheit stressed that the AL pays attention to establishing ongoing constructive dialogue with the European countries in general within the framework of the historic and contemporary ties binding the Arab and European regions at the political, economic, cultural and security levels, said AL secretary general spokesman Mahmoud Affifi.

The AL secretary general asserted the need to deal with the main challenges topped by the danger of terrorism as well as extremism and the unorganized crime, the spokesman underscored.

Abul Gheit stressed the importance of providing support by the European side to the Palestinian cause and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people including backing the Arab and the Palestinian stance towards Jerusalem, Affifi reiterated.

For his part, Greminger said that the OSCE seeks bolstering cooperation with the AL, expressing his keenness on organizing joint activities tackling issues of common interest.

The OSCE is ready to hone the technical skills of the Arab cadres especially in the field of dealing with security challenges, Greminger reiterated.]]>
2/10/2018 2:49:44 PM
<![CDATA[NGO challenges NEA over dismissal from monitoring election ]]>
In his appeal, Labib argued that his organization met all the conditions and set by the NEA, but was surprised by the issuance of the decision to exclude the said organization from monitoring the March voting, mentioning that this not his organization’s “first rodeo” and that it has observed several votes in the past.

The NEA received requests from 48 organizations - four of which are international - seeking to observe the upcoming Egyptian Presidential elections, according to NEA Spokesperson Mahmoud Helmy.

Helmy said in a press statement issued on Saturday that the NEA has checked the papers of 21 organizations, the assessed NGOs met the conditions set by the NEA and the rest of the requests will now be studied.

The NEA previously announced the instructions civil societies should follow in order to observe the Egyptian Presidential elections, opening the door for requests on January 9.

The NEA has already officially announced the official candidates for the presidential election, which include the incumbent President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and al-Ghad’s Moussa Moustafa.

According to the election timetable set by the NEA, voting in the 2018 presidential election will commence on March 26.

Sixty million eligible voters will cast their ballots in the election between March 26 and 28 in Egypt, while Egyptians living abroad will vote between March 16 and 18.
]]>
2/10/2018 1:51:21 PM
<![CDATA[Sinai 2018 is best response for our terrorism war doubters: MPs]]>
Tarek Radwan, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament told Egypt Today on Friday that Egypt’s war against terrorism is a strong message to the whole world about our capabilities and challenges. “The governments and countries that support terrorism in the world should be questioned for destabilizing the region’s security and risking the world’s safety. These countries are well-known to everyone,” he said.

Radwan assured that Sinai is considered as one of the most important economic cities and zones in the world. “In order to maximize its benefits, the terrorist groups and militia should be eliminated, because they would destroy whatever the state will build.”

Deputy Secretary of the Parliament Al-Sayed al-Sharif argued that the whole world must show its support for Egypt in its battle against terrorism, “not just through their statements, but with real actions and strategies against the terrorist militia and groups that threat the whole world.”

Additionally, member of the defense committee in parliament, major general Salama al-Gohary, affirmed in his statements that Sinai is integral part of Egypt that should not be threatened with terrorism. “Egypt is bigger than any militia that tries to destabilize its security and stability. The operation announced today by the army says that we are capable of dealing with all greed, threat and challenge,” al-Sharif affirmed.

Earlier, House of Representatives Speaker Ali Abdel Aal expressed the parliament’s complete support for the Egyptian Armed Forces’ counter-terrorism operation launched on Friday in the Sinai Peninsula.

Abdel Aal applauded the army and police sacrifices in their struggle against the enemies of the nation, urging the Egyptian people to stand behind their military until it eliminates the terrorist threat in the country.
Egypt launched a major security operation named “Sinai 2018” involving the army and police against terrorist and criminal elements and organizations’ across the country, mainly in Sinai, as part of the army’s long standing crack down on the jihadist insurgency escalated since the ousting of ex-Muslim brotherhood-affiliated president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Abdel Aal said in previous statement on Thursday that Egypt has witnessed a severe decline in the number of terrorist operations in the last period thanks to the police and army’s counterterrorism efforts.

“The anti-terrorism measures should not be restricted to military and security operations, but they also include addressing economic, cultural and social aspects of the phenomena, hence Egypt established a higher council to combat terrorism and extremism which focuses mainly on precaution measures," Abdel Aal added.
Following the bloody terrorist attack on the Rawdah mosque that killed more than 300 people in November 2017, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered the military command to use all force necessary to secure the Sinai Peninsula within three months.
On Friday morning, the police announced the highest state of alert in all Egyptian governorates amid the fierce war against terrorism, while the military spokesperson, Chief Colonel Tamer Rifai, released two consecutive televised statements on the operation.

The first statement read as follows:
"As part of the mandate given by the President, the Commander-in-chief of the armed forces ordered the General Command of the armed forces, and the Ministry of the Interior to conduct a comprehensive confrontation of terrorism and other criminal operations in close cooperation with all state institutions, This morning the law enforcement forces began to implement the comprehensive confrontation plan of terrorist and criminal elements and organizations in North and Central Sinai and other areas of the Delta and the Western Desert. This is in addition to carrying out other training and operational tasks and exercises in all strategic directions, with a view to controlling the state's external outlets, to ensure the realization of the planned objectives of clearing areas where there are terrorist hotbeds, and to fortify Egyptian society from the evils of terrorism and extremism in parallel with other crimes affecting security and internal stability."

Tamer
Spokesman of the armed forces, Chief Colonel Tamer Rifai


In statement No. 2 on the comprehensive anti-terrorism operation, the spokesperson confirmed, “The Air Force is targeting hotbeds and dens of terrorist elements in the north and central Sinai,” aired at 11:50 am Cairo local time on Friday.

The second statement read as follows:
"As part of ongoing law enforcement efforts, elements of the Air Force have targeted some of the hotspots, dens, weapons and ammunition depots used by terrorist elements as bases for targeting law enforcement forces and civilians in Northern and Central Sinai.

Maritime personnel insurance procedures are also in sight of elements of the naval forces, with a view to cutting off the supply lines for terrorist groups. Border guard and civilian police forces are tightening the security procedures at the border gates, as well as tightening the security procedures for the watercourse.
Joint elements of the army and the police are intensifying the security measures in order to complete the vital goals in areas throughout the country."

]]>
2/10/2018 12:05:17 PM
<![CDATA[Trump wishes disgraced aide well after domestic abuse allegations]]>
"He says he's innocent, and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

"It's obviously a tough time for him. He did a very good job in the White House. And we hope he has a wonderful career," Trump added. "But we absolutely wish him well."

Trump did not express any sympathy for the two women who this week provided graphic accounts of the verbal and physical abuse they said they suffered while married to Porter.

Trump said he found out about the allegations recently, and was "surprised" by them.

Porter's resignation on Wednesday has raised questions about how long it took the White House to act on the accusations.

Some senior White House officials were generally aware of the allegations before Trump found out a report surfaced on DailyMail.com, a source familiar with the matter said.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has so far taken the brunt of the blame.

Kelly and Press Secretary Sarah Sanders both issued statements calling Porter a man of "integrity" in response to an initial Daily Mail report that Porter's two former wives had accused him of abuse.

Kelly later put out a statement saying he was shocked by "new" allegations against Porter, stressing that domestic violence is unacceptable.

Trump has been privately complaining about Kelly and wondering whether to replace him, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

"If he (Trump) draws scrutiny to himself, he's OK with that. But when the staff draws scrutiny to him, he does not appreciate that," said one of the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.

White House spokesman Raj Shah said on Thursday that Kelly was not "fully aware" of the extent of the allegations against Porter until photographs of one of his former wives with a black eye emerged on Wednesday.

Shah also conceded the crisis could have been better handled by senior White House officials.

Reuters has not independently confirmed the allegations.

As White House staff secretary, Porter was responsible for reviewing all documents signed by the president, from legislation to executive orders.

The position put him in close contact with the president and required a security clearance but Porter, a Harvard Law School graduate, had not yet been approved for security clearance because the required background check was still ongoing.

Jennie Willoughby, one of Porter's ex-wives, said in an interview with NBC's "Today" show on Friday that she told the Federal Bureau of Investigation during Porter's background check that he had been abusive toward her.

"Of course, I was part of the background check and I was completely honest with what my experience of the marriage, including telling the police instances of abuse or police contact," said Willoughby. ]]>
2/10/2018 1:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Trump to tap U.S. Pacific Commander Harris as ambassador to Australia]]>
The naval officer has served in the military for 39 years and is in his seventh command assignment as head of the U.S. Pacific Command, according to the White House.]]>
2/9/2018 11:51:29 PM
<![CDATA[Interview with Chairman of National Security Parliament Committee ]]>
Despite the fact that Egypt’s Armed Forces launched a lot of operations before; this operation is considered as a ‘turning point’ in the country’s battle against terrorism according to Amer. He added that it is natural to launch more than one military operation against terrorist elements and militia, which means that fighting terrorism is a ‘gradual process’, it takes time and effort.

“I believe that this military operation particularly will play a key role in eliminating the terrorist groups in Sinai that aims to destabilize the country,” Amer affirmed.


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Security services have been intensified and a larger number of security forces have been deployed at fixed checkpoints, February 9, 2018 - Press Photo

The Bedouin tribes’ role in Sinai is vital according to Amer. “They gave the army and police forces extremely valuable information about the terrorist’s locations and forms. Bedouins are a crucial part of the Egyptian state and it’s expected that they are engaging in our war against terrorism,” Amer said.

The next period will witness more serious steps in implementing the state’s plan of developing Sinai Peninsula according to Amer. The government was sure that whatever it was trying to do for the reconstruction of Sinai, the terrorist groups would try to destroy it. “The success of this operation will give us the chance to build Sinai as we wish it to be.”

The terrorist groups, which are located in Sinai, are backed and financed by several, well-known governments and countries according to Amer. “They are targeting our infrastructure and security. They don’t want our country to develop and achieve its goals; however we have a very strong Army capable of foiling all of their plans to defeat us,” Amer said


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Egypt's ground troops in a full-scale offensive against militants in North and Central Sinai on Friday, February 9,2018- Phoro courtesy of the Armed Forces Spokesperson's Facebook page

Commenting on the claims reported by the New York Time’s on Israeli airstrikes inside Egyptian territory, Amer said that ‘Operation Sinai 2018’ is the best response for such claims. “We are capable to defeat terrorism on your own in our country without allowing any other parties to interfere within areas of our sovereignty,” he affirmed.

There is no such “secret alliance” between Egypt and Israel in fighting terrorism in North Sinai, Military Spokesperson Tamer al-Refaei told Egypt Today on February 4, denying the New York Time’s report on Israeli airstrikes inside Egyptian territory.

“The Egyptian Armed Forces, as part of law enforcement forces, is entrusted with all military operations in cooperation with the civilian police, as stipulated by the law and constitution in the designated areas,” Refaei said.

He urged media outlets to refer to the official and competent authorities to fact check information. The New York Times published a February 3 article claiming that Israeli jets carried out more than 100 airstrikes over two years to help defeat militants in North Sinai.

A military official told Shorouk News on Sunday that “Egypt does not accept that any country interferes within its borders because it is capable of counter terrorism without the assistance of any state.” “It is the Armed Forces that confronts the terrorist and takfiri elements in some limited areas in North Sinai,” the source added.

The Egyptian military “is making great successes against terrorist elements and regaining security once again in these areas,” the source continued.

Under the title "Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018," Egypt's Armed Forces launched a comprehensive military operation targeting the hotbeds of terrorists in northern and central Sinai Peninsula on Friday, in a bid to purge the country from terrorism.

The army released two-video statement on Friday to announce the launching of the operation.

The transcript of the army's statement that was aired at 8:50 am Cairo local time, reads:

In the name of Allah the Merciful

The great people of Egypt,

As part of the mandate given by the President, the Commander-in- chief of the armed forces to the General Command of the armed forces, and the Ministry of Interior for the comprehensive confrontation of terrorism and other criminal operations in close cooperation with all State institutions, this morning the law enforcement forces began to implement the Comprehensive confrontation plan of terrorist and criminal elements and organizations in North and Central Sinai and other areas of the Delta of Egypt and the Western Desert linebacker. This is in addition to carrying out other training and operational tasks and exercises in all strategic directions, with a view to controlling the state's external outlets Of Egypt, to ensure the realization of the planned objectives of clearing areas where there are terrorist hotbeds, and to fortify Egyptian society from the evils of terrorism and extremism in parallel with other crimes affecting security and internal stability.

The general command of the armed forces therefore calls upon the great people of Egypt throughout the Republic, to cooperate closely with the law enforcement forces to counter and root out terrorism, and to report immediately on any elements that threaten the security and stability of the country. God save Egypt and its people... and peace be upon you and Allah’s mercy and Blessings.



In statement No. 2 on the comprehensive anti-terrorism operation, the spokesman of the armed forces, Chief Colonel Tamer Rifai, confirmed, “The Air Force is targeting hotbeds and dens of terrorist elements in the north and central Sinai,” aired at 11:50 am Cairo local time.

The statement read as follows:


As part of ongoing law enforcement efforts, elements of the Air Force have targeted some of the hotspots, dens, weapons and ammunition depots used by terrorist elements as a base for targeting law enforcement forces and civilian targets in Northern and Central Sinai.

Maritime personnel insurance procedures are also tightened up by elements of the naval forces, with a view to cutting off the supply lines for terrorist elements. Border Guard and civilian police forces are tightening the security procedures at the border gates, as well as tightening the security procedures for the watercourse.
Joint elements of the army and the police are intensifying the security measures for the vital goals and areas throughout the country.





]]>
2/9/2018 10:16:31 PM
<![CDATA[Experts: Sinai 2018 operation is strong message to world]]>
“This operation has very strict and clear meanings and messages need to be delivered to the whole world; it says that the army is completely capable of protecting our homeland and determined to uproot terrorism from the whole state and especially Sinai,” Staff officer Mohamed al-Shahawy Told Egypt Today on Friday.

He added that this operation will raise the morale of the armed forces members and increase their combat efficiency. “This operation will not just end in one day, I believe it will take time and effort, not because of the militia response, but I believe that the army will not end the operation until completing all its goals.”


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Egypt's Air forces launched a full-scale offensive against militants in North and Central Sinai on Friday, February 9,2018- Phoro courtesy of the Armed Forces Spokesperson's Facebook page


Shahawy said that the army have developed a plan in which all the sources of support to terrorist groups will be closed. According to him the army’s operation is “very well planned.”

The participation of Egyptian Navy forces in the operation is one of the main reasons for its success. “Their presence stopped the militia from receiving any logistic support to help them in the battle,” Shahawy affirmed.

Major General Nabiel Fuad Told Egypt Today that ‘Sinai 2018’ is a comprehensive operation which aims to eliminate all presence of terrorists groups and militia in Sinai and prevent them from escaping to another governorates or areas of the country.

“This operation doesn’t just depend on arms or forces but on the information as well,” Fuad said. Military expert Taha al-Sayed also commented on the operation saying that it should be considered as a “reassuring message” from the Armed Forces to all Egyptians that they will protect them and the country’s security.

The army released two-video statement to announce the launching of the operation.

Army spokesperson Tamer el-Refai released the army statement "Communique 1 from the General Command of the Armed Forces" on state TV. It details the launch of the operation and the state of high alert rose across different governorates.

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FILE - Military spokes person colonel Tamer Al Refaai


Meanwhile, the Ministry of the Interior said that the ministry is raising the state of alert and security preparedness to the maximum level nationwide, taking all precautionary measures to maintain security throughout the country, especially in light of the fierce operations conducted by police forces in coordination with the armed forces, to root out terrorism.

The security measures have been stepped up in the vicinities of national and investment projects, vital state facilities, electricity and water stations, places of worship, and tourist sites, according to the Middle East News Agency (MENA).



Security services have been intensified and a larger number of security forces have been deployed at fixed checkpoints, patrolling governorates and on internal borders.

State television then broadcasted live footage of the operation to combat terrorism from the Sinai Peninsula. The footage showed air attacks on terrorist hideouts as well as maritime and border work being carried out to cut supplies to the terrorist elements.



President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi tweeted saying he is proud to following up on the military operations that were announced by the army and the police on Friday, which aim at uprooting terrorism across the country.




“I proudly follow up the heroic acts of my sons in the armed forces and the police to purge the land of precious Egypt from terrorist elements who are enemies of life ... And always #LongLiveEgypt,” Sisi stated on his official Twitter account on Friday.

]]>
2/9/2018 7:21:50 PM
<![CDATA[Full transcript of Egypt army's statements on 'Sinai 2018' operation]]>
The army released two-video statement on Friday to announce the launching of the operation.

And Egypt Today provides you with the transcript of the army's statement that was aired at 8:50 am Cairo local time:

In the name of Allah the Merciful

The great people of Egypt,

As part of the mandate given by the President, the Commander-in- chief of the armed forces to the General Command of the armed forces, and the Ministry of Interior for the comprehensive confrontation of terrorism and other criminal operations in close cooperation with all State institutions, this morning the law enforcement forces began to implement the Comprehensive confrontation plan of terrorist and criminal elements and organizations in North and Central Sinai and other areas of the Delta of Egypt and the Western Desert linebacker. This is in addition to carrying out other training and operational tasks and exercises in all strategic directions, with a view to controlling the state's external outlets Of Egypt, to ensure the realization of the planned objectives of clearing areas where there are terrorist hotbeds, and to fortify Egyptian society from the evils of terrorism and extremism in parallel with other crimes affecting security and internal stability.

The general command of the armed forces therefore calls upon the great people of Egypt throughout the Republic, to cooperate closely with the law enforcement forces to counter and root out terrorism, and to report immediately on any elements that threaten the security and stability of the country. God save Egypt and its people... and peace be upon you and Allah’s mercy and Blessings.



In statement No. 2 on the comprehensive anti-terrorism operation, the spokesman of the armed forces, Chief Colonel Tamer Rifai, confirmed, “The Air Force is targeting hotbeds and dens of terrorist elements in the north and central Sinai,” aired at 11:50 am Cairo local time.

The statement read as follows:


As part of ongoing law enforcement efforts, elements of the Air Force have targeted some of the hotspots, dens, weapons and ammunition depots used by terrorist elements as a base for targeting law enforcement forces and civilian targets in Northern and Central Sinai.

Maritime personnel insurance procedures are also tightened up by elements of the naval forces, with a view to cutting off the supply lines for terrorist elements. Border Guard and civilian police forces are tightening the security procedures at the border gates, as well as tightening the security procedures for the watercourse.

Joint elements of the army and the police are intensifying the security measures for the vital goals and areas throughout the country.

]]>
2/9/2018 4:45:07 PM
<![CDATA['Sinai 2018': Egypt's knockout against terrorism]]>CAIRO – 9 February 2018: Earlier Friday, Egyptian Security Forces launched a comprehensive and strategic confrontation, Sinai 2018, against terrorist hotbeds and criminal organizations in North Sinai, Central Sinai, Egypt's Delta, Nile Valley and the Suez Canal’s surrounding. Egypt Today provides you with a briefing on operation Sinai 2018.

What is operation Sinai 2018?

Operation Sinai 2018 comes within the framework of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s mandate to the General Commander of the Armed Forces and Ministry of Interior, according to Army spokesperson Tamer el-Refai's Facebook page. Sisi previously informed the General Commander of the Armed Forces that he is responsible to secure Egypt from terrorism, as well as drying funding paths and unravelling connections that enable terrorist attacks in Egypt, in three months.

Sisi commanded that a full and complete crack down on terrorism be carried out within three months from his mandate and that full coordination is needed between all the country’s institutions to confront terrorism and all other related operations by extremists.



Sinai 2018 is a strategic operation, meaning that it does not simply aim to crack down on terrorist hotbeds. The operation aims to crack down on terrorist in North and Central Sinai, ensure the control of Egypt’s external ports, and to ensure the achievement of the goals planned to clear areas where there are terrorist hotbeds or groups. This is all with the aim to immunize the Egyptian society from the evils of terrorism and extremism, parallel with other crimes affecting the security and internal stability. The overall aim of this operation is to secure Egypt and Egyptian citizens from terrorism and dry terrorist resources, connections and links.



Despite the operation starting in North and Central Sinai, it also includes Egypt's Delta and the Nile Valley, the navigational course of the Suez Canal, the borders of Egypt’s naval space and, to a lesser extent, the rest of Egypt.

Moreover, to secure the vital facilities to the security of the state and the national projects, as well as water, power plats and places of worship, during this strategic operation, full security measures have been taken. Security has also been enhanced at public squares and inside all governorates. Rapid intervention units are ready for immediate deployment in case of any threat to civilians.



To execute the plan, the Egyptian Armed Forces and Police have raised a state of high alert across different governorates.

Sisi is watching the operation closely, despite being abroad
Earlier today, Sisi tweeted and posted on Facebook that he is watching closely the military operations “with pride.”


“I follow in pride the heroic acts of my sons in the armed forces and the police to purge the precious land of Egypt from terrorist elements who are the enemies of life ... And always # long live Egypt,” El-Sisi said on his official Twitter account.




Al Azhar supports operation Sinai 2018
In a Friday statement, Al-Azhar Institute expressed its full support of operation Sinai 2018.

“Al-Azhar calls upon all the Egyptian people to support our brave armed forces and security men in confronting these terrorist and criminal elements, which terrorized innocent citizens,” Al-Azhar said in its statement.

Al-Azhar praised the courage of Army and Police personnel and their continued efforts to “make precious sacrifices for the sake of spreading security in all parts of Egypt.”
]]>
2/9/2018 4:14:20 PM
<![CDATA[Sinai operation acts as a deterrent against ‘ghosts’: experts]]>
“Egypt’s ongoing security operation against terrorists and extremists in Sinai is acting as much of a military deterrent and as a precaution,” former Egyptian intelligence Undersecretary Major-General Mohamed Rashad told Egypt Today on Friday.

Rashad stressed that Sinai is in a bad need of such a “military operation to purge the peninsula of militants,” and to pave a safe way to witness a democratic and free presidential election which is set to take place in March.

“President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi promised Egyptians to root terrorism out of the country before beginning of the presidential election voting in March,” Rashad added.

Security forces need the Egyptians’ support

Rashad reaffirmed that Egypt’s security apparatuses and leadership have realized that a large-scale security operation must be carried out at the present time, as a result “Egyptians have to show their support to our security forces; encouraging them to keep the spirit up and achieve victory over extremism.”


ground troops 1
Egypt's ground troops in a full-scale offensive against militants in North and Central Sinai on Friday, February 9,2018- Phoro courtesy of the Armed Forces Spokesperson's Facebook page


Rashad revealed that the Health Ministry raised a state of high alert a few days ago at public hospitals in North and South Sinai and Ismailia governorates. “This action proves there were preparatory measures by the country’s authorities prior to the security operation which has launched on Friday.”

The irregular terrorist attacks against civilians and security personnel across Egypt have been carried out by “ghosts” as those militants have been hiding well in secret hotbeds, Rashad indicated.

“Egyptian security forces have succeeded to curb terrorist hands of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, however they have still exerted sincere efforts to eradicate plots and conspiracies made by foreign parties against the Egyptian state,” stated Rashad who heads the military committee in charge of Israeli affairs.

Sinai’s tribes’ cooperation with security forces

“There is no doubt that the Egyptian security apparatuses have been doing their best to abort terrorists’ plots against the Egyptian state nationwide,” said Egypt’s former deputy head of the Security Intelligence Services (SIS) General Foad Allam to Egypt Today on Friday.

Allam praised the Egyptian security, military and police forces’ endeavors in the past years to control the peninsula of Sinai and various border lines, manifesting, “Sinai tribes’ heads have played a significant role in assisting the security forces to take the control of Sinai and border sites.”


ground 2
Egypt's ground troops in a full-scale offensive against militants in North and Central Sinai on Friday, February 9,2018- Phoro courtesy of the Armed Forces Spokesperson's Facebook page



The Armed Forces fully aware of its targets’ sites

Egypt’s comprehensive security operation against terrorist and criminal elements and organizations in Sinai has been carried out in response to strict directives given by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to the military chief of staff to eliminate the terrorist cells existing in Sinai, giving only a three month time period for the operation, according to former military intelligence reconnaissance apparatus Major-General Nasr Salem on Friday. Salem manifested that decisions related to security operations are only made after obtaining valuable pieces of information and verifying them.

Salem added, in a phone interview with ON Live TV, that the Armed Forces are fully aware of its targets in Sinai, stressing, “The Armed Forces have credible information about sites where their targets exist. The security operations will be launched in different places on the right timing to achieve the best results as much as the forces can.”
The Armed Forces released two statements, affirming that both the army and police are also intensifying security measures in vital areas across the country.

air forces 3
Egypt's Air Forces take on a full-scale offensive against militants in North and Central Sinai on Friday, February 9,2018- Phoro courtesy of the Armed Forces Spokesperson's Facebook page


In the first statement early morning on Friday, the army announced that they have raised a state of high alert across different governorates to execute a comprehensive security crackdown against terrorists, according to a video statement by the Armed Forces on the official Facebook page of the military spokesman.

The military spokesperson Tamer El-Refai said in video statement number (2) on Friday that the targeted hotbeds were used by the extremists to target law enforcement soldiers as well as civilians in North and Central Sinai. Moreover, security authorities are also tightening navy and land borders security to cut off supply lines for terrorist elements.


]]>
2/9/2018 3:54:45 PM
<![CDATA[All you need to know about Egypt's full-scale operation 'Sinai 2018']]>
President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s vow follows years of national and international efforts by Egypt to face terrorism. Sisi has pledged several times during his speeches to preserve the country’s stability, whatever it takes.

“Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018" comes within the armed forces ongoing counter-terrorism operations in Sinai that are aimed at eliminating terrorists and Takfiri elements, and eradicating their breeding grounds and hotbeds.


Sinai, in particular, has been a staging ground for militants operating in Egypt for decades. It is also believed to be home to the Islamic State’s Egyptian branch, which has been primarily targeting Christians and security forces in the area.

On Friday, the army spokesperson Tamer el-Refai released the army statement "Communique 1 from the General Command of the Armed Forces" on state TV. It details the launch of the operation and the state of high alert raised across different governorates.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior said that the ministry is raising the state of alert and security preparedness to the maximum level nationwide, taking all precautionary measures to maintain security throughout the country, especially in light of the fierce operations conducted by police forces in coordination with the armed forces, to root out terrorism.

The security measures have been stepped up in the vicinities of national and investment projects, vital state facilities, electricity and water stations, places of worship, and tourist sites, according to the Middle East News Agency (MENA).

1- Sinai
Security services have been intensified and a larger number of security forces have been deployed at fixed checkpoints, February 9, 2018 - Press Photo

Security services have been intensified and a larger number of security forces have been deployed at fixed checkpoints, patrolling governorates and on internal borders.

2- Sinai
Security services have been intensified and a larger number of security forces have been deployed at fixed checkpoints, February 9, 2018 - Press Photo

The state television then broadcasted live footage of the comprehensive operation to combat terrorism, named "Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018", in North and Central Sinai. The footage showed air attacks on terrorist hideouts as well as maritime and border work being carried out to cut supplies to the terrorist elements.


The targeted locations of “Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018”

These comprehensive operations are executed mainly against terrorist and criminal organizations in North and Central Sinai. The operations have also targeted other areas in the Egyptian Delta and the in the Nile Valley. In addition, training and operational tasks and exercises are being carried out in all strategic directions, the statement read.

.

The purposes behind “Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018"

Refai stated that the intensified military operation against extremists comes "within the framework of the mandate by Egypt's Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, to the General Command of the Armed Forces and ministry of interior, to coordinate with all country’s institutions in order to confront the terrorism and all other connected operations by the extremists.”

Moreover, these operations target hotbeds used by extremists to target law enforcement soldiers as well as civilians in North and Central Sinai.

During the last period, the Field Army has destroyed many hotbeds used by the Takfiri elements in Sinai for hiding and storing the equipment and weaponry used in their terrorist attacks.



Security authorities are also tightening security at navy and land borders to cut off the supply lines of terrorist elements.

Sisi follows up proudly the military operations

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi tweeted saying he is proud to following up on the military operations that were announced by the army and the police on Friday, which aim at uprooting terrorism across the country.

“I proudly follow up the heroic acts of my sons in the armed forces and the police to purge the land of precious Egypt from terrorist elements who are enemies of life ... And always #longLiveEgypt,” Sisi stated on his official Twitter account on Friday.




Egypt's top religious authorities support “Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018"

The State’s top religious authorities declared their full support for the "Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018".

Al-Azhar called upon all the Egyptian people to “support our brave armed forces and security personnel in confronting these terrorist and criminal elements, which have terrorized innocent citizens,” Al-Azhar said in its statement.

The statement added that Al-Azhar praises the courage of army and police personnel to "make precious sacrifices for the sake of spreading security in all parts of Egypt."
Additionally, the Coptic Orthodox Church declared its support for Egypt’s operation in Sinai countering terrorism.

The rise of terrorism in Egypt

Since the ousting of ex-Muslim brotherhood-affiliated President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt has seen the rise of extremism in the country, resulting in numerous deadly attacks.

Last December, two militants tried to storm a church in Helwan, southern Cairo. They opened fire, leaving ten civilians, including six Copts, dead and injuring at least five others. In November, a deadly attack hit the main mosque in North Sinai’s Al-Rawdah village, taking the lives of roughly 22 percent of its male residents. The village’s population is just under 2,111 people, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics’ (CAPMAS) 2016 report.

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Bullet holes and blood stains at Helwan district’s Mar Mina church after Friday’s attack, December 29, 2017 – REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

At least 311 people were killed and 121 injured when unidentified militants attacked the crowded mosque during Friday prayers in the Sinai Peninsula, setting off explosives and spraying worshippers with gunfire.

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A wheelchair is seen near blood stains of victims after an explosion at Al Rawdah mosque in Bir Al-Abed, Egypt November 25, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Soliman

According to eyewitnesses, the militants stormed Al-Rawdah Mosque west of Al-Arish City, detonated an explosive device around the mosque, set fire to cars of the villagers and then cut off the main road leading to the village.

In October 2017, another attack killed 16 security officers in Egypt’s Western Desert and, before that, deadly attacks hit Egypt’s churches last April. In Tanta’s St. George Church, at least 27 people were killed and 78 others were wounded due to an explosive device that was planted under a seat in the main prayer hall.


A suicide bomber attacked St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria where Pope Tawadros II held the Palm Sunday mass. Two police officers guarding the church stopped a man wearing an explosive belt. The police officers, a man and a woman, were killed along with civilians and other police staff.


All of these incidents, among several others, have affected the country for about eight years. Also, Egypt’s economic status has not been at its best.

The army and police started earlier on Friday a comprehensive military operation in Central and North Sinai to uproot terrorism.

Sinai is one of the most tweeted hashtags on Twitter in Egypt, in addition to “Military," “armed forces” and “spokesperson".





]]>
2/9/2018 3:34:35 PM
<![CDATA[‘Sinai 2018’ Military Operation hit int’l, regional media headlines]]>
Under the title of "The Egyptian army declares a security state of the maximum alert,” CNN Arabic published earlier on Friday the statement put out by Army Spokesperson Tamer el-Refae regarding the wide-ranging operation that is aimed at tightening the state’s control of the “Strategic directions,” along with the video footage of the operation broadcasted on official TV channel 1.

Additionally, Russia Today said that the statement of the armed forces on the Military Operation that was announced against the terrorist elements and ostensibly targets the border crossing ports.

Spanish El-Mundo reported that the military offensive follows the three-month ultimatum given by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to the Armed Forces to obliterate terrorist elements across Egypt, while the French Express mentioned that the ongoing operation is deemed to be the second largest military offensive to be carried out by the armed forces since the similar operation in 2015, which was dubbed “The Martyr's Right” and is believed to have killed around 50 terrorists.




“Egypt on Friday launched a major security operation involving the army and police against ‘terrorist and criminal elements and organizations’ across the country,” Reuters reported, while Sputnik said that the operation comes as part of Egypt’s long standing crack down on the jihadist insurgency prevalent in Sinai since the ousting of ex-Muslim brotherhood-affiliated president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The Egyptian army announced on Friday that it had launched a "comprehensive counter-terrorist plan" in the north of the country, Central Sinai and areas of the Egyptian Delta and the desert west of the Nile Valley.

Along with the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) various Khaliji and Arab media outlets spread the statement of the military action named “Sinai 2018”, including Saudi Arabian Al-Watan, Algerian Al-Nahar, Kuwaiti Al-Anbaa and Al-Arabiya.

The video statement number (1) posted on army spokesperson Tamer el-Refai's Facebook page said the intensified military operation “Sinai 2018” against extremists comes "within the framework of the mandate by Egypt's Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, to the General Command of the Armed Forces and ministry of interior, to coordinate with all the country’s institutions to confront terrorism and all other related operations by extremists."

One day earlier, hospitals in the regions affected were put on alert in preparation for any medical evacuations. Additional troops also poured into the al Arish border city and the thinly-populated Sinai.

During his speech on National Police Day, President Sisi paid tribute to the martyrs who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty while fighting terrorism for the sake of protecting the sovereignty and integrity of the nation, and he pledged to take revenge for the martyrs’ deaths.

Since the ousting of ex-Muslim brotherhood- affiliated President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt has been witnessing growing waves of extremism washing over society and spawning numerous deadly attacks, among these attacks was the terrorist attack that hit Al-Rawdah Mosque and left more than 302 people attending Friday prayers congregates dead in late November.

A month earlier, The Interior Ministry announced that 16 security officers were killed during clashes with militants in Wahat in the Western Desert; the clashes also led to the killing of 15 militants.
]]>
2/9/2018 2:59:27 PM
<![CDATA[Trump administration may target immigrants who use food aid, other benefits]]>
The Department of Homeland Security has drafted rules seen by Reuters that would allow immigration officers to scrutinize a potential immigrant's use of certain taxpayer-funded public benefits to determine if they could become a public burden.

For example, U.S. officials could look at whether the applicant has enrolled a child in government pre-school programs or received subsidies for utility bills or health insurance premiums.

The draft rules are a sharp departure from current guidelines, which have been in place since 1999 and specifically bar authorities from considering such non-cash benefits in deciding a person's eligibility to immigrate to the United States or stay in the country.

"Non-citizens who receive public benefits are not self-sufficient and are relying on the U.S. government and state and local entities for resources instead of their families, sponsors or private organizations," the document states. "An alien's receipt of public benefits comes at taxpayer expense and availability of public benefits may provide an incentive for aliens to immigrate to the United States."

Receiving such benefits could weigh against an applicant, even if they were for an immigrant's U.S. citizen children, according to the document.

"The administration is committed to enforcing existing immigration law, which is clearly intended to protect the American taxpayer," said Tyler Houlton, a DHS spokesman. "Any potential changes to the rule would be in keeping with the letter and spirit of the law – as well as the reasonable expectations of the American people for the government to be good stewards of taxpayer funds."

In 2016, nearly 383,000 people who would be subject to the new standards obtained permanent residence while already in the United States, according to DHS statistics. The rules would not apply to permanent residents applying for citizenship, but would apply to a wide range of people living or working in the United States, including close family members of U.S. citizens and workers employed by U.S. companies.

In addition, nearly 620,000 other immigrants living abroad obtained U.S. permanent residence through the State Department in 2016. If DHS publishes a new rule, the State Department will decide then whether to change its guidance, said Ashley Garrigus, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

U.S. immigration law has long required officials to exclude a person likely to become a "public charge" from permanent residence. But current U.S. guidelines, in place since 1999, narrowly define "public charge" to be a person "primarily dependent on the government for subsistence," either through direct cash assistance or government-funded long-term care.

Current guidance instructs immigration officers to look at a narrow range of public benefits in trying to determine whether someone is likely to become a burden, specifically directing officers not to consider most non-cash benefits, such as government food assistance programs or preschool programs.

The new rules, if adopted in their current form, would significantly change these guidelines. Under the draft rules, a person would be considered a "public charge" if they depend on "any government assistance in the form of cash, checks or other forms of money transfers, or instrument and non-cash government assistance in the form of aid, services, or other relief," according to the document seen by Reuters.

IMMIGRATION RESTRICTIONS



Trump, who took a hard line on illegal immigration during the 2016 presidential campaign, has in recent months also taken aim at legal immigrants. He has advocated ending a visa lottery program and some kinds of family-based immigration. But many of the administration's proposals would require congressional action.

Several immigrant advocates and current and former U.S. officials said the proposed rules could advance the administration's goals without changing U.S. law, by effectively barring lower- and middle-income people from immigrating.

"The big picture here is the administration is trying to accomplish by regulation the substantive changes to immigration law that it has proposed be enacted by statute," said Barbara Strack, a career DHS official who retired in January and helped draft the 1999 rules.

The experts and officials said they were also worried that the proposed changes would dissuade immigrants from using services to which they are entitled.

"It's going to scare a lot of people into yanking their children off of needed healthcare, school programs, child nutrition programs, basic sorts of subsistence-level programs that have kept the population healthy and employable," said Charles Wheeler, director of training and legal support at Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

A 2017 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that 5.5 percent of immigrant households with children received cash assistance, compared to 6.3 percent of native households. Four percent of immigrant households used housing assistance, compared to five percent of native households. And about 46 percent of immigrant households used Medicaid, compared to 34 percent of native households.

Conservatives have long expressed concerns about non-citizens' access to public benefits, saying it is a drain on resources that should go to U.S. citizens.

"Efforts to limit immigrant access to these programs mostly have not been very successful," said Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors stricter immigration policies.

Among the benefits singled out in the draft rule for consideration are: health insurance subsidies such as those provided by the Affordable Care Act; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP); WIC, a federal program that feeds poor pregnant or nursing women and their children; transportation and housing vouchers; programs that help the poor pay their heating bills; and programs such as Head Start, which provides early education to low-income children.

Some benefits would not be considered in making the "public charge" determination under the draft regulations, including emergency or disaster relief, public health assistance for immunizations, attending public school, receiving free or reduced-price school lunches, and earned benefits such as disability insurance, Medicare and unemployment payments. ]]>
2/9/2018 3:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Iran says it can discuss other issues if nuclear deal successful]]>
"Now they ask Iran to enter discussions on other issues. Our answer is clear: Make the (deal) a successful experience and then we discuss other issues," Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told a conference in Paris on Thursday, referring to the United States and its European allies.

It was not immediately clear whether Araqchi’s suggestion was in complete alignment with powerful hardliners in the Islamic Republic's factionalised governing institutions who are intensely suspicious of any talks with the West.

Araqchi added that the Iran policy of U.S. President Donald Trump's administration was "destructive" and violated the terms of the nuclear deal with six world powers.

With Trump warning of a last chance for "the worst deal ever negotiated", Britain, France and Germany are working on a plan to satisfy him by addressing Iran's ballistic missile tests and its regional influence while preserving the 2015 accord.

Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of a Euromoney conference in Paris, Araqchi said there was no link between its influence in the Middle East region and the accord, under which Iran restricted its production of enriched uranium - a potential source of nuclear bombs as well as civilian energy - in exchange for a removal of international sanctions.

Iran has repeatedly refused to discuss its missile program as demanded by the United States and the Europeans, saying it is purely defensive in nature.

The Islamic Republic says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes and that it will stick to the accord as long as the other signatories respect it, but will “shred” the deal if Washington pulls out.

BLAME GAME



Araqchi dismissed Western assertions that Iran's regional activities are destabilising. He accused the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia of fomenting tensions in the Middle East.

"We have always fought against terrorism. Iran has always played a key role in bringing stability and peace to the region ... There is no link between the (nuclear) deal and our role in the region," Araqchi, who was also a senior negotiator in the Iran nuclear talks, told Reuters.

Trump's ultimatum has effectively put the deal on life support until mid-May.

Speaking at the same conference, Britain's Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, said European powers were determined to save the agreement and assuage the United States, but he warned that Iran also needed to mitigate Western concerns over its regional activities.

"We and our European partners are absolutely clear. We want the deal to succeed," Burt said. "We don't want to see the JCPOA (deal with Iran) go down and are working with our European partners to mitigate concerns the United States may have to ensure it continues."

Negotiations between Europeans and the U.S. officials to meet Trump's conditions are ongoing.

The first challenge the Europeans face is dissecting divergent U.S. statements about what Trump wants to keep issuing "waivers" to U.S. sanctions. Without the waivers, which expire May 12, the U.S. sanctions return, effectively killing the deal.

"Iran also needs to avoid taking actions which threaten regional security," Burt said, pointing to claims that Tehran has supplied ballistic missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Iran has denied those allegations.

Iran backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country's almost seven-year-old civil war, Shi'ite Muslim militias in Iraq, Houthi rebels in Yemen and Lebanon's Hezbollah.

"Iran has always played a key role in establishing peace, restoring security and fighting against terrorism across the region," Araqchi said. "Policies of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States have led to crises and wars in the Middle East."]]>
2/9/2018 3:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. Secretary of State to visit Egypt amid Mideast tour ]]>
In Egypt, Tillerson will discuss ways of enhancing U.S.-Egyptian relations with Egyptian officials, as well as regional and international issues of mutual concern, according to the statement.

In his visit to Jordan, Tillerson will meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi to discuss the Syrian crisis, the statement added, saying, “The secretary will underscore the enduring strength of the U.S.-Jordanian relationship, engage with the Jordanian leadership on the conclusion of a new memorandum of understanding on bilateral assistance, and discuss key regional issues, such as the ongoing crisis in Syria and Jordan’s support for Middle East peace.”

Turkey is one of his stops, where he will tackle bilateral ties and regional issues with senior Turkish officials. In Beirut, he will meet with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. “The secretary’s visit will emphasize U.S. support for the Lebanese people and the Lebanese Armed Forces,” the statement read.

Tillerson will also visit Kuwait, where he will attend the Ministerial Meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, which is due to be held on February 13, and he will participate in the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq on February 12-14.

According to the statement, this is the third time that Tillerson participates in the ministerial meeting since it was established by the 74 members on September 11, 2014 and the first since ISIS has been defeated in Iraq in December 2017.]]>
2/9/2018 1:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Sudan-Egypt relations forever sacred: Sudanese FM]]>CAIRO – 8 February 2018: Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour announced the imminent return of the ambassador to Egypt, confirming that Egyptian-Sudanese relations are sacred and will not be ruined.

During the joint press conference with his Sudanese counterpart Ghandour, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that the quarter meetings addressed regional and international issues, including issues relating to the Nile basin and water security. He added that the two parties agreed on the importance of having regular meetings between the two sides and to establish a presidential committee in Khartoum.

Shoukry and Ghandour voiced their concerns over the verbal jousting taking place between Sudanese and Egyptian media outlets and agreed to establish a joint media honor code.

Shoukry also affirmed that the meetings discussed enhancing military cooperation; with investing in the economy and energy sectors high on the list of topics.

He underscored that the meetings were aimed at eliminating all differences between the two countries and reaching consensual solutions on all issues under debate.

Also, the meetings highly recommended the quick activation of all mutual committees, including: the Consular Committee, the Trade Commission, the Joint Technical Commission for Nile Water, the Nile River Navigation Authority and the Border Crossings Committee. Shourky's announcement added that the participants stressed the importance of quickly convening the security and military joint committees.

On February 8, Egypt hosted a quartet meeting of Sudanese and Egyptian foreign ministers and heads of intelligence, which concluded with the issuing of a joint statement that affirmed the two parties’ desire to boost coordination at the highest level.

The meetings were held following a call from President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi after a closed session he held with his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir this month on the sidelines of the 30th African Summit in Addis Ababa, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zaid added in Thursday’s statement.

Renaissance Dam

Concerning the long-standing rift between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan concerning the establishment of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Ghandour announced that the meetings recommended having a tripartite summit in Khartoum at the ministerial level.

Egypt has previously announced its approval of the report prepared by PRL Consulting, on the guidelines that it should be followed when conducting studies on the effects of the dam. However, Ethiopia and Sudan rejected the findings of the report, which has crippled the continuation of the studies necessary for the establishment of the dam.

Suakin Island

Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour denied on Thursday that the Sudanese leadership has any intention of establishing a Turkish military base on Suakin Island, affirming that “it is a pure Sudanese property for Sudanese people only.”

"There is neither an intention to establish a Turkish base in Suakin, or any other place in Sudan," Ghandour stated during a joint press conference with Egypt's Foreign Minister on Thursday.

Ghandour affirmed that the island was the subject of talks between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his visit to Khartoum on December 24, where he proposed the restoration of the island's old houses in order to benefit from tourism, to his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir.

Suakin is a port city in northeast Sudan on the Red Sea. The port was conquered by Turkish (Ottoman) Sultan Selim I in 1517.
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2/8/2018 4:11:23 PM
<![CDATA[170 killed in 3 days - When will Ghouta's suffering end?]]>
The strikes killed over 30 civilians on February 5, according to the monitor groups. The civilian death toll in Eastern Ghouta increased drastically the next day to 80, around half of which were women and children, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Yesterday, February 7, an estimated 36 civilians were killed in air raids.

“This was the highest civilian toll in Syria in nearly nine months, and one of the bloodiest days for Eastern Ghouta in several years,” the head of the Britain-based monitoring group told AFP, in reference to February 6.

The bombardment pressed the United Nations to call for a ceasefire to “this extreme situation.”

Officials called for “an immediate cessation of hostilities lasting for at least one month throughout Syria to enable the delivery of humanitarian aid and services, evacuation of the critically sick and wounded, and alleviation of people’s suffering, to the extent possible, wherever they are.”

Syrian government warplanes have continued to conducted air strikes on Eastern Ghouta today, February 8, killing 21 people and injuring 125 more

Almost 400,000 residents of Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of the capital Damascus, have been caught in a regime siege since 2013. Many residents are in desperate need of medical care, but Russian-backed forces have targeted hospitals as a means to drive the population into desperation.

Photo_2
Regime attacks against Eastern Ghouta – AFP/Omar Kamal

Violence and suffering has shown no sign of relenting in Syria. Since the military victory against ISIS, Russian and Syrian government forces have focused once again on the original domestic threat. Consequently, there has been an escalation in military activity and violence in both Eastern Ghouta and Idlib in particular.

This increased sharply this week in response to the shooting down of a Russian jet, flying over Idlib, by rebels on February 4. The Russian pilot ejected and was subsequently killed. Videos on social media depicted a fire fight with rebels on the ground, until the pilot was killed by a grenade.

Because of the rebel’s stronghold in Eastern Ghouta is in close proximity to the capital, it is a key target for the Russian-backed Syrian government. The territory holds value for both groups. If the Syrian government is to recover Eastern Ghouta from rebel forces it would serve as a major knock to their moral, as such for the rebels to control territory close to the President’s residence is a symbolic show of strength.

The opposition has controlled much of Eastern Ghouta since 2012, and has been under an unrelenting siege since 2013. In 2013 thousands of people in the besieged rebel district of Damascus suffered a sarin gas attack, a chemical agent that targets the central nervous system. The death toll is unknown, and estimates range from at least 281 to 1,729.

Photo_3
A man is seen near the remains of a rocket in Douma, Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria January 22, 2018 – REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

All places with a high population density, including residential areas, schools, markets and hospitals have been targeted by Syrian-allied forces.

Monitor group, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), documented the killing of 369 civilians, in Eastern Ghouta from January 1, 2018, until February 7. The civilian death toll from the Russian and Syrian government siege included 63 children and 72 women.

“What is happening in Eastern Ghouta is not simply a humanitarian crisis because aid is denied, these sieges involve the international crimes of indiscriminate bombardment and deliberate starvation of the civilian population,” stated Mr. Pinheiro, Chairman of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.

The siege has created a dire humanitarian situation, in which access to food and vital medical supplies are very limited. According to the United Nations, almost 12 percent of children under five suffer from acute malnutrition in Eastern Ghouta; the highest rate recorded since the conflict began.

SNHR documented the death of 12 civilians from November 14, 2017 to February 1, 2018, due to starvation and lack of medication in Eastern Ghouta.

Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict. While Russia and the Syrian government claims that rebel groups – “terrorists” – are the focus of strikes, evidence showing the civilian cost of the war makes this impossible to believe.

Photo_4
Two-and-a-half year old Hala al-Nufi, who suffers from a metabolic disorder which is worsening due to the siege and food shortages in the eastern Ghouta, reacts as she sits on a bed in the Saqba area, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria, October 25, 2017 – REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

Eastern Ghouta was designated as one of several "de-escalation zones" by backers of the Syrian government – Russia and Iran – as well as Turkey who oppose the government. Yet evidently, it has not been implemented. With the three strongest factions in the war acting as custodian of the agreement, fighting was supposed to slow down in order to pave the way for negotiations.

Despite the “de-escalation” agreement, violence has intensified.

The increased in attacks has made a “mockery” of the “so-called ‘de-escalation zones’,” according to Mr. Pinheiro.

The deal which promised a pause in hostilities with the hope of a ceasefire agreement has simply been a Russian-led strategy to manage the war to its advantage. Since the agreement came into place the Syrian opposition has been severely weakened, and government forces have made major advances in winning territory. The conflict is far from over.

Twitter:

@joseph_colonna



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2/8/2018 2:23:50 PM
<![CDATA[Abbas outweighs multi-state mediator option in solving Palestinian issue]]>
After Trump’s decision on December 6 to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the latter as the official capital of Israel, the Palestinian administration described Trump’s administration as unfair and disqualified more than once. Additionally, it was announced that Palestine was considering involving several countries during the talks.

Over and above, in the U.S. has repeatedly stated their interest in remaining a key player in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Abbas and his administration replied aggressively, calling the U.S. proposal “nonsense” after Trump’s move, which has received an international backlash.

China and Russia were Abbas’ top choices to serve as mediators, according to Palestinian sources speaking to Al-Hayat, a London-based newspaper last December. Both of the Palestinian choices would not be considered as U.S. friends or allies but rather ‘rivals’ according to Trump himself.

During his first State of the Union speech in which he addressed congress on January 30, Trump said China and Russia are challenging the U.S. economy and interests. Talking about the challenges that his country is facing, he talked about the “rogue regimes, terrorist groups and rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy, and our values.”

Looking at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts that cannot be neglected in the Middle East, especially Syria, along with the unfriendly relations between Moscow and the U.S., Abbas’ choices won’t be much welcomed by Trump.

Speaking on February 1 to Republican lawmakers in West Virginia, U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said that “Russia is not, will not be our friend … and yes, Russia did meddle in our elections.”

“There may be some things we can work with them on, and we should do that where we can. But Russia will not be our friend as long as their government has the values it has,” Haley added.


Playing a vital rule in the Syrian Civil War since responding to President Bashar al-Assad’s call to interfere in the country in September 2015, Putin has been enhancing his influence in the region.

A Palestinian diplomat in Russia told the Russian Interfax news agency on Wednesday that Abbas and Putin will discuss a new proposed peace negotiation mechanism meant to sideline the United States when they meet on February 12 in the Black Sea beach resort of Sochi.

Expanding his list of choices, Abbas is intending to ask other countries and even organizations to become mediators with Israel. Those countries and entities are to include India, the European Union and some of the EU countries according to Majdi el-Khaldi, the diplomatic adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Khaldi said in statements to the Hindu newspaper on Wednesday that Abbas will ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi to mediate during his anticipated visit to Palestine on February 9. Modi is expected to start a Middle East tour that will include Palestine, the UAE and Oman.

“The U.S. can no longer be the only mediator,” he said, referring to the U.S.’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “We are asking the European Union and EU countries to mediate, and we are inviting India, which will be a strong leader in a multipolar world, to assist the process,” Khaldi added.

On January 29, a senior Palestinian official, and Abbas’ advisor for international and foreign relations, Nabil Shaath, met with the Japanese prime minster and other high-level officials. According to statements reported by Sputnik news agency, Shaath demanded Japanese officials to participate in the peace and negotiation process with Israel. “This move comes specifically in this time as a response for Trump’s decision over Jerusalem,” he said.

Russia, China, Japan, India and the European Union are the, yet unofficial, solution of the multi-state mediator considered by Abbas in order to resume the international negotiations with Israel in the near future. However, it is not yet clear if any of the states gave the Palestinian administration a green card to issue official statements, the U.S. undoubtedly did not.]]>
2/8/2018 1:49:16 PM
<![CDATA[One in five experience sexual harassment, says UK parliament report]]>
The report, published on Thursday, called for a new complaints procedure along with radical change of a culture that can deter some from challenging bosses and suggested forms of punishment for those found guilty of harassing their staff.

"This is a big day for parliament and our politics," said Andrea Leadsom, leader of the House of Commons lower house of parliament. "The new independent procedure will demonstrate that we want to be the best parliament in the world when it comes to treating everyone who works here with dignity and respect.

"This is a major step in bringing about the culture change that parliament needs."

Last year, parliament became one of several institutions to become embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal after abuse allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein prompted women and men to share stories about improper behaviour.

Two ministers lost their posts while others in both the governing Conservatives and opposition Labour Party were investigated over allegations of inappropriate behaviour, prompting calls for an end to a "locker room" culture.

The report said 39 percent of the 1,377 responses described experience of non-sexual harassment or bullying in the last year, while 19 percent reported "experience of sexual harassment, including witnessing sexually inappropriate behaviour". Women reported twice as much as men.
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2/8/2018 12:50:38 PM
<![CDATA[North Korea says no U.S. talks planned at Olympics as Pence lands in Seoul]]>
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who described North Korea as the world's most tyrannical regime, arrived in South Korea on Thursday ahead of the opening ceremony in the mountain resort of Pyeongchang, just 80 km (50 miles) from the heavily armed border with the reclusive North.

The ceremony will also be attended by a senior delegation of North Korean officials, including the younger sister of leader Kim Jong Un and the North's nominal head of state, Kim Yong Nam.

The sister, Kim Yo Jong, and her entourage will travel by private jet to Seoul's Incheon International Airport on Friday afternoon, North Korea informed the South.

That delegation will have lunch with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Saturday.

"We have never begged for dialogue with the U.S. nor in the future, too," the North's KCNA news agency reported, citing Jo Yong Sam, a director-general at North Korea's foreign ministry.

"Explicitly speaking, we have no intention to meet with the U.S. side during the stay in South Korea... Our delegation's visit to South Korea is only to take part in the Olympics and hail its successful holding."

The United States had not requested talks with North Korea, but Pence left open the possibility of some contact although his message for denuclearisation remained unchanged.

Pence has said Washington would soon unveil "the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever" while South Korea wants to use the Olympics to re-engage with the North.

Hinting at more engagement with Pyongyang, Seoul said it would be open to discussing resuming tours to North Korea's Mount Kumgang once the security of tourists was guaranteed and conditions relating to North Korea's nuclear programme were met.

South Korean tours to the resort were closed after a South Korean tourist was shot by a North Korean guard there in 2008.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters all sides, not just the two Koreas, needed to work hard and dialogue between the United States and North Korea should be expanded for this to happen, Wang said.

"You can't have it that one person opens the door and another closes it," he said.

North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The North defends its weapons programmes as necessary to counter U.S. aggression. The South hosts 28,500 U.S. troops, a legacy of the war.

MILITARY PARADE

North Korea marked the founding anniversary of its army with a large military parade in Pyongyang on Thursday, its state media showed on Thursday, having last month changed the date of the celebration to the eve of the Olympics.

Kim Jong Un, in a black hat and matching coat, saluted troops while his wife walked beside him, television footage showed. One of Kim's close aides, Choe Ryong Hae, and Kim Yong Nam were also in attendance.

The North's state media also showed what appeared to be intercontinental ballistic missiles on launchers as thousands of North Koreans filled Kim Il Sung Square, named after Kim Jong Un's grandfather, in Pyongyang.

"We have destroyed the enemy's risk-taking provocations at every move," Kim Jong Un said in a speech. He did not mention the United States, which North Korea considers its main enemy and regularly threatens to destroy in a sea of flames.

Analysts said the parade seemed smaller than those of previous years, although it was still focused on the North's goal of strengthening its nuclear missile capabilities.

Trump has ordered Pentagon and White House officials to begin planning a military parade in Washington similar to the Bastille Day parade he witnessed in Paris in July, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

Pence will meet Moon on Thursday. On Friday, before he attends the Olympic opening ceremony, Pence will visit a memorial for 46 South Korean sailors killed in 2010 in the sinking of a warship that Seoul blamed on a North Korean torpedo attack.

SEATING COMPLICATIONS

The 28-year-old sister of the North Korean leader will be the first member of the Kim family to cross the border into the South. Kim Yo Jong is a propaganda official and was blacklisted last year by the U.S. Treasury Department over alleged human rights abuses and censorship.

"By sending key figures like his sister, Kim Jong Un is aiming to send a signal to the South that it is giving more weight to inter-Korean ties while driving a wedge between South Korea and the United States," said Kim Sung-han, a former South Korean vice foreign minister.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will also attend the ceremony, adding to seating complications for the hosts.

South Korea has asked the United Nations for an exemption to allow a U.N.-sanctioned North Korean official, Choe Hwi, to attend the opening ceremony with Kim Yo Jong.

Pyongyang has yet to mention any change in their plans to send him, Seoul said.

The U.N. Security Council, which has slapped a series of sanctions on North Korea for its weapons programmes, imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on Choe last year when he was vice director of the Workers' Party of Korea Propaganda and Agitation Department.

A group of 280 North Koreans arrived in South Korea on Wednesday, including a 229-member cheer squad, taekwondo performers, journalists and the sports minister.
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2/8/2018 12:38:53 PM
<![CDATA[Maldives' embattled president sends envoys to China, Saudi for support]]>
Abdulla Yameen left out key regional power India, which, along with the United States, Britain and the United Nations, has condemned the imposition of emergency and the arrest of top judges whose ruling against Yameen touched off new instability.

The Maldives, best known for luxury tourist resorts, has become another arena of contest for India and China after it signed up to Beijing's Belt and Road initiative to build trade and transport links across Asia and beyond.

India, which has had longstanding political and security ties to the islands about 400 km (250 miles) away, has sought to push back against China's expanding presence in the country of 400,000 people, most of them Muslims. Since the crisis erupted, Maldivian opposition leaders have urged New Delhi to intervene.

Yameen sent his economic development minister, Mohamed Saeed, to China, the foreign minister, Mohamed Asim, to Pakistan and farming and fisheries minister Mohamed Shainee to Saudi Arabia, according to a posting on his website late on Wednesday.

"Members of the cabinet, on the direction of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, will visit friendly nations of the Maldives and provide updates on the current situation," it added.

The government wanted to send a special envoy to India as well, but the dates were not suitable for the Indian foreign ministry, said Ahmed Mohamed, the Maldives' ambassador to India.

The Maldives has been in crisis since last week, when the Supreme Court quashed convictions ranging from corruption to terrorism of nine opposition figures, including former president Mohamed Nasheed, its first democratically elected leader.

Tension came to a head when Yameen's government rejected the ruling, imposed the emergency for 15 days on Monday and then arrested the chief justice and another judge of the court.

Nasheed, in exile since he was allowed to go abroad for medical treatment in 2016, urged India to send an envoy "backed by the military" to the Maldives to free the detained judges and political prisoners.

India sent soldiers to foil a coup against the government in 1988, but has since refrained from getting directly involved in the country's unstable politics.

Experts say it is more likely to put diplomatic, and even economic, pressure on the Yameen government than send its military.

China has warned against outside powers meddling in the affairs of the tiny archipelago and on Thursday rejected Nasheed's criticism of its economic involvement.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China's aid to the Maldives had never carried political conditions.

"You also certainly can't talk about threatening the security of the Indian Ocean region," he said in response to an article by Nasheed in an Indian newspaper, slamming China for a "land grab" of the islands, and threatening regional security.

Cooperation between China and the Maldives is for all the people of the islands and accords with the interests of both countries and both peoples, Geng added.
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2/8/2018 12:18:22 PM
<![CDATA[UN hails Egypt’s efforts to eliminate female circumcision]]>
The United Nations is committed to continue working jointly with the Egyptian Government towards this objective. The UN stressed the importance of collectively eliminating such harmful practices and more broadly creating a safer environment for young women and girls in Egypt.

“The United Nations in Egypt recognizes the ongoing efforts of the Government, which has led to the reduction of FGM in the younger age groups (15-17 years) by more than 13 percent since 2008. Moreover, the adoption of a National FGM Strategy 2016-2020 and most importantly, the recent decision to amend and stiffen the law criminalizing FGM, were critical steps taken to address FGM”, the statement read.

The statement hailed Egypt’s efforts, noting, “it’s clear that it is possible for rates of FGM to drop significantly when joint efforts are exerted by different parties, including governments, international organizations, local communities and medical professionals to raise awareness about the negative consequences of FGM/C, and when the legislative response is to criminalize such harmful practices.”

Minister of Health Ahmed Emad presented six steps to eliminate this crime by 2030:

1. Criminalization of FGM in the Penal Code, punishable by severe imprisonment.

2. The Attorney General shall prepare a book to record these crimes as a reference in the investigation of female circumcision incidents.

3. The Minister of Health issued a circular book in October 2017, in which hospitals are required to inform the police when they receive female circumcision cases.

4. To require the Ministry of Health’s sectors to carry out training programs and educational programs on the law, covering the penalties and negative consequences of circumcision.

5. Implementation of the Supreme Council of Universities’ approval in 2017 to add an educational curriculum against the crime of female genital mutilation within the curriculum of obstetrics students in medical school programs.

6. Commitment of all ministries and agencies to integrate the curriculum against female genital mutilation within their training and service programs.


According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), “The Demographic and Health Survey in Egypt in 2000 showed that 97 percent of married women included in the survey had experienced female genital cutting (i.e. FGM).”

Over 94 percent of married women were exposed to genital cutting, and 69 percent of those women agreed to the procedure being carried out on their daughters. Additionally, a pilot study by the Health Insurance Organization showed that 41 percent of female students in primary, preparatory and secondary schools had undergone genital cutting.

Another study by the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population released in 2003 reported that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a widespread practice in Africa, the Middle East and regions known for heavily adhering to outdated traditions and customs. The practice consists of having the external part of female genitals cut as a method to curb sexual desire. The fact is that regions with the highest numbers of FGM are not only ignorant of the risks of FGM, they are also ignorant of sexual health, psychological health and more.


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2/8/2018 12:47:40 AM
<![CDATA[FM: No party can dispute legality of Egypt-Cyprus Maritime Demarcation ]]>
This came after Turkish Foreign Minister Mouloud Jawish Oglu said on Monday during an interview with the Greek newspaper Kathimerini that Turkey does not recognize the 2013 Maritime Demarcation Agreement to demarcate the maritime boarder between Egypt and Cyprus to benefit from natural resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In this regard, Egyptian Foreign Ministry replied that any attempt to harm Egypt’s sovereignty is rejected and will be addressed, and no party can dispute the legality of Maritime Demarcation Agreement between Egypt and Cyprus.

Jawish Oglu further explained during the interview that Turkey has set plans to look for oil and natural gas in the region, which would mean that Turkey violates the Maritime Demarcation Agreement between Egypt and Cyprus. However, he claims that the agreement does not have any validity.

He added that his country has submitted a request to reject the agreement, claiming that it violates the Turkish continental shelf, and no foreign country, party, company or ship can conduct illegal scientific research or excavate oil and natural gas in this region.

Signing maritime agreements with several countries has allowed Egypt to search and discover oil and gas wells in the Red and Mediterranean seas including the Zohr natrual gas field.

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File: Zohr Gas Field (Photo: ENI Official Website)

During the inauguration ceremony of the Zohr natural gas field on January 31, President Sisi talked about Egypt’s maritime borders and the importance of signing border agreements with other countries, including Cyprus and Saudi Arabia in April 2016, to search for oil and gas wells in the Red and Mediterranean seas.

“Maritime border delimitation has contributed in achieving Zohr field project,” said President al-Sisi.

The field that could put Egypt back on the map of net gas exporters was discovered by the Italian Energy giant Eni in August 2015 located in the Shorouk concession, approximately 190 km north of Port Said in an area of 100 square meters (39 sq mi) and at a depth of 1,450 meters (4,760 ft).

It contributes 40 percent of Egypt’s natural gas reserves. The Mediterranean’s largest field helped Eni achieve an all-time high production in December as the company announced in late December that it reached a production record of 1.92 million barrels of oil per day.

Apart from Zohr field, the East Mediterranean region is rich in natural gas, causing a dispute between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus as Turkey has refused to redraw the maritime borders of the region to accommodate the gas fields. In 2011, Turkey carried out naval maneuvers in the region to display its force.
In addition, a dispute is found between Israel and its Arab neighbors over the ownership of some gas fields in the region such as Tamar and Leviathan fields, which contain huge amounts of gas.

Egypt has also been involved in these maritime disputes as some Egyptian experts believe that part of some gas fields lie within the Egyptian maritime borders.

The dispute comes in addition to Egypt’s crisis with Turkey due to its intervene in Egyptian internal affairs after ousting President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (L), Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (R), and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades talk during a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus November 21, 2017. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

To avoid such conflicts in the Mediterranean region, Egypt has sought to hold negotiations with Cyprus and Greece over maritime borders, and to promote Egyptian relations with Cyprus and Greece as Turkey and Israel attempt to take control of gas wells in the Mediterranean.

Consequently, one of the bilateral agreements was signed between Egypt and Cyprus is 2003 Delimitation of Maritime Borders Agreement followed by the 2006 framework agreement.

Also, in 2012 a cooperation agreement between the two countries was signed to explore the search for gas in the Mediterranean on the Egyptian-Cypriot borders as the region is rich in the natural gas.

Several meetings have been held between Egypt, Cyprus and Greece and the most recent one is the fifth Egyptian-Greek-Cypriot tripartite summit which took place in November 2017. During the summit, several topics were tackled, including coordination between the three countries, as well as enhancing the relations in the political, economic, trade, security and tourism fields.

However, the Turkish Foreign Minister Jawish Oglu declared that the outcome of the tripartite meeting is not recognized by Turkey.

The first tripartite summit between Egypt, Greece and Cyprus was held for the first time in Cairo in 2014, and then in Nicosia in April 2015. The third summit was in Athens and the fourth was in Cairo in 2016. ]]>
2/7/2018 3:46:28 PM
<![CDATA[Maldives top court reverses ruling after judges' arrest]]>
President Abdulla Yameen attracted international censure for his refusal to comply with last week's shock Supreme Court order to release his jailed political opponents and to quash the conviction of Mohamed Nasheed.

Exiled opposition leader Nasheed has said he will run against Yameen in presidential elections due later this year, and the court's ruling had appeared to pave the way for his return to the honeymoon islands.

But late on Tuesday the remaining three judges reinstated his controversial 2015 terrorism conviction and reversed their earlier order to free eight other political prisoners.

A statement on Yameen?s website on Wednesday said his administration welcomed the court's U-turn, which the judges had said was made "in light of the concerns raised by the president".

The worsening political turmoil has led several countries to warn against travel to the country, which depends heavily on tourism, at the peak of the holiday season.

The 15-day state of emergency imposed earlier this week gives the government sweeping powers to arrest and detain individuals and curtails the powers of the judiciary and the legislature.

Maldives Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and another judge were arrested at dawn Tuesday after security forces stormed the court complex in the capital Male.

In a televised address to the nation hours later, Yameen said the judges were part of a plot to overthrow him.

"I had to declare a national emergency because there was no other way to investigate these judges," he said.

"We had to find out how thick the plot or coup was."

- Escalating crackdown -

Yameen has had almost all the political opposition jailed since he came to power, in an escalating crackdown on dissent.

This week he ordered the arrest of his estranged half-brother, former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who last year sided with the opposition.

The 80-year-old Gayoom -- president for 30 years until the country's first democratic elections in 2008 -- was taken from his home in the capital Male around midnight on Monday, hours after the emergency was declared.

Nasheed has appealed to regional superpower India to send troops to the strategically located archipelago, which has grown increasingly close to regional rival China under Yameen's leadership.

"President Yameen has illegally declared martial law and overrun the state. We must remove him from power," said Nasheed, the first democratically elected leader of the Maldives, in a statement Tuesday.

"We would like the Indian government to send an envoy, backed by its military, to free the judges and the political detainees."

In a statement, India said it was "disturbed" by the president's latest moves and was monitoring the situation closely, but did not directly address Nasheed's request.

London-based Amnesty International called for the immediate release of the detained judges, warning that the "eyes of the world" were on the worsening crisis in the troubled archipelago.

The United States said earlier it was "troubled and disappointed" at the declaration of a state of emergency and called on Yameen to comply with the rule of law.]]>
2/7/2018 12:01:02 PM
<![CDATA[Compulsory voting laws in different countries]]>
Presidential elections are deemed one of the key constitutional rights granted to all citizens; therefore, laws criminalize calls for election boycotts.

Compulsory voting laws require eligible citizens to vote in national and local elections. In some countries, penalties are imposed on citizens who did not cast their votes without a justified reason. Compulsory voting laws exist in 22 countries worldwide, while 11 countries enforce a compulsory voting law.

In some countries, violating the compulsory voting law may result in fining abstaining voters or depriving them of public sector jobs. Defenders of these laws believe that enforcing citizens to take part in political life by setting penalties for their reluctance to participate will enrich politics and decrease the possibility of rigged elections.

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An Egyptian woman holds a ballot card at a polling station ahead of voting in the Egyptian parliamentary elections in the Giza district of the capital Cairo, on Sunday. Photo - AFP

Seventeen countries have a compulsory voting law listed in their penal codes, but they do not enforce it on the voters who fail to cast a vote on election day. Lebanon and Egypt are among these countries which do not enforce the law, despite having it.

Lebanon

All men above the age of 21 must vote in the elections. For women, they are authorized to cast their vote, but they have a legal right not to vote. Lebanese military personnel are ruled out of the voting system.

Egypt

Under Egyptian law, those who abstain from casting their votes in the presidential election are fined up to LE 500 ($28) and sentenced to prison for up to five years.

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Article 43 photo

Meanwhile, 10 countries enforce compulsory voting: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Ecuador, Luxembourg, North Korea, Peru, Singapore and Uruguay. Egypt Today highlights examples of penalties in two of these countries.

Belgium

The law was introduced in 1894, as citizens from the age of 18 to 70 are required to present themselves in their designated polling station on election day; otherwise, they will face a moderate fine. If they fail to vote in at least four elections without stating a justified reason for their absence, they may be deprived of casting a vote for ten years. They may also face difficulty in obtaining a job in the public sector, according to a July 2005 report from the Guardian.

Australia

In 2010, the Tasmanian election had a turnout of 335,353 voters. About 6,000 people were fined with $26, although more than 20,000 Tasmanians did not cast a vote. Most of the absent voters had a valid excuse, according to the local authorities.

South_Florida_voters_registrar_at_an_early_voting_polling_centre_in_Miami._Picture-_AFP
South Florida voters’ registrar at an early voting polling centre in Miami. Picture- AFP
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2/7/2018 10:46:52 AM
<![CDATA[Sisi’s election campaign intensifies activities nationwide]]>
The Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) organized a rally on Tuesday presented by several labor and political leaders to discuss Sisi’s achievements since he took office in June 2014. A detailed documentary was presented during the conference.

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The Egyptian Trade Union Federation rally to support President Abdel Fatah al Sisi on Tuesday, Feb. 6 -Photo by Mahoumd Fakhry


Most of those attending the rally chanted slogans showing their support for Sisi, saying, “We love you, Sisi” and raising pictures of the president.

“Alashan Tbneeha” (To Build It), a public campaign calling for President Sisi to run for a second term as the head of state, held its first conference in September 2017, three months before Sisi’s official announcement to run for president.

During its third press conference in December, it announced the total number of signatures and petitions collected to support Sisi. “The campaign collected 12,132,460 valid signatures, while a total of 239,361 signed forms were null and void,” announced one of the campaign’s founders, Mohamed al-Garhy.

“The campaign’s goal is to secure and protect our homeland, so it demands that Sisi runs in the upcoming presidential elections for a second term,” read the first press statement released by the “To Build It” campaign.

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The Egyptian Trade Union Federation rally to support President Abdel Fatah al Sisi on Tuesday, Feb. 6 -Photo by Mahoumd Fakhry


On Monday, January 26, Sisi's official campaign held its first press conference to explain the electoral platform. They announced that more than 900,000 Egyptians signed endorsement forms for incumbent Sisi to run for a second term as Egypt's president.

Several issues were tackled by the campaign's spokesperson, Mohamed Bahaa el-Din Abu Shoka, during his speech on January 29, including the number of the endorsement forms collected, the campaign's criteria and rules for its members and volunteers, their final configuration, Sisi's electoral program, and their preparations should Sisi be the only candidate during the elections.

"There is no place in the world where you can blame a candidate for the lack of competition. Every president in the world, not just Egypt, has the right according to the law to run for a second term and complete his vision for the country; there is nothing wrong or illegal about that," Abu Shoka said.

He added that it is the other political parties' fault that they cannot compete during the election. "We hoped to have real competition; however, until now, we have only one official competitor: Chairperson of El Ghad Party Moussa Mostafa Moussa," Abu Shoka added, explaining that even if Sisi were the only candidate, the election would continue as it is, in accordance with Article 36 of the law.

"We witnessed a lot of pre-emptive attacks on the presidential election before, including the 2014 presidential election; however, the final results prove every time that our procedures are always transparent and fair for all parties," Sisi's campaign spokesperson said in his speech. He added that one of the campaign's main principles is to "respect the competitors," regardless of who they are.

Abu Shoka also spoke about the campaigns' members and board, affirming that the final formation of committees is not complete. He said that it is set to soon be announced in an official statement.

"On January 24, I headed to the National Election Authority (NEA) with all the needed documents and about 173,000 citizens' endorsement forms, as well as 549 MPs' petitions for Sisi, asking for Sisi’s recognition as an official candidate for the upcoming presidential election. Until now, he is not an official candidate, but he will be as soon as the NEA issues its final list of official candidates,” Abu Shoka stated in the conference.

On January 19, President Sisi announced his candidacy for a second term in the 2018 presidential election, which is scheduled to be held from March 26 until March 28 for Egyptians residing in Egypt.

The announcement came during Sisi’s closing speech at the end of the three-day “Tale of a Homeland” conference, where the president and the Egyptian government presented an overview of projects and achievements in different fields during the last four years.

Sisi also expressed his intention to run for president on his official Twitter account, calling on the Egyptian people to participate intensively in the upcoming election by voting for whomever they see most eligible. Sisi won nearly by 97 percent of votes in the 2014 presidential election. According to Abu Shoka, Sisi received a total of 915,000 endorsement forms from citizens.


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2/7/2018 12:29:01 AM
<![CDATA[Several messages sent by Sisi’s visit to UAE, Emirati intelligentsia]]>
The Emirati economist Jasem Abdullah told Egypt Today that the Egyptian-Emirati relations should be used to enhance trade and economic cooperation between both States, given the fact that the latest Sisi’s reforms had a positive impact on the Egyptian economy.

Abdullah suggested that a monthly meeting should be held between Emirati officials and businessmen and their Egyptian counterparts to expand the opportunities of investment, taking advantage of the current recovery in the Egyptian economy.

The ongoing stability enshrouding the Egyptian economy exists thanks to the government’s unprecedented efforts under Sisi’s Presidency, and the Egyptians’ perseverance to pass the national predicament following January 25 revolution, said Abdullah.

The Emirati economist said he expects an influx of businessmen seeking to invest in Egypt soon, adding that more joint ports and trade zones should exist in order to tie Egyptian economy to its replica in UAE.

Egyptian President’s visit to the UAE is a gesture of enormous significance, comes to assert the longstanding relations between Egypt and the United Arab of Emirates, said the Emirati Political Science Professor Ali El Kasem to Egypt Today.

El Kasem added that the visit increases the Arabs’ coordination in the face of the growing Iranian threat, noting that Iran is excessively intervening in the Arab States’ internal affairs, in a way that harms the them States stability.

Sisi’s visit sends a strong message to Iran, on the top of it Arab’s strong stand against Iranian ambitions in the region, added El Kasem.

The Egyptian- Emirati meetings dealt with several ongoing incidents such as, American President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem city as an Israeli capital and terrorism endemic to the Middle East, said El Kasem to Egypttoday.

El Kasem called for an urgent solution for crises in Yemen, Libya and Syria, describing Egyptian role in the region as “vital” to regain stability and peace.
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2/7/2018 12:18:43 AM
<![CDATA[Awqaf Min. warns of using mosques for electoral propaganda]]>
In this regard, the Awqaf Ministry issued several instructions to urge their clergymen to call on citizens to participate in the election, and at the same time to refrain from partaking in electoral propaganda in mosques, stressing that there is a difference between calling for participation and influencing or directing voters.

Minister of Awqaf Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa said that positive participation in the democratic process is the legitimate and national aspiration, and every person should be honest in giving their votes to those who are able to bear the responsibility and achieve national interests.

He clearly outlined that mosques will not be used again for the interests of a specific person or parties, or for electoral propaganda, as mosques should call for only God and should be away from politicization; although, they should have a leadership role in the legitimate national and public interests.

Undersecretary of the Ministry of Awqaf Sheikh Jaber Tayeh further remarked that clergymen should raise awareness of citizens to participate in the election without supporting a specific candidate.

On the other hand, the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches in Egypt affirm their neutrality in the upcoming presidential election, said Andrea Zaki, head of the Evangelical community, on February 4.

Zaki pointed out that Pope Tawadros instructed churches to refrain from partaking in propaganda or hosting seminars, while stressing the need to participate in the electoral process.

He clarified that voting is free for every Egyptian citizen registered in the voters’ lists, including the clergy, provided that his office is not used to direct voters to one of the candidates.

On January 31, the National Election Authority (NEA) said that President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and Head of Ghad Party Moussa Moustafa Moussa have applied to run in the 2018 presidential election.

Voting in the 2018 presidential election in Egypt will commence on March 26, as announced by the NEA on January 8. Sixty million eligible voters will cast their ballots in the election between March 26 and 28 in Egypt, while expatriates will vote between March 16 and 18.
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2/6/2018 4:52:17 PM
<![CDATA[Retelling Egyptian women's pain on Int'l Day for Zero Tolerance of FGM]]>
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a widespread practice in Africa, the Middle East, and regions known for heavily adhering to outdated traditions and customs. The practice consists of having the external part of female genitals cut, as a method of curbing sexual desire and ensuring that girls do not engage in intercourse before marriage – or that they do not enjoy it after for that matter. The fact is that regions with the highest numbers of FGM are not only ignorant of the risks of FGM, they are also ignorant of sexual health, psychological health, and so much more.

According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), “The Demographic and Health Survey in Egypt in 2000 showed that 97 percent of married women included in the survey had experienced female genital cutting (i.e. FGM). Another study by the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population in 2003 reported that over 94 percent of married women had been exposed to genital cutting and 69 percent of those women agreed to the procedure being carried out on their daughters. Further, a pilot study by the Health Insurance Organization showed that 41 percent of female students in primary, preparatory and secondary schools had undergone genital cutting.”

Of the risks that FGM breeds according to the WHO are the following: “severe bleeding, problems urinating, later cysts, infections, childbirth complications, and an increased risk of newborn deaths.”



Why FGM is practiced

The WHO conducted a study in Upper Egypt in 2010 and released a Social Science Policy Brief titled, “Men’s and women’s perceptions of the relationship between female genital mutilation and women’s sexuality in three communities in Egypt”, with the results. The study aimed to look into the relationship between men and women in rural areas and how they perceived FGM.

“Support for FGM was deeply rooted in people’s mind, and the major motivation was a belief that FGM was a necessary and effective way of ensuring women’s virtue. It was believed that women’s sexual desire resided in the clitoris, and that by cutting it, women’s sexual desire would decrease. This was believed to be a necessary and useful measure to ensure premarital virginity and marital faithfulness. Exposure to pornographic films, particularly popular among the young men, further strengthened the belief that lack of FGM leads women to promiscuous and excessive sexuality,” the report’s findings concluded.

It is a high price to pay for claimed decency. It is an especially high price when their primary reason for FGM is combatted from another end as well: child marriage. In attempting to curb probabilities of premarital sex, those living in rural areas tend to marry off their girls by 15 sometimes. According to Girls Not Brides, the statistics of girls in 2016 who are married off by 15 is 2 percent, while 17 percent are married off by 18. Such measures carry devastating effects that not even those assaulted perceive – and if they do, there isn’t much they can do about it.
It seems therefore, that the practice is a bit null and void, especially since many who have undergone FGM are married off before they are even educated about sex and their own organs.

Psychological impact of FGM:

At the forefront of FGM’s psychological impact comes a state of psychological morbidity, which happens when an individual becomes aware of their condition and lack of well-being. Of the long term psychological effects that ensure the practice comes distrust and a lack of faith in caregivers and the family members who allowed it.

Women who have undergone FGM are also reported to suffer from depression, chronic anxiety, post-traumatic shock, feelings of incompleteness and an inability to relate to their husbands, according to the WHO’s “A handbook for frontline workers”.

How does FGM affect relationships and marriage?

In terms of sexual relations and how FGM impacts that aspect of marriage, the WHO’s Social Sciences Policy Brief concluded the following as well:

“While FGM was believed to reduce sexual desire, it was not believed to have a negative effect on women’s sexual pleasure, neither on marital happiness. Sexual desire in women was not seen as important, as sexual desire and initiating sexual relations was considered a “man’s job”. Also, both men and women used male sexual satisfaction and pleasure as the major criteria for judging to what extent marital sexual life was satisfactory for both partners.”

However, these communities do not account for the fact that reduced pleasure in women and feeling pain during this kind of intimacy leads to a lack of overall intimacy between husband and wife. Such matters are known to easily lead men to betray their wives, which has become all too common in Egypt; justified by the fact that “such is a man’s nature” or that “men can never be satisfied with one woman.” In reality, FGM plays a huge role in this matter.

Aside from a range of sexual dysfunction that follow FGM, such as women becoming anorgasmic, or experiencing reduced pleasure, FGM can also result in infertility in some cases, according to an article titled “Female genital mutilation: cultural and psychological implications”.

“The psychosocial consequences of infertility in communities where childbirth and child rearing play a major role for women should not be underestimated. In some societies the failure to produce children is blamed on women, and may even be attributed to a curse (Charlotte Metcalf: personal communication). This can result in the woman being rejected by her husband and even by her extended family, resulting in further social isolation,” the article states.

Timeline of Egyptian state’s measures against FGM and violence against Females:

According to the Library of Congress, On August 31, 2016, the Egyptian People’s Assembly approved the amendment of article 242 (bis) of the Penal Code. Article 242 (bis) criminalizes the act of female genital mutilation (FGM).

The law has now been modified to criminalize performing FGM on females, and the penalty for anyone who does varies between 5 to 7 years of imprisonment. The law now also entails that whoever presents the female to have FGM performed on her is to be imprisoned for no less than one year and no more than three years.

At that point in time, the health minister had said that the FGM rate in Egypt was 91 percent, according Ahram Online.

The first law passed to officially criminalize FGM was in 2008. However, the law was said to require imposing stricter penalties, which was indeed implemented in 2016. Even though the laws are in place and are continuously worked on, they are still not enough to tackle the 91-percent rate recorded in 2016. These are the most recent statistics on FGM in Egypt. FGM as a culture and tradition is deeply entrenched in the minds of the uneducated, which represent the majority of the Egyptian population. ]]>
2/6/2018 3:53:57 PM
<![CDATA[Interview with Ambassador Ghonem about Sisi’s visit to Oman]]>
In an interview to Egypt Today, Ghonem affirmed that Sisi and Sultan Qaboos discussed several crucial issues affiliated to both countries interests. “This is the first official visit by an Egyptian high-level official to Muscat after the revolution of January 25. It reflects a clear message regarding the deep and strong relations between the two counties,” Ghonem said.


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president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi with Sultan of Oman Qaboos bin Said al-Said at Muscat, February 4, 2018 - Press Photo


He affirmed that the coming period is going to witness a huge development between the two country’s economic cooperation. “Oman was one of the first countries that supported Egypt’s economy. They gave us about $500 million during Egypt Economic Development Conference (EEDC) back in April 2015,” Ghonem added.

Sisi and Qaboos talks addressed the implementation of real measures to ease the current obstacles which Omani investors face in Cairo. Both leaders agreed that Egypt is moving towards substantial economic reforms as a result of Sisi’s firm direction and new law regulations issued recently.

Sisi met with 40 Omani businessmen during his last day of the visit, Wednesday January 6. According to Ghonem, important companies of different fields asked to attend the meeting to know about investment opportunities in Egypt. The ambassador said that economic and investment agreements had been signed between Egypt and Oman.

Both countries are also planning to organize an economic conference for the Omani businessmen who are interested in investing in Egypt. According to Ghonem, between 59,000 and 60,000 Egyptians are working in Oman in different specializations.

“There is no doubt that Egypt is now extremely different than what it was before. We have infrastructure, development projects, national projects and the new administrative capital. All these ideas and projects will lead us to a strong and economically-independent state,” Ghonem affirmed.



Sisi’s visits Muscat for the first time since taking office in June 2014, upon an invitation from Sultan Qaboos. During a summit between Sisi and the Omani Sultan on Sunday, both leaders praised the two countries’ deep relations and history.

The Sultan also valued Egypt’s role in enhancing Gulf’s stability and security, confirming the long depth of Egyptian-Omani relations of cooperation and friendship, according to an official statement issued by presidential Spokesperson Bassam Rady.

Sisi expressed Egypt’s appreciation for the Sultanate’s stances led by Sultan Qaboos, affirming that he is looking forward to enhance the bilateral relations as well.

Talks between the two leaders addressed economic cooperation and trade deals through a mutual committee, which will hold a meeting in Muscat soon. It also tackled the recent issues in the region, and Sultan Qaboos stated his vision on solving the Yemeni crisis in a way that can ease the suffering of Yemeni people. The two leaders also discussed other regional issues in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

Upon his arrival at Muscat’s Al-Alam royal palace on Sunday, Sisi was warmly welcomed by Sultan Qaboos.


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On arrival at Muscat’s Al-Alam royal palace, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi was warmly welcomed by the Sultan of Oman Qaboos bin Said al-Said.


The national television channel for the Sultanate of Oman, broadcasted the great official welcome ceremony of President Sisi that took place at Muscat International Airport at the beginning of his three-day visit to Oman.

The relations between Egypt and Oman have been stable for decades.

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President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi during his visit to Oman on February 5, 2018- Press Photo


Omani and Gulf newspapers highlighted the visit, describing it as ‘historic’. State-owned Omani newspapers tackled the bilateral interests of both countries and the anticipated outcomes to follow this visit.

The hashtag of Oman greeting Egypt #عمان_ترحب_بمصر_الكنانه spread widely on social platforms in Oman, in accordance with the ‘historic visit’ of Egypt’s Sisi to Muscat. Omanis expressed their pleasure with the Egyptian president’s visit.

Kuwaiti newspapers on Monday highlighted the historic visit that President Sisi paid to Oman and important issues tackled by Egyptian and Omani leaders.

“Oman receives Sisi: Egypt is the Arab Nation’s Podium,” was the frontpage’s headline of Al-Nahar newspaper, which focused on the fruitful outcomes resulting from mutual cooperation between Cairo and Muscat.

Omani Minister of Foreign Affairs Youssef bin Owli stressed that the upcoming Arab summit due to be held in Saudi Arabia will strengthen the Arab solidarity, adding, “Egypt is the backbone of the Arab nation and the podium which embraces all Arabs.”

Al-Anbaa newspaper described Sisi’s trip to Oman as a ‘historic’ visit, in which Sisi and Qaboos discussed ways to boost bilateral cooperation in several fields and exchange views over recent developments in the Arab region.

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2/6/2018 3:12:03 PM
<![CDATA[National Election Authority monitors donations to candidates ]]>
In this regard, Fawzi added that according to the presidential election law, the candidate shall inform NEA with the amounts deposited in his accounts and their sources, and he shall notify the authority of all expenses paid from his accounts.

He remarked that he shall not spend on the electoral campaign from any source outside the campaign bank account. The authority will have the responsibility to distribute what remains of the funds in the account among its contributors in proportion to their contributions.

He also said that the law prohibits receiving any cash, donations or financial support from any juridical Egyptian or foreign person, foreign country or entity, international organization or any entity whose capital is contributed by foreign person.

Article 25 states that presidential election law should submit the authority, within 15 days from the date of announcement of the election’s results, a statement indicating the total amount of funds received along with their sources and amounts spent on the electoral campaign.

Every candidate should appoint his delegate to do all duties and procedure requirements necessary to implement the provisions of the law including all the financial affairs by means of a power of attorney certified by registration office of the real estate, and provide NEA with the official copy of the power of attorney.

Furthermore, Article 26 stipulates that Central Auditing Organization shall audit presidential election’s accounts of the candidates to submit NEA a report on the outcomes of its findings to NEA.

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and head of Ghad Party Moussa Moustafa Moussa have applied to run in the presidential election, the National Election Authority said on Wednesday.

The news was published in the official newspaper, which pointed out that Sisi received recommendations of 549 MPs and support letters from 161,707 people.

Voting in the 2018 presidential election in Egypt will commence on March 26, as announced by the NEA on January 8. Sixty million eligible voters will cast their ballots in the election between March 26 and 28 in Egypt, while expatriates will vote between March 16 and 18.
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2/6/2018 2:33:52 PM
<![CDATA[Tweets of Sisi's presidential opponent 'bizarre' ahead of platform release]]>
Presidential candidate Moussa Mostafa Moussa has revealed that his official campaign will be formed soon, in addition to the campaign’s bylaw that will regulate tasks and responsibilities of each campaign member.

“The official campaign’s structure will be announced before February 24, along with the electoral platform and several proposals to many existed problems,” Moussa told Egypt Today.

Moussa stressed that he will urge the citizens to take part in the presidential election, adding, “the boycott calls are valueless and they won’t affect the Egyptian people who are fully aware of the public interest.”



Bizarre statements

Social media users have made fun of Moussa for his controversial and bizarre social media posts and statements. Egypt Today spots light on these bizarre tweets and statements.

Moussa created his official twitter account on January 28, one day before the official closure of submitting candidacy for the presidential election to the National Election Authority (NEA).

moussa twitter
Few hours after submitting his candidacy request to the NEA on January 29, Moussa tweeted that the wage’s minimum rate for each young man should not be less than “LE 10,000 and the state mechanisms must be fully exploited to solve the country’s economic problems within six months.”

Moussa gave different statements over the minimum wage that young employees deserve. As mentioned above, his first related remark was about LE. 10,000.


moussa 10.000 salary


Few hours later, he defended the youth’s right to live a better life and said young employees must not receive less than LE 18,000 per month in his interview with Egypt Today.

In the same day, Moussa said in an interview on Sada el-Balad channel that each young employee’s salary should not be less than LE 23,000.

One day later, Moussa retreated from all these salary-related statements during his interview on DMC channel with anchorwoman Eman el-Hosary.

moussa retreat


During his first official speech as a presidential candidate, Moussa stressed that he won’t allow reaching any reconciliation with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group.

“My stance over the Muslim Brotherhood is the same as that of all Egyptians. No compromises, no retreat, no tolerance,” Moussa stipulated, asserting that his program is based on the inclusion of all social segments whose cooperation and solidarity is a must in the current intricate phase Egypt is going through.

Moussa's statement on the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood refers to most of Egyptians' rejection of any reconciliation or pardoning of its leaders and members for its terrorist acts against civilians and security forces.


Brotherhood tweet

One day later, Moussa tweeted that he “is willing to withdraw from the presidential election if one million votes go for this choice in the poll” that he has proposed on his official website.

moussa election poll

Moussa follows a “fake account” attributed to President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi which is not verified and followed only by less than 100 twitter users. Following Sisi’s “fake twitter account” does not give a positive impression according to experts.

moussa sisi twitter fake

On February 1, Moussa used #هنفوضك_تاني_ياسيسي hashtag which is used by Sisi’s supporters to express their willing to vote for another four-year term for Sisi as Egypt’s President. Observers believed this behavior should not be made by rivals.


moussa -sisi tany

In a not surprising tweet, Moussa asked his twitter followers to participate in a poll. The poll asks “to whom shall you vote in the presidential election?” The surprise was the arrangement of the candidates written by Moussa, who is one of the two official presidential candidates.

The poll gives three options to choose from. The first one is “Abdel Fatah al-Sisi”, while the second is “Moussa Mostafa Moussa.” Logically, Moussa should have written his name first, not Sisi’s name as a first choice,” experts said on social platforms.


moussa poll

On February 2, Moussa made a fatal mistake as he misspelled the name of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi in Arabic.

Moussa -sisi misspelling
Lawyer Tarek al-Awady told Egypt Today that Moussa may not be running in the presidential election because he does not meet the education eligibility standards. Mousa affirmed many times that he holds an MA in architecture from a French university and it has been already certified by the Foreign Ministry.

The Supreme Administrative will issue its final decision in this regard within a few days according to al-Awady.

As an insistence on being a controversial person, Moussa’s first official electoral song is stolen from the famous 90's era operetta of Hosni Mubarak “Ekhtarnah” (We Chose Him).

moussa song


300 headquarters nationwide

“Legal procedures needed to regulate the electoral campaigning period are completely respected by all the members of the campaign,” said Ghad Party’s Deputy Chief Hussein Abu Saddam.

Hussein manifested to Egypt Today that Ghad Party will hold 10 conferences during the campaigning period with the participation of Arab tribes’ members and partisan figures across the country.

“Moussa is a real candidate engaging into a fierce competition in the presidential election,” stressed Moussa campaign’s coordinator Mahmoud Moussa.

Mahmoud pointed out that the Ghad Party will uncover the platform and practical steps within days. “Ghad Party’s 25 headquarters across the country deem as Moussa campaign’s headquarters, in addition to other small headquarters in villages and small towns,” Mahmoud told to Egypt Today.

“The Egyptian Council for Arab Tribes’ 300 headquarters welcome to be the headquarters of the electoral campaign of Moussa,” Mahmoud said.

Mahmoud disclosed that unidentified persons have created pages and accounts on social platforms on behalf of Moussa. “Ghad Party will sue those people.”

Moussa’s program is aligned with the social capitalism ideology which he seeks to promote among youth, he said. He clarified that he would cooperate with “respectful” qualified parliament members to develop and accomplish different plans.

0 (13)
Moussa Mostafa Moussa among his supporters after submitting his candidacy request to the National Election Authority on January 29, 2018- Egypt Today

In an interview with DMC channel, Moussa revealed that he is a fan of Al-Ahly Sporting Club and his favorite football player is Mahmoud el-Khateeb, the incumbent president of Al-Ahly SC.

“President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi enjoys a sweeping popularity so many don’t accept the idea of being a rival to Sisi,” Moussa said. He indicated that he speaks three languages; Arabic, English and French.

Moussa’s presidential campaign announced earlier that the Farmers Syndicate and the Arab Tribes Council have voiced their support to Moussa in the presidential race.

One hour before the deadline of submitting the candidacy application to the National Election Authority (NEA) on January 29, Moussa’s lawyer submitted his application to stand for the presidential election scheduled to be held by the end of March.

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and Chairperson of El-Ghad Party Moussa Mostafa Moussa are the only announced potential candidates for the presidential election which is due in March.

“After the withdrawal of other candidates, we questioned how the situation would be. We are working on behalf of Egypt and not on behalf of anyone else. I fully realize the problems of Egyptians, and we have out-of-the-box solutions that we are going to present as proposed programs,” Moussa stated in a press conference on January 29.




Moussa, Chairperson of al-Ghad Party, received endorsements from 20 Members of Parliament- the majority of them represent Monufia Governorate- required to run in the election.

Moussa’s bid came a few days after President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi submitted his candidacy papers to the NEA to run for a second term.

Voting in the 2018 presidential election in Egypt will commence on March 26, as announced by the NEA on January 8. Sixty million eligible voters will cast their ballots in the election between March 26 and 28 in Egypt, while Egyptians living abroad will vote between March 16 and 18.

Sixty million eligible voters will cast their ballots in the election between March 26 and 28 in Egypt, while Egyptians living abroad will vote between March 16 and 18.
]]>
2/6/2018 1:59:50 PM
<![CDATA[Analysis - Turkey’s test of NATO’s resilience]]>
Turkey’s ongoing operation in northern Syria – Operation Olive Branch – was launched on January 20, and seeks to reverse this threat. It should not come as a surprise that Turkey has launched a full-scale military operation into Afrin, and is looking eastward. For decades, Turkey has voiced and displayed its opposition to Kurdish nationalism, and Operation Euphrates Shield was directed to enforce just that.

Turkish officials have also issued threats to U.S. soldiers. As the Turkish operation continues to push towards Manbij, and will likely cross the Euphrates River, troops from either side will be in very close proximity.

As a matter of national and military pride, it is unlikely Turkey will retreat. Unless Ankara puts its faith in the international community to mediate Kurdish ambitions in Turkey’s favor, a far-fetched notion, the conclusion is blurred.

For the US, the mud in Syria is getting deeper. At a critical time in the civil war, the YPG filled a security void. The US-led coalition put its full weight behind the YPG as the dominate group to counter ISIS. Now that the conventional war against ISIS is largely over, the U.S. did not hesitate in abandoning its Kurdish allies.

While Turkey’s brutal campaign in Afrin is fitting with its anti-Kurdish discourse, it does little to soften claims that Turkey has supported ISIS in Syria. Turkey’s permeable border with Syria has allowed ISIS fighters to cross with relative ease, and Turkey has allegedly been a major recipient of oil from the militant group.

Photo_2 (1)
Fighters Islamic State group at the Syrian town of Tel Abyad, near the border with Turkey Jan. 2, 2014 – REUTERS

“We see from the sky where these vehicles [carrying oil] are going,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told AFP in 2015. “They are going to Turkey day and night.” It is possible that Turkey is not the final port and that criminal networks redistribute the oil, much like the Durand Line the Turkish-Syrian border allows the transfer of illicit groups and goods.

NATO is a crucial backer of the global coalition to defeat ISIS. Turkey stands at loggerheads with the rest of NATO as a result of its actions.

The longevity of Turkey’s membership in NATO has been called into question once again. Aside from the counter-productive nature of Turkey’s operations in Syria, it is adopting a foreign policy in stark contrast to that of the rest of NATO.

On the world stage, the Ankara-Moscow-Tehran triad have become the main power brokers in the Syrian civil war. The U.S. and NATO have been unable to establish a solid foundation, and have found themselves increasingly on the sidelines. Ankara and Sochi have arguably held the most fruitful negotiations, much to this dismay of the US-led alliance.

The triad have longstanding economic relationships respectively, predominantly in the energy sector. Recently, in February 2017, Putin ratified a deal to build the 1,100 km Turkish stream pipeline, which would transport Russian gas across the Black Sea into Turkey and southern Europe. There have also been talks about constructing a second pipeline running from Iran to Turkey.

Warming relations with Russia have been reinforced by Turkey’s payment, as announced by President Reçep Tayyip Erdoğan, for Russia’s S-400 missile system. While NATO members are not prohibited from purchasing military hardware outside of the alliance, NATO discourages members from operating equipment incompatible with that used by other members. No other NATO members use the S-400 system.

Photo_3
S-400 batteries deployed in Syria – AFP/Russian Defense Ministry

“Erdoğan’s decision to purchase a surface-to-air missile system from Russia is a huge blow in the face of NATO allies,”

said

Federiga Bindi.

Although NATO is a defensive mechanism first and foremost, it is “founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law,” and holds a substantial symbolic weight. Turkey, where egregious violations of freedom are commonplace, has fallen short of upholding this symbolic weight.

Under Erdoğan’s growing authoritarian leadership, freedom of speech in all its forms is under a tight leash in what is a mockery to the founding principles of NATO. The Reporters Without Borders’ 2017 World Press Freedom Index ranks Turkey 155 out of 180 countries.

“NATO also has a requirement with respect to democracy,” the Former United States Secretary of State said to journalists in 2016, in a reminder to Turkey that its NATO membership carries democratic obligations. However, Kerry’s words fall on deaf ears in Turkey.

Nevertheless, as strong as the moral argument against Turkey’s membership of NATO may be, its membership is unlikely to end.

Put simply, Turkey is strategically located in a perfect place for the alliance, a metaphorical stones-throw from Russia and the Middle East and located in the centre of the world, and its army is the second largest in NATO. If Article 5 is invoked for a second time, Turkey would likely provide an essential NATO base.

NATO is troubled by Erdoğan, not Turkey. NATO and the U.S. have invested a great deal in Turkey, and to oust it from the alliance simple because of the policies of an elected official is counter-productive. For the alliance, it is easier to remove Erdoğan.

Paranoia runs high in Turkey, and stories conspiracy of U.S. and NATO conspiracies run rampant.

Photo_4
People stand on a Turkish army tank at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul – REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir

“Turkey has been subjected to coups since it joined NATO. NATO has always been in charge of the dirty and bloody deeds in the country,”

said

Şamil Tayyar, deputy for the Justice and Development Party, in an interview with pro-government daily Milat.

“NATO has become a threat and is spreading terror organizations across the region. You can designate NATO along with DEASH [ISIS], the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] and FETÖ [Fethullahist Terror Organization].”

When on July 15, 2016, Turkey witnessed the bloodiest coup attempt in its political history, all fingers were pointed towards the United States.

“Turkey may be a deeply polarized country, but one thing Turks across all segments of society – Islamists, secular people, liberals, nationalist – seem to have come together on is that the United States was somehow wrapped up in the failed coup," wrote the New York Times.

While tensions are rising on either side, continued aggravation between Turkey and NATO is unlikely to cause serious ramifications to the alliance. However, the alliance itself is yet to be tested – unless you call the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan a major existential threat to NATO’s members.

Rather, the unified image NATO once exhibited is on the brink of collapse, which may challenge daring states to step beyond the line of no return.


Twitter:

@joseph_colonna


]]>
2/6/2018 12:18:22 PM
<![CDATA[Capitalization of rural development experiences in Africa]]>
The three-year knowledge sharing and management initiative is led by the CTA in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), and financial support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Like last year, the initiative is running its workshop in Dakar in the presence of the same participants. Building on the findings of the previous workshop, this meeting will focus on the steps taken since the previous workshop and the steps needed to share experiences and lessons learnt from participants’ projects. The workshop will then include a round of online contact and support between project staff and participants, a new feature added to the workshop.



This workshop is expected to focus on effective business development and financial services, resource allocation and availability, client-market link, sustainability of enterprise development and gender issues around enterprise development. These issues seem to be all aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Launched in April 2016, the initiative is currently being implemented in different parts of the world with the aim of improving and scaling up developmental interventions through ensuring a sound mechanism for continuous learning. The initiative works to improve the analysis, sharing of information, documentation and adoption of new initiatives and projects, as well as adaptation to new circumstances and situations in the field of agriculture.

As Krishan Bheenick, CTA Senior Programme Coordinator Knowledge Management, put it, “We [CTA] are interested in working with those who, as part of their rural development efforts, are interested in showing what they have done and achieved and serve as examples to others. Here, our objective is to get institutions in the region to institutionalise Experience Capitalization.”



As a continent full of potential, Africa is set out to benefit significantly from this initiative. Most of Africa has very fertile land that would benefit greatly from the sharing of expertise, especially in light of the fact that recent research has shown that although many projects have increased knowledge in specific areas and many areas continue to develop their ideas and experiences, this knowledge is rarely written down or published, meaning that it remains unknown to the rest of Africa. This is where the experience capitalization initiative comes in. It has the ability to increase information potential through acting as a joint platform for the sharing of experiences.

The project does not only provide practical action, they also work with participants to identify specific innovations and practices that have been in use and to analyze where else they would work. This comes at an optimal time for Africa, as the continent has recently seen a surge of the number of people seeking higher education abroad to return to their countries and develop it, as well as the rest of Africa.

Another great benefit for African nations from this initiative is its capacity for matchmaking. Through its online presence and ensuring that it has regular workshops, the initiative is able to connect participants in different countries or in different regions within one country. This has, as research has shown, enabled more to be done in Africa and has also strengthened the capacity of participants. Through connecting participants, the initiative has ensured that participants will remain in contact between sessions, meaning they will continue to share their experiences all-year-round.



As we have seen time and time again all over the world, experience capitalization, coupled with the chance to bounce ideas off of someone with different experiences in the same field, can lead to an improvement of existing practices and the adoption of new and more promising practices or initiatives. This is particularly the case for this initiative as it discusses with participants and institutions how to best implement the practices that have worked in other places.

By focusing on the story behind the numbers, which complements quantitative research with qualitative research, making it easier for people to implement programs, the project provides many ‘success stories’ that are both inspirational and practical, enabling African societies to develop faster. Furthermore, by focusing on awareness raising and institutionalization of policies, the experience capitalization initiative is well-positioned to positively affect sustainable and long-term development of rural areas in Africa.
]]>
2/6/2018 12:00:10 PM
<![CDATA[What to expect during FAO’s Regional Conference for Africa]]>
The first issue that will be discussed, as per the

FAO’s Provisional Annotated Agenda

is the “State of Food and Agriculture in Africa: Future Prospects and Emerging Issues.” In 2017, FAO released a report titled “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World,” concluding that after a prolonged decline, world hunger appears to be on the rise once more. Throughout the analytical part of the report, it discusses different aspects and reasons behind this rise, most of which link back to climate-related shocks and man-made disasters.

To achieve Zero Hunger in Africa, the conference will aim to provide a platform to African ministers, countries and African NGOs to exchange their experiences and lessons learnt throughout the past few years. The platform will also match different organizations and countries to each other with the overall purpose of achieving a precise plan to face the current issues in Africa.

Photo_1_-_Zero_Hunger_Challenge_-_Courtesy_of_the_official_Zero_Hunger_Challenge_website
Zero Hunger Challenge – Photo courtesy of the official Zero Hunger Challenge website

As a continent that faces many droughts that often lead to famine, as John Seaman and other researchers suggest, there is a desperate need for African organizations and institutions to reflect on the conflict-food security nexus and review the role of social protection, topics that this conference is expected to cover. Moreover, there is a need to discuss the rural life of Africa, which many researchers believe are adequate to ensure that Africa does not suffer from famine again. The problem of Africa, as many researchers have suggested time and time again, is the relatively low population density of about 65 people per square mile, as Africa Research website points out. This puts Africa behind Asia, Europe and South America in terms of population density.

The good news is that Africa has currently a population boom: 40 percent of all humans are expected to be African by the end of the century, according to Africa Research website. This growth is set to make Africa more important than ever in regards to the global economy.



Moreover, the conference will be able to discuss different ways to mobilize different resources to effectively implement key policies and interventions to achieve the goals, such as raising agricultural productivity for sustainable growth, previously set out in the African Unions 2063 Agenda, which includes food security as one of the primary goals.

For more information on the Zero Hunger round table, see the document for the Ministerial round table

here

.



The second issue that is expected to be discussed is climate change and the negative impact it has on the work and activities of the FOA. The session will work on building resilience to address the extreme vulnerably of Africa’s agriculture and rural livelihoods.

The session will provide an update on the implementation of the FAO Climate Change Strategy in Africa, as well as assessing the impact of climate change of food security. This will allow attendees to share their experiences and discuss policies and initiatives that need to be built in order to protect against human- and climate-induced shocks that often mitigate development in the region. The focus of the session will be two-fold.



First, they will focus on pre-emptively minimizing the impact of hazards, ensuring that they do not develop to become disasters; in other words, they will build what specialists call resilience. Practical Action defines resilience in a 2013 publication as “the ability of a system, community, or society to pursue its social, ecological, and economic development and growth objectives, while managing its disaster risk overtime in a way that contributes to sustainable growth and helps to mitigate disaster risk.”

Second, the platform will aim to discuss and strengthen disaster risk reduction (DRR) in Africa. DRR refers to “the concept and practice of reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyse and manage the causal factors of disasters, including through reduced exposure to hazards, lessened vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment, and improved preparedness for adverse events,” according to a United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) report published 2009.



The session will advocate for the systemic mainstreaming of resilience and disaster risk reduction – both of which combined are known as disaster risk management (DRM), ensure that interventions and actors are connected and it will press for evidence-based policies and highlight the importance of analytical work.

This discussion of this topic is expected to have a significant positive impact as Africa currently suffers severely from all hazards due to lack of preparation in the face of hazards and issues. Currently, South America and Asia have managed to curb the negative impact of hazards due to their continuous work on resilience and DRR. Peru, India and Nepal are pioneers in this field as they have managed to reduce disaster risks, reaching a level where they suffer minimal physical, monetary and human losses. Their focus on curbing the negative effects of hazards has also ensured that their human, social, economic and political development does not have to slow down.

By combining between social capitals, meaning – in its shortest definition – human capabilities, state institutions and NGOs, the FAO is certainly on track to ensure Africa is able to withstand any hazards, as

recent research

has suggested that social capital is the best tool to reduce disaster risk and ensure high-quality resilience. Only through the involvement of human beings and their sense of ownership can a country move forward with its disaster risk management plans.



The third issue that will be discussed is youth employment opportunities in agriculture and rural sectors in Africa. As it stands, there are some 200 million people aged between 15 and 24 in Africa. With the youngest population in the world, Africa, which has currently high unemployment levels, has the opportunity to develop quicker than other countries. Youths, especially in more rural areas, are finding it increasingly difficult to find work that allows them to earn a sufficient income; they are currently resorting to migration to urban areas and abroad, meaning that rural areas are left without youths to develop it, other causing the slow-down of rural areas.

The region’s unemployment rates, according to the FAO, which stands just under 10 percent masks endemic unemployment coupled with high numbers of people in informal jobs that grant them low pay. Over 90 percent, according to the FAO, are among the working poor. To solve the problem of youth employment in the region and develop the agricultural and rural economy, the session suggests that it is best if youths work within the agricultural sector in rural areas. The session will discuss the challenges facing the youths who work in rural areas and will then offer policies and recommendations for promoting agribusiness opportunities for youths. Additionally, there will also be a focus on the need to involve the youths in policy discussions around agri-food systems and agribusiness.





By opening up the discussion about the move of youths from the rural to urban areas and the need to move them back to rural areas, Africa is set to increase employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in rural areas, increase the connectedness between urban and rural areas and invest in training of young men and women, ensuring that they both benefit themselves and their countries.

In case you are intrigued, you can find the “Leveraging Youth Employment Opportunities in Agriculture in Rural” document

here

.



The fourth issue that will be discussed is the need to mainstream biodiversity across three fields: agriculture, fisheries and forestry.

Biodiversity is important, according to the FAO, as it is a vital factor in the journey towards the achievement of food security and good nutrition. According to research, all agricultural sectors, including crop and livestock agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, rely on biodiversity, as well as ecosystem functions and services.

During the FAO’s 40th session, the organization welcomed the initiative to become a “Biodiversity Mainstreaming Platform,” and requested that its partners help in the integration of biodiversity across agricultural sectors at all levels. Although little is known of the topic, the mainstreaming of biodiversity is expected to be considered in 2018 by all relevant FAO governing bodies, including Regional Conference for Africa. “Results will be reported to the FAO Conference and the 14th Conference ofthe Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity,” according to the FAO.

The Regional Conference for Africa is also set to include the outcome from the

previous year’s recommendations

, as well as the

Outcomes of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS)

.



]]>
2/6/2018 11:36:06 AM
<![CDATA[Ken Isaacs – Trump’s controversial nominee for IOM]]>
Isaacs’s choice was considered controversial because of some hostile statements spotted on his social media account, according to a Washington Post article published on February 3. It was stated that Isaacs wrote that “Islam is an inherently violent religion.”




After spotting some of his hostile statements, which led some reporters to demand a comment from the U.S. Department of State, Isaacs’s Twitter account turned from public to private. However, he later issued a statement apologizing for his remarks.

“I deeply regret that my comments on social media have caused hurt and have undermined my professional record,” his statement read. “It was careless and it has caused concern among those who have expressed faith in my ability to effectively lead IOM. I pledge to hold myself to the highest standards of humanity, human dignity and equality if chosen to lead IOM,” Isaacs said.

Additionally, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert issued another separate statement saying that the agency would continue to support the nominee and stressed that Isaacs has a proven record of helping diverse populations around the globe.

“Mr. Isaacs has apologized for the comments he posted on his private social media account. We believe that was proper for him to do so. Mr. Isaacs is committed to helping refugees and has a long history of assisting those who are suffering. We believe that if chosen to lead IOM, he would treat people fairly and with the dignity and respect they deserve,” she stated.

Also, last June, after the London bridge terrorist attacks in which eight people were killed and 48 others injured, it was also spotted on Twitter that Isaacs shared a CNN story quoting a Catholic bishop saying, “This isn’t in the name of God; this isn’t what the Muslim faith asks people to do.” He also responded, “CNN, Bishop, if you read the Quran, you will know ‘this’ is exactly what the Muslim faith instructs the faithful to do.”

Isaacs’ social media comments would put the U.S. administration at risk of losing the IOM election for the first time since the 1960s. The election is expected to be held in June 2018. A nominee must receive the support of two-thirds of its voting members. William L. Swing is the current director general of the organization.

The United States, however, has been witnessing a debate over the last couple of months due to the overhaul that Trump wishes to make over the “Dreamers” regulations inside the country. As the American president says that he is seeking his country’s safety by tightening the immigration laws and building a wall with Mexico, others see the regulations as another step of hostility against Arabs and Muslims.

Since he was a presidential candidate, Trump pledged to issue more rules to ban Muslims and Arabs from entering the country, claiming that it’s the only way to control the terrorist attacks inside the country. Several politicians and public figures criticized Trump for his calls.

A report issued by the Center for American Progress on February 2 criticized Trump’s practices against immigrants to control the terrorist attacks and violence inside the society. Meanwhile, the country is struggling due to weak firearm regulations in the United States, which participated in one way or another in the illegal flow of weapons to its neighboring countries, killing at least one person every 31 minutes.

“From 2014 to 2016, across 15 countries in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean, 50,133 guns that originated in the United States were recovered as part of criminal investigations. Put another way, during this span, U.S.-sourced guns were used to commit crimes in nearby countries approximately once every 31 minutes.” The report stated.

Several regulations were stated by the report to help to reduce the flow of crime guns abroad and begin to minimize the U.S. role in arming lethal violence in nearby countries. It was affirmed that the U.S. has a moral obligation to mitigate its role in arming lethal violence abroad.


]]>
2/6/2018 9:20:24 AM
<![CDATA[Two U.S. senators unveil bipartisan immigration plan]]>
President Donald Trump appeared to dismiss the plan immediately, saying any deal should provide funding for his long-promised Mexican border wall, and blaming Democrats for the impasse over immigration.

But it won important backing from Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who has waged a long battle in Congress to help Dreamers. A broader bill by Durbin and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham was rejected by the White House last month.

The proposal by John McCain, a Republican, and Chris Coons, a Democrat, is narrower in scope than a plan Trump put forward last month, which was resisted by both hard-line Republicans and Democrats.

It does not offer a sweeping overhaul of the immigration system and does not include funding for the wall, but calls for a way for Dreamers to avoid deportation and earn citizenship, while also bolstering border security.

The legislation would rely on a variety of tools, not just a physical wall, for securing the southern U.S. border.

Around 700,000 Dreamers stand to lose temporary protections that have allowed them to work and study in the United States without fear of deportation.

This latest initiative, like some others already floated, would protect the 700,000, while also allowing hundreds of thousands of additional young immigrants in similar situations to apply for temporary legal status that could lead to U.S. citizenship.

Most immigrated from Mexico and Central American countries.

"The bill ... does address the two most pressing problems we face: protecting DACA recipients and securing the border," Coons said in a joint statement with McCain.

The Dreamers were previously protected from deportation under Democratic former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

DACA had been set to expire on March 5 after Trump canceled the program last fall and asked Congress to come up with a legislative solution by this date. But a federal court last month blocked the Trump administration from ending the program, and the administration's appeal is now pending before the Supreme Court.

The McCain-Coons plan, which mirrors similar bipartisan legislation introduced in the House of Representatives last month, was expected to be formally introduced later on Monday.

Lawmakers have been struggling to reach a deal on an immigration bill, despite broad public support for helping Dreamers.

The last major legislative push, in 2013-14, failed when House Republicans refused to consider a broad, bipartisan measure passed by the Senate.

During a conference call with reporters, Coons said he was alarmed to hear some senators now talking about simply putting off long-term decisions about Dreamers for a year and making some "modest investments" in additional border security.

Coons, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that oversees immigration policy along with other panels, also said that despite Trump's insistence on building a wall, border law enforcement officials in a recent briefing for senators did not make such a request.

"It was clear they are not embracing the notion of a single concrete wall from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific" Ocean, Coons said. Instead, he said administration officials spoke of the need to repair and upgrade existing fencing, build additional barriers and make other improvements.

The McCain-Coons bill comes as the Republican-controlled Congress seeks to avert a federal government shutdown when current funding expires on Thursday.

U.S. lawmakers have so far failed to pass a long-term budget deal, instead relying on a series of short-term fixes that have been increasingly entangled with wrangling over immigration. Failure to agree on an immigration fix led to a three-day shutdown of government agencies last month.

Trump has said that any immigration deal must include billions of dollars to build the border wall. At the same time he has given mixed messages about the future of the hundreds of thousands of DACA participants.

"Any deal on DACA that does not include STRONG border security and the desperately needed WALL is a total waste of time. March 5th is rapidly approaching and the Dems seem not to care about DACA. Make a deal!" the president said in a tweet on Monday.

While the McCain-Coons plan does not include funding for the border wall, Coons said on Monday he thought there was still enough support among both Democrats and Republicans to pass it, noting that the House bill has attracted 27 Republican and another 27 Democratic lawmakers co-sponsoring it.

Trump could veto legislation that he deemed unacceptable if it were passed by both chambers of Congress. That would likely ignite a congressional battle over whether to overturn his veto.]]>
2/6/2018 2:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Anan’s son accused of inciting political unrest]]>
Anan was accused of publishing posts through his Twitter account, on which he gave out provocative opinions considered as an attempt to stir up political unrest. Anan was suspended from The Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (AASTMT), where he works as a professor, pending an ongoing investigation conducted by the academy officials.

The son of the former Presidential candidate denied all the accusations, by stressing that he has no business with politics and the Twitter account where the posts were published did not belong to him, calling it a “fake one”.

Egypt’s National Election Authority (NEA) has stated in January the legal grounds, upon which it removed former Military Chief of Staff Sami Anan from the voters’ database over charges of “forgery” to run for the 2018 presidential election.

The military prosecution has imposed a gag order on the case of former Chief of Staff and presidential hopeful Sami Anan after he was summoned over forgery charges. Anan did not have a military permission terminating his service at the Armed Forces, according to then SCAF statement.
]]>
2/6/2018 1:10:46 AM
<![CDATA[Arab newspapers highlight Sisi’s ‘historic’ visit to Oman]]>
State-owned Omani newspapers tackled the bilateral interests of both countries and the anticipated outcomes to follow this visit.

The hashtag of Oman greeting Egypt #عمان_ترحب_بمصر_الكنانه spread widely on social platforms in Oman, in accordance with the ‘historic visit’ of Egypt’s Sisi to Muscat. Omanis expressed their pleasure with the Egyptian president’s visit.

Kuwaiti newspapers on Monday highlighted the historic visit that President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi paid to Oman and important issues tackled by Egyptian and Omani leaders.
“Oman receives Sisi: Egypt is the Arab Nation’s Podium,” was the frontpage’s headline of Al-Nahar newspaper, which focused on the fruitful outcomes resulting from mutual cooperation between Cairo and Muscat.

WhatsApp_Image_2018-02-05_at_11.36.46_AM

Omani Minister of Foreign Affairs Youssef bin Owli stressed that the upcoming Arab summit due to be held in Saudi Arabia will strengthen the Arab solidarity, adding, “Egypt is the backbone of the Arab nation and the podium which embraces all Arabs.”
Kuwait-based Al-Nahar put spotlight on the Nour Party’s support to President Sisi in the next presidential election, due to be held next March. The Salafi-leaning Nour Party urged Egyptian citizens to take part in the elections and vote for Sisi.

Al-Anbaa newspaper described Sisi’s trip to Oman as a ‘historic’ visit, in which Sisi and Qaboos shall discuss ways to boost bilateral cooperation in several fields and exchange views over recent developments in the Arab region.

Assiyassah newspaper wrote about the political topics that Sisi and Qaboos have tackled most notably the Yemeni crisis. The newspaper manifested that Sisi has expressed his gratitude to the Oman’s positions that Sultan Qaboos has taken towards Egypt.

“Sultan Qaboos welcomed Sisi in Muscat and appreciated the Egyptian role in maintaining security and stability of Gulf and Arab countries,” Assiyassah quoted Egyptian Presidential Spokesperson Bassam Radi.

Qaboos asserted to Sisi the full support of the Egyptian leadership’s actions against terrorism. The newspaper added that the two leaders tackled international and regional issues, discussing ways to reach political settlements in light of the ongoing crises in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

Sisi started his visit to Oman and Abu Dhabi on Sunday, which was Sisi’s first official visit to Oman since he took the power in 2014 and the first Egyptian presidential to visit to the country since January 25 revolution, confirming that Sisi seeks to promote the region’s security.

Talks between the two leaders addressed economic cooperation and trade deals through the mutual committee, which will hold a meeting in Muscat soon. It also tackled the recent issues in the region, where Sultan Qaboos reviewed his vision to solve the Yemeni crisis in a way that can ease the suffering of Yemeni people. The two leaders also discussed regional issues in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

The Egyptian president and his accompanying delegation will meet a number of Omani businessmen and investors to discuss increasing cooperation in different economic sectors, the official spokesperson of Egyptian Presidency Bassam Radi said.
The economic relationship and cooperation between the two countries come as part of the Great Arab Trade Agreement.

The Greater Arab Free Trade Area is an economic alliance between Arab States for economic integration and low tariffs trade. It began operation as of the beginning of 2005.

In his second day in the Omani capital, Muscat, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi visited the Royal Opera House, the Sultan's Armed Forces Museum and the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.

According to an official statement, presidential Spokesperson Bassam Rady said that the second day of Sisi’s remarkable visit to Oman included many activities, in a way that deepens relations between the two countries.

The sultan also valued Egypt’s role in enhancing Gulfi stability and security, confirming the long depth of Egyptian-Omani relations of cooperation and friendship, according to Radi. Sultan Qaboos expressed hope for Sisi’s visit to boost bilateral relations between the two countries.

]]>
2/5/2018 5:35:36 PM
<![CDATA[Overview: the process by which bills become laws]]>
Bills are often referred to as a primary legislation as they are proposals to make a new law in the form of document that summaries what is the reasoning behind the proposed law and what the proposed law actually is. The government or any member of the parliament can introduce a bill to the parliament.

If the government or any parliamentarian has a proposal for a bill, they must submit it to the Parliament to be discussed. Then, the parliament shall refer it to plenary session to be considered and voted on.

If it is approved, it is then sent either to a specialized committee in the parliament, based on the field that bill tackles, or to a joint committee, in case the bill tackles more than one fields to discuss and amend it as required.

Yet, if parliament rejects it from the beginning, it should provide a report about the reason. Furthermore, a bill that the chamber has rejected must not be reintroduced in the same legislative session.

If the specialized committee approves the bill, it starts discussing each article in it and introduces it to the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee to consider and coordinate its articles before the specialized committee presents a report about it to a full chamber of the parliament to be discussed in the plenary session.

However, for the parliamentarians to introduce a bill to the parliament, 60 MPs should sign it before being sent to the parliament. But, if less than 10 members proposed the bill, the parliament refers it to Complaints and Proposals Committee not to specialized committee to prepare a report on it, and if it is approved, it is passed to the specialized committee.

The plenary session agrees it and refers it to the State council to revise it, then, send it again to the parliament. Once the parliament approves the bill after voting on it, the bill becomes a law.

“The House of Representatives informs the President of the Republic of every bill that has passed the chambers, so that the President can sign it into law within fifteen days of receipt. If the President of the Republic vetoes the bill, he returns it to the House of Representatives within thirty days of receipt. If he does not return the bill by that deadline, or if the House of Representatives overrides his veto by a two-thirds majority, the bill becomes law and is issued,” according to Article 104 in the constitution.

If the House fails to override the presidential veto, four months must pass from the date of the failed override vote before the bill may be reintroduced within the same legislative session.

]]>
2/5/2018 4:26:01 PM
<![CDATA[‘New capital’ proposal forebodes war in Jerusalem: Al Hayat ]]>
As an anticipated reaction, sources have given a 95 percent probability to Palestinian resistance factions launching a war on Israeli settlements within next few days or hours.

"The U.S. peace team has handed over the plan [so-called the Deal of the Century] to the Palestinian side through a third party that told Palestinian officials that Israel has built its own city of Jerusalem through developing a group of villages and building new districts, and Palestinians can do the same thing and build their own Jerusalem,” a high-ranking western diplomat told the Pan-Arab Al Hayat newspaper on Sunday.

According to the diplomat who talked to Al Hayat, the capital of the Palestinian state could be in the town of Abu Dis in the suburbs of Jerusalem.

The Palestinian city of Abu Dis is seen near the Israeli separation barrier in the West Bank. Ahmad Gharabli - AFP Photo
The Palestinian city of Abu Dis is seen near the Israeli separation barrier in the West Bank. Ahmad Gharabli - AFP Photo

Abu Dis has been under the civil jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority but has been subject to Israeli security controls since signing the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1995. Abu Dis has a population of 12,604 according to the latest census conducted by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in 2016; it had 2,640 inhabitants in 1967.

The plan describes the transferring of Arab neighborhoods, suburbs and villages where there are no settlements to the Palestinian side, establishing a passage for Palestinians to the Aqsa Mosque, providing a humanitarian solution for Palestinian refugees, and dissolving the UNRWA within a certain timeline, Al-Hayat added.

The western diplomat explained that the plan proposes a transitional solution that is represented in setting up a Palestinian state on about half the area of the West Bank and the entire area of the Gaza Strip and some neighborhoods and villages of Jerusalem, with the old city and the surrounding neighborhoods such as Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah within the so-called "Israeli Jerusalem".

“Israel is willing to concede the crowded neighborhoods to be part of the Palestinian Jerusalem such as Beit Hanina, Shafat and Ras Khamis,” the diplomat manifested.

Palestinian protesters climb the barrier dividing Abu Dis from Jerusalem in November 2014 -Reuters
Palestinian protesters climb the barrier dividing Abu Dis from Jerusalem in November 2014 -Reuters

According to the plan, which is in its final stages according to U.S. officials, borders, settlements and security will remain under Israeli dominance, but there will be negotiations on them after establishment of the Palestinian state, which will obtain recognition of the United States, Israel and the entire world.

A western diplomat revealed that President Mahmoud Abbas had presented an alternative vision of Palestine’s future through the third party. This vision establishes a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders in stages with an exchange of lands that allows Israel to annex the main settlement blocs.

“Abbas asked for reaching a consensus on borders first in exchange for approving the establishment of a Palestinian state in several stages,” the western diplomat added
However, the U.S. refused the Palestinian offer as they considered their plan non-negotiable. "U.S. officials told Palestinians either to take the plan as it is or leave it as it is,” the diplomat revealed.

Meanwhile, Al Hayat has learnt that Hamas and Palestinian resistance factions are getting ready for a war on the Gaza Strip against the Israelis. Credible Palestinian sources quoted leaders of various factions, including Hamas' leader Yahia al-Sinwar, as seeing the probability of such a war at 95 percent within the few next hours or days.

“Israel is expected to take advantage of the joint military exercises it is holding with U.S. forces on (Monday) to launch an aggression on Gaza,” the Palestinian sources added.

On December 6, U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by announcing the relocation of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This decision was condemned and rejected by all Arab and Islamic countries, as well as most Western and Asian countries.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets to denounce the American decision on Jerusalem in different cities across the world.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews walk in Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock mosque visible in the background. Thomas Coex AFP
Ultra-Orthodox Jews walk in Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock mosque visible in the background. Thomas Coex- AFP

On December 21, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution condemning Trump’s decision and called on states not to move their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said in an interview with Fox News in January that the U.S. is already planning the first step of moving the embassy to Jerusalem. “The decision was made and we will move our embassy to Israel’s capital,” Pence stated.

Reuters reported earlier that the Saudi Crown Prince had promised Palestine's Abbas to "hear good news" about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict during their meeting in November in Riyadh, while the Palestinian President denied Saudi pressures to accept the American announcement over Jerusalem.

"Some Arab countries have interfered into the Palestinian domestic affairs and pressured us to accept the American decision," Abbas said on January 15.

He slammed the unnamed Arab countries. "Leave us alone," he stated.

"An Arab official tried to convince me three times to accept Trump's decision on Jerusalem and offered me money to accept that deal," Abbas added.
]]>
2/5/2018 1:00:59 PM
<![CDATA[Experts: Sisi’s visit to Oman confirms Egypt’s interest in Gulf’s security]]>
Sisi started his visit to Oman and Abu Dhabi on Sunday, which is Sisi’s first official visit to Oman since he took the power in 2014 and the first Egyptian presidential to visit to the country since January 25 revolution, confirming that Sisi seeks to promote the region’s security.

Professor of Political Science at the American University of Cairo Tarek Fahmy told Egypt Today that the visit carries a message about how Egypt will not allow Arab Gulf’s security to be compromised. He added that Egypt aims to benefit from the existing economic expertise in the Sultanate of Oman, to ensure economic coordination between the two states by establishing an economic zone, attracting new investments and enhancing tourism cooperation.

Furthermore, Specialist in Gulf Affairs Ayman Ramadan remarked that the visit assures Egyptian connection with Gulf States and Egyptian-Gulf relations in the current period, adding that Oman is one of the states in the Gulf cooperation council; hence, Egypt is working to form ties with it to understand its opinions on many different regional issues.

Ramadan added that Sisi’s visit aims to promote common cooperation and to discuss the recent developments in the Qatari crisis and the many different political challenges in the region. Consequently, he remarked, a complete plan should be set in progress to combat terrorism and Iranian intervention in the Arab region.

He pointed out that Egypt looks forward to exchanging trade, increasing Egyptian exports to Oman and activating economic agreements with it.

Talks between the two leaders addressed economic cooperation and trade deals through the mutual committee, which will hold a meeting in Muscat soon. It also tackled the recent issues in the region, where Sultan Qaboos reviewed his vision on solving the Yemeni crisis in a way that can ease the suffering of Yemeni people. The two leaders also discussed other regional issues in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

The Egyptian president and his accompanying delegation will meet a number of Omani businessmen and investors to discuss increasing cooperation in different economic sectors, the official spokesperson of Egyptian Presidency, Bassam Radi, said.

The economic relationship and cooperation between the two countries comes as a part of the Great Arab Trade Agreement.

The Greater Arab Free Trade Area is an economic alliance between the Arab States for economic integration and low tariffs trade and began operation from the beginning of 2005.

Trade Exchange

The latest report from the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) showed that the volume of trade exchange between Egypt and Oman witnessed a remarkable improvement during the first eight months of last year, recording $248 million, up from $162 million in the year before.

The volume of Egyptian exports to Oman increased to $117 million, during the period between January and August of 2017, compared to $91 million in the same period of 2016, according to the CAPMAS report.

Imports from Oman jumped to $131 million in the first eight months of 2017 compared to $71million during the corresponding period of 2016.

The volume of trade exchange between the two countries grew during the period from 2004 to 2008. The statistics indicated that in 2004, the volume of trade reached $37 million, while Egyptian imports from Oman amounted to $13 million.

In 2007, the volume of trade exchange amounted to $209 million, while Egyptian imports were worth $159million.

The volume of trade in 2008 was also $209 million, while the volume of Egyptian imports reached $194 million. ]]>
2/5/2018 12:35:23 PM
<![CDATA[German coalition negotiators may drop proposal to abolish air transport tax]]>
A working paper seen by Reuters on Friday had called for a gradual abolition of the tax, which generates over 1 billion euros for the government each year.

But on Sunday, a source said that proposal could be dropped from the final coalition agreement as negotiators continued to fine-tune the deal and make trade-offs.

The air transport tax is levied on ticket prices and costs between 7 and 40 euros ($9 and $50), depending on the distance flown.

Over half the revenues generated by the tax are paid by German airlines, including Lufthansa, Germany's largest carrier, whose shares turned slightly positive after the initial report about a phase-out on Friday.

The BDL aviation association, which represents the interests of the airline industry, has previously called for the tax to be abolished.]]>
2/5/2018 3:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[House intelligence panel to take up Democratic memo Monday]]>
The four-page Republican memo, made public on Friday, has fueled a battle between Trump and top leaders at the FBI and Justice Department over Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The memo accuses the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department of using misleading information when they sought approval from a top secret court to monitor the communications of a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page, on Oct. 21, 2016.

Investigators asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court for permission to monitor Page as part of the wider probe into alleged Russian meddling in the election and potential collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia.

Russia has denied meddling. Trump has insisted there was no collusion by his campaign and has called the Mueller probe a "witch hunt" and a "hoax."

Democrats accuse Trump and his Republican allies of trying to use the memo to undermine the Russia probe and possibly make the case for the firing of Mueller or Rod Rosenstein, the No. 2 official at Justice who is overseeing Mueller.

The Republican-led House Intelligence Committee released the memo, which said the FBI and Justice Department sought a warrant for monitoring the communications of Page based on unverified information from a dossier partly paid for by Democrats.

The FBI objected, however, saying it had "grave concerns" that the document gave an inaccurate account of the application to carry out surveillance on Page.

Democrats contend the Republican memo mischaracterized highly sensitive classified information.

The Democratic lawmakers' memo is expected to outline what they see as flaws in the Republican document. Two sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity on Sunday that the House Intelligence Committee would consider declassifying the Democratic memo on Monday and making it public. One said the meeting would take place at 5 p.m. (2200 GMT) and that there would be a vote.

The White House said the president would be open to releasing the Democratic memo after it was subjected to a security review. "If voted out, we'll consider it. Nothing more to add," White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said on Sunday.

A Democratic member of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Michael Quigley, said on Sunday he was concerned that Trump could censor the Democratic memo that must be sent to him for a five-day security review before it is released under the same rule by which the Republican document was made public.

THREE RENEWALS

Democrats have pointed out that the FBI and Justice sought three renewals of the original warrant for surveillance of Page. All three were approved by FISA court judges. FISA warrants must be renewed every 90 days and each time, the government must show that the surveillance collected valuable foreign intelligence.

The memo also confirmed that the FBI investigation, which Mueller took over in May, was triggered in late July 2016 by contacts between Russians and another Trump campaign adviser, George Papadapoulos.

Tweeting from his resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on Saturday, Trump said the Republican memo "totally vindicates" him in the Russia investigation and called Mueller's probe a "disgrace."

But several Republican lawmakers who spoke about the controversy on Sunday disagreed with the president, including Trey Gowdy, a member of the House Intelligence Committee and one of the authors of the Republican memo.

Speaking on the CBS program "Face the Nation," Gowdy said he believed the Republican memo showed sloppiness by investigators in their application to the FISA court. But, he said, the Russia probe should continue regardless.

"I am on record as saying I support Bob Mueller 100 percent," Gowdy said. "I say investigate everything Russia did, but admit that this was a really sloppy process that you engaged in to surveil a U.S. citizen."

Will Hurd, another Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, agreed that the Republican memo should have no impact on Mueller's investigation.

"Bob Mueller should be allowed to turn over every rock, pursue every lead, so that we can have trust in knowing what actually the Russians did or did not do," Hurd said on ABC News' "This Week."

Former CIA Director John Brennan slammed the Republican House intelligence panel chairman, Devin Nunes, who commissioned the Republican memo, for his handling of its release and for his refusal to make public the Democratic rebuttal alongside it.

"It really underscores just how partisan Mr. Nunes has been. He has abused the office of the chairmanship of HPSCI (House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence)," Brennan told NBC's "Meet the Press." "And I don't say that lightly."]]>
2/5/2018 1:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Giant Zohr to make Egypt regional energy center: OAPEC]]>
He added in an interview with Egypt Today that the average oil price will exceed $60 per barrel, stressing that the call for reducing oil production led by Saudi Arabia and Russia is the first achievement by OAPEC.

Al-Naqi revealed that the planned Arab investments in the energy sector are estimated at $806 billion from 2017 until 2021, of which 58 percent are directed to oil and natural gas projects.

OAPEC is a multi-governmental organization headquartered in Kuwait which coordinates energy policies among oil-producing Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Syria and Tunisia.

How do you see the launch of Zohr gas field's first stage?

With reserves of more than 30 trillion cubic feet, Zohr is one of the most important gas fields discovered recently in the Eastern Mediterranean region. This discovery will contribute to transforming Egypt into an important regional energy center. Egypt has succeeded in starting the gas production from Zohr with an initial rate of 350 million cubic feet in December 2017, only two years since its discovery.

After reaching its full production capacity of 2.7 billion cubic feet by the end of 2019, Zohr will effectively contribute to achieving Egypt's energy self-sufficiency.

How can Egypt benefit from the start of Zohr's first stage of production?

Energy projects contribute to increasing cooperation between various parties. The unique location of Egypt and its integrated infrastructure will attract the attention of many countries in the region to achieve mutual cooperation, making Egypt a regional energy hub.

How do you see the OAPEC's initiative to reduce oil production?

The stability of crude oil prices in the global market, which is linked to reducing oil supplies, has been achieved through the new agreement to reduce production, which is the first achievement by OAPEC and its partners.

What do you see the future of world oil prices in 2018?

It is hard to predict the oil prices in the future as the factors affecting these prices are variables. However, there are strong expectations that the average oil prices will remain above $60 per barrel in the coming period.

What are the difficulties and challenges facing the petroleum industry in the Arab countries?

The economic and financial crises resulting from the decline in oil prices and the rise in production costs are the most important challenges facing the Arab countries, in addition to the huge financial investments required to develop oil projects, in accordance with international environmental standards.

What are the most important activities prepared by OAPEC in the coming period?

OAPEC is preparing for the 11th Arab Energy Conference that will be hosted by Marrakesh, Morocco in 2018.

OAPEC's secretariat will organize several coordination meetings among the member countries during the year, including the meeting of the Arab companies derived from OAPEC, the meeting of environment and climate change experts in the member countries and the coordination meeting of natural gas experts in member countries.

In cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, OAPEC's secretariat will hold a workshop on the "Impact of Response Measures on the Petroleum Industry" at the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) scheduled on December 3-14, 2018.
]]>
2/4/2018 10:27:10 PM
<![CDATA[Quartet meeting between Egypt, Sudan’s FMs, Intelligence chiefs]]>
“The meetings will seek to strengthen the bilateral relations of both countries and to coordinate on some regional issues of mutual concern,” the statement reads.

The meeting will be held upon a call from President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi after a closed session he held with his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir this month on the sidelines of the 30th African Summit in Addis Ababa, the statement added.

“It has been agreed to establish a quartet consultative mechanism between the ministries of foreign affairs and the two general intelligence bodies in both countries to enhance solidarity and cooperation...and to deal with all issues that relate to the bilateral ties in all fields and to remove any obstacles for such relations,” the statement said.

According to the statement, a meeting will be held first between Egyptian Foreign Ministers Sameh Shoukry and Sudanese counterpart Ibrahim Ghandour, while another will convene between the acting chief of Egyptian General Intelligence Service (GIS) Abbas Kamel and his Sudanese counterpart National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). Then the four officials will have their quartet meeting.

Egypt’s relations with Sudan were recently strained over the disputed border area of Halaib and Shalateen; on December 23, 2017, Sudan filed a complaint to the United Nations Secretariat, protesting a maritime border demarcation deal between Egypt and Saudi Arabia as the deal denotes the territory as Egyptian on the maps.

Halaib and Shalateen, or the Halaib Triangle, is an area of land measuring 20,580 square kilometers, located at the Egyptian-Sudanese border on the Red Sea coast. It is part of the Red Sea governorate and consists of three major towns – Halaib (which became a city in February 2014), Abu Ramad and Shalateen.

The area belongs to Egypt politically and administratively, but has been one of the major sticking points in Egyptian-Sudanese relations since the demarcation of borders between the two countries were carried out during the British occupation of Egypt in 1899, at a time when Sudan was part of the Egyptian Kingdom.

The issue re-emerged after Halaib and Shalateen declared electoral constituency in both Sudan and Egypt in 2014.

On January 13, Russia Today has reported that the Sudanese Ambassador to Cairo Abdel Mahmoud Abdel Halim, who has been withdrawn from Egypt for consultation, told Sudanese reporters that Khartoum “has taken tougher steps against Cairo and new development will take place in the coming few days and will be more violent.”

“We are at the beginning of our diplomatic process, which starts with summoning the ambassador for consultation and then withdrawing the ambassador…and third, dismissing the ambassador of the concerned country. Fourth, boycotting the diplomatic ties and fifth, declaring war,” stated an Egyptian government official.

Three days ago, Ibrahim Mahmoud, the assistant to the Sudanese President, said that his country “faces (potential) military threats” from Egypt and Eritrea after claiming that there have been “military moves from Cairo and Asmara along the Sudanese eastern borders,” BBC reported. However, Eritrea has totally denied any Egyptian military moves, saying such remarks are “groundless.”

In a phone call to Sabahak Masry talk show on MBC channel on Monday, Egyptian Ambassador to Eritrea Yasser Hashem stated that Egypt has no military bases in Eritrea or any other country.

However, after Sisi and Bashir’s meeting, the Egyptian Foreign Minister said that the Sudanese ambassador will return back to Cairo to resume his job soon.

The relations between both countries are strained over the controversial Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Sudanese media claimed that Egypt has sought to exclude Sudan from the tripartite talks with Ethiopia. On January 8, Foreign Minister Shoukry stressed that Egypt did not ask Ethiopia to exclude Sudan from the negotiations.

Egypt has voiced its concern over Ethiopia’s dam construction, as it would affect Egypt’s 55 billion cubic meter share of the Nile water. However, Addis Ababa says the dam is necessary for its development and would not negatively affect the downstream countries (Egypt and Sudan).]]>
2/4/2018 5:34:34 PM
<![CDATA[Omani newspapers take on Sisi’s first visit to Muscat]]>
Alwatan, the first and oldest Omani newspaper, published an article titled “The meeting between the Sultan of Oman and Sisi will be the summit of their sincere and diligent work” in which the strong and deep roots between the two countries were clarified. The newspaper stated the prospect that this visit could help to achieve the interests of the two brotherly countries and their people.


1
Alwatan, the first and oldest Omani newspaper, published an article titled “The meeting between the Sultan of Oman and Sisi will be the summit of their sincere and diligent work”, February 4, 2018 – Alwatan

Editor-in-chief of Omani Vision, Hatim al-Tai, stated in his article: “As the city of Muscat is an oasis of peace and political balance, and its relation to Cairo is the backbone of regional and international stability as well; today's summit promises a solution to difficult regional developments and issues.”

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Omani Vision’s frontpage story was convering Sisi’s visit, February 4, 2018 – Omani Vision

Al-Shabiba, an Omani daily newspaper also stated that the “Sultanate has always expressed its solidarity and support for Egypt in its battle against terrorism, and has made constant efforts to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East as well as find solutions to the Palestinian problem.”

The Oman Daily Observer, an English-language daily broadsheet based in Muscat, published an article titled “Sisi visit to boost ties, widen scope for cooperation”, it’s stated that “It is widely known that Omani-Egyptian relations have gone a long way in achieving common interests in the fields of economy, trade, culture and media. The joint Omani-Egyptian Committee which resumed its meetings in Muscat and Cairo in the past couple of years, seeks to foster the ways of cooperation between the two brotherly countries in such a way as to achieve their common interests.”

The newspapers also posted a notice saying: “All government offices located between Muscat Airport and Al Alam Palace in Muscat have been urged to close at 12:30am due to the scheduled three-day visit of the Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.”

Times of Oman has also stated that Some schools in the Sultanate's capital will close early in anticipation of Sisi’s arrival.

The president’s spokesperson Bassam Radi stated on Saturday that “The president will meet with Sultan Qaboos and number of top Omani officials, where they will tackle ways to strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries on all levels,” adding that the three-day official visit will witness talks between the two leaders over the latest developments in the region.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met with his Omani counterpart Yusuf bin Alawi in Muscat on November 14, 2017, as part of a Gulf tour that included Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, he delivered a message from Sisi intended for Sultan Qaboos.

Sisi was set to visit Muscat in November 2017 but the trip was postponed for unknown reasons.

While Kuwait played a vital role in an attempt to solve the Arab crisis with Qatar that that erupted past summer, Oman preferred to stay a neutral player, where Sultan Qaboos has kept silent throughout the ongoing crisis.

]]>
2/4/2018 2:35:08 PM
<![CDATA[Initiatives done to put bill supporting disable people into effect]]>
This was during a celebration held Saturday for issuing a draft law for the disabled, attended by Minister of Transport Hesham Arafat and Minister of Higher Education Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar, along with other officials for the disabled.

The head of the Social Solidarity Committee, Abdel Hady Al-Kasaby, said that the draft law is a great victory for the absent rights of people with special needs to support 11 million families, stressing that the parliament will not accept the government’s non-compliance with implementing the law’s articles.

Kasaby confirmed that the committee contacted Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Waly to put the executive regulations within six months for the law, confirming that if schools are not abiding by the law, their license will be withdrawn.

He confirmed that Article 81 ensures the full rights of the disabled in different fields to integrate them in society and implement equality and equal opportunity principles.

In this regard, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Omar Marwan remarked that the current political leadership greatly cares for the disabled as President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi declares 2018 as a year for the disabled and people with special needs.

Minister of Transport Arafat said that the ministry will apply the law by forming highly qualified new road networks to prevent accidents causing disability, adding that the new road network that have been formed since 2014 has prevented 5,000 disable cases.

He further explained that the ministry has reduced the cost of metro tickets for people with special needs in addition to preparing the stations suitable for them as the ministry has rehabilitated all metro networks to facilitate their ride. He stressed that within three months the rehabilitation of railway and metro network for the disabled will be underway.

Furthermore, Minister of Higher Education Abdel-Ghaffar declared that international conference to integrate the disabled in the university’s community will be held at the end of February under Sisi’s sponsorship, and its outcomes will be applied in all Egyptian universities.

Head of the religious sector at the Egyptian Ministry of Awqaf Jaber Tayei referred that the Ministry of Awkaf has set plan to put the law into action to facilitate worship for the disabled and providing translators of religious speeches for them, explaining that the ministry hopes this would be part of Egypt’s culture and not simply an abided law.

The representative of the Ministry of Development, Mohammed Hegazy, concluded that the ministry will establish units for the disabled to follow up on the application of the law.
Egypt’s House of Representatives (Parliament) discussed on December 3, 2017, a draft law supporting people with disabilities in line with the United Nations (UN) standards to mainstream and apply a comprehensive development approach for people with disabilities.

The parliament’s discussion of the bill coincided with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). The UN Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities stipulates that persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The draft bill aims to better recognize the rights of people with disabilities, integrate them into society, provide them with proper living conditions and eliminate the disability-based discrimination. The majority of the lawmakers have approved an article that stipulates that academic universities shall allocate 10 percent of their on-campus houses for students with special needs.

There was a debate among te lawmakers on the name of the law. During the Parliament’s session, the majority rejected the proposal submitted to change the name of the bill to “The Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Dwarfs” and maintained its old title, “Draft Law on People with Disabilities and Special Needs” which was put forward by the Ministry of Solidarity along with the parliamentary Solidarity Committee in 2016.

Per the bill, people with disabilities will also be granted identification cards with many privileges such as shorter working hours for themselves or their careers in all governmental and nongovernmental institutions.

The disabled will also be provided with suitable housing and transportation services. Educational institutions shall give priority to the disabled, while governmental and financial institutions shall be better equipped to accommodate them and facilitate their access to services.

The state shall guarantee the health, economic, social, cultural, entertainment, sporting and education rights of dwarves and people with disabilities, as well as providing them with job opportunities, according to the draft bill. Article 80 of the constitution stipulates that “the state guarantees the rights of children who have disabilities and ensures their rehabilitation and incorporation into society."

The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed in 1992 by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 47/3. It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness on the conditions of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life, according to the United Nation.

The theme of the day in 2017 is “Transformation towards a sustainable and resilient society for all.”
]]>
2/4/2018 1:28:09 PM
<![CDATA[EXCLUSIVE: ‘Iraq’s reconstruction seeks Egyptian experience’: Iraqi PM ]]>
The Iraqi prime minister praised the national role of the Iraqi people in eliminating terrorism and supporting efforts of the security services in the country.

Abadi, who has made it possible to achieve the difficult equation of his government's successful victory over ISIL militarily, and to develop a comprehensive national strategy to eliminate sectarianism, and consolidation of the concept of citizenship and partnership, spoke to Egypt Today on the fight against terrorism in Iraq, and details of Kuwait's conference scheduled for February in the presence of a large number of states. In addition, Abadi emphasized the role of the Arab media in shaping awareness among citizens.

Iraqi Prime Minister Dr. Haidar Al Abadi, said in an exclusive and comprehensive dialogue for Egypt Today that his country welcomes the participation of Egyptian companies in the reconstruction of Iraq, explaining that his country needs nearly $100 billion to reconstruct the country, praising the great experience of Egyptian companies in several areas that Iraq needs in the coming period.

The full text of the interview is included below.

What is the reality of the security situation in Iraq? Is Baghdad safe?

The Iraqis have suffered for 50 years, and sadly not much has been heard about Iraq, except for stories of terrorism, tyranny, tales of war and destruction; creating a negative impression that must be removed and where the reality of the situation in our country must crystalize in its stead.

There are entities who do not want Iraqis to see the liberation of their country from terrorism, who in fact want to erase Iraq from the world map. Some do not want it to be reconstructed, but the steadfastness and unity of the Iraqis have dispelled all those plots that wanted to disintegrate the country and push it into conflicts. The unity and steadfastness of the Iraqis have achieved the victory by making sacrifices to liberate their lands and their children. The capital, Baghdad, is safe and the situation is stable in the country and its choice as capital of the Arab media confirms the extent of our country's freedom.

Terrorism years ago threatened Baghdad and all Iraqi governorates, but we kept the freedom of the media to a great extent and we want to maintain it, provided that the freedom of truth, the good word and the non-promotion of falsehoods and rumors prevails.

What strategy have you used to face the terrorist organization ISIL?

After ISIS controlled several Iraqi provinces and threatened the capital Baghdad, the Iraqi people united against the extremist organization and provided a large number of volunteers to fight alongside the security forces. Due to the steadfastness of the people and their unity, we have squandered the ISIL terrorist project.

As the fighting intensified and military commanders raced in the battlefields to wipe out Daesh, I issued my orders during the last year not to advance the leaders in the front ranks of the battle so we don't lose any of them, which would have helped terrorists achieve their goal of liquidating military commanders.

What happens in Iraq occurs in most countries. We must support the steadfastness of the people, conveying the truth, supporting the aspirations of the people and reviving the spirit of hope for the proper transformation of the process. Human experience is important in this context and I hope that the media will focus on that aspect.

The Arab reality is in front of burning areas and disagreements because of polarization and I felt that states are seeking to pursue their interests and agendas at the expense of others. For example, fighting in Syria is fierce and it is a fight for influence and it has become a humanitarian catastrophe in our sister country.

The tragedy of Syria, the exodus of millions and what is happening in Yemen and Libya must be confronted by an Arab decision; we must not wait for any directions from the West. The western countries have interests and we are part of these interests, and if our lives and interests are foreclosed for them, there will be no solution because the Western states have priorities other than ours.

The terrorists have taken great control of social media sites in recent years. What's the impact on Iraq? And how do we cope with the danger of social media?

Today the whole world is witnessing a real problem in its openness to social media sites which has become the source of information for many people including politicians. I see a problem with information where there is information that builds, while other types of information wants to destroy others and deprive us of the grace of freedom. We must not allow the spread of lies and rumors.

There are campaigns that want to provoke discord between nations, nationalities and doctrines and blood-stained dollars are spent on them. A word as is, can revive hearts and unite nations; it can also be a bullet and a destructive bomb when used in falsehood. We support the freedom of the media provided that there is a commitment by the media, as we don't want to control the media.

Terrorists are rooting out malicious ideas targeting our young people, and we call on the Arab media and the press to beware of the phenomenon of social communication that states cannot fully face. I am with keeping liberties but a tool must be with companies to pressure them not to use organized crime, and terrorism through means of social communication. The modern technology used by terrorists and the channeling of young people through the enormous capabilities of those groups can destroy societies. Social networking sites have become a weapon, and we must put pressure on social media companies to prevent speech in support of terror and hate.

Terrorist groups used social media in a horrid way and social media companies are not interested in Arab opinion and have not worked to address this phenomenon

How can we address the takfirist ideology that hit Iraq?

The weapon of economic development is very important and is the most appropriate mechanism to counter takfirist ideas. The amount of money that has been spent in conflicts in the region, particularly the Iraqi-Iranian war and others would have solved all the problems confronting the Arab states. We look forward to the money going to the poor classes to launch development projects. We must also create hope for youth and the states of the region are to be concerned with this issue.

There must be contact with the countries of the region and Iraq, which has several alliances in the region. We seek economic cooperation with the states we are allied with, and the question here is whether we can stop the polarization in the region that has drained our fortunes and capabilities.

Now Iraq has begun to recover but there are still problems confronting us. Despite the multiplicity of religious doctrines in our country, everyone lives in an atmosphere of national unity; the governor among us being the Iraqi constitution. The difference between the elements is healthy and good, and there are facts to be highlighted, but the rejection of dialogue and the other view leads to terrorism. It poses a threat to states.

When is the reconstruction of Iraq going to actually be on the ground? What are the opportunities for Egyptian companies?

Frankly, we are working to restore security and stability to all liberated areas by providing basic services of water and electricity and returning the displaced. We formed a Higher Council for the reconstruction of liberated areas because all the cities of Iraq need reconstruction, as a result of the war on terrorists that has destroyed a large number of Iraqi cities. The collapse of oil prices in recent months and the war have caused negligence in providing services to the Iraqi citizen, as the devastated areas need to be fully reconstructed.

There are stable Iraqi cities and things are going well, for example, Anbar and Salah al-Din, and oil companies have returned to work in these cities. As for the Reconstruction Conference, we have called on Kuwait to host the Iraq Reconstruction conference in the presence of representatives of international companies.

The fact is that reconstruction is mainly based on investment, but the regional and international situation does not allow nations to give grants because of the decline in oil and other things. However, we aspire for there to be grants and there should be a part geared to invest in reconstruction, and Egyptian companies will have a large role because of their vast experience in a number of areas we need in the coming period. The investor is looking for investment opportunities and our country is conducive to investment, which creates significant job opportunities in Iraq.

Investment provides added value for a citizen who feels that the situation has improved with the presence of investment in various fields. Some countries have gone through false experiences, and Iraq suffers from corruption, as well as, bureaucracy in the country. Nevertheless, we are determined to confront and resolve those problems to create the fertile enabling environment for investment. We are striving to embark properly on the reconstruction and strive to confront and fight corruption, and we are working to ensure that routine is not a burden on the Iraqi citizen and we welcome Egyptian companies to work on reconstruction.

As for the Iraqi citizen, he wants to develop in Iraq as an oil country, not aware of the challenges facing the country and its inability to reconstruct. Iraq faces problems of unclear systems in explaining the image to the citizen who always demands development. We have ISIS governorates and others have been affected. These governorates have provided their sons for the defeat of ISIL, and we will take care of all Iraqi governorates because they do need development.

Here, it was pointed out that some thought that the emergence of ISIL would enable them to carry out their malicious plans in Iraq and deceived the Iraqi people, some of whom had initially welcomed it, and caused the terrorist organization to destroy the infrastructure in Iraq.

Iraq was destroyed twice; the first time was when ISIS came into being and the second when we fought to defeat ISIL and had to make great sacrifices. The priority in the coming period will be for the Iraqi citizen to feel the development, and a large proportion of the displaced have been returned to their cities.

ISIL's adherence to its presence in Mosul has caused the entire infrastructure to be destroyed, and the Iraqi army has clearly resolved the battle but destroyed the city's infrastructure with old buildings.

Will the crisis with the Kurdistan region of Iraq be resolved before the next legislative elections are held?

At the outset, I affirm that the Kurdish problem is partly historical and we respect the aspirations of the Kurds, and the Kurdish problem has been the battle of all successive Iraqi governments. There is a national problem because they have national regions and there is a crisis in oil and the salaries of workers in the territory are being re-employed and we are working to resolve those problems.

We oppose the lack of transparency or accounting in the Kurdistan region and refuse the way things are managed there because they are managed in a partisan manner. We in Iraq and for years have adopted on the quota for the top political positions as partisan elections are in the quota system, because the Iraqi parliament is formed on the basis of a party. Hence the government will be partisan.

During my recent participation at the Davos conference, I met with the prime minister of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Nivan Barzani and Gobad Talabani, and agreed on a road map that we hope will be properly implemented. Here I would point out that some do not want to resolve the crisis and insist on a national homeland for the Kurds, which is a dream and an ambition, but one which we fully reject. I have complete determination to resolve this problem fully, and am keen to resolve and impose the federal authority in the territory as part of our commitment to the Constitution and the law.

Will the conference on reconstruction in Kuwait contribute to accelerating the fight against corruption, especially since the granting countries bind their contribution to transparent financial and accounting management in Iraq?

That is true, we are working to implement and scale up anti-corruption measures. Even though no one is able to completely eliminate corruption in the Iraqi state, we are on our way to eliminating the causes of corruption in our country.

In previous years there was corruption where for example passports were issued to Iraqi citizens by paying between $2,000-3,000. Former governments tried to hit hard and arrested a large number and now we succeeded in issuing one-day passports by carrying out procedures and a clear-cut mechanism to fight corruption. For the reconstruction of the country, Iraq needs an estimated $100 billion. Maybe no one can fight corruption completely, but in investment we make sure the money is in right place.
]]>
2/4/2018 8:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Corsica's nationalists stage protest ahead of Macron visit]]>
An alliance of Corsica's two main nationalist parties, helped by disillusion with mainstream parties tarnished by corruption, swept to victory in a local election on Dec. 10 and has been pressing for talks with Paris.

Its leaders want more autonomy on fiscal issues, equal status for the French and Corsican languages, and the limiting of the right to buy property in some areas to people who have been resident on the island for at least five years.

The local prefecture said between 5,600 and 6,000 people marched peacefully in Ajaccio, while organisers put the number of protesters at between 22,000 and 25,000.

"It's a historic moment, a march of unprecedented proportions in Ajaccio," the island's chief Gilles Simeoni told reporters.

Macron's government has said it is open to some changes in its relationship with Corsica.

But ministers have rejected some demands, such as the language question, which would require changes to the French constitution which states that French is the Republic's sole official language.

That has infuriated nationalist leaders, who had urged Corsicans to join the protest march, ahead of Macron's visit on Tuesday.

The government is playing with fire by rejecting the nationalists' demands, Simeoni told Reuters in an interview this week, alluding to the independence movement's violent past.

Before laying down arms in 2014, groups backing Corsican independence had carried out more than 10,000 attacks over four decades, blowing up police stations and holiday homes.

These clandestine groups were linked to at least 40 deaths, either in attacks on government officials or as a result of infighting among rival factions.

Corsica has 325,000 inhabitants and accounts for less than 0.5 percent of France's economy. ]]>
2/4/2018 2:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Germany's potential coalition partners agree on energy, wrangle over health]]>
The two camps aim to seal a deal by the end of Sunday to renew the "grand coalition" that has governed Europe's largest economy since 2013, although some politicians say they could run into Monday or Tuesday.

SPD deputy Manuela Schwesig urged the conservatives to compromise on abolishing fixed-term contracts for workers and reforming Germany's public-private healthcare system.

"I don't think Mrs Merkel can explain why there can't be any movement there," she said as she arrived for talks.

The SPD wants to prove to its sceptical members that it would be able to push through those core policies in the role of junior partner to make another "grand coalition" more appealing.

Many of the SPD's 443,000 members - who will get to vote on any coalition deal - would prefer their party to revamp in opposition rather than join another alliance with Merkel after suffering their worst post-war election result in September.

Healthcare is a big stumbling block and party sources said Merkel and her Bavarian ally Horst Seehofer discussed the issue before meeting the SPD.

The conservatives reject replacing the current system with a "citizen's insurance" as called for by the SPD and talks are now expected to focus on improving the position of those with public healthcare, such as by changing billing rules for doctors, who earn more by treating private patients.

The parties are not expected to come to an agreement on the most controversial issues, which include healthcare and labour market policy, until the near the end of negotiations.

The conservatives have offered to ban the repeated renewal of fixed-term contracts but do not want to prevent employers from using them as the SPD demands.

The two camps made some progress on labour policy on Friday by agreeing that employees in companies with more than 45 workers should have the right to move seamlessly back and forth between full- and part-time employment.

ENERGY AND FARMING

In a sign they are getting closer to a deal, the parties reached an accord on energy and environment, agreeing to set legally binding climate targets for sectors like energy, transport, agriculture and construction to reach by 2030.

Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said national climate targets for 2020 would not be quite reached but the new targets, which would be written into law in 2019, would ensure Germany can remain a "climate protection pioneer".

They also agreed on agriculture, saying they wanted to put an end to the use of weedkiller glyphosate as quickly as possible and ban the cultivation of genetically modified plants.

The parties are hoping to tick off issues like finances, home building and rents during negotiations.

They reached a deal on migration on Friday, agreeing to stick to the wording of January's coalition blueprint that said the parties did not expect annual migration to exceed 220,000 per year.

But the two blocs were still wrangling over its meaning on Saturday, with Joachim Herrmann - a member of Merkel's CSU Bavarian allies who have called for an upper limit - telling the Rheinische Post his party had secured a migrant cap.

Meanwhile, SPD deputy Ralf Stegner insisted the number is merely a prediction, writing on Twitter: "The fact remains that the SPD has not agreed to any upper limit and will not do so."

Migration is a sensitive issue given the influx of more than a million migrants since mid-2015 and the conservatives' subsequent loss of support to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) in September's national election.]]>
2/4/2018 1:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[German spy chief alleges North Korea uses Berlin embassy for procurement]]>
No one at the North Korean embassy in Berlin was immediately available to comment on the allegation.

In a programme to be aired on NDR television on Monday, BfV head Hans-Georg Maassen said: "We determined that procurement activities have been carried out from there that are, in our view, done with a view to the missile programme and sometimes also for the nuclear programme."

He said it was often so-called dual use goods, which can be used for both civil and military purposes.

Comments released by NDR ahead of the broadcast showed Maassen said German authorities prevented such activities when they found them but he added: "We can't guarantee that we can detect and prevent this in all cases."

He said it was necessary to presume that parts for North Korea's launch programme "were acquired via other markets or underground buyers had acquired them in Germany".

North Korea has defied years of multilateral and bilateral sanctions with a weapons programme aimed at developing nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States. ]]>
2/4/2018 12:36:39 AM
<![CDATA[Pressure mounts on Poland to back away from Holocaust bill]]>
Parliament passed the measure on Thursday, drawing outrage from Israel, U.S. criticism and condemnation from a number of international organisations. President Andrzej Duda has 21 days to decide whether to sign it into law.

The bill would impose prison sentences of up to three years for mentioning the term "Polish death camps" and for suggesting "publicly and against the facts" complicity on the part of the Polish nation or state in Nazi Germany's crimes.

More than three million of Poland's 3.2 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis, accounting for about half of the Jews killed in the Holocaust. Jews from across Europe were sent to be killed at death camps built and operated by the Germans on Polish soil, including Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor.

According to figures from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Nazis also killed at least 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish civilians.

In a rare show of unity, Polish minority and ethnic groups, including Jewish, Ukrainian and Russian, urged Duda and other authorities to counteract all forms of xenophobia, intolerance and anti-Semitism, although they did not directly call on the president to veto the bill.

"Our particular concern and objection is caused by the numerous and loud manifestations of anti-Semitism that we have been witnessing this week after the (parliament) passed (the Holocaust bill)," the groups said in statement.

GERMAN DEATH CAMPS

Poland, which has gone through a painful public debate in recent years after the publication of research showing some Poles participated in the Nazi atrocities, has long sought to discourage use of the term "Polish camps" to refer to Nazi camps on its territory, arguing that the phrase implies complicity.

On Saturday, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said the use of the phrase "Polish death camps" was wrong.

"There is not the slightest doubt as to who was responsible for the extermination camps, operated them and murdered millions of European Jews there: namely Germans," Gabriel said in a statement.

Israeli officials said the legislation criminalises basic historical facts. The country's foreign ministry said on Thursday that Israel "adamantly opposes" the bill's approval as a whole.

The Israeli embassy in Warsaw said late on Friday that Israel does not oppose Poland's fight for assuring the phrase "Polish death camps" is never used.

"We would like to use this opportunity to repeat that Israel stands with Poland in using the proper term for the death camps - German Nazi camps," the embassy said in its statement.

The embassy also said that it has received "a wave of anti-Semitic statements" in the past week.

Poland is one of the most ethnically and religiously homogenous countries in Europe, but before World War Two Jews made up 10 percent of the population and the country also had large Ukrainian, German, Belarussian and other minorities.

Poland's ruling party, the socially conservative PiS, has reignited debate on the Holocaust as part of a campaign to fuel patriotism since sweeping into power in 2015.

The party says the bill is needed to protect Poland's reputation and ensure historians recognise that Poles as well as Jews were victims of the Nazis.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the chairman of the PiS and de facto the country's leader, told the public radio Jedynka on Saturday that Poland rejects "anti-Semitism very radically".

"But we are also a sovereign state and we have a duty to start, because this is only the beginning, the fight against ... this great defamatory campaign against Poland, namely, insulting Poland, blaming us for someone else's actions."

FREE SPEECH

Critics of the bill have raised concerns it will curb free speech and could potentially be used against Holocaust survivors or historians.

A U.S. congressional task force on combating anti-Semitism and a number of Jewish groups urged Duda to veto the bill.

The International Auschwitz Council, an advisory body to the office of the Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said on Friday the bill's imprecision raised "legitimate concerns about restricting freedom in discovering the truth about the Holocaust".

Duda has not said whether he will sign the bill, but his spokesman told the Polish state radio Trojka: "The president believes that Poland, as any other country, has the right to defend its good name ... has the right to defend the truth".

Kaczynski said that Duda should sign the law.

"We must talk to our allies in a way that would allow them to understand that we have no intention of renouncing our dignity," he said.]]>
2/4/2018 12:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Overview: Sisi’s first visit to Muscat strengthens deep rooted relations ]]>
“The president will meet with Sultan Qaboos and a number of top Omani officials, where they will tackle ways to strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries on all levels,” the president’s spokesperson Bassam Radi stated, adding that “the three-day official visit will witness talks between the two leaders over the latest developments in the region.”

The relations between Egypt and Oman have been characteristically warm for decades. During Sisi’s presidency, Egyptian-Omani relations have deeply flourished and advanced in various fields such as political, economical, and cultural cooperation. Egypt Today presents an overview of the most recent advancements of the cooperation between the two states

Egyptian-Omani deep rooted political cooperation

Last year, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry visited Muskat twice and discussed the cooperation between the two states. On November 2017, Shoukry met with his Omani counterpart, Yusuf bin Alawi, handing over a message to Oman's Sultan Qaboos from President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi concerning regional developments and cooperation. Shoukry’s visit came as a part of his regional diplomatic tour aimed at "an intensification of consultations and coordination between Egypt and its brothers in the region.”

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FILE: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry discusses mutual cooperation with his Omani counterpart Yusuf bin Alawi, November 14, 2017

In January, Shoukry paid a visit to Muscat in which he discussed strengthening the bilateral ties between the two countries and followed-up on the implementation of cooperation programs with Yusuf bin Alawi, Oman’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

For their part, Bin Alawi paid a visit to Egypt in which he and Sisi discussed boosting mutual cooperation between the two countries.

The cooperation between the two countries expanded to Military level as Minister of Defense Sedky Sobhy visited Muscat in November 2017 where he discussed military cooperation between the two states and discussed a number of issues of mutual concern with his Omani counterpart Badr bin Saud al-Busaidi.

Founding their embassy in Egypt in 1972, Oman has developed its relations with Egypt. The Sultanate is keen to participate in conferences called for by Egypt, such as participation in the Egypt Economic Development Conference (EEDC), a three-day event that took place in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh from March 13, 2015, and their attendance at the opening ceremony of the Suez Canal and other new events.

Egyptian-Omani economic fruitful relations

While Oman views Egypt as one of the most significant stations through which it can enter into the African market, Egypt considers Oman as a large commercial and investment market which represents one of the important trade keys between Cairo and the Gulf countries.

The recent statistics have shown that Egypt's exports to Oman are about to reach LE 23 million. However, Egypt's import amounted to LE 8 million.

On February 24, 2017, Egypt and Oman signed three bilateral cooperation agreements between the two ministries of manpower of the respective countries at the end of the 13th session of the Egyptian-Omani joint commission meetings that were held in Cairo under the chairmanship of Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Omani Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Youssef Bin Alawi.

The two ministers ordered to launch arrangements for the 14th session of the Egyptian-Omani joint committee, scheduled to be held in Muscat in the current year.

On May 17, 2017, bilateral meetings were held between the companies of the two countries to promote trade exchange. The bilateral meetings between Egyptian -Omani companies aimed at boosting trade exchange between the two countries. It included 25 exporting companies from the largest commercial companies in the Sultanate and 95 Egyptian companies that have been importing from major governments and private companies.

Mass Cultural exchange relations

Egypt signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Oman in 2014 to begin media cooperation and the exchange of information and research. The MOU aimed to support the joint production of printed and electronic publications, which shed light on the long historical relations between the two countries, ease the research of media specialties, and encourage the exchange of visits among media experts.

Egypt also hosted many Omani cultural and art events. At the Opera house in 2010, the Omani Association of Journalists held a photo exhibition under the theme: "Features from Oman”.

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina also played a vital role in deepening the cultural relations between the two countries. The Bibliotheca hosted various Omani cultural events such as the “Omani Cultural Day” event which was held in 2013 about the means of communication between the two brotherly countries.

In March 2016, the Muscat Film Festival witnessed a remarkable participation of Egyptian actors and actresses. Moreover, they commemorated the deceased actor Nour el-Sherif.

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FILE: Egyptian actors and actress attend Muscat Film Festival witnessed, 23 March 2016

Egypt’s Al Azhar, the oldest and the most prestigious center of advanced Islamic studies among Sunni Muslims, signed a protocol with the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs and Oman has praised many Egypt’s sheikh and scholars to their mosques. Many Omani missions have come to Egypt to study in Alazhar University yearly.

There are an estimated 59,000 Egyptian expatriates in Oman.

Egyptian-Omani relations represent a key axis in the Arab region in light of the harmony in mutual visions and policies, stated Oman's Ambassador to Egypt Aly Bin Ahmed al-Essay

All Omanis appreciate the role Egypt plays in resolving conflicts in the region, the ambassador said in statements to MENA on the occasion of July 23 revolution anniversary.

Egyptian-Omani relations have witnessed notable development due to the active communication between Cairo and Muscat, the ambassador reaffirmed.

Throughout history, Egypt has been an integral part in building and uniting the Arab ranks, the envoy said, adding that Egypt spared no effort in making sacrifices to defend the Arab and Muslims causes.
]]>
2/3/2018 5:49:45 PM
<![CDATA[Op-ed Review: Sisi’s ‘hidden messages’ during Zohr ceremony]]>
In state-run Al-Ahram newspaper, Makram Mohamed Ahmed praised Zohr field’s inauguration, calling it “one of the Egyptians’ wonders.” He believed that the Zohr field shall improve the difficult Egyptian circumstances.

Makram stated that Zohr will contribute to changing the Egyptian state’s course amid changing circumstances. “Egyptians have an opportunity to prove to the entire world that they are capable of doing the impossible in a short time.”

The partisan Al-Wafd newspaper tackled in its opinion columns the political atmosphere in Egypt and foreign conspiracies that have been targeting the Egyptian national security. Wagdy Zein Eddin illustrated the key messages, in his point of view, that Sisi have directed to the media outlets during Zohr field’s ceremony.

The Egyptian press have to adhere to objectivity and neutral coverage criteria so that the press can play an essential role in boosting security and order in the state of Egypt, according to Zein Eddin. “Sisi’s message to the media can be interpreted as a directive to stick to complete objectivity in order to survive plots against Egypt amid terrifying and horrible conspiracies against Egyptian national security.”

Egyptian columnist Abbas el-Tarabili wrote in Wafd newspaper about the disputes circulated among members of the Wafd Party recently after the withdrawal of the party from proposing el-Sayyid el-Badawi for the presidential election.

“Nine months later, Al-Wafd will celebrate a one-century anniversary as it was founded in 1918 as the first concrete outcome from the 1919 revolution,” el-Tarabili added.
In privately-owned Shorouk newspaper, Emad Eddin Hussein tackled the “hidden messages” in Sisi’s statements during the Zohr ceremony and during the “Tale of Nation” conference two weeks ago.

“When Sisi said that he will not allow a corrupt person to become president, he proved that there are definite facts offered to security apparatuses about some moves on ground that Sisi does not want to reveal to Egyptians,” Hussein stressed.

Sisi’s messages warned many parties that any attempt to destabilize the Egyptian security will never be forgiven.

In Hussein’s opinion, Sisi sought to send warning messages to two parties, former military chief of staff Sami Anan and his supporters and the political forces which have called for boycotting the upcoming presidential election which is scheduled to be on March 26 to 28.

“Governmental circles believe the boycott calls are attempts to coup against the constitution,” Hussein added. “Urgent political solutions are needed.”

In Al-Watan newspaper, Emad Eddin Adeeb expressed his anger at the media and press performance in Egypt, accusing them of making up news stories and lacking credibility. “We witness an era of journalism without journalists, news without sources and statements that have never been given,” Adeeb manifested.

Adeeb warned writers who are used to fabricating news stories that they will face legal charges someday. “You [the writers that he talked about above] will never escape Allah’s punishment for the crimes that you have committed against humanity and media.”

In independent Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, Mohamed el-Amin wondered if the so-called ‘Dawn Visitors’ phenomenon has re-appeared again or not. The ‘Dawn Visitors’ refers to the national security services officers who used to ‘visit’ and ‘arrest’ defendants in political cases at dawn.

One of the opposition groups that called for boycotting the presidential election claimed that he had received a threat via a phone call from an unknown number. Amin wondered if this allegation was true or not, adding, “Are there truly calls threatening politicians? Or do these allegations aim to drive a wedge between the Egyptian regime and politicians.”
Amin ruled out the possibility of the appearance of the so-called ‘Dawn Visitors’ again in the public field after two popular revolutions against such oppressive actions. He manifested that such phenomenon will harm the Egyptian image and reputation globally.]]>
2/3/2018 5:40:29 PM
<![CDATA[Venezuela's socialist party confirms Maduro as official candidate]]>
Socialist party chief Diosdado Cabello on Friday announced the unanimous decision. The government has said the election will be held by the end of April.

Maduro succeeded the late President Hugo Chavez, leading the oil-rich country into a deepening crisis marked by soaring inflation and shortages of food and medicine.

The United States says it will reject the "snap" election. Several Latin America countries condemned holding a vote before Maduro's government and its political opposition complete negotiations aimed at resolving the crisis.

Venezuela's opposition coalition hasn't selected a candidate or decided if it will participate.

Maduro says that in his second term he'll wean Venezuela's economy off of oil production.]]>
2/3/2018 11:49:53 AM
<![CDATA[Mexico relationship with Trump closer than with previous gov]]>
"I think in many ways the relationship today is more fluid, it's closer than it was with previous administrations, which might be surprising to some people but that's a fact of life," said Mexico's top diplomat.

Videgaray spoke alongside U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland in Mexico City.

Freeland said that uncertainty around renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement was not good for business, but that it was important to get it right.

As Videgaray, a former finance minister and longtime aide of President Enrique Pena Nieto, put a good face on U.S.-Mexico relations, he also acknowledged some tensions.

"We do have some differences, as every other country does, but we've been working very closely," said Videgaray. "We're looking to the future." ]]>
2/3/2018 5:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[Disputed memo alleging FBI abuse released on Trump's okay]]>
In authorizing the explosive move -- denounced by his opponents as a bid to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of his team's ties with Russia -- Trump set up an extraordinary confrontation with America's top law enforcement authorities.

Ignoring the advice of the FBI itself, which warned that the four-page document painted an inaccurate picture, the president gave his green light to declassify the memo drafted by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, former Trump transition team official Devin Nunes.

"What's happening in our country is a disgrace," Trump said as he announced the move. "A lot of people should be ashamed."

"So I sent it over to Congress. They will do what they're going to do. Whatever they do is fine. It was declassified, and let's see what happens."

Based on classified materials, the memo claims that the FBI used an unsubstantiated, Democratic-funded research report to obtain a warrant in 2016 to surveil Trump advisor Carter Page, who had extensive Russian contacts.

White House counsel Don McGahn wrote in a letter attached to the memo that Trump had authorized its declassification "in light of the significant public interest in the memorandum."

"The committee has discovered serious violations of the public trust, and the American people have a right to know when officials in crucial institutions are abusing their authority for political purposes," Nunes said in a statement.

In the memo, the committee said its investigation had found "a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses" of surveillance laws.

- 'Constitutional crisis' -

The FBI had issued an extraordinary public warning against the memo's release, saying it contained "material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy."

Trump's decision triggered speculation that FBI Director Christopher Wray would step down after just six months in the job -- and that Mueller's job could also be at risk.

Democrats allege that the ultimate target is Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the sole person able to fire Mueller since his boss Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation.

Both Rosenstein and Wray have battled Nunes and the White House over the memo since the beginning of the year.

Furious Democrats warned Trump of a "constitutional crisis" if the Russia probe chief, a former FBI director, is sacked.

"We write to inform you that we would consider such an unwarranted action as an attempt to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Nancy Pelosi, and eight other key Democrats said in a statement.

"Firing Rod Rosenstein, DOJ Leadership, or Bob Mueller could result in a constitutional crisis of the kind not seen since the Saturday Night Massacre," they said, referring to disgraced president Richard Nixon's orders to fire justice officials during the Watergate scandal.

Former FBI head James Comey, who was fired by Trump last year after refusing to pledge loyalty to the president, tweeted after the memo's release: "That's it?"

"Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen," he wrote.

"For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs."

- 'Rank & File are great people!' -

As he prepared to declassify the document, Trump took a swipe at the FBI and Justice Department.

"The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans," he tweeted.

The president called the alleged bias "something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago," adding: Rank & File are great people!"

The federation representing FBI agents rejected any notion that their work was governed by political bias.

"The men and women of the FBI put their lives on the line every day in the fight against terrorists and criminals because of their dedication to our country and the Constitution," Thomas O'Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association (FBIAA), said in a statement.

The explosive Republican memo was based on the highly classified, much larger record of the application to obtain a so-called FISA national security warrant in 2016 to surveil Page.

Democrats have sought approval for the release of their own counter-memo that argues Nunes simplified and "cherry-picks" facts to distort what happened.

Paul Ryan, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, supported the memo's release as an act of transparency while also calling Friday for the Democrat memo to be approved for release.

But not all Republicans were on board with the memo's release.

Four senior Republican senators -- John Thune, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins and Jeff Flake -- expressed their unease about Nunes' use of intelligence in a political battle.

"The president's apparent willingness to release this memo risks undermining US intelligence-gathering efforts, politicizing Congress' oversight role, and eroding confidence in our institutions of government," Flake said, in a joint statement with Democratic Senator Chris Coons.]]>
2/3/2018 1:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[N.Korea earned $200 mln from banned exports, sends arms to Syria, Myanmar]]>
The report to a U.N. Security Council sanctions committee, seen by Reuters on Friday, said North Korea had shipped coal to ports, including in Russia, China, South Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam, mainly using false paperwork that showed countries such as Russia and China as the coal origin, instead of North Korea.

The 15-member council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke funding for Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

"The DPRK (North Korea) is already flouting the most recent resolutions by exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries and the international banking system," the U.N. monitors wrote in the 213-page report.

The North Korean mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the U.N. report. Russia and China have repeatedly said they are implementing U.N. sanctions on North Korea.

SYRIA, MYANMAR

The monitors said they had investigated ongoing ballistic missile cooperation between Syria and Myanmar, including more than 40 previously unreported North Korea shipments between 2012 and 2017 to Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Centre, which oversees the country's chemical weapons program.

The investigation has shown "further evidence of arms embargo and other violations, including through the transfer of items with utility in ballistic missile and chemical weapons programs," the U.N. monitors wrote.

They also inspected cargo from two North Korea shipments intercepted by unidentified countries en route to Syria. Both contained acid-resistant tiles that could cover an area equal to a large scale industrial project, the monitors reported.

One country, which was not identified, told the monitors the seized shipments can "be used to build bricks for the interior wall of a chemical factory."

Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013. However, diplomats and weapons inspectors suspect Syria may have secretly maintained or developed a new chemical weapons capability.

The Syrian mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the U.N. report.

The U.N. monitors also said one country, which they did not identify, reported it had evidence that Myanmar received ballistic missile systems from North Korea, along with conventional weapons, including multiple rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles.

Myanmar U.N. Ambassador Hau Do Suan said the Myanmar government "has no ongoing arms relationship, whatsoever, with North Korea" and is abiding by the U.N. Security Council resolutions.

BANNED EXPORTS, IMPORTS

Under a 2016 resolution, the U.N. Security Council capped coal exports and required countries to report any imports of North Korean coal to the council sanctions committee. It then banned all exports of coal by North Korea on Aug. 5.

The U.N. monitors investigated 16 coal shipments between January and Aug. 5 to ports in Russia, China, Malaysia and Vietnam. They said Malaysia reported one shipment to the council committee and the remaining 15 shipments violated sanctions.

After the coal ban was imposed on Aug. 5, the U.N. monitors investigated 23 coal shipments to ports in Russia, China, South Korea and Vietnam. The U.N. monitors said all those shipments "would constitute a violation of the resolution, if confirmed."

"The DPRK combined deceptive navigation patterns, signals manipulation, transshipments as well as fraudulent documentation to obscure the origin of the coal," the monitors said.

The U.N. monitors "also investigated cases of ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products in violation (of U.N. sanctions) ... and found that the network behind these vessels is primarily based in Taiwan province of China."

The monitors said one country, which they did not name, told them North Korea had carried out such transfers off its ports of Wonsan and Nampo and in international waters between the Yellow Sea and East China Sea between October and January.

The report said several multinational oil companies, which were not named, were also being investigated for roles in the supply chain of petroleum products transferred to North Korea.UNITED NATIONS, Feb 2 (Reuters) - North Korea violated United Nations sanctions to earn nearly $200 million in 2017 from banned commodity exports, according to a confidential report by independent U.N. monitors, which also accused Pyongyang of supplying weapons to Syria and Myanmar.

The report to a U.N. Security Council sanctions committee, seen by Reuters on Friday, said North Korea had shipped coal to ports, including in Russia, China, South Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam, mainly using false paperwork that showed countries such as Russia and China as the coal origin, instead of North Korea.

The 15-member council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke funding for Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

"The DPRK (North Korea) is already flouting the most recent resolutions by exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries and the international banking system," the U.N. monitors wrote in the 213-page report.

The North Korean mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the U.N. report. Russia and China have repeatedly said they are implementing U.N. sanctions on North Korea.

SYRIA, MYANMAR

The monitors said they had investigated ongoing ballistic missile cooperation between Syria and Myanmar, including more than 40 previously unreported North Korea shipments between 2012 and 2017 to Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Centre, which oversees the country's chemical weapons program.

The investigation has shown "further evidence of arms embargo and other violations, including through the transfer of items with utility in ballistic missile and chemical weapons programs," the U.N. monitors wrote.

They also inspected cargo from two North Korea shipments intercepted by unidentified countries en route to Syria. Both contained acid-resistant tiles that could cover an area equal to a large scale industrial project, the monitors reported.

One country, which was not identified, told the monitors the seized shipments can "be used to build bricks for the interior wall of a chemical factory."

Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013. However, diplomats and weapons inspectors suspect Syria may have secretly maintained or developed a new chemical weapons capability.

The Syrian mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the U.N. report.

The U.N. monitors also said one country, which they did not identify, reported it had evidence that Myanmar received ballistic missile systems from North Korea, along with conventional weapons, including multiple rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles.

Myanmar U.N. Ambassador Hau Do Suan said the Myanmar government "has no ongoing arms relationship, whatsoever, with North Korea" and is abiding by the U.N. Security Council resolutions.

BANNED EXPORTS, IMPORTS

Under a 2016 resolution, the U.N. Security Council capped coal exports and required countries to report any imports of North Korean coal to the council sanctions committee. It then banned all exports of coal by North Korea on Aug. 5.

The U.N. monitors investigated 16 coal shipments between January and Aug. 5 to ports in Russia, China, Malaysia and Vietnam. They said Malaysia reported one shipment to the council committee and the remaining 15 shipments violated sanctions.

After the coal ban was imposed on Aug. 5, the U.N. monitors investigated 23 coal shipments to ports in Russia, China, South Korea and Vietnam. The U.N. monitors said all those shipments "would constitute a violation of the resolution, if confirmed."

"The DPRK combined deceptive navigation patterns, signals manipulation, transshipments as well as fraudulent documentation to obscure the origin of the coal," the monitors said.

The U.N. monitors "also investigated cases of ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products in violation (of U.N. sanctions) ... and found that the network behind these vessels is primarily based in Taiwan province of China."

The monitors said one country, which they did not name, told them North Korea had carried out such transfers off its ports of Wonsan and Nampo and in international waters between the Yellow Sea and East China Sea between October and January.

The report said several multinational oil companies, which were not named, were also being investigated for roles in the supply chain of petroleum products transferred to North Korea.]]>
2/3/2018 1:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Venezuela military ouster remarks dog Tillerson in Latin America]]>
Tillerson ruffled feathers across the region on the eve of his five-nation tour with comments in Texas defending 19th century U.S. foreign policy in Latin America and suggesting the Venezuelan army could manage "a peaceful transition" from Maduro.

Both Maduro and his defense minister condemned the comments on Friday, and even Mexico, no friend of the Venezuelan government, was at pains to say it did not support any non-peaceful solution in the South American country that is engulfed in a political and economic crisis.

"Mexico, in no case, would back any option that implies the use of violence, internal or external, to resolve the case of Venezuela," Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said at a news conference, flanked by Tillerson and Canadian counterpart Chrystia Freeland.

"It will have to be the Venezuelans themselves who find a peaceful route, a peaceful solution to this crisis," he said.

Tillerson, in Mexico on the first leg of a trip that will also take in Argentina, Colombia, Peru and Jamaica, did not repeat his comments about military action, but reiterated a call for Maduro to reinstate a legislative assembly and hold free and fair elections.

In Venezuela, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino accused Washington of seeking to undermine democracy in Latin America and return to the days of "imperialism," lashing out at Tillerson during a broadcast on state television.

Padrino said Tillerson's Latin American tour was aimed at fomenting a regional "intervention" against Venezuela's socialist government.

"The armed forces radically reject such deplorable remarks that constitute a vile act of interference," he said, flanked by military top brass, before reading a formal statement of support for Maduro.

At a political rally later in the day, Maduro said he would not be bowed by Tillerson's comments.

"We will not give in. They don't know what we are made of," Maduro said.

CALLS FOR MILITARY ACTION

Venezuela's opposition leaders have long urged the military to take action against Maduro. Maduro claims the United States and opposition parties are part of an international right-wing conspiracy to oust him and get their hands on the OPEC nation's oil wealth.

U.S. President Donald Trump has himself suggested possible military intervention in Venezuela, though that was widely rejected in Latin America. Trump has imposed individual and economic sanctions on Venezuela's government, accusing it of rights abuses and corruption.

On Thursday, Tillerson referred to the 1823 Monroe Doctrine, which is widely seen in Latin America as a justification for U.S. armed intervention in the region, saying it was "as relevant today as it was the day it was written."

Discussing Venezuela, the top U.S. diplomat said militaries in Latin America often "handled" transitions from bad governments, but insisted he was not advocating "regime change."

"If the kitchen gets a little too hot for him, I am sure that he's got some friends over in Cuba that could give him a nice hacienda on the beach and he could have a nice life over there," Tillerson said, referring to 55-year-old Maduro, who has a close relationship with Cuba's communist government.

Senior military leaders have consistently stood by Maduro, whom critics accuse of turning Venezuela into a dictatorship and wrecking its economy.

But discontent among the rank-and-file, especially at their own economic penuries, is evident.

There have been some small uprisings against Maduro from within the security forces. A National Guard captain led an attack on a barracks but was later arrested. A police helicopter pilot, Oscar Perez, who lobbed grenades at government buildings, was tracked down and killed last month.]]>
2/3/2018 12:58:48 AM
<![CDATA[Int'l conference in Brussels discusses Arab-Qatari crisis]]>
The conference, titled “The Gulf diplomatic crisis, confronting terrorism funding,” was held in the EU headquarter on Friday, aiming to assure that European and Arab countries have to cooperate together to prevent Doha from financing militias and terrorist groups around the world.

It was added in their final statement that the cooperation between the countries and governments to fight international terrorism should be enhanced and increased during the coming period.

“This conference is a real good opportunity to confront terrorism and extremism in the world. Qatar's support to the armed groups around the world is one of the main reasons behind the Gulf currant crisis,” French politician Rachida Dati said during the conference.

Dati added that most of the Islamic and Arab world leaders found that their countries’ stability and security depends on their efforts to confront terrorism and the extremist thoughts.

The conference also tackled the relations between Doha and Al Qaeda according to international investigations.

The conference was organized by Brussels International Center for research and human rights (BIC), where several European and Arab politicians were present.

On June 5, Qatar was hit by its biggest diplomatic crisis in years after multiple Arab nations, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Doha and imposed economic sanctions, accusing it of funding terrorism, a claim Qatar rejects. The Arab Quartet halted all land, air and sea traffic to and from Qatar and withdrew their diplomats and ambassadors from the country.

The Arab quartet issued 13 demands to Doha – then shortened them to six principles - which included turning down the provocative voice of its news channel, Aljazeera, curbing relations with Iran and not to intervene the domestic issues of Arab nations.

The demands were met by Doha's procrastination, which aborted all attempts of middling to solve the dispute.]]>
2/3/2018 12:22:00 AM
<![CDATA[Sisi: Boosting, restoring relations with int'l community since 2014]]>

EU relations restored


Before Sisi came into power, Egyptian-EU relations were hindered as the European side did not fully understand the Egyptian situation after the June 30 popular uprising that toppled former Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated president Mohamed Morsi.


After a series of tours and meetings with European leaders and decision makers, relations between Egypt and Europe began to stabilize.


Sherif Ismail
Sherif Ismail, an Egyptian engineer who has been Prime Minister of Egypt since 2015; he was Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources from 2013 to 2015.


The Egyptian Cabinet said in a statement on Oct. 30, 2017 that the government signed agreements with the European Union for around €500 million in funding for development projects over the next three years.


The agreement followed the 7th EU-Egypt Association Council last July, which was held for the first time since April 2010.


The meeting was headed by European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. Participants discussed all aspects of Egyptian-European relations.


It was aimed that the meeting would deepen the partnership between Egypt and Europe in accordance with the association agreement signed between both parties. The association agreement includes the facilitation of trade between the two markets through the establishment of a free trade area.



According to the European Parliament Think Tank, since 2004, bilateral EU-Egypt trade has almost tripled, from €11.8 billion to €27.7 billion in 2015.



EU financial assistance to Egypt amounted over €1.3 billion in grants by last May; around 45 percent of the aforementioned figure was allocated for economic and social development in the country.


By Oct. 26, 2017, UK investments in Egypt amounted $43 billion in the fiscal 2016/17, with over 1,450 British businesses active.




African Union membership regained, Africa relations boosted


Considering Egypt’s role and stature in Africa, President Sisi saw it as a necessity to strengthen Egypt’s existence in the African region. On Aug. 14, 2017, Sisi began a 4-day tour that included visiting Tanzania, Rwanda, Gabon and Chad.


The tour, however, was not the first, as he visited several African countries since taking office in June 2014; the visits included summits and bilateral talks with African leaders.


On June 2014, the Egyptian leader participated in the African Union Summit in the Republic of Equatorial Guinea as his first presidential visit within the continent. The step was deemed a restoration of African-Egyptian relations after years of neglect.


Sisi in Summit
President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi participated in the opening session of the fourth Arab-Africa Summit, which was held in the capital of Equatorial Guinea, Malabo on November 24, 2016


Several short visits during 2015 followed the African Union Summit; the Egyptian president visited Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda per Yuri Museveni invitation on December 2016.


The visits were considered to be a move that helped spurring Egyptian-African trade exchanges, investments, economic partnership and cooperation in various sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, vocational training, banking, mining and human development.


Last June, the African Union's Peace and Security Council has unanimously agreed to unfreeze Egypt's membership to the union.


Sisi in Africa
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (L), Sudan's Omar al-Bashir and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn shake hands on a new Nile River deal. Sisi has engaged sub-Saharan Africa more - AFP


The decision to unfreeze Egypt’s membership came after a year of suspension from the 54-nation council after the ousting of Morsi.


President Sisi was also invited to attend an extraordinary African Summit meeting in Ouagadougou last Sep. 6.




Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal brokered


As relations between Fatah and Hamas were obstacle for around 10 years, Egypt managed to broker a reconciliation deal between the two parties.


The rival Palestinian fictions signed a reconciliation deal after Hamas agreed to hand over administrative control of Gaza, a decade after seizing the enclave in a civil war.


Palestine reconciliation
Heads of Fatah and Hamas delegations, Azzam al-Ahmad (L) and Saleh al-Aruri (R) after signing a reconciliation deal in

The deal was signed in Cairo by new Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri and Azzam al-Ahmad, the head of the Fatah delegation for the talks, at the headquarters of Egypt’s intelligence service, which oversaw the negotiations.


The meeting discussed the Palestinian situation on various aspects including deepening and boosting national unity and the threats that face the Palestinian case in light of an escalated Israeli aggression against Palestine’s authorities and people.


Key participants at the meeting showed much appreciation to Egypt, under the leadership of President Sisi, for its significant role in the Palestinian case and its interest to achieve independence and stability and end schism in the Palestinian scene.




Fighting for Jerusalem


On Dec. 16, Egypt proposed a draft resolution calling for the United States to withdraw its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was set to vote on the resolution.


U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley vetoed Egypt’s resolution, as the United States is one of the five permanent UNSC Member States possessing the veto right.


The resolution was backed by all 14 other Security Council members in the vote.


The 193-member U.N. General Assembly agreed to hold a rare emergency special session at the request of Arab and Muslim countries to vote on the draft.


Nikki
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley vetos an Egyptian-drafted resolution regarding recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem - REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Arab media figures and analysts have hailed the persistence of Egypt to defend Palestinians’ rights, despite Egypt’s strong relations with the U.S., including being one of the top recipients of the annual U.S. aid package.


Al-Azhar said in a statement that the UNGA vote expresses the rejection of the international community regarding the “unjust” decision over Jerusalem and the necessity to reverse it, as it violates international law and human rights.




Drawing anti-terrorism strategy for the world


During his participation at the Arab-Islamic-American Summit that took place in Riyadh on May 22, 2017, the Egyptian president presented a four-pillar counterterrorism strategy that goes beyond military and strategic tactics to tackle issues including ideology and support for terrorist organizations.


Sisi urged Arab and Muslim leaders to rise above their differences and collaborate with each other and the rest of the world to battle the growing threat of terrorism.

Sisi's speech during the summit came as follows:



“The comprehensive approach, based on the four aspects that I have mentioned, ought to lay the foundation for a new phase of cooperation among our countries and peoples,” Sisi said during the summit.




Russian air links resumed


After a 26-month air traffic suspension between Egypt and Russia, the Egyptian government spared no effort to settle the case, using all diplomatic capabilities to speed negotiations with the Russian side, until Russia decided to resume air links with Egypt.


Russian authorities always stressed that the resumption of flights would only be possible after Egypt satisfies all the demands made by Russian experts on ensuring security at domestic airports.


Since the crash, Egypt has been implementing new, tighter security measures at all of its airports to meet the Russian demands for the resumption of flights, with multiple visits by Russian security to behold changes implemented by the government.


During these visits, the Russian side affirmed that Egyptian aviation authorities have made significant progress in complying with Russia’s aviation safety requirements.


On December 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Cairo for the second time since President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi was sworn into office in May 2014. The visit showed increasing interest from Moscow to boost cooperation with Egypt after the bilateral relations have been up and down.




Back to Inter-Parliamentary Union


After about four-year lapse, Egypt’s parliament is to take part in the 277th session of the Executive Committee of Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Which is scheduled to be held in Switzerland on Feb. 3.


Egypt resumed its membership in the IPU in January, over two years after its membership was frozen in 2013 for not having a functioning parliament. Egypt has been without a parliament since a court ruling dissolved the 2012 Islamist-dominated chamber.


Participating MPs from Egypt include parliament speaker Ali Abdel Al, secretary-general Ahmed Saadeddin, the head of the parliamentary bloc, Alaa Abed, and appointed MP Rania Elwani.


In October, Abdel Aal chaired the coordination meeting of the Arab Group in the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) on behalf of the Moroccan Parliament Speaker and President of the Arab Inter-parliamentary Union (AIPU) al-Habib al-Maliki.



]]>2/3/2018 12:10:47 AM<![CDATA[Op-ed review: Sisi’s messages interpreted as stern warning to destabilizers]]>
In state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper, prominent poet Farouk Gowaida affirmed that President Sisi deserves another four-year term in office so as to continue his projects and achievements. Gowaida stressed that officials and opposition figures must be fully aware of foreign conspiracies that have been plotted against the Egyptian state.

He described the inauguration of Zohr field as a “historic moment” because it has been accomplished in less than two years. Zohr is expected to help Egypt restore its influential role in the region and in the global economy as well, according to Gowaida.

In privately-owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, columnist Abbas el-Tarabili blessed the discovery of Zohr natural gas field. “In petroleum world, from six to ten years are needed to start production and this deems a notable progress,” he added.

“Concluding a deal in 2014, discovering the Zohr in August, 2015, and uncovering the early production in January, 2018, is a real unique miracle,” el-Tarabili wrote.

In Al-Watan newspaper, prominent Emad Eddin Adeeb highlighted President Sisi’s remarks during the inauguration ceremony of Zohr; which Sisi warned against attempts to destabilize Egypt’s national security.

Adeeb gave a warning about Sisi’s character. “Sisi is not a man who thinks twice of a decision whatever this decision costs if it is related to the country’s security,” he manifested.

“When Sisi says that the price of Egypt’s safety is his life, his message’s interpretation is definitely precise and clear,” Adeeb wrote.

In the partisan Wafd Party, Magdi Sarhan warned of the illusion of a “third revolution” and the rise of anarchists in reference to Sisi’s remarks in Zohr inauguration ceremony.

Sisi stressed that he is not a man of politics and diplomacy when it comes to the country. He affirmed that he will do everything he can to preserve and maintain the country’s stability and security, even “if it costs [him his] own life.”

“You don’t know me well enough. I will never let anyone manipulate Egypt's security as long as I am alive. I can ask Egyptians' mandate again to combat terrorism, but I will not trouble them to do so now,” Sisi said in his speech at the inauguration ceremony of the Zohr natural gas field on Wednesday in Port Said.

In Al-Akhbar newspaper, Galal Dewidar criticized the weak influence of existed political parties. He asserted that parties must play a bigger role in forming the political life in Egypt. “Political platforms should be prepared as powerful and influential politicians are the future leadership of this country [Egypt],” Dewaidar wrote.

In independent Shorouk newspaper, Emad Eddin Hussein tackled the “weak” Arab support for the Palestinian cause and the Arab, Islamic and global “absence of solidarity” with the Jerusalem crisis after U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city on December 6.

In Hussein’s opinion, governments should be held accountable for peoples’ absence of support and solidarity. “Elites, intellectuals and opposition groups, most specifically Islamic-oriented groups which exploited religion for its own interests, have paved the way throughout long years for Israel and the U.S. to create this current miserable situation.”]]>
2/2/2018 8:23:27 PM
<![CDATA[Moussa faces challenges, failing to fulfill requirements]]>
First appeal to challenge Moussa’s candidacy

Awady came forward to the Supreme Administrative Court to impugn the validity of the candidacy of al-Ghad (Tomorrow) party chairperson Moussa Moustafae Mousa since he has not obtained a certified university or higher education degree, which is a key requirement for candidates running in the presidential election.

A few days earlier, Moussa announced that he obtained a foreign degree which has a value greater than any other degree that can be obtained locally.

In his interview with the well-known anchor Wael el-Ebrashy for Al Ashera Masa’an (10 pm) TV program which airs daily on Dream TV, Mousa said that he holds an MA in architecture from a French university and it has been already certified by the Foreign Ministry.

Awady told Egypt Today that the certificates he obtained was for some courses he had taken in architecture from France in 1981 and got certified by the Foreign Ministry in 2010. “If that certificate amounts to be a proper equivalent of a higher education degree, he definitely would have used it since he obtained it, not 29 years later.”

He also added that the Supreme Administrative will expectedly issue its final decision in this regard within the next 10 days.

“Moreover, al-Ghad’s Moussa is not actually eligible to enjoy his civil rights, given the fact that he has been previously convicted of dishonorable offences, including robbery and the issuance of dud cheques.

Legal labyrinth

Article 12 of the National Election Authority’s law stipulates that any interested party might be able to challenge the Authority’s decisions within 48 hours from the date of the issuance.

While the article does not specify whether the citizens are allowed to legally challenge the NEA’s decisions or only presidential candidates have the right to challenge each other’s candidacy.

The Administrative court, which is empowered with studying the appeals filed against the decisions of the NEA, will reportedly hold a court session to settle the legal dispute, according to media reports.

It is noteworthy that the NEA stopped accepting candidates’ objections of other candidates on Friday at 5:00 a.m. and announced that it has not received objections from any candidates.

The future of the elections if the appeal is accepted

The NEA has already officially announced the official slate for the presidential election, which included the incumbent President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and al-Ghad’s Moussa Moustafa.

In light of the appeal presented by al-Awady, Professor of the constitution law Mohamed, Raslan told Egypt Today that according to the current constitution, if there is only one candidate, he must obtain around 5 percent of the eligible votes of the citizens registered in the voters’ base to win.


The potential candidates who announced that they will run in the election were all bowed out, except for the former Military Staff Chief Samy Anan who was kept out of the race by the Armed forces which released a statement regarding his disqualification.

Shortly after, Lawyer Khaled Ali announced his withdrawal decision.

Also, former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik was amongst the prominent potential candidates made public with his intention to run for president in the upcoming 2018 election before he abruptly changed his mind and announced his withdrawal from the race.

On January 26, two days after President Sisi submitted his candidacy papers to the National Election Authority, the President of al-Wafd Party announced his intention to run in the 2018 election before his party came out in unanimous support to President Sisi.

According to the election’s timetable set by the NEA, voting in the 2018 presidential election in Egypt will commence on March 26, on January 8.

Sixty million eligible voters will cast their ballots in the election between March 26 and 28 in Egypt, while Egyptians living abroad will vote between March 16 and 18.

]]>
2/2/2018 6:46:50 PM
<![CDATA[Israeli Shurat HaDin sues New Zealanders over Lorde boycott]]>
As part of Israel’s fight against the Palestinian-led boycott campaign against it, Shurat HaDin filed a lawsuit against the two activists in a Jerusalem court on behalf of three Israeli would-be concert goers, for $13,000 in damages.

"They must be held to compensate Israeli citizens for the moral and emotional injury and the indignity caused by their discriminatory actions," Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Shurat HaDin’s head, stated.

Darshan-Leitner said she hopes legal agreements between the two countries will help enforce the court ruling, adding that anyone can be prosecuted under the law, regardless of their nationality.

Jewish Justine Sachs, co-founder of Dayenu: New Zealand Jews Against Occupation, and Wellington-based Palestinian activist Nadia Abu-Shanab, penned an open letter to two-time Grammy winner Lorde, urging her to join the artistic boycott of Israel.

FILE – Jewish activist Justine Sachs-Twitter
FILE – Jewish activist Justine Sachs/Twitter





Lorde replied to a tweet of the letter, saying she had been speaking with many people about this and considering all options. “Thank you for educating me, I am learning all the time too," Lorde stated.

Criticism from international and New Zealand activists prompted Lorde to announce in late December she was cancelling the performance in Israel.

"I've received an overwhelming number of messages & letters and have had a lot of discussions with people holding many views, and I think the right decision at this time is to cancel the show," Lorde wrote in a statement distributed by Naranjah, the Israeli promoters of her Tel Aviv show.

In a statement to AFP, Naranjah said, "We forgive Lorde and wish her a successful tour in Russia and the U.S."

New Zealand was among 128 countries that voted, during a rare United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) emergency special session held on December 21, 2017, in favor of a resolution issued by Arab states calling for the United States to withdraw its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

picture 2
FILE – A number of 128 countries voted in favor of a resolution calling for the United States to reverse its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, during a United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) rare emergency special session held on December 21, 2017


The Israeli 2011 anti-“Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)” movement law, allows civilians to file lawsuits against anyone calling to boycott Israel. Israel sees BDS as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism, a claim activists firmly deny, calling it an attempt to discredit them.

The BDS, launched in 2005, works to “end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and pressures Israel to comply with international law," as stated on the movement's website.

Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry blacklisted 20 organizations around the world that support the BDS movement, including California-based left-wing Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) activist organization. The members of these organizations will not be allowed to enter Israel.

picture 3
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in France – Wikimedia/Odemirense


Executive Director of JVP Rebecca Wilkomerson commented that the measure was not surprising, according to Haaretz. She added that "as someone with considerable family in Israel, this policy will be a personal hardship. But I also believe it is an indicator of the BDS movement's growing strength and hope that will bring us closer to the day when all people in Israel/Palestine will live together in equality and freedom."

Although the Supreme Court ruled decades ago that a boycott is a constitutionally protected speech, Kansas passed a law last summer requiring all contractors with the state to promise they will not boycott Israel. On Tuesday, a federal judge blocked Kansas from enforcing the law.

“The government has no right telling people what they can and can’t support,” Micah Kubic, director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kansas, stated.





]]>
2/2/2018 4:58:08 PM
<![CDATA[Which protests shall Iran oppress first: hijab or anti-gov't?]]>
One month ago, Iran witnessed a surprising wave of anger by protesters who took to the streets and defied the Iranian government and security apparatuses, chanting against religious leaders and statesmen, and clashing with security forces.

Although the anti-government protests were originally for economic reasons, politics emerged during the protests and political slogans were repeated. The protesters criticized their government’s intervention in Arab and regional countries’ affairs.

One month later, Iranian officials are defying the protesters and declaring that Iran will not stop interfering in other countries’ affairs.

Hijab protests

Iranian police arrested 29 women who removed their head scarves on Thursday in several “hijab protests” across the country. Iranian Tasnim news agency claimed that those arrested women were “tricked” by Iranian expatriates to take off their Islamic veils in public.

Since 1979, Iranian women have been forced to apply a special unified dress code; women’s hair and body must be covered in public, otherwise mortality police have the right to suppress those who are not fully applying and respecting the dress code.

Men_wearing_Hijab_in_solidarity_with_Women_s_Hojab_Protests_Twitter
Men wearing Hijab in solidarity with Women's Hijab Protests Twitter



In December, a woman was arrested in Tehran for protesting against the dress code and the rules relating to the hijab. She has just been freed last Sunday.

"The girl of Enghelab Street has been released," human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh wrote in a post on her Facebook page on January 28, expressing her happiness that that unknown girl was released after being arrested at Enghelab Street in Tehran.

Nasrin_Sotoudeh_activist_post_on_Facebook
Nasrin Post on Facebook



#دختران_خیابان_انقلاب has widely spread via Twitter and various social media platforms. The hashtag means “Revolution Street Girls”. Men joined the wave and defended the Iranian women’s right to remove their hijab.

Iranian_women_remove_Hijab-_Compined by Egypt Today
Iranian women remove hijab – the photo combined by Egypt Today



Conservative women also have joined the protests, as photos circulated on social platforms showed women wearing the chador, a garment covering women’s full body but the face, holding out a scarf in front of her in solidarity with women protesting against the compulsory hijab.

the_Girl_of_Enghelab_Street_waving_her_headscarf_on_a_stick_Dec
The Girl of Enghelab Street waving her headscarf on a stick Dec. 27, 2017 – Social Media



Second wave of anti-government protests

Iran’s capital, Tehran, witnessed dozens of protests on Thursday amid an intense police and security forces presence on streets.




Because internet users face many restrictions over using dozens of websites in Iran, few videos were published on Twitter showing the Iranians’ challenge to government and their chanting against leaders and statesmen.

“Death to Dictator” has been the key motto that Iranian protesters chanted in their recent rallies, which began last December in several Iranian governorates before the government and the Revolutionary Guard could suppress them.



On Thursday, the second wave of these protests re-launched in various governorates and cities, such as Isfahan, Ahvaz, Tabriz, Sanandij, Kermanshah and Tuyserkan.

Ahvaz witnessed violent clashes between protesters and security forces. The protesters were chanting against Supreme Leader Khamenei. Ahvaz is located in southwestern Iran and most of its inhabitants are Arabs.




On December 27, dozens of Iranian protesters took to the streets of Iran's second largest city of Mashhad to protest against the economic stagnation and rising unemployment, as well as rising prices and corruption.

Protesters appeared to be complaining against high food prices and unemployment; however, the protests quickly evolved into expression of anger against Iran's clerical leadership, including President Rouhani, who promised to revive the economy but, according to them, failed to do so.

Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protests in Tehran, but protesters continued to chant slogans with the goal of bringing down the theocracy. This is the most significant unrest in Iran in nearly a decade.

Although the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said that at least 50 protesters have been shot and killed by the Revolutionary Guards, the official statistics reported the death of only 22 protesters.

Unlike the Green Movement protests in 2009, there is no known leadership for the ongoing protests, but their logic is obvious. The protests do not have specified goals, but their ambitions of change are obvious.

Iran’s intervention in Arab affairs

Iranian protesters criticized their government’s intervention into other countries’ domestic affairs, too, as the Iranian regime has interfered in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

“Iran’s influence in the region is inevitable, and to remain a key player in the region, this influence will continue,” said Iran’s high-profile official Ali Akbar Velayati on Thursday, according to Fars news agency.

People_protest_in_Los_Angeles,_California,_U.S
People protest in Los Angeles, California, U.S., in support of anti-government protesters in Iran, January 3, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson



Iran backs armed militias in Iraq, Houthi militias in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon. In a related context, Iranian Revolutionary Guard spokesperson Sherif Ramadan accused the family of late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of being behind the current protests against the Iranian government.

In May 2015, dozens of protests against the deterioration of living conditions were organized in Ahvaz. Groups sought to link protests against the Iranian regime's practices, such as the Iranian intervention in the affairs of Arab countries, including Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama's administration and several western governments expected the nuclear deal would lead to a change in Iran's behavior and policies at home and abroad. There was an assumption that the interests and pragmatism of the Iranian regime would automatically force it to develop the country's economic structure and improve living standards first.

Iranians had high hopes when President Rouhani, who is perceived to be moderate, took office. Despite his weak and limited internal reforms, he was re-elected for a second term. The first budget presented last month seemed to be a test. It showed his intention to consolidate his power and reach an accord that ends the government's differences with the Revolutionary Guard and the religious institutions, directly connected with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, by increasing their allocated funds without having sufficient resources.


Opponents_of_Iranian_President_Hassan_Rouhani_hold_a_protest_outside_the_Iranian_embassy_in_west_London,_December_31,_2017
Opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hold a protest outside the Iranian embassy in west London, December 31, 2017. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh






]]>
2/2/2018 4:29:36 PM
<![CDATA[Afghan president demands Pakistan act against Taliban]]>
Afghanistan has long accused Pakistan of aiding terrorists by giving shelter and aid to leaders of the Taliban insurgency, a charge denied by Pakistan, which points to the thousands of its own citizens killed by militant violence over the years.

"We are waiting for Pakistan to act," Ghani said in a televised address after weekly prayers, in which he accused Pakistan of being the "Taliban centre".

A recent attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul and a suicide bombing on a crowded city street a week later have stoked public anger in Afghanistan and stepped up pressure on Ghani's Western-backed government to improve security.

The attacks, which killed more than 130 people and wounded hundreds more, were claimed by the Taliban, which is fighting to drive out international troops and re-establish its form of strict Islamic law in Afghanistan.

Afghan and U.S. officials say the Haqqani network, a militant group affiliated with the Taliban and believed to be based in Pakistan, was responsible.

"The attack is not against our men, women or children but against the Afghan nation and it requires a national, comprehensive response," Ghani said, adding that security officials would present a new plan on Sunday.

Ghani said 11 arrests had been made and a complete list of individuals Kabul believed to be behind the attacks as well as the networks that supported them had been given to Pakistani authorities.

But it was unclear what steps would be taken to improve the last major security plan in Kabul, which established a string of extra checkpoints and heavy vehicle controls after a truck bomb killed 150 people in the city last May.

Pakistan's embassy in Kabul said on Thursday that officials in Islamabad were assessing the evidence presented during a visit by Afghan Interior Minister Wais Barmak and the head of the NDS intelligence service, Masoom Stanekzai. It said Pakistan had given no commitment to take any action.

The attacks came at a time of already heightened tension in the region, after the United States said it would cut security aid to Pakistan, complaining the South Asian nation was not doing enough to fight terrorist groups sheltering there. ]]>
2/2/2018 1:00:08 PM
<![CDATA[UK PM May says Brexit transition deal will be agreed in 7 weeks]]>
The EU has offered Britain a status quo transition until the end of 2020 after Brexit. Both sides are aiming to reach a transition agreement by the end of March that will form part of the final withdrawal treaty to be agreed later this year.

But there is disagreement inside May's Conservative Party over some details such as the status of EU citizens during the transition and the scope of European Court of Justice jurisdiction.

Many businesses and banks are concerned a battle over the terms of a transition could delay or even sink an agreement just months before Britain exits the EU on March 29, 2019.

"In seven weeks time, we will have an agreement with the European Union, that is the timetable they have said on an implementation period," May told the BBC in an interview in China.

"What the British people voted for is for us to take back control of our money, our borders and our laws and that's exactly what we are going to do," May said of Brexit.

The EU and Britain hope to hammer out a deal on Britain's exit and the outline of a trade package by October 2018.

But some EU officials have begun to voice concern that a plan to have the leaders endorse negotiating guidelines for a new phase of talks to begin in April on a future trade agreement may be in danger of slipping if May does not spell out what Britain's demands are for that trade pact.

Once May does so, the EU will need some weeks to prepare its own negotiating proposals. Once adopted by leaders in March, negotiations could then begin with a few weeks.

However, if the March deadline is missed, there would be a risk of waiting until the next full EU summit, which is not planned until late June, creating a very tight deadline to agree a broad political declaration of future trade plans.

"We still expect to be able to have the trade guidelines for the March summit," one senior EU official said. "But Theresa May is being so discreet. If she doesn't say what she wants, we may not be able to prepare our position in time." ]]>
2/2/2018 12:29:03 PM
<![CDATA[Arab League warns against repercussions of decisions to violate Jerusalem]]>
In his speech during an Arab League Council meeting at the level of foreign ministers, he stated that the US decision to reduce its contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) will also pose a threat to the refugee issue. Negative consequences will not only affect the countries receiving refugees, but also the stability and security of the region.


The U.S., by far the largest contributor to UNRWA, announced on January 16 that Washington would withhold $65 million of $125 million it had planned for the agency this year. The UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from U.N. member states.

The Arab League welcomed the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) overwhelmingly passing a non-binding resolution on December 21 condemning Trump’s decision. It also called on states not to move their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem.

The Arab foreign ministers renewed their rejection of President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and asserted their support to all decisions by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas under the framework of the Palestine Liberation Organization, in the face of recognition by the US administration of Jerusalem as the capital of the occupying state.

They affirmed the right of the Palestinian people to exercise all forms of struggle against the occupation, in accordance with the provisions of international law.

They also hailed Egypt’s Al-Azhar international conference for backing Jerusalem as the main capital of occupied Palestine, under the auspices of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

The two-day conference adopts the motto of "World Conference in Support of Jerusalem", and witnesses the participation of prominent national, regional and international figures such as Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayyeb, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark Tawadros II, Arab Parliament chief Meshaal bin Fahm al-Salmi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The ministers called on the Palestinian factions and forces to speed up the completion of national reconciliation in accordance with the Cairo Agreement signed in May 2011 and the latest Cairo 2017 agreement which enable the National Reconciliation Government to assume its full responsibilities in the Gaza Strip and hold general elections as soon as possible.

The ministerial meeting was scheduled to be held in the beginning of February, based on what was decided by the Arab ministerial meeting held in Jordan on January 6.

The Arab peace initiative committee convened on Thursday for an emergency meeting at the level of foreign ministers at the premises of the general secretariat of the Arab League.

The meeting was chaired by Jordan to probe the latest developments pertaining to Jerusalem, in light of the recent decision by the U.S .to recognize the holy city as the capital of Israel.

The Arab peace initiative committee comprises Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iraq, Palestine, Qatar, Lebanon, Morocco and Yemen, along with the Arab League secretary general.

On December 6, U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel by announcing the relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This decision was condemned and rejected by all Arab and Islamic countries, as well as most Western and Asian countries.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets to denounce the American announcement on Jerusalem in different cities across the world.

On December 19, Palestine’s Safa news agency revealed that Israel planned to inaugurate a synagogue near Al-Buraq Wall (Western Wall).

On December 21, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution condemning Trump’s decision. It also called on states not to move their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem.

]]>
2/2/2018 9:32:25 AM
<![CDATA[Four Ws about Brotherhood-linked Hasm group]]>
A number of questions swirl in our minds regarding the little-known Hasm. What is Hasm? When did the group emerge? Where it operates? Who stands behind it?

Formation and Ideology



Hasm is an Islamist militant group operating in Egypt. In Arabic, the word “Hasm” means decisiveness. It also stands for Ḥarakat Sawa'd Miṣr (Arms of Egypt Movement). Hasm has been associated with nearly every terrorist attack in Egypt during the last year.

Hasm group is supposedly linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, a group which is deemed illegal in Egypt. However, the Brotherhood’s media spokesman, Talaat Fahmi, denied the Brotherhood’s links to Hasm to Turkish-led Anadul agency in December 2016. He said the Brotherhood could never be linked to those who commit violence and bloodshed.

Tal’at Habib, a researcher and expert on Islamic movements, told Egypt Today that Hasm is directly linked to the Brotherhood’s members and leaders, directly refuting Fahmi’s statement. Habib cited a Hasm statement that came out after top Brotherhood leader Mohamed Kamal’s death in October 2016. They vowed revenge for his killing.

Kamal served as a member of the Brotherhood’s top guidance office and, according to the Interior Ministry, was responsible for planning the group’s armed wing attacks. He was killed during a confrontation with police in October 2016 in the Al-Basatin district of Cairo.

Hasm's first statement was issued in July 2016 when the group claimed responsibility for the killing of a senior policeman named Mahmoud Abdel Hamid in Fayoum. Hamid was the head of the investigations department in Fayoum’s Tamya district.

According to Habib, Hasm is the crystallized form of militant groups that grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, such as the Ikhwan Brigades and the Popular Resistance. The group formed after the violent dispersal during the Rabaa and al-Nahda sit-ins in July 2013.

“Hasm’s methods and techniques are mainly primitive and of minimal costs,” Habib said. He added that they also get some of their arms by stealing them from police stations and ambushes.

Notable attacks



Since its beginnings, Hasm has maintained a strategy of targeting policemen, not civilians. The group’s members have been involved in attacking several checkpoints and killing policemen stationed there. The most recent took place on July 7. The attack targeted a police van and left one police officer and three recruits dead in Giza.

On September 29, 2016, Hasm claimed responsibility for a failed assassination attempt that targeted the prosecutor general's top deputy, Zakaria Abd El-Aziz.

On October 5, 2016, former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa survived an assassination attempt after two masked men opened fire on him and his guards.

On December 9, 2016, the group claimed responsibility for a bomb that detonated near a police checkpoint in Giza governorate. The bomb killed at least six policemen and injured three others.

On July 5, 2017, Hasm assassinated senior police officer Ibrahim al-Azazy of the National Security Department. The victim was on his way to perform Friday prayers in Qalyubia governorate.

Since the ouster of former Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, Egypt has witnessed a number of terrorist attacks carried out by insurgents and extremists.

The future of Hasm



Habib further told Egypt today that Hasm is expected to expand their deadly altercations with police and that their attacks will not likely end soon. He attributed this to Hasm members’ complex network of connections to Brotherhood members lodging in Egypt and Turkey, and also to those who are rebuffing the reformist approach.
“Those groups feel defeated and they will continue to try, as the Ikhwan Brigades and the Popular Resistance, to pound the regime’s fist through revenge killings,” Habib concluded.

Lewaa al-Thawra and Hasm



Lewaa al-Thawra’s formation has been welcomed by Hasm. Both groups followed the same style and techniques of Hasm in attacking its targets, documenting them, and publishing photos or video clips.

This indicates a high-level coordination between the two organizations or that these two movements actually follow one command. During its investigations, the Supreme State Security Prosecution considered that Hasm movement also bears the name of Lewaa al-Thawra.

Both groups, especially Lewaa al-Thawra, are apparently distinct from jihadist ideologies like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. They use slogans and concepts in their statements like ‘the nation is the source’ that directly contradicts strict conservative Salafist jihadist ideologies, which call for the establishing of an Islamic caliphate.

Security campaign against Hasm



As part of the Ministry of Interior's campaign against terrorism, the Homeland Security agency raided in December 2017 a hideout belonging to Hasm in the Giza governorate, killing three leading members of the group in a shootout.

The ministry announced that the security forces managed to uncover a plot by elements of the group to carry out several attacks against tourist facilities, public buildings, armed forces and police during Christmas celebrations.

The security forces located the terrorist elements at a hideout farm on Korayemat road near Atfih, Giza. They were manufacturing explosives and preparing for their attacks. An intensive battle took place between the security forces and the terrorist elements that resulted in the murder of three militants. The forces also seized three automatic rifles, two explosive devices, and a surplus of ammunition found in possession of the terrorist elements.

99843-99843-أسلحة-المتهمين-المتحفظ-عليها-من-قبل-الأمن
Ammunition seized by security forces- photo courtesy of the Egyptian Ministry of Interior
Ten other members of that group who are involved in the terrorist plot were caught in the governorates of Fayoum and Qalyubia at locations containing ammunitions and other tools, which were uncovered by the police.

The ministry added that information confirmed that they were involved in the altercation that took place with security forces on a road near Fayoum, 60 kilometers (40 miles) south of Cairo in July 2017. That attack resulted in the killing of one security member and the injury of another, according to the ministry.

"Information also revealed that those arrested received training on using arms and manufacturing explosives at a location in Egypt's Western Desert in Fayoum governorate, and plotters had listed a number of touristic and security spots in preparation for a planned Christmas attack, following the orders of Yahia Moussa, a fugitive Muslim Brotherhood figure in Turkey," the ministry added.

All legal procedures have been taken against the accused, and they were transferred to the State Security Prosecution for investigation.

Internationally designated as terrorist group



news-1514468510-1864
U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson

The United States announced on January 31 listing Hasm and Lewaa al-Thawra on the Specially Designated Global Terrorists blacklist.

According to the State Department’s statement, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson emphasized that “these designations target key terrorist groups and leaders – including two sponsored and directed by Iran – who are threatening the stability of the Middle East, undermining the peace process, and attacking our allies Egypt and Israel. Today’s actions are an important step in denying them the resources they need to plan and carry out their terrorist activities.”

Britain also designated on December 22, 2017 the two militant groups targeting Egyptian security personnel and public figures as terrorist organizations.

The British Embassy in Egypt said in a statement that Britain has added Hasm and Lewaa al-Thawra group to its list of terrorist organizations after reviewing attacks claimed by both groups and finding they meet the criteria.

It also said the move will boost its "capacity to disrupt the activities of these terrorist organizations."

The British Ambassador to Egypt John Casson affirmed that the UK will not leave Egypt alone in its fight against terrorism and expressed his concern in the statement.

Egypt labels Hasm terrorist



Egypt welcomed the US and UK decisions to place the two Egyptian terrorist groups on their terror lists.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement yesterday that “Egypt considers the decision a positive development in the perception of Egypt's international partners, especially the United States, regarding the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliated terrorist groups.”

Foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zaid said that the US decision is a real-world demonstration of solidarity with Egypt against terrorism, and an important step forward by the international community in adopting a comprehensive strategy to fighting terrorism and eradicating its roots.

Last February, an Egyptian court designated the militant group Hasm a terrorist organization, banning its activity in the country. The Egyptian authorities also banned the Muslim Brotherhood and declared it a terrorist organization after deposing President Morsi.

Pence’s visit to Cairo



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US Vice President Mike Pence (L) shakes hands with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi (R) - File photo

In the highest-level American official visit to Egypt Since 2009, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi received on January 20 US Vice President Mike Pence at the presidential palace in Cairo, amid the American official’s Middle East tour that also included Jordan and Israel with the aim to boost peace process in the region.

Al-Sisi and Pence held intensive talks over a number of urgent issues, including ways to eliminate the threat of terrorism that has terrified the whole world. Pence pointed to President Donald Trump’s efforts to forge stronger ties with Al-Sisi in his first year in office, after a time when both countries seemed to be drifting apart.

Pence tweeted “We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Egypt in the fight against terrorism,” and that “our hearts grieve” for the loss of life in recent terrorist attacks against Egyptians.

Additional reporting by Dunya Hassanin]]>
2/2/2018 6:20:22 AM
<![CDATA[Lewaa al-Thawra: another MB-affiliate armed wing falls]]>

Formation and Ideology



Lewaa al-Thawra is a suborganization that has emerged two years ago in Egypt and, specifically in the Nile Delta, and claimed its responsibility for a number of terrorist operations targeting mainly police personnel. Egyptian security authorities said that Lewaa al-Thawra and similar small terror groups in Egypt are basically affiliating to the Muslim Brotherhood that was removed from power in the wake of the June 30 Revolution in 2013.

Lewaa al-Thawra adopts the strategy of Lone Wolves – militants acting alone or in small groups to attack specific targets – in which they form tiny groups to carry out various terrorist operations without supervision or reference to the parent movement, provided that the members of these groups have not involved in a terrorist act before. They conduct their operations using different types of weapons, such as machine guns, pistols, knives or remote detonation, and the targets are determined by higher leaders.

The group announced its formation on August 21, 2016, when it uploaded pictures and a dramatized video of an attack on a security checkpoint in Menofiya that left two policemen dead.

While there are indications of ties between Lewaa al-Thawra and elements of the Muslim Brotherhood, the extent of these links are unclear. Liwaa al-Thawra eulogized the death of senior Brotherhood figure Mohamad Kamal, who was killed in November 2016 during a security campaign in Qalyubia.

Notable Attacks



Lewaa al-Thawra has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks against Egyptian security personnel in recent months, since the ousting of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, killing some members of the Egyptian police and army.

In October 2016, a Facebook account named Media of the Resistance posted a video, attributed to Lewaa al-Thawra, showing scenes from the assassination of Brigadier General Adel Ragaei. The senior military official was killed on October 22 when he was shot by armed assailants outside his home in Obour City.

images
Brigadier General Adel Ragaei


Ragaei was the chief of the Armed Force’s Ninth Armored Division, which was directly involved in the demolition of smuggling tunnels running between Sinai and the Gaza Strip, and the creation of a buffer zone along the eastern border with Gaza.

The assassination was the second operation for which Lewaa al-Tharwa has claimed responsibility. The group first garnered attention in August 2016 when they attacked a police checkpoint in Menofiya, killing two policemen and wounding five others, including two civilians.

In 2017, the group claimed responsibility for a bombing outside a police training center in Tanta.

Egyptian security forces have arrested and killed dozens of suspected Lewaa al-Thawra members in the past few months.

Lewaa al-Thawra and Hasm



Lewaa al-Thawra’s formation has been welcomed by Hasm, an Islamist militant group operating in Egypt. Hasm stands for Ḥarakat Sawa'd Miṣr (Arms of Egypt Movement).

When Lewaa al-Thawra appeared on the scene, it followed the same style and techniques of Hasm in attacking its targets, documenting them, and publishing photos or video clips.

This indicates a high-level coordination between the two organizations or that these two movements actually follow one command. During its investigations, the Supreme State Security Prosecution considered that Hasm movement also bears the name of Lewaa al-Thawra.

Both groups, especially Lewaa al-Thawra, are apparently distinct from jihadist ideologies like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. They use slogans and concepts in their statements like ‘the nation is the source’ that directly contradicts strict conservative Salafist jihadist ideologies, which call for the establishing of an Islamic caliphate.

Internationally designated as terrorist group



news-1514468510-1864
U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson

The United States announced on January 31 listing Hasm and Lewaa al-Thawra on the Specially Designated Global Terrorists blacklist.

According to the State Department’s statement, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson emphasized that “these designations target key terrorist groups and leaders – including two sponsored and directed by Iran – who are threatening the stability of the Middle East, undermining the peace process, and attacking our allies Egypt and Israel. Today’s actions are an important step in denying them the resources they need to plan and carry out their terrorist activities.”

Britain also designated on December 22, 2017 the two militant groups targeting Egyptian security personnel and public figures as terrorist organizations.

The British Embassy in Egypt said in a statement that Britain has added Hasm and Lewaa al-Thawra group to its list of terrorist organizations after reviewing attacks claimed by both groups and finding they meet the criteria.

It also said the move will boost its "capacity to disrupt the activities of these terrorist organizations."

The British Ambassador to Egypt John Casson affirmed that the UK will not leave Egypt alone in its fight against terrorism and expressed his concern in the statement.

Egypt labels Lewaa al-Thawra terrorist



Egypt welcomed the US and UK decisions to place the two Egyptian terrorist groups on their terror lists.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement yesterday that “Egypt considers the decision a positive development in the perception of Egypt's international partners, especially the United States, regarding the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliated terrorist groups.”

Foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zaid said that the US decision is a real-world demonstration of solidarity with Egypt against terrorism, and an important step forward by the international community in adopting a comprehensive strategy to fighting terrorism and eradicating its roots.

Last February, an Egyptian court designated the militant group Hasm a terrorist organization, banning its activity in the country. The Egyptian authorities also banned the Muslim Brotherhood and declared it a terrorist organization after deposing President Morsi.

Pence’s visit to Cairo



38925
US Vice President Mike Pence (L) shakes hands with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi (R) - File photo

In the highest-level American official visit to Egypt Since 2009, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi received on January 20 US Vice President Mike Pence at the presidential palace in Cairo, amid the American official’s Middle East tour that also included Jordan and Israel with the aim to boost peace process in the region.

Al-Sisi and Pence held intensive talks over a number of urgent issues, including ways to eliminate the threat of terrorism that has terrified the whole world. Pence pointed to President Donald Trump’s efforts to forge stronger ties with Al-Sisi in his first year in office, after a time when both countries seemed to be drifting apart.

Pence tweeted “We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Egypt in the fight against terrorism,” and that “our hearts grieve” for the loss of life in recent terrorist attacks against Egyptians.
]]>
2/2/2018 5:14:00 AM
<![CDATA[Latin America should not rely on China -U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson]]>
Tillerson, in a speech ahead of a visit to Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Colombia and Jamaica, also said Russia's growing presence in the region was "alarming as well."

"Today China is getting a foothold in Latin America. It is using economic statecraft to pull the region into its orbit; the question is at what price," Tillerson said at the University of Texas at Austin en route to Mexico.

Tillerson said China was now the largest trading partner with Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Peru and said strong institutions and accountable governments were needed to secure sovereignty against "potential predatory actors" arriving in their region.

"While this trade has brought benefits, the unfair trading practices used by many Chinese have also harmed those countries' manufacturing sectors, generating unemployment and lowering wages for workers," the U.S. Secretary of State said.

"Latin America does not need new imperial powers that seek only to benefit their own people," he said. "China's state-led model of development is reminiscent of the past. It doesn't have to be this hemisphere's future."

Tillerson said Russia had continued to sell arms and military equipment to unfriendly governments that "do not share or respect democratic values."

"Our region must be diligent to guard against far-away powers that do not reflect the fundamental values shared in this region," he said.

"The United States stands in vivid contrast. We do not seek short term deals with lop-sided returns," Tillerson said.]]>
2/2/2018 2:10:00 AM