<![CDATA[rss-Politics]]> All Rights Reserved for The Cairo post <![CDATA[Politics]]>]]> 100 29 <![CDATA[Ex-Brotherhood leaders hail Shoukry’s stance against MB ]]>
“President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi repeatedly reaffirms that Egypt belongs to all Egyptians, so long as they abide by the law,” Shoukry said in remarks given to state television on Friday.

The Brotherhood was outlawed in Egypt after the ouster of MB-affiliated President Mohamed Morsi. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates followed Egypt’s footsteps and also banned the group.

Recently, MB leaders have proposed initiatives to reconcile with the Egyptian authorities, but they were met with failure.

Leading MB figure Ibrahim Mounir called for negotiations with the Egyptian authorities on condition that the government releases Brotherhood prisoners, most notably Morsi.

In response, Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawki Allam issued a statement condemning the MB. “These terrorist groups must be eradicated,” Allam noted to Asharq Awsaat newspaper on Saturday.

Former MB leader Ibrahim Rabee told Egypt Today that Shoukry’s statements pull out any hope for possible reconciliation with the group.

“Shoukry’s statement, which asserted there will never be reconciliation with the MB, is like killing the group’s hope for being rebuilt one day,” Rabee said.

“Egyptians sentenced the MB to death on June 30, 2013 [in reference to the Egyptians’ revolution against the group and ouster of Mohamed Morsi],” Rabee added.

Rabee asserted that the MB must accept Egyptians’ desires and aspirations if the Brotherhood members seek to live peacefully in Egypt. “The group’s domestic cells must be dismantled and hand over their distribution map to the concerned authorities,” he said.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs preserves the country’s political and diplomatic security,” said former MB leader Tarek al-Beshbeshy.

He pointed out that Shoukry’s statements seemed firm, in addition to statements given by Shoukry on Qatar and Turkey, stating, “These two countries waged an uncovered campaign against Egypt by embracing terrorists.”
]]>
5/26/2018 3:50:59 PM
<![CDATA[WRAPUP: Leaders of two Koreas hold surprise meeting as Trump revives hopes of summit with North]]>
It was the clearest sign yet that the on-again off-again summit between Trump and Kim is likely to be held as initially agreed, in Singapore on June 12.

The unannounced meeting at the Panmunjom border village between Moon and Kim came a month after they held the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade at the same venue and declared they would toward a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

"The two leaders candidly exchanged views about making the North Korea-U.S. summit a successful one and about implementing the Panmunjom Declaration," South Korea's presidential spokesman said in a statement.

Moon, who returned to Seoul earlier this week after a meeting with Trump, will announce details of the meeting with Kim on Sunday morning.

Trump said on Friday that Washington was having "productive talks" with Pyongyang about reinstating the June 12 meeting, just a day after cancelling it.

Politico magazine reported that an advance team of 30 White House and State Department officials was preparing to leave for Singapore later this weekend.

Reuters reported earlier this week the team was scheduled to discuss the agenda and logistics for the summit with North Korean officials. The delegation was to include White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joseph Hagin and deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel, U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Trump said in a Twitter post late on Friday: "We are having very productive talks about reinstating the Summit which, if it does happen, will likely remain in Singapore on the same date, June 12th., and, if necessary, will be extended beyond that date."

Trump had earlier indicated the summit could be salvaged after welcoming a conciliatory statement from North Korea saying it remained open to talks.

"It was a very nice statement they put out," Trump told reporters at the White House. "We'll see what happens - it could even be the 12th."

"We're talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We'd like to do it," he said.

The comments came just a day after Trump cancelled the meeting, citing Pyongyang's "open hostility."

THREATS, INSULTS

After years of tension over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme, Kim and Trump agreed this month to hold what would be the first meeting between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader. The plan followed months of war threats and insults between the leaders over North Korea's development of missiles capable of reaching the United States.

Trump scrapped the meeting in a letter to Kim on Thursday after repeated threats by North Korea to pull out over what it saw as confrontational remarks by U.S. officials demanding unilateral disarmament. Trump cited North Korean hostility in cancelling the summit.

In Pyongyang, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said North Korea's criticisms had been a reaction to American rhetoric and that current antagonism showed "the urgent necessity" for the summit.

He said North Korea regretted Trump's decision to cancel and remained open to resolving issues "regardless of ways, at any time."

Kim Kye Gwan said North Korea had appreciated Trump having made the bold decision to work toward a summit.

"We even inwardly hoped that what is called 'Trump formula' would help clear both sides of their worries and comply with the requirements of our side and would be a wise way of substantial effect for settling the issue," he said.

North Korea also went ahead with a plan to destroy its only known nuclear site on Thursday, the most concrete action yet since pledging to cease all nuclear and long-range missile tests last month.

Dozens of international journalists left North Korea on Saturday after observing the demolition of the underground tunnels in Punggye-ri, where all of the North's six nuclear tests were conducted including its latest and largest in September.

DIPLOMATS AT WORK

Trump's latest about-face sent officials scrambling in Washington. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters diplomats were "still at work" and said Trump had just sent a note out on the summit, which could be back on "if our diplomats can pull it off."

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Katina Adams declined to give details of any diplomatic contacts but said: "As the president said in his letter to Chairman Kim, dialogue between the two is the only dialogue that matters. If North Korea is serious, then we look forward to hearing from them at the highest levels."

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters Trump did not want a meeting that was "just a political stunt."

"He wants to get something that's a long-lasting and an actual real solution. And if they are ready to do that then ... we're certainly ready to have those conversations," she said.]]>
5/26/2018 2:01:12 PM
<![CDATA[Must-know facts about “Rabaa” case ]]>
In a few hours, the last hearing session will convene; Egypt Today sums up all pieces of information that you should know about the case as follows:

On December 12, 2015, the first trial was held. Constituency No. (28) related to terrorist cases, affiliated to the Cairo Criminal Court has been in charge of reviewing the case under the chairmanship of counselor Hassan Farid.

Till this moment, 65 hearing sessions were held and 16 sessions were dedicated for defendants’ defense teams. Only 20 out of 350 defendants have not yet been given the chance too present their defense argument. Although there are 739 defendants in this case, only 350 are imprisoned, most notably Badie, Mohamed Beltagy and the son of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.

badie
Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie shouts slogans from the defendant’s cage during his trial with other leaders of the Brotherhood in a courtroom in Cairo December 11, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Stringer

On December 10, 2016, Morsi’s son appeared in behind bars for the first time since he was arrested. Four months later (April 17), Beltagi was sentenced to one more year in prison for insulting the court’s judges.

The concerned judges listened to the testimonies of three police major generals including former Cairo Security Directorate Chief Osama al-Sagheir in a closed session. Although former Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim was not enlisted as an eyewitness in this case, the court listened to him upon a request from the defendants’ defense team on February 8, 2018.

The defendants are charged with staging an armed gathering in Rabaa square, illegally possessing and handling weapons, blocking driveways, deliberately vandalizing public property, along with other counts related to murdering policemen and citizens.

Amongst the defendants awaiting Saturday’s trail are members of the top guidance bureau Essam el-Erian, Safwat Hegazy, Mohamed el Beltagy, Usama Yassin, and former president Mohamed Morsi, Essam Maged, Abdel Rahman al-Barr, Safwat Hegazy, Mohamed el-Beltagy, Usama Yassin, Issam Sultan, Basem Odeh, Wagdy Ghoneim and photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zaid (Shawkan) who was on assignment for Demotix.


shawkan
During the case’s hearing session held in late October, Shawkan said that he was only doing his job as a press photographer and that he was among other photographers who were called on by the government to cover the events of the Rabaa sit-in dispersal.


Three defendants were released due to deteriorating health condition. However, all the imprisoned defendants were sentenced to one year in prison for insulting the court on February 25, 2017. Later on, the court overturned the sentence and annulled the one-year imprisonment decision.

Families of the defendants attended most of the 65 sessions. Further, Beltagy and other leading MB members such as Basem Ouda and Amr Zaki were allowed to meet with their families near the cage during some sessions.

On August 14, 2013, Security Forces set out to disperse the Muslim Brotherhood sit-in in Nasr City’s Rabaa al-Adawiya, along with another sit-in located in Nahda Square, Giza.

The Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in was primarily forged by former Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated President Mohamed Morsi supporters and sympathizers in support of his legitimacy.

Damage to the surrounding area as a result of the dispersal amounted to LE 50 million ($2.8 million).]]>
5/26/2018 1:38:39 PM
<![CDATA[Prospects of U.S.-North Korea summit brighten after Trump's tweet]]>
Politico magazine reported that an advance team of 30 White House and State Department officials was preparing to leave for Singapore later this weekend.

Reuters reported earlier this week the team was scheduled to discuss the agenda and logistics for the summit with North Korean officials. The delegation was to include White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joseph Hagin and deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel, U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Trump said in a Twitter post late on Friday: "We are having very productive talks about reinstating the Summit which, if it does happen, will likely remain in Singapore on the same date, June 12th., and, if necessary, will be extended beyond that date."

Trump had earlier indicated the summit could be salvaged after welcoming a conciliatory statement from North Korea saying it remained open to talks.

"It was a very nice statement they put out," Trump told reporters at the White House. "We'll see what happens - it could even be the 12th."

"We're talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We'd like to do it," he said.

The comments on the summit with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un came just a day after Trump canceled the meeting, citing Pyongyang's "open hostility."

South Korea's presidential spokesman said in response: "It's fortunate that hope is still alive for U.S.-North Korea dialogue. We are continuing to watch developments carefully."

THREATS, INSULTS

After years of tension over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme, Kim and Trump agreed this month to hold what would be the first meeting between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader. The plan followed months of war threats and insults between the leaders over North Korea's development of missiles capable of reaching the United States.

Trump scrapped the meeting in a letter to Kim on Thursday after repeated threats by North Korea to pull out over what it saw as confrontational remarks by U.S. officials demanding unilateral disarmament. Trump cited North Korean hostility in canceling the summit.

In Pyongyang, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said North Korea's criticisms had been a reaction to American rhetoric and that current antagonism showed "the urgent necessity" for the summit.

He said North Korea regretted Trump's decision to cancel and remained open to resolving issues "regardless of ways, at any time."

Kim Kye Gwan said North Korea had appreciated Trump having made the bold decision to work toward a summit.

"We even inwardly hoped that what is called 'Trump formula' would help clear both sides of their worries and comply with the requirements of our side and would be a wise way of substantial effect for settling the issue," he said.

North Korea also went ahead with a plan to destroy its only known nuclear site on Thursday, the most concrete action yet since pledging to cease all nuclear and long-range missile tests last month.

Dozens of international journalists left North Korea on Saturday after observing the demolition of the underground tunnels in Punggye-ri, where all of the North's six nuclear tests were conducted including its latest and largest in September.

DIPLOMATS AT WORK

Trump's latest about-face sent officials scrambling in Washington. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters diplomats were "still at work" and said Trump had just sent a note out on the summit, which could be back on "if our diplomats can pull it off."

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Katina Adams declined to give details of any diplomatic contacts but said: "As the president said in his letter to Chairman Kim, dialogue between the two is the only dialogue that matters. If North Korea is serious, then we look forward to hearing from them at the highest levels."

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters Trump did not want a meeting that was "just a political stunt."

"He wants to get something that's a long-lasting and an actual real solution. And if they are ready to do that then ... we're certainly ready to have those conversations," she said.]]>
5/26/2018 11:22:49 AM
<![CDATA[Ireland set to end abortion ban as exit polls signal landslide vote]]>
As the vote count began on Saturday morning, the official LoveBoth campaign against liberalisation conceded that the polls painted "a bleak picture" for their efforts to retain a constitutional ban imposed in a 1983 referendum.

"It's a Yes" read a banner front-page headline in the country's best-selling newspaper, the Irish Independent, which described it as "a massive moment in Ireland's social history".

2018-05-26T084323Z_1099876786_RC1532647B40_RTRMADP_3_IRELAND-ABORTION
People listen to results of an exit poll, as counting of the votes begins, the day after the Abortion Referendum, on liberalising abortion laws in Dublin, Ireland May 26, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

An Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI exit poll suggested that voters in the once deeply Catholic nation had on Friday backed change by 68 percent to 32 percent. An RTE/Behaviour & Attitudes survey put the margin at 69 percent to 31 percent.

Voters were asked if they wish to scrap a 1983 amendment to the constitution that gives an unborn child and its mother equal rights to life. The consequent prohibition on abortion was partly lifted in 2013 for cases where the mother's life was in danger.

If confirmed, the outcome will be the latest milestone on a path of change for a country which only legalised divorce by a razor thin majority in 1995 before becoming the first in the world to adopt gay marriage by popular vote three years ago.

"It's looking like we will make history tomorrow," Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who was in favour of change, said on Friday night on Twitter.

Vote-counting began at 0800 GMT across the country on Saturday, with the first indication of results expected mid-morning. Campaigners for change, wearing "Repeal" jumpers and "Yes" badges, gathered at the main Dublin count centre, many in tears and hugging each other.


PARLIAMENTARY BATTLE

A senator with the opposition Labour Party monitoring the count told Reuters that early tallies suggested the opinion polls were accurate.

"The exit poll I would say is bang on. We’ve done it," said Kevin Humphries, a former junior minister who campaigned for more access to abortion.

2018-05-26T084600Z_925881433_RC12C889B950_RTRMADP_3_IRELAND-ABORTION
A woman checks underneath a ballot box, to make sure it has been emptied properly, as counting of the votes begins, the day after the Abortion Referendum, on liberalising abortion laws in Dublin, Ireland May 26, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

No social issue has divided Ireland's 4.8 million people as sharply as abortion, which was pushed up the political agenda by the death in 2012 of a 31-year-old Indian immigrant from a septic miscarriage after she was refused a termination.

Campaigners left flowers and candles at a large mural of the woman, Savita Halappanavar, in central Dublin.

The Irish Times exit poll showed overwhelming majorities in all age groups under 65 voted for change, including almost nine in every 10 voters under the age of 24.

The fiercely contested vote divided political parties, saw the once-mighty church take a back seat, with the campaign defined by women on both sides publicly describing their personal experiences of terminations.

Although not on the ballot paper, the "No" camp sought to seize on government plans to allow abortions with no restriction up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy if the referendum is carried, calling it a step too far for most voters.

The result is likely to be followed by a battle in parliament on how exactly access to abortion will be increased.

"We will hold the Taoiseach (prime minister) to his promise that repeal would only lead to abortion in very restrictive circumstances. He gave his word on this, now he must deliver on it," Dr Ruth Cullen, an anti-abortion campaigner with LoveBoth said.
]]>
5/26/2018 11:19:00 AM
<![CDATA[Top 5 laws issued by Egypt's House of Representatives]]>
1. The New Health Insurance Law, which consists of 67 articles, was approved in Dec. 18, 2017. Under this law, the government is to fully cover the treatment of citizens who cannot afford it and will improve the quality of medical services in public hospitals by inspecting and supervising medical facilities. The law will be implemented in the duration of 15 years to include all Egyptian governorates.

2. The National Electoral Commission (NEC) Law was approved in July 2017. The law aims to create the National Electoral Commission (NEC) that will be responsible for supervising elections and referendums by 2024.

3. The long-awaited Church Building Law issued on Aug. 30, 2016, consists of 13 articles that regulates building and renovating churches in Egypt.

Cabinet approves law regulating unlicensed churches

CAIRO - 18 April 2018: The Cabinet approved legislation proposed by its committee for legalizing unlicensed churches and services buildings on Wednesday. The legislation is set to legalize 166 churches and buildings across the nation.




4. The Civil Service Law helps the administrative body of the state to organize work within it as well as regulating the wages and salaries of workers in the state.

Parliament approves allowance law for government employees

CAIRO - 10 May 2017: The final draft of a special allowance law for employees who are not included in the state civil service law was approved by a majority at parliament on Wednesday. The new allowance law will be sent to President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to be signed and published in the Official Gazette.




5. Anti-Terrorism Laws were approved in July 2017. The draft law was passed after amendments were introduced to the Criminal Procedure Laws, to procedures of appealing before the Court of Cassation, to legal procedures concerning terrorist entities and terrorism-related crimes, and to the Emergency and Anti-Terrorism law.

Laws passed by Parliament in 2017

CAIRO - 27 December 2017: The Egyptian parliament has approved a number of legislations in 2017, some of which are controversial, while others are critical. Wrapping up the year, Egypt Today looks back on the most important laws that passed in 2017. New Health Insurance Law Approval date: December 18, 2017.



]]>
5/26/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Trump says North Korea summit could still happen]]>
The summit would be an unprecedented meeting between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, which Washington hopes will result in full denuclearization of the reclusive state.

"We're going to see what happens," Trump told reporters at the White House, after welcoming Pyongyang's latest statement on the talks as "very good news."

"It could even be the 12th," he added.

On Thursday, Trump cancelled the summit that was due to take place in Singapore, blaming "tremendous anger and open hostility" from Pyongyang in recent days.

But North Korea responded Friday by saying it was willing to talk to the United States "at any time" -- a reaction Trump welcomed as "warm and productive."

"We're talking to them now," Trump said of the North Koreans. "They very much want to do it. We'd like to do it."

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said there was "possibly some good news" on the summit, while White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters: "If the meeting takes place on June 12, we will be ready."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke by phone with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, and the two agreed to remain "closely coordinated" in efforts to create conditions for dialogue with North Korea.

They "agreed that must continue until North Korea embraces denuclearization," according to a US readout of the call.

Trump's cancellation of the summit had blindsided treaty ally South Korea, which had brokered the remarkable detente between Washington and Pyongyang, with President Moon Jae-in calling the move "shocking and very regrettable."

- 'Twists and turns' -

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert cast the fast-moving developments as simply "twists and turns" in the process.

"We never expected it to be easy," Nauert told reporters.

But the whiplash from the White House was unusual even for the chaos-loving president. In March, apparently acting on impulse, Trump agreed to the talks with Kim after only limited input from aides.

In a letter to Kim, Trump blamed Kim's regime for his decision to call off the summit, and warned North Korea against committing any "foolish or reckless acts" while also highlighting America's "massive and powerful" nuclear capabilities.

First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan called Trump's decision "unexpected" and "regrettable" but sounded a conciliatory tone, saying officials were willing "to sit face-to-face at any time."

Just before Trump announced the cancellation of the meeting, North Korea declared it had "completely" dismantled its nuclear test site in the country's far northeast, in a carefully choreographed goodwill gesture.

- 'Show goodwill' -

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he respected and supported the US president's move to cancel the summit while China, Pyongyang's sole major ally, urged the two foes to "show goodwill."

Russia's President Vladimir Putin held out hope the talks would eventually take place.

Politically, Trump had invested heavily in the success of the planned summit.

As the date drew nearer, however, a gulf in expectations between the two sides became apparent.

Before Trump's announcement, Pyongyang had hardened its rhetoric, calling comments by Vice President Mike Pence "ignorant and stupid."

Washington has made it clear it wants to see the "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization" of the North.

Pyongyang has vowed it will never give up its nuclear deterrent until it feels safe from what it terms US aggression.

- Libyan model -

The White House was unhappy about what it considered to be a "trail of broken promises" by North Korea -- including failure to show up for summit preparatory talks and complaints about the latest US-South Korean joint military exercise.

It also was unhappy about the North's failure to allow international observers to verify the dismantling of the Punggye-ri test site, the staging ground for all six of its nuclear tests.

But the North's Kim Kye Gwan countered that Pyongyang's angry statements were "just a backlash in response to harsh words from the US side that has been pushing for a unilateral denuclearization."

Both Pence and Trump's hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton had raised the specter of Libyan leader Moamer Khadafi, who gave up atomic weapons only to die years later at the hands of US-backed rebels.

Joel Wit, founder of the respected 38 North website which monitors North Korea, said Kim's hand has been strengthened regardless of whether the summit goes ahead because recent weeks have seen him forge connections with Chinese President Xi Jinping, as well as with Russia and South Korea.

"Kim has created sort of a cushion for failure that if the US backs away, the Chinese and Russians will be behind him," Wit said.

"If the United States tries to come back to the table, (Kim) may toughen up his negotiating position feeling that his political position has been strengthened."

But others said Trump's demonstrated willingness to walk away could yet extract further concessions from Pyongyang.

"North Korea will have to propose more detailed plans for denuclearization if it wants to talk in the future," said Go Myong-hyun, an analyst at the Asan Institute of Policy Studies.]]>
5/26/2018 2:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. judge declines to dismiss ex-Trump aide's false statement charges]]>
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over Manafort's case in Washington, said in a ruling that she will not dismiss one of the charges against Manafort related to false statements concerning whether he was required to register as a foreign agent for Ukraine's then pro-Russia government.

However, she said the arguments his attorneys made regarding dismissing one of the charges can be re-examined after his criminal trial later this year.

A spokesman for Manafort declined to comment on the ruling.

Jackson's ruling marks yet another setback for Manafort.

Earlier this month, the same judge refused to dismiss the entire indictment after Manafort's lawyers argued unsuccessfully that Mueller had overstepped his prosecutorial powers.

Manafort is facing two indictments, this one in Washington and another in Virginia, which both arose from Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.

Manafort is the most senior member of Trump’s campaign to be indicted, though the charges do not relate to campaign activities.

In both cases, Manafort's lawyers claimed that the indictments should be dismissed on the grounds that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein violated Justice Department rules when he tapped Mueller in May 2017 and gave him too much power.

Manafort's lawyers also filed more targeted requests to dismiss certain charges in the Washington case on more technical legal grounds.

They argued that Jackson should dismiss one of two charges against him related to false statements because they target the same underlying offense and are therefore "multiplicitous" and violate the Double Jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution.

That clause prohibits charging a person twice for the same offense.

One of the charges in the indictment relates to making false statements, and the other alleges he violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act when he filed false documents with the Justice Department.

Jackson said that in prior cases it was found that it is possible to violate one of these laws without violating the other and they are not necessarily redundant charges.

She added that, in light of these circumstances, it would be better to "defer this determination until after the trial."

She has yet to rule on a third request by Manafort to dismiss a money laundering charge.]]>
5/26/2018 12:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Apple sees steep increase in U.S. national security requests]]>
Apple said it received as many as 16,249 national security requests affecting up to 8,249 accounts during the second half of 2017. The number of requests rose 20 percent compared with the first half of 2017, when Apple received 13,499 such requests.

But the most recent figures are more than two-and-a-half times higher than the comparable period a year earlier, when Apple received only 5,999 such requests.

Other tech firms also experienced a jump in national security request between the second half of 2016 and the first half of 2017. National security requests to Alphabet Inc's Google rose 36 percent, to almost 51,000. Similar requests to Facebook Inc nearly doubled, to almost 27,000.

Facebook and Google have not yet reported full numbers of national security requests for the second half of 2017 because both companies break out individual figures for both National Security Letters and requests under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. The FISA numbers are subject to a six-month reporting delay by law. Apple publishes an aggregate number of both types of requests and so is able to report the figures sooner.

Apple also said on Friday that it would start reporting requests from governments to take down apps from its App Store.

Last year, Apple took down virtual private networking apps, or VPNs, from its App Store in China in order to comply with a new Chinese cyber security law. Such apps help users browse the internet more privately and were used to evade Chinese internet censorship rules. Chinese regulators also forced Apple to remove Microsoft Corp's Skype internet phone and messaging app from the App Store in China.

Apple's new tracking of app takedown requests starts on July 1, so the data will begin to appear starting one year from now.]]>
5/26/2018 12:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Ireland votes in historic abortion referendum]]>
Nearly 3.5 million voters were asked whether they wanted to overturn a constitutional ban on abortion, following an emotional campaign.

The pro-choice campaign had an early lead in opinion polls but lost some of its advantage in recent weeks and experts have predicted the result could be exceptionally close, with many undecided voters.

People arriving at polling stations spoke about the momentousness of a morally complex decision.

Chris Garvin, 20, who works in human resources in Dublin, said: "I'm not going to try and sway people's opinions but it's a very, very important matter and I think it's going to affect everybody's lives in some way."

Ireland has traditionally been one of the most religious countries in Europe. However, the Catholic Church's influence has waned in recent years following a series of child sex abuse scandals.

The referendum comes three months before a visit by Pope Francis for the World Meeting of Families and three years after Ireland voted to legalise same-sex marriage despite the Church's opposition.

"The fact that it's illegal for somebody in Ireland to seek medical treatment, having to travel outside the country and to feel that guilt, shame and isolation, it's absolutely shocking," said Belinda Nugent, 43, a community activist voting in north Dublin.

"I took it really personally, this vote."

But across the city, Finbar O'Regan, 50, said he wanted a "good, strong No vote".

The unemployed Dublin voter said his mother had been sent to England to have him born and adopted.

"I'm a staunch No. It's the life of an unborn baby. I'm one of the lucky ones," he said.

- 'I'm very emotional' -

After the closure of the polls at 10:00pm (2100 GMT), an exit poll of 3,000 voters will be released on national broadcaster RTE.

The count begins at 9:00am (0800 GMT) on Saturday, with the result expected to be announced at Dublin Castle later in the day.

Dublin voter Helen, 47, who did not want to give her surname, said: "I've been awake all night. I'm very emotional about this.

"We've been marching about this for years and desperately trying to get successive governments to do something. Hopefully our day has come," she said, outside a polling station opposite Dublin's cathedral.

Lawyer Rachel Cadden went to vote with her husband near the Dublin docks.

"I'm pregnant so it's especially important for us," the 30-year-old said.

"It means I can get the proper medical care that I should get and that my needs are put first whenever it comes to me being in hospital."

At present Ireland's eighth amendment -- which could be repealed in the vote -- recognises the "right to life of the unborn" with an "equal right to life of the mother".

But in the small town of Kilcullen, some 50 kilometres (32 miles) southwest of Dublin, voter Sean Murphy told AFP: "I don't see any reason to change from the position we are in at the moment".

Canvassers were out on the streets holding up signs and wearing t-shirts. One in southwest Dublin offered hugs to people who voted Yes.

Irish President Michael D. Higgins voted at St. Mary's Hospital in Dublin's Phoenix Park, close to his official residence.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who backs the reform, said he was taking nothing for granted as he voted in the capital.

"Hopefully it'll be a Yes vote," he said.

He questioned whether Friday's exceptionally sunny weather would see more voters heading to the polling stations or going out enjoying themselves.

- 170,000 women -

The eighth amendment to the Irish constitution was installed following a 1983 referendum which approved outlawing abortion.

Anyone terminating a pregnancy in Ireland could face 14 years in jail.

The ban has led to thousands of women travelling each year to neighbouring Britain, where terminations are legal, or increasingly turning to abortion pills sold online.

Since 1983, around 170,000 Irish women have gone abroad for terminations.

The law was tweaked in 2013 to allow terminations if the mother's life is at risk.

The Irish government has proposed that if the eighth amendment is repealed, abortion will be allowed up to 12 weeks and between 12 and 24 weeks in exceptional circumstances.]]>
5/26/2018 12:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Iran expects measures to save nuclear deal by end of May]]>
Tehran has threatened to restart its uranium enrichment programme at an "industrial level" if the 2015 pact falls apart.

The comments came ahead of the first "joint commission" meeting in Vienna between the other signatories of the deal -- China, Russia, France, Britain, Germany and Iran -- since Washington's dramatic announcement on May 8 that it was pulling out from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and would re-impose sanctions on Iran.

The move has put the deal in "intensive care", the senior Iranian official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

US President Donald Trump has long trashed the deal -- concluded under his predecessor Barack Obama -- saying it did not do enough to curtail Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

After Friday's meeting, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said negotiations were ongoing with the remaining signatories "to see if they can provide us with a package which can give Iran the benefits of sanctions lifting".

He added that "practical solutions" were required to address Iran's concerns over its oil exports, banking flows and foreign investments in the country.

"The next step is to find guarantees for that package," he said.

Araghchi said that talks would continue over the next few weeks "particularly at an expert level", after which Iran would decide whether or not to stay in the accord.

"We got the sense that Europeans, Russia and China... are serious and they recognise that JCPOA's survival depends on the interests of Iran being respected," Araghchi added.

A senior EU official said after the meeting that the bloc could not "give guarantees but we can create the necessary conditions for the Iranians to keep benefiting from the sanctions lifting under the JCPOA and to protect our interests and continue to develop legitimate business with Iran."

"We are working on a variety of measures to mitigate consequences of the US withdrawal," the official, who did not want to be named, said while cautioning that "there are things that will take more time".

Russian delegate Mikhail Ulyanov struck an upbeat note, saying: "We have all chances to succeed, provided that we have the political will.

"I must tell you that the JCPOA is a major international asset. It does not belong to the United States, it belongs to the whole international community."

He added that the possibility of referring the matter back to the UN "was not discussed during this meeting".

-'Dying' deal-

Unusually for a meeting of the joint commission, the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog Yukiya Amano was invited to brief the participants on his organisation's work in Iran.

According to a report seen by AFP on Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) believes Iran is still abiding by the deal's key restrictions on its nuclear facilities in return for relief from damaging economic sanctions.

The IAEA, however, is "encouraging (Iran) to go above and beyond the requirements" of the deal in order to boost confidence, said a senior diplomat in Vienna, where the nuclear watchdog is based.

As well as criticising the deal for not adequately restricting Iran's nuclear activities, Trump also said it did not go far enough in limiting Iran's ballistic missile programme, or its intervention in regional conflicts from Yemen to Iraq and Syria.

The unnamed senior Iranian official rejected any attempt to link the JCPOA to other such issues.

The official said such an attempt would mean "we lose JCPOA and we (would) make the other issues even more complicated to resolve," adding it was pointless for the Europeans to try to "appease" Trump.

"We have now a deal which is in the intensive care unit, it's dying," the official said.

The five signatories still committed to the agreement have said they want Iran to stay in the deal, with the European countries saying they would not rule out further talks with the Islamic Republic on an expanded text.

However, Iranian officials have warned that there was no question of broadening the discussions.]]>
5/26/2018 12:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[World Bank praises Takaful and Karama program results to date: Wali]]>
The minister along with the World Bank delegation reviewed and discussed what has been accomplished so far from the monetary aid program, “Takaful w Karama” since its inception in March 2015, especially after expanding to the entire republic and having it cover more than 2.6 million families, with over 10 members each. The program comes within the social protection policies implemented by the government to limit poverty.

“We have raised a lot of praise from the World Bank group for what we have achieved with Takaful and Karam, especially in enabling the organization to extract medical reports of nationals to prove cases of disabilities. The World Bank also praised the complaints that the ministry took into consideration and improved in 27 governorates and 310 social departments to better respond to citizens’ needs in better time frames. The World Bank also recommended further expanding the program and its base of beneficiaries in the upcoming three years,” Wali stated.

Wali strongly emphasized the importance of shifting gradually from protecting to economically enabling through creating income opportunities especially for the youth segment of the population, women and other members of families who are able to work. She noted that the delegation’s most important goal of the visit was reviewing the results of a study that looked into the effects of the program throughout the past three years. The study, which was conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute, showed that living conditions improved noticeably for the families benefiting from the Karama and Takaful program.

The minister pointed out that the total expenditure spent during May alone for families depending on the program amounted to 1.111 bullion, and the program’s dependents have reached almost 2 million families for May alone, increasing over 300,000 families. In total, Takaful and Karama program provides for 2,250,247 families.

Zaytoun, the delegation’s head, stated that in comparsion to other countries’ similar programs that the World Bank supports in implementation, Egypt is booming in terms of the speed with which the program was implemented and has come to cover all governorates, reaching 5,630 villages. The quality with which the program implements its activities is improving annually, she added.

Social Protection Programs

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said on April 29 that he was “delighted” with the implementation of a comprehensive social protection system that covers the poor and the needy. 

During a ceremony to celebrate Labor Day, Sisi said that over the last four years the government has been implementing the Takaful and Karama programs, which benefit millions of families and help them live a “decent” life. 

Takaful and Karama are cash transfer programs that are part of a social protection net implemented by the government to protect the poor from the negative effects of Egypt’s reform program. 

Both programs where hailed by economists as they diverge from conventional pension schemes, aim to deliver subsidies to those who need them most and limit waste and corruption in social spending. 

IMF: Time to Entrench Egypt's Growth and Make It More Inclusive

On the occasion of releasing its staff report for the 2017 Article IV Consultation and the second review for Egypt’s economic reform program, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) published an article on Egypt under the title “Egypt: Time to Entrench Growth and Make It More Inclusive” in January, highlighting the impact of the bold reforms on the economy and listing the required measures to promote sustainable economic growth further. 

The article’s text is included below.

Egypt’s economy is recovering, supported by prudent macroeconomic policies and initial bold reforms aimed at addressing the major challenges that have confronted the economy in recent years. The task now is to deepen reforms to raise economic growth further, make it last, and spread its benefits to Egypt’s rapidly growing population and its youth and women, as the IMF says in its latest economic health check.

After more than a year since the launch of the economic reform program, GDP growth is strengthening and inflation is declining. The government trimmed the budget deficit, tourism revenues and remittances are increasing, and the country’s foreign exchange reserves have been rebuilt. The floating of the pound and the initial steps to improve the business climate have helped boost growth. 

“This macroeconomic turnaround at home and the supportive global economic environment provide a unique opportunity to carry the reform momentum into areas that have historically been hard to tackle. Deep and lasting structural reforms are needed to create jobs as speedily as needed for Egypt’s growing population,” said Subir Lall, head of the IMF team for Egypt. 

Below are the IMF’s key recommendations:

Making stability last

Egypt must entrench the stability attained thus far. This entails preserving the flexibility of the exchange rate and further reducing inflation. The government should also continue to lower the budget deficit to contain public debt. For this purpose, the IMF suggests: 

- Collecting more revenue to pay for much-needed social services and to invest in education, health, and infrastructure: Reducing tax exemptions, making the tax system more progressive (richer people pay progressively more in taxes), and making tax administration more efficient will facilitate this process. Revenue could grow by 4 percent of GDP in the medium term as a result, analysis suggests. 

- Eliminating most fuel subsidies, which benefit mainly the rich, and allowing fuel prices to change in line with costs: This would protect the budget from movements in global oil prices and the exchange rate and safeguard priority spending on social programs and necessary infrastructure. Helping low-income families. 

Although economic stabilization is critical, Egypt also needs to protect its lower-income families. This requires continuously improving the efficiency of social assistance by reducing price subsidies and expanding better-targeted cash transfer programs such as Takaful and Karama to free up resources for those who need them most while avoiding the buildup of unsustainable public debt. 

Letting the private sector flourish

Egypt’s growing population needs about 700,000 new jobs every year, which is possible only if the private sector becomes the main engine of growth. For that to happen, the state—which has a prominent role in the Egyptian economy—needs to step back from certain sectors and make room for the private sector to invest and grow. 

To this end, priorities include ensuring fair competition for private companies in the markets for their inputs and products, improving the governance and transparency of state-owned enterprises, reducing the perception of corruption, improving access to financing and land, and integrating more women and youth into the labor market.

Egypt launched a reform program when its economy faced rising imbalances that led to weakening growth, high public debt, a widening current account deficit, and declining official reserves. To support the homegrown reforms, in November 2016 the government initiated an IMF-supported arrangement to restore the stability of the country’s finances and promote growth and employment, while shielding lower-income households from the adverse effects 3 of the changes. On December 20, 2017, the IMF Executive Board approved the third installment of the three-year, $12 billion Extended Fund Facility. 

Additional reporting by Rana Mohamed.
]]>
5/25/2018 8:17:20 PM
<![CDATA[Parliament to receive president swearing-in ceremony since 2005]]>
Swearing before the Parliament will be applied for the first time since 2005 when former President Hosni Mubarak took the oath for last time. Presidents were sworn in before the members of the General Assembly of the Supreme Constitutional Court due to the absence of a validly elected Parliament.

President Sisi is also expected to deliver a speech following the swearing-in ceremony.

President Sisi is expected to take his new oath of office in Parliament on June 2, said Chairman of the Committee on Information, Culture and Antiquities in the House of Representatives, Osama Haikal.

“The works also include renovating parliament’s plenary meeting hall in which Sisi will take the oath,” said Parliament’s secretary Ahmed Saadeddin who reviewed the renovation works of Parliament’s main buildings along with Kamel El-Wazir, head of the army’s engineering organization.

In the same context, MP Mustafa Bakri, member of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, remarked that Speaker of Parliament Ali Abdel Aal will deliver a welcoming speech during the swearing-in ceremony; then, will invite the president to be sworn in.

He further explained that the president will deliver a speech on the national mission he will accomplish in the second presidential term.

He stressed that the session will be attended by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, the heads of parties and representatives of the government, referring that the government shall submit its resignation following the end of the first presidential term; the head of Parliament will declare the name of the new prime minister.

According to Article 140 of the Constitution, “The president of the Republic shall be elected for a period of four calendar years, commencing on the day the term of his predecessor ends.”

Article 231 reads that Sisi’s first presidential term started on June 3, 2014, when the presidential election results were declared, and shall be finished before that period.

Egypt’s presidential election, which took place between March 26 and 28, witnessed a competition between only two candidates: incumbent President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and head of El-Ghad Party Moussa Moustafa Moussa.

Sisi garnered 97.08 percent of valid votes in the 2018 presidential election, where more than 21.8 million people voted for him. His hardly-known competitor, El-Ghad Party chairperson Moussa Moustafa Moussa, received 656,534 votes, making up 2.9 percent of the valid ballots.

The turnout stood at 24,254,152 voters; 41 percent of the electorate.

In 2018, void votes made up 7.27 percent of the total votes, amounting to 1.762 million ballots. If void votes are not excluded from the result, Sisi's share of the total votes would be 90 percent.

In the 2014 vote, 23.4 million people voted for Sisi, void votes reached 1million ballots, and Sabahy amassed 740,000 votes. After winning a second term with 97 percent of the vote in Egypt’s 2018 presidential elections, incumbent President Sisi is expected to take his new oath of office in parliament.
]]>
5/25/2018 6:53:49 PM
<![CDATA[Writer, TV host Abulrahim Ali accused of being anti-Semitic ]]>
On their official website, the France-based Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF) condemned the participation of Ali in the press conference that was held at France’s National Assembly, which came at the invitation of the French extreme-right leader and former presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen.

The joint press conference’s main theme was about terrorism and the countries that sponsor it.

The council cited and lambasted the previous remarks made by Ali on Israel and the Jewish communities in Europe, accusing him of being obsessed with a “Zionist plot.”
The council based its criticism on a series of tweets posted by Romain Caillet, who presents himself as a French expert on extremist groups.

“The Egyptian conspirator was invited to the national assembly,” Calliet tweeted.
Calliet published earlier tweets of Ali, in which he described Doha-based Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi as a Mossad agent, the Palestinian political movement Hamas as an affiliate to Israel and Qatari channel Al-Jazeera as a Zionist media outlet.

Dubbed as “the Sheikh of suicide bombing,” Qaradawi was put on the terrorism watch list after being accused of escaping Wadi El Natroun prison. He gave up his Egyptian citizenship, inciting violence against Egypt and joining a terrorist organization. He articulated his permission for suicide bombing if required. He is banned from entering the U.S., UK and France.







According to Egyptian media outlets, Calliet was involved with some terrorist groups, including the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and was put under the French “Fichier S” list of people who belong to extremist groups.

“He goaded the French media and public opinion into believing that he is an expert on the affairs of the Jihadist groups, meanwhile he is one of them,” reports said. “Since 2010, Calliet has been living in Lebanon for five years before the authorities expelled him over links to terrorist groups in Syria, according to the finding of the French media’s investigations.”
]]>
5/25/2018 6:48:03 PM
<![CDATA[On again? Trump says still chance of June 12 North Korea summit]]>
Trump indicated the summit could be salvaged after welcoming a conciliatory statement from North Korea saying it remained open to talks.

“It was a very nice statement they put out,” Trump said as he left the White House to deliver a commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy. “We’ll see what happens - it could even be the 12th.

“We’re talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it.”

After years of tension over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, Kim and Trump agreed this month to hold what would be the first meeting between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader. The plan followed months of war threats and insults between the leaders over North Korea’s development of missiles capable of reaching the United States.

Trump scrapped the meeting, planned for Singapore, in a letter to Kim on Thursday after repeated threats by North Korea to pull out over what it saw as confrontational remarks by U.S. officials demanding its unilateral disarmament. Trump cited North Korean hostility in canceling the summit.

In Pyongyang, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said North Korea’s criticisms of certain U.S. officials had been a reaction to American rhetoric and that the current antagonism showed “the urgent necessity” for the summit.

“His sudden and unilateral announcement to cancel the summit is something unexpected to us and we cannot but feel great regret for it,” Kim Kye Gwan said of Trump in a statement on state media.

He said North Korea remained open to resolving issues with Washington “regardless of ways, at any time.”

Trump’s latest about-face sent officials scrambling in Washington. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters diplomats were “still at work” and said Trump had just sent a note out on the summit, which could be back on “if our diplomats can pull it off.”

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Katina Adams declined to give details of any diplomatic contacts but said: “As the president said in his letter to Chairman Kim, dialogue between the two is the only dialogue that matters. If North Korea is serious, then we look forward hearing from them at the highest levels.”

North Korea had sharply criticized suggestions by Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, and Vice President Mike Pence that it could share the fate of Libya if it did not swiftly surrender its nuclear arsenal. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed by NATO-backed militants after halting his nascent nuclear program.

“TRUMP FORMULA”

Kim Kye Gwan said North Korea appreciated Trump having made the bold decision to work toward a summit.

“We even inwardly hoped that what is called ‘Trump formula’ would help clear both sides of their worries and comply with the requirements of our side and would be a wise way of substantial effect for settling the issue,” he said.

Trump had initially sought to placate North Korea, saying he was not pursuing the “Libya model.” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: “This is the President Trump model.”

U.S. regional allies Japan and South Korea, as well as North Korea’s main ally, China, urged the two countries to salvage the summit on Friday.

At an economic forum in St. Petersburg, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan said it was necessary to ensure security on the Korean peninsula, which touched on China’s core interests.

U.S. President Donald Trump leaves the White House for a trip to Annapolis, Maryland, in Washington, U.S. May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the same forum, regretted the cancellation and said the world should keep doing its bit to make the summit happen.

South Korea also would continue efforts to improve ties with the North, the office of President Moon Jae-in said after Moon’s top security advisers met for the second time on Friday.

Some analysts worried that canceling the summit could prompt a resumption in hostilities, including renewed shorter-range missile tests or stepped-up cyber attacks by Pyongyang and increased sanctions or deployment of new military assets by Washington.

In his letter, Trump warned Kim of the United States’ greater nuclear might, reminiscent of the president’s tweet last year asserting that he had a “much bigger” nuclear button than Kim.

While the Trump administration had insisted on North Korea’s complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its nuclear program, Pyongyang had always couched its language in terms of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

It has said in previous, failed talks that it could consider giving up its arsenal if the United States provided security guarantees by removing its troops from South Korea and withdrawing its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.

Before Trump scrapped the meeting on Thursday, North Korea said it had completely dismantled its Punggye-ri nuclear test facility “to ensure the transparency of discontinuance” of nuclear testing.

Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Idrees Ali, David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick in WASHINGTON, Christian Lowe, Denis Pinchuk and Katya Golubkova in St Petersburg; Writing by So Young Kim and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Trott]]>
5/25/2018 6:04:49 PM
<![CDATA[Gargash: Qatar did not deal wisely with Arab Quartet boycott]]>“Not acknowledging its damage to its neighbors, the claim of injustice, purchasing support and waiting for the sincere, is a strategy that proved a failure,” he tweeted.




I hope that a year from the boycott will produce a new thought and a wise approach in Doha. The change will not be through public relations companies, regional squabbles and external intervention, but through a review of policies that have caused damage and contributed to extremism and terrorism, Gargash tweeted.




It would not be helpful for Doha to blame the United Arab Emirates, target Saudi Arabia, or undermine the security of Bahrain and Egypt. Internal auditing is a necessity, and the problem is that Doha seeks to target the security of its neighbors and support extremism and terrorism in the region, Gargash mentioned.




“In terms of Doha's handling of its crisis, we can conclude that isolation is continuing under a strategy that failed to dismantle the crisis and even proved the continuation of the damage. A new geo-strategic reality that we deal with minimal damage and will only be changed by revision and regression,” he tweeted.




Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain announced they are severing relations with Qatar over "its continuous support for terrorism," closing their airspace and seaports for Qatari transportation in June 2017.
“Protecting national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism, Saudi Arabia has decided to cut diplomatic ties and consular relations with the State of Qatar,” announced the Saudi Foreign Ministry in a statement. 

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar

CAIRO - 5 June 2017: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain announced they are severing relations with Qatar over "its continuous support for terrorism," closing their airspace and seaports for Qatari transportation on Monday. The four Arab countries withdrew their diplomatic missions from Qatar.



]]>
5/25/2018 5:56:26 PM
<![CDATA[‘Population increase is eating up economic reforms’: MP ]]>
In statements to Youm7, the parliamentarian has said that the Ministry of Social Solidarity’s efforts to raise awareness on the topic of family planning, by changing how tuk tuks look and sticking posters on them is considered a direct part of the direct campaign to face the increase in population.

The member of the Agricultural and Irrigation Committee in the Parliament has noted that the government must use all guidance means possible to deliver the messages concerning family planning, whether they are advertorial, text messages, or by having representatives knock doors to guide families in towns and villages on the matter.

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has previously also noted that the rapid increase in population is also affecting the economic reforms, and are slowing them down. During the “Ask the President” session that was held during the National Youth Conference on May 16, the president reiterated that a country with a population of one or two million citizens has at least eight times the national budget that Egypt does.

Launching a Family Planning Program

The Ministry of Health and Population, headed by Minister Ahmed Emad El-Din Rady, launched a new program on May 10 for family planning in Egypt in cooperation with USAID to respond to Egypt’s rapid population growth. 

The program aims to improve citizens’ health behavior and support the quality of family planning services and reproductive health, Soaad Abdel Megid, head of the Population and Family Planning Sector, said. 

She added that an electronic program will be established to register the beneficiaries of the program, implement a distance learning model, design a family planning and reproductive health curriculum in the medical and nursing schools, and involve the private and public sectors in providing the service. 

USAID will provide technical assistance and training to the Ministry of Health and Population to strengthen its Family Planning and Reproductive Health Program. Activities will help increase demand for family planning services and enhance the quality of services, aiming to improve contraceptive use and reduce fertility over time. The 5-year, $19 million program will be implemented in nine governorates in Upper Egypt and areas of Cairo and Alexandria, the U.S. embassy in Cairo stated on Saturday. 

“We know that USAID family planning programs have made tremendous impact in the past. We stand poised again to be a part of the solution to the rapid growth in Egypt’s fertility rate,” USAID Egypt Mission Director Sherry Carlin said at the program launch. 

Egypt’s Family Planning Program (SEFPP), a five-year, USAID-funded activity, in cooperation with the U.S. John Snow Research and Training Institute, aims to create sustainable solutions that will help address Egypt’s growing population by increasing the use of family planning methods and promoting healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies. Project implementation is focused on the nine governorates of Upper Egypt and the slums of Cairo and Alexandria. 

For nearly 40 years, USAID has worked with Egypt on projects related to healthy behaviors, family planning, nutrition, immunization and disease prevention activities. 

Egyptian Population hits 104.2M 

The Egyptian population hit 104.27 million both domestically and abroad, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics’ (CAPMAS) latest census in 2017. Those living inside the country amount to 94.8 million, while expats are estimated to at 9 million, according to statistics from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

The statistics spotlighted the government’s concerns on issues of economic growth, unemployment rates and family planning programs. 

Egypt needs to provide 700,000 job opportunities annually

Egypt’s unemployment rate declined 1.4 percent during the first quarter of 2018 to 10.6 percent, compared to 12 percent in the same period of 2017, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS). 

On a quarter on quarter basis, the unemployment rate also decreased from 11.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017. 

CAPMAS said that the unemployment rate among young people from 15 to 29 years old recorded 75.2 percent of the total labor force in Q1 2017. 

The report revealed that the unemployment of holders of intermediate, university and higher degrees reached 87.7 percent of the total labor force; compared to 89.5 in the previous quarter. 

The unemployment rate in urban areas recorded 12.1 percent, compared to 9.5 percent in rural areas. 

The number of employees reached 26.09 million in Q1 2018, with an increase of 1.7 percent, or 446,000 employees, compared to the same period of 2017. 

In 2017, Egypt’s unemployment rate slipped to 11.8 percent, compared to 12.5 percent in 2016. 

Minister of Finance Amr el-Garhy said earlier that the Egyptian economic reform program contributed in reducing the unemployment rate by 2.3 percent in three years, clarifying that the huge projects established by the government provided job opportunities. 

Meanwhile, Planning Minister Hala al-Saeed said in March that the construction sector helped in providing around 3.7 million jobs, representing 20 percent of total workers in the domestic market. 

This data matched with what President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi had earlier stated about reducing the rate to 10 percent during the few upcoming years. 

Minister of Planning’s Advisor Ahmed Kamali stated earlier that Egypt needs to provide 700,000 job opportunities to limit the increase of the unemployment rate, and this number should be exceeded to reduce the unemployment rate. 

In the same context, IMF Egypt Mission Chief Subir Lall said that Egypt has to offer 700,000 job opportunities annually, noting that this number has to be led by the private sector, in light of the large population growth and the large number of youths. 

Lall added that the private sector alone can provide these opportunities through the establishment of small and medium enterprises, and the expansion of existing companies where it is difficult for the public sector to step in. 

Decreasing the unemployment rates requires higher levels of economic growth. Egypt witnessed a growth rate of 5.3 percent in the second quarter of fiscal year 2017/2018, targeting to achieve a rate of 5.8 percent during the next fiscal year, and 7 percent in 2022. 

The upcoming budget seeks to lower the unemployment rate to 10.4 percent with an inflation rate of 13 percent. 

Egypt 2030 Vision aims to reduce unemployment from the current percentage to 4 percent. 

Additional reporting by Rehab Ismail and Hanan Mohamed.
]]>
5/25/2018 5:51:46 PM
<![CDATA[ACA arrests government officials on corruption charges]]>

In the following lines, Egypt today provides a quick summary of the most notable corruption cases unveiled lately by the ACA.



In Ismailia, the ACA arrested the technical director of the governorate’s real estate registry office who was found to have been misusing his position in order to legalize an illegal ownership of some citizens’ plots of lands.

Meanwhile in Fayoum, a number of officials serving at the governmental bodies were also arrested on charges of facilitating the misappropriation of plots of land for some citizens.

A representative from a tourist company was also arrested for bribing an employee from the Ministry of Manpower in exchange for money to get 64 people included in the government-sponsored pilgrims travel list.

In the Oncology Department of the main university hospital in one of the governorates, two nurses were arrested for taking drugs worth about LE 1.5 million for profiteering purposes and another auditor for embezzling LE 380,000 that were taken out from the salaries of the medical staff at the hospital.

The ACA also arrested an employee at the Customs Authority who was charged with accepting bribery from a representative of a company – which is in a legal dispute with the authority – for leaking classified documents that can be used in favor of the company that the Authority is legally suing.

In Gharbeya, the director of the contracts department at the housing directorate of the governorate was arrested on charges of accepting bribes from the head of the office of a national newspaper in the governorate to increase the number of the newspapers’ advertisements from the directorate instead of its affiliated online portal.

Also, the ACA managed to arrest staffers at the Ain Spkhna port on charges of seeking briberies in order to facilitate the entry of large shipments of electronic devices to Egypt by defrauding documents.

The ACA is an anti-corruption independent body and reports directly to Egypt’s Primer.
]]>
5/25/2018 3:34:08 PM
<![CDATA[Libyan army renew calls for Derna terrorists to turn themselves in]]>
In a press release on Friday, the Karama Operations Room, a subset of the LNA, assured that families of the terrorist will not be punished for their sons’ crimes.

In the same context, the LNA forces announced that they discovered a tunnel used by terrorists in south Derna during military crackdowns and operations.

Last week, General Commander of Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar, stated that Derna will be declared terrorism-free soon, calling on soldiers to purge the city from terrorism, while keeping in consideration the safety of civilians.

In a televised speech aired earlier Wednesday, Haftar stressed that the army’s aim is to uproot terrorism, after terrorists had turned down all endeavors to avoid armed confrontation.

Haftar directed the army to take into consideration the safety of Derna’s residents and their properties, except for those who carry arms and fight against the Libyan people.
LNA engaged in fierce clashes around the city of Derna on Tuesday; two soldiers were killed in a car bomb and another was abducted from a checkpoint.

Derna is controlled by a coalition of Islamist militants and rebel veterans known as the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council (DMSC).

The LNA, which has been trying to consolidate its grip on eastern Libya after taking Benghazi last year, has encircled Derna and launched occasional air raids over the city.

Contributed by Reuters]]>
5/25/2018 2:48:16 PM
<![CDATA[N. Korea says it's still open to talks after Trump cancels summit]]>
Trump on Thursday announced his withdrawal from what would have been the first-ever meeting between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader, scheduled for Singapore on June 12, in a letter to Kim, citing North Korea's "tremendous anger and open hostility".

Trump's decision came after repeated threats by North Korea to pull out of the summit over what it saw as confrontational remarks by U.S. officials.

"We have inwardly highly appreciated President Trump for having made the bold decision, which any other U.S. presidents dared not, and made efforts for such a crucial event as the summit," North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said in a statement carried by state media.

"We even inwardly hoped that what is called 'Trump formula' would help clear both sides of their worries and comply with the requirements of our side and would be a wise way of substantial effect for settling the issue," he said, without elaborating.

Kim Kye Gwan said North Korea's recent criticisms of certain U.S. officials had been a reaction to unbridled American rhetoric, and that the current antagonism showed "the urgent necessity" for the summit.

"His sudden and unilateral announcement to cancel the summit is something unexpected to us and we can not but feel great regret for it," Kim Kye Gwan said, adding that North Korea remained open to resolving issues with Washington "regardless of ways, at any time".

North Korea had sharply criticised suggestions by Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, and Vice President Mike Pence that it could share the fate of Libya if it did not swiftly surrender its nuclear arsenal. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed by NATO-backed militants after halting his nascent nuclear programme.

Trump had initially sought to placate North Korea, saying that he was not pursuing the "Libya model" in getting the North to abandon its nuclear weapons programme. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also said: "This is the President Trump model. He's going to run this the way he sees fit."

NUCLEAR SITE DECOMMISSIONED

While the Trump administration had insisted on North Korea's complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its nuclear programme, Pyongyang had always couched its language in terms of denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

It has said in previous, failed talks that it could consider giving up its arsenal if the United States provided security guarantees by removing its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.

North Korea on Thursday announced it had completely dismantled its Punggye-ri nuclear test facility "to ensure the transparency of discontinuance" of nuclear testing.

Footage of the event broadcast by South Korean media on Friday showed explosions throwing up huge clouds of dust and debris as they destroyed tunnel entrances and multiple wooden structures around the site.

Other images showed North Korean officials displaying a map of the site, including several major tunnel complexes they said were unused and completely operational prior to being destroyed.

Some analysts are worried the cancelling of the summit could prompt a resumption in hostilities, including renewed shorter-range missile tests or stepped-up cyber attacks by Pyongyang and increased sanctions or deployment of new military assets by Washington.

Trump, in his letter, sounded a bellicose note, warning Kim of the United States' greater nuclear might, reminiscent of the president's tweet last year asserting that he had a “much bigger” nuclear button than Kim.

Speaking later, Trump said the U.S. military stood ready if Kim were to take any "foolish" action and that the United States would continue its "maximum pressure" campaign of sanctions to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

Many South Koreans reacted angrily to the announcement, feeling they had been cheated of a chance of a lifetime to live in peace.

North Korea's measured response provided some solace for nervous financial markets, with Asian shares almost flat.

"I suspect they couldn't agree on denuclearisation," said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management. "But looking at comments from the both sides, none of them is ruling out holding a meeting in the future. So I do not expect to see an immediate escalation in military tension."

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who worked hard to help set up the summit and urged Trump at a White House meeting on Tuesday not to let a rare opportunity slip away, said he was "perplexed" by the cancellation. He urged Trump and Kim to talk directly.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his South Korean counterpart, Kang Kyung-wha, held a phone call and agreed to continue working towards creating the right conditions for the United States and North Korea to talk, the South's foreign ministry said in a statement.

South Korea would also continue efforts to improve ties with the North, the presidential office said after Moon's top security advisers met for the second time on Friday.

China, North Korea's lone major ally, said the United States and North Korea should show patience.

“In the present situation, we really hope that the United States and North Korea can cherish the recent positive progress, exercise patience, show goodwill and meet each other halfway," Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a regular news briefing.

China has publicly urged the United States and North Korea to keep up the dialogue. But Trump had suggested in recent days that Kim's more defiant tone followed a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The official China Daily newspaper said Trump's "cheeky invitation" in his letter for Kim to call or write to set up a meeting meant he was not "slamming the door shut on talks" in future.]]>
5/25/2018 10:41:53 AM
<![CDATA[Macron hails 'frank' talks with Putin in Russia]]>
In a press conference following the leaders' wide-ranging first meeting in Russia, Putin also said he regretted US President Donald Trump calling off his plans for a summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

"We had counted on that a significant step towards a de-escalation on the Korean peninsula would be taken and a start made on denuclearisation," Putin said.

Trump announced Thursday that he would not go ahead with the meeting with Kim set for June 12 in Singapore, and would instead pursue Washington's campaign of "maximum pressure" through sanctions on Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, Macron said he wanted the "non-proliferation process to continue" and hoped Trump's decision was just a blip.

Trump's earlier withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement had provided another rare point of convergence for Moscow and Western capitals, with both Macron and Putin reaffirming their commitment to the deal.

The ongoing crises in eastern Ukraine and Syria, where Russia and France have intervened on opposing sides of the conflict, were less comfortable topics for the two leaders.

Nevertheless, the French president said he "respected the strengthened role Russia has taken on in the region and in the world, in particular the Middle East".

"I expect that Russia will respect also our interests, our sovereignty and that of our European partners," the French president added.

Before the press conference, ministers from France and Russia celebrated a raft of commercial deals between the two countries.

The most significant of these was a deal that will see the French energy group Total increase its role in liquefied natural gas projects in the Arctic with Russian firm Novatek to the tune of $2.5 billion.

- 'Lying propaganda' -

The trip is Macron's first to Russia as president and follows a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week. Europe and Moscow are making diplomatic overtures to save the Iran deal, now under threat after the recent US withdrawal.

Putin handed Macron's wife Brigitte flowers as he greeted the couple late in the afternoon at the Konstantin Palace, a former residence of Peter the Great set some 20 kilometres (12 miles) outside Saint Petersburg.

The meeting comes almost exactly a year since the freshly elected Macron hosted Putin in Versailles, when the French leader accused Russian media of producing "lying propaganda" during a joint press conference.

The visit will also see Macron address the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum.

The talks take place after US President Donald Trump in early May controversially pulled the United States out of the 2015 landmark pact with Iran that placed limits on its nuclear programme in return for easing economic sanctions.

"Russia shares the position of the majority of the international community including Western leaders" when it comes to the Iran deal, said Alexander Baunov of the Carnegie Moscow Center.

The West has realised that a dialogue with Putin is "inevitable" in order to preserve the accord, he said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will also visit Russia at the end of the week.

"Merkel and Abe have already begun a thaw with Moscow and Macron is scared of losing the advantage that France has always had with Russia," Baunov added.

International investigators on Thursday said a missile that downed a Malaysia Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine in 2014 belonged to a Russian brigade. Moscow rejected the accusation.

Before Macron's trip, Human Rights Watch also implored him to raise the issue of rights abuses with his Russian counterpart, following a crackdown on dissent and pressure on minority groups in the country.]]>
5/25/2018 1:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[Putin welcomes European efforts to save Iran nuclear deal]]>
Putin made the comment in a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, offering some support for the French leader's plan for negotiating a broader agreement with Tehran to cover Iran's ballistics programme and its activities in the Middle East.

Macron met Putin seeking to win concessions on Syria, Iran and Ukraine after returning largely empty-handed from a state visit to the United States.

"Certainly we can discuss Iran's ballistic missiles. We can discuss Iran's policies in the Middle East and its nuclear activities after 2025," Putin said.

"But we cannot make preserving the Iranian nuclear deal dependent on these three parameters because if we do, it means that we too are withdrawing from the accord because the deal that exists foresees no additional conditions."

A Macron adviser hailed Putin's comments as a "key" point of convergence between Paris and Moscow as the Trump administration urges its European allies to sever economic ties with Iran.

After talks that ran long over schedule, Macron and Trump entered the news conference looking relaxed and smiling. Macron acknowledged Paris and Moscow disagreed on a range of issues but called for "strong multilateralism".

Earlier, it was announced French energy major Total would buy a 10 percent stake in a Russian Arctic gas project, showing the Kremlin's ability to find foreign partners despite Western sanctions.

"I hope Russia understands France is a credible and trustworthy European partner," Macron said.

AT ODDS OVER SYRIA

As Macron spoke at length, Putin's eyes frequently drifted towards the ceiling, his brow slightly furrowed.

There were few signs Macron succeeded in shifting Putin's stance over Syria, where Russian and Iranian military support for President Bashar al-Assad over the past three years has allowed Assad to crush the rebel threat to topple him.

The two men agreed on creating a coordination mechanism among world powers to push ahead with finding a political solution in Syria, and that the focus should be on a new constitution and setting up elections that would include all Syrians.

"We need to be talking about the situation after the war. The key is to build a stable Syria," Macron said.

But he won no clear backing from his Russian counterpart for an international body that would attribute responsibility for chemical weapons attacks.

France, together with the United States and Britain conducted a missile attack against the heart of Syria's chemical weapons program in mid-April in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack a week earlier.

Addressing North Korea, both men said they hoped the United States and North Korea would continue working towards denuclearising the Korean peninsula after U.S. President Donald Trump called off a planned summit.

Macron said he hoped Trump's move "was just a glitch in a process that should be continued."]]>
5/25/2018 12:07:33 AM
<![CDATA[Sisi affirms firm stand with Palestinian case]]>CAIRO – 24 May 2018: President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi received Thursday a phone call by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence who stressed his country’s keenness to support and boost strategic cooperation with Egypt in light of its pivotal role in preserving the security and stability of the Middle East region.


According to Presidential Spokesperson Bassam Radi, Pense commended Egypt’s role in easing the situation in Gaza, in addition to its efforts to achieve the Palestinian reconciliation.


For his part, the Egyptian leader affirmed the depth of the strategic relations between Egypt and the United States, which are considered one of the pillars of stability in the Middle East.


President Sisi expressed that he is looking forward to promote these relations in a bid to achieve mutual interests, especially restoring security in the region.


Sisi also stressed Egypt’s firm stand with the Palestinian case and rights of Palestinians in accordance with principles of the international law.


Countless efforts to support Palestine, Sisi orders Rafah border opened

CAIRO - 20 May 2018: Under President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi directives, the Rafah Border Crossing is opened for the second day in a row after a decision to keep the crossing open throughout the holy month of Ramadan. Since the Gaza rallies began on March 30, more than 100 Palestinian demonstrators have been martyred by the Israeli army.



]]>
5/24/2018 10:09:58 PM
<![CDATA[Activist Wael Abbas arrested by Cairo Investigations Dept. ]]>
The sources revealed that his charges include “opposing and inciting against the Egyptian state.” However, no statement from the prosecution has been released to confirm his indictment or even his detention.

Abbas, 43, posted “I am being arrested” in Arabic on his verified Facebook profile, which has disappeared from the platform since. Social media profiles of activists are usually deleted shortly after their arrest in hopes their posts would not incriminate them.


1
Wael Abbas saying he is being arrested/ Facebook


His activism began in the early 2000s with videos on police brutality and torture. Notably, a video he shared in 2006 of a microbus driver, Emad el-Kebir, being tortured at a police station, led to a rare imprisonment of a police officer, Captain Islam Nabih.

Abbas was a fierce opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in 2012 and 2013, but was also against the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi.

Socialist activist Haitham Mohamadein was arrested May 18, and legal sources anticipated the charge of belonging to a terrorist group. On May 8, a satirical vlogger was detained for 15 days pending investigations into belonging to an illegal group and spreading false news.

Two weeks ago, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi pardoned 330 youths, many of whom are low-profile activists or were arrested under Egypt’s strict protest law. Sisi has pardoned hundreds others during his term.

]]>
5/24/2018 4:03:17 PM
<![CDATA[Sisi, King Abdullah of Jordan discuss Jerusalem, Syria]]>
The two leaders emphasized their continuing support to the Palestinians right to an independent state with Eastern Jerusalem as a capital, and stressed the importance of resuming negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis to achieve the two-state resolution.



The lack of a fair and comprehensive solution to the suffering of the Palestinians leads to further regional instability, while the Arab peace initiative presents “new horizons” for the future of the Middle East, according to a statement by Egyptian presidential spokesperson Bassam Rady.

Similarly, they discussed a “political solution” in Syria, one that maintains its territorial integrity, provides security and stability for the Syrian people and ends their humanitarian suffering.

Sisi received the Jordanian King at Cairo Airport and later enjoyed a banquet at dusk to break their fast. King Abdullah stressed the importance of coordination with Egypt as a “key pillar of security regionally and internationally.”

]]>
5/24/2018 1:34:21 PM
<![CDATA[Lebanon's Hariri PM on track to become PM for third time]]>
The post of prime minister is reserved for a Sunni Muslim in Lebanon's sectarian power sharing system, and the Western-backed Hariri was the clear frontrunner as the country's leading Sunni despite losing more than a third of his MPs in a May 6 election.

President Michel Aoun was holding the official consultations with MPs who were holding separate meetings with him on Thursday. The meetings are due to continue into the afternoon. Aoun must designate the candidate with the greatest backing.

The new coalition government is expected to reflect the enhanced political position of the Iran-backed Shi'ite group Hezbollah and allies that support its possession of arms, which together won at least 70 of parliament's 128 seats.

While Hariri won wide backing, Hezbollah MPs named nobody for the post. The group would cooperate "positively" with whoever was designated, Mohammed Raad, head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc, said after meeting Aoun.

All Lebanese leaders have called for the rapid formation of a new government that will aim to revitalise a stagnant economy situation and address unsustainable public debt levels.

But like the outgoing cabinet, the new government will have to balance out the interests of all the main competing Lebanese parties and may take time.

Hezbollah, which is designated a terrorist group by the United States, intends to secure three cabinet seats in the next coalition government, an increase from the two portfolios it held in the outgoing cabinet of 30 ministers, a senior official familiar with the group's thinking told Reuters.

Hezbollah, which has to date held only marginal cabinet posts, is also seeking more significant service-providing ministries in the new cabinet, sources familiar with its thinking have told Reuters.

Hezbollah also believes a cabinet post should be allocated to one of its Sunni allies who wrested seats away from Hariri's Future Movement.

The staunchly anti-Hezbollah Lebanese Forces party, which almost doubled its number of MPs to 15, is also seeking a bigger slice of cabinet portfolios.

Parliament re-elected the Hezbollah-allied Shi'ite politician Nabih Berri as its speaker on Wednesday, extending his tenure in the post he has held since 1992. Another Hezbollah ally, Elie Ferzli, was elected as his deputy.]]>
5/24/2018 12:07:55 PM
<![CDATA[German ambassador praises Egypt’s economic reforms]]>
During his meeting with Egyptian journalists at his residency on Tuesday, Luy commended the strong relations between the two countries, stressing that Germany has supported Egypt economically and politically all over its transitional period.

“Germany is one of the biggest countries that made contribution in the International Monetary Fund’s loan, besides Germany’s direct loans, amounting to $500 million,” Luy stated, asserting that Egypt should carry on its economic reforms, while focusing on reconstructing the infrastructure and supporting SMEs.

The ambassador pointed out that Germany provided Egypt with loans and grants worth €1.6 billion to fund renewable energy and water projects. He added that German tourists allocate 14 percent of the total number of tourists in Red Sea resorts.

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German Ambassador to Egypt Julius Georg Luy during meeting with Egyptian journalists at his residency on May 22, 2018 - Press photo/Egypt Today

“The trade exchange between Egypt and Germany reached €6 billion annually, while the German investments in Egypt created 22,000 job opportunities,” Luy said, warning against the “scary” overpopulation growth rate in Egypt that ranges between 2 and 2.5 million annually.

Luy also referred to the importance of the existence of a strong civil society. He also stressed on the necessity to root the freedom of expression and free journalism, saying that criticizing the government is essential in democratic societies.

The German ambassador praised Egypt’s efforts to eliminate the illegal immigration that has been reduced to the minimum since inking a deal between the two countries last year.

Regarding enhancing Egyptian-German economic cooperation, Luy revealed that Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Müller will visit Egypt next October to meet with Egyptian Minister of International Cooperation Sahar Nassr to negotiate new economic deals.

Luy denied that Germany would move its embassy to Jerusalem, like the U.S. “Germany refuses the unilateral steps, because they don’t help in solving the conflict,” Luy explained.]]>
5/24/2018 10:12:38 AM
<![CDATA[France proposes initiative to end Libyan political stalemate]]>
According to the source, Paris has recently conducted several negotiation meetings with Libyan factions' leaders and a number of international countries, before inviting the main parties to participate in a Paris meeting on Tuesday.

Libyan Army Commander Khalifa Haftar, Libyan Presidential Council Chief Fayez Serraj, First Deputy of the State Supreme Council Nagy Mokhtar and Parliament Speaker Akila Saleh will take part in this meeting.

The meeting is also expected to be attended by representatives of Egypt, Gulf countries, European countries, the United States, the African Union, the European Union and the League of Arab States.

According to the source, the main items of the initiative include immediate unification of the Libyan central bank and the dissolution of all parallel institutions. It also called for opening a new session for voters' registration on the electoral list for an additional period of 60 days.

The initiative added that Libyan army forces should secure election preparations and polling stations, as voting should be taking place later this year. It also urged the international community to support the Libyan authorities in order to help provide Libyans with necessities like money, health and education.

On Wednesday, Haftar stated that Derna will be declared terrorism-free soon, calling on soldiers to purge the city from terrorism while keeping in consideration the safety of civilians.

In a televised speech aired earlier Wednesday, Haftar stressed that the army’s aim is to uproot terrorism, after terrorists had turned down all endeavors to avoid armed confrontation.

Haftar directed the army to take into consideration the safety of Derna’s residents and their properties, except for those who carry arms and fight against the Libyan people.

“After four years of holy struggle against the Kharijites, we are close to the liberation of Derna," Field Marshal Haftar said, warning his soldiers from terrorists’ ambushes.

Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia issued a statement on Monday in which they renewed their rejection of all forms of foreign interference in Libya's internal affairs. The statement was issued following a tripartite meeting of foreign affairs ministers Sameh Shoukry of Egypt, Khemaies Jhinaoui of Tunisia, and Abdelkader Messahel of Algeria in Algiers. They discussed the latest developments in Libya and prospects for a political solution in the Arab country.

"Foreign interference undermines the country's political process, prolongs the crisis, and threatens security and stability in Libya and neighboring countries," the foreign ministers of the three countries said in a statement in support of the political settlement in Libya.

Libya has been in a state of turmoil since a 2011 civil war that resulted in the overthrow of longstanding ruler Muammar Gaddafi by rebel fighters backed by NATO airstrikes.
]]>
5/24/2018 5:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[No compromise in sight on Iran nuclear deal, Germany says]]>
Maas issued his sober assessment after a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying the two officials had restated their known positions, but no new information emerged.

"I think we're still far away from a compromise," said Maas, who met earlier with John Bolton, U.S. President Donald Trump's new security adviser, who is known for his hawkish views. "We're pursuing two completely different paths."

He said he hoped more concrete details might emerge about Washington's plans for Iran if a four-way meeting among Germany, Britain, France and the United States could be arranged.

Maas said he told U.S. officials that Europe remained "very, very united" in supporting a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran because it feared a proliferation of atomic weapons on its doorstep.

Trump pulled the United States out of the accord earlier this month, shrugging off appeals from Washington's European allies which argued that the deal had succeeded in curbing Tehran's nuclear programme in return for a lifting of sanctions.

Scrapping the deal would allow Iran to resume its nuclear programme and this would "massively jeopardise" Europe's security, Maas told reporters after what he called a frank but constructive meeting with Bolton.

"Europe is very, very united in its position on the nuclear accord with Iran, and that will not change... We don't want a proliferation of nuclear weapons in our expanded neighbourhood," Maas said.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that Trump's rejection of the nuclear deal showed that the Islamic Republic could not deal with a country that could not keep its commitments.

"DIFFICULT" DISCUSSIONS AHEAD

Maas said European countries shared U.S. concerns about Iran's continued development of ballistic missiles and its behaviour in the Middle East, but believed those issues should be addressed without undermining the nuclear deal.

On Monday Pompeo threatened Iran with "the strongest sanctions in history" if it did not curb its regional influence, accusing Tehran of supporting armed groups in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

Senior officials from the remaining parties to the accord - Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia - will meet their Iranian counterpart on Friday in Vienna.

The meeting will assess what can be done to keep the deal alive and circumvent extraterritorial U.S. sanctions that are impacting foreign business appetite for Iran.

Maas said he expected the coming discussions to be "difficult" but gave no details.

He also said European leaders were concerned about the future of the transatlantic relationship, but expected it to withstand differences over Iran and other thorny issues.

Maas said he had also discussed the Syrian civil war and the overall situation in the Middle East, as well as trade disputes in his meetings. European countries have also been rattled recently by Trump's decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.]]>
5/24/2018 4:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[USA Gymnastics apologizes in Congress for sex abuse scandal]]>
The leader of USA Swimming also expressed regret during a congressional hearing for past sexual abuse scandals in the sport.

Referring to Nassar, Susanne Lyons, the acting CEO of the US Olympic Committee (USOC), told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that the "Olympic community failed the people it was supposed to protect."

"This is appalling and unacceptable," Lyons said. "I would like to apologize once again to those individuals and their families."

Nassar, 54, is serving a life sentence for abusing hundreds of young girls and women while working at Michigan State University and as the team doctor for the US Olympic Gymnastics team.

"Athlete safety must be at the forefront of everything we do," said Kerry Perry, who took over as president and CEO of USA Gymnastics in December.

"Like all of you, I was appalled and sickened by the despicable crimes (of Nassar)," Perry said. "I want to apologize to all who were harmed by the horrific acts.

"Let there be no mistake; those days are over," she said. "USA Gymnastics is on a new path, with new leadership, and a commitment to ensure this never happens again."

Timothy Hinchey, president and CEO of USA Swimming, said his organization "acknowledges and deeply regrets the abuse suffered by children, athletes, and other participants in swimming programs."

"Participation in sport should offer physical, social and emotional benefits, but for some, it has resulted in abuse and trauma that will negatively impact the rest of their lives," Hinchey said. "That is inexcusable."

The Nassar scandal rocked American gymnastics and led to the resignation of the entire board of USA Gymnastics and CEO Steve Penny.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun also stepped down amid calls for his resignation.

- 800 reports of abuse -

Nassar pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting women and girls over a two-decade period under the guise of medical treatment.

Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney have all come forward and said they were victims of Nassar's abuse.

Earlier this month, Michigan State University announced it had reached a $500 million settlement with 332 former victims.

Besides USA Gymnastics and USA Swimming, the heads of USA Volleyball and USA Taekwondo also attended the hearing on protecting athletes from sexual abuse and misconduct.

Former Olympian Ariana Kukors Smith filed a lawsuit on Monday against USA Swimming, accusing the governing body of knowing she was being sexually abused by her coach and covering it up.

Also testifying on Wednesday was Shellie Pfohl, the president and CEO of the US Center for SafeSport, an independent Denver-based body.

The SafeSport Center is charged with investigating allegations of sexual abuse within the 49 national governing sports bodies in the United States.

Pfohl said the center has received more than 800 reports of abuse during the past 14 months and had permanently banned 142 people from participating in or coaching Olympic sports.

Pfohl said SafeSport was currently receiving 20-30 complaints a week and needed additional staff to cope with the workload.

"Far too many of our nation's athletes have suffered abuse at the hands of perpetrators," Pfohl said. "If one athlete is abused it's one too many.

"We believe athletes of all levels deserve to participate in sports that are free from bullying, hazing, sexual misconduct or any form of emotional or physical abuse," she said. "Anything less is unacceptable."

Gregg Harper, a Republican congressman from Mississippi, said there had been a "systematic failure" to protect athletes and it would take a "Herculean effort to regain the trust of athletes, their families and the American people."

"Athlete safety must be the top priority of the USOC," Harper said.

Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Colorado, told the witnesses "we're not here to tear down the sporting world."

DeGette expressed hope that the changes promised by the governing bodies were not "window-dressing" but a step down "the road to real change."

Greg Walden, a Republican from Oregon, said that for too long a "culture of medals and money won out over athlete safety and protection."

"More must be done to ensure athlete safety is the top priority of the USOC" and the governing bodies of the various sports, Walden said.]]>
5/24/2018 1:17:10 AM
<![CDATA[Giuseppe Conte approved for Italian prime minister]]>
"The President of the Republic has tasked me with the role of forming a government," Conte said to reporters after a nearly two-hour meeting with President Sergio Mattarella.

Conte's appointment could herald an end to more than two months of political uncertainty in the eurozone's third-biggest economy -- but the coalition's eurosceptic and anti-immigrant stance has alarmed senior European officials.

However, 53-year-old Conte, unveiled Monday as anti-establishment Five Star Movement and nationalist League's pick for premier, sought a more conciliatory tone towards Europe when speaking to journalists at the presidential Quirinal palace.

"I'm aware of the necessity to confirm Italy's place, both in Europe and internationally," said Conte, who cast himself as the "people's lawyer".

"My intent is to give life to a government of the people that looks after their interests. I'm ready to defend the interests of Italians in Europe and internationally, maintaining dialogue with European institutions and representatives of other countries."

Conte, who hails from Five Star, said that he would present head-of-state Mattarella with his cabinet, which has been the subject of days of tough negotiations between Five Star and the League, within "the next few days".

The list of ministerial candidates must be endorsed by Mattarella before it can seek parliamentary approval.

Italian media reported that League chief Matteo Salvini would become interior minister while Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio will be in charge of the economic development ministry.

- EU concerns -

Mattarella was reportedly concerned about the plan to name Paolo Savona as economy minister.

Minister for industry between 1993-94, Savona, 81, was staunchly opposed to the signing of the Maastricht Treaty and has said he considers the euro currency a "German cage".

The joint government programme unveiled by the parties on Friday pledges significant anti-austerity measures such as drastic tax cuts, a monthly basic income and pension reform rollbacks, which Di Maio and Salvini claim will boost growth.

EU officials have voiced concern that Italy could trigger a new eurozone crisis by refusing to stick to public spending and debt targets set by Brussels.

Pierre Moscovici, the EU Economic Affairs Commissioner, said on Wednesday that Italy must deliver a "credible" response on how it will reduce its debt, the eurozone's second largest in proportion to GDP.

The Milan stock exchange lost 1.31 percent Wednesday, while the difference in yield on Italian 10-year sovereign bonds compared to Germany's has increased 60 base points to 191 in just eight days -- a sign of increasing investor concern for Italy's financial stability.

The government programme also plans to speed up expulsions of illegal immigrants and crack down on trafficking.

Nearly 700,000 people have landed in Italy since the migrant crisis exploded in 2013.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters in Brussels: "We judge governments as governments not on what they announce but on what they will do. But we remain attentive to safeguard the rights of the Africans who are in Italy."

- CV scandal -

Almost immediately after being named as candidate for PM by the parties, Conte was plunged into scandal over doubts about his claims to have studied at some of the world's top universities.

In a CV posted on the website of a lawyers' association Conte said that he "furthered his juridical studies" at Yale, New York University (NYU), Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, the Sorbonne in Paris, and Cambridge.

NYU told AFP that their records did not "reflect Giuseppe Conte having been at the university as a student or having an appointment as a faculty member".

It said he was granted permission to conduct research in the institution's law library between 2008 and 2014.

Duquesne University told AFP he attended as part of an affiliation with Villa Nazareth, an exchange programme, and did legal research but "was not enrolled as a student".

Conte has not spoken publicly about the affair, but was staunchly defended by Salvini and in particular Di Maio.

He said: "Good luck to Giuseppe Conte, the lawyer-defender of the Italian people. Change has never been so close!"]]>
5/24/2018 1:13:25 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. House backs measure to clamp down on Myanmar over Rohingya rights]]>
Lawmakers voted 382-30 to approve the measure as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, a massive defense policy bill that is one of the few pieces of legislation passed by the U.S. Congress every year.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled into Bangladesh from Myanmar since August to escape a military crackdown, launched in response to Rohingya insurgent attacks. Refugees have reported murder, rape and arson by Myanmar troops.

Washington has called the army response "ethnic cleansing," which Myanmar has denied, saying its security forces were conducting a legitimate counter-insurgency operation against "Bengali terrorists."

If included in a final version of the NDAA, typically passed by the House and Senate later in the year, the measure would, among other things, bar U.S. security assistance or cooperation with Myanmar's military or security forces until they have made progress on human rights.

It also would impose sanctions on current or former senior Myanmar military officials who perpetrated or were responsible for serious human rights abuses.

The amendment was introduced by Representative Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Earlier this month the United Nations Security Council urged Myanmar’s government to carry out transparent investigations into accusations of violence against the Rohingya Muslims and allow immediate aid access to the region.]]>
5/24/2018 1:07:11 AM
<![CDATA[Canada's largest city to open emergency housing for asylum seekers]]>
Toronto will house 800 asylum seekers in college dorms over the summer, the city said in a statement. But after August, it will need a new contingency plan and may house people in community centres instead, the statement added.

More than 27,000 asylum seekers have illegally crossed the Canada-U.S. border since U.S. President Donald Trump came to office last year.

The influx has strained Canada's backlogged system for assisting people seeking refugee status, leaving aid agencies scrambling to meet growing demand for housing and social services.

Wednesday's announcement came as a surprise to refugee agencies, said Francisco Rico, co-director of Toronto's FCJ Refugee Centre. He and his colleagues have been working with the city for months to develop a longer-term solution.

"It's a bandage. Of course a bandage doesn't help in the long term, particularly if people continue coming in (at) this level."

Refugees cross illegally because if they cross legally at formal border crossings, Canada will turn them back under a bilateral agreement with the United States. Canada has sought to expand this agreement to allow it to turn back thousands more asylum seekers.

The vast majority have gone to the primarily French-speaking province of Quebec, but Quebec's government has said its social services are strained and it cannot handle many more newcomers.

That has prompted plans to divert willing asylum seekers to Ontario -- plans a spokesman for Canada's immigration and refugee minister said on Wednesday are still in the works.

But Toronto, Ontario's capital and Canada's largest city, has seen strains of its own, and the city is bracing for more coming from Quebec over the coming months.

Refugee claimants now make up 40 percent of the people sleeping in shelter beds, up from 25 percent in May, 2017, and they are estimated to make up the majority of shelter occupants by November, the city said.

The Red Cross, which will run the new shelters, got the call from the city last week but had been prepared to open asylum seeker shelter spaces for a while, said Stephanie Etkin, the Red Cross's regional operations manager for the Toronto area.]]>
5/24/2018 1:03:32 AM
<![CDATA[Pompeo: US will walk away from N.Korea summit rather than take bad deal]]>
"A bad deal is not an option," Pompeo said in his written opening statement for a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. "The American people are counting on us to get this right. If the right deal is not on the table, we will respectfully walk away."

In his first public testimony in Congress since becoming secretary of state last month, the former Republican House member was questioned for more than three hours about a variety of world hotspots, focusing largely on North Korea and Iran but with tough talk also for NATO ally Turkey.

Pompeo expressed hope the North Korea summit will take place on June 12 in Singapore as scheduled after Trump said there was a "substantial chance" it will be called off amid concerns Pyongyang will not give up its nuclear arsenal.

He said Trump would be leading the talks but declined to discuss how many people, or who, would be on the summit team.

Pompeo, who was CIA director before becoming secretary of state after Trump fired Rex Tillerson, has met twice with Kim in Pyongyang. On his most recent trip he brought back three Americans who had been held by North Korea.

Pompeo also addressed tensions with Iran over its nuclear program, saying Washington was seeking to meet with European and other allies on the way forward after Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 Iran deal earlier this month.

He said he intends to meet with allies in June to discuss next steps to stop what he described as all of Tehran's nuclear and non-nuclear threats.

"We're not very far along ... A number of discussions have taken place below the foreign minister level," Pompeo said.

In a major speech on Monday, Pompeo demanded sweeping changes or said Tehran would face the "strongest sanctions in history" unless it changes its behavior.

Committee members repeatedly asked Pompeo about Americans held in Iran. Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear accord prompted concerns among families of American prisoners held by the Islamic Republic that it will be more difficult to win their release.
Pompeo said Turkey should stay in NATO but that it "should act in a way consistent with what we try to achieve in NATO."

Relations between Washington and Ankara have deteriorated recently. Turkey supported the U.S. fight against Islamic State, but has become increasingly worried about U.S. backing for Kurdish fighters in Syria.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is coming to Washington to meet with Pompeo on June 4.

The hearing was contentious at times, particularly when Democratic Representative Greg Meeks confronted Pompeo about his aggressive questioning of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton when he was a congressman during Republican-led hearings about the fatal 2012 attack on U.S. diplomats in Benghazi.

Meeks accused Pompeo of neglecting the issue now that he is secretary of state, and of treating Clinton, who lost to Trump in the 2016 presidential election, "with venom" as he accused her of not caring about diplomats' safety.

"I ask you, Mr. Secretary, should we conclude that because you've not mentioned it one time, not once, should we to conclusion based upon that fact, that you do not care about diplomatic security, Mr. Secretary?" Meeks asked.

"No you should not conclude that," Pompeo said, raising his voice and saying his first state briefing was on security.
]]>
5/23/2018 10:00:21 PM
<![CDATA[Iran's top leader sets 7 conditions to remain in nuclear deal -official website]]>
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's official website said that he also stipulated European powers must protect Iranian oil sales from U.S. pressure and continue buying Iranian crude, and must promise they would not seek new negotiations on Iran's ballistic missile programme and regional Middle East activities.

"European banks should safeguard trade with the Islamic Republic. We do not want to start a fight with these three countries (France, Germany and Britain) but we don't trust them either,” Khamenei said. "Europe should fully guarantee Iran’s oil sales. In case Americans can damage our oil sales..., Europeans should make up for that and buy Iranian oil."]]>
5/23/2018 9:46:52 PM
<![CDATA[Pope Tawadros makes changes in the Holy Synod]]>
The Pope came to the seat of a man before him who was following a different school of religious leadership. A proponent of Father Matta al-Maskeen’s teachings, Pope Tawadros would no longer allow Pope Shenouda’s stronghold reign to manifest. He was now changing the winds. Those who were never allowed to take up high administrative and clerical positions were now coming to the forefront.

Pope Tawadros embarked on his reforms with two goals in mind: to install the men he trusted in the highest clerical positions, and to target the youth. In the matter of the first, two of his most trusted clergymen slowly climbed to the roles he meant for them in the Church.

Sources from within the church stated that the most critical change of the Pope’s reign was followed through; the secretary and assistant secretaries of the Synod have been elected. The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church is the highest authority in the Coptic Orthodox Church. It is the authority that issues rules and regulations to the churches and to their congregations. The Synod convenes once every year for a week.

The-first-picture-of-the-Holy-Synod-with-His-Holiness-Pope-Tawadros
The Holy Synod, 2017 - Photo courtesy of New York and New England Copts website

During the last session of the Synod, Archbishop Daniel, the archbishop of Maadi, has replaced Archbishop Rafael as the secretary of the Synod. Daniel's position came due to his tight and amicable relationship with the Pope. Daniel also acts as the Pope’s vice; he is left in charge of the administration of the Cathedral when the Pope is abroad. Now, Archbishop Daniel, is officially the second highest clergyman in the Coptic Orthodox Church.

In terms of youth, they took up a great part of the Pope’s attention. Archbishop Youlious, the archbishop of Social Services, is now appointed to their affairs. Known for his closeness and attention to the underprivileged, Youlious has come to replace Pope Shenouda’s strong man, Archbishop You’anes. His strongmen, Archbishop Daniel and Archbishop Youlious have been appointed to the Pope’s highest positions, while the third, was awarded to Archbishop Gabriel, the archbishop of Vienna, who was essentially the Pope's ambassador while he was seeking treatment there. Gabriel, a savvy diplomat, has managed to secure a large church in the heart of Vienna to the Coptic Orthodox Church as a result of the ties that he strengthened with the Catholic Church and its officials there. Archbishop Gabriel is the embodiment of the Pope’s “open heart” policy, which relies on forming and maintaining friendly and amicable relationships with everyone.

All these changes and appointments were voted upon in the Holy Synod, and took place after the predecessors had finished their terms.

These changes came coupled with many requests for the Pope to start a Theological Dialogue, since many inaccurate teachings are being disseminated by individuals within the church. This came in light of the crisis that was caused by Archbishop Angelius who had essentially falsified and demeaned the Bible, and had to be relieved of his duties in North America five months after his appointment. Archbishop David who heads New York, has replaced Angelius and now maintains both New York and North America.

]]>
5/23/2018 4:42:09 PM
<![CDATA[Gov’t follows up on 3rd line construction using new driller]]>
The event was attended by Minister of Transport Hisham Arafat, Minister of Electricity Mohamed Shaker, Minister of Local Development Abu Bakr el-Gindy, Cairo Governor Atef Abdel Hamid, and former ministers of transport Galal Saeed, Hany Dahy and Alaa Fahmy.

The third phase of the third metro line will connect the working-class districts of Attaba, Bulaq and Imbaba with Cairo University in Giza. The phase will also pass through well-off neighborhoods like Zamalek, Mohandiseen and Agouza. The construction on the 18-kilometer phase officially started in 2017; it includes 15 stops, including Zamalek.

In his speech, National Authority for Tunnels (NAT) Chairman Tareq Gamal el-Din said that the construction works of the third phase will conclude and be inaugurated within six years.

He added that 93 percent of the construction works of the fourth phase are completed, at a cost of LE 8.5 billion ($473 million).

The third line with its four phases would save nearly two million daily commutes above the ground, reducing Cairo’s traffic congestion, shortening the duration of commutes and saving LE 250 million in the cost of public transportation buses. The project would save up to LE 2.72 billion a year overall, according to NAT’s official website.

Fare rise dispute

Earlier this month, the government decided to increase the metro fare for the second time, triggering anger among citizens who are currently suffering from the dramatic surge in prices following the 2016 flotation of the Egyptian pound.

The new fare calculation is based on the length of each commute and the number of stations used, instead of having a fixed ticket price for an unlimited number of stations.

Commuters will be charged a base fare of LE 3 for the first nine stops, and an additional LE 2 (total LE 5) for seven more stations. The highest ticket price has been fixed at LE 7 if the commuter will use the metro for more than 16 stations.

The move was described by the government as “necessary” due to huge financial losses incurred by the sector, and in order to improve the service of the subway that works for 20 hours every day.

Following the decision, the metro sector announced expanding metro lines and purchasing new air-conditioned metro carriages. At least two lawsuits were filed against the increase, demanding the government backtrack its decision.

“The current trend taken by the government to increase ticket prices by a minimum of three pounds and a maximum of seven pounds is to charge the cost of investment on the price of the ticket, and not only the cost of operation and maintenance,” said a report issued by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), criticizing the increase.

The report explained that companies normally record losses in their financial accounts due to spending large investments whose fruits are expected to be reaped in subsequent years.

Around 3.5 million Cairenes use the metro every day. Launched in 1987, the metro has since become the most important means of transportation, helping passengers to avoid getting stuck in Cairo traffic or having to negotiate fares with unmetered taxis.
]]>
5/23/2018 3:21:59 PM
<![CDATA[President Sisi expected to be sworn in on June 2]]>
Chairman of the Committee on Information, Culture and Antiquities in the House of Representatives, Osama Haikal, said that President Sisi is expected to take his new oath of office in Parliament on June 2.

In the same context, MP Mustafa Bakri, member of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, remarked that Head of the Parliament, Ali Abdel Aal, will deliver a welcoming speech during the swearing-in ceremony; then, will invite the president to be sworn in.

He further explained that the president will deliver a speech on the national mission he will accomplish in the second presidential term.

He stressed that the session will be attended by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, the heads of parties and representatives of the government, referring that the government shall submit its resignation following the end of the first presidential term; the head of Parliament will declare the name of the new prime minister.

According to Article 140 of the Constitution, “The president of the Republic shall be elected for a period of four calendar years, commencing on the day the term of his predecessor ends.”

Article 231 reads that Sisi’s first presidential term started on June 3, 2014, when the presidential election results were declared, and shall be finished before that period.
Swearing before the Parliament will be applied for the first time since 2005; presidents were sworn in before the members of the General Assembly of the Supreme Constitutional Court due to the absence of a validly elected Parliament.

Egypt’s presidential election, which took place between March 26 and 28, witnessed a competition between only two candidates: incumbent President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and head of El-Ghad Party Moussa Moustafa Moussa.

Sisi garnered 97.08 percent of valid votes in the 2018 presidential election, where more than 21.8 million people voted for him. His hardly-known competitor, El-Ghad Party chairperson Moussa Moustafa Moussa, received 656,534 votes, making up 2.9 percent of the valid ballots.

The turnout stood at 24,254,152 voters; 41 percent of the electorate.
In 2018, void votes made up 7.27 percent of the total votes, accounting to 1.762 million ballots. If void votes are not excluded from the result, Sisi's share of the total votes would be 90 percent.

In the 2014 vote, 23.4 million people voted for Sisi, void votes reached 1million ballots, and Sabahy amassed 740,000 votes.
]]>
5/23/2018 12:14:02 PM
<![CDATA[Salame risks Libyan division to serve West's interests: sources]]>
They added that Salame was mistaken when he compared Cairo's meetings to unite Libyan parties to the meetings of Dakar and Morocco, which have achieved very little on the ground.

The Libyan sources claimed that Salame cooperates with suspicious French-backed organizations, criticizing his desire to bring Islamists back to the political scene in the coming period. The sources warned that security there could deteriorate further in the absence of any progress towards a political solution.

Some of the Libyan political parties criticized the series of meetings promoted by Salame to try to support the French vision in Libya and serve Paris' interests in the country, referring to Salame's attempts to marginalize in his brief to the UN Security Council yesterday.

Salame has reported to the UN Security Council on the latest situation in Libya, revealing that he had finally given up on attempting to get the conflicting entrenched Libyan parties to amend the stalled Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) signed in the Moroccan town of in December 2015. This had been one of the main pillars of his 2017 Action Plan.

Instead, Salame said that he was now pushing ahead for elections to be held by the end of 2018, subject to proper conditions. He said that there now exists a nationwide call for elections which was confirmed by the initial outcomes of the National Conference events. Salame called on the House of Representatives in consultation with the High State Council to deliver the necessary legislation for elections.

The Libyan sources said that the country is too divided to hold elections and Salame risks partition if it goes ahead with a vote without security guarantees and a national consensus on building a state.

As he mentioned in his March briefing to UNSC, Salame confirmed that he will reveal UNSMIL’s plans to deal with Libya’s militias. He admitted that this plan ‘‘will not unravel armed groups tomorrow but will help the long process begin in earnest.’’

The UNSMIL head also criticized Faiez Serraj for intending to give unlimited powers to the Salafist Special Deterrence Force (Rada) militia which was recently condemned by Reporters Without Frontiers (RSF).

He noted that ‘‘the continued influence of armed groups upon politics and the economy is perilous, and unless resisted is in danger of expanding; as recently shown in a disputed decision by the Government of National Accord to give powers to an armed group, that can only belong to the sovereign state.’’

Meanwhile, Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sameh Shoukry, along with his Tunisian and Algerian counterparts, took part in a tripartite meeting on Libya, held on Monday in Algeria.

The meeting discussed the holding of a referendum on a new constitution in Libya, and the parliamentary and presidential elections that the United Nations intended to hold before the end of this year.

They also discussed ways to strengthen the efforts to accelerate the peace and reconciliation process between Libyan disputing parties.

Three consultative meetings were already held over the issue of Libya, respectively in Algeria in June 2017, in Egypt in November 2017 and in Tunisia in December 2017.

On the other hand, the Popular National Movement said in a statement on Saturday that the Dakar meetings, that took place last week in the Senegalese capital, included several terrorist factions known for using violence.

The statement revealed that several radical Islamist political figures, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, attended the meeting and were discussing the country’s future and political situation in an unacceptable way, and that “All of these figures are just using religion again to control the country.”

Furthermore, the statement said that among the factions that attended the Dakar meetings was the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. “This group used to be the backbone of terrorist organizations in Libya,” the statement stressed.

The Libyan Popular National Movement accused the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group of being responsible for all the violence that took place inside the country during the past years; therefore, the Dakar meetings were refused by several political movements and figures, saying that many of the political parties attending the meetings were not “accepted within the political scene anymore,” unless they issue a formal apology to the government.

The meeting which concluded May 13, called all the Libyan political parties to take part in the coming round of talks, set to take place within the coming 60 days.

Since the ouster of long-time Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi more than six years ago, the war-torn country has drawn wide international and regional attention, posing a threat to North African and European national security.

Libya, which is struggling to get through the critical political situation that it has been experiencing since 2011, is not only trying to unify its army, but is also longing to revive its political functions by conducting presidential and legislative elections by mid-2018.

Egypt has hosted several meetings to bring the conflicting factions to the negotiating table, alongside members of Tobruk’s House of Representatives, to resolve the Libyan crisis and amend the Skhirat Agreement, which aims at ending the Libyan civil war.

On May 1, Libyan House of Representatives speaker, Aguila Saleh, said that holding a presidential election in Libya before the end of 2018 is the only solution to solve Libya’s political crisis, especially that it is difficult to reach a real political agreement in Libya soon.
]]>
5/23/2018 10:32:18 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. House passes bipartisan prison reform bill]]>
The First Step Act does not contain a broader overhaul favored by some moderate conservatives and progressives seeking changes to mandatory minimum sentencing laws that have kept many low-level offenders behind bars for decades.

The bill's top Democratic and Republican sponsors have said such broad reforms should be left out for now as a compromise to get legislation passed by the Senate and signed into law.

"Folks, this is what legislating looks like," Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the leading Republican sponsor of the bill, told reporters on Monday. "Sometimes there are disagreements, but you come together and you find compromise."

The bill would require the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), a part of the Justice Department, to do risk assessments on which inmates should qualify and earn credits toward completing their sentences in halfway houses or home confinement.

It would broaden job opportunities for inmates, expand laws on compassionate release of prisoners, prevent the BOP from using restraints on pregnant inmates and allow prisoners to earn early release credits of up to 54 days for good behavior.

The good behavior provision would allow for the early release of an estimated 4,000 prisoners.

The House bill contrasts with one in the Senate championed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley. It would lessen prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders.

How the House bill will fare in the Senate remains to be seen. While some Senate Democrats and Republicans have indicated they will support it in its current form, others may oppose the bill unless sentencing reforms are added to it.

Adding such provisions could doom the bill because more hard line law-and-order conservatives would then likely oppose it.

New York Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the leading Democratic sponsor of the measure, told reporters on Monday that lawmakers should seize the opportunity to pass some criminal justice reforms, even if they don't go far enough. ]]>
5/23/2018 3:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[Pompeo says confident U.S. can develop common approach with Europeans on Iran]]>
"I'm confident that there is a set of overlapping values and interests here that will drive us to the same conclusion about the need to respond to the Islamic Republic of Iran's threats to the world," Pompeo told reporters at the State Department.]]>
5/23/2018 2:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Military spokesprson denounces HRW report]]>
In statements to Egypt Today, Refaei said that HRW report didn’t use any reliable, official or trusted sources, accordingly, he highly doubts all the data contained within the report.

“Egypt’s armed forces are taking all its procedures according to the law and all those affected, got compensations up to LE900 million” Refaei said.

He added that the army was keen to provide all the basic commodities, administrative and medical needs for Sinai residents after cooperating with all o the country’s bodies and organizations.

Earlier, HRW issued a report claiming that Egypt’s army has vastly expanded widespread destruction of homes, commercial buildings, and farms in the North Sinai governorate since February 9, 2018, as part of its military campaign against terrorist groups there.

Earlier in April, HRW issued another report regarding Egypt alleging that Sinai Peninsula is lacking essential food products and medicine supplies because of an ongoing military campaign against terrorist insurgency there. The report was denounced as well by the Military spokesperson.

In a statement published on his official Facebook account, Refaei said that the HRW report came unlike reality and based on unreliable sources.

The military spokesperson added that the Army provides food, medicine and essential products to civilians in North Sinai. He also said that the armed forces coordinate with the government apparatuses to be well prepared for any emergencies.

“The Armed forces secure the arrival of trucks filled with fresh food and dairy products to distribute them later to the local residents,” Refaei stated in his statement.

Egyptian armed forces statements have previously provided facts on the situation in North Sinai, including the distribution process of medical supplies among the residents affected by the ongoing military campaign against terrorism.

About 22 statements were released by the military on a regular basis during the past period. The reports included specific details regarding the updates in Sinai.

Egypt and specially Sinai residents suffered from several terrorist attacks during the past years, which demanded a firm response of the government.

On February 9, Egypt launched “Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018” in North Sinai, Central Sinai, the Nile Delta and the Western Desert along the border with Libya.

The operation showed the high efficiency of the Egyptian military and police in combating terrorism threats, without causing any danger to citizens.

The operation came in response to the Rawda mosque attack near Al-Arish, which killed at least 313 and injured dozens in last November. The attack was deemed to be the deadliest in modern Egyptian history.]]>
5/23/2018 1:59:47 AM
<![CDATA[That must be stopped;' Texas opens talks on safety after shooting]]>
About 20 people, including supporters and opponents of arming teachers, attended the first of three days of meetings in the state capital, Austin, following the fourth-deadliest U.S. school shooting this year at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, on Friday.

"The problem is that innocent people are being shot and that must be stopped," Abbott, a staunch gun rights supporter, told reporters before the meeting.

"We all want guns out of the hands of those who will try to murder our children. The questions is, what are we, the leaders of Texas, going to do to prevent this from happening again."

Abbott, a Republican, has vowed that any changes to state laws would "protect Second Amendment rights."

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution enshrines the right to bear arms. Gun rights proponents say it prohibits regulations on gun ownership and that enforcement of existing laws should be sufficient to stop violent incidents like the one in Santa Fe.

Gun control groups point to the regular toll of shootings across the United States as evidence that more needs to be done to rein in the proliferation of weapons.

The U.S. Supreme Court has avoided major gun cases for a number of years, leaving in place restrictions on guns enacted by some states.

In contrast to Florida, where the killing of 17 teens and educators in February sparked a youth-led movement calling for new restrictions on gun ownership, the Texas tragedy saw elected officials and survivors alike voicing support for gun rights.

Some gun rights proponents in Texas have embraced the idea of arming teachers, a strategy advocated by the National Rifle Association and U.S. President Donald Trump. That solution is largely rejected by survivors and parents in Parkland, Florida, after the carnage there.

Police arrested Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, at the Santa Fe school following the rampage they said he committed with a shotgun and a .38-caliber pistol. He is charged with capital murder of 10 people - eight students and two teachers.

Police said Pagourtzis confessed to Friday's killings after being taken into custody, but they have offered no motive yet for the massacre.

He is being held without bond, on suicide watch, at the Galveston County Jail in Galveston, Sheriff Henry Trochesset said.

Four minutes after Pagourtzis started shooting, police entered the school's hallway and exchanged gunfire with him while he remained in a classroom, allowing the rest of the school to be evacuated, Trochesset said.

"They contained him in that one area, isolated to them, engaging with them, so that he did no more damage to other classes," the sheriff told a Monday news briefing.

Trochesset said he does not believe that any of the 10 deaths were caused by officers' gunfire but he said he could not rule that out until autopsies were performed. ]]>
5/23/2018 1:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. House votes to ease post-crisis bank rules in victory for Trump]]>
Tuesday's vote rolls back some of the 2010 Dodd-Frank rules that restricted operations by smaller banks and community lenders and keeps the Republican president's campaign promise to try to spur more economic growth by cutting regulation.

The bill, which was approved by the Senate in March, marks the first significant rewrite of U.S. financial rules introduced following the crisis, which saw Wall Street lenders bailed out to the tune of $700 billion.

Republican critics say Dodd-Frank went too far and curbs banks’ ability to lend, while many Democrats say it provides critical protections for consumers and taxpayers.

The bill, approved 258-159, raises the threshold at which banks are considered systemically risky and subject to stricter oversight to $250 billion from $50 billion. It also eases trading, lending and capital rules for banks with less than $10 billion in assets.

It does not, however, weaken the top U.S. consumer watchdog created by Dodd-Frank that has been consistently attacked by Republicans who say it oversteps its mandate.

But the bill does offer a handful of niche provisions that would help some larger banks, such as allowing custody banks like BNY Mellon and State Street Corp to exempt the customer deposits they place with central banks from a stringent capital calculation requirement.

It also offers more favorable treatment for municipal bonds, a measure that analysts say is likely to help Citigroup Inc's bond-trading business.

But backers of the bill stress that the core Dodd Frank provisions that aimed to shore up the financial system and make banks less risky, remain untouched by this legislation.

The bill also does not alter the so-called "Volcker Rule" banning Wall Street banks from making risky bets with their own money, or limit the ability of regulators to apply stricter rules to large institutions they deem critical to the financial system.]]>
5/23/2018 12:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Palestinians urge immediate ICC probe into 'Israeli war crimes']]>
Amid rising tensions with Israel, Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki met for an hour with the ICC's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda at the tribunal in The Hague, "to refer the situation in Palestine" to her office.

It was an "important and historic step" for the Palestinian people "who have suffered for generations the consequences of crimes committed with impunity by Israeli officials", he told reporters afterwards.

The ICC launched a preliminary probe in 2015 into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Israel and the Palestinian territories, in the wake of the Gaza war.

Despite a visit to the region, the tribunal has yet to move to the next stage and open a full-blown investigation which could possibly lead to charges being brought. Bensouda said however in a statement that it had "made important progress".

Maliki insisted there was "insurmountable" evidence of crimes, adding those "responsible ... must be held accountable for their actions without further delay".

The meeting at the ICC comes after more than 60 Palestinians protesting the US decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem were killed by Israeli fire last week.

Maliki said the Palestinian move was "due to the intensification of the rate and the severity of the crimes against our people", including the targeting of "unarmed protestors in the Gaza Strip".

The Palestinian referral highlighted the issue of settlements, which the delegation termed in a statement "the single most dangerous threat to Palestinian lives and livelihoods".

"Israel maintains, expands and protects the settlement regime by committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people," the statement added.

Amid much controversy, the Palestinian Authority joined the ICC in January 2015 signing up to the Rome Statute, which underpins the world's only permanent war crimes court.

- 'Violence must stop' -

Israel is not a member of the ICC however, and the Israeli foreign ministry on Tuesday said it "takes a severe view" of the referral, which it called "a cynical step without legal validity".

"The ICC lacks jurisdiction over the Israeli-Palestinian issue, since Israel is not a member of the court and because the Palestinian Authority is not a state," the Israeli ministry added in a statement.

It called on Bensouda "not to yield to Palestinian pressure" and to deny "Palestinian efforts to politicise the court".

Bensouda confirmed she had received the referral and said in her statement she had "to consider issues of jurisdiction, admissibility and the interests of justice" in deciding what to do.

It is the eighth time a state party to the court has directly referred a situation to her, she said, warning that a direct referral "does not automatically lead to the opening of an investigation."

But she highlighted it would mean she will not have to ask for the judges' permission if she decides to investigate what would be the most complex and high-profile conflict the tribunal has ever probed.

Rights groups urged Bensouda to take up the challenge and move to the next step.

"The recent killings in Gaza only underscore the importance of the ICC prosecutor acting to address the pervasive climate of impunity in Palestine," said Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch.

Bensouda vowed last week that she was watching the unrest in Gaza closely and would "take any action warranted" to prosecute crimes. "The violence must stop," she told AFP.]]>
5/23/2018 12:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Trump says Kim summit could be delayed]]>
Hosting South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House, Trump did little to quell speculation about the wavering prospects of a historic first summit between US and North Korean leaders.

"It may not work out for June 12," Trump said of the Singapore meeting, adding in a now familiar non-committal riff "if it does not happen, maybe it will happen later."

"There are certain conditions we want to happen. I think we'll get those conditions. And if we don't, we won't have the meeting."

Politically, Trump has invested heavily in the success of the meeting, and so privately most US officials, as well as outside observers, believe it will go ahead.

But as the date draws near, Trump's divergence from his top aides, the differences between the two sides and the astronomically high stakes are coming into sharp relief.

Success could lead to peace on the Korean peninsula and end the threat of nuclear war. Failure could all but destroy hopes of a peaceful solution to the crisis.

"You never know about deals," Trump said. "I've made a lot of deals. You never really know."

North Korea's willingness to denuclearize -- the very basis for the talks -- was recently plunged into doubt when the government denounced US demands for "unilateral nuclear abandonment."

Pyongyang also canceled at the last minute a high-level meeting with the South in protest over joint military drills between Seoul and Washington.

Despite that, Trump said he believes the North Korean leader is willing to give up nukes. "I do think he is serious. I think he is absolutely very serious."

He suggested that Kim's apparent about-face may have been at the behest of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

"There was a difference when Kim Jong Un left China the second time," Trump said. "There was a different attitude after that meeting and I was a little surprised.

"And I think things changed after that meeting so I can't say that I am happy about it."

And Trump again raised the prospect of a windfall for Kim if he mothballs weapons programs. "He will be extremely happy" if the deal works out, Trump said. "He will be very happy."

- Rescue mission -

Moon's trip to the White House represented an effort to salvage the rare diplomatic opening.

The dovish South Korean leader deployed a tactic frequently used by foreign leaders who meet this most mercurial of presidents: flattery.

"Thanks to your vision of achieving peace through strength as well as your strong leadership," Moon said in the Oval office, "we find ourselves standing one step closer to the dream of achieving denuclearization on the Korean peninsula."

"All this was possible because of you, Mr. President," Moon added, taking pains to stress the concrete results of diplomacy so far -- most notably the release of three US prisoners from North Korean jail.

Trump praised his guest, but also indicated that a separate, second round of high-level talks between Moon and Kim may also be on ice. "Right now, he doesn't know whether or not he has a meeting," Trump said of Moon.

South Korea -- deeply worried about Kim's bellicose weapons testing and Trump's similarly bellicose warnings about "fire and fury" -- was instrumental in convincing the two Cold War foes to sit down and talk.

Moon sent his own national security advisor to the White House in March, carrying an offer of talks and word that North Korea may be willing to abandon nuclear weapons, an enticing prospect.

Trump surprised his guests, his own aides and the world by summarily accepting the meeting, seeing an opportunity to "do a deal" and avoid military confrontation.

Analysts saw North Korea's perceived slow peddling as evidence of what they feared all along, that Pyongyang may have been playing for time -- hoping to ease sanctions and "maximum pressure," or of South Korea over torquing the prospects of a deal.

"The current episode of tension reflects a wide and dangerous expectation gap between the United States and North Korea," said Eric Gomez of the CATO Institute.

"Denuclearization is not off the table for the North, but it expects the United States to end the so-called 'hostile policy' as a precondition for denuclearization."

It is far from clear what that means concretely, but it could include the withdrawal of 30,000 US troops from the Korean peninsula.

Trump has been similarly unclear about his own policy.

On Tuesday he indicated the United States may not demand North Korea give up its nuclear program before getting sanctions relief -- a sequencing he said was a fatal flaw of the Iran nuclear deal he scrapped.

"It would certainly be better if it were all in one. Does it have to be? I don't think I'm going to totally commit myself," he said.

Pyongyang is on the verge of marrying nuclear and missile technology allowing it to hit the continental United States with a nuke, a capability Washington has said is wholly unacceptable.]]>
5/22/2018 10:40:00 PM
<![CDATA[Trump says summit with North Korea leader might not work out for June]]>
The president added that the meeting won't happen if certain conditions aren't met.
The summit is scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, which is widely viewed as a neutral site; however, doubts continue to grow about whether the meeting will actually take place, the news channel added.

South Korean president Moon Jae-in on Tuesday struck a more optimistic note about the planned summit between Trump and Kim.

Moon pushed back against U.S. skepticism about the meeting and said he is confident that Trump will make the summit a success.
]]>
5/22/2018 8:20:13 PM
<![CDATA[Libya: Pro-Gaddafi cell uncovered, military op. launched]]>
In the meantime, Libyan security forces announced arresting of a pro-Saif al-Islam Gaddafi sabotage cell near the capital of Tripoli.

"Police forces succeeded to arrest a seven-member armed cell affiliated to the so-called Popular Front to Liberate Libya (PFLL), which is led by elements that are pro-Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam," said the Special Deterrence Forces of the Libyan Interior Ministry in a statement on Monday.

The statement revealed that the defendants had planned to carry out sabotage and chaotic acts. PFLL claimed it will seek to "liberate Libya from the leaders of the plot schemed against Libya in 2011," according to their previous statements.

PFLL was established in Dec. 2016, describing itself as a new political entity led by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.

France is expected to host a meeting for Libyan factions' leaders to discuss recent developments and reach a political compromise, a Libyan source told Egypt Today on Tuesday.

The source revealed that Libyan Army Commander Khalifa Haftar, Libyan Presidential Council Chief Fayez Serraj, First Deputy of the State Supreme Council Nagy Mokhtar and Parliament Speaker Akila Saleh will take part in this meeting.

Five ISIS leaders and Al-Qaeda in Derna turned themselves in to the Libyan National Army (LNA), said Abdel Karim Sabra, spokesman for the major operation against terrorists in Derna, controlled by the Mujahideen Shura Council (DMSC).

The operation was launched upon an announcement Haftar to liberate the city from Islamist militias on May 7.

Two days ago, the high-risk terrorist Omar Refaei Sorour was severely wounded following air strikes on Al-Qaeda hideouts in Derna, Salem al-Rafady, commander of the Libyan Army’s Omar al-Mokhtar brigade, revealed to Al-Ahram's correspondent in Libya.

Rafady said that his brigade had successfully targeted several hideouts of Al-Qaeda in Derna. “Our sources confirmed the injury of Sorour, who had been seen at a field hospital,” Rafady added.

Sorour is also known as Abu Abdullah al-Masry. He is one of the key leading terrorists in Derna and has been known for being the judge of Al-Qaeda in Libya. Sorour is accused of establishing the so-called al-Murabeton group, which is the Libyan branch of Al-Qaeda, in coordination with wanted-criminal Hisham al-Ashmawy.

Sorour is responsible for recruiting and training Arab youth and luring them to join terrorist groups in Syria, Libya and Egypt.

In May 2017, Egypt’s Armed Forces launched airstrikes against IS in Libya, attacking IS training camps and the main center of the DMSC, which allegedly harbored the terrorist elements who carried out the Minya terrorist attacks in Egypt that killed 30 people and injured dozens others.

Libya has been in a state of turmoil since a 2011 civil war that resulted in the overthrow of longstanding ruler Muammar Gaddafi by rebel fighters backed by NATO airstrikes.

Meanwhile, Algeria hosted a tripartite meeting on Monday that brought together the foreign ministers of Egypt and Tunisia in order to address the situation in the North African nation.
]]>
5/22/2018 6:07:26 PM
<![CDATA[Emulating U.S., Romania to move embassy to Jerusalem: reports]]>
According to Tel Aviv-based Yedioth Ahronoth, the inauguration of Romania’s embassy in Jerusalem will take place in June in the presence of Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, who said earlier that there are security risks to the move.

Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila submitted a draft resolution in April to move the state’s embassy to Jerusalem. President Klaus Iohannis opposed the government’s plan to relocate the Romanian embassy, saying that the move could only take place following a regional peace process.



Amid the subsequent political rift, Iohannis said that Dancila did not consult him over the embassy relocation plan and therefore he called on the newly appointed PM to resign, saying that she is unsuitable for the post. Iohannis does not have the authority to fire the PM.

On May 14, the U.S. moved its embassy to Jerusalem in an opening ceremony, officially recognizing the city as the capital of Israel. Romania was among a few European Union (EU) countries that participated in the ceremony.

On Monday, more than 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli gunfire during Palestinian protests against the move.

Only two days after the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, Guatemala moved its embassy to Jerusalem. Paraguay also opened its embassy in a West Jerusalem building on Monday in the presence of the country’s president.

UN_list
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

Following U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to move the state’s embassy to Jerusalem, the 193-member U.N. General Assembly agreed to hold a rare emergency special session in December at the request of Arab and Muslim countries.

The UNGA met to vote on a resolution calling on the U.S. to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. A day before the vote, Trump threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that vote in favor of the draft resolution.

"They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars, and then they vote against us. Well, we're watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don't care," Trump told reporters at the White House.

However, 128 countries voted for the resolution, while nine countries voted against, 35 abstained and 21 did not cast a vote.

Guatemala, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo voted against the resolution, while Paraguay, Romania and Hungary abstained from voting.


]]>
5/22/2018 5:17:25 PM
<![CDATA[Congressman proposes to recognize Golan Heights as Israeli territory]]>
DeSantis, who is known for his support to Israel, said in an interview published Sunday with the Israeli news website Walla that he had brought the proposal before the Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs on Thursday.

He attended the ceremony of the U.S. Embassy opening in Jerusalem last Monday.

Israel captured the Golan in 1967 from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and has occupied two-thirds of the strategically-important territory ever since, in a move that has never been recognized by the international community, including the United States.

The Israeli occupation built dozens of illegal settlements in the area since its occupation and used the territory to carry out a number of military operations against Iranian targets in Syria.

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US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and US President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump unveil the inauguration plaque during the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018 - AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana


Last December, Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. His decision infuriated Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians, who declared that Washington could no longer play the mediator role in the Middle East peace process.

On December 21, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution that calls on the US to withdraw its controversial recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

On May 14, more than 60 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 others were wounded by Israeli gunfire along the fence between the Gaza Strip and the occupied territories on the eve of the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe).

]]>
5/22/2018 5:08:16 PM
<![CDATA[51 ‘Free Egyptians’ party members become members of ‘Nations’ Future’]]>
The sources named MP Alaa Abed, chairman of the Human Rights Committee among the 51 members. Few hours ago, Abed announced his resignation from the Free Egyptians party to join the Nation’s Future party as the deputy chairman of the party.

alaa abed
File - Alaa Abed (L) and members from the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee

Essam Khalil, chairman of Free Egyptians party accepted the resignation of party member, MP Sami Ramadan, who announced his resignation in a telephone interview with Ahmed Moussa on Sada Al-Balad.

Khalil said that the party does not stand against the political ambitions of its members. However, he affirmed that the party will not accept back the members who decided to leave.



Moreover, sources revealed to Al-Ahram that Hossam el-Khouli, current vice president of Al-Wafd party, will serve as the secretary general of the Nation Future’s party. Khouli ran against current chairman of the party, Bahaa Eddin Abu Shoka, in the party’s presidential election in March.

Khouli expressed his dissatisfaction with the way Abu Shoka is leading the party, and told Masrawy news website that he disagrees with some of Abu Shoka's decisions, saying that he does not wish to waste his time and expertise on objecting to individual decisions inside the party.

Khouli announced Monday that he will submit his resignation letter to Abu Shoka. However, Hani Sarie-Eldin, secretary general of Al Wafd Party, rejected Monday Khouli's resignation.

Al-Sayed Al-Badawi, former chairman of Al Wafd Party, also announced his resignation on Monday for personal reasons.

Legal obstacle

Constitutional Law Professor Fathi Fekri told Masrawy in April that according to the law, a party member cannot change parties mid-term, adding that MPs have to preserve the conditions for which they gained people’s trust.

On the other hand, MP Ayman Abul Ela, of the Free Egyptians Party, told Al-Shrouk that a parliamentarian who is a member of a party would not violate the law if he decided to move to another party.

Both Free Egyptians and Nation’s Future parties are part of the pro-government “Egypt Support” parliamentary coalition, which holds around 400 of 597 seats in Parliament.

Shortly after the conclusion of the presidential election in Egypt, which saw an easy re-election of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, talks about reviving the political life in Egypt started to emerge.

In April, Egypt Support coalition discussed with Parliament speaker, Ali Abdel Aal, a suggestion to merge all parties of the coalition into a united political party. The suggestion was met by huge criticism and objection of some parties in the coalition, in addition to raising some legal concerns.

Merging with “For Egypt”

Earlier in May, members from Nation’s Future party denounced the party’s push to go into alliance with the newly-established "For Egypt" Association.

Talks to merge both entities was reported failed due to the association's alleged attempts to get in the driving seat and alter the party’s internal organizational and managerial structure, unloading it of its young leaders and influential cadres.

In an article published Monday, Ahmed al-Shaer, Nation’s Future spokesman told Al-Sherouk newspaper that merging political parties would help small parties sharing similar ideologies to form a strong party that can be recognized on the political scene. However, no need to merge big parties.

Shaer said that the Nation’s Future is not willing to merge with other parties, adding that the party welcomes anyone who hopes to join it.

However, sources told Al-Ahram on Monday that merging of the two entities will be officially announced Monday.

About the party

Nation’s Future party is a youth party that was established following the June 30 revolution, which ended with the ousting of former President Mohamed Morsi.



Presently, Nation’s Future possesses 57 seats in Parliament, the second highest number of seats compared to other parties, and has about 340,000 members across Egypt. The party has 58 headquarters in all Egyptian governorates.

In a statement in March, the party has renewed its trust in President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi for a second presidential term.
]]>
5/22/2018 3:37:08 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria reiterate rejection of foreign interference in Libya's affairs]]>
"Foreign interference undermines the country's political process, prolongs the crisis and threatens security and stability in Libya and neighboring countries," the foreign ministers of the three countries said in a statement in support of the political settlement in Libya.

The statement was issued following a tripartite meeting of Sameh Shoukry of Egypt, Khemaies Jhinaoui of Tunisia, and Abdelkader Messahel of Algeria in Algiers. They discussed the latest developments in Libya and prospects for a political solution in the Arab country.

The ministers reviewed the developments in Libya, particularly the political settlement process, the security situation, and challenges facing ending the crisis and restoring security and stability nationwide. They renewed their stance in support of a political solution.

They also mulled efforts exerted by the three countries to help the Libyans overcome the political obstruction in a way that preserves Libya's sovereignty, territorial integrity and people, renewing their support for a work plan presented by UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame, adopted by the UN Security Council on 10 October 2017.

The top diplomats stressed the necessity of the international role in implementing the Libyan political agreement reached in December 2015 with the aim of putting an end to the crisis and building strong national institutions, especially a unified army and security services with the task of safeguarding public security, fighting terrorism and building unified and effective economic bodies.In their final communique, the foreign ministers of Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria stressed the importance of putting the UN action plan into effect, noting the steps taken in this regard.

They urged the Libyan parties at all levels to make further concessions upholding the national interest above all considerations and to achieve the necessary consensus to end the transitional phase.

The ministers asserted the need to create the necessary conditions to accelerate the implementation of the UN action plan, calling on the Libyan parties to shoulder their responsibilities and continue to engage in good faith in achieving this path by establishing broad consensus that paves the way for a comprehensive national reconciliation.

The foreign ministers warned that delays in reaching a solution will open the way for further escalation and the spread of violence, terrorism and conflicts.

An inter-Libyan political solution must be reached, the ministers affirmed.

They warned of the deterioration of the living conditions of the Libyan people because of the instability and the continuation of political obstruction, stressing the priority of providing public services to the Libyan citizens and improving the conditions of their daily lives.

The ministers agreed to continue security coordination to assess threats posed by terrorist groups to the security and stability of Libya, the three countries, and the other neighboring states, and to enhance the exchange of information and monitor terror movement into the region.

They also agreed to held their next meeting in Cairo. ]]>
5/22/2018 10:13:16 AM
<![CDATA[5 major extremists surrender amid LNA’s liberation of Darnah]]>
The Libyan army added that they have offered the militants safe passage out of Darnah, setting out a proposal to let them surrender their stronghold to the legitimate forces.

Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the 75-year-old commander of the LNA, announced early May the launch of a military offensive on the city of Darnah. The LNA started the operation with conducting airstrikes and shelling the city for some time, and then they launched a ground offensive.

The Libyan army began to mobilize more troops around the town of Darnah, in preparation for launching a large-scale military operation to free it completely from terrorist groups loyal to al-Qaeda organization and ISIS.

The Public Information Office of the General Command said in a previous statement that "the army is advancing steadily to liberate Darnah, and that soon the armed forces will enter the city, after the eradication of all the terrorists."

A few days ago, the operations room of Omar al-Mukhtar has declared the control of a number of strategic sites, which were taken by the militant elements of the "Shura Council in Darnah," the most important of which was "Abu Salim Mosque” in the area of Sidi Aziz.

This escalation coincided with threats from Haftar to eliminate militants belonging to the Shura Council of Mujahideen who have controlled Darnah since 2015. It is the last eastern town out of the LNA’s control.

Haftar has been away from Libya for some time raising many questions about his health. His return however put an end to the rumors, while his visit to Darnah confirmed the Libyan army’s intention to resume its battle against extremist groups.
]]>
5/22/2018 4:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Al Wafd rejects deputy chairperson’s resignation]]>
El Khouly, who lost Al Wafd Party’s presidency bid to Bahaa Eddin Abu Shoka in late March, announced his resignation on Monday without disclosing his reasons behind the call. However, claims had been made that El Khouly is seeking to join Nation's Future Party.

In the same context, Al-Sayed Al-Badawi- former chairman of Al Wafd Party- announced his resignation earlier on Monday for personal reasons.

The newly elected chairperson of Wafd Party, Bahaa Eddin Abu Shoka, has ordered forming a new consultative council of the party consisting of its former chairpersons and secretary-generals, including Amr Moussa.

In May 2015, the party was hit by strife, sparking a feud between rival factions. By the end of the month, new elections were held; Badawi remained and his supporters won most of the new spots on the council.

The party includes high-profile members, such as Fouad Badrawi, grandson of the man who reconstituted Wafd in the 1970s; Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, former minister of industry, trade, and investment; and Ahmed Al-Arab, Safir Nour, Ahmed Auda and Noaman Gomaa, all of whom have served in party leadership.

Wafd is believed to be Egypt’s oldest national liberal party and always played a significant role in the Egyptian political scene. It is sometimes called the New Wafd Party because it is the extension of the original one, which was dismantled after the 1952 Revolution. The New Wafd Party was established in 1978.

Wafd has a powerful and coherent internal structure. The party is run by a supreme council that includes 50 members, all elected by the general assembly, and is said to be the highest decision-making body in the party.

Since its re-launch, Wafd has emerged as an influential player in the political arena. The party has the largest network of branches and representatives, covering major cities in all Egyptian governorates.

Wafd has a large membership base, consisting of various social segments – notably a number of political and cultural figures making the party stand out as one of the few established parties that truly represent the Egyptian street. The party also enjoys a very strong presence in the media, thanks to its famous daily newspaper and website. Additionally, Badawi is owner of Al-Hayat, one of Egypt’s top television channels.
]]>
5/22/2018 3:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Law 51 regulating private medical establishments to be amended ]]>
Under the amendments, licensed private or investment medical facilities must provide free medical care in cases of emergency for 48 hours;afterwards a patient can stay at the hospital at his own expense or be transferred to the nearest public hospital. In addition, the hospital director must inform the patients in advance of the costs of a surgery and of any possible consequent complications.

The patient or a guardian must sign a document declaring his knowledge of the full cost. Health-care facilities are forbidden to hold the patient's body or to exploit a death for financial benefit or force the family to sign checks.

Private hospitals pay 30 percent of their revenues to the employees at the Ministry of Health’s department concerned with implementing the new law and the private hospital’s director is prohibited to take any measures related to the ownership of the hospital before obtaining a written approval from a specialized department at the Ministry of Health.

In order to operate medical establishments, an application to obtain a license must be submitted to the concerned governorate along with the registration in the concerned Medical Syndicate.

The amendments stipulate that licensed doctors shall not open more than one clinic across Egypt and shall not run more than one medical facility.

Doctors running medical institutions must be Egyptians and must receive a license to practice medicine;the law of medical profession syndicate allows non-Egyptian doctors to be equally treated and receive the license to practice medicine with a prior approval of the minister of health and the Medical Syndicate.

Before the amendments, Law 51/1981 stated that the director of a health-care facility can own more than one private clinic but cannot be the director of more than one medical facility in addition to his/her private medical clinics.

Additionally, Law 51/1981 defined five broad categories of a health-care facility: a private medical clinic (including laboratories and radiology clinics), specialized clinic, specialized medical centre, private hospital and convalescence home.]]>
5/22/2018 2:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Terrorist groups in Libya's Darnah teach children martial arts ]]>
The center added that the terrorist group was keen to place posters inside the city’s schools to have children enrolled in the group’s program to teach martial arts and its extreme approach to religion.

The center confirmed that a training field was found where children learnt how to use firing weapons as well. The press release revealed that the group recruited 30 children who are under 15.

“The number of children recruited by Al Qaeda in Darnah city reached 250, under the supervision of a terrorist called Mohammed Idris Mansouri,” continued the center’s press release.

Since the ouster of Libyan long-time leader Ghaddafi, the war-torn country draws wide international and regional attention, causing a serious threat on the national security of North Africa and Europe.

Libya, which is struggling to get through the critical political situation that it has been experiencing since 2011, is not only trying to unify its army, but is longing to revive its political functions by conducting presidential and legislative elections.

Egypt has hosted several meetings to bring the Libyan conflicted factions to the negotiations table to resolve the Libyan crisis and amend the Skhirat agreement, which aims at ending Libya’s civil war.

The major obstacle in the face of any international or Arab participation in ending the crisis in Libya is the lack of a Libyan partner that would support any involvement. Since 2014, there are two major factions on the ground, one led by Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army, who now controls the eastern side of Libya and works in cooperation with the government of the House of Representatives, known as the Tobruk government. The other is led by Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord.

Therefore, there is no official side recognized by all parties in Libya, but there are two opposing factions, roughly equivalent in terms of power, competing for legitimacy. Nonetheless, neither side appears to be able to tip the scales of this conflict in its favor.
]]>
5/22/2018 1:14:33 AM
<![CDATA[Badawi resigns from Wafd Party’s consultative council]]>
The newly elected chairperson of Wafd Party, Bahaa Eddin Abu Shoka, has ordered forming a new consultative council of the party consisting of its former chairpersons and secretary-generals, including Amr Moussa.

Abu Shoka was elected in late April as the new leader of the Wafd Party in the election held at the party’s headquarters in Cairo, in succession to Badawi.

Badawi first joined Wafd in 1983 and became secretary general of the party in 2000. He was elected as the party’s leader in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014.

In May 2015, the party was hit by strife, sparking a feud between rival factions. By the end of the month, new elections were held; Badawi remained and his supporters won most of the new spots on the council.

The party includes high-profile members, such as Fouad Badrawi, grandson of the man who reconstituted Wafd in the 1970s; Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, former minister of industry, trade, and investment; and Ahmed Al-Arab, Safir Nour, Ahmed Auda and Noaman Gomaa, all of whom have served in party leadership.

Wafd is believed to be Egypt’s oldest national liberal party and always played a significant role in the Egyptian political scene. It is sometimes called the New Wafd Party because it is the extension of the original one, which was dismantled after the 1952 Revolution. The New Wafd Party was established in 1978.

Wafd has a powerful and coherent internal structure. The party is run by a supreme council that includes 50 members, all elected by the general assembly, and is said to be the highest decision-making body in the party.

Since its re-launch, Wafd has emerged as an influential player in the political arena. The party has the largest network of branches and representatives, covering major cities in all Egyptian governorates.

Wafd has a large membership base, consisting of various social segments – notably a number of political and cultural figures making the party stand out as one of the few established parties that truly represent the Egyptian street. The party also enjoys a very strong presence in the media, thanks to its famous daily newspaper and website. Additionally, Badawi is owner of Al-Hayat, one of Egypt’s top television channels.
]]>
5/22/2018 12:51:54 AM
<![CDATA[Syria's army captures last insurgent area near Damascus]]>
Pro-Syrian government forces have been battling for weeks to recover al-Hajar al-Aswad district and the adjacent Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp from Islamic State since driving rebels from eastern Ghouta in April.

In a televised statement Syria's army high command said al-Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmouk had been cleared of militants.

"Damascus and its surroundings and Damascus countryside and its villages are completely secure areas," the statement said, adding that the army would continue to fight "terrorism" across Syria.

With its complete capture of the environs of the capital, the government of President Bashar al-Assad is now in by far its strongest position since the early days of the war, which has killed more than half a million people and driven more than half the population from its homes since 2011.

Anti-Assad rebels now mainly control just two large areas in the northwest and southwest near borders with Turkey and Jordan. Turkey and the United States also have presences in parts of Syria outside government control.

The ultra-hardline jihadist group Islamic State, which was driven from most of the Euphrates River valley last year, now controls only two besieged desert areas in eastern Syria. Another insurgent group that has pledged loyalty to it holds a small enclave in the southwest.

Islamic State also captured a third of neighbouring Iraq in 2014 but was largely defeated there last year.

FIRING IN CELEBRATION

A temporary humanitarian ceasefire had been in place since Sunday night in al-Hajar al-Aswad to allow women, children and old people to leave the area, state media said early on Monday.

Army soldiers fired into the air in celebration and held Syrian flags, against a smashed cityscape of shattered buildings and widespread destruction, state television footage showed.

Buildings and walls were pocked-marked from bullets and shell-fire, metal satellite dishes were bent and scorched, and the dome of a mosque had a gaping hole near its base.

On Sunday, a war monitor said fighters had begun withdrawing from the area towards Islamic State territory in eastern Syria under a surrender deal, but state media said fighting continued.

The war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said on Monday that buses had already started leaving south Damascus for Islamic State areas in eastern Syria.

A U.S.-led military coalition fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq said in an emailed statement to Reuters it was "aware of reports of an evacuation near Yarmouk and south Damascus" and was monitoring the situation.

While Assad has vowed to win back "every inch" of Syria, the map of the conflict suggests a complicated time ahead.

The U.S. military is in much of the east and northeast, which is controlled by Kurdish groups that want autonomy from Damascus. It has used force to defend the territory from pro-Assad forces.

Turkey has sent forces into the northwest to counter those same Kurdish groups, carving out a buffer zone where anti-Assad rebels have regrouped.

In the southwest, where rebels hold territory at the Israeli and Jordanian border, Assad faces the risk of conflict with Israel, which wants his Iranian-backed allies kept well away from the frontier and has mounted air strikes in Syria.]]>
5/21/2018 7:53:13 PM
<![CDATA[U.S. toughens stance on Iran, lists sweeping demands]]>
Iran dismissed Washington's ultimatum and one senior Iranian official said it showed the United States is seeking "regime change" in Iran.

Weeks after President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, his administration threatened to impose "the strongest sanctions in history," and vowed to "crush" Iranian operatives abroad, setting Washington and Tehran further on a course of confrontation.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded sweeping changes that would force Iran effectively to reverse the recent spread of its military and political influence through the Middle East to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

"The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen for itself and the people of Iran," Pompeo said in his first major speech since becoming secretary of state.

"These will be the strongest sanctions in history by the time we are done," he added.

Pompeo took aim at Iran's policy of expansion in the Middle East through support for armed groups in countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

He warned that the United States would "crush" Iranian operatives and proxies abroad and told Tehran to pull out forces under its command from the Syrian civil war where they have helped President Bashar al-Assad gain the upper hand.

Iran's president summarily dismissed Pompeo's demands.

"Who are you to decide for Iran and the world?," the semi-official ILNA news agency quoted Hassan Rouhani as saying.

"The world today does not accept America to decide for the world, as countries are independent ... that era is over ... We will continue our path with the support of our nation."

Tension between the two countries has grown notably since Trump this month withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement aimed at preventing Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

A senior Iranian official said Pompeo's remarks showed that the United States was pushing for "regime change," a charged phrase often associated with the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein.

Pompeo warned that if Iran fully resumed its nuclear program Washington would be ready to respond and said the administration would hold companies doing prohibited business in Iran to account.

"Our demands on Iran are not unreasonable: give up your program," Pompeo said, "Should they choose to go back, should they begin to enrich, we are fully prepared to respond to that as well," he said, declining to elaborate.

Pompeo said Washington would work with the Defense Department and allies, including Arab Gulf states and Israel, to counter Iran in the cyberspace and maritime areas.

The Pentagon said it would take all necessary steps to confront Iranian behavior in the region and was assessing whether that could include new actions or doubling down on current ones.

NAMING NAMES

Pompeo said if Iran made major changes, the United States was prepared to ease sanctions, re-establish full diplomatic and commercial relations and support the country's re-integration into the international economic system.

The speech did not explicitly call for regime change but Pompeo repeatedly urged the Iranian people not to put up with their leaders, specifically naming President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

"At the end of the day the Iranian people will get to make a choice about their leadership," Pompeo said.

Suzanne Maloney, deputy director of the Brooking Institution think tank's foreign policy program, said Pompeo's speech did indeed amount to a strategy of regime change.

"There is only one way to read it and that is that Trump administration has wedded itself to a regime-change strategy to Iran, one that is likely to alienate our allies. One with dubious prospects for success," she said.

The administration's approach "explicitly puts the onus on the Iranian people to change their leadership or face cataclysmic financial pressure," said Maloney who has advised the State Department on Iran in the Bush administration between 2005-2007.

Lebanese analyst Ghaleb Kandil, who has close ties to the pro-Iran Hezbollah group, said Washington's demands have previously not worked.

"These are conditions that were tested in previous phases of American pressures, before the nuclear deal, when Iran was in more difficult circumstances than it is in these days, and it did not surrender to these conditions or accept them," said Kandil.

Pompeo outlined 12 U.S. demands for Iran including to stop uranium enrichment, never to pursue plutonium reprocessing and to close its heavy water reactor.

It also had to declare all previous military dimensions of its nuclear program and to permanently and verifiably abandon such work, he said.

Pompeo's demand that Tehran stop uranium enrichment goes even further than the nuclear deal. Iran says its nuclear work has medical uses and will produce energy to meet domestic demand and complement its oil reserves.

European parties to the nuclear deal - France, Britain and Germany - are working to find a way to keep the nuclear pact in effect after Washington's exit.

Pompeo said Washington would be open to a new treaty and wanted the support of America's allies, not just in Europe.

"I know our allies in Europe may try to keep the old nuclear deal going with Tehran. That is their decision to make. They know where we stand," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had urged Trump to pull out of the deal, praised the administration's position on Monday.

"We believe this is the right policy. We believe it's the only policy that can ultimately guarantee the security of the Middle East and peace in our region," he said in Jerusalem. ]]>
5/21/2018 7:50:55 PM
<![CDATA['Thank you, Egypt'... A ceremony to be attended by prominent leaders in Gaza]]>

“There will be a gathering in Al-Saraya square in Gaza where people will participate in raising the photo of Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi on the square’s mural along with the words “Thank you, Egypt”. A large number of Palestinian people and leading figures are participating in the ceremony; they will send a message of gratitude and appreciation to the Egyptian leadership and to President Sisi,” Ebeid, who is also head of the ‘Palestinian Initiative for the Love of Egypt’, added.


Ebeid continued, "This ceremony is the least we can do to Egypt to express the gratitude of the Palestinian people, with all their classes and political parties, who gather in love for Egypt. On top of those is the Palestinian leadership, represented by Mahmoud Abbas, along with all other popular and partisan leaders who are keen to preserve and strengthen the Egyptian-Palestinian relations which have been intact for ages, empowered by the stances President Sisi takes and the support he provides the Palestinians with, seeking to preserve the Arab identity of Palestine and Jerusalem. We will also send out invitations through the ceremony to all Arab presidents, including Sisi, to visit Gaza and to bring public delegations that include writers, artists, media professionals and academics to join the Palestinian people’s rising and to protect the peacefulness of their demands".


On a different note, Ebeid said that the people of Gaza are the only ones who can steer the wheel, and that all the parties and organizations they produced were formed with the purpose of supporting and empowering the primary Palestinian cause, not weakening it by dividing the Palestinian people and shifting their focus away from the pivotal cause; the cause that is in fact the primary reason why these organizations and parties were created in the first place. Ebeid also urged the heads of political parties to support the Palestinian people by making decisions that can unite the resistance fronts and restructure the political and security systems in accordance with the demands of the people.

It is worth mentioning that the Egyptian President had ordered the Rafah border crossing to be opened during the month of Ramadan and aids to be sent to the Gaza Strip. He also ordered that those wounded in the Return March be received and treated in Egyptian public hospitals.


218775-WhatsApp-Image-2018-05-20-at-2.19.09-PM
Photos of banners with Sisi on them and "Thank You Sisi" and "Long live Egypt" in Gaza, May 20, 2018 - Egypt Today

Under President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi directives, the Rafah Border Crossing is opened for the second day in a row after a decision to keep the crossing open throughout the holy month of Ramadan.


Since the Gaza rallies began on March 30, more than 100 Palestinian demonstrators have been martyred by the Israeli army.


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Israeli fire and tear gas during a protest against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem and ahead of the 70th anniversary of Nakba, at the Israel-Gaza border - REUTERS

Egypt has been exerting numerous efforts to support the Palestinians and bring peace to the Gaza strip, which is witnessing massacre of Palestinians by Israeli forces along the Gaza-Israel fence.



Rafah Border Crossing opened throughout Ramadan:


On May 18, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi directed to keep the Rafah crossing with Gaza open for the entire month of Ramadan.


The Egyptian leader has ordered the relevant authorities to keep the crossing open to ease some of the burdens of residents of the Gaza Strip.


Keeping the crossing open will allow the passage of diesel fuel, construction materials, food and medicine.


“I issued directives to take the necessary measures to keep the Rafah border crossing open throughout the holy month of Ramadan in a bid to relieve some of the burdens suffered by our brothers in the Gaza strip,” Sisi posted on Facebook and Twitter.





]]>
5/21/2018 7:40:28 PM
<![CDATA[Waste-to-energy plants to operate in Egypt ]]>
“The new project aims at running a waste-to-energy plant with a capacity of 600-1100 tons per day that can be used to generate electricity or to produce gas,” Moqadis said in press remarks on Saturday.

He further called on the government to support the budding project by sponsoring the purchase of the produced electricity so that it can be applied into different sectors, which will ensure the sustainability of the project.

The project presents plenty of opportunities for the government and municipalities to get rid of solid food leftovers, he added. “Large amounts of electricity will expectedly be extracted akin to the same amount that is generated from the high dam in Aswan.”

The Italian side shall be committed to undertake technical studies meant for the station, and the financial studies needed to obtain the loan floated to the company for the construction of the waste-to-energy plant.

It also will be entrusted with supervising the construction works and providing in-site workers with job trainings.

Use of organic waste for gas production:

The project also aims at segregating solid, organic waste such as plastic and aluminum that can be converted into biogas to be used in different sectors and to be processed to produce electricity according to the amount of organic waste available.

The organic waste that can be processed in the plant shall constitute 65 percent of the total waste directed to the recycling plants.

If the plant is operating at a capacity of 600 tons per day, the potential production will be 11, 2500 MW per hour.

If the plant operates at a capacity of 1100 garbage tons per day, the potential will be 187500 MW per hour.

Egypt has a festering waste management problem, with more than 80 million tons of garbage being disposed every year, according to Egypt’s Environment Minister Khaled Fahmy.

]]>
5/21/2018 10:18:29 AM
<![CDATA[Media council should stop farce of Ramadan ads: MP]]>
Heikel lambasted the number of advertisement breaks per a single episode, saying "How can a 20 minute episode be aired in two hours?!"

Ramadan is the hot season for TV shows and series in which hundreds of companies compete to present advertisements to their products. Each Ramadan, there is a social anger over the excessively long breaks that sometimes are as long as the screened episodes.

Being frustrated by these long breaks, many people tend to watch episodes on youtube; the popular series "Layali Eugenie" has gained more than half million views on its first episode.

Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation (SCMR) sets rules for everything that will air during Ramadan, especially advertisements.

Previously, secretary-general of the Egyptian Supreme Council for Media Regulation (SCMR), Ahmed Selim, told Egypt Today that "Any advertisement that will disrupt the Egyptian community’s values during the holy month of Ramadan will be banned".

He added that the new ads, expected to be aired during the holy month, should have valuable content and represent a respectful image of Egypt’s social community. He also stressed that the council is going to send a list of the Islamic Scholars' names authorized to issue fatwas (Islamic decrees) through media outlets during the holy month.

In January 2017, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi issued a law establishing a syndicate for audio-visual media personnel, following the Parliament’s approval. The Media Syndicate is responsible for regulating audio-visual media practices, as well as defending its members.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Council for Media Regulations was established on December 24, 2016 after President Sisi issued Law No. 92 of 2016 on the Institutional Organization of the Press and the Media as an independent body with a corporate personality.

The role of the council is to regulate and supervise media outlets in all forms: printed, broadcast and electronic; and it establishes the framework and standards necessary to ensure that media outlets abide by the rules and ethics of the profession.
]]>
5/21/2018 10:15:43 AM
<![CDATA[Al Tagammu excludes approach to Al Nour ahead of municipal elections]]>
Al Tagammu Spokesperson, Nabil Zaki, told Egypt Today that the party’s policy rejects any alliances or cooperation with a party based on religious concepts. Zaki added that upcoming municipal elections will not witness any cooperation between Al Tagammu and Al Nour Party.

Zaki claimed that Al Nour Party took advantage of its membership in the constitution committee to revoke the clause that prohibits the existence of parties based on religious concepts. Al Tagammu Spokesperson said that religious parties do not differ from parties based on religious ground.

“Religion has been used by some parties on the political arena since 1928, the year the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood came into existence, in a way that threatens the national peace,” continued Zaki.

“Al Nour Party is as dangerous to the society as the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, this can be easily spotted on several extreme Fatwas issued by preachers who belong to the Salafi party,” said Zaki to Egypt Today.
Zaki said that the party keeps a list of leftist and liberal parties that can have an alliance with Al Tagammu. Those parties adopt an agenda that roots for improvement in education and social justice, according to Zaki.

The Egyptian municipal elections are scheduled to kick off by the end of the year 2018, according to the House Spokesperson, Ali Abdel Aal.]]>
5/21/2018 7:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S., China putting trade war on hold, Treasury's Mnuchin says]]>
Mnuchin and U.S. President Donald Trump's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said the agreement reached by Chinese and American negotiators on Saturday set up a framework for addressing trade imbalances in the future.

"We are putting the trade war on hold. Right now, we have agreed to put the tariffs on hold while we try to execute the framework," Mnuchin said in a television interview on "Fox News Sunday."

On Saturday, Beijing and Washington said they would keep talking about measures under which China would import more energy and agricultural commodities from the United States to narrow the $335 billion annual U.S. goods and services trade deficit with China.

During an initial round of talks this month in Beijing, Washington demanded that China reduce its trade surplus by $200 billion. No dollar figure was cited in the countries' joint statement on Saturday.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not return a request for comment on Mnuchin's statement.

Tension between the two sides has been growing since the Trump administration proposed tariffs of $50 billion on Chinese goods and said it might extend the levies to an additional $150 billion. China responded with its own measures targeting U.S. agriculture.

The top U.S. trade official, Robert Lighthizer, said that getting China to open its market to more U.S. exports was significant, but that it was far more important for the United States to resolve issues with China such as forced technology transfers and cyber theft.

"Real structural change is necessary. Nothing less than the future of tens of millions of American jobs is at stake," U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer said in a statement on Sunday.

In response to Mnuchin's comments, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, a frequent Trump critic, said he thought it would be a mistake for Trump to settle for "a promise to buy goods" with so many larger issues on the table.

"If President Xi is going ... to fail to take strong actions on intellectual property, cyber theft, and American companies having free access to sell goods in China ... we will have lost," Schumer said.

Kudlow told CBS "Face the Nation" it was too soon to lock in the $200 billion figure for China's promised purchases. "The details will be down the road. These things are not so precise," he said.

In addition, he told ABC's "This Week" that the broader issues were still in play, and that China had "structural reforms" such as lowering tariffs and non-tariff barriers that will allow the United States to boost exports.

Trump was in a "very positive mood about this," Kudlow said.

However, he said there was no trade deal yet reached.

"There's no agreement for a deal," Kudlow told ABC. "We never anticipated one. There's a communique between the two great countries, that's all. And in that communique, you can see where we're going next."

One next step will be dispatching Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to China to look at areas where there will be significant increases, including energy, liquefied natural gas, agriculture and manufacturing, Mnuchin and Kudlow said.

Mnuchin said the United States expects to see a big increase of between 35 percent and 40 percent in agricultural exports to China this year alone and a doubling of energy purchases over the next three to five years.

"We have specific targets. I am not going to publicly disclose what they are. They go industry by industry," Mnuchin said.

Saturday's statement made no mention of whether there would be a relaxation of paralyzing restrictions on Chinese telecommunications equipment maker ZTE Corp imposed last month by the U.S. Commerce Department.

The action was related to violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea and banned American companies from selling semiconductors and other components to ZTE, causing the Shenzhen-based company to cease most operations.

Trump said last week he had directed Ross to put ZTE back in business, but Kudlow said any changes would be minimal.

"If any of the remedies are altered they are still going to be very, very, tough, including big fines, compliance measures, new management, new boards," he said. "Do not expect ZTE to get off scot-free. Ain't going to happen."
]]>
5/21/2018 4:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Trump to ask Justice Dept to look into campaign surveillance claims]]>

Trump's simmering anger over Special Counsel Robert Mueller's year-old Russia probe appeared to spill over into a series of well-worn recriminations in several tweets, including that the investigation was politically motivated and had its roots in the administration of his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.

Federal investigators are looking into whether Russia tried to sway the election and if it worked with the Trump campaign to do so. Trump has denied any collusion and repeatedly dismissed the investigation as a "witch hunt."

"I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes - and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!" Trump wrote on Twitter.

Trump also escalated his attacks on the Justice Department on Friday, suggesting that the FBI may have planted or recruited an informant in his 2016 presidential campaign. He cited unidentified reports that at least one FBI representative was "implanted" for political purposes into his campaign.

Neither Trump nor Rudy Giuliani, a former New York mayor who is now one of Trump's lawyers, provided any evidence of government infiltration into Trump's presidential campaign. Giuliani acknowledged in a CNN interview on Friday that neither he nor the president really knew if such action took place.

Giuliani was quoted by the New York Times later on Sunday as saying that Mueller had said the investigation would wrap up by Sept. 1.

A source familiar with the probe called the Sept. 1 deadline "entirely made-up" and "another apparent effort to pressure the special counsel to hasten the end of his work."

"He’ll wrap it up when he thinks he's turned over every rock, and when that is will depend on how cooperative witnesses, persons of interest and maybe even some targets are, if any of those emerge, and on what new evidence he finds, not on some arbitrary, first-of-the-month deadline one of the president's attorneys cooks up," said the source, a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In September, the Justice Department said it had no evidence to support another of Trump's unsubstantiated assertions: that Obama had ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign.

It was unclear what kind of response Trump was seeking from the Justice Department this time, since investigations are kept secret and designed to be insulated from political influence and White House meddling.

A spokeswoman said the Justice Department had asked the Inspector General to expand a review of the process for requesting surveillance warrants to include determining whether there was impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its investigation.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, called Trump's suspicion of an embedded spy "nonsense." "His 'demand' DOJ investigate something they know to be untrue is an abuse of power, and an effort to distract from his growing legal problems," Schiff said on Twitter.

In his earlier tweets on Sunday, Trump reprised his attacks on Hillary Clinton, his Democratic challenger in 2016, and maintained that Democrats were not submitted to the same FBI scrutiny.

Trump also implied that the special counsel investigation of whether foreign governments tried to influence the presidential campaign was designed to hurt Republicans in the November congressional elections.

"Now that the Witch Hunt has given up on Russia and is looking at the rest of the World, they should easily be able to take it into the Mid-Term Elections where they can put some hurt on the Republican Party," he wrote.

Trump, who has long complained the Russia probe has overstepped its bounds, referred to reports that his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., met in August 2016 with an envoy representing the crown princes of United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

The New York Times reported on Saturday the meetings were an indication that other countries besides Russia may have offered help to Trump's presidential campaign.
]]>
5/21/2018 3:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[No offensive scenes to Sudan in vexed Egyptian series: SCMR]]>
Makram Mohamed Ahmed, the head of the SCMR, asserted that the council is keen on maintaining the strong historic relation between Egypt and Sudan, adding that it has examined the disputed series’ first three episodes to find that there were no vehicles with Sudanese plates as claimed by Khartoum.

The SCMR noted that the Egyptian series began with a disclaimer that read: “The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.”

Moreover, the ON network management issued a previous statement to reply to Sudan’s objection to "Abu Omar Al Masry".

"The series script was written based on the scriptwriter's imagination and does not contain scenes or hints against the Sudanese government or the Sudanese people; the series has nothing to do with the Egyptian political stances towards Sudan. Egypt is always keen to strengthen its relation with the Sudanese government and its friendly people," ON’s statement read.

ON added that the creators of the series are well aware of the important role art plays in bringing people together rather than stirring up crises among them, stressing the importance of the strategic partnership between Egypt and Sudan and the vitality of strengthening brotherly ties between the two countries, maximizing areas of mutual cooperation.

"The two countries share a long history of strong relations on the social, cultural, political and economic levels," said ON’s statement.

This comes after the Sudanese Foreign Ministry summoned the Egyptian ambassador in Khartoum Saturday to protest the Egyptian series "Abu Omar Al Masry", broadcasted currently by ON E satellite channel.

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Gareeb Allah Khedr, said that the Egyptian Ramadan drama conveys a negative image about Sudan, portraying it as a country that hosts Egyptian terrorists.

On the other hand, “Abu Omar Al Masry” makers refuted all the Sudanese accusations in a press statement issued Saturday, stating that the series is based on a fictional scenario that does not intend to link Sudan to terrorism.

The series revolves around an Egyptian lawyer named Fakhreldin, played by prominent actor Ahmed Ezz, who founds an association, along with a group of other lawyers, to provide solutions to the problems of modest citizens who cannot afford big-shot lawyers. However, it is not long until they provoke a member of the security service who ruins their dreams of an ideal society. After Fakhreldin survives an assassination attempt in which his cousin is killed, he travels to Paris; then to Sudan where he becomes the leader of an armed Islamic group and returns for revenge. The series is written by Ezzedine Shoukry Fishere and Mariam Naoum and co-stars Arwa Gouda and Fathy Abdel Wahab.
]]>
5/21/2018 3:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Houthis use children as human shields, Col. Al Malki]]>
Al Malki said that the abused child was inside a n armed vehicle that attacked elements of the Yemeni National Army at the outskirts of Sa’dah city. The vehicle attempted to attack soldiers from the YNA before being stopped and the assailants onboard apprehended.

The child was was delivered to a representative of the legitimate government of Yemen in presence of representatives of ICRC, SRCA, HRC and director of the Child Protection Unit in the Joint Forces Command of the Coalition.

Col. Al Malki explained that the Yemen National Army captured the child’s father amid the military campaign launched to liberate Sa’dah city, according to Al Malki.

“The National Yemeni forces took all precautionary measures to ensure the safety of the child, as the vehicle was totaled and during the apprehension of the driver, the 4- year old girl was found dressed in boy’s clothes,” added Al Malki.

It was discovered that the driver is her father, and that her presence in the battlefield was for the reason of being used as a human shield,” said Al Malki.

Col. Al Malki asserted that what the Iranian-Houthi militia is doing represents flagrant defiance of the international humanitarian law through recruiting children, throwing them into the battlefield and using them as human shields to ensure the safety of their movements and that they will not be targeted.
]]>
5/21/2018 1:40:32 AM
<![CDATA[Red Crescent refutes claims of finding 116 Egyptian bodies buried in Libya]]>
Several News outlets mistakenly reported that the bodies are of illegal immigrants, adding that they found their IDs and other personal belongings also buried with them.

The claims came only a few days after Egypt has received the bodies of 20 Egyptian Christians beheaded in Libya by the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) in 2015.

The Egyptian authorities always coordinate with their Libyan counterparts in such cases to return the bodies to their relatives.

The 116 victims were said to be among many Egyptians who risked their lives to find work in the lawless chaos of Libya following the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and civil war.

Libyan chaos

Since the ouster of Libyan long-time leader Ghaddafi, the war-torn country draws wide international and regional attention, causing a serious threat on the national security of North Africa and Europe.

Libya, which is struggling to get through the critical political situation that it has been experiencing since 2011, is not only trying to unify its army, but is longing to revive its political functions by conducting presidential and legislative elections.

Egypt has hosted several meetings to bring the Libyan conflicted factions to the negotiations table to resolve the Libyan crisis and amend the Skhirat agreement, which aims at ending Libya’s civil war.

The major obstacle in the face of any international or Arab participation in ending the crisis in Libya is the lack of a Libyan partner that would support any involvement. Since 2014, there are two major factions on the ground, one led by Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army, who now controls the eastern side of Libya and works in cooperation with the government of the House of Representatives, known as the Tobruk government. The other is led by Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord.

Therefore, there is no official side recognized by all parties in Libya, but there are two opposing factions, roughly equivalent in terms of power, competing for legitimacy. Nonetheless, neither side appears to be able to tip the scales of this conflict in its favor.

Egyptian diplomatic efforts in Libya

Policymakers in Egypt believe that Libya should have a unified body representing all sides in the war-torn country. However, this requires the elimination of terrorist groups that are plaguing the country and standing in the way of any regional or international attempt for reconciliation.

The Egyptian state is aware that any intervention in Libyan affairs will enrage the Libyan people due to religious and national sensitivities.

Therefore, Egypt called for a meeting in August 2014 to discuss the formation of a coalition force with the United States and other Arab nations. The final recommendation of the meeting, held in Cairo, did not suggest the formation of any Arab or international military intervention in Libya, but it called for the immediate cessation of all armed operations in order to support the political process in Libya.

In December 2015, the Skhirat Agreement was signed by major parties in the Libyan conflict under the supervision of UN envoy Martin Kobler in the city of Skhirat, Morocco. The agreement recommends a peaceful transition of power and the establishment of a national unity government. However, the agreement failed to achieve the desired stability on the ground because it lacked consensus.

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 a decision to amend the eighth article of the Skhirat agreement that outlined the jurisdiction of the Libyan army chief commander.

Negotiations to unify the Libyan military were held as a part of Egypt’s initiative that kicked off in July 2017 to unify the military institutions. The first meeting aimed at creating a framework for the initiative while the second and third meetings were held in Cairo from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2, 2017, to follow up on the results of the first meeting.

The fourth meeting was held from Dec. 6 to 9 to restructure the Libyan army.

Egyptian Officials met again with Libyan military forces in Cairo on Feb. 21, 2018 in order to continue the discussions. The meetings delved into the methods used to unify and restructure the Libyan military forces after a long split that resulted from the outbreak of the Libyan revolution in 2011.

The sixth round of the negotiation on the unification of the Libyan military establishment was held on March 23 in Cairo.

In a press release issued at the conclusion of the meeting, the Libyan factions convening in Cairo agreed to resume with their talks in an attempt to complete the establishment of the four technical committees that the Libyan factions agreed on forming during the previous rounds of talks as an initial step towards the consolidation of the military establishment of Libya.

The meeting also concluded with reaffirming the participant’s keenness to move ahead with unifying the Libyan army whose top priority is to maintain and preserve Libya’s national security and peace and stand firm against foreign interferences.

Members of the Security Council welcomed recent efforts to strengthen an inclusive political dialogue among all Libyans, supported by Libya’s neighbors, international partners and regional organizations within the framework of the Libyan Political Agreement endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2259.
]]>
5/21/2018 1:16:59 AM
<![CDATA[Shoukry partakes in tripartite meeting on Libya in Algeria]]>
Abu Zeid said that the meeting comes within the framework of the mechanism of the Arab tripartite neighbors of Libya, which aims to discuss the recent developments in Libya and the ways to support Libyans to achieve national consensus and reach a political solution.

Abu Zeid added that the meeting’s timing is highly significant, through which UN efforts will be intensified to break the stalemate of Libyan crisis and to complete the road map by holding presidential and parliamentarian elections; additionally, the Egyptian efforts will achieve its aim to unify Libyan military and combat terrorism and organized crime.

He referred that Shoukry’s participation in the tripartite mechanism meeting comes within the framework of Egypt’s concern to support all the efforts to settle the Libyan crisis, build the national consensus and achieve political settlement for the crisis.

Since the ouster of Libyan long-time leader Muammar Ghaddafi more than six years ago, the war-torn country draws wide international and regional attention, causing a serious threat on the national security of North Africa and Europe.

Libya, which is struggling to get through the critical political situation that it has been experiencing since 2011, is not only trying to unify its army, but is longing to revive its political functions by conducting presidential and legislative elections.

Egypt has hosted several meetings to bring the Libyan conflicted factions to the negotiations table to resolve the Libyan crisis and amend the Skhirat Agreement, which aims at ending Libya’s civil war.

The major obstacle in the face of any international or Arab participation in ending the crisis in Libya is the lack of a Libyan partner that would support any mediation. Since 2014, there are two major factions on the ground, one led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army, who now controls the eastern side of Libya and works in cooperation with the government of the House of Representatives, known as the Tobruk government. The other is led by Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord.

Therefore, there is no official side recognized by all parties in Libya, but there are two opposing factions, roughly equivalent in terms of power, competing for legitimacy. Nonetheless, neither side appears to be able to tip the scales of this conflict in its favor.
Egyptian diplomatic efforts in Libya

Policymakers in Egypt believe that Libya should have a unified body representing all sides in the war-torn country. However, this requires the elimination of terrorist groups that are plaguing the country and standing in the way of any regional or international attempt for reconciliation.

The Egyptian state is aware that any intervention in Libyan affairs will enrage the Libyan people due to religious and national sensitivities.

Therefore, Egypt called for a meeting in August 2014 to discuss the formation of a coalition force with the United States and other Arab nations. The final recommendation of the meeting, held in Cairo, did not suggest the formation of any Arab or international military intervention in Libya, but it called for the immediate cessation of all armed operations in order to support the political process in Libya.

In December 2015, the Skhirat Agreement was signed by major parties in the Libyan conflict under the supervision of UN envoy Martin Kobler in the city of Skhirat, Morocco. The agreement recommends a peaceful transition of power and the establishment of a national unity government. However, the agreement failed to achieve the desired stability on the ground because it lacked consensus.

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 a decision to amend the eighth article of the Skhirat Agreement that outlined the jurisdiction of the Libyan army chief commander.

Negotiations to unify the Libyan military were held as a part of Egypt’s initiative that kicked off in July 2017 to unify the military institutions. The first meeting aimed at creating a framework for the initiative while the second and third meetings were held in Cairo from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2, 2017, to follow up on the results of the first meeting.

The fourth meeting was held from Dec. 6 to 9 to restructure the Libyan army.

Egyptian Officials met again with Libyan military forces in Cairo on Feb. 21, 2018 in order to continue the discussions. The meetings delved into the methods used to unify and restructure the Libyan military forces after a long split that resulted from the outbreak of the Libyan revolution in 2011.

The sixth round of the negotiation on the unification of the Libyan military establishment was held on March 23 in Cairo.

In a press release issued at the conclusion of the meeting, the Libyan factions convening in Cairo agreed to resume their talks in an attempt to complete the establishment of the four technical committees that the Libyan factions agreed on forming during the previous rounds of talks as an initial step towards the consolidation of the military establishment of Libya.

The meeting also concluded with reaffirming the participants' keenness to move ahead with unifying the Libyan army whose top priority is to maintain and preserve Libya’s national security and peace and stand firm against foreign interferences.

Members of the Security Council welcomed recent efforts to strengthen an inclusive political dialogue among all Libyans, supported by Libya’s neighbors, international partners and regional organizations within the framework of the Libyan Political Agreement endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2259.

Additional report by

Mohamed Abdel Maguid

]]>
5/20/2018 5:52:30 PM
<![CDATA[In pics: Gazans thank Egypt for opening Rafah crossing]]>CAIRO - 20 May 2018: Gaza residents have posted photos of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, thanking him for opening the Rafah crossing for the duration of Ramadan to help facilitate their needs.


Palestinians raised photos and banners of Sisi, with phrases such as "Thank you Egypt" and "Long live Egypt" printed on them.



218775-WhatsApp-Image-2018-05-20-at-2.19.09-PM
Photos of banners with Sisi on them and "Thank You Sisi" and "Long live Egypt" in Gaza, May 20, 2018 - Egypt Today

Under President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi directives, the Rafah Border Crossing is opened for the second day in a row after a decision to keep the crossing open throughout the holy month of Ramadan.


Since the Gaza rallies began on March 30, more than 100 Palestinian demonstrators have been martyred by the Israeli army.


47013
Israeli fire and tear gas during a protest against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem and ahead of the 70th anniversary of Nakba, at the Israel-Gaza border - REUTERS

Egypt has been exerting numerous efforts to support the Palestinians and bring peace to the Gaza strip, which is witnessing massacre of Palestinians by Israeli forces along the Gaza-Israel fence.



Rafah Border Crossing opened throughout Ramadan:


On May 18, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi directed to keep the Rafah crossing with Gaza open for the entire month of Ramadan.


The Egyptian leader has ordered the relevant authorities to keep the crossing open to ease some of the burdens of residents of the Gaza Strip.


Keeping the crossing open will allow the passage of diesel fuel, construction materials, food and medicine.


“I issued directives to take the necessary measures to keep the Rafah border crossing open throughout the holy month of Ramadan in a bid to relieve some of the burdens suffered by our brothers in the Gaza strip,” Sisi posted on Facebook and Twitter.





Highly appreciated efforts:


Nikolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, commended Sisi’s move as he tweeted, “I commend President Sisi’s decision to maintain the opening of the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt during Ramadan. I hope the security situation will help deescalating the explosive atmosphere in Gaza.”




The Palestinian Embassy also expressed its gratitude for President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi “for opening the Rafah Border Crossing throughout Ramadan and for his continuous efforts to ease the burdens of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” a statement said on May 18.


47096
FILE: The Palestinian embassy in Cairo

“This highly appreciated step is considered a good initiative by His Excellency President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and the Egyptian leadership in the holy month of Ramadan,” the statement added.


Gaza_border
”A Palestinian girl looks through the gate of the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip on July 6.” - Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

In an interview with Egypt Today, Fatah spokesman Osama Al-Qawasmi said Egypt, represented in its political leadership, spared no effort in the Palestinian case. He added that there is no peace process without Egypt, which he described as the “older sister that always lends a hand to Palestinians”.



Egypt condemns, aids:


On May 14, Egypt dispatched humanitarian aid, food, relief and medical supplies to Gaza while keeping the Rafah crossing open for individuals and those injured in the Israeli attacks on the strip.


Al-Azhar Institute also announced preparing medical aid and supplies to be sent to the Palestinian enclave.


“Coordination to send a convoy is being set up to help our brothers who are now being killed by Zionists in full view of the international community,” Al-Azhar Undersecretary Abbas Shouman told reporters.


In addition, in statements by Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Abul Gheit, he described the Israeli actions in Gaza as "war crimes". He strongly denounced the “Israeli massacres” against the defenseless Palestinians.


Egypt has been trying during the past period to achieve peace and stability for Palestinians through several ways, including signing a reconciliation agreement between the rival movements of Fatah and Hamas in October 2017 in Cairo.


Egypt’s government also has been opening Rafah crossing constantly to allow the passage of humanitarian cases. Rafah border crossing is one of the most important crossings between Egypt and Gaza which was formally under Gazan authorities’ control.


It was believed that this reconciliation will pave the way for further peace talks.


As a result of the escalating violence in Gaza on May 14, at least 60 people were killed, including six children, and more than 1,300 people were reportedly injured.


On Saturday, May 19, the Embassy of the State of Palestine in Cairo confirmed the continued transfer of wounded protesters, shot by Israeli occupation forces, from the Gaza Strip to hospitals in Cairo.


Transferred Palestinians has been receiving treatment over the past few days in Egyptian hospitals in Arish, Ismailia and Cairo governorates.


The embassy said in a statement that the wounded are being transferred through the Rafah land crossing, where a medical team receives all the coming cases before being transferred in ambulances to different hospitals.


Each injured is allowed to be accompanied by one person. The injured started receiving treatment since last week at Arish General Hospital and some were recently transferred to Nasser Institute Hospital in Cairo, the statement said.


It is pertinent to mention that on May 19, Egypt dispatched humanitarian aid, food, relief and medical supplies to Gaza under the slogan “Together against Terrorism.”


4f7a8869-5f42-40b6-8473-6a32e47487e7
Egyptian humanitarian aid and medical supplies to Gaza – Youm7 photo

The minister of health, Ahmed Emad Eddine, has been "instructed by the political leadership" to receive the Palestinians injured during the Israeli aggression and treat them in Egyptian hospitals.


Moreover, on May 19, Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali directed the administration of the Egyptian Red Crescent to dispatch food, health services and supplies, and social and moral support to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and aiding its Palestinian counterpart.


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A vehicle carrying medical supplies and food to the Gaza Strip by the Egyptian Red Crescent - Press photo

During the past three days, the Egyptian Red Crescent dispatched more than seven tons of medical supplies and medicine to the Palestinian Red Crescent. It also sent its team to visit the injured Palestinians in Egyptian hospitals and deliver them meals for the iftar and suhoor.



Egyptian Parliament condemns Israeli violations:


Following the assault on Palestinians, the Egyptian Parliament, On May 15, condemned the violations committed by the Israeli forces against peaceful demonstrators in Gaza.


During a plenary session, Parliament Speaker Ali Abdul Aal delivered a speech on the repercussions of the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, warning of the dangerous implications of Israel’s continued breaches of international law and conventions.


"Our brothers in Palestine live a new tragedy. The Israeli occupation forces have claimed dozens of lives and wounded hundreds, in violation of all international conventions and all international resolutions that guarantee the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital," he said.



Foreign Minister Shoukry in search for peace in Gaza:


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned on May 16 “targeting the defenseless Palestinian civilians”, and opened its borders and hospitals to receive the injured.


For his part, Mladenov called on the international community to support Egypt's stance and aid Palestine not only to survive these escalations but to reach a political solution that guarantees peace and stability for the Palestinian people.


39546
FILE: Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry said that the continuation of the Israeli occupation of Palestine is the root of the crisis and the reason for Palestinians’ tragedies and sufferings

“Time has come to turn this dark page of the region’s history, and meet the Palestinians hopes and wishes to live in peace,” Shoukry said during his speech at the opening session of the extraordinary meeting of Arab foreign ministers that Palestine called for on May 18.


"Egypt rejects the use of force against peaceful marches demanding legitimate and just rights, and warns of the negative consequences of this dangerous escalation in the occupied Palestinian territories," the Foreign Ministry stated.


Shoukry said that the continuation of the Israeli occupation of Palestine is the root of the crisis and the reason for Palestinians’ tragedies and sufferings.


Moreover, on May 19, Shoukry and his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Al-Safdy stressed the need to provide protection for the Palestinian people and fulfill their legitimate rights in having an independent state on the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.


Safdy underlined his country's support to Egypt in its efforts to achieve Palestinian reconciliation.



Amid violence, escalations, Egypt searches for peace in Gaza

CAIRO - 16 May 2018: Amid the Israeli escalations against Palestinians, Egypt has been exerting extreme efforts to support the Gazans in every possible way. In a statement issued On Monday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned "targeting the defenseless Palestinian civilians", and opened its borders and hospitals to receive the injured.




]]>
5/20/2018 4:15:33 PM
<![CDATA[Countless efforts to support Palestine, Sisi orders Rafah border opened]]>CAIRO – 20 May 2018: Under President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi directives, the Rafah Border Crossing is opened for the second day in a row after a decision to keep the crossing open throughout the holy month of Ramadan.


Since the Gaza rallies began on March 30, more than 100 Palestinian demonstrators have been martyred by the Israeli army.


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Israeli fire and tear gas during a protest against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem and ahead of the 70th anniversary of Nakba, at the Israel-Gaza border - REUTERS

Egypt has been exerting numerous efforts to support the Palestinians and bring peace to the Gaza strip, which is witnessing massacre of Palestinians by Israeli forces along the Gaza-Israel fence.



Rafah Border Crossing opened throughout Ramadan:


On May 18, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi directed to keep the Rafah crossing with Gaza open for the entire month of Ramadan.


The Egyptian leader has ordered the relevant authorities to keep the crossing open to ease some of the burdens of residents of the Gaza Strip.


Keeping the crossing open will allow the passage of diesel fuel, construction materials, food and medicine.


“I issued directives to take the necessary measures to keep the Rafah border crossing open throughout the holy month of Ramadan in a bid to relieve some of the burdens suffered by our brothers in the Gaza strip,” Sisi posted on Facebook and Twitter.





Highly appreciated efforts:


Nikolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, commended Sisi’s move as he tweeted, “I commend President Sisi’s decision to maintain the opening of the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt during Ramadan. I hope the security situation will help deescalating the explosive atmosphere in Gaza.”




The Palestinian Embassy also expressed its gratitude for President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi “for opening the Rafah Border Crossing throughout Ramadan and for his continuous efforts to ease the burdens of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” a statement said on May 18.


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FILE: The Palestinian embassy in Cairo

“This highly appreciated step is considered a good initiative by His Excellency President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and the Egyptian leadership in the holy month of Ramadan,” the statement added.


Gaza_border
”A Palestinian girl looks through the gate of the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip on July 6.” - Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

In an interview with Egypt Today, Fatah spokesman Osama Al-Qawasmi said Egypt, represented in its political leadership, spared no effort in the Palestinian case. He added that there is no peace process without Egypt, which he described as the “older sister that always lends a hand to Palestinians”.



Egypt condemns, aids:


On May 14, Egypt dispatched humanitarian aid, food, relief and medical supplies to Gaza while keeping the Rafah crossing open for individuals and those injured in the Israeli attacks on the strip.


Al-Azhar Institute also announced preparing medical aid and supplies to be sent to the Palestinian enclave.


“Coordination to send a convoy is being set up to help our brothers who are now being killed by Zionists in full view of the international community,” Al-Azhar Undersecretary Abbas Shouman told reporters.


In addition, in statements by Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Abul Gheit, he described the Israeli actions in Gaza as "war crimes". He strongly denounced the “Israeli massacres” against the defenseless Palestinians.


Egypt has been trying during the past period to achieve peace and stability for Palestinians through several ways, including signing a reconciliation agreement between the rival movements of Fatah and Hamas in October 2017 in Cairo.


Egypt’s government also has been opening Rafah crossing constantly to allow the passage of humanitarian cases. Rafah border crossing is one of the most important crossings between Egypt and Gaza which was formally under Gazan authorities’ control.


It was believed that this reconciliation will pave the way for further peace talks.


As a result of the escalating violence in Gaza on May 14, at least 60 people were killed, including six children, and more than 1,300 people were reportedly injured.


On Saturday, May 19, the Embassy of the State of Palestine in Cairo confirmed the continued transfer of wounded protesters, shot by Israeli occupation forces, from the Gaza Strip to hospitals in Cairo.


Transferred Palestinians has been receiving treatment over the past few days in Egyptian hospitals in Arish, Ismailia and Cairo governorates.


The embassy said in a statement that the wounded are being transferred through the Rafah land crossing, where a medical team receives all the coming cases before being transferred in ambulances to different hospitals.


Each injured is allowed to be accompanied by one person. The injured started receiving treatment since last week at Arish General Hospital and some were recently transferred to Nasser Institute Hospital in Cairo, the statement said.


It is pertinent to mention that on May 19, Egypt dispatched humanitarian aid, food, relief and medical supplies to Gaza under the slogan “Together against Terrorism.”


4f7a8869-5f42-40b6-8473-6a32e47487e7
Egyptian humanitarian aid and medical supplies to Gaza – Youm7 photo

The minister of health, Ahmed Emad Eddine, has been "instructed by the political leadership" to receive the Palestinians injured during the Israeli aggression and treat them in Egyptian hospitals.


Moreover, on May 19, Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali directed the administration of the Egyptian Red Crescent to dispatch food, health services and supplies, and social and moral support to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and aiding its Palestinian counterpart.


resize
A vehicle carrying medical supplies and food to the Gaza Strip by the Egyptian Red Crescent - Press photo

During the past three days, the Egyptian Red Crescent dispatched more than seven tons of medical supplies and medicine to the Palestinian Red Crescent. It also sent its team to visit the injured Palestinians in Egyptian hospitals and deliver them meals for the iftar and suhoor.



Egyptian Parliament condemns Israeli violations:


Following the assault on Palestinians, the Egyptian Parliament, On May 15, condemned the violations committed by the Israeli forces against peaceful demonstrators in Gaza.


During a plenary session, Parliament Speaker Ali Abdul Aal delivered a speech on the repercussions of the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, warning of the dangerous implications of Israel’s continued breaches of international law and conventions.


"Our brothers in Palestine live a new tragedy. The Israeli occupation forces have claimed dozens of lives and wounded hundreds, in violation of all international conventions and all international resolutions that guarantee the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital," he said.



Foreign Minister Shoukry in search for peace in Gaza:


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned on May 16 “targeting the defenseless Palestinian civilians”, and opened its borders and hospitals to receive the injured.


For his part, Mladenov called on the international community to support Egypt's stance and aid Palestine not only to survive these escalations but to reach a political solution that guarantees peace and stability for the Palestinian people.


39546
FILE: Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry said that the continuation of the Israeli occupation of Palestine is the root of the crisis and the reason for Palestinians’ tragedies and sufferings

“Time has come to turn this dark page of the region’s history, and meet the Palestinians hopes and wishes to live in peace,” Shoukry said during his speech at the opening session of the extraordinary meeting of Arab foreign ministers that Palestine called for on May 18.


"Egypt rejects the use of force against peaceful marches demanding legitimate and just rights, and warns of the negative consequences of this dangerous escalation in the occupied Palestinian territories," the Foreign Ministry stated.


Shoukry said that the continuation of the Israeli occupation of Palestine is the root of the crisis and the reason for Palestinians’ tragedies and sufferings.


Moreover, on May 19, Shoukry and his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Al-Safdy stressed the need to provide protection for the Palestinian people and fulfill their legitimate rights in having an independent state on the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.


Safdy underlined his country's support to Egypt in its efforts to achieve Palestinian reconciliation.



Amid violence, escalations, Egypt searches for peace in Gaza

CAIRO - 16 May 2018: Amid the Israeli escalations against Palestinians, Egypt has been exerting extreme efforts to support the Gazans in every possible way. In a statement issued On Monday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned "targeting the defenseless Palestinian civilians", and opened its borders and hospitals to receive the injured.




]]>
5/20/2018 3:24:08 PM
<![CDATA[Following U.S.’s lead, Paraguay moves embassy to Jerusalem ]]>
“Paraguay President Horacio Cartes lands in Israel tomorrow [Sunday] evening, for the opening of the Paraguay Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon tweeted on Saturday.

Nahshon described the relocation of Paraguay’s Embassy to Jerusalem as a “historical moment” for both countries.




By this action from the Paraguay side, Jerusalem will embrace three embassies; two Latin American embassies and the United States Embassy.

On May 14, the U.S. moved its embassy to Jerusalem, officially recognizing it as the capital city of Israel. President Donald Trump announced on Dec. 6 that the relocation of the U.S. Embassy was inevitable.

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Senior White House Adviser Ivanka Trump and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stand next to the dedication plaque at the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, during the dedication ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Only two days after the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, Guatemala moved its embassy to Jerusalem too. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in April that “at least half a dozen” countries were now “seriously discussing” following the U.S. lead, but he did not identify them.

In December, 128 countries voted in a non-binding U.N. General Assembly resolution, calling on the United States to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Nine voted against, 35 abstained and 21 did not cast a vote.

“Guatemala and Honduras, in particular, are completely in Washington’s orbit. They are dependent on their economic aid and have all of their attention in terms of drug trafficking,” Christophe Ventura, a Latin America specialist at Paris’s Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS), told FRANCE 2.

Ventura added that Guatemala is particularly sensitive to American threats with regard to migration: with nearly a million Guatemalan nationals on U.S. soil, Guatemala would be unable to reabsorb their return in great numbers.

a
Image 2: Hilda Patricia Marroquin, the wife of Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, cuts the ribbon during the dedication ceremony of the embassy of Guatemala in Jerusalem, as she stands with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, and Guatemalan Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel Polanco, May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/Pool

Evangelical Christians believe that rebuilding a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem would ultimately lead to the return of Jesus Christ.

According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, one quarter of all Americans share evangelical convictions, as do U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence.

Eighty-one percent of evangelicals cast a vote for Trump in the 2016 election. Evangelical Christians have been lobbying for decades for the U.S. to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy there, France 24 reported.
]]>
5/20/2018 1:28:44 PM
<![CDATA[Qatar-Turkey trade increases by 46% in 2017: Ozer]]>
In a seminar on “Qatar-Turkey Trade and Investment Opportunities”, attended by Ozer, Turkey’s Metcap Energy Investments and Qatar’s Fusion Dynamics signed a deal to invest more than $5 billion in energy and petrochemical industry.

Following the Arab boycott of Qatar on June 5, 2017, Qatar and Turkey have seen a boost in trade and military ties. Turkish-led newspaper, Zaman, reported in 2017 that Qatar will pump $19 billion worth of investments into the Turkish economy.

Some experts on Turkish-Qatari relations said that Qatar is believed to be doubling its investments in Turkey in 2018 to amount to $20 billion by injecting new investments worth $19 billion; in addition to the existing $18 billion investments in various fields including tourism, energy, telecommunications, food industry, health, insurance, banking, and military industries, according to media reports.

For his part, President of the Middle East Economic Forum Arden Ozil said that the Turkish market serves as a safe haven for Qatari investments, especially in light of the continued economic embargo imposed on Qatar by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain since June.

recep
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) with Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdel Rahman Al-Thani, on July 14, 2017 - AFP


In March, Ozer, told reporters at a press conference in Doha that Turkey is considering the deployment of naval and air forces troops in Doha.

The deployment of the new troops will add to the troops that are already stationed in Doha, Ozer said, adding that the deployment of the troops is according to an agreement signed between Qatar and Turkey in 2014. The first batch of Turkish troops arrived at the Tariq bin Ziyad military base in 2015.

U.S. National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster underlined at a conference in Washington, D.C., in December 2017, that Turkey and Qatar are playing a key role in advancing the radical Islamist ideology in the Muslim community.

McMaster explained that these two countries are carrying out their hostile policies to fund and support terrorism and extremism through charities, madrassas and other social organizations, according to U.S. newspaper, The Algemeiner.

The promotion of radical Islam, McMaster said, is “now done more by Qatar and by Turkey.”

The four Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar over charges including supporting terrorism and fostering ties with their regional rival, Iran. The quartet issued 13 demands to end the standoff, including shutting the Turkish base in Qatar.]]>
5/20/2018 1:20:02 PM
<![CDATA[Trump Jr. met Gulf princes' emissary in 2016 who offered campaign help -NY Times]]>
The newspaper said the meeting, held on Aug. 3, 2016, was arranged by Erik Prince, the founder and former head of private military contractor Blackwater, who also attended the meeting. Joel Zamel, a co-founder of an Israeli consulting firm, also attended.

A company connected to Zamel also worked on a proposal for a "covert multimillion-dollar online manipulation campaign" to help Trump, utilizing thousands of fake social media accounts, the report said.

The envoy, Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, told Trump, Jr. that the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE were eager to help his father win the 2016 presidential election, the report said.

Since 1974, the United States has barred foreign nationals from giving money to political campaigns and it later barred them from donating to political parties. The campaign financing laws also prohibit foreign nationals from coordinating with a campaign and from buying an ad that explicitly calls for the election or defeat of a candidate.

The Saudi and UAE embassies in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Wall Street Journal last month reported that investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller had met with Zamel, and that Mueller's team was looking into his firm's work and his relationship with Nader.

Mueller is investigating whether Russia meddled in the presidential election and if Moscow colluded with the Trump campaign, as well as whether Trump committed obstruction of justice by trying to thwart the U.S. Department of Justice probe.

Trump has denied any collusion with Russia and has called the Mueller investigation a "witch hunt."

The New York Times report said the meetings are an indication that other countries besides Russia may have offered help to Trump's presidential campaign. Mueller's investigators have questioned witnesses in Washington, New York, Atlanta, Tel Aviv and elsewhere regarding possible foreign help to the campaign, the report said.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller's team, declined to comment on the report.

Zamel's attorney, Marc Mukasey, said in a statement to Reuters that his client "offered nothing to the Trump campaign, received nothing from the Trump campaign, delivered nothing to the Trump campaign and was not solicited by, or asked to do anything for, the Trump campaign."

"Media reports about Mr. Zamel's engaging in 'social media manipulation' are uninformed," Mukasey added. "Mr. Zamel's companies harvest publicly available information for lawful use."

Kathryn Ruemmler, Nader's lawyer, told the paper that her client "has fully cooperated with the U.S. special counsel's investigation and will continue to do so."

Erik Prince, who is also the brother of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, could not be immediately reached for comment.]]>
5/20/2018 2:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Loophole in anti-cyber crime law discussed]]>
Though this bill regulates Internet Service Providers’ (ISPs) activities and their obligation to provide national security authorities with information on users suspected of spreading terrorist and extremist ideologies via the internet and will secure personal data of internet users, it’s criticized for not specifying an article for “taxes” on products sold through the Facebook platform.

No taxes are imposed on millions of sold products via the Facebook platform in the Egyptian market; the newly issued law has not addressed the tax issue. Even the influencers working to promote certain products via their accounts on Facebook should have taxes imposed on them.

“We do not have laws that force Facebook to pay taxes on online advertisement in Egypt,” Youm7 Editor-in-Chief Khaled Salah previously said.

Since November 2015, Egyptian online newspapers have voiced their fears over the future of digital newspapers. Salah published an article on November 17, 2015 about the threats the Egyptian news industry could face as enormous amounts of revenue go to Facebook and Google.

“The online news industry in Egypt and the Arab world may face a major threat from some global social media companies like Facebook and Twitter, Google, etc., which dominate major fields of the advertising market worldwide,” Salah said.

Posting on his Twitter account on June 30, 2016, Salah called on Parliament to impose taxes on Facebook and Google ads.

A number of U.S. media giants formed a coalition under the title “News Media Alliance”, as the two social media companies dominate 70 percent of the digital advertising industry.

Being reachable and accessible for millions of people worldwide, the two social media giants managed to pull a big share of the online ads without paying taxes.

According to the cybercrime law, article 18 offers punishment of not less than one month in prison or a fine of not less than LE 50,000 ($2,800) and not more than LE 100,000 for anyone who breaches or harms someone’s personal email account or website.

Parliament also approved article 9 of the cybercrime law, allowing the Attorney General or specialized investigative authorities to impose travel bans on persons charged of committing or attempting to commit cybercrimes, if enough evidence against them exists.

In April, Parliament’s Communications and Information Technology Committee approved the draft cybercrime law, which aims to pose surveillance on social media and limit the spread of fake news, particularly those that incite violence.

]]>
5/20/2018 2:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Catalonia's cabinet picks are "provocation" says Spain's ruling party]]>
The central government has been at loggerheads with Catalonia since the previous regional government set up an illegal popular vote on secession in October before a unilateral declaration of independence prompted Madrid to take control.

Pro-independence leaders in the wealthy region, which accounts for around a fifth of Spain's total economic output, claim it unfairly pays too much into government coffers and have campaigned for the creation of a new republic.

After pro-independence parties won a slim majority in December's election, and following a number of failed attempts to name a leader who was neither in jail nor abroad, Torra was sworn in on Monday.

Torra, a hard-line supporter of Catalan independence and close ally of former leader Carles Puigdemont who is in Berlin while a decision is made on his extradition, has called on the central government to end direct rule.

The inclusion of Jordi Turull and Josep Rull, both on remand for their part in the drive, and Antoni Comin and Lluis Puig i Gordi, in Brussels and also wanted by the Spanish police, is unlikely to loosen Madrid's reins on the region.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said that, once a full and legal government was running in Catalonia, he would return direct rule to Catalonia.

However, government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said on Friday that the inclusion of jailed politicians would be rejected by the courts which had already blocked attempts to name detained or absent nominees for the leadership position.

"The composition of the new (Catalan government) is a clear message that they want to continue with the problems, the conflict and provocation," the ruling People Party's (PP) candidate in Catalonia, Xavier Garcia Albiol, said on Twitter after Torra's announcement.]]>
5/19/2018 6:20:00 PM
<![CDATA[Protecting Palestinians should be top priority for int'l community: FM]]>
Both diplomats explained that this should be top priority for the international community in order to prevent further escalation in the region and achieve peace.

According to a statement issued by the Jordanian Foreign Ministry on Saturday, the two ministers reviewed during a meeting on the sidelines of an extraordinary Islamic summit in Istanbul yesterday, Arab, Islamic and the international community's efforts to address the repercussions of the decision of the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy there.

The meeting discussed launching an international investigation into the massacre committed by the Israeli occupation forces against Palestinians in Gaza and efforts to resume peace talks.

Both diplomats stressed the importance of achieving Palestinian reconciliation, which serves the interest of the Palestinians.

Safdy underlined his country's support to Egypt in its efforts to achieve Palestinian reconciliation.

Both officials underscored the depth of bilateral relations, in addition to cooperation and coordination between their countries.]]>
5/19/2018 3:21:29 PM
<![CDATA[Recommendations of extraordinary summit on Palestine]]>
The member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned the criminal actions of Israeli forces against the Palestinian people in the occupied territory, particularly in the Gaza Strip, where unarmed Palestinian civilians are practicing their legitimate right of peaceful protest against this “inhumane and absolutely illegal” occupation. Moreover, it held Israel, the occupying power, fully accountable for the grave atrocities in the occupied Palestinian territory.

They declared that these acts constitute savage crimes committed by the Israeli forces with the backing of the U.S. administration, including through shielding the Israeli occupation from accountability in the U.N. Security Council.

They called for the international protection of the Palestinian population, including through dispatching international protection forces. Also, they called on the international community, in particular the U.N. Security Council, to uphold its legal obligations to defend international law and order as they relate to Palestine.

Furthermore, they called upon the U.N. Security Council, the U.N. General Assembly, the U.N. Secretary General, the U.N. Human Rights Council, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and special reporters to take necessary actions to form an international committee to investigate the recent cruelties in the Gaza Strip. Also, they called on them to uphold their responsibilities in this regard and invited all countries to mobilize their efforts to urgently bring this issue to the agenda of the U.N. General Assembly, the U.N. Security Council and the Human Rights Council.

OIC member states shall openly condemn the illegal inauguration of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and pursue all available legal and diplomatic avenues to defend Palestinian national rights from all hostile and illegal actions from the United States or any other party, and to support decisions adopted recently by the Palestinian leadership to advance the Palestinian rights.

Among the recommendations, they insisted on the OIC member states to be responsive to OIC resolutions on the Palestinian cause and to commit to voting for our common cause, and to taking actions that would contribute to defending this just cause, and call for necessary action to be taken against those failing to comply.

Moreover, they demanded that the United States adhere to the international legitimacy resolutions of Jerusalem, which represents an integral part of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, and they called to urge Israel, the occupying power, to stop its colonial plans and serious violations that constitute a threat to peace and security in the region and the entire world.

The member states and the wider international community are called to ban the products of illegal Israeli settlements from entering their markets.

The summit was presented by Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who gave a short speech about Egypt’s stance towards the case and its continuing efforts to achieve peace in Palestine.

On Thursday, Shoukry said that the continuation of the Israeli occupation of Palestine is the root of the crisis and the reason for the suffering and tragedies of Palestinians.

“Time has come to turn this dark page of the region’s history, and to meet the Palestinians’ hopes and aspirations to live in peace,” Shoukry said during his speech at the opening session of the extraordinary meeting of Arab foreign ministers.

Shoukry assured that the U.S.’s decision to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is null and void, affirming that Jerusalem will remain the capital of Palestine.

On May 15, Palestine called for an extraordinary meeting of Arab foreign ministers to discuss the accelerating events and violence that have been taking place in Gaza for several days.

Several countries have condemned Israeli violence against Palestinians, including Egypt, which has been struggling to bring peace to Palestine through a political solution.

U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov also called on the international community to support Egypt's stance and aid Palestine not only to survive these escalations, but to reach a political solution that guarantees peace and stability for the Palestinian people.

“This cycle of violence in Gaza needs to end. For it to end, we need each one of us to prevent an explosion that will drag everyone in the region into another deadly confrontation. The international community must step in and prevent war; we need to move forward quickly and effectively on all projects that we have been discussing for months and months to solve the energy, water and health crises of the population. We can only do this in coordination with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt. But before all that, the senseless violence needs to stop,” Mladenov said during his briefing to the Security Council on the situation in Gaza on May 15.

Furthermore, UK’s Minister of State for the Middle East Alistair Burt condemned violence in Gaza and the West Bank, calling it "shocking".

“The loss of life and the large number of injured Palestinians is tragic, and it is extremely worrying that the number of those killed continues to rise,” his statement read.
]]>
5/19/2018 3:15:55 PM
<![CDATA[In a merging move: Egyptian leftists finally united?]]>
Al-Tagamou spokesperson Nabil Zaki told Egypt Today that his party hailed the calls made by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to parties’ chiefs to unite and put disputes aside for the sake of the country’s political arena.

Zaki stressed that Al-Tagamou has sought to establish a national coalition uniting all left-wing parties into one entity to support the Egyptian state against terrorism and extremism.

“Combating terrorism requires cultural and social confrontations, not only security,” Zaki told Egypt Today on Friday.

Parliament Speaker Ali Abdul Aal reaffirmed on various occasions the country’s need for political alliances and coalitions to represent the majority and opposition voices.

Al-Wafd Party is soon expected to announce the launch of talks with different civil and liberal parties to set up a political coalition under the Parliament’s dome.

Bahaa Abou Shoka, the newly-elected head of Al-Wafd Party, held consultations with heads of the Conservatives Party, Al-Tagamou and the Free Egyptians Party, well-informed sources told Egypt Today.

The sources revealed that the Conservatives Party had accepted the coalition’s idea with Al-Wafd, without further information about the merging mechanism between the two parties.

“According to the Constitution’s Article No. 5, the political pluralism is offered to ensure the circulation of power,” said Al-Wafd Party spokesperson Yasser al-Houdaiby.

Houdaiby noted that the incumbent Parliament does not include an opposition majority, which is dominated by independent parliamentarians. “Current political parties do not exercise opposition in the parliament,” he added.

“Wafd Party suggested having only three or four powerful parties instead of dozens of weak parties,” Houdaiby added.

Moussa Moustafa Moussa, chairperson of Al-Ghad party and former presidential candidate, gave rise to similar ideas when in April he called for the merger of all political parties into one alliance under the name “Entity of Egypt”.

Business tycoon Naguib Sawiris recently discussed in a tweet the possibility of the Free Egyptians Party’s merging, lamenting the current state of the party.

“What is happening in the [Free] Egyptian’s Party reminds me of the ‘Prince of Revenge’ movie… My heart aches watching the party I formed with high hopes crumble into this tear-shedding status,” the tweet reads.

The topic was also recently raised when, in April, Sawiris refuted on Twitter the merging of his party, the Free Egyptians Party, with Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) Party.




The Egypt’s Support parliamentary coalition, which holds around 400 of 597 seats in Parliament, announced in April its ambition to merge all the parties comprising the coalition into one unified party in order to “politically support the state.”

The Egypt’s Support coalition includes the Free Egyptians, Mostakbal Watan, Homeland Defenders, Republican Peoples and Conference parties, in addition to many independent members.
]]>
5/19/2018 3:00:00 PM
<![CDATA[Media Syndicate to investigate Ramadan program violations]]>
The monitoring committees of the Media Syndicate, the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) and Sawt al-Qahira (Sono Cairo) are coordinating with each other, Konaysi added.

Intense backlash over 'harassment' in Ramadan prank shows

CAIRO - 18 May 2018: Egyptian actor Ramez Galal has received intense backlash over "actions and words of harassment" in the first episode of his Ramadan prank show, "Ramez Sub Zero", with people calling for it to be banned. Galal's annual shows receive controversial and mixed reactions from audiences.




The Media Syndicate will also coordinate with the Supreme Council for Media Regulations (SCMR) to punish those who violate professional and ethical standards.

The administrative council of Egypt’s Media Syndicate and SCMR has imposed penalties over TV programs and presenters previously this year.

The Media Syndicate decided to suspend Amany el-Khayat, host of the ONTV show “Beyn Al-Sotor” (Between the Lines), for one month, and to suspend Ahmed el-Sherif, host of LTC show “Malaab El Sherif” (Sherif’s Pitch), for three weeks, Konaysi said in a statement in February.

The decision was taken after revising the code of ethics, the code of professional conduct that was issued according to law No.93 of 2016, and the prime minister’s decree No. 573 for year 2017 to establish the founding committee for the Media Syndicate, Konaysi said.

Amany el-Khayat suspended over Oman remarks

CAIRO - 16 February 2018: The administrative council of Egypt's Media Syndicate decided to suspend Amany el-Khayat, host of the ONTV show "Beyn Al-Sotor" (Between the Lines), for one month, and to suspend Ahmed el-Sherif, host of LTC show "Malaab El Sherif" (Sherif's Pitch), for three weeks, Hamdi al-Konaysi, head of the Media Syndicate, said in a statement on Thursday.




The SCMR decided to stop the broadcast of the Comedy TV show “Saturday Night Live” (SNL).

The council said in a statement published in February that the decision was based on the investigations held by the council’s Complaints Committee, which stated that the program broadcast on OSN used inappropriate sexual implications, contravening ethical and professional standards.

Supreme Media Regulatory Council ends SNL broadcast

CAIRO - 11 February 2018: Egypt's Supreme Media Regulatory Council decided on Sunday to stop the broadcast of the Comedy TV show, Saturday Night Live (SNL). The Media Council said in a statement published Sunday, that the decision was based on the investigations held by the Council's Complaints Committee which has stated that the program broadcast on OSN used inappropriate sexual implications contravene ethical and professional standards.




In January 2017, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi issued a law establishing a syndicate for audio-visual media personnel, following the Parliament’s approval. The Media Syndicate is responsible for regulating audio-visual media practices, as well as defending its members.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Council for Media Regulations was established on December 24, 2016 after President Sisi issued Law No. 92 of 2016 on the Institutional Organization of the Press and the Media as an independent body with a corporate personality.

The role of the council is to regulate and supervise media outlets in all forms: print, broadcast and electronic; and it establishes the framework and standards necessary to ensure that media outlets abide by the rules and ethics of the profession.
]]>
5/19/2018 2:14:48 PM
<![CDATA[Eli Cohen: Israeli spy born in Egypt, hanged in Syria]]>Egypt Today sums up all you need to know about Cohen’s case on the 53th anniversary of his execution in Damascus.

"I don't regret what I have done, only what I could have done and didn’t have the chance to do. Sometimes close friends fail those who can act," Cohen carved onto his prison walls just days before being executed.

Eli Cohen’s early life

He was born in Alexandria on Dec. 26, 1924 to a Jewish family who had settled in Aleppo since 1914. Despite the fact that his family moved to Israel after it had been declared in 1948, Cohen remained in Egypt for espionage activity that Egypt’s security could not prove or uncover.

Following the nationalization of the Suez Canal in 1956, Cohen and other Jewish community members in Egypt were forced to leave the country. As a result, Cohen arrived in Israel through Italy.

Cohen’s spying activity in Egypt

He founded a famous espionage cell inside Egypt, assisting Jewish and Zionists to smuggle from the country to the newly-born Israel. He was known for the alias “John Darling”, who was responsible for a terrorist cell that had targeted American and Western installations in Cairo and Alexandria for the purpose of damaging relations between Egypt and other powers.

However, Egyptian authorities could not prove ties between Cohen and other Zionist terrorist cells active inside the country. He moved to Israel where he joined the Israeli intelligence apparatus known as Mossad. In 1956, he was arrested in Egypt while on a spying mission.

Cohen’s spying mission in Syria

He got married to a Jewish woman with Iraqi origins in 1959 and worked as a translator at the Israeli defense ministry.

The Mossad sought to utilize Cohen, who spoke Arabic fluently and was familiar with the Arab culture. He was chosen for a spying mission in Damascus. He accepted the mission and received intensive trainings on the Syrian accent, Islamic teachings and the political situation inside Syria.

In 1962, Cohen paid a visit to the Golan Heights in the company of one of his Syrian friends, and he succeeded to shoot photos for the security and defense preparations there by a very tiny secret camera produced by the Israeli and U.S. intelligence.

In 1964, Cohen succeeded to provide Israel with detailed information about Syrian defense plans at Quneitra City located in the occupied Golan Heights. In addition, Cohen told the Israelis about the Russian T-54 tanks and their installation sites.

Observers believed the success of accessing sensitive information by Cohen was due to his close ties with Ba’ath Party leaders.

Cohen’s public execution

In 1965, he was uncovered as a radio signal sent from his house was detected by Syrian intelligence.

Cohen stood before a military trial and was found guilty of espionage. He was sentenced to death, following intensive interrogation.

Then-Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir led a campaign to persuade the Syrian authorities not to execute him; however, the death sentence was carried out publicly in Marjeh Square in Damascus on May 18, 1965.

Despite being a traitor under Syrian law, the Syrian authorities met his last wish when he asked to see a rabbi. The Syrian prison’s authorities asked Nissim Andabo, the 80-year-old Chief Rabbi of Syria at the time, to be in the company of Cohen a few hours before his execution.

A video of Cohen’s execution was posted on Facebook in September, 2016 – 51 years after it took place.

a
Wedding of Eli Cohen- credit official website of Eli Cohen

Over the years, Cohen’s wife, Nadia, unsuccessfully made several appeals to the Syrian government to release Cohen’s remains.

Recently, media reports revealed that Israel sought to bring Cohen’s remains to Tel Aviv for burial, following the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

]]>
5/19/2018 1:55:33 PM
<![CDATA[U.S. to withdraw assistance from northwest Syria - U.S. officials]]>
CBS, which first reported the story, said tens of millions of dollars will be cut from previous U.S.-backed efforts in the northwest, including projects for "countering violent extremism, supporting independent society and independent media, strengthening education, and advocating for community policing."

U.S. officials told Reuters that humanitarian assistance would not be affected in the northwest around Idlib province, which is the largest chunk of Syrian territory held by insurgent factions, including al Qaeda's former affiliate in the Syrian war.

"U.S. assistance for programs in northwest Syria are being freed up to provide potential increased support for priorities in northeast Syria," a State Department official told Reuters.

A second official said the administration believed it wanted to move the assistance to areas where the U.S. had more control.

President Donald Trump in March froze more than $200 million in funds for recovery efforts in Syria while his administration reassesses Washington's role in the Syrian conflict. The review is still under way, one U.S. official said.

Trump said in March that it was time for the United States to leave Syria, following allied victories against Islamic State militants. About 2,000 U.S. troops are deployed in Syria.

In April, however, Trump deepened U.S. involvement by ordering missile strikes against Syria in response to a poison gas attack that killed dozens of people.

A third U.S. official said the cuts in the northwest would take place over a period of months.

"The danger is a repeat of what the president criticized about Iraq - leaving a vacuum where the violence can get worse and extremists can exploit that," the official added.

The Pentagon has estimated that Islamic State has lost about 98 percent of the territory it held in Iraq and Syria, U.S. military officials have warned that the militants could regain the freed areas quickly unless they are stabilized.]]>
5/19/2018 12:27:46 PM
<![CDATA[Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc wins Iraq election]]>
Sadr himself cannot become prime minister as he did not run in the election, though his bloc's victory puts him in a position to have a strong say in negotiations. His Sairoon electoral list captured 54 parliamentary seats.

The Victory Alliance, headed by incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, trailed in third place with 42 seats, several seats behind the Al-Fatih bloc, which won 47 seats.

Al-Fatih is led by Hadi al-Amiri, who has close ties with Iran and heads an umbrella group of paramilitaries that played a key role in defeating Islamic State.

The results were announced a week after Iraqis voted in a nationwide election, which produced surprising results amid historically low turnout.

Winning the largest number of seats does not automatically guarantee that Sadr will be able to hand-pick a prime minister.

Since no electoral list won an outright majority, negotiations to form a government are expected to drag on for months.

Parties will have to align themselves to try and form a block large enough for the parliamentary majority necessary to nominate a candidate.

"Your vote is an honour for us," Sadr tweeted moments after the official results were announced in the early hours of Saturday morning. "We will not disappoint you."

REBUKE

The victory was a surprising change of fortunes for the Shi'ite cleric. Sadr, who made his name leading two violent uprisings against U.S. occupation troops, had been sidelined for years by Iranian-backed rivals.

His bloc's performance represented a rebuke to a political elite that some voters blame for widespread corruption and dysfunctional governance.

It was also bolstered by a historically low turnout across the country, estimated earlier in the week at 44.5 percent. Sadr maintains a loyal base of supporters who turned up to the polls amid widespread national apathy.

Sadr's unlikely alliance with communists and secular Iraqis says it fiercely opposes any foreign interference in Iraq, which is strongly backed by both Tehran and Washington.

It has promised to help the poor and build schools and hospitals in Iraq, which was battered in the war to defeat Islamic state and has suffered from low oil prices.

Before the election, Iran publicly stated it would not allow Sadr’s bloc to govern.

The election dealt a blow to Abadi, but he could still emerge as a compromise candidate palatable to all sides because he has skillfully managed the competing interests of the United States and Iran - unwitting allies in the war against Islamic State - during his term in office.

Amiri is regarded as one of the most powerful figures in Iraq. He spent two decades fighting Saddam Hussein from Iran.

Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of foreign operations for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and a highly influential figure in Iraq, has been holding talks with politicians in Baghdad to promote the formation of a new cabinet which would have Iran’s approval.

Earlier on Saturday, Sadr met a group of ambassadors from neighboring countries, including Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

During the meeting, Sadr called for a strengthening of ties with neighboring states which have "historical and cultural ties with Iraq", according to a statement from his office.

Sadr visited Riyadh late last year, signalling a possible rapprochement with Saudi Arabia which has been tentatively seeking to increase its involvement in Iraq.

The government should be formed within 90 days of the official results.]]>
5/19/2018 11:05:29 AM
<![CDATA[Extraordinary Islamic summit kicks off in Istanbul for Palestine]]>

The summit is presented by Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry who will be giving a short speech about Egypt’s stance towards the case and its continuing efforts to achieve peace in Palestine.


On Thursday, Shoukry said that the continuation of the Israeli occupation of Palestine is the root of the crisis and the reason for the suffering and tragedies of Palestinians.


“Time has come to turn this dark page of the region’s history, and to meet the Palestinians hopes and aspirations to live in peace,” Shoukry said during his speech at the opening session of the extraordinary meeting of Arab foreign ministers.


Shoukry assured that the U.S.’s decision to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is null and void, affirming that Jerusalem will remain the capital of Palestine.


On May 15, Palestine called for an extraordinary meeting of Arab foreign ministers to discuss the accelerating events and violence that has been taking place in Gaza for several days.


Several countries have condemned Israeli violence against Palestinians including Egypt, which has been struggling recently to bring peace to Palestinians through finding a political solution.


United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov also called on the international community to support Egypt's stance and aid Palestine not only to survive these escalations but to reach a political solution that guarantees peace and stability for the Palestinian people.


“This cycle of violence in Gaza needs to end. For it to end, we need each one of us to prevent an explosion that will drag everyone in the region into another deadly confrontation. The international community must step in and prevent war; we need to move forward quickly and effectively on all projects that we have been discussing for months and months to solve the energy, water and health crises of the population. We can only do this in coordination with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt. But before all that, the senseless violence needs to stop,” Mladenov said during his briefing to the Security Council on the situation in Gaza on May 15.


Furthermore, UK’s Minister of State for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, condemned violence in Gaza and the West Bank, and called it "shocking". “The loss of life and the large number of injured Palestinians is tragic, and it is extremely worrying that the number of those killed continues to rise,” his statement read.]]>
5/19/2018 9:02:59 AM
<![CDATA[Wafd Party supports call to unify Egypt’s political powers]]>
Yasser al-Hudaibi, spokesperson for the Wafd Party, said in a statement that they will immediately begin addressing all the political parties to hold a meeting within a few days at the Wafd Party’s headquarters to discuss the president’s suggestion, which comes in line with Article 5 of the Constitution.

Article 5 stipulates that the Egyptian political system is based on political and partisan multiplicity, the peaceful transfer of power, the separation and balance of powers, authority going with responsibility, and respect for human rights and freedoms, as set out in the Constitution.

The Egypt’s Support parliamentary coalition, which holds around 400 of 597 seats in Parliament, announced in April its ambition to merge all the parties comprising the coalition into one unified party in order to “politically support the state.” This statement was met with a similar call by the Wafd Party, which revealed its intention to form an opposition coalition within the Parliament.

Sources revealed that Abu Shoka has discussed the opposition coalition idea with a number of parliament members, adding that this coalition could be the sole rival to the pro-government Egypt’s Support coalition.

The Egypt’s Support coalition includes the Free Egyptians, Mostakbal Watan, Homeland Defenders, Republican Peoples and Conference parties, in addition to many independent members.]]>
5/19/2018 9:01:02 AM
<![CDATA[Italy awaits PM nominee after populists unveil government programme]]>
The political deadlock brought about by March's inconclusive elections neared its end after the plan's unveiling by the Five Star Movement and the far-right League party.

The programme promises the end of post-crisis austerity measures and seeks deep change in relations with the European Union.

Five Star members have until Friday evening to vote online on whether to approve the programme, while the League will offer a vote to anyone who visits the party stands which are to be put up across the country over the weekend.

With voter approval little more than a formality, all eyes were on who the two parties would choose as their candidate for prime minister.

They needed to announce a name in time for a meeting on Monday with President Sergio Mattarella.

Mattarella must agree to the parties' nominee before they can seek parliament's approval for their nascent government.

Both Five Star leader Di Maio and Salvini have remained tight-lipped on the future prime minister as they hashed out their 58-page "Contract for the Government of Change".

Having said on Thursday evening that naming a PM would "not be a problem", on Friday Di Maio suggested that he could be one of the candidates.

"I don't know if I will end up being prime minister, but our real leader, the programme, will govern this country," Di Maio said in a Facebook message.

- No euro exit -

While an exit from the single currency -- mooted in leaked drafts of the document -- is no longer proposed, the document announced the parties' intention to review "with European partners the economic governance framework" of the EU, including the euro.

The parties want a monetary union that is "appropriate for the current geopolitical and economic imbalances and consistent with the objectives of the economic union", it said.

The document featured a number of manifesto promises from the League.

These included hardline immigration and security proposals, pension reform and a plan to have just two tax rates, of 15 and 20 percent.

The programme proposed that Italy and the EU implement bilateral agreements with other countries in order to speed up the repatriation of illegal immigrants.

The programme also pledged to close all "illegal" Roma camps, set up a register of imams and immediately shut down "radical Islamic associations".

- Berlusconi -

The proposals contained in the document have caused consternation at home and abroad.

The key worry is how Italy, the eurozone's second most debt-laden country, can fund the coalition's proposals, such as drastic tax cuts and a monthly basic income for some nine million people.

Some experts estimated the cost of the document's proposals at 100 billion euros.

The Grande Oriente freemasons lodge blasted as "fascist" and "unconstitutional" the parties' decision to ban any of their members from becoming a government minister.

Meanwhile on Friday former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi offered himself as the leader of a separate executive given "the lack of candidates with the qualities of trustworthiness, good sense and balance".

Berlusconi campaigned alongside Salvini before the election as part of a right-wing coalition.

The 81-year-old, recently ordered to stand trial for bribing witnesses in a sex scandal, said that he was "very worried" about the "sermonising" content of the programme.

It proposes that no-one convicted of corruption or being investigated for serious crimes can become a minister.

Conflict of interest criteria for parliamentarians would also be beefed up.

The media mogul, in the Aosta Valley with his Forza Italia party for Sunday's regional elections, said: "I'm available, and I don't think that there's any candidate comparable to Silvio Berlusconi".]]>
5/19/2018 12:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[EU launches steps to fight US sanctions on Iran]]>
The European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, moved to help EU firms skirt US penalties and have member governments directly pay Iran's central bank for oil.

The commission, which took two other steps, said it was acting on a "green light" EU leaders gave at a meeting in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on Thursday.

The commission "launched the formal process to activate the blocking statute by updating the list of US sanctions on Iran falling within its scope," it said.

The executive said it hopes the statute will be in force before August 6 when the first batch of reimposed US sanctions take effect.

President Donald Trump last week pulled Washington out of the 2015 international deal with Iran to curb its nuclear programme in return for easing sanctions.

The statute, which the 28 EU member states and the European Parliament must endorse, is aimed at reassuring European firms that invested in Iran after the deal.

"The blocking statute forbids EU companies from complying with the extraterritorial effects of US sanctions," the commission said.

It also "allows companies to recover damages arising from such sanctions from the person causing them, and nullifies the effect in the EU of any foreign court judgements based on them," the executive added.

The "blocking statute" is a 1996 regulation originally created to circumvent Washington's trade embargo on Cuba, which prohibits EU companies and courts from complying with specific foreign sanction laws.

However, the Cuba row was settled politically, so the blocking regulation's effectiveness was never put to the test, and its value may lie more in becoming a bargaining chip with Washington.

Since the US withdrawal, the remaining parties have all pledged to stick to the deal if Tehran respects its terms.

- 'Confidence-building measures' -

Tehran has warned it is ready to resume no-holds-barred "industrial-scale" uranium enrichment unless Europe can provide solid guarantees to preserve Iran's economic benefits under the deal.

During talks in Brussels on Tuesday, Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said efforts to save the deal were on the "right track".

The commission said the political directors or deputy foreign ministers from the EU, Britain, France and Germany will meet on May 25 in Vienna with their counterparts from China and Russia.

EU officials said it will be their first such meeting with envoys from Beijing and Moscow -- which are also trying to save the deal --since Washington pulled out.

On a second front, the commission said it is encouraging EU member states to explore the idea of "one-off bank transfers" to the Central Bank of Iran.

The approach, it said, could ensure Tehran receives its oil-related revenues if US sanctions target EU firms active in oil transactions with Iran.

The commission also moved Friday to remove hurdles for the European Investment Bank (EIB) to finance activities outside the EU, such as in Iran.

It said the move will "allow the EIB to support EU investment in Iran," particularly involving small and medium-sized companies.

On a fourth front, the commission called for doing more to help Iran's energy sector and small and medium-sized companies, as part of "confidence-building measures."

It added that EU energy and climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete will travel to Tehran at the weekend.

In pulling out, Trump complained the nuclear deal does nothing to stop Iran's ballistic missile programme or its interference in conflicts across the Middle East from Syria to Yemen.]]>
5/19/2018 12:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Putin seeks common cause with Merkel over Trump]]>
Berlin and Moscow have been at loggerheads since Russia’s annexation of Crimea four years ago, but they share a common interest in the Nordstream 2 pipeline project, which will allow Russia to export more natural gas to northern Europe.

A U.S. government official this week said Washington had concerns about the project, and that companies involved in Russian pipeline projects faced a higher risk of being hit with U.S. sanctions.

“Donald is not just the U.S. president, he’s also a good, tough entrepreneur,” Putin said at a news conference, alongside Merkel, after the two leaders had talks in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

“He’s promoting the interests of his business, to ensure the sales of liquefied natural gas on the European market,” Putin said.

“I understand the U.S. president. He’s defending the interests of his business, he wants to push his product on the European market. But it depends on us, how we build our relations with our partners, it will depend on our partners in Europe.”

“We believe it (the pipeline) is beneficial for us, we will fight for it.”

Merkel, who earlier in the day received a bouquet of pink and white roses from Putin as she arrived at his residence in Sochi, also hinted at tensions between Berlin and the Trump administration.

As well as the differences over Nordstream, European capitals are at odds with Washington over Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal. Moscow shares Europe’s position on the deal.

“Germany, Britain, France, and all our partners in the European Union continue to support this deal and remain in this deal and we know that a very specific situation arose that we Europeans need to discuss with Iran,” Merkel said at the news conference.

“I know that the deal is anything but perfect but it is better than no deal.”

Asked about differences with the United States, Merkel told reporters: “We have a strong transatlantic friendship, which during its history has had to withstand many questions of different opinions, and I think that might be the case now as well.”

“But this does not challenge the intensity of the transatlantic relationship,” she said.

Some commentators have said that a shared opposition to Trump’s stances on Iran and other issues could lead to a rapprochement between Europe and Russia, repairing a relationship badly damaged by the Ukraine conflict.

Putin’s remarks about Trump were unusually forthright. While the Russian leader is frequently critical of U.S. policy, Putin has always been respectful in his comments on Trump, with whom Kremlin officials say he has built up a personal rapport.

Additional reporting by Moscow and Berlin bureaux; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Peter Graff]]>
5/18/2018 5:17:27 PM
<![CDATA[Sisi threatens provocative media deceiving Egyptians ]]>
During a session titled “A youth vision for Egypt’s future in four years”, Sisi said that these media outlets that have deceived audiences about the situation in Egypt will be taken to account.

"There is a very thin line between good intentions and destructive consequences of mean goals. We need to be careful with our country while moving forward and calling for change. However, I affirm that I respect and love everyone, even enemies, and therefore I cannot accept any abuse for anyone," Sisi added.

LIVE UPDATE: 5th edition of National Youth Conference kicks off in Cairo

CAIRO - 16 May 2018: President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi arrived Wednesday at the headquarters of the National Youth Conference in Cairo, where he launches the fifth edition of the periodical forum, according to informed sources.




The last National Youth Conference was held on July 24 and 25 in Alexandria; it addressed top national issues.

Around 1,300 youth attended the conference, along with parliament members, heads of unions and universities, journalists, public figures, and representatives of the National Council for Women and the National Council for Human Rights.

Provocative media against Egypt

Qatar’s Al-Jazeera channel and other organizations following the Muslim Brotherhood, like El Shark and Mekamlen TV channels, have broadcasted fake news about Egypt.

During a news conference titled “Al-Jazeera on Trial” in Washington in June 2017, Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy disclosed facts about Al-Jazeera’s illegal editorial policy.

Qatari regime controls Al Jazeera's editorial line: Fahmy

CAIRO - 22 June 2017: Former Al-Jazeera English Channel, the Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy said on Thursday that Qatari government controls Al Jazeera's general editorial line in the region. He added in a press conference in Washington on what happened during his trial in Egypt and the Al-Jazeera's editorial policy in the Arab region, that the channel was Al Jazeera English was operating illegally in Egypt.




Fahmy had spent more than a year in prison in Egypt, in the case known as “The Marriott Cell”, for charges of affiliation to the Muslim Brotherhood, fabricating news to serve their agenda, operating without proper operational licenses and using unlicensed equipment. He was granted a presidential pardon in September 2015.

Fahmy said he found out that the Arabic and English Al-Jazeera channels illegally used the Egyptian state TV satellite broadcast truck to broadcast the six-week Rabaa Al Adewya sit-in, knowing that members of the Muslim Brotherhood violently hijacked the truck.

Fahmy also said that Al-Jazeera was more interested in slandering Egypt than freeing its staff.

Al Jazeera seeks "provocation" after boycott

CAIRO - 12 June 2017: The recently-designated as terrorist, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, might soon make a come back appearance on the Qatar-sponsored Al Jazeera Network in a move deemed "provocatory" by observers. Anonymous sources revealed that the leading figure of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Qaradawi, who is currently based in Doha, will host a TV program on the controversial network.




Following Egypt’s footsteps, Saudi Arabia and Jordan closed the Qatari channel’s bureaus and blocked its website. Hotels in Saudi Arabia are banned from airing the network.

Having repeatedly faced accusations of provoking violence and supporting separatist movements in the region, Al-Jazeera’s future is uncertain following the ongoing escalation of the Qatar crisis with Egypt and Gulf countries.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, as well as other Arab and non-Arab countries, announced severing relations with Qatar last year over its alleged support for terrorism, closing their airspace and seaports to Qatari transportation.

Al-Jazeera is accused by Saudi Arabia and its allies of promoting unrest across the Middle East by providing a propaganda platform for militants in Syria and rebels across the region who seek to rise up against their governments.
]]>
5/18/2018 4:22:30 PM
<![CDATA[Assad in Sochi offers constitutional amendments to end conflict]]>
Assad tackled bilateral relations with his Russian counterpart, in addition to the recent developments in the Syrian issue, according to a statement issued by the Syrian Presidency Office on Thursday.

For its part, Russia’s Kremlin manifested that Assad had expressed his willingness to Putin to start a political compromise to solve the Syrian issue, following a meeting with Russian defense and foreign ministers.

“I’m glad to receive you in Russia. Happy Ramadan!” Putin told Assad in Sochi.

1 (1)
President Bashar al-Assad meets with his Russian counterpart and Russia’s ministers of defense and foreign affairs in Sochi on May 17, 2018 - Press Photo

Putin hailed the Syrian army’s victories over militants in Syria, stressing that Syrian soldiers have achieved significant progress recently in boosting the legitimate authority of the Syrian regime. “Threatening the capital city of Damascus is over. It’s the right time to rebuild the country’s infrastructure,” Putin added.

"Stability is improving, and all that opens the doors to the political process, which we started a while ago," Assad told Russian President Vladimir Putin according to the Kremlin’s statement.

Assad congratulated his Russian counterpart for the landslide win of his second consecutive term in office with 77 percent of the vote on March 18. “Russia has regained a bigger role worldwide due to the policies adopted by Putin domestically and externally,” Assad noted.

Assad accused unnamed countries of seeking instability in Syria, adding: “This meeting aims to draw a mutual vision for the upcoming stage of peace talks in Astana and Sochi.”

"We know that the political process will not be easy, since there are countries that do not want stability to Syria. However, we will continue to move steadily toward the peace process and for the sake of peace," Assad stressed.

"Syria will send a list of its delegates to the UN constitutional committee to discuss amendments to the current constitution. This will be done as soon as possible," Assad revealed.

2
President Vladimir Putin receives his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad in Sochi on May 17, 2018 - Press Photo

In a related context, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow on May 9 as Putin had previously invited Netanyahu to attend the Moscow Victory Day Parade. This visit came a few days after Israeli strikes targeted Iranian sites in Syria’s Damascus.
Observers believed Assad’s visit to Sochi proved the support provided from Moscow to the Syrian regime, and deemed a Russian attempt to stop the military escalation between Damascus and Tel Aviv.
The last meeting between Assad and Putin was in December at a Russian military air base in Syria’s coastal city of Latakia.

3
President Bashar al-Assad receives Russia’s Putin in Latakia in December, 2018 - Press Photo
]]>
5/18/2018 1:24:06 PM
<![CDATA[Curious case exhibits of Muslim Brotherhood’s Hassan Malek ]]>
Malek and 23 others in the case are charged with attempting to jeopardize the national economy through a meticulous plan, in addition to funding the Brotherhood. Some of the defendants are still at large.

Unsealing the exhibits began April 1, and the next session is scheduled for May 20, where prosecution witnesses will also be questioned. The case involves 23 other defendants, but the exhibits mainly belong to Malek.

Malek was arrested in October 2015, making him one of the few Brotherhood figures who were not arrested right after the dispersal of Rabaa sit-in in August 2013 after a long protest that demanded the reinstatement of President Mohamed Morsi. Although it has been more than two years since he was arrested, he has not been sentenced yet.

Malek, 59, was added to a three-year terror list in July 2017. The Cassation Court will decide on his challenge on May 26. He denies all the charges and says he only printed the “inciting” documents found in his apartment off the internet, because they “renounce” violence.

The defendant was born into a Muslim Brotherhood family, but he does not view himself as a leader in the Islamist group, according to his interrogation with the prosecution. However, in 2006, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for being a leader in the group, which organized a militant-style demonstration at Al-Azhar University at the time.

He was pardoned in March 2011 by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, along with famous Brotherhood leader and businessman Khairat al-Shater.

The businessman’s work has been versatile, but mainly revolved around manufacturing/selling conservative attire for women and computers. He is also a business partner of jailed Shater, who intended to run for presidency in 2012, but was legally excluded, owing to his 2006 conviction.

The exhibits and their context, according to the prosecution

1 – A shield gifted by former Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to Malek. Haniyeh is a Hamas leader, an Islamist movement that is an offshoot from Egypt’s Brotherhood.

2 – Six masks with the image of Morsi printed on them.

3 – A map of Egyptian gas pipes and other “inciting” documents.

4 – Documents explaining mechanisms to destroy the tourism industry in Egypt, protesting at tourist areas, and creating an opposition to the government after laying off some 12 million workers in the sector.

5 – Documents on mechanisms to jeopardize investments in Egypt by persuading foreign investors to leave Egypt and convincing local investors that the country does not provide an investment-friendly environment.

6 – Documents on organizing continuous protests, especially in Cairo's main streets and districts where embassies and homes of ambassadors are located. The papers also include instructions on blocking the Ring Road, 6 October Bridge and the Nile Corniche for an hour. Such major roads constitute the backbone of traffic in Cairo.

The documents also included contacting companies in Egypt via the phone, email and Youtube videos to encourage them to abandon the country.

The plan could have inflicted estimated state losses of $40 million and disrupted the work of major companies in 10 Ramadan City, along Suez Road, as well as closed ports in Alexandria and Port Said.
]]>
5/18/2018 11:19:16 AM
<![CDATA[Rafah border opened during Ramadan, Palestine thanks Sisi]]>CAIRO – 18 May 2018: The Palestinian Embassy in Cairo expressed its gratitude for President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi “for his continuous efforts to ease the burdens of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” a statement said on Friday.


On Thursday, the Egyptian leader directed authorities to take the necessary measures to keep the Rafah border crossing open throughout the holy month of Ramadan.


“I issued directives to take the necessary measures to keep the Rafah border crossing open throughout the holy month of Ramadan in a bid to relieve some of the burdens suffered by our brothers in the Gaza strip,” Sisi posted on Facebook and Twitter.




“This highly appreciated step is considered a good initiative by His Excellency President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and the Egyptian leadership in the holy month of Ramadan,” the statement added.


On May 14, Egypt dispatched humanitarian aid, food, relief and medical supplies to Gaza while keeping the Rafah crossing open for individuals and those injured in the Israeli attacks on the strip.


This crossing is mainly specialized for individual movements across borders, and was being prepared for the transfer of goods between the two courtiers.


The importance of Rafah border crossing increased after Israeli forces destroyed the Yasser Arafat International Airport in 2001; which was the only airport allowing Palestinians to travel.


Palestinian authorities thanked Egypt for continuously opening the crossing in a statement issued February 21, stressing that the decision represents the Egyptian government’s keenness to ease the Palestinian people’s suffering.

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5/18/2018 1:44:30 AM
<![CDATA[Reforming political parties: Reintroducing political participation]]>
In order to account for these issues and find constructive solutions for them, an Organizational Committee for Political Parties was formed, with representatives from all Egyptian political parties, according to Gehad Seif al-Islam, a representative of the Mo’tamar party. Of the more than 160 representatives present in the committee, they managed to self-elect a few representatives to speak at the National Youth Conference.

Ibrahim al-Shehaby, a representative of Al-Geel (The Generation) Party, argued that the state for many years used to treat politics with a crisis management strategy, not with the aim to “strategically build” but with the aim to end the crisis at hand. “The result was that political parties and politics were being dealt with on an ad hoc basis, because bigger challenges were being met at the same time,” Shehaby explained.

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Ibrahim al-Shehaby, a representative of Al-Geel (The Generation) Party, speaking during the session, May 16, 2018 - YouTube/Extra News

Moving forth with his speech, Shehaby outlined three main points pertaining to increasing youth’s political participation: the construction of Al-Kader political school through the National Academy for Training Youth; creating a national forum for public policies; finding a mechanism to make the most out of the political minds in executive management; and establishing local, regional and international forums for youth.



In terms of the Al-Kader Political School, its main mission would be to “create top political minds that would discuss society’s issues and its main aim would be to widen the base of youth’s political participation in the political realm,” Shehaby explained. “We don’t want the upcoming political minds to have been educated according to set dogmas by rights organizations or organizations that do not possess sound ideologies.” According to Shehaby, this political school would safeguard the country from future generations educated with a doctrine of “let’s demolish it to rebuild it.” As for the forums, Shehaby reiterated that they would constitute solid, appropriate platforms for issues to be discussed constructively.

Bilal al-Habashy, a representative of the Free Egyptians Party, was asked during the session over what should be done to increase political parties’ participation in the Egyptian political scene to a point where it is felt by the population other than in the times of elections.

Habashy explained that citizens should be accustomed to political parties playing a role in their lives and offering them certain services and advantages. “But when an individual has an issue and comes to a political party to have it fixed, [the party can’t] because the executive governmental institutions have problems with parties and do not cooperate with them. We ask the president to fix this issue, please.”

Another issue Habashy pointed out was the media’s portrayal of political parties in Egypt. “Some media platforms portray political parties as useless, even though we see otherwise,” he stated.

Most representatives in the debate agreed on several points, whether directly or indirectly: first, political parties in Egypt are not playing the role political parties usually do in a developed state; second, political parties were perceived to be useless and their numbering over 100 was making their situation more difficult, especially when only a few are well established in the scene; and finally, having the older generations dominating them was rendering them practically impotent and was ensuring their demise.

All representatives concurred that political parties required great reforms and that those reforms needed palpable manifestations in Egyptian society. Directing their speeches to President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, they also all concurred that only he could grant and orchestrate these reforms.

The topic may have been discussed formally and publicly for the first time, but it is not new. Many would concur that Egypt’s political scene has been stagnant, especially where political parties are concerned.

Business tycoon Naguib Sawiris recently discussed the Free Egyptians party with a tweet, lamenting the state it is currently in.

“What is happening in the Egyptians party reminds me of the “Prince of Revenge” movie… My heart aches watching the party I formed with high hopes crumble into this tear-shedding status,” the tweet reads.



A Twitter user replied to Sawiris’s tweet, saying: “When you form a new party, begin with an entire new generation of people who love their nation and who make you want to love their nation, not people who are looking for seats and positions and who forget the nation.”

The topic was recently also raised when Sawiris refuted in April on Twitter merging his party, the Free Egyptians party, with Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) party.

Moussa Moustafa Moussa, chairperson of Al-Ghad party, gave rise to these speculations when in April he called for the merger of all political parties into one alliance under the name, “Entity of Egypt”.
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5/17/2018 11:40:00 PM
<![CDATA[Why Egyptian policemen arrest people not fasting in Ramadan]]>
Since 2009, dozens of people were reportedly arrested by police officers, after being spotted eating during day time in Ramadan. However, Egypt Today could find no article in the Egyptian penal code that punishes those “violators”.

Security Perspective

Mohamed Nour al-Din, former assistant interior minister, said that the police’s decision to arrest some people who eat during day time in Ramadan was influenced by media pressures, adding that all those who were arrested nationwide were released after paying a fine of LE 50 (about $2.8).

Nour al-Din said that the arrestees were accused of violating the penal code, as eating in the day time in Ramadan may provoke some people and lead to fights among youth.

Nour al-Din explained that the arrests’ purpose is to limit the phenomenon in order to preserve security, adding that the police stopped arresting people eating during day time once the phenomenon became limited.

Legal perspective

Lawyer Hafez Abu Saada said that there is no article in the Egyptian penal code that stipulates that authorities have to take any measures against someone who eats in Ramadan during day time.

He added that no law can regulate such phenomenon, explaining that some persons who eat during day time are non-Muslims, or elderly Muslims who cannot abstain from food as they have health problems.

Religious Perspective

Islam considers that those who eat during day time in Ramada,n without an excuse such as travelling, commit at least two sins.

The first sin is disobeying Allah (God) by breaking their fast before dawn, and the second is doing this sin openly, as Prophet Muhammad warned: "Every one of my followers will be forgiven except those who expose (openly) their wrongdoings.”

Azhar Sheikh Ahmed al-Malek called for imposing a punishment on those who eat during the day time in Ramadan, claiming that it is not a matter of personal freedom. He added that incriminating such action will help protect the community from strife.
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5/17/2018 5:44:54 PM
<![CDATA[Private sector to manage new metro lines per law]]>
Chairman of the National Authority for Tunnels (NAT), Tareq Gamal el-Din, told Egypt Today that the authority will establish new companies, in cooperation with the private companies, in order to help in managing ongoing subway projects.

The partnership with the private sector will help finance the to-be-opened metro lines, Gamal el-Din said, adding that “the companies to be established will be of sufficient expertise…and will be a source of revenue for the authority…which will help improve the service.”

“The National Authority for Tunnels is a service authority that receives its full budget from the state, and allocates it for metro projects. The new law will help the authority to get more revenues and will lessen the burden off the state,” Gamal el-Din explained.

The new companies will also be responsible for managing existing markets on the first two lines as well as the shopping malls that will be launched at three stations on the third metro line: Attaba, Maspiro and Manshyet el-Sadr.

“The private sector will be a main partner and will have administration authorities in these companies in order to overcome routine procedures that used to hinder investments,” added Gamal el-Din. He further said that private sector will be managing the new metro lines and their maintenance per the right of usufruct, while determining the ticket fare “will remain the government’s responsibility in order to assure affordable ticket price for citizens.”

The government decided last week to increase the fare of metro tickets to be based on the length of each commute after the underground subway system has incurred financial losses worth millions of pounds. The metro ticket price used to be fixed at L.E. 2 ($0.11) no matter how long the passenger's commute was.

Commuters will be charged a base fare of LE 3 ($0.16) for the first nine stops, and an additional LE 2 (total LE 5) for seven more stations. The highest ticket price has been fixed at LE 7 if the commuter will use the metro for more than 16 stations.

The increase has triggered anger among citizens who are currently suffering from dramatic surge in prices after the floatation of the Egyptian pound in November 2016 and two waves of fuel subsidy cuts. The move was described by the government as “necessary” to improve the service of the subway that works for 20 hours every day, assuring that discounted fares for students, elderly people and people with disabilities are still valid.

On Wednesday, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi commented on the metro fare rise during the fifth edition of the National Youth Conference, saying "We do not have the luxury of hesitating in making the right decisions for the sake of our country. Raising the Metro ticket price is not a new decision; we have been discussing this for a long time, and we do not have any other choices."

Over 3.5 million of Greater Cairo's 21 million inhabitants rely on the metro for their daily travel, according to estimates by the country's National Authority for Tunnels (NAT).
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5/17/2018 5:29:47 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt asks the President: Aren’t you scared? ]]>
What the Q&A session signified in terms of internal policies was somewhat a new strategy for bringing the people and their president on closer terms. The presidential palace was opening wide, and the president was going to meet the people half way.

The questions presented during the session were a positive response in terms of the strategy employed: people were taking it seriously. They were not thinking of the gesture as a ruse, or as a means of calming down a people struck with difficult reforms. The questions were genuine, and even more genuinely, the questions were attributed to the names of their seekers; they were not anonymous.

A man named Sayed Ali Badran from Cairo struck an eloquent question: “Why do you keep insisting on sacrificing your people for the sake of difficult economic reforms that those before you refused to so much as consider whereas you and this generation will go down in history as being the only ones responsible for this burden. Isn’t it better to distribute the burden over the coming generations? Hasn’t this generation had enough to bear?”

“Those before us didn’t take these measures,” the president calmly replied. “So tell me, if we weren’t doing what we are doing now, what would Egypt be like? Instead of answering the question by saying that the measures were inevitable, let’s study the consequences of not moving forth with them. We always see the measures’ positive results, but they’re not palpable. But if we hadn’t taken those measures, which we started in November 2016, what would’ve happened? How much would the Central Bank of Egypt’s reserves be at had the measures been foregone? What about the imports list which is growing and demanding more dollars, and which would in turn spike the dollar’s price further and further?... We took the step and suffered because of it but we’re not lost; the country is not lost. Had we not taken these measures, imagine the number of employees working in factories, sitting about on the streets, without being able to provide for their families. Now they have some, it’s not enough, but if we hadn’t taken the measures he wouldn’t have anything at all.”

Yes, the president hopes that he would be able to bear the burden of the reforms alone; he hopes that his successor will be able to lead the nation in a much simpler manner.

“Having moved through with the measures, some are not able to bear it and revolt against them. If we hadn’t moved through with the measures, no one would be able to bear it and the nation would be in ruins. They are both tough scenarios, but one of them leads to ruin and the other doesn’t,” Sisi explained.



In his calm tone and manner, the president answered in all simplicity, emphasizing multiple times through that the measures, as tough as they are, were the lesser evil. “There was no other path,” he reiterated.

Another participant opted to ask why the population was not involved in the decrees issued; why does no one explain to us these decrees? Sherif Atef Abdelsalam asked, “Why don’t we have a government representative that comes out and explains the reasons for inflation or governmental changes, with numbers and facts? The minister of transportation did that when the metro tickets’ prices rose, I watched the video on social media websites. Why didn’t that happen before?” Abdelsalam asked. “Also, in terms of the educational system, we need someone to explain its advantages and the new mechanisms that will be implemented before they’re implemented.”

The man also noted to the president that “reforming is much harder than building, because it needs twice the effort,” and asked to see some improvements in the prices of food stuffs within the coming years.

“When do we speak about problems? We speak about them a lot. But when does the citizen begin to notice?” The president stated, “the citizen begins to notice when the topic begins to directly affect him or her. Many officials spoke about the issue of pricing.”

The president explained in response to Abdelsalam’s question that the prices in Egypt do not represent the real value of the product. “The government in Egypt does not provide anything with its real prices,” he emphasized. Sisi also compared subsidies in Egypt with those of other African countries, without mentioning any specific country, saying that African countries do not subsidize anything.

Sisi explained that the government in Egypt subsidizes bread, gas, electricity and water. He explained that while a loaf of bread costs 60 piasters, the government subsidizes it so that a family of five receive five loaves for LE 2. “You don’t understand how strenuous that is when you do it for 80 million people,” Sisi said. ]]>
5/17/2018 5:12:57 PM
<![CDATA[Know the legal consquances of designating on terrorist list]]>
The Court of Cassation upheld a verdict of designating 135 elements of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group in the Helwan Brigades case on the terror list. Egypt Today gives an overview on the process of designating terrorist members and groups.

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi issued a new law in 2015 that gives a broad definition of terrorist entities and the sentences against them. According to the law on terrorist entities (law No. 8/2015), the general prosecution shall create a proscribed terrorist list which is referred to by the Egyptian court, and has the final say as to individuals’/groups’ designation as terrorists.

Firstly, the terrorist members are defined in the law as those who would commit attacks either inside or outside Egypt. Those members who are blacklisted in accordance with the law are “placed on travel ban lists, prevented from entering the country, have their travel passports withdrawn, are not allowed to have new travel passports, lose the stipulation of good reputation, and shall not be allowed to join Parliament or take charge of public posts." The designation decision can be appealed.

Secondly, the terrorist entities are defined as a group or individuals that "through any means inside or outside the country, seek to call for the disabling of laws, or prevent state institutions or public authorities from functioning, or seek to attack the personal liberty of citizens, or other freedoms and rights granted to citizens by the law and constitution, or seek to harm national unity or social peace."

The activities and meetings of the designated terrorist entities are banned; their headquarters are closed. Moreover, it's prohibited to finance or raise funds to the entity, whether directly or indirectly; their existing funds are frozen.

Egypt has designated the Muslim Brotherhood, the Sinai-based militant group, Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, the Islamic State group, Palestinian Hamas's military wing and Al-Qassam Brigades as terrorist groups due to their violent acts, their attempts to incite chaos throughout the country and destabilize Egypt, and for claiming responsibility for a number of deadly attacks on security forces.

Most of the group’s members and leaders are either in prisons or have fled the country.

Additional reporting by Marina Gamil


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5/17/2018 5:04:39 PM
<![CDATA[Police, army distribute food cartons to needy people]]>
The army’s initiative, which started Wednesday night, comes as part of the state’s keenness to provide citizens with the food commodities they need for the holy month of Ramadan.

Egyptian Defense Minister, Sedki Sobhi, ordered the public services of the Armed Forces to distribute the cartons to the neediest people, especially those in remote areas at lower prices.

A number of 1.7 million cartons were provided by the Armed Forces, while 1 million cartons were provided by the Ministry of Internal Trade.

Moreover, the Interior Ministry has distributed a number of food cartons to needy people for free. The cartons included commodities such as rice, macaroni and oil.

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The Interior Ministry distributes a number of food cartons to needy people for free – press photo

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The Interior Ministry distributes a number of food cartons to needy people for free – press photo

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The Interior Ministry distributes a number of food cartons to needy people for free – press photo


Out of a sense of duty, the ministries of interior and defense, in addition to other ministries, have significantly stood by citizens in the times of crises and religious occasions, especially in the last few years.

“Ramadan packages”

In a press conference in April, Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Ali Moselhi said that the ministries of endowments and religious affairs, petroleum and tourism will provide poor families with one million food cartons known as “Ramadan packages” for free. The cartons usually contain food commodities like tomato sauce, rice and dried dates.

Committees from the ministries of endowments, supply and social solidarity will deliver the Ramadan packages to families across all governorates, Moselhi added.

The ministries of endowments and social solidarity said they would cooperate to accurately target the neediest families.

According to a protocol signed between the Ministry of Internal Trade and the Ministry of Endowments, the former would provide 2,000 tons of sugar, rice and macaroni to be included in the Ramadan packages.

Sheikh Bakr Abdel Hadi, deputy minister of endowments in Gharbia governorate, said in April that 14,000 Ramadan packages have already been prepared to be delivered to poor people in the governorate.

Interior Ministry’s Aman Co-op

The Aman Co-op was launched by the Interior Ministry to provide citizens with basic commodities for low prices. A number of 924 outlets for Aman were reportedly opened nationwide especially in needy districts.

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FILE - The interior Ministry’s Aman Co-op launches a two-day medical convoy in Qena in cooperation with other organizations


In April, the ministry’s Aman Co-op, in cooperation with the United Co. for Trade and Distribution and HO group that is reportedly the largest distributor of pharmaceuticals in Africa, launched a two-day medical convoy in Qena governorate.

Ayman Khalifa, an official in the HO group, said that the medical convoy has examined around 950 patients, diagnosed cases and gave them medicines.

Milk crisis

On September 1, 2016, dozens of mothers protested against a shortage in infant milk, which is mainly imported by the Egyptian Pharmaceutical Trading Company in Cairo.

On September 3, 2016, Minister of Health, Ahmed Emad el-Din said that the Armed Forces managed to distribute 30 million packages of infant milk at half price to pharmacies.

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FILE - Former army spokesman, Mohamed Samir


Former army spokesman, Mohamed Samir, said on September 9, that the army is targeting companies and individuals that monopolize infant milk and raise its price, which increase the suffering of people with low income.

Food aid amid war in Sinai

The Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018 which 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, has made the movement of people in Sinai somehow limited.

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Screenshots of the 22nd statement of the Armed Forces concerning Comprehensive Sinai Operation 2018


According to its 22nd statement published on the Defense Ministry’s website on Thursday to follow up on the updates of the Operation, the Armed Forces continue to provide people of North and Central Sinai with food aid to ease their suffering.

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Screenshots of the 22nd statement of the Armed Forces concerning Comprehensive Sinai Operation 2018


Since the ousting of former 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 in Al-Arish, North Sinai, and left more than 302 Friday prayer congregants dead in late November.

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Screenshots of the 22nd statement of the Armed Forces concerning Comprehensive Sinai Operation 2018

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Screenshots of the 22nd statement of the Armed Forces concerning Comprehensive Sinai Operation 2018
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5/17/2018 3:38:44 PM
<![CDATA[Government on alert to meet citizens' needs during Ramadan]]>
In April, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi reviewed in a meeting with a number of ministers and top officials the government's preparations for the holy month of Ramadan.

During April's meeting, Sisi stressed the need to keep exerting efforts to control markets through tightening the inspection of retail outlets in governorates, ensuring the availability of commodities at appropriate prices, particularly in most needy areas, and preventing monopoly.

Egypt’s Prime Minister Sherif Ismail then ordered the government to multiply the quantities of meat, chicken, and other commodities starting from May 1 until the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

He ordered the government officials to ensure distribution and delivery of essential commodities to the largest number of citizens.

Quantities of oil, sugar, milk, beans and other essential commodities will be multiplied during Ramadan; quantities of meat and chicken will be increased to 10,000 tons.

Government's campaigns to ensure safety of food products
Governmental inspection campaigns and spot-checks have been launched to target food stalls, butcheries and the most popular meat outlets to ensure its safety and validity for the human use.

Also, large quantities of high-quality, reasonably- priced meat have been pumped into the market since meat is traditionally the main dish of the Ramadan breakfast table.
Mohamed Ayman, deputy governor of Cairo, said in press remarks on May 15 that the governorate permitted several mobile food product stalls to operate normally beside the Armed Forces and Interior Ministry-affiliated stalls.

Ayman added that these stalls are well monitored and are subject to regular intensive campaigns to ensure that the food products they sell comply with food hygiene regulations.

“If any of these stalls is caught selling expired food or invalid goods, they will not be able to run their business on the streets again,” Ayman stressed.

The governmental inspection campaigns also include supermarkets and major food outlets in all governorates; harsh penalties have been imposed on whoever would be convicted with violating food safety regulations.

Subsidized bakeries amend their operating hours
The Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade has begun to amend the operating hours of the subsidized bakeries to start at 8 am and finish at 11 pm in order to provide subsidized bread to the citizens before breakfast and Suhoor (a night meal before fasting).

A bakery for subsidized bread in Helwan, Southern Cairo- Egypt Today- Samar Samir
A bakery for subsidized bread in Helwan, Southern Cairo- Egypt Today/Samar Samir


Working hours will be set for each bakery according to its subsidized flour quota. All bakeries will be inspected to ensure that the bread is sold at the subsidized price, 5 piasters.

Metro's operating time is extended
Minister of Transport, Hesham Arafat, issued orders for the Egyptian Company for Metro Management and Operation (ECMMO) to increase operating time in Ramadan at all three Metro Lines.

The operating hours for metro, the Egyptian subway, will be increased to run during Ramadan from 5:30 a.m. until 2 a.m.



Second line of Cairo Metro- Egypt Today- Karim Abdel Azizi
Second line of Cairo Metro- Egypt Today/Karim Abdel Azizi


Chairman of the ECCMO, Ali Fadaly, stated that a total of 1614 trips per day were arranged at the three metro lines in an effort to cope with the increase in the numbers of passengers.

He added that additional trips will be prepared daily at the first and second lines in case of an unexpected increase in passenger count.

The main metro operating room and hot line are activated to assure smooth work throughout the day and to ensure receiving all complaints, suggestions and inquiries from passengers.

Egyptian hospitals operate during normal hours in Ramadan
Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said that there is no change in the working hours of governmental hospitals and emergency centers during the holy month of Ramadan, stressing that all facilities of the Ministry of Health will work normally.

Qasr al-Eini Hospital- Egypt Today- Amr Moustafa
Qasr al-Eini Hospital- Egypt Today-/Amr Moustafa


"The availability of blood bags at all hospitals throughout all governorates was confirmed by hospital heads," he added.

The month of dawn-to-dusk fasting is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is observed by Muslim communities worldwide as the month of fasting that commemorates the first revelation of a Quran verse to Prophet Muhammad.



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5/17/2018 3:12:25 PM
<![CDATA[US foreign policy fails, Trump is not a politician: Khazen]]>
Khazen pointed out that the U.S. withdrawal from Iran nuclear agreement has only one target, banning any country, except Israel, from possessing nuclear weapons in the Middle East. He added that Trump cannot be considered as a politician.

What are the consequences of the tripartite military strike on Syria in the light of Trump’s policy in the Middle East?

U.S. policy in the Middle East is “a failed policy” as the American President Donald Trump supports the Israelis against Palestinians; he lately considered Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Moreover, Trump recognizes Qatar as a partner in his fighting against terrorism, though Qatar itself supports armed groups. I see that Trump harms the American foreign policy.

What is the stance of the Arab countries towards the military strike on Syria?

The Arab states do not have the capability to prevent or support any American raid. The United States claims friendship with countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates only to sell arms to them. Also, it has reduced military aid to Egypt and increased it to Israel and then it claims to be a friend of the Arabs. I think Trump is a friend to his own interests and wants to establish relationships that benefit his companies after he leaves the White House. He is a merchant and not a politician.

Do you expect a military clash between Russia and America and the allies of both countries, (Iran and Israel)?

I do not expect a US-Russian military confrontation. The real confrontation has already begun between Israel, supported by the US, and Iran in Syria. Until now, all Israeli strikes that have launched against Iran in Syria are limited, but if escalated, the Iranian Hezbollah, which owns thousands of missiles, may enter as a party in the clash. The occupation state, Israel, has entered four wars with Hezbollah in the past and did not win any of them and I think that Hezbollah is stronger than it was four years ago.

There are some strategic demands to freeze Egypt and Jordan's peace treaty with Israel. What do you think?

I wish that Egypt and Jordan break the peace treaty they signed with Israel. Egypt represents half of the nation and no development in the Palestinian issue will take place without its interference.

What is your comment on Israeli terrorism against defenseless Palestinians on "Land Day,” which has won full US support, how do you see the Peace process in Trump's era?

Palestinians are suffering from Israeli terrorism before and after "Land Day". The protestors who participated on "Land Day" were unarmed and Israeli snipers killed more than 40 of them and injured one hundred others. The Israelis also killed 2,200 Palestinians in their last war on the Gaza Strip.

In your opinion, is the U.S. launching systematic campaigns against Egypt, especially through its media outlets, such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, despite the fake image of the good and supportive relations between Egypt and America?

The journalists who attack Egypt in Washington Post and the New York Times are known for their support to Israel. I hope that President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi takes a firm stance against the U.S. policy. Egypt can, with the help of Saudi Arabia, unite the whole Arab world. The U.S. must understand that patience has limits and that they have exceeded these limits with the Arab world.

Is the U.S. attack on Egypt related to the fall of the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt? To what extent is America still supporting the Brotherhood?

The United States and Israel want the Muslim Brotherhood to rule Egypt to destroy Egypt's future. The U.S. and the European Union support the Brotherhood behind closed doors; they also support Qatar publicly. If Egypt manages to eliminate terrorism, its economy will be strong enough to start a renaissance we have not seen before.

Who backs terrorism in North Sinai? Is it possible to link the systematic campaigns of some Western and Arab countries against Egypt with the Egyptian army campaign in 2018 to eliminate terrorism?

ISIS, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, and terrorist organizations in Syria and Yemen are receiving funds from Arab enemies to launch terrorism attacks on Sinai.
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5/17/2018 12:51:30 PM
<![CDATA[African cities pledge to cut climate emissions to zero by 2050]]>
Eight cities – from Accra to Dar es Salaam – pledged this week to deliver their share of emissions cuts needed to meet Paris Agreement targets to limit climate change.

That means achieving “zero carbon” city economies by 2050 - with climate changing emissions eliminated, or dramatically reduced and any small remaining emissions offset by other green actions.

“We cannot ignore the implications of what will befall us if we do not act now,” said Mohammed Adjei Sowah, the mayor of Accra, Ghana’s capital, at a planning meeting in Nigeria on urban climate action in Africa.

Pursuing development in the way it’s traditionally been done is no longer feasible, he said in Lagos at the launch of the emissions cutting push.

Achieving the aim will require significant work. According to the World Bank, of the top 10 big world cities with the lowest climate-changing emissions, only one – Johannesburg – is in Africa.

Under the new commitments, cities will work to reduce emissions from things such as transport, buildings, energy production and waste management – an effort some have already started.

The city of Tshwane (formerly Pretoria) in South Africa, for instance, has carried out an inventory of its emissions, to better understand which areas need the most urgent work.

The city’s mayor also has for four years organised the African Capital Cities Sustainability Forum, which led to the creation of a sustainability unit in Tshwane’s mayoral office.

“We started this climate action trajectory in 2013, putting together the carbon emission inventory and vulnerability assessment, out of which we then started to take action based on the data”, Sello Mphaga, head of the Tshwane mayor’s sustainability unit.

The city’s emissions come from “three main sectors – energy, waste management and transport. From the study, we see how much each sector is emitting and that assists us in planning to reduce or act upon these emissions,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of the Lagos meeting.

Besides Accra, Tshwane and Dar es Salaam, other African cities that have signed the new pledge include Addis Ababa, Lagos, Dakar, Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

Two other cities – Nairobi and Abidjan – are expected to submit their plans to take part soon, said Mark Watts, executive director of the C40 Cities alliance, a global network of cities tackling climate change.

To try to achieve the Paris Agreement goals, cities signed on to the new African effort commit to reduce their carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

Sowah, of Accra, said he believes it is possible to dramatically cut urban African emissions, particularly as more African cities become aware of the impact of worsening climate extremes, from recurring droughts and floods to failed crops and more migration.

But African cities will need to hold the line on emissions even as their populations grow substantially in coming decades.

The World Bank projects that 70 percent of the world’s population could live in cities by 2050, and Africa is expected to account for half of the world’s population growth by 2050. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTUWM/Resources/340232-1205330656272/4768406-1291309208465/PartIII.pdf

Lagos, for instance, struggles with heavy pollution from its infamous traffic jams, while its population of 21 million produces large volumes of waste.

Nigeria is also home to Onitsha, which the World Health Organization in 2016 named as a city with some of the world’s worst air pollution, and Port Harcourt, an oil port that is often blanketed in soot.

In a country where power failures are a regular problem, many households regularly use polluting diesel generators to produce power.

Nigeria in 2015 signed the Paris Agreement – which aims to hold global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius – under pressure from activists for cleaner energy and sustainability groups, who have said better incentives and penalties are needed to drive effective green action.

But the transition to lower emissions will require capital, officials warned.

“Each sector – like agriculture, power, transport – has its own strategies to encourage cleaner energy rather than use of fossil fuels. But these solutions are capital intensive,” warned Ikenna Ofoegbu of the German Heinrich Boll Foundation.

“For instance, it is cheaper for international oil companies (IOCs) to flare (natural) gas than recycling it because there is no extensive infrastructure and it is hard to find a market for people to buy flared gas,” he said.

Legislation in Nigeria also favours electrical distribution companies that rely on fossil fuels over mini-grid operators using solar panels, Ofoegbu said.

That's in part because powerful elites own the traditional distribution companies and regularly lobby to keep the existing system in place, he said.

For instance, a mini-grid operator who wants to generate more than a megawatt of clean power has to do so at least 10 km away from distribution lines, he said.

Solar panels also can be expensive to import. Nigeria has no customs duty on renewable energy devices but the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), of which it is a member, stipulates a 5 percent customs duty on some types of devices, Ofeogbu said.

If better incentives for clean energy were put in place, “more people will pack up their generators and get solar panels”, Ofoegbu said. “But people need to be able to afford it and one of the biggest issues is the cost of import duty.”

To achieve its emissions goals, Nigeria also needs to look at things like tree planting – perhaps requiring that a tree be planted for each one cut – and encouraging the use of clean cooking stoves to cut firewood use, he said.

But, Sowah added, significant political willpower will be needed to enforce any policy changes made.]]>
5/17/2018 12:10:08 PM
<![CDATA[Trump lawyer Cohen sought $1 mln from Qatar in late 2016 - Washington Post]]>
Qatar turned down Cohen's offer, made weeks before Trump's inauguration in January 2017, the Post reported, citing several people with knowledge of the situation. Other media outlets also reported Wednesday that Cohen requested money from Ahmed al-Rumaihi, who at the time was head of the investments division of Qatar's sovereign wealth fund.

Reuters could not immediately independently verify the reports. Cohen's attorney Stephen Ryan did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters on the reports. Al-Rumaihi was not immediately available for comment.

Cohen made the solicitation to al-Rumaihi at a meeting in Trump Tower in New York on Dec. 12, 2016, the Post reported.

Al-Rumaihi was at Trump Tower as part of a Qatari delegation that included Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed al-Thani, the Post said.

Al-Rumaihi told Cohen that Qatar expected to invest in Trump plans to solicit investment in a U.S. infrastructure program, the Post reported. Cohen offered to help find projects for Qatar to sponsor, in exchange for a $1 million upfront fee, the newspaper reported.

The request to Qatar would be the latest such exchange offered by Cohen to be made public following acknowledgements by U.S. and European companies last week that they paid Cohen, who was Trump's lawyer for about a decade and self-described "fixer" for Trump.

Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG said it had paid Cohen nearly $1.2 million; U.S. telecommunications company AT&T Inc said it made payments of $600,000; and South Korea's Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd said it hired him for $150,000.

Novartis and AT&T have said they were contacted by the office of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller about the situation in late 2017.

Mueller is investigating possible collusion between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, something that Trump has repeatedly denied.

Prosecutors are investigating Cohen for possible bank and tax fraud, possible campaign law violations linked to a hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, and perhaps other matters related to Trump's presidential campaign, a person familiar with the probe has said.]]>
5/17/2018 10:29:11 AM
<![CDATA[Mueller told Trump team he would not indict Trump -Giuliani told CNN]]>
"All they get to do is write a report," Giuliani said, according to the network. "They can't indict. At least they acknowledged that to us after some battling, they acknowledged that to us."

A spokesman for Mueller, Peter Carr, did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Mueller is investigating allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

CNN said the Mueller team had been debating whether to challenge the Nixon-era guidelines, which were reaffirmed during the Clinton administration, that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

Trump has denied colluding with Russia and has called the Mueller investigation, which marks its first anniversary on Thursday, a witch hunt.

Giuliani and another Trump lawyer, Jay Sekulow, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.]]>
5/17/2018 5:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[Trump will seek full funding soon for his border wall]]>
"Now we’re going for the full funding for the wall, and we’re going to try and get that as soon as possible," Trump said at a roundtable with California municipal leaders who favor his goal of making the U.S. border impervious to illegal immigration.

Last month Trump threatened to shut down the federal government in September if Congress did not provide more funding for his wall. If that happens, it would mark the second time in one year the U.S. government was shuttered over immigration, with an impasse leading to a brief shutdown in January.

Center and right-wing lawmakers from Trump's Republican party are split on legislation that would protect young illegal immigrants from deportation, torn over how far it should go to clamp down on legal and illegal immigration.

At the roundtable Trump voiced hostility for the country's southern neighbor, Mexico, which is partnering with the United States and Canada in an unprecedented bid to host the World Cup in all three countries. It is also a part of the North American Free Trade Agreement that Trump would like to renegotiate or end.

"Mexico does nothing for us," he said. "Mexico talks but they do nothing for us, especially at the border. They certainly don't help us much on trade." ]]>
5/17/2018 5:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[EU leaders struggle to save Iran economic ties from US sanctions]]>
But the 28 EU leaders did not make any quick decisions during their first meeting on the matter since Trump quit the accord earlier this month, highlighting how U.S. clout in international trade and finance limits the Europeans' scope for action.

That was quickly brought home by the French energy giant Total which joined other European companies in signalling on Wednesday they could exit Iran.

"As long as Iran respects the provisions of the deal, the EU will also respect it," said Donald Tusk, president of the European Council and chairman of the leaders' gathering in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

The leaders of Britain, France and Germany briefed their peers. The three countries were EU signatories of the 2015 deal that gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbing its nuclear programme but which Trump dismissed as "the worst deal ever."

The head of the bloc's executive, Jean-Claude Juncker of the European Commission, has also presented options the leaders have to shield European investments in Iran and the slowly reviving economic cooperation, which many EU states hope to benefit from.

An EU source said after the talks the leaders agreed to start "work to protect European companies negatively affected by the U.S. decision."

Options include allowing the European Investment Bank to invest there and coordinating euro-denominated credit lines from EU states.

Foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain met their Iranian counterpart in Brussels on Tuesday and tasked their experts to come up with measures for a meeting of their deputies in Vienna next week.

'IT WILL TAKE TIME'

But a senior EU official admitted there was no silver-bullet solution and that it would "take some time" for the bloc to come up with what would be a complex mix of national and joint steps.

The EU's top energy and climate official, Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete, is heading to Iran on May 18-21 for talks on energy cooperation, a symbolic gesture from the EU that it wants to stay engaged despite the U.S. withdrawal.

In his criticism of the accord, which the other signatories Russia and China also want to uphold, Trump has said it did not go far enough in restraining Iran's ability to develop nuclear weapons, while not addressing its missile programme and involvement in various conflicts in the Middle East.

EU leaders agreed on Wednesday to keep on looking into these issues, but their previous efforts have not convinced Trump.

As the EU scrambles to salvage an accord they see as a key element of international security and a diplomatic success, they also wonder about their ties with Washington.

Tusk's unusually biting criticism of Trump on Wednesday highlighted the deep trans-Atlantic split: "Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, someone could even think: With friends like that, who needs enemies?"]]>
5/17/2018 4:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Trump says 'we'll see' as North Korea threatens to cancel summit]]>
Trump said the US government had not received any official word of a change in plans for the June 12 meeting in Singapore.

"We haven't been notified at all. We'll have to see," Trump said in the Oval Office.

"We haven't seen anything. We haven't heard anything. We will see what happens. Whatever it is, it is."

After weeks of warm words and diplomatic backslapping, Pyongyang abruptly threatened to pull out Tuesday, over US demands for "unilateral nuclear abandonment."

In an angrily worded statement, the North warned "if the US is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue."

The statement was attributed to first vice foreign minister Kim Kye Gwan and carried by state media KCNA.

In that case, he added, Pyongyang would have to "reconsider" its participation at next month's summit in Singapore.

The first vice foreign minister also tore into Trump's National Security Advisor John Bolton for drawing parallels between North Korea and Libya, calling the comparison "absolutely absurd."

"We do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him," he said of Bolton.

Bolton has pushed the idea of a deal with North Korea like that reached with Libya's Moamer Kadhafi, who agreed in 2003 to the elimination of his country's nuclear program and chemical weapons arsenal to gain sanctions relief.

After giving up his atomic program, Kadhafi was killed in 2011 in an uprising backed by NATO bombing.

- A plea from China -

Experts have not been surprised by the sudden about face, expecting bumps in the road as tough issues to be discussed in the meeting come into sharper focus.

Washington is pressing for North Korea's complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. But so far, the North has given no public indication of what it is offering, beyond a broad commitment to denuclearization of the "Korean peninsula."

Pyongyang "made clear on several occasions that precondition for denuclearization is to put an end to anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmail of the United States," the North Korean minister said.

In the past, Pyongyang has demanded the withdrawal of US troops stationed in the South, and an end to Washington's nuclear umbrella over its ally.

China, North Korea's sole major ally, called for the summit to go ahead.

"The situation on the peninsula has eased up, which is worth cherishing," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing.

Minister Kim also dismissed offers by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for US economic aid if the North denuclearizes.

"We have never had any expectation of US support in carrying out our economic construction and will not at all make such a deal in future," he said.

The White House said plans for the summit were moving ahead.

"The president is ready if the meeting takes place. And if it doesn't, we will continue the maximum pressure campaign that has been ongoing," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.

- Tightrope diplomacy -

The North Korean warning follows a weeks-long charm offensive that has seen Kim Jong Un hold a historic summit with the South's president and meet twice with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Pyongyang also raised hopes ahead of the US summit by announcing it will destroy its nuclear testing site next week.

Analysts said Pyongyang appeared to be trying to redefine the terms of the debate.

"It's a diplomatic tactic," Kim Hyun-wook, professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, told AFP, calling it "brinkmanship to change the US position."

"It looks like Kim Jong Un was pushed into accepting US demands for 'denuclearization-first' but is now trying to change its position after normalizing North Korea-China relations and securing economic assistance," he added.

"The classic North Korean tightrope diplomacy between the US and China has begun."

US officials have repeatedly claimed credit for Washington's "maximum pressure" policy for bringing Pyongyang to the negotiating table.

Joshua Pollack of the Middlebury Institute for International Studies said Pyongyang had been irritated by the "triumphalist tone."

"The North Koreans aren't happy with what they're seeing and hearing," he said. "There is still a yawning gulf between expectations for diplomacy in Pyongyang and Washington, DC."

- Thunderstruck -

KCNA also denounced the Max Thunder joint military exercises being held between the US and South Korea as a "rude and wicked provocation," and Seoul said it had received a message cancelling planned high-level talks "indefinitely."

The two-week drills started last Friday and involves some 100 aircraft from the two allies, including F-22 stealth fighter jets.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters it had received "no notification" of a position change by North Korea on next month's meeting.

The exercises were "not provocative" and would continue, she added.]]>
5/17/2018 3:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Cambridge Analytica shared data with Russia: whistleblower]]>
Christopher Wylie, who leaked information on the British-based firm's hijacking of data on millions of Facebook users, told a Senate panel he believes Russian intelligence services had access to data harvested by the consultancy.

Wylie told the panel that Russian-American researcher Aleksandr Kogan, who created an application to harvest Facebook user profile data, was working at the same time on Russian-funded projects, including "behavioral research."

"This means that in addition to Facebook data being accessed in Russia, there are reasonable grounds to suspect that CA may have been an intelligence target of Russian security services...(and) that Russian security services may have been notified of the existence of CA's Facebook data," Wylie said in his written testimony.

Wylie added that Cambridge Analytica "used Russian researchers to gather its data, (and) openly shared information on 'rumor campaigns' and 'attitudinal inoculation'" with companies and executives linked to the Russian intelligence agency FSB.

The hearing is part of a broad inquiry on both sides of the Atlantic over the misuse of Facebook data by the consulting firm working on Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

Facebook has accused Cambridge Analytica of misappropriating its user data by violating terms of the data agreement with Kogan, the academic researcher whose app was downloaded by some 270,000 Facebook users and also "scraped" data from an estimated 87 million.

Facebook has said other apps may also have misused personal data and this week suspended some 200 applications as part of its investigation.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that the FBI and Justice are investigating Cambridge Analytica for potential criminal violations.

The Times said it was unclear whether the probe was linked to the one led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

- 'Black ops' at CA -

Wylie told the panel that "the ethos of the firm was 'anything goes'" for its political campaigns, including "attempting to divert health ministry funds in a struggling African country to support a politician's re-election campaign."

He told senators that one of the goals of firm was to discourage or suppress voter turnout, especially of black voters, and that this was a focus of Trump ally Steve Bannon.

"You could request voter suppression," Wylie said in response to a question about tactics used in political campaigns.

"I am aware of research that was being looked at about what motivates and indeed what demotivates certain types of people" to vote, Wylie said.

He added that he was aware of "black ops" at the company, "which I understood to include using hackers to break into computer systems to acquire 'kompromat' or other intelligence for its clients."

He said that one of the tactics used to interfere with voter participation included "weaponizing fear."

"In one country, CA produced videos intended to suppress turnout by showing voters sadistic images of victims being burned alive, undergoing forced amputations with machetes and having their throats cut in a ditch," he said.

"These videos also conveyed Islamophobic messages. It was created with a clear intent to intimidate certain communities, catalyze religious hatred, portray Muslims as terrorists and deny certain voters of their democratic rights."

Cambridge Analytica announced earlier this month it was shutting down, unable to recover from the Facebook-linked scandal.

Its chief executive Alexander Nix was suspended after he was filmed by undercover reporters bragging about ways to win political campaigns, including through blackmail and honey traps.

Another whistleblower said that Britons' personal data may have been misused by a pro-Brexit campaign ahead of the 2016 referendum in which Britain voted to leave the European Union.]]>
5/17/2018 12:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[9-party meetings on GERD to resume in Cairo in June]]>
Addressing the media after the end of the nine-party meeting, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that negotiations between the relevant contingents of the Nile Basin countries ended with having all participants agree to commit to the nine-party meeting’s outcomes that were outlined in a specific agreement signed by all parties.

“This round of negotiations was characterized with transparency,” Shoukry said, adding that the talks tackled all details of the most important issues and their solutions.

Second nine-party’s meeting outcomes:



The participants agreed on scheduling a regular tripartite meeting to be held between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan every six months on a rotational basis to enhance mutual cooperation between the three brotherly countries in a way that serves their interests and fulfills the aspirations of their peoples.


ab0e4a46-580d-467c-965a-e8bb03c5ecdf

They also agreed on establishing a Tripartite Infrastructure Fund to move forward with joint infrastructure development projects, as well as having the Tripartite National Committee (TNC) of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt to deliver its concerns and remarks to the French consulting firm BRLi over its introductory technical report that was not mutually agreed upon.

The consultant shall respond to the inquires submitted over the introductory report within three weeks and one week before Cairo’s nine-party meeting on June 12-13, which will be attended by the TNC.

2b7fe9ea-5cc5-4a41-b26f-ebac7145bf53 (1)

An independent scientific study group comprising of 15 members from the three countries will be consensually formed and shall submit the results of its work by August 2018 to be considered in the three countries’ future meetings.

On May 5, the technical committee of the Nile Basin countries of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, and their respective irrigation ministers, held a meeting in Adis Ababa with no positive signs of progress.

The talks of the nine-party meeting held in Sudan last April also failed to reach agreement.

Nile Basin countries’ officials have repeatedly voiced their full commitment to the principles of the 2015 agreement that ensures fair and equitable distribution of Nile water among the said countries.

Previously, amid a serious deadlock in talks over the stalling of the technical studies of the disputed dam, Egypt suggested including the World Bank as a neutral mediator in the tripartite technical committee’s talks on the GERD.

However, on January 21, Ethiopia announced its rejection of the suggestion.

In 2011, Ethiopia started the construction of the 6,000-megawatt Renaissance Dam over the Blue Nile River, one of the major sources of water that forms the Nile River downstream.

Since then, concerns have risen in Cairo and Khartoum over the negative impact the Ethiopian dam will have on their historic Nile water share, amounting to 55.5 billion cubic meters in Egypt only, in accordance with the historic 1959 agreement with Sudan.

Egypt depends entirely on Nile water for drinking and irrigation purposes, reiterating consistently its "historical right" to the river guaranteed in the 1929 and 1959 Nile agreements, which granted the country 87 percent of Nile water and the right to veto or approve irrigation projects in the upstream countries.




]]>
5/16/2018 5:49:30 PM
<![CDATA[Helwan Brigades elements placed on terror list again]]>
The Court of Cassation upheld a verdict designating 135 elements of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group in the Helwan Brigades case on the terror list.

The criminal court had issued a ruling listing 215 elements on the terror list upon a memo presented by the prosecution in 2017, but 135 elements challenged the ruling in the Court of Cassation.

Late Public Prosecutor Hisham Barakat had ordered the detention of the suspects pending investigation in February 2015.

Charges

Barakat referred the convicts to the criminal court, as the Supreme State Security charged them with drawing up a scheme inside the jail to topple the regime and assigning elements outside the prison to carry out terrorist operations.

The defendants face charges of aiding and abetting escaped prisoners, resisting authority and public property damage. These crimes are worthy of the death penalty. They also face charges of forming an illegal group that aims to obstruct state institutions from doing their duties, violating citizens’ constitutional rights and harming national unity.

The defendants are also charged with forming an armed group to carry out operations against policemen and sabotage public property, as well as power pylons and transformers.

How they started

In August 2014, some of the members belonging to a self-proclaimed group called the “Helwan Brigades” released a video on social media networks threatening security forces. Twelve masked men were taped saying they were fed up with the Muslim Brotherhood’s peacefulness and vowed to attack all police facilities in Cairo.

After being arrested, 51 suspects during the investigation admitted joining the armed group and possessing fire arms, ammunition and explosives.

Escape attempts

In August 2017, a prosecution team went to Tora Prison for investigation after seven prisoners of the Helwan Brigades case tried to escape.

The prisoners caused chaos on the Autostrad in Saqr Quraish, a suburb of Cairo, while returning from court. One of prisoners stole a policeman’s revolver after the policeman was shot in his arm while trying to control the chaos.

The security forces managed to arrest five of the seven prisoners, according to the investigation that confirmed that the prisoners could escape without the help of any external elements.

Terror list

As part of Egypt’s efforts to fight terrorism, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi issued a new law in 2015 that gives a broad definition of terrorist entities and the sentences against them.

The law defines terrorist entities as a group or individuals that "through any means inside or outside the country, seek to call for the disabling of laws, or prevent state institutions or public authorities from functioning, or seek to attack the personal liberty of citizens, or other freedoms and rights granted to citizens by the law and constitution, or to harm national unity or social peace."

It also includes those who would commit attacks either inside or outside Egypt.

According to the law on terrorist entities (law No. 8/2015), the general prosecution shall create a proscribed terrorist list referred to by the Egyptian court, which has the final say as to individuals’/groups’ designation as terrorists.

Egypt has designated the Muslim Brotherhood, the Sinai-based militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, the Islamic State group, Palestinian Hamas's military wing and Al-Qassam Brigades as terrorist groups due to their violent acts, their attempts to incite chaos throughout the country and destabilize Egypt, and for claiming responsibility for a number of deadly attacks on security forces.

Most of the group’s members and leaders are either in prisons or have fled the country.

Additional reporting by Marina Gamil, Hanan Fayed and Walaa Ali ]]>
5/16/2018 4:32:53 PM
<![CDATA[Amid violence, escalations, Egypt searches for peace in Gaza ]]>
Several diplomats, including the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov, called on the international community to support Egypt's stance and aid Palestine not only to survive these escalations but to reach a political solution that guarantees peace and stability for the Palestinian people.

“This cycle of violence in Gaza needs to end, for it to end we need everyone of us to prevent an explosion that will drag everyone in the region into another deadly confrontation. The international community must step in and prevent war; we need to move forward quickly and effectively on all projects that we have been discussing for months and months to solve the energy, water and health crises of the population. We can only do this in coordination with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt. But before all that, the senseless violence needs to stop,” Mladenov said during his briefing to the Security Council on the situation in Gaza on May 15.

Furthermore, in a statement issued by UK’s Minister of State for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, he said that violence in Gaza and the West Bank has been "shocking". “The loss of life and the large number of injured Palestinians is tragic, and it is extremely worrying that the number of those killed continues to rise.”

Burt added that this violence that has been witnessed in Palestine is “destructive to peace efforts”.

The statement also praised the diplomatic efforts, saying that the UK is still committed to a two-state solution. “All sides now need to show real leadership and courage, promote calm, refrain from inflaming tensions further, and show with renewed urgency that the path to a two-state solution is through negotiation and peace,” the statement read.

As a result of the escalating violence in Gaza on May 14, at least 60 people were killed, including six children, and more than 1,300 people were reportedly injured by live ammunition and rubber bullets.

In statements for Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Abul Gheit, he described the Israeli actions in Gaza as "war crimes". He strongly denounced the “Israeli massacres” against the defenseless Palestinians.

Egypt has been trying during the past period to achieve peace and stability for Palestinians through several ways, including signing a reconciliation agreement between the rival movements of Fatah and Hamas in October 2017 in Cairo. It was believed that this reconciliation will pave the way for further peace talks.

Egypt’s government also has been opening Rafah crossing constantly to allow the passage of humanitarian cases. Rafah border crossing is one of the most important crossings between Egypt and Gaza which was formally under Gazan authorities’ control.

This crossing is mainly specialized for individual movements across borders, and was being prepared for the transfer of goods between the two courtiers. The importance of Rafah border crossing increased after Israeli forces destroyed the Yasser Arafat International Airport in 2001; which was the only airport allowing Palestinians to travel.

Palestinian authorities thanked Egypt for continuously opening the crossing in a statement issued February 21, stressing that the decision represents the Egyptian government’s keenness to ease the Palestinian people’s suffering.

On September 17, Hamas movement 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.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that there is no country as vital to the Palestinian cause as Egypt due to its historical and political position in the region. “Egypt has an opinion, a position and an interest in the Palestinian cause,” said Abbas.
]]>
5/16/2018 1:55:33 PM
<![CDATA[N.Korea says may reconsider summit with Trump, suspends talks with South]]>
The North's official KCNA news agency said earlier Pyongyang had called off high-level talks with Seoul, which had been due on Wednesday, in the first sign of trouble after months of warming ties.

Citing first vice minister of foreign affairs Kim Kye Gwan, KCNA later said the fate of the unprecedented U.S.-North Korea summit, as well as bilateral relations, "would be clear" if the United States spoke of a "Libya-style" denuclearisation for the North.

"If the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-U.S. summit," Kim Kye Gwan said, referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Trump and Kim are scheduled to meet in Singapore on June 12.

The vice minister specifically criticised U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, who has called for North Korea to quickly give up its nuclear arsenal in a deal that mirrors Libya's abandonment of its weapons of mass destruction.

North Korea clashed with Bolton when he worked under the Bush administration, calling him "human scum" and a "bloodsucker".

"We shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him," vice minister Kim said.

The North Korean statement, as well its cancellation of the talks with the South due to U.S.-South Korean military exercises, mark a dramatic reversal in tone from recent months when both sides embraced efforts to negotiate.

North Korea had announced it would publicly shut its nuclear test site next week.

'THREATS AND BLACKMAIL'

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday the United States would agree to lift sanctions on North Korea if it agreed to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons programme.

However, Kim Kye Gwan's statement appeared to reject that, saying North Korea would never give up its nuclear programme in exchange for trade with the United States.

"We have already stated our intention for denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and made clear on several occasions that precondition for denuclearisation is to put an end to anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmail of the United States," Kim said.

North Korea has always defended its nuclear and missile programmes as a necessary deterrent against perceived aggression by the United States, which keeps 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea has long said it is open to eventually giving up its nuclear arsenal if the United States withdraws its troops from South Korea and ends its “nuclear umbrella” security alliance with Seoul, though South Korean officials have said the North may be willing to compromise.

The United States has insisted on complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and the facilities needed to build the weapons as soon as possible.

Asian stock markets dipped after North Korea called off the talks with the South. Cancellation of the Singapore summit could see tension flare again even as investors worry about China-U.S. trade friction.

"This will weigh on the Korean reconstruction beneficiaries that have had a strong run on peace and even reunification hopes recently," JPMorgan analysts wrote in a note.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa spoke to Pompeo by telephone and discussed North Korea's postponement of the talks with the South, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Pompeo told Kang Washington would continue to make preparations for the U.S-North Korea summit, bearing in mind the recent action by North Korea, it said.

Kim Kye Gwan's statement came only hours after North Korea denounced the U.S.-South Korean military exercises as a provocation and pulled out of the talks with the South.

Earlier KCNA denounced the "Max Thunder" air combat drills, which it said involved U.S. stealth fighters and B-52 bombers.

American stealth F-22 fighters were spotted in South Korea earlier in May, but a spokesman for the U.S. military command in South Korea said no B-52s were scheduled to take part in the drills.

Neither B-52s or B-1B bombers were present at last year’s Max Thunder drills, according to a South Korean defence ministry official. The drills would go on as planned and were not aimed at any third party, the ministry said.

'MISERABLE FATE'

Cancellation of the first meeting between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader, would deal a major blow to what would be the biggest diplomatic achievement of Trump's presidency.

Trump has raised expectations for success even as many analysts have been sceptical about the chances of bridging the gap due to questions about North Korea's willingness to give up a nuclear arsenal that it says can hit the United States.

Kim Kye Gwan derided Bolton's suggestion that discussions with North Korea should be similar to those that led to components of Libya's nuclear program being shipped to the United States in 2004.

"(The) World knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq which have met miserable fate," Kim said.

"It is absolutely absurd to dare compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya which had been at the initial stage of nuclear development."

The outburst could be aimed at testing Trump's willingness to make concessions ahead of the summit, which is to be preceded by a visit to Washington next week by South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

A U.S. government expert on North Korea said Kim Jong Un may also be trying to gauge whether Trump is willing to walk away from the meeting.

Joshua Pollack, of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California, said Pyongyang appeared irritated by the U.S. administration's vow to maintain sanctions in spite of North Korean concessions.

"The North Koreans want a change in tone from the U.S., and at least so far, they're not hearing one," he said.

The doubt thrown over the summit comes a week after Trump abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, under which Tehran curbed its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of most international sanctions.

China said on Wednesday all parties "should show goodwill and avoid mutual provocation" to create a conducive atmosphere for denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.

The North-South talks had been due to focus on plans to implement a declaration that emerged from an inter-Korea summit last month, including promises to formally end the Korean War and pursue "complete denuclearisation".

South Korea described the North's decision as "regrettable". ]]>
5/16/2018 1:38:34 PM
<![CDATA[MPs referred to Speaker's Staff Office for violating rules]]>
The referred MPs are Ahmad Tantawi, Ahmad al-Bardisi, Iman Khedr, Talat Khalil and Shadid Abu Hindi. According to sources in the Parliament, the Speaker's Staff Office is expected to refer them to the Ethics Committee which is responsible for looking into the violations committed by MPs towards the Egyptian society's code of behavior, religion, social standards, etc.

The Speaker's Staff Office is responsible for the enforcement of Parliament‘s orders and is the link between the House and different agencies, ministries and other authorities. It consists of the Parliament’s speaker and his two deputies.

In February 2018, the Parliament had stripped Sadat of his membership after more than the two-thirds of the 596-member House voted for the decision in a roll call.

The decision came after the Parliament's Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee found Sadat guilty of leaking information related to internal conditions in Egypt to international institutions, aiming to tarnish the image of the Parliament.

The committee said that Sadat was also found guilty of forging the signatures of 16 MPs on two draft laws he had prepared on criminal procedures and NGOs.
]]>
5/16/2018 1:19:16 PM
<![CDATA[Syrian rebels pull out of their last besieged area]]>
It further cements President Bashar al-Assad's dominant position over the most populated parts of Syria after years of fighting, but means any new military campaign might risk direct conflict with foreign powers.

The withdrawal may also be the last in a series of agreed evacuations used by the government to defeat besieged insurgents by forcing them to surrender territory in return for safe passage to opposition areas in the north.

Often brokered by Assad's Russian allies, such agreements have in recent years become a defining characteristic of Syria's seven-year war. They have displaced over 100,000 people - rebel fighters and civilians.

The opposition has called it a policy of forced displacement amounting to demographic change to force out Assad's opponents. The Syrian government has said nobody is forced to leave and those who stay must accept state rule.

The last besieged rebel area, being fully evacuated on Wednesday, is the large enclave located between the cities of Hama and Homs around the towns of Rastan, Talbiseh and Houla.

Rebels still hold large swathes of northwest and southwest Syria that are not besieged because they border Turkey and Jordan, which have at times backed the insurgents and are guarantors of limited truces in those areas.

The only other area still surrounded by the Syrian army, in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp south of Damascus, is held by Islamic State fighters who look unlikely to agree to withdraw to the patch of desert they still hold in east Syria.

More than a quarter of Syria is held by an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias that the United States helped in the fight against Islamic State.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said he wants to pull American troops from Syria, but the Pentagon has said they are staying for now.

SIEGE

Assad focused on the remaining besieged rebel pockets last month after taking back Eastern Ghouta, the biggest insurgent enclave near Damascus, in a ferocious, weeks-long offensive.

Having held the area being evacuated on Wednesday for years, rebels agreed earlier this month to withdraw along with their families and other civilians who did not want to come back under Assad's rule.

Since the enclave straddled Syria's main north-south highway in the stretch between Hama and Homs, recapturing it will significantly ease communication lines in government areas.

Some 27,000 people have left the enclave already since the evacuations began earlier this month, a local government official said. The last convoy of buses began to leave on Wednesday, according to state media.

Last month, 66,000 people left Eastern Ghouta under similar agreements, the U.N. has said. Other major evacuations have included from east Aleppo in late 2016, when more than 30,000 people left.

Tens of thousands of other people have left smaller pockets in recent years. It has added to a humanitarian crisis in northwestern Idlib province, where the pre-war population of about 1 million people has been doubled by those fleeing other parts of the country.]]>
5/16/2018 1:14:04 PM
<![CDATA[Merkel backs Iran deal, cautious on euro zone reform]]>
In a wide-ranging policy speech to the Bundestag lower house of parliament, the chancellor of 12-1/2 years addressed a range of individual issues from euro zone reform to digitalisation and defence, without laying out a cohesive strategic vision.

A multilateral approach, including towards Iran, is the only option, said Merkel, who with other European powers is struggling to keep alive the nuclear deal without the United States.

Merkel described the deal as "everything other than ideal", but argued that international nuclear authorities said Iran was sticking to its commitments.

"This does not mean we are happy about everything Iran is doing, we have to talk about its role in Syria, its ballistic missile programme, other issues, but the question is whether you can talk better if you terminate an agreement or if you stay in it," Merkel told lawmakers.

"We say you can talk better if you remain in it," she added.

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the 2016 pact between Iran and six world powers which lifted most international sanctions in return for Tehran curbing its nuclear programme, under the surveillance of the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

"Despite all the difficulties that we have these days, the transatlantic relationship is and remains paramount," Merkel, whose fourth term atop a coalition started in March after her conservatives made big losses in a Sept. vote, told lawmakers.

"But these transatlantic relationships also must be able to deal with differences of opinion."

EURO ZONE BACKSTOP

Merkel also called for a strengthening of the euro zone and threw her weight behind proposals from her Social Democrat Finance Minister Olaf Scholz to transform the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) fund, into a facility to wind down bad banks.

Merkel and Scholz are at odds with French President Emmanuel Macron over his more radical ideas to create a separate euro zone budget, appoint a finance minister and convert the bloc's ESM emergency rescue fund into a European monetary fund.

Merkel, adamant that Germans will not take on greater risks, said that individual members must take responsibility for themselves within a currency union. She also said she supported developing the ESM "to give it tasks that come close to those of a international monetary fund".

"I agree that when a lot of progress has been made on reducing risks nationally, we can have a common backstop and this common backstop could be domiciled in the ESM, as the finance minister said yesterday," said Merkel.

Scholz had on Tuesday suggested the ESM become a common backstop as long as risks in national banks' balance sheets were reduced first. This is a smaller step than Macron wants. He aims to turn it into a preventative fund to help members facing short-term financial problems.

Both leaders have said they will reach agreement before a summit in Brussels on June 28-29.

In a lively debate, the parliamentary leader of the far-right opposition Alternative for Germany (AfD), Alice Weidel, was scolded by Bundestag President Wolfgang Schaeuble for discriminating against women wearing headscarves in her speech.

"Burkas, headscarf girls, knifemen who live off benefits and other good-for nothings will not secure our prosperity, economic growth and above all the welfare state," Weidel had said to boos from other lawmakers.

She also quoted Czech President Milos Zeman: "If you live in a country where you are punished for fishing without a licence but not for illegally crossing a border, then you are fully justified in saying the country is ruled by idiots." ]]>
5/16/2018 12:57:51 PM
<![CDATA[Arab League Council holds extraordinary session on embassy move]]>
The meeting at the permanent delegates' level is held under Saudi Arabia at a request from Palestine.

Saudi Ambassador Osama Nugali said the meeting is held in preparations for an Arab foreign ministers' meeting on Thursday.

In statements prior to the meeting, the Palestinian Ambassador in Cairo and Permanent Delegate to the Arab League Diab Al Louh said the meeting should come up with decisions that are up to the unfolding events in the Palestinian territories.

He considered moving the US embassy on the anniversary of the Palestinian Nakbah as an aggression and provocation to Arab, Muslim and Christian feelings.

He also referred to the crimes committed by Israel against unarmed Palestinians and the importance of securing international protection for the Palestinians.]]>
5/16/2018 12:26:04 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia leaders to hold periodical summits every 6 months]]>
At the end of 14-hour negotiations, the foreign and irrigation ministers of the three countries as well as their chiefs of intelligence services signed a document on the outcome of the Addis Ababa meeting.

As regards the three-way fund of the infrastructure, the three countries agreed that senior officials will meet to discuss the best ways to set up the fund. Their recommendations will be submitted to the leaders of the three countries via the ministers concerned.

The Egyptian delegation to Addis Ababa talks comprises Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, acting Intelligence chief Abbas Kamel and Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Ati.]]>
5/16/2018 10:38:39 AM
<![CDATA[North Korea suspends talks with South, warns on Trump-Kim summit]]>
North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency called the U.S.-South Korean "Max Thunder" air combat drills, which it said involved U.S. stealth fighters and B-52 bombers, a "provocation" that went against the trend of warming North-South ties.

"This exercise, targeting us, which is being carried out across South Korea, is a flagrant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula," Yonhap quoted KCNA as saying.

"The United States will also have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities."

Trump and Kim have been due to meet in Singapore on June 12 for a summit that until recently had looked impossible given the insults and threats the two leaders exchanged over the past year as tension rose over North Korea's development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States.

Heather Nauert, spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department said it had no information from North Korea about threat to cancel the summit and that it continued to plan for that meeting.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Any cancellation of the summit, the first meeting between U.S. and North Korean leaders, would deal a major blow to Trump’s efforts to score the biggest diplomatic achievement of his presidency.

He has raised expectations for a successful meeting even as many analysts have been skeptical of the chances of bridging the gap due to questions about North Korea’s willingness to give up a nuclear arsenal that now threatens the United States.

WARMER TIES

Wednesday's meeting was due to focus on plans to implement a declaration that emerged from an April 27 inter-Korea summit in the border village of Panmunjom, including promises to formally end the Korean War and pursue "complete denuclearization," the South's unification ministry, which handles ties with the North, said on Tuesday.

A Pentagon spokesman confirmed the “Max Thunder” exercises, an annual drill involving the U.S. and South Korean air forces. He did not immediately provide further details.

Last year, Max Thunder involved about 1,500 U.S. and South Korean personnel flying aircraft including F-16 fighter jets, according to a U.S. Air Force website.

South Korea's National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong said in early March, after meeting Kim, that the North Korean leader understood that "routine" joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States would continue in spite of a warming of ties.

This was widely considered to be a major North Korea concession, though Pyongyang never publicly withdrew its long-standing demand for an end to joint U.S.-South Korea military drills.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday the United States would agree to lift sanctions on North Korea if it agreed to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons programme, a move that would create economic prosperity that "will rival" that of South Korea.

Last month, Pompeo became the first serving U.S. official to meet North Korean leader Kim, when he visted Pyongyang to lay the groundwork for the meeting with Trump. He returned again to North Korea this month for a second meeting, after which Kim agreed to the release of three American prisoners.

A South Korean presidential adviser warned on Tuesday that an incremental North Korean approach to denuclearization at the June 12 summit would not be acceptable to Trump or the South Korean public.

North Korea has said it will dismantle its nuclear bomb test site some time between May 23 and May 25 in order to uphold its pledge to cease tests, its state media reported on Saturday, a month ahead of a planned North Korea-U.S. summit in Singapore.

North Korea has invited international media to witness the destruction of the site, but not technical inspectors, leaving disarmament experts and nuclear scientists wondering how effective the plan is – and whether it will be safe. ]]>
5/16/2018 4:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Judge refuses to dismiss ex-Trump campaign aide Manafort's criminal case]]>
In a sharp rebuke of those claims, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had followed all the Justice Department's rules when he hired Mueller and Mueller's case against Manafort is not overly broad or improper.

Rosenstein "expressly approved the Special Counsel’s investigation of the facts alleged in the indictment, so there has been no violation of the regulations, and the Special Counsel did not act without authority," she wrote. ]]>
5/16/2018 4:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Judge refuses to dismiss ex-Trump campaign aide Manafort's criminal case]]>
In a sharp rebuke of those claims, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had followed all the Justice Department's rules when he hired Mueller and Mueller's case against Manafort is not overly broad or improper.

Rosenstein "expressly approved the Special Counsel’s investigation of the facts alleged in the indictment, so there has been no violation of the regulations, and the Special Counsel did not act without authority," she wrote. ]]>
5/16/2018 4:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Iran upbeat on nuclear deal hopes after EU talks]]>
Mohammad Javad Zarif met EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini ahead of evening talks with his counterparts from Britain, France and Germany -- the three European signatories to the 2015 landmark accord who are scrambling to preserve it.

Tehran has warned it is prepared to resume "industrial-scale" uranium enrichment "without any restrictions" unless Europe can provide solid guarantees that it can maintain the economic benefits it gained from the nuclear agreement despite the United States reimposing sanctions.

Zarif gave an upbeat assessment after a "good and constructive" meeting with Mogherini.

"I believe we're on the right track to move forward in order to ensure that interests of all the JCPOA remaining participants, particularly Iran, will be preserved and guaranteed," he told reporters. The deal's official name is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

Mogherini said it had been a "very productive" meeting but indicated it was the start of a long road.

"We are working on the measures that we can start to put in place and we will look at the content of that," she said.

"One thing is absolutely sure is that the European Union is determined to preserve this deal that is essential to our security and the security of the region."

Zarif's meetings in Brussels cap a whirlwind global tour, including trips to both Russia and China, the two other signatory nations, in a bid to bolster support.

- 'Respect the deal' -

Europeans have sought to play down expectations of Tuesday's meeting, stressing the enormous challenge of finding a way around US sanctions punishing foreign businesses trading with Iran, which have global reach.

The European Union insists the deal is working, pointing to repeated UN inspections verifying the Islamic republic's compliance with its side of the bargain.

We will make it clear to Zarif "that we stand by the agreements and also expect Iran to abide by them," said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

EU leaders aim to show a united front on preserving the Iran deal when they meet for a pre-summit dinner in Sofia on Wednesday, European Council President Donald Tusk said.

"I would like our debate to reconfirm without any doubt that as long as Iran respects the provisions of the deal, the EU will also respect it," Tusk said in a letter to the leaders on the eve of the summit.

European firms, especially those from France and Germany, rushed to invest in Iran following the 2015 accord, under which Tehran agreed to freeze its nuclear programme in return for an end to punishing international sanctions.

German exports to Iran totalled nearly 3.0 billion euros in 2017, while French exports soared from 562 million euros in 2015 to 1.5 billion in 2017 and oil giant Total has pledged to invest some $5 billion in the South Pars gas field.

- 'No illusion' -

When he quit the deal last week, US President Donald Trump gave businesses a maximum of six months to wind up operations in Iran or face swingeing penalties under American sanctions.

"We have to be realistic about the electrified rail, the live wire of American extra-territoriality and how that can serve as a deterrent to business," said British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

French President Emmanuel Macron held phone talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, according to a Kremlin statement, which said they had "confirmed Russia and France's commitment to make the deal work".

Zarif was in Moscow to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday, a day after visiting Beijing.

Johnson said the Europeans were "under no illusion about Iran's disruptive behaviour but we think we can tackle those in other ways outside the JCPOA."

Washington has long complained that the nuclear deal does nothing to stop Iran's ballistic missile programme or its interference in conflicts across the Middle East from Syria to Yemen.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington still wants to work with Europe to counter Iran's "malign behaviour" and was working hard to thrash out a more wide-ranging deal with its European partners.

However on Tuesday the US hit Iran's central bank governor with sanctions.]]>
5/16/2018 4:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[North Korea will join "efforts for a total ban on nuclear tests"]]>
North Korea, which is believed to have tested six nuclear weapons, has said it will dismantle its only known nuclear test site this month ahead of a meeting on June 12 between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un.

"Discontinuation of nuclear tests and follow up measures are an important process for global disarmament and DPRK will join international disarmament efforts for a total ban on nuclear tests," Han told the disarmament forum, using his country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Han did not explicitly mention the Comprehensive nuclear Test-Ban Treaty aimed at introducing that total ban.

North Korea is one of the so-called Annex 2 states that must ratify that treaty for it to come into force. The United States is another, though Washington has signed the treaty, which Pyongyang has not.

"DPRK will further make peace efforts to achieve the development of inter-Korean relations, defuse acute military tensions and substantially remove the danger of war on the Korean peninsula," Han said.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), which works towards bringing the treaty into force, welcomed his remarks.

"I am encouraged to see reports that the DPRK permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament declared his country’s intention to 'join international efforts to ban nuclear tests'," CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo said in a statement.

"We reiterate our offer for CTBTO to assist in any way in this endeavour."]]>
5/16/2018 1:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt Parliament Daily Brief]]>
Parliament approves draft law regulating street food carts

The Egyptian parliament approved on Monday a draft law to regulate the operation of food carts in Egypt. The draft law would end the problem facing governmental authorities over effective mechanisms that seek to organize this informal business.

The draft law, presented by Member of Parliament Mohamed Ali Youssef, head of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) Committee in the parliament, allows the sale, preparation and cooking of food from mobile food units under a license issued by the local administration authorities and the bodies concerned with the New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA).

Social Housing

According to the new social housing law, a Social Housing Fund will be established affiliated with the Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities. The fund will be considered a public service authority with several official offices in all of the country’s governorates.

The fund, according to the new law, will be responsible for providing low-income housing units in the areas that will be selected by the government. The government is expected to issue another detailed law following the final approval explaining the needed criteria and conditions for applying to have these housing units. The law will ban each family from having more than just one unit.

‘Egypt Support’ community dialogue on the pharmaceutical factories issue and the business sector law launches

Tuesday saw the launch of the community dialogue session on the issue of pharmaceutical factories and Law 203 that organizes the private sector, organized by the ‘Egypt Support’ coalition in their headquarters in the Fifth Settlement, Cairo.

Participating in the community dialogue, Chaired by Engineer Ahmed Samir, Chairman of the Industry Committee of the Parliament, in the presence of MP Mohamed Mohie El-Din, Deputy of the Industry Committee of the Parliament, a large number of pharmaceutical companies owners, including representatives of the Holding Company for the Pharmaceutical Industry, and representatives of the private sector companies discussed the most pertinent issues on the table.

The move comes within the framework of Egypt's support plan for the participation of civil society in the discussion of laws as a key partner in this issue.

Parliament approves "reconciliation in cases of building voilations" in principle

The Housing Committee, Chaied by Engineer Moataz Mahmoud, agreed Tuesday in principle to the draft law on reconciliation in building violations. However, a number of articles of the draft law, including the fines set, will remain under discussion during the next few meetings. It is worth mentioning that the article setting the fine amounts as of right now reads, “For reconciliation a fine should be paid at the based on the cost per meter of the surface area, as set out by Minister of Housing and Urban Facilities.”

Draft law on the protection of manuscripts approved

The Committee on Culture, Information and Antiquities of the House of Representatives in a meeting, chaired by Member of Parliament Osama Heikal, approved the draft law submitted by the government on the amendment of some provisions of Law No. 8 of 2009 on the protection of manuscripts.

According to the text of the draft law, the amendment included Article 1, which deals with the definition of manuscripts, and reads, “everything without handwriting before the printing age, whatever its form, whether it is an intellectual or artistic piece.”

Furthermore, Article 3, Par. 1 of the draft law stipulates, “a permanent committee of technical, legal and administrative experts shall be established in the Commission and representatives of Al-Azhar, Ministry of Islamic Endowments, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Defense, and libraries concerned with the preservation of manuscripts shall be on said committee. The committee will be in charge or the development of detailed standards for the manuscripts and their classification, numbering, evaluation and control to ensure preservation.”

Parliament approved amendments to the Egyptian Products Preference Law

In a Tuesday plenary session, chaired by Dr. Ali Abdel Aal, the House of Representatives approved the draft law submitted by the government to amend some provisions of Law No. 5 of 2015, which favours Egyptian products in government contracts; the law aims to increase competitiveness and fight unemployment.

The philosophy of the draft law is based on the preference of Egyptian products in government contracts in order to support the national industry by all available means, and to encourage businessmen and women to invest in the industrial field to benefit from the preferential advantages granted to the Egyptian producers.
]]>
5/16/2018 1:02:00 AM
<![CDATA[Top U.S. Senate intelligence Democrat backs Trump CIA nominee]]>
Senator Mark Warner said it had been a "difficult decision," but cited Haspel's 33-year career at the CIA and support from its workforce and past intelligence community leaders.

"Most importantly, I believe she is someone who can and will stand up to the President if ordered to do something illegal or immoral – like a return to torture," Warner said in a statement.

In a letter to Warner dated Monday, Haspel said the CIA should not have undertaken a past harsh interrogation program, which has been a focus of debate over her confirmation.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is due to vote on Wednesday on whether to approve Haspel. With Warner's support, she is expected to have the backing of all eight committee Republicans and at least two of the seven Democrats.

Despite criticism - including from Republican Senators Rand Paul and John McCain - because of past ties to the CIA's former rendition, detention and interrogation activities, Haspel is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate next week.

At least three other Democrats, all up for re-election this year in Republican-leaning states, have also said they support Haspel. On Tuesday, Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota announced she would be a "yes."

Haspel pledged at her confirmation hearing that she would never restart the program, in place after the Sept. 11 attacks but did not go as far as saying it should not have been started.

Haspel in 2002 served as station chief in Thailand, where the CIA conducted interrogations at a secret prison using methods including waterboarding, widely viewed as torture.

Three years later, she drafted a cable ordering the destruction of videotapes of those interrogations.

"While I won't condemn those that made those hard calls, and I have noted the valuable intelligence collected, the program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world," Haspel said in the letter.

"With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior Agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken. The United States must be an example to the rest of the world, and I support that," Haspel said. ]]>
5/16/2018 12:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Turkey, Israel exchange jibes, expulsions in escalating row]]>
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit back at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Twitter by calling Israel an "apartheid state" as Ankara ordered the Israeli ambassador to leave.

Ambassador Eitan Naeh was summoned to the Turkish foreign ministry and told to "return to his country for a period of time", said a foreign ministry official, who asked not to be named.

Israel responded by ordering the Turkish consul in Jerusalem to leave for an unspecified period of time, its foreign ministry said.

Naeh had been in his post only since December 2016 after a reconciliation deal earlier that year ended a dispute over the May 2010 deadly storming of a Turkish ship by Israeli commandos that saw ties downgraded for more than half a decade.

That deal was strongly backed by the United States, which was keen to see Israel make up with one of its very few key Muslim partners.

Turkey had already called back its ambassador to Tel Aviv -- as well as the envoy to Washington -- for consultations over Monday's killing of 60 Palestinians by Israeli forces on the Gaza border,

Ankara has reacted with fury to the killings, which came on the same day as the US formally moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

- 'Blood of Palestinians' -

Erdogan, currently on a visit to Britain, had on Monday stepped up his rhetoric, accusing Israel of "state terror" and "genocide" over the killings.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit back at Erdogan, with a tweeted jibe in Hebrew that as a leading supporter of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas "there's no doubt he's an expert on terror and slaughter."

Responding to the Israel premier on Twitter in English, Erdogan further sharpened his language, saying "Netanyahu is the PM of an apartheid state that has occupied a defenceless people's lands for 60+ yrs in violation of UN resolutions."

"He has the blood of Palestinians on his hands and can't cover up crimes by attacking Turkey," Erdogan added.

After talks with British Premier Theresa May, Erdogan warned that history "will not forgive" Israel or the United States for moving the American embassy to Jerusalem in defiance of outrage in the Islamic world.

"America says 'I am strong and so I am right'. No, you are not right," Erdogan said.

- 'Strong message' -

While Turkey under Erdogan has never completely severed ties with Israel, the Turkish strongman has also never shied away from the strongest criticism.

He famously walked out of a January 2009 debate in Davos with then Israeli president Shimon Peres, complaining he was not given enough time to respond and repeatedly saying "one minute".

Turkey on Tuesday began observing three days national mourning declared by Erdogan for the Palestinian dead, with flags flying at half mast and cultural events cancelled.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had earlier urged Islamic countries to review their ties with Israel and said Ankara was calling an extraordinary summit of the world's main pan-Islamic body, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in Istanbul on Friday.

Erdogan said in London that the meeting "will give a very strong message to the world" on the cause of the Palestinians.

Who might come is unclear but in a possible bid to rally support for the summit, Erdogan spoke by telephone to Jordan's King Abdullah and Malaysia's 92-year-old new leader Mahathir Mohamad.

Erdogan regards himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause and last year hosted an OIC summit in Istanbul to denounce US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Yildirim said after Friday's summit a giant rally would be held at the vast Yenikapi meeting area in Istanbul under the slogan of "Stop the Oppression" to express solidarity with the Palestinians.

Hundreds of people also held protests for a second day in Istanbul and Ankara which passed off peacefully, although one man was arrested in Ankara for throwing eggs and stones at the residence of the Israeli ambassador.]]>
5/16/2018 12:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Palestinian will continue fighting, Egypt spares no effort: Fatah spokesman]]>CAIRO – 15 May 2018: On occasion of the 70th anniversary of the 1948 Palestinian exodus, the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, Fatah, on Tuesday said people of Palestine are more determined to struggle for an independent Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital.


In a statement, Fatah added that the Palestinian exodus, or Nakba (catastrophe), will remain a “black mark on the forehead of humanity that allowed such crimes to be committed against Palestinians.”


In an interview with Egypt Today, Fatah spokesman Osama Al-Qawasmi deemed the decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem a manifestly absurd decision that hinders all the peace processes that are being carried out in the region.


He added that the U.S. administration chose not to have any role in the peace process by choosing Israel’s side.


Qawasmi also stressed that the people of Palestine will never give up their land, and that Jerusalem is Palestinian, while any other scenario is utterly rejected. He also added that the U.S. decision and any other scenario.


As for how Israeli forces dealt with marches on the 70th Nakba day, Qawasmi said Israel fears a new Palestinian intifada, so that it targets all Palestinians, creating massacres without the international community moving a muscle against the Israeli violations.


“Israel is trying to impose its occupation and policy over Palestinians, but we will not accept that,” Qawasmi said. “Every day, more will sacrifice their lives for the sake of Palestine, and these marches are just a start.”


Qawasmi pointed out that there are a number of steps that are being taken towards a Palestinian reconciliation that sets Palestine as its main case.


Moreover, he said Egypt, represented in its political leadership, spared no effort in the Palestinian case. He added that there is no peace process without Egypt, which he described as the “older sister that always lends a hand to Palestinians”.


The spokesperson also said he noticed the UN Security Council and the international community turning their backs on Palestine and the Israeli violations and crimes against Palestinians. “More than 50 martyrs were killed by Israel and the international community is only watching, but we will not turn our back on our lands and will not fall back as long as this negligence of Israel’s crimes continues.”


Qawasmi said Palestinians will never be settled with a reality where Jerusalem is Israel’s capital because it is the capital of Palestine and that any peace negotiations about recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital will be rejected.



Additional reporting by Mohamed Zain]]>
5/15/2018 7:54:17 PM
<![CDATA[Model AU deemed one of Sisi's achievements: MPs ]]>
Parliamentarians who spoke to Egypt Today asserted the importance of the MAU in bridging the gap among the African continent's youth and increasing their opportunities in displaying various ideas and visions about different issues. It's noteworthy that Egypt will chair and host the upcoming African Summit scheduled to be held in 2019.

"The MAU experience is an inspiring attempt to support youth in the political arena through monitoring real problems of the African continent," said Maged Abul Khair, deputy chief of Parliament’s African Affairs Committee.

Abul Khair stressed that President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi had pointed out that all African youth from different countries have faced similar problems and challenges.

"The MAU is deemed a positive vision inspiring the youth who will be Egypt's future wheel, provided with training programs to lead the country," Abul Khair added.

Yehia al-Kedwany, deputy member of Parliament's National Security and Defense Committee, asserted that "Egypt is retuning back to the African side as a central country in Africa under the leadership of President Sisi."

"The MAU is a chance to connect all the African youth together and a good opportunity to boost relations between Egypt and other African countries," Kedwany noted.

Mahmoud Yehia, member of Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, praised the MAU, adding, "Sisi is a pioneer of restoring Egypt's leading position among African countries and at the world level."

"Egypt must exploit this event to boost ties with African countries amid recent unrests and worries that Egypt has witnessed at the strategic level," Yehia told Egypt Today.

Yehia emphasized the importance of deepening the concepts of the Egyptian strategic position as an Arab, Muslim and African country. "Egyptian youth must travel to Africa and explore more cultures and ideas."

Mahmoud Hussein, member of Parliament's Youth and Sports Committee, told Egypt Today that Egypt has been drawing its position on the political map in Africa since 2014, after long decades of neglect given to the rich continent.

"The MAU experience is one of the achievements of President Sisi in his second presidential term," Hussein said.

The exceptional MAU session started with speeches, delivered by youths from participating countries, on challenges facing African countries and means to overcome them to secure a promising, terror-free world full of job opportunities for youth.

Sisi attended the final session and listened to the different speeches of the participating youth and then delivered a short speech expressing his pride and delight of the awareness level among the African youth regarding the challenges facing the continent.

“Almost all the speakers talked about the same case... they sent a clear message to all the people of Egypt and other African countries that stability, counterterrorism, good education and youth employment are musts,” Sisi said.

He added that the MAU followed the steps of a similar model held by the National Academy for Youth last November, which reflects the state’s desire to enable young people to assume leading positions in the government.

Sisi empowerment of Egypt's youth

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

In September 2015, Sisi revealed the launch of the Presidential Leadership Program (PLP), which seeks to educate and enlighten junior cadres who can be the country’s future leaders.

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 outlined the relationship between Sisi and the youth. “I’m very proud of you,” Sisi said during the first Youth Conference.

Sisi also paid attention to young detainees and ordered the establishment of a national committee to review the statuses of young prisoners. As a result, three groups of young prisoners were released upon a 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 standards of the constitutional presidential pardon will be on the list, according to Kholy.

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

Sisi issued 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.

If Sisi has accomplished his promises given to the youth, he will write his name in gold in Egyptian history, as he will be one of the creators of Egypt’s future leaders.
]]>
5/15/2018 3:56:56 PM
<![CDATA[Food inspection campaigns ramps up ahead of Ramadan ]]>
Governmental inspection campaigns and spot-checks have been launched to target food stalls, butcheries and the most popular meat outlets to ensure its safety and validity for the human use.

Also, large quantities of high-quality, reasonably- priced meat have been pumped into the market since meat is traditionally the main dish of the Ramadan breakfast table.

Mohamed Ayman, deputy governor of Cairo, said in press remarks on Tuesday that the governorate permitted several mobile food product stalls to operate normally beside the Armed Forces and Interior Ministry-affiliated stalls.

Ayman added that these stalls are well monitored and are subject to regular intensive campaigns to ensure that the food products they sell comply with food hygiene regulations.

“If any of these stalls is caught selling expired food or invalid goods, they will not be able to run their business on the streets again,” Ayman stressed.

The governmental inspection campaigns also include supermarkets and major food outlets in all governorates; harsh penalties have been imposed on whoever would be convicted with violating food safety regulations.

Annually, Egypt produces 650 thousand tones of meat, and imports 630,000 tons of meat and around 400,000 heads of cattle to cover 35 percent of the local consumption.


]]>
5/15/2018 2:52:36 PM
<![CDATA[All you need to know about ‘provocative’ poll scandal]]>

Egypt Today has compiled all the details that you need to know about the RT poll, which was later taken down from the website.



On Monday, May 14, RT put out a fraudulent map of the Arab world that shows the Halayeb Triangle as not part of Egypt. The map was the basis of an infograph published by RT highlighting the most powerful militaries of the Arab world in 2018, with Egypt coming at the top and Sudan at the bottom.

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Head of State Information Service (SIS), Diaa Rashwan – press photo


In press remarks on Monday, Karam Gabr, head of the National Press Authority, said that RT is showing persistence in attempting to harm Egypt, and he called on concerned parties from all media organizations to boycott the Russian network.

Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) said in a statement that the channel has removed the poll from its website after Cairo-based RT representatives were contacted.

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FILE - Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has contacted Russian authorities to express Egypt’s strong disapproval of the public survey launched by RT on Friday over the sovereignty of the Halayeb Triangle area located on the Egyptian-Sudanese border, the ministry said in a statement Saturday.

On Friday evening, RT launched a poll over the sovereignty of the Halayeb Triangle, asking whether the land belongs to Egypt or Sudan. The channel then apologized on Saturday and took the poll off its website after Egypt voiced its denouncement.


]]>
5/15/2018 11:06:06 AM
<![CDATA[Iraqi election: Where the power is expected to lie]]>
Following a trend common across the election this year, turnout has been low at around 44 percent. If confirmed once the final election results are announced, this percentage will be overshadowed by Lebanon's parliamentary election on May 6, which saw 49.2 percent of the electorate head for the polls, and will trump the Egyptian presidential election in March of this year, which saw a turnout of 41 percent. The recent Tunisian municipal elections, also held on May 6, fared the worst, with a turnout of just 33.7 percent.

An inherent feature of elections is that there are winners and losers, and rise of Sadr’s Sairoon coalition to the forefront of Iraqi politics has come at the expense of the traditional Shiite elite in Iraq. He is expected to win 54 seats when the final votes are counted.

The 2018 election has been dominated by five Shia coalitions, most notably the Dawa Party, which has split between the Nasr coalition and the State of Law coalition, the Fatah coalition, Sairoon, and the Hikma coalition.

Sadr heads the Sadrist movement, an Iraqi Islamic national movement that draws wide support from across different branches of Iraqi society; however his policies of social reform have helped him find favour with the poorer classes in Iraqi society. When the protest movement broke out in July 2015, it gained significant momentum when it was joined by the Sadrist movement. Transpiring from anti-government protests, which initially focused on addressing poor living conditions, the protest movement demanded reform of the political system, and is an important factor behind Sadr rally of support.
His Sairoon coalition, under which 489 candidates stood in the parliamentary election, was born from the protest movement, and has stood on an anti-Iranian platform sharply different from that of his Shiite opponents.

Sadr commands the fearsome Saraya al-Salam militia, which gained notoriety as the Mahdi Army during the post-2003 insurgency in Iraq when it openly fought against U.S. forces. Saraya al-Salam exists as a competitor to Iranian proxies in Iraq, such as Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq and Kata'ib Hezbollah. Sadr refused to adhere to the calls from Tehran and Qom to send troops to support the Assad regime in Syria, and tensions have remained high. Sadr, along with Iraq’s highest religious cleric Ali al-Sistani, have been vocal in their concern over Iranian influence in Iraq.

In contrast stands Hadi al-Amiri. Amiri heads the Badr Organization, a powerful Shiite-dominated militia backed by Tehran, which has been essential to maintaining stability in Iraq and has a strong popular base amongst the majority Shiite community in Iraq. Amiri is closely allied with Iran, and there are fears that he would introduce sectarian policies, similar to those introduced under Maliki’s premiership, which proved to be destructive to Iraqi society.

Amiri initially formed an alliance with Abadi, but later they announced that they would run on separate ballots, with the possibility of forming an alliance after the elections, in order to form a government. Those close to Amiri fall under his Fatah coalition. Amiri’s coalition is expected to come second in the parliamentary election, with an estimated 47 seats.

The Nasr Coalition is led by incumbent, Abadi, who rose to the premiership in 2014, following the rapid territorial expansion of ISIS, the collapse of the Iraqi Army, and the lack of faith in then Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki. In the knowledge that he would fail to attract the support of the staunchly Shiite south, which would likely sway towards the Iranian facing Amiri and Maliki, Abadi conducted a campaign which took him around the country in order to establish a secular support base.

Notably, he travelled to the Sunni region of Anbar to open a party headquarters, in the hope of winning the Sunni vote after the Iraq army’s successes against ISIS. He also opened a campaign office in Sulaimaniyah, which he visited on April 26 to attend the Nasr coalition conference. He also toured Erbil and Kirkuk in Kurdistan in a bid for support. Unheard of for a Shiite candidate in Iraq, who tends to stick to campaigning in the south, Abadi wasn’t able to attract enough support. His Nasr coalition will finish third, with an expected 42 seats.

Sadr will not become prime minister as he did not run in the election; however his likely victory will put him in a position of power during the negotiation process which will follow the official results. Candidates who aspire to take the helm of the fragile and fragmented Iraqi Parliament will have to play a tough balancing act. Sadr portrays himself as an Iraqi nationalist and is weary of Iranian support, thus he will be cautious of prompting a pro-Iranian figure. There are many other factors at play however, including that of powerful Sunni and Kurdish coalitions.
]]>
5/15/2018 10:59:42 AM
<![CDATA[US blocks call for independent Gaza inquiry at UN]]>
The violence on the Israel-Gaza border erupted as the new US embassy in East Jerusalem was opened.

"The Security Council expresses its outrage and sorrow at the killing of Palestinian civilians exercising their right to peaceful protest," read a draft of the statement.

"The Security Council calls for an independent and transparent investigation into these actions to ensure accountability," read the text.

In the bloodiest day, at least 55 Palestinians were killed in the clashes and more than 2,400 Palestinians wounded.

"The Security Council expresses its grave concern regarding recent developments in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the context of the peaceful protests in the Gaza Strip and the tragic loss of civilian lives," the draft statement read.

"The Security Council calls upon all sides to exercise restraint with a view to averting further escalation and establishing calm," it said.

"The Security Council calls on all States not to undertake any steps that further aggravate the situation, including any unilateral and unlawful measures undermining the prospects of peace."

It also said that any decisions and actions "which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect" -- a reference to the US decision to recognize East Jerusalem as Israel's capital. ]]>
5/15/2018 10:48:36 AM
<![CDATA[EU's Barnier fires new warning on June Brexit deadline]]>
"I think nobody must underestimate the key rendezvous of June," France's Barnier told a security conference in Brussels. "Because as I have often said, the clock is ticking."

Barnier said the "two key points where there is a risk of failure" is the Irish issue, and the governance of any future Brexit deal, which Britain says must be out of the hands of the EU's top court.

The EU says Britain must agree to a workable solution to the question of how to avoid a hard border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland by the June 28-29 summit.

Brussels has set the tight timeline so that a full divorce agreement can be tabled by October, to give the European and British parliaments time to ratify it by the day Britain leaves the bloc on March 29, 2019.

During a meeting of ministers from the remaining EU 27 countries, "Mr Barnier informed us that since 23rd of March no significant progress has been made," Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva told reporters.

- Border control -

EU leaders agreed at the March summit on a post-Brexit transition period lasting until the end of 2020, during which Britain will remain in the EU's common market in exchange for following EU rules without any voting rights.

Barnier later said that there had been "a little, not very little progress" but warned that more was urgently needed.

London has committed to avoid a "hard border" with checkpoints between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which all sides agree is vital to maintaining the 1998 Good Friday peace accords.

But Britain has also said it will not enter into a customs union with the EU post-Brexit and has been urged to find a solution to reconcile the two positions.

The EU has suggested a "backstop" proposal, in which only Northern Ireland would stay in a customs union with the EU post-Brexit, but London says that would effectively create a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Barnier and the EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini meanwhile both welcomed British proposals on a future security partnership with the EU.

The deal could include regular British-EU foreign policy talks, cooperation on military and aid missions, cooperation on defence projects and intelligence sharing, Barnier said.

But he reiterated that Britain could not participate in the EU's Galileo satellite programme, pointing out that London itself had approved EU rules saying that countries outside the bloc could not be involved.]]>
5/15/2018 6:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt’s ACA, FBI discuss cooperation over anti-corruption]]>
The two sides discussed the intensification of cooperation between the FBI National Academy Associates and the ACA, which represents Egypt in the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), providing technical support to the newly launched academy for governance, combating corruption and administrative reform in Egypt.

Erfan stressed that the ACA adopts a scientific mechanisms to limit corruption and maximize the role of mechanization in the state procedures. He noted that Egypt has made significant progress in implementing its domestic economic reform plan with all its bold and ambitious measures, with a package of community protection programs for the needy citizens.

Both sides discussed the role of the new anti-corruption academy to support policy-making and applied researches, with giving a special focus to eliminating corruption and violence, developing a plan for combating and preventing poverty, supporting ACA’s efforts aiming to enhance transparency and accountability in the main vulnerable sectors such as education and health.

In addition, the academy works on facilitating the integration of ACA in regional and global anti-corruption networks, based on international standards and best practices, besides launching another outreach campaign that pinpoints the dangers of corruption and its adverse impact on economy as well as building capacities of ACA staff, especially with regard to the preventive measures.

The Egyptian delegation included the minister of investment and international cooperation, Sahar Nasr, the attorney general, Nabil Sadeq, the head of the Central Audit Organization (CAO), Hesham Badawy, the head of the Money Laundering Combating Unit (MLCU), Ahmed Khalil, and Egypt's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Mohamed Idris.
Bribery and corruption have been rife in Egypt for long decades and was one of the main causes of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime president Hosni Mubarak.

President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi always asserted on applying strict measures within the government institutions to crack down any violation. He hailed the role played by the ACA in different occasions.

Egypt ranked 117th out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perception Index, scoring 32 points, down two points compared to 2016. A score of zero is highly corrupt while 100 is very clean.

Transparency International, the leading civil society organization fighting corruption worldwide, released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index in February.

A couple weeks before this report, the ACA – the regulatory body responsible for enforcing laws and regulations within state bodies – detained the governor of Monufia Hesham Abdel Baset and two businessmen in Sadat City over charges of corruption.

Security sources said the governor was under the ACA surveillance for a while, and the authority managed to record phone calls by Abdel Baset proving that he agreed to take LE 2m as a bribe in return for land licenses.

The sources pointed out that the ACA detected a number of corruption cases involving the arrested governor. The ACA referred the governor to the public prosecution for investigation.

The ACA’s efforts were very fruitful in the last years and prosecuted several high-profile cases which led to a noticeable decline in corruption incidents.

In April 2016, the Cairo Criminal Court sent former agriculture minister, Salah El Din Mahmoud Helal, and his office manager to 10 years in prison each on corruption charges.

The prosecution said in a court session that Helal and his office manager had accepted bribes including a luxury home, membership of an exclusive sports club, clothing from high-end fashion stores, and mobile phones.

In January 2017, former Secretary-General of Egypt's State Council Wael Shalaby committed suicide while in custody after his arrest for alleged corruption.

This incident came days after a procurement manager at the State Council, Gamal Al-Laban, was arrested and charged with receiving bribes worth millions of Egyptian pounds.
]]>
5/15/2018 3:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Parliament ratifies new laws on social housing, cybercrime]]>
Cybercrime law

The Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law mainly aims at combating the illegal use of computers and information networks. It defines commonly used concepts such as “websites, traffic data, digital directory, personal statements and national security”.

The bill regulates Internet Service Providers’ (ISPs) activities and their obligation to provide national security authorities with information on users suspected of spreading terrorist and extremist ideologies via the internet. It also aims at securing personal data of internet users.

Social Housing

According to the new social housing law, a Social Housing Fund will be established affiliated with the Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities. The fund will be considered a public service authority with several official offices in all of the country’s governorates.

The fund, according to the new law, will be responsible for providing low-income housing units in the areas that will be selected by the government. The government is expected to issue another detailed law following the final approval explaining the needed criteria and conditions for applying to have these housing units. The law will ban each family from having more than just one unit.

Clinical research

The new law of clinical research governs the organization of clinical medical research in Egypt. Clinical researches are the tests conducted on human participants, or groups of humans, in order to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of newly developed medications or medical devices. This law has raised many concerns over the ethical nature and legality of the process.

Upper Egypt Development

The Parliament passed a bill submitted by the government to set up the Upper Egypt Development Authority, as a whole. During the session, the committee explained that the draft law comes from the desire of the state to implement its constitutional commitment stipulated in Article 236, P. 1, of the Constitution, which reads, “the State shall ensure the development and implementation of a plan for economic, including that of Upper Egypt, Sinai, Matrouh and Nubia regions, with the participation of its people in development projects and prioritizing that the people benefit from these projects, while also taking into account the cultural and environmental patterns of the local community within ten years from the date of implementation of this Constitution.”
]]>
5/15/2018 3:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[Parliament approves draft law regulating street food carts]]>
The draft law, presented by MP Mohamed Ali Yousif, head of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) Committee in the parliament, allows the sale, preparation and cooking of food from mobile food units under a license issued by the local administration authorities and the bodies concerned with the New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA).

The draft law defines mobile food units as any cart, vehicle or mobile platform whatever its form and prepared for the cooking, preparation or sale of food, beverages or others.

The draft law requires mobile food units to follow the provisions of the laws, especially with regard to maintaining the safety of their products, preventing pollution and the safe disposal of waste, without violating the rules of traffic.

It specifies the age of applicants for the license to operate the mobile food unit at 18 years old with the condition that he has not been sentenced to a criminal penalty or a misdemeanor against honor or trust unless he is rehabilitated.

The draft law also specifies the license period of not less than three years and to be renewable, and determines the technical requirements, equipment to be available in the unit according to its type. The license shall be obtained for a fee not exceeding LE5,000 per year. The draft law exempts licensed units from the profits tax for a period of three years from the date of the license.
]]>
5/15/2018 1:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Arab states condemn massacre of Palestinians after US embassy move]]>
As the chairman of the Al Quds Committee of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Moroccan king said that he informed US President Donald Trump of the importance of Al Quds city to the Arabs and divine religions.

Changing the historical and legal status of the Palestinian city will plunge the Palestinian cause into the maze of religious conflicts, said the king.

He renewed his refusal of the US decision on Jerusalem, saying it is a unilateral action and violates the UN resolutions.

He will spare no effort to mobilize the international community and fulfill the rights of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state with Al Quds as its capital, the king reiterated.

The Arab League

The Arab League called for immediate and urgent international intervention to stop the massacre committed by the Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinian people, especially in the Gaza Strip.

In press statements, Assistant Secretary-General of the Arab League for Palestine and Occupied Arab Territories Ambassador Said Abu Ali condemned Israeli occupation forces' oppression of the March of the Great Return protests in Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as well as the Israeli troops' assault on protesters participating in the march.

He held the Israeli government accountable for the consequences of this aggression against the Palestinians.

Jordan

The Jordanian Minister of State for Media Affairs Mohammed Momani on Monday condemned in the strongest terms the Israeli escalation against the Gaza Strip on Monday, which claimed the lives of several innocent Palestinians and led to the injury of hundreds of others, Jordanian Petra news agency reported.

Momani, who is also the Government Spokesperson, blamed Israel, as an occupying power, for the crime committed in the Gaza Strip on Monday.

He blasted Israel's use of excessive force against the defenseless Palestinian people, who took to the streets in thousands to express their right to return to their homeland in accordance with their legal, political and humanitarian rights guaranteed by international laws and conventions.

On the stalled peace process, he said the continued absence of prospects for a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue, which guarantees the right to freedom, dignity and a Palestinian state, will contribute to entrenching the environment of despair that generates violence.

He called for concerted efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and to meet the rights of the Palestinian people on the basis of the two-state solution, which guarantees the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the lines of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

On the Palestinian refugees, he also urged to find a solution to all final status issues, including the refugees' dilemma in accordance with the UN Resolution 194, and the Arab Peace Initiative, which both call for an agreed solution to the refugees problem.

As for Israel's belligerence, he noted Israel's use of excessive force in the face of unarmed demonstrators who exercise their legitimate right to protest against the occupation and demand their legitimate rights on the eve of the Nakba's 70th anniversary is another sign of the illegality of Israeli policies and the threat they pose to regional peace and security.

Ending the occupation and resolving the conflict on the basis of the two-state solution is the only way to achieve security and peace for all peoples in the region, the minister affirmed.

Momani urged the international community to assume its responsibilities to protect the Palestinian people from Israeli attacks that undermine peace efforts and push the region towards further violence and conflict.

Bahrain

Bahrain has deplored targeting Palestinian civilians by Israeli occupation forces, a move that left hundreds of Palestinians dead and wounded.

Bahrain's Foreign Ministry in a statement on Monday warned against the grave risks and negative repercussions of the Israeli escalation in the occupied Palestinian territories, Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported.

The ministry voiced its full rejection of using force against the peaceful marches that the Palestinian people held to call for their rights.

It asserted Bahrain's firm stance in support of the legitimate rights of the brotherly Palestinian people, topped by their rights in establishing an independent state with Al Quds as its capital.
]]>
5/14/2018 7:37:00 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt Parliament Daily Brief]]>
Egypt's Parliament initials cybercrimes bill

Parliament

initialed

a cybercrime bill on Monday aiming at combating the illegal use of computers and information networks. The Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law defines commonly used concepts such as “websites, traffic data, digital directory, personal statements and national security”.

The bill regulates Internet Service Providers’ (ISPs) activities and their obligation to provide national security authorities with information on users suspected of spreading terrorist and extremist ideologies via the internet. It also aims at securing personal data of internet users. Accordingly, article 18 offers punishment of not less than one month in prison or a fine of not less than LE 50,000 ($2,800) and not more than LE 100,000 for anyone who breaches or harms someone’s personal email account or website.

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A hand typing on a keyboard – Pixabay/fancycrave1

Parliament approves draft law of clinical trials

The Egyptian House of Representatives, headed by Ali Abdel Aal,

approved

on Sunday the draft law of clinical trials, which governs the organization of clinical medical research in Egypt. Clinical trials are the tests conducted on human participants, or groups of humans, in order to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of newly developed medications or medical devices. This law has raised many concerns over the ethical nature and legality of the process.

Parliament approves draft law on Sheikhs

The House of Representatives headed by Dr. Ali Abdel Aal approved in its Plenary Session Monday a draft law submitted by the deputies to amend the provisions of Law No. 58 of 1978 concerning sheikhs; the draft law was sent to the State Council for review.

The report of the Committee on Defence and National Security, which discussed the draft laws submitted by Deputies Herkel Abdelkader, Osman Montasser, Nabil Abu Basha and Numan Fathy, recommended the practical application of the law, especially with regard to the requirement that stipulates that all Sheikhs should be diploma holders.

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FILE - Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ali Abdel Aal

Approval of the Upper Egypt Development Authority as a whole, but final approval postponed

The House of Representatives approved the report of the joint committee of the Local Administration Committee and the Committees of Housing, Public utilities, Reconstruction, Planning and budget, Defence and National Security, and Economic Affairs in the House of Representatives on a bill submitted by the government to set up the Upper Egypt Development Authority, as a whole. However, the final approval was postponed to the next meeting.

During the session, the committee explained that the draft law comes from the desire of the state to implement its constitutional commitment stipulated in Article 236, P. 1, of the Constitution, which reads, “the State shall ensure the development and implementation of a plan for economic, including that of Upper Egypt, Sinai, Matrouh and Nubia regions, with the participation of its people in development projects and prioritizing that the people benefit from these projects, while also taking into account the cultural and environmental patterns of the local community within ten years from the date of implementation of this Constitution.”

Parliament allows the Ministry of Petroleum to carry out oil-exploration in North Sinai

The House of Representatives approved on Sunday a draft law submitted by the government to allow the Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources to carry out oil-exploration in North Sinai. The Minister will now be able to carry out contracts with the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation, as well as Perenco Oil and Gas in North Sinai, to explore for oil, as per the Commitment Agreement for the Search and Exploitation of Petroleum in the North Sinai Sea Region under Law No. 7 of 1922, as amended by Law No. 20 of 1994.

Parliament has also approved amending the Commitment Agreement for the Search and Exploitation of Petroleum in the Abu Sinan area, Western Sahara, promulgated by law No. 69 of 2006.

]]>
5/14/2018 7:02:26 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt's Parliament approves cyber crime bill]]>
The Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law defines commonly used concepts such as “websites, traffic data, digital directory, personal statements and national security”.

The bill regulates Internet Service Providers’ (ISPs) activities and their obligation to provide national security authorities with information on users suspected of spreading terrorist and extremist ideologies via the internet. It also aims at securing personal data of internet users.

Accordingly, article 18 offers punishment of not less than one month in prison or a fine of not less than LE 50,000 ($2,800) and not more than LE 100,000 for anyone who breaches or harms someone’s personal email account or website.

Parliament also approved article 9 of the cybercrime law, allowing the Attorney General or specialized investigative authorities to impose travel bans on persons charged of committing or attempting to commit cybercrimes, if enough evidence against them exists.

In April, Parliament’s Communications and Information Technology Committee approved the draft cybercrime law, which aims to pose surveillance on social media and limit the spread of fake news, particularly those that incite violence.

MP Nedal al-Saeed, head of the committee, said that he will submit a report about the cybercrime law to Parliament Speaker Ali Abdul Aal to be discussed during the plenary session.

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FILE - MP John Talaat


In an interview with Egypt Today, MP John Talaat, deputy head of the committee, said that the law would combat hackers, fake emails and credit card theft.

When asked about how the law helps fight terrorism, Talaat did not answer specifically. However, he said that if a website published content that violates the cybercrime law, then those responsible for the violation would be judged and the website would be banned if the violation was repeated.

In May 2017, Egyptian authorities decided to ban 21 news websites, including HuffPost Arabi, Qatari-based Al-Jazeera and Masr al-Arabiya, for "supporting terrorism and publishing fake news."

Parts of the reporting were taken from MENA
Additional reporting by Amr Kandil]]>
5/14/2018 4:55:10 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia to resume talks over GERD Tuesday]]>
Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Ahmed Abu Zeid, referred that the meeting aims to follow up the results of the round of discussions that took placebetween Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan over the GERDon April 4 in Khartoum.

In this regard, Abu Zeid expressed Egypt’s aspiration to find solutions for the disagreement over the technical issues related to the dam’s impact on the downstream countries of Egypt and Sudan and resume the studies agreed upon in the Declaration of Principles in 2015.

Previously, amid a serious deadlock in talks over the stalling of the technical studies of the disputed dam, Egypt suggested including the World Bank as a neutral mediator in the tripartite technical committee’s talks on the GERD.

However, on January 21, Ethiopia announced its rejection of the suggestion.

Egypt depends entirely on Nile water for drinking and irrigation purposes, reiterating consistently its "historical right" to the river guaranteed in the 1929 and 1959 Nile agreements, which granted the country 87 percent of Nile water and the right to veto or approve irrigation projects in the upstream countries.

Since 2014, the three countries have held several tripartite meetings and agreed on the Declaration of Principles. However, the disagreement amongthe countries is relatedto the filling and operation period of the dam; Egypt demands that this period be sevento 10 years, while Ethiopia insists on a maximum of three years.

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). Addis Ababa, however, claimed that the dam is necessary for Ethiopia’s development and will not harm downstream countries.

In 2011, Ethiopia started the construction of the 6,000-megawatt Renaissance Dam over the Blue Nile River, one of the major sources of water that forms the Nile River downstream. Concerns have risen in Cairo and Khartoum over the negative impact the Ethiopian dam will have on their historic Nile water share, amounting to 55.5 billion cubic meters in Egypt only, in accordance with the historic 1959 agreement with Sudan. ]]>
5/14/2018 3:39:23 PM
<![CDATA[Catalonia votes on new leader, Spain to lift direct rule]]>
Quim Torra, handpicked by the region's exiled former president Carles Puigdemont, failed to secure the absolute majority required to succeed him in a parliamentary vote on Saturday.

But in a second vote on Monday due at around 2 p.m. (1200 GMT) Torra will only need a simple majority, which he is expected to get.

His election will allow the wealthy northeastern region to run its own affairs for the first time since October, when Madrid imposed direct rule, having sacked Puigdemont and his cabinet following a chaotic referendum and an illegal declaration of independence.

It should also lead to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy securing the backing he needs from regional parties to implement much-delayed central government budget plans.

But there seemed little prospect on Monday of an easing of tensions between Madrid and the region.

In a speech to parliament on Saturday, Torra promised to work towards a Catalan republic and referred to Puigdemont as the legitimate leader of the region.

The Spanish government called the speech confrontational and a member of the Catalan parliament for Rajoy's People's Party (PP), Andrea Levy, said on Monday in a television interview that Madrid would apply direct rule again if the new administration overstepped the law.

Fearing an investor backlash, over three thousand companies have moved their registered headquarters out of Catalonia since October, while tourism also dipped after the referendum.

But over the whole of 2017, visitor numbers to Catalonia rose and its economy grew strongly, out-pacing the Spanish regional average.

As Monday's vote neared, police sealed off part of the park surrounding the Catalan parliament in central Barcelona, but streets were quiet with no demonstrations.

"It's essential that we put an end to direct rule from Madrid and for that reason alone this is definitely good news," said 33-year-old actor Sergi Cervera, waiting outside an office building near the city's famous Las Ramblas boulevard.

"It will be a positive feeling and some relief. But the conflict is years away from being resolved."

Under the terms of the legislation that allowed for Madrid to take over the regional government, direct rule will be lifted once the new administration has been formed with all cabinet members named.

Pro-independence parties won a majority of seats in regional elections called in December by Rajoy. However, the biggest single party was Ciudadanos ("Citizens"), which favours unity with Spain.]]>
5/14/2018 1:31:47 PM
<![CDATA[Parliament to declare date of presidential swearing-in ceremony]]>
Ahmed Helmyel Sherif, deputy of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, said that according to Article 140 of the constitution,“The President of the Republic shall be elected for a period of four calendar years, commencing on the day the term of his predecessor ends.”

Sherif added that, according to Article 231, Sisi’s first presidential term started on June 3, 2014, when the presidential election results were declared and shall be finished before that period.

He also remarked that Article 144, stating that the elected president must be sworn in before Parliament, willbe applied for the first time since 2005;presidents were sworn in before the members of the General Assembly of the Supreme Constitutional Court due to the absence of a validly elected Parliament.

In the same context, a high level source pointed out that the Parliament will determine the date of swearing in within days, and will invite Parliament members,international and national figures, the head and members of the National Election Authority, the heads of several judicial bodies, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Pope Tawadros II, and the heads of states of Arab and foreign countries to attend the plenary session of the swearing-in ceremony.

Sisi garnered 97.08 percent of valid votes in the 2018 presidential election, where more than 21.8 million people voted for him. His hardly-known competitor, El-Ghad Party chairperson Moussa Moustafa Moussa, received 656,534 votes, making up 2.9 percent of the valid ballots. The turnout stood at 24,254,152 voters; 41 percent of the electorate.

Much like the 2014 election, where Sisi competed against well-known politician Hamdeen Sabahy, void votes ranked second in the poll.

In 2018, void votes made up 7.27 percent of the total votes, accounting to 1.762 million ballots. If void votes are not excluded from the result, Sisi's share of the total votes would be 90 percent.

In the 2014 vote, 23.4 million people voted for Sisi, void votes reached 1million ballots, and Sabahy amassed 740,000 votes.]]>
5/14/2018 12:40:50 PM
<![CDATA[Officials discuss efforts to modernize Khedival Cairo]]>
The committee, headed by the president's adviser on national development projects, Ibrahim Mahlab, aims to modernize the city and renovate its historic buildings, especially in Khedival Cairo extending through Downtown from Qasr Al-Nil Street to Attaba, to attract tourism and investment.

During the meeting, members of the committee considered passing a law for Cairo as a historic city to regulate activities performed in the city’s historic buildings in downtown. The law prevents the inappropriate use of these buildings like using them for trade and storing goods.

The committee members also discussed reviewing previous successful efforts, in addition to creating a plan to revive the city, in cooperation with the National Organization for Urban Harmony and the General Organization for Physical Planning.

The meeting discussed the establishment of an entity tasked with possessing the assets of the historic buildings that are used by the state, including ministries’ headquarters and governmental institutions.

These institutions are set to move their headquarters to the New Administrative Capital that has been constructed east of Cairo.

Mahlab said, during the meeting, that the government owns over 100 historic buildings.

The entity would also be tasked with coordinating with the companies that own historic buildings, including Al-Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment, Misr Real Estate Management, and the Holding Company for Tourism, Hotels and Cinema’s subordinate companies.

The meeting also addressed setting a timeline for the city's modernization plans in the framework of Egypt's sustainable development strategy “Egypt 2030”.

The 2030 development vision was officially launched in the National Youth Conference in February 2016. It was introduced as a roadmap to tackle vital issues like government efficiency, economic development, knowledge, innovation and scientific research, energy, health, education, and capacity building to reach a prosperous future.

In its strategy Egypt has set three stages to achieve sustainable development by 2030; these stages are the return of Egyptian foreign policy to its normal position, recovery, and progress. Since the launch of the strategy, Egypt has been keen to work on all stages simultaneously.

Mahlab affirmed that the current and planned efforts will achieve direct economic profits, saying that the profits targeted by the committee cannot be achieved without modernizing the city. Mahlab affirmed that the government will remove all obstacles to the project.

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Mahlab inaugurates in May La Vionnoise building after it was fully renovated by Al-Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment to be the first green building in downtown.


Earlier in May, Mahlab inaugurated La Vionnoise building after it was fully renovated by Al-Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment to be the first green building in downtown.

Buildings are green or environment friendly when the design and materials used in the construction process include some strategies that make these buildings healthier and more energy efficient.

The National Committee for Developing and Protecting Historic Cairo was established in 2016 following a presidential decree. The members of the committee include Cairo Governor, Atef Abdel Hamid; Presidential Adviser for Urban Planning, Amir Sayed Ahmed and Chairman of the New Administrative Capital Company for Urban Development, Ahmed Zaki Abdeen.

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Mahlab inaugurates in May La Vionnoise building after it was fully renovated by Al-Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment to be the first green building in downtown.


A major development project was launched in 2012 to revitalize Khedival Cairo. The project aims to preserve Downtown’s historic character, restore its ornamental facades, and rescue the area from degeneration after it had been neglected and damaged due to climate factors.

Influenced by French architecture, Downtown Cairo was first built by Khedive Ismail in 1863, who was determined to turn Cairo, a largely medieval city, into the “Paris of the East”.

Additional reporting by Marina Gamil ]]>
5/14/2018 11:41:24 AM
<![CDATA[Firebrand cleric Sadr on course to win Iraq election]]>
Shi’ite militia chief Hadi al-Amiri’s bloc, which is backed by Tehran, was in second place, according to the count of more than 95 percent of the votes cast in 10 of Iraq’s 18 provinces.

The preliminary results are a setback for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi who, despite entering the election as the apparent frontrunner, appeared to be running third.

Unlike Abadi, a rare ally of both the United States and Iran, Sadr is an enemy of both countries that have wielded influence in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein and ushered the Shi’ite majority to power.

Sadr has led two uprisings against U.S. forces in Iraq and is one of the few Shi’ite leaders to distance himself from Iran.

Sadr’s apparent victory does not mean his bloc could necessarily form the next government as whoever wins the most seats must negotiate a coalition government, expected to be formed within 90 days of the official results.

Security and commission sources had earlier said Abadi was leading the election, which was held on Saturday and is the first since the defeat of Islamic State in the country.

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Factbox: How the new Iraqi government will be formed
Turnout was 44.52 percent with 92 percent of votes counted, the Independent High Electoral Commission said - that was significantly lower than in previous elections. Full results are due to be officially announced later on Monday.

Sadr and Amiri both came in first in four of the 10 provinces where votes were counted, but the cleric’s bloc won significantly more votes in the capital, Baghdad, which has the highest number of seats.

The commission did not announce how many seats each bloc had gained and said it would do so after announcing the results from the remaining provinces.

A document provided to Reuters by a candidate in Baghdad that was also circulating among journalists and analysts showed results from all 18 provinces.

Reuters could not independently verify the document’s authenticity but the results in it for the 10 provinces announced by the electoral commission matched those of the commission.

Reuters calculations based on the document showed Sadr had won the nationwide popular vote with more than 1.3 million votes and gained 54 of parliament’s 329 seats. He was followed by Amiri with more than 1.2 million votes, translating into 47 seats, and Abadi with more than 1 million votes and 42 seats.

Sadr will not become prime minister as he did not run in the election but his apparent victory puts him in a position to pick someone for the job. Winning the largest number of seats does not automatically guarantee that, however. The other winning blocs would have to agree on the nomination.

In a 2010 election, Vice President Ayad Allawi’s group won the largest number of seats, albeit with a narrow margin, but he was blocked from becoming prime minister for which he blamed Tehran.

The same fate could befall Sadr. Iran has publicly stated it would not allow his bloc to govern.

“We will not allow liberals and communists to govern in Iraq,” Ali Akbar Velayati, top adviser to the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in February.

His statement, which sparked criticism by Iraqi figures, was referring to the electoral alliance between Sadr, the Iraqi Communist Party and other secular groups who joined protests organized by Sadr in 2016 to press the government to see through a move to stem endemic corruption.

Sadr has a zealous following among the young, poor and dispossessed but had been sidelined by influential Iranian-backed figures.

During the election campaign, frustrated Iraqis of all shades complained about their political elite’s systematic patronage, bad governance and corruption, saying they didn’t receive any benefits of their country’s oil wealth.

Iraq has been ranked among the world’s most corrupt countries, with high unemployment, rife poverty, weak public institutions and bad services despite high oil revenues for many years. Endemic corruption has eaten at the government’s financial resources.

Sadr derives much of his authority from his family. Sadr’s father, highly respected Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, was murdered in 1999 for defying Saddam Hussein. His father’s cousin, Mohammed Baqir, was killed by Saddam in 1980.

Celebrations erupted on the streets of Baghdad after the commission’s announcement, with thousands of Sadr’s supporters singing, chanting, dancing and setting off fireworks while carrying his picture and waving Iraqi flags.

“For the first time I can say congratulations to the leader and congratulations to the Iraqi people, congratulations on winning first place in Baghdad, and God willing we will be the first in Iraq,” said Abbas Allawi, a candidate on the Sadr-backed Sairoon list.

Many of his supporters chanted “Iran out”.

Whoever wins the election will have to contend with the fallout from U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to quit Iran’s nuclear deal, a move Iraqis fear could turn their country into a theater of conflict between Washington and Tehran.

Abadi, a British-educated engineer who came to power four years ago after Islamic State seized a third of Iraq’s territory, received U.S. military support for Iraq’s army to defeat the Sunni Muslim militant group even as he gave free rein to Iran to back Shi’ite militias fighting on the same side.

He was viewed as a frontrunner before the election. His rivals were seen as Maliki and Amiri, both closer than Abadi to Iran, which has wide sway in Iraq as the primary Shi’ite power in the region.

If parliament chooses to grant him a second term, Abadi will remain under pressure to maintain that balancing act amid tensions between Washington and Tehran over the nuclear accord.

Abadi was seen by some Iraqis as lacking charisma and as ineffective. He had no powerful political machine of his own when he took office.

But the defeat of Islamic State and Abadi’s campaign to eradicate Iraq’s rampant corruption improved his standing.

Amiri’s Badr organization played a key role in the battle against Islamic State. But some Iraqis resent his close ties to Tehran. The dissident-turned-militia leader spent more than two decades fighting Saddam from exile in Iran.

The results unexpectedly showed former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who was touted as a serious challenger to Abadi, lagging behind.

Sadr portrays himself as an Iraqi nationalist and last year met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia who is ]]>
5/14/2018 11:12:52 AM
<![CDATA[Illicit Gains Authority checks officials’ financial disclosures]]>
Since January, the IGA has received more than 1.1 million financial disclosures from administrative employees, high level sources revealed.

Head and members of the National Election Authority (NEA), chairmen of political parties, and heads of the National Media and Journalism Authorities have also declared their assets to the Illicit Gains Authority.

The financial disclosures of Parliament speaker Ali Abdel Aal, Parliament members, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and his deputies were also checked.

According to the law, the president, Parliament members, and the Cabinet have to submit financial disclosures before taking up and leaving their posts, and at the end of every year. Army officers also declare their assets every certain period of time, and before retirement or leaving the post.

Furthermore, the president, prime minister, and ministers have to publish their financial disclosures in Egypt’s Official Gazette, according to article 166 of the 2014 constitution.

In February, the IGA decided to form a committee to review the assets of Alexandria deputy governor, Soad el-Kholy, who was arrested in August 2017 over bribery charges.

Reconciliation Deals

Amendments to the Illicit Gains Authority law, passed during 2015, gave defendants on the assets-freeze list an opportunity to reconcile with the state. It was mentioned that in return for reconciliation with the state, all the charges against them would be dropped.

The new amendments presented a good opportunity for several Mubarak-era figures and businessmen; however, not all of them succeeded to meet the criteria mentioned by the state.

rashid
Former Trade Minister Rashid Mohamed Rashid - YOUM7 (Archive)/Sami Wahib


In June 2017, former Trade Minister Rashid Mohamed Rashid, whose assets were frozen pending investigations, returned to Egypt from Italy after reconciling with the government.

All criminal charges against Rashid were dropped following a reconciliation deal with the government that was approved in November, 2016. The deal required Rashid to pay nearly LE 500 million ($28 million) to the government.

salem
FILE - Egyptian Businessman Hussein Salem


Also, in July 2017, Spanish-Egyptian businessman Hussein Salem arrived in Cairo from Spain after reaching a reconciliation agreement with the government.

He was accused of profiting from his relationship with ousted President Mubarak and exporting gas to Israel for less than the global price in order to achieve personal benefits.

The Egyptian authorities had announced reconciliation with Salem under the condition that he gives up 75 percent of his properties, which are worth more than LE 5.8 billion.

According to data released by the IGA, 37 out of 93 requests for reconciliation deals from businessmen, investors, Mubarak regime figures, and former public servants have ended in settlements since the legal amendments to regulate cases involving the misuse of public funds or illicit gains were introduced in 2015, according to Al Ahram Weekly.]]>
5/14/2018 4:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Could sweet potato bread curb Egypt’s wheat needs?]]>

Subsidized bread was one of Egyptians’ three main demands as expressed by the popular “Bread, Freedom, Democracy!” chant during the 2011 uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.


In an attempt to reduce the amount of imported wheat, which is used for bread, Ezzat Abdin, former head of the Food Technology Research Institute’s (FTRI) branch in Kafr el-Sheikh, has offered an alternative to bread.


In a governmental bakery in the governorate with the attendance of Kafr el-Sheikh Governor Al-Sayyed Nasr on Thursday, Abdin carried out an experiment to produce a loaf of bread from ingredients different from the current whole-meal flat bread. The new loaf contains 10 percent barley, 10-15 percent broken rice, 35 percent coarse wheat flour and 35 percent sweet potatoes.

Kafr el Sheikh governor witnesses the production of a new bread baked from sweet potato, barley, and broken rice- Egypt Today- Mohamed Suleiman
Kafr el Sheikh governor witnesses the production of a new bread baked from sweet potato, barley, and broken rice- Egypt Today/Mohamed Suleiman.jpg



“Using 35 percent wheat could be gotten from domestic farmers and Egypt would not import wheat anymore,” Abdin told Egypt Today on Saturday, adding that in case the new experiment was implemented nationwide, it could save more than LE 20 billion ($1.13 billion) annually allocated for wheat imports, particularly as Egypt has an abundance of rice and sweet potatoes.


He continued that adopting this new experiment could decrease the cost of a loaf of bread by LE 0.12. The government bears LE 0.55, the actual cost of producing one loaf of bread, which is sold for LE 0.05. Since 1898, Egypt has fixed the subsided price at LE0.05 to reach the poor.


In the state’s general budget for 2018/2019, the government has allocated LE 60 billion for the whole system of subsidized bread, said Minister of Supply Ali Moselhy in remarks to media in March. As per the subsidy system, the government should produce more than 11.4 billion loaves of bread monthly for about 76.4 million people who are eligible for the bread subsidy.


As of July 2017, the government imported 12 million tons of wheat from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus via international tenders, according to the latest figures published by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in September 2017. The government also purchased 3.5 million tons from domestic farmers last year. Egypt’s annual consumption of wheat reaches 15 million tons.


Concerning the alternative ingredients, Egypt is the largest producer of sweet potatoes in Africa. In 2014, it produced 393,000 tons of sweet potatoes. As for rice, the country had been exporting broken rice for $227 million annually before an export ban was imposed since August 2016, said Ragab Shehata, head of rice section at the Chamber of Cereals Industry, in media remarks in August 2016. However, the country could be turned from a rice exporter to importer after the newly-passed agricultural law decreased the pieces of lands allocated for water-intensive crops due to Egypt’s water shortage.


Nutritional value

Abdin said that the new loaf is highly nutritious due to its varied ingredients, which contain both vegetable and cereal carbohydrates, adding that the new bread could be good for those who suffer from celiac disease.


Despite the fact that the experiment could be economically feasible, nutritionists have different points of view on the matter. Peter Maher Wahba, member of the Egyptian Arabic Society for Healthy and Therapeutic Nutrition (EASHTN), told Egypt Today that there are no alternatives or replacements to the value of wheat in the subsidized bread, which includes highly nutritious fibers.


“Wheat contains simple carbohydrates, which can be easily digested in the stomach... while other ingredients such as rice and potatoes have complex carbohydrates, which can easily form fats in the intestines and increase the rate of obesity in the Egyptian society,” Wahba added.


“A report on the new experiment will be submitted to the governor and other governmental officials to see if it could be applied,” Abdin said.


]]>
5/13/2018 10:57:14 AM
<![CDATA[Protests worldwide reject U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem]]>

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan will lead the presidential delegation to Jerusalem, along with Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, Advisor Ivanka Trump and Jason Greenblatt, special representative for international negotiations.


On Dec. 6, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump stated that his country’s embassy to Israel will be moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, in a controversial step that has been met with the condemnation and rejection of most western countries, in addition to all Muslim and Arab countries.


The American embassy’s relocation from Tel Aviv is deemed an official recognition by the Trump administration that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital city, which is categorically rejected by Arab and Muslim countries.


The Department of State’s statement stressed that moving the U.S. embassy does not reflect a retreat from a lasting peace deal, claiming that the embassy’s relocation “is a necessary condition” for the peace deal. “We are not taking a position on final status issues, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, nor on the resolution of contested borders,” it continued.


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Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest in support of Palestinians and against the U.S. moving its embassy to Jerusalem, in Istanbul, Turkey May 11, 2018. REUTERSHuseyin Aldemir (2).JPG



The relocated embassy’s opening ceremony coincides with the Israeli celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Jewish state’s establishment in the occupied territory of Palestine following the end of the British mandate in 1948.


U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman posted footage on Facebook of the preparations for the opening ceremony, in addition to a video of himself standing in front of scaffolding covered in blue and white drapes, as Reuters reported on Friday.


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A woman walks next to a road sign directing to the U.S. embassy, in the area of the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, May 11, 2018. REUTERSAmmar Awad.JPG


Palestinians are building up to a climax on May 15, which is called the “Nakba” (Catastrophe), which marks the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and the occupation of their homes and land by Israeli settlers in 1948.


Israeli troops killed a Palestinian and wounded hundreds of others during Friday’s six-week protest, according to Palestinian medical workers’ testimonies to Reuters.


Israel sent invitations to all foreign ambassadors to attend the so-called “Independence Day” of the Jewish state; however, less than half of the invited ambassadors accepted to attend the “historic event”, as Israeli media alleged.


According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, some 30 out of the total 86 foreign ambassadors serving in Israel have accepted the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s invitation to the reception marking the U.S. embassy’s move to Jerusalem.


Foreign ambassadors of several states declined the invitation, including Germany, Russia, Poland, Australia, Ireland, Portugal and Sweden.


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An Indonesian Muslim youth holds a Palestinian flag during a rally in support of Palestinians and against the U.S. moving its embassy to Jerusalem in front of National Monument in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 11, 2018. REUTERSBeawiharta.JPG


On Tuesday, Ahmed Majdalani, member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) executive committee, declared May 14, the intended date of the U.S. embassy's relocation, as a day of overwhelming rage, which will break out, according to him, inside and outside the Palestinian lands.


At least three U.S. embassy road signs went up in Jerusalem on Monday ahead of the mission’s opening.


“Palestine has the right and the support of Chile to be a free, independent, sovereign and autonomous country, and the Palestinian people have the right to self-determination,” Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said during a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday.


Pinera expressed his support to establish a “free, independent, sovereign state” of Palestine. Chile supported the accession of Palestine to UNESCO in 2011 and to the status of observer state at the United Nations during its first presidential term.


Chile recognized Palestine in January 2011, and it was the first country to have diplomatic representation with the Palestinian Authority in 1998. Pinera was the first Chilean president to visit the occupied city of Ramallah.


Meanwhile, Guatemala and Paraguay announced that they would follow in the U.S.’s footsteps and transfer their embassies to Jerusalem, causing protests to spread in many countries around the world, including Indonesia, Jordan and Turkey.



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Protesters hold a key symbolizing the refugees' right to return, during a rally to mark the 70th anniversary of Nakba in the Jordan Valley, Sweimeh, Jordan May 11, 2018. The key reads, We will return to Jerusalem. REUTERSMuhammad H.JPG



Palestinian President Abbas is on a tour to South America, urging countries to reject the U.S. embassy’s relocation to Jerusalem. He arrived in Cuba on Friday from Chile, which he had visited after Venezuela.


Abbas held official talks with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel to discuss political developments in Palestine and developing bilateral relations, particularly in the fields of investment, tourism and agriculture.


Diaz-Canel reaffirmed his country’s support for the Palestinian cause and announced an increase in the number of scholarships to Palestinian students to 200 over the next four years.


In a related context, Egypt’s Chief of Intelligence Service General Abbas Kamel met with U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt on Thursday, according to a statement issued by the U.S. embassy in Cairo.


Kamel and Greenblatt discussed increasing cooperation between the United States and Egypt and the urgent need to bring humanitarian relief to Gaza, the statement added.







]]>
5/13/2018 10:49:49 AM
<![CDATA[Israel to boost Gaza border, West Bank forces for US embassy move]]>
Three additional infantry brigades will be deployed next week, two around the Gaza Strip and one in the West Bank, army spokesman Jonathan Conricus told reporters on Saturday.

The move nearly doubles the number of fighting units currently serving, he said, without giving specific figures on troops to be deployed.

The announcement does not concern Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, where responding to protests is the responsibility of the police.

US President Donald Trump will not attend the opening of the new embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, but his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law and key adviser Jared Kushner will.

A signature campaign promise, Trump's December announcement of the embassy move led to major protests in Gaza and the West Bank.

Palestinians consider the eastern part of the city as their capital.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to protest along the Gaza border Monday, with the strip's Islamist rulers Hamas voicing support in recent days for attempts to breach the fence into Israel.

"What's the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through a fence that is not a border?" the organisation's Gaza head Yahya Sinwar said, arguing Israel has never defined its borders.

Palestinians in Gaza have been protesting for seven weeks to be able to return to their historic homes they fled in 1948 and which later became part of Israel.

A 15-year-old teenager who was shot in the head Friday succumbed to his wounds on Saturday evening, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said.

The death brought to 54 the number of Palestinians killed since clashes began on March 30, with hundreds of others injured.

No Israelis have been injured.

Israel has vowed to use the necessary force to prevent any breach on Monday and has accused Hamas of using the protests as a pretext to carry out attacks.

On Saturday Conricus said the rules of engagement had not been changed.

The United Nations and the European Union have called for an independent investigation into the deaths, but the Jewish state has rebuffed them.

The United States has defended its ally and accused Hamas of using Palestinians, including children, as human shields by encouraging them to protest along the border.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.

Separately Saturday Israeli aircraft carried out a number of strikes against what the army said was a Hamas attack tunnel near the Gaza border.]]>
5/13/2018 3:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[India says too early to predict sanctions impact on Iran imports]]>
"This kind of geopolitical (tension) affects both consuming and producing countries. We have to live with the reality of the present geopolitics," Minister Dharmendra Pradhan told Reuters during a visit to the United Arab Emirates.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday reneged on an international nuclear accord with Iran and announced renewed sanctions against the OPEC member. The original agreement had lifted sanctions for Tehran limiting its nuclear program.

Crude prices remained just below multi-year highs, with Brent on track for a weekly 2.8 percent gain and U.S. crude a 1.2 percent weekly rise. Brent crude settled down 35 cents at $77.12 a barrel on Friday.

Pradhan said he was "a little bit concerned" about the impact of the current rise in oil prices on consuming countries but that he did not think oil supply would be an issue.

"Let's see how things are moving. It's too early to predict in one way. We are watching very carefully," he said.

Iran is the third-largest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Iran ramped up supplies after lifting the sanctions in 2016, producing 3.81 million bpd in March 2018.

Analysts now expect Iran's supplies to fall by between 200,000 bpd and 1 million bpd, depending on how many other countries fall in line with Washington.

During the last round of sanctions, India enjoyed waivers allowing limited Iranian oil imports paid for in rupees instead of U.S. dollars.

When sanctions were loosened against Tehran, India increased imports from Iran to almost 900,000 bpd in late 2016, but intake has fallen back to around 500,000 bpd this year.

Pradhan also said that there was a consensus between Saudi Arabia's state oil giant Saudi Aramco, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and Indian companies to firm a joint venture for India's Ratnagiri oil refinery.

The planned $44 billion facility in western India will be one of the largest refining and petrochemical complexes in the world at 1.2 million barrels per day.

Aramco in April signed a deal with India for a 50 percent stake in the project, saying it may introduce at a later stage a strategic partner to share its 50 percent stake.

ADNOC wants to expand its downstream portfolio in markets where demand for oil is still growing, such as China and India, securing a new outlet for its crude.

Pradhan was speaking at ADNOC's headquarters on the sidelines of an event marking the first cargo of crude oil from ADNOC, to the Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Ltd (ISPRL) after it has been loaded and was en-route to India.

The cargo is the first under an agreement between ADNOC and India's government-owned company ISPRL, to locate 5.86 million barrels of ADNOC crude oil at the Karnataka facility in the Indian city of Mangalore, ADNOC said in a statement.

The loading ceremony, of approximately 2 million barrels of ADNOC crude oil, was witnessed by Pradhan and UAE Minister of State and ADNOC's CEO Sultan al-Jaber, in Abu Dhabi.

"The strategic reserve will provide a boost to India’s energy security and help us deal with supply side disruptions. While part of the stored oil will be used for commercial purposes by ADNOC, the major part will be purely for strategic purposes," Pardhan said in a statement after the ceremony.]]>
5/13/2018 3:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Merkel says Europe should do more to stop Syria war]]>
Merkel was given the Franciscan order's "Lamp of Peace," joining previous recipients such as former Polish president Lech Walesa, the Dalai Lama, the late Israeli president Shimon Peres and Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos.

In an acceptance speech in the basilica, its walls lined with frescoes by the 13th century master Giotto, Merkel called Syria "one of the biggest humanitarian tragedies of our time" and said politicians had to work harder to end it. "This conflict has become a conflict of regional interests, a conflict of religions … and that's why today's award reminds me and many other European leaders that we should be more involved in solving this conflict," she said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based war monitor, says more than half a million people have been killed in the Syrian war since it erupted seven years ago. About 85 percent of the dead were civilians killed by the forces of the Syrian government and its allies, according to the Observatory.

Speaking of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Merkel said "Those who thought that the end of the Cold War would bring peace to Europe were wrong".

More than 10,000 people have been killed since April 2014 in a conflict that pits Ukrainian forces against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Intermittent clashes continue despite a notional ceasefire and diplomatic peace efforts.

Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran minister in what was then East Germany, lit a candle on the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi, the 13th century saint of preached peace and defence of nature.

The head of the Assisi convent, Father Mauro Gambetti, said the Franciscans had decided to give the award to Merkel, who has defended the rights of refugees trying to find a better life in Europe, because of her "commitment to promoting peaceful coexistence among peoples."

"This lamp is an inspiration for me. I will keep it on my desk," she said. ]]>
5/13/2018 1:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[Catalan lawmakers vote on new regional leader who vows to push for independence]]>
Torra, 55, a father-of-three, is an independence advocate cut from the same cloth as Puigdemont, who is currently in exile in Germany fighting an arrest warrant and extradition request from Spain, but still exerting his influence on politics back in Catalonia.

Torra gave a bullish speech at the opening of debate in the regional parliament, signalling that the secession crisis is far from over, even if Catalonia does finally get a government after months of political limbo.

"I want it to be clear that our president is Carles Puigdemont and we will be loyal to the mandate of October 1 to build an independent state in the form of a republic," Torra said, referring to last year's outlawed independence referendum.

He promised to restore Catalonia's laws suspended by Spanish courts and start drafting a constitution for a future Catalan Republic, stressing that he would "not give up anything" and would "assume responsiblity for what comes from our actions".

Puigdemont would become involved as soon as his legal situation allowed, added Torra, who also condemned the "unacceptable silence" of European institutions over the Catalan crisis.

But he did say he was "ready to talk tomorrow without conditions" with the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Rajoy quickly responded to the speech, saying: "What we saw and heard did not please us... but we will judge his actions."

He also warned that under Article 155 of the constitution, which the government used to impose direct rule on Catalonia, "could be used again if necessary," if the next regional leadership did not respect the law.

The government also issued a statement calling Torra's speech divisive and accusing Puigdemont, in naming his successor, "of making first the interests of an individual rather than the general interest of all citizens."

- Close vote expected -

The opposition for its part accused Torra of throwing "oil on the fire".

"Independence lost a great opportunity today, (that of having) a candidate who recognises his errors," said Ines Arrimadas, leader of the centre-right Ciudadanos, the party that received the most votes in the last regional elections.

The head of the Catalan Socialist party Miquel Iceta criticised Torra for accepting to "subordiante" himself to "someone who believes he is the legitmate president", referring to Puigdemont.

After the debate, the parliament will proceed to a first vote. Torra is not expected to get enough support as the vote requires an absolute majority which he doesn't have.

However he will get another opportunity in a second round, likely to take place on Monday, where he will only need a simple majority -- although even that is not assured.

There are currently 70 lawmakers in the regional parliament who are pro-independence, against 65 who are not.

But four of the 70 are from the radical anti-capitalist, separatist CUP party which has said it will vote for Puigdemont -- and no one else.

If they decide to abstain, Torra will scrape through in the second round with a simple majority. But if they vote against, he will not succeed.

Catalonia has been in political limbo since Spain's conservative central government sacked Puigdemont and his cabinet and imposed direct rule on the semi-autonomous region after it unilaterally declared independence on October 27.

Regional elections were held in December, which separatist parties won again, but every leadership candidate picked by the separatist camp since has fallen flat.

While Puigdemont faces jail if he returns home, other candidates such as civic leader Jordi Sanchez are in prison, charged with rebellion for their role in the independence drive.

- Tensions in separatist camp -

Antonio Barroso, deputy research director at Teneo Intelligence, told AFP that Torra -- an editor who also held high positions within pro-independence associations -- will likely act as Puigdemont's "surrogate".

He will be faced with deep divisions in the separatist camp, composed of the CUP, the leftwing ERC party and Puigdemont's Together for Catalonia grouping, he added in a research note.

"The problem is that separatist parties continue to disagree on what to do next," he wrote.

"ERC wants to execute a 'moderate shift' to keep secessionist politicians out of legal troubles, avoid direct rule by Madrid, and try to garner long-term support for independence.

"In contrast, Puigdemont's strategy is to continue using every opportunity... to continue challenging the Spanish authorities and keep the secessionist momentum alive."

Oriol Bartomeus, politics professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, told AFP that Torra had in his career shown "a pretty clear inclination towards the sector of the independence movement that is not really in favour of political normalisation."

In March, Torra gave a rousing speech to the regional parliament calling on separatists to keep up their campaign against the central government.

"Do not think for a moment we will give up, not even a millimetre, to defend the justice, legitimacy and honourability of this cause," he thundered.]]>
5/13/2018 12:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Iraq awaits vague fate after May's election]]>
The May 12 election comes five months after the defeat of IS by the Iraqi army, aided by U.S. military chiefs, and eight months after the independence referendum of the Kurdistan region, where 93 percent of Kurds voted in favor of a split from Baghdad.

The country, which has experienced all evils of modern history, including dictatorship, terrorism, sectarianism, genocide, invasion and occupation, has sank into deep division between religious groups, political parties, coalitions and the terrorism that still lures its youth.

Now the nation has commenced a period of electoral silence until the 8,959 polling stations open their doors across the nation, where more than 24 million citizens will cast their ballots to choose between 320 political parties with 7,367 candidates.

Division between religious and political groups

The Iraqi society consists of three main ethnic and religious components – the majority Shiite Arabs and the minority Sunni Arabs and Kurds – who have been at loggerheads for decades, and the sectarian rifts are as apparent as ever 15 years after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Ever since the longtime dictator fell in 2003, ending decades of dominance by the Sunni minority, the country has been ruled by a three-legged table system; the prime minister is Shiite, the parliament speaker is Sunni and the ceremonial presidency has gone to a Kurd, with all three being chosen by the parliament.

But this consensus couldn’t end the historical conflict between the religious rivals, as each one continued to blame the other for the country’s failure and the tragic conditions of its citizens.

The scene had worsened with the added new component, the Islamic State (IS), which turned most of Iraq’s cities into a bloodbath to win a new spot in their so-called caliphate. IS killed anyone not with them, including Christians, Yazidis, Shiites and non-obedient Sunnis.

Those rivals will not accept unsatisfying results at the ballot boxes, which could lead to a civil war, like former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned of – or threatened – a few days ago in a televised interview.

election
Iraqi supporters of Sairun list celebrate after the closing of ballot boxes during the parliamentary election in Sadr city district of Baghdad, Iraq May 12, 2018. REUTERS/Wissam Al-Okili

Dilemma of displaced citizens

The existence of IS and the war against the terrorist organization in 2017 left millions of citizens in displacement camps – 2.5 million, according to United Nations statistics in March 2018.

This could be the biggest challenge to the Iraqi government due to the impossibility of issuing electoral tickets to all of them or opening polling stations in all camps across the nation, not to mention candidates taking advantage of displaced citizens’ unfortunate conditions and attempting to buy their votes.

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Polling centers have been set up for many of the country’s 2 million people who remain displaced by the war against ISIS. (Reuters)

The militias that control most of Iraq

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi declared victory against IS in December 2017 after sweeping all cities from the terrorist plague; although, he couldn’t make it on his own or even with U.S. support, as he needed the aid of other militias, like the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization militias, who are now demanding their reward, a piece of the Iraqi territories and a part in governance. Those militias have already committed violent attacks against citizens to force them to vote in favor of their electoral list.

Hours after opening the doors of polling stations, several Iraqi media outlets and citizens reported assaults against voters to force them vote for specific candidates.

Islamic State threatens to attack polling stations

IS warned in March that it would attack polling stations in Iraq during the parliamentary election, and that anyone who participated in the vote would be considered an infidel.

In an audio message released late Sunday, the militant group’s spokesman accused Iraq’s Shiite-led government of being a proxy of Iran, warning that anyone who runs or votes in the May 12 election would be targeted. Two explosions have been witnessed at polling stations since the beginning of the day, which could restrain citizens from going to polling stations.

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Iraqi security forces stand guard outside a polling station during the parliamentary election in the Sadr city district of Baghdad, Iraq May 12, 2018. (Reuters)

Kurds’ anticipation to partake in next government

The failure of the Kurdish independence referendum to split from Baghdad has left the Kurds with the feeling of resentment, especially after the punitive measures taken by Baghdad following the referendum.

Last September, nearly 93 percent of the people in the region of northern Iraq expressed their desire for independent governance through ballot boxes; that desire was met with a fierce response from Baghdad, which cut off all ways leading to the region, suspended all state employees’ salaries and froze all its funds. Also, in March 2018, the parliament approved the 2018 budget, cutting 5 percent from Kurdistan’s usual share in the budget – 17 percent since 2003 – to 12.76 percent.

Cautiously, Kurds decided to participate in the ongoing election, with hopes of being part of the next government and negotiating the terms of reclaiming the disputed areas, especially in the oil-rich area of Kirkuk; however, this will is highly questionable if Maliki wins a third term.

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Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani casts his vote at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Erbil, Iraq May 12, 2018. (Reuters)

Maliki's ambitions

Apparently, Maliki would do anything to become prime minister again – making threats, offering promises and forming coalitions.

In April, he proposed a new system of governance, the absolute majority, which would allow his Daawa Party to govern with no partners. This cancels the quota scheme Maliki himself initiated in 2006 – an early alert that Maliki’s winning means unrest destabilizes the political scene.

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Iraqi Vice President and former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki attends to cast his vote at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Baghdad, Iraq May 12, 2018. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Iran-U.S. battle in Iraq

The U.S. and Iran are competing over the loyalty of Iraqi leaders; both are pouring money and military aid into the country in a bid to find a footing in the policymaking of the country. It is no wonder then that one finds some candidates publically talking on behalf of the two sponsors instead of speaking for their own people.

Abadi’s failure to counter corruption

Since the victory over IS, Abadi made promises of defeating the rampant corruption as well, but it seems that corruption is way harder to defeat than terrorism. The prime minister faces accusations of covering up for the corrupt governmental officials for personal interests, especially since some of them belong to his party. However, counter-corruption will be the key criteria for choosing the parliament that will choose the next prime minister.

abadi
PM Haider al-Abadi having his biometric voting card checked with his fingerprint upon arriving at a poll station in the capital Baghdad, May 12, 2018. (AFP)

Reconstruction

The war against IS has left entire cities in rubble, and Abadi has failed to attract foreign investment to reconstruct the war-torn country; thus, the Iraqi voter will keep lobbying abilities in mind when they choose their next prime minister.

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A member of the Federal Police walks in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq July 8, 2017/Reuters: Alaa Al-Marjani

]]>
5/12/2018 7:44:33 PM
<![CDATA[Russia Today apologizes for Halayeb Triangle poll]]>
“Russia Today’s administration apologized for the resentment caused to the Egyptian side. It explained that the purpose [of the poll] did not represent any offence to Egypt. It also did not aim to question its [Egypt’s] territorial integrity. It [the poll] is an applicable media form being used to deal with issues,” the channel said.

“We abide by the rules of objectivity and neutralism in dealing with our news stories,” the statement read, affirming that the poll results do not represent the channel’s editorial policy.

On Friday evening, the channel launched a poll over the sovereignty of the Halayeb Triangle, asking whether the area belongs to Egypt or Sudan.

The survey fueled Egypt’s resentment. Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said that Egypt requested an urgent explanation for the “rejected action," adding that Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry cancelled an interview with Russia Today scheduled for Saturday morning after the survey. The interview was supposed to discuss the meeting of the Egyptian and Russian foreign and defense ministers in the fourth round of the 2+2 strategic talks that are expected to be held on Monday.

Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) said in a statement that the channel has removed the poll from its website after conducted contacts with representatives of RT in Cairo.

On Friday, the SIS strongly deplored the public survey, announcing, “After the publication of this offending and inaccurate survey, we started to consult with the related Egyptian authorities, especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to discuss the steps and actions to be made against such unprofessional media coverage and violation of the sovereignty of the state.”

Halayeb and Shalateen, or the Halayeb 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 – Halayeb (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 carried out during the British occupation of Egypt in 1899, at a time when Sudan was part of the Egyptian Kingdom.

Sudan allegedly made military moves near Halayeb and Shalateen last March. The move came weeks after a televised interview with Saudi satellite channel Al-Arabiya, in which Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, threatened to resort to the U.N. Security Council to give its settlement over its claimed sovereignty over the area.

After the signing of an agreement delineating the maritime border between Egypt and Saudi Arabia in April 2016, Sudan raised the issue once again, demanding Egypt either engage in direct negotiations over the area or take the issue to international arbitration. Cairo rejected the proposal and stressed that the triangle is Egyptian territory and that it will not negotiate or resort to international arbitration on the matter.

According to Al-Arabiya Institute for Studies, the Sudanese administration of Halayeb and Shalateen was temporary and neither grants Sudan the right to rule the area, nor denies Egypt's sovereignty over any part of the territory.

Egypt affirms that it has never concluded any international treaties or agreements, whether with Britain or Sudan, to give international status to the demarcation of administrative borders.

The largest tribes inhabiting the Halayeb Triangle include the Rashaida, Alababdeh and Bashaira, who rejected the Sudanese National Election Commission's decision granting people in Halayeb the right to participate in Sudanese general elections. During their participation in the 6th October War victory celebration in 2009, the three tribes asserted that the area is 100 percent Egyptian.
]]>
5/12/2018 4:10:16 PM
<![CDATA[New child law amendments still at issue ]]>
As the proposed amendments to the child custody-related laws are still an issue, the controversy refuses to fade.

The new amendments to the personal status law confirms the non-custodial parent’s right to receive the child for 38 hours weekly, for a week during the mid-year vacation and for a month during the summer vacation.

The custodian parent, who is ideally the mother, shall be jailed for six months if she declines to enforce the above-mentioned amendments. The law was initially proposed by MP Mohamed Fouad, spokesperson for the Wafd Party.

Journalist and writer Farida el-Shobashy said that lawmakers should study the aspects of the law before passing it and determine its potential impacts on children’s well-being.

“Egypt has more than 12 million street children and that number is on the rise. This is the result of failed marriages and the lack of awareness of the parents on how to maintain a healthy relationship between them after their separation,” she added.

Also, lawyer Maha Abu Bakr said that a father who does not fend for his child does not have the right to receive the minor, asserting that the mother’s right to look out for her child is a mission assigned to her by God.

She also requested setting the minimum age for the child to be under the guardianship of his mother to 18 years old instead of 15.

Activist Janeet Abdel Aleem also stressed that the right of the mother to raise her child, so that we can ensure our children grow up to be mentally and psychologically sane, condemning that partners would seek revenge from each other and to the detriment of the child.

According to the Egyptian personal status law, an Egyptian divorcee has the right of custody of her child until he/she reaches the age of 15, and then the child must make his/her own decision as to which parent to live with.

In addition to ensuring that the mother is physically, mentally and psychologically able to look out for the minor and has not been convicted of criminal offences, she must not remarry. In such a case, the child’s custody falls to blood relatives, with grandparents coming at top, while fathers are at the end of the spectrum.

In late 2016, a new amendment was introduced by a group of parliamentarians to give custody of the child directly to the father if the mother remarries, and the father is then entitled to provide a female caretaker to the minor, namely a new wife.

The law sparked an outcry by activists and female divorcees that see the law as “unfair” and against the rights of both women and children.

According to a 2013 study by the Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women, 90 percent of divorced women choose not to remarry, lest they lose custody of their children.

Since the beginning of 2018, 52 percent of the divorce cases lodged by wives to the Family Court are due to dispute escalations over husbands’ complaints about wives not paying sufficient attention to their looks after marriage.
]]>
5/12/2018 2:34:38 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt requests Russia’s explanation for Halayeb Triangle poll ]]>
In response to inquiries by a number of diplomatic editors on Egypt’s stance regarding the poll, the ministry’s spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said that Egypt requested an urgent explanation for the “rejected action."

According to Abu Zeid, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry cancelled an interview with Russia Today scheduled on Saturday morning after the survey. The interview was supposed to discuss the meeting of Egyptian and Russian foreign and defense ministers in the fourth round of the 2+2 strategic talks that are expected to be held on Monday.

On Friday, Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) strongly deplored the public survey launched by Russia Today (RT) over the sovereignty of the Halayeb Triangle area located on the Egyptian-Sudanese border.

The SIS announced: “After the publication of this offending and inaccurate survey, we started to consult with the related Egyptian authorities, especially the ministry of foreign affairs, to discuss the steps and actions to be made against such unprofessional media coverage and violation for the sovereignty of the state.”

The SIS added in a statement that it decided to summon RT officials in Egypt on Saturday morning to inform them of Egypt's deep rejection and full condemnation of such acts that violates sovereignty of the state, and to identify the circumstances of this publication in preparation for taking the aforementioned steps and procedures.

Hala’ib and Shalateen, or the Hala’ib 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 – Hala'ib (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 carried out during the British occupation of Egypt in 1899, at a time when Sudan was part of the Egyptian Kingdom.

Sudan allegedly made military moves near Hala'ib and Shalateen on the Egypt-Sudan border in last March. The move came weeks after a televised interview with Saudi satellite channel Al-Arabiya, in which Sundanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, threatened to resort to the U.N. Security Council to give its settlement over its claimed sovereignty over the triangle.

After the signing of an agreement delineating the maritime border between Egypt and Saudi Arabia in April 2016, Sudan raised the issue once again, demanding Egypt either engages in direct negotiations over the area or take the issue to international arbitration. Cairo rejected the proposal and stressed that the triangle is Egyptian territory and that it will not negotiate or resort to international arbitration on the matter.

According to Al Arabiya Institute for Studies, the Sudanese administration of Hala'ib and Shalateen was temporary and neither grants Sudan the right to rule the area, nor denies Egypt's sovereignty over any part of the territory.

Egypt affirms that it has never concluded any international treaties or agreements, whether with Britain or Sudan, to give international status to the demarcation of administrative borders.

The largest tribes inhabiting the Hala'ib Triangle, including Rashaida, Alababdeh and Bashaira, who rejected the Sudanese National Election Commission's decision granting people in Hala'ib the right to participate in Sudanese general elections. The three tribes asserted during their participation in the 6th October War victory celebration in 2009 that the area is 100 percent Egyptian.

Diplomatic initiatives

Despite the common bonds of history, language and religion between the two Nile River neighbors, Egypt and Sudan’s diplomatic relations have been frosty recently due to various reasons, mainly the Hala’ib issue. The two countries have been engaged in high-level diplomatic initiatives to improve their relations.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has visited the Sudanese capital Khartoum twice this year, with the goal of restoring strong, longstanding ties between Khartoum and Cairo. Relations had withered after July 2013, when former Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated President Mohammed Morsi was ousted.

In April 2017, the Joint Sudan-Egypt Committee for Political Consultation convened in Cairo and signed a media charter of honor and a commitment to continue consultations on arising political issues between the two countries.

In the same month, Shoukry and his Sudanese counterpart Ibrahim Ghandour agreed to work together to control the ongoing hostility in the news media in both countries caused by the mounting political tensions between the two neighbors. ]]>
5/12/2018 12:32:58 PM
<![CDATA[In Pics: Iraqis vote in first election since defeating Islamic State]]>
The oil producer has struggled to find a formula for stability since a U.S.-led invasion toppled dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, and many Iraqis have lost faith in their politicians.

Whoever the new parliament chooses as prime minister will face an array of challenges after a three-year war against Islamic State which cost the country about $100 billion.

Much of the northern city of Mosul was reduced to rubble in fighting to oust Islamic State, and it will require billions of dollars to rebuild. The economy is stagnant.


iraq vote
An Iraqi woman casts her vote at a polling station during the parliamentary election in the Sadr city district of Baghdad, Iraq May 12, 2018. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani



Sectarian tensions, which erupted into civil war in 2006-2007, are still a major security threat. And Iraq's two main backers, Washington and Tehran, are at loggerheads.

The three main ethnic and religious groups -- the majority Shi'ite Arabs and the Sunni Arabs and Kurds -- have been at odds for decades, and the sectarian divisions remain as deep as ever.

Reuters reporters saw polling stations open in Baghdad and other cities.

"I will participate but I will mark an 'X' on my ballot. There is no security, no jobs, no services. Candidates are just looking to line up their pockets, not to help people," said Jamal Mowasawi, a 61-year-old butcher.

The three main candidates for prime minister, incumbent Haider al-Abadi, his predecessor Nuri al-Maliki and Shi'ite militia commander Hadi al-Amiri all need the support of Iran.

U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal will prompt Iran to maintain its vast political and military influence in Iraq, the most important Arab state for Tehran.

Abadi is considered by analysts to be marginally ahead, but victory is far from certain for the man who raised hopes that he could forge unity when he came to office.

But while he reached out to minority Sunnis he alienated Kurds after crushing their bid for independence.

He improved his standing with the victory against Islamic State, which had occupied a third of Iraq.

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An Iraqi woman's finger is seen stained with ink at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Sulaimaniyah, Iraq May 12, 2018. REUTERS/Ari Jalal

But Abadi lacks charisma and has failed to improve the economy and tackle corruption. He also cannot rely solely on votes from his community as the Shi'ite voter base is unusually split this year. Instead, he is looking to draw support from other groups.

Even if Abadi's Victory Alliance list wins the most seats, he still has to negotiate the formation of a coalition government, which must be concluded within 90 days of the election.

"It's the same faces and same programmes. Abadi is the best of the worst; at least under his rule we had the liberation (from Islamic State)," said Hazem al-Hassan, 50-year-old fishmonger in Baghdad.

Amiri spent more than two decades fighting Saddam from exile in Iran. The 63-year-old leads the Badr Organisation, which was the backbone of the volunteer forces that fought Islamic State.

He hopes to capitalise on his battlefield successes. Victory for Amiri would be a win for Iran, which is locked in proxy wars for influence across the Middle East.

DISILLUSION

But many Iraqis are disillusioned with war heroes and politicians who have failed to restore state institutions and provide badly needed health and education services.

"There is no trust between the people and the governing class," said Hussein Fadel, a 42-year-old supermarket cashier in the capital. "All sides are terrible. I will not vote."

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A female security member casts her vote at a polling station two days before polls open to the public in a parliamentary election in Baghdad. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

Critics say Maliki's sectarian policies created an atmosphere that enabled Islamic State to gain sympathy among some Sunnis as it swept across Iraq in 2014.

Maliki was sidelined soon afterward, having been in office for eight years, but he is now trying to make a comeback.

In contrast to Abadi, with his cross-sectarian message, Maliki is again posing as Iraq's Shi'ite champion, and has proposed doing away with the unofficial power-sharing model under which all main parties have cabinet representatives.

Iraq's Sunni minority had dominated key positions in government during Saddam's brutal rule, whereas majority Shi'ites have held sway since a U.S-led invasion toppled the dictator in 2003.

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Iraqi security members arrive to cast their vote at a polling station, two days before polls open to the public, in Baghdad. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

Maliki, who pushed for U.S. troop withdrawals, and Amiri, who speaks fluent Farsi and spent years in exile in Iran during Saddam's time, are both seen as much closer to Tehran than Abadi.

The post of prime minister has been reserved for a Shi'ite, the speaker is a Sunni, and the ceremonial presidency has gone to a Kurd - all three chosen by parliament.

More than 7,000 candidates in 18 provinces, or governorates, are running this year for 329 parliamentary seats.

In Kirkuk, the main oil city disputed by Iraq's Kurds and the Baghdad government, 90-year-old Najm al-Azzawi has witnessed Iraq's upheaval over many years: Saddam Hussein's military adventures and the crippling international sanctions that followed, the U.S. occupation, sectarian bloodshed and Islamic State's reign of terror.

But he has not lost hope.

"God save Iraqis from the darkness they have been in," he said. "It is the most joyful thing to vote."

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5/12/2018 9:59:13 AM
<![CDATA[Trump’s Iran nuclear decision ends era in U.S.-Europe ties]]>
That’s been the question of anxious, angry commentators all over Europe since President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he would cease to support the nuclear agreement with Iran signed by China, the European Union, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom as well as the United States.

Edward Luce in the Financial Times put it bluntly: “History may recall it as the day the U.S. abandoned its belief in allies… For the first time in decades, the U.S. is acting without a European partner.” France’s Le Monde says that Trump is obsessed with undoing everything achieved by his predecessor and that Trump’s “absurd” decision will have a “devastating effect” on the Middle East.

Franco Venturini in Italy’s Corriere della Sera wrote of a White House that has “opened a wound hard to heal.” On Germany’s Deutsche Welle channel, security analyst Markus Kaim noted that German, French and British companies would be harmed by the sanctions as well.

The United States and Europe have had other differences, which in their time were termed crises. In 1956, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower forced British, French and Israeli troops to end the invasion launched into Egypt for fear that its new leader would nationalize the Suez Canal; France and the U.K., two former imperial powers, were duly humbled.

France’s General Charles de Gaulle, president from 1959 to 1969, held his country aloof from NATO and maintained an independent military and diplomatic posture, demanding the removal of all American personnel from French soil. When De Gaulle made that demand to then President Lyndon Johnson, the latter is said to have asked whether that included that included those U.S. soldiers buried there.

But the countries were on the same side, in the end. The Cold War was a disciplining force to keep the Europeans in order; the European center-left parties agreed with those on the right that Communism was a menace which must be kept in check by the massive deployment of weaponry and troops that only the United States could provide. When the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the “West” – which includes eastern outposts like Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand – rejoiced as one, and looked forward to an era of peace, collaboration with old enemies, a focus on the problems of environment, poverty and crime.

They were mostly on same side in Middle East too. An invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990 was squashed, largely by the United States; 12 years later, as Iraqi President Saddam Hussein continued to flout UN sanctions, an American-British alliance spearheaded the war against him – again quickly routing his army, but this time deposing and executing him. This meant the invaders were in charge in Baghdad as the country descended into civil war.

The war in Iraq divided the allies, especially in Europe, but the demons it unloosed, though bitterly controversial, remained containable within the ambit of Western alliances and produced little lasting diplomatic damage. And though the invasion has been blamed for sparking off the present dangerous escalation of tension in the region, it did not presage a radical shift in a Western policy based on an endless effort to damp down hostilities, to remain allied to Israel and to seek markets for Western products, including armaments.

Trump’s decision this week is of a different order. Paying no heed to the pleas from his European allies, and in the face of the united opposition of all other signatories, he has set out to reshape the Middle East. Basing his approach on an Israel convinced that Iran is at the root of all terrorist evil, and a Saudi Arabia of the same mind, he wishes to isolate Iran and destroy its leadership – hoping that its people will replace the present leaders with pro-Western figures. And, for good measure, trashing the agreement his reviled predecessor, Barack Obama, was instrumental in achieving.

He’s expanding that hardline no-consultation-with-allies approach to other areas too. Later this month he is expected to announce the formal opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, in spite of the controversy over the city’s status, and decide whether to raise tariffs on imported steel. He also is forcing Canada and Mexico to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement – or he will leave it. And all this before he meets with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in Singapore next month to persuade him to renounce his nuclear weapons.

Trump was cold, even dismissive, toward Europe after coming to power. He had to be cajoled into supporting NATO by British Prime Minister Theresa May. His first meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany was cool to the point of insulting, as he initially ignored her outstretched hand. He expressed support for far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. Last month, he feted Emmanuel Macron, flattering and even kissing him before going on to dismiss the French president’s pleas not to withdraw from the Iran deal.

But the renouncing of the Iran deal takes scorn to another level. This is not just America First, but America Alone. It’s a posture which portends turbulence, or even war in the Middle East; a Europe no longer able to believe that the West can present a united front; and a United States losing the store of trust and affection on which it has been able, even in disputatious times, to count. Sad!]]>
5/12/2018 4:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. says denuclearization by Pyongyang will require 'robust' oversight]]>
"We are very clear that sanctions remain in place until and unless we see visible, meaningful action taken by North Korea on the denuclearization track," South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told a joint news conference with Pompeo before the June meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.]]>
5/12/2018 4:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Pompeo promises N. Korea future 'brimming with prosperity' if it denuclearizes]]>
"If North Korea takes bold action to quickly denuclearize, the United States is prepared to work with North Korea to achieve prosperity on the par with our South Korean friends," Pompeo told a news conference after talks with his South Korean counterpart in Washington.

"If Chairman Kim chooses the right path, there is a future brimming with peace and prosperity for the North Korean people," he said.

Pompeo, who returned from Pyongyang this week with three American prisoners who had been held by North Korea, said the release of men had helped set conditions for a successful meeting between Trump and Kim in Singapore on June 12.

Pompeo said he had "good, substantive" conversations with Kim in Pyongyang and believed both sides understood the ultimate goal of the summit.

Pompeo said the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula would however require "robust verification" program by the United States and other countries.

"It's a big undertaking for sure, but one that Chairman Kim and I had the opportunity to have a good, sound discussion on, so that I think we had a pretty good understanding between our two countries what the shared objectives are," Pompeo said.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha stressed that sanctions against Pyongyang would not be lifted until it had taken concrete steps to denuclearize.

"We very much hope to see further steps, more concrete steps toward denuclearization at the U.S.-North Korea summit, so we're not talking about sanctions relief at this point," she said. ]]>
5/12/2018 1:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Israeli army detains Ahed Tamimi's brother during raids]]>CAIRO – 12 May 2018: The Israeli army detained on Thursday eight Palestinians during raids of a number of West Bank cities and from East Jerusalem, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society.


In the West Bank, soldiers detained three men from the Bethlehem district, one from Maythalon in the Jenin district and one from Jericho, in addition to Waad Tamimi, brother of icon of civil protests Ahed Tamimi, during a raid at this Nabi Saleh home northwest of Ramallah.


Ahed Tamimi, a Palestinian teenager, was sentenced today to serve eight months in jail after a viral video showed her hit two Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank, Tamimi’s lawyer told the press.


Tamimi was arrested four months ago after appearing in the video streaming along with her mother and cousin, slapping and shoving two Israeli soldiers outside their home in the village of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank.


The soldiers had taken up positions next to the house amid protests in the village against U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.


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Palestinian teen Ahed Tamimi enters a military courtroom escorted by Israeli security personnel at Ofer Prison, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 15, 2018 - REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo

Mariam Barghouti, a Palestinian activist close to the Tamimi family and Ahed’s mother, Nariman, confirmed to AFP that the request for a public trail had been rejected.


Tamimi’s trial began last month as she faced 12 charges, including aggravated assault.


The incident prompted criticism from right-wing Israelis that the military looked weak by allowing the teenager to strike a soldier and an officer with impunity, Reuters reported.


The case drew global attention. Amnesty International called Tamimi the "Rosa Parks of Palestine", and the small courtroom was often packed with journalists, diplomats and international observers during hearings, during which Tamimi was led into court in shackles.

]]>
5/12/2018 12:39:45 AM
<![CDATA[Iran turns to diplomacy amid high regional tensions]]>
Mohammad Javad Zarif will leave late Saturday for visits to Beijing, Moscow and Brussels, a spokesman said Friday, holding meetings with all five of the remaining parties to the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran appeared determined not to be drawn into a wider regional conflict with Israel during the sensitive negotiations.

That is despite Israel's claims it struck dozens of Iranian targets inside Syria early on Thursday as part of "Operation House of Cards".

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to "throw the Iranians out" of his country.

Israel said the strikes were in response to a missile volley fired from southern Syria by Iran's Quds force, that struck the occupied Golan Heights without causing casualties.

But Iran flatly denied the Israeli version of events, saying Israel's attacks were carried out on false "pretexts".

"The repeated attacks by the Zionist regime on Syrian territory were carried out under pretexts that were invented by themselves and are without foundation," said foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi, without offering further details.

Iran must tread a delicate line as it seeks to show resolve against Trump and the Israeli strikes without alienating the European partners it needs to salvage something from the nuclear deal.

- Iran concessions? -

Zarif will hold high-pressure talks with the other parties to the deal, first in Beijing and Moscow, and then with his counterparts from Britain, France and Germany in Brussels on Tuesday.

All five have condemned Trump's move to walk out of the deal and reimpose crippling sanctions, but European companies in particular will be highly vulnerable to economic pressure from Washington.

France still hopes for a wider settlement that will cover Iran's activities across the Middle East, and warned Tehran on Thursday "against any temptation for regional dominance".

Iran's hardliners are already mobilising against any concessions to Europe, with hundreds protesting in Tehran after Friday prayers, saying it was time to abandon the deal.

"Officials shouldn't trust France and Britain. They will never abandon the US for us," said Poormoslem, a housewife at the rally.

In Jerusalem, around 200 Jews gathered at the Western Wall for prayers "against the enemy".

"We came here to pray to God after the victory against Iran" following the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, said Aryeh Stern, a rabbi from Jerusalem.

Southern Syria was quiet but tense, with monitors saying Syrian, Iranian and allied Lebanese forces from Hezbollah were on high alert.

The Israeli raids had prompted concern Iran could activate its powerful ally Hezbollah to retaliate from its positions in southern Lebanon, opening up a deadly new front in the conflict.

Iranian analysts said Israel had struck first on Thursday, and that any retaliation was the work of the Syrian military, not Iran.

"The Israelis want to make this into an Iran-Israel thing, but it isn't. Whatever happens in Syria happens under the command of the Syrians," said analyst Mohammad Marandi, who was part of Iran's negotiation team leading up to the nuclear deal.

- Chief atomic inspector resigns -

The United States has said that despite its withdrawal it wants inspections by the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to continue in Iran.

The IAEA said meanwhile that its chief inspector Tero Varjoranta resigned, without giving a reason for his sudden departure.

"The agency's safeguards activities will continue to be carried out in a highly professional manner," a spokesperson for the agency said on Friday.

Analysts say Israel feels it has a green light from Washington to move more aggressively against Iran's presence in Syria, particularly after Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear deal.

They also see a rare chance for Iran to hold the moral high ground.

"For the first time, Iran has the chance to show the world they are not the rogue nation they are always presented as, that they negotiated in good faith and keep to their commitments," said Karim Emile Bitar, of the Institute for International and Strategic Affairs in Paris.

Russia -- which is alone in having close relations with both Iran and Israel -- has sought to position itself as a mediator to prevent further escalation.

Its foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said "all issues should be solved through dialogue" and that Russia had warned Israel to avoid "all actions that could be seen as provocative".

However, one analyst at London's Chatham House, Yossi Mekelberg, said the strikes on Iranian targets "were likely undertaken with tacit Russian approval".

On Friday the Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin had spoken with Germany's Angela Merkel and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a bid to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive.]]>
5/12/2018 12:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt, UN discuss boosting cooperation in anti-corruption]]>
The meeting was attended by the minister of investment and international cooperation, Sahar Nasr, the attorney general, Nabil Sadeq, the head of the Central Audit Organization (CAO), Hesham Badawy, the head of the Money Laundering Combating Unit (MLCU), Ahmed Khalil, and Egypt's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Mohamed Idris.

The two sides discussed the intensification of cooperation between the United Nations and the ACA, which represents Egypt in the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), providing technical support to the newly launched academy for governance, combating corruption and administrative reform in Egypt.

They also reviewed recent national projects such as the development of Sinai and Upper Egypt, renewing sanitation and water infrastructure, and improvement of educational system within the framework of the strategic agreement between Egypt and the United Nations until 2022.

Erfan stressed that the ACA adopts a scientific mechanisms to limit corruption and maximize the role of mechanization in the state procedures. He noted that Egypt has made significant progress in implementing its domestic economic reform plan with all its bold and ambitious measures, with a package of community protection programs for the needy citizens.

He pointed out that measures have been taken to develop the business environment and eliminate bureaucracy in order to develop an efficient work environment that ensures overall growth and defeats all obstacles facing investments.

The government has implemented a number of economic reforms and amended a number of laws within the legislative framework to improve the investment environment such as the issuance of the investment law, which includes a number of incentives and guarantees for investors, ensures simplifying investment procedures and reduces the time taken to issue licenses.

83
head of the Administrative Control Authority (ACA) Mohamed Erfan

During the meetings, the Egyptian side reviewed the growth of investment in Egypt and highlighted the efforts exerted to promote growth opportunities with the participation of the private sector in light of the measures taken by the government to encourage investors and create an investment climate. Stressing the government’s keenness to support entrepreneurship and small and medium enterprises, in view of its role in providing employment opportunities for young people, such as the initiative “your idea of your company” to support emerging companies.

Erfan also met with the Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab Stated at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Mourad Wahba, to discuss cooperation framework between the ACA and the UNDP in the anti-corruption field.

During his meeting with Wahba, Erfan gave an overview of Egypt’s key anti-corruption efforts, including the formation of a coordinating national committee to prevent and combat corruption representing all law enforcement agencies and line ministries, from which a sub-committee headed by ACA emanates. Such efforts further included designing an anti-corruption national strategy and holding several training courses for the state’s administrative body, law enforcement agencies and civil society organizations (CSOs) to spread the values of integrity and transparency and to raise awareness of the dangers of corruption and the regulatory bodies’ roles and mandates, in addition to the issuance of a code of ethics.

Both sides discussed the role of the new anti-corruption academy to support policy-making and applied researches, with giving a special focus to eliminating corruption and violence, developing a plan for combating and preventing poverty, supporting ACA’s efforts aiming to enhance transparency and accountability in the main vulnerable sectors such as education and health. In addition, the academy works on facilitating the integration of ACA in regional and global anti-corruption networks, based on international standards and best practices, besides launching another outreach campaign that pinpoints the dangers of corruption and its adverse impact on economy as well as building capacities of ACA staff, especially with regard to the preventive measures which are considered one of the key pillars of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).

Moreover, Erfan met with Vladimir Voronkov, first under-secretary-general of the UN Counter-Terrorism Office, where they discussed supporting the anti-crime system and modern methods in implementing anti-corruption strategies, and reviews international experiences in this regard.

Erfan pointed out that Egypt plans to develop a comprehensive and sustainable development in the Sinai, adding that the development plan is being implemented in accordance with the instructions of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to create jobs and better life conditions for citizens there.

Voronkov said that he visited Cairo in March, praising Egypt's recent chairmanship of the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee, during which the committee adopted a number of crucial decisions to develop the member states’ capabilities in combating terrorism. He also applauded Egypt's efforts in combating corruption and terrorism, considering it as good model to consider in the Middle East.

Voronkov noted that a UN mission will visit Egypt soon to discuss the establishment of an international counterterrorism center in Sinai, asserting that Egypt has a leading role in combating terrorist groups in the region.

Anti-corruption measures in Egypt

Egypt has a strong legal framework to prevent and to fight corruption, through following steps:

These positive steps include ratifying the U.N. convention against Corruption (UNDAC) in 2005 and the U.N. convention against Transitional Organized Crime (UNTOC). In addition, since 2014 Egypt became a state party in the Arab League pan-Arab anti-corruption instruments, the Arab Convention to Fight Corruption.

Egypt has also implemented institutional reforms and deepened its partnerships with the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) on anti-corruption and anti-money laundering. Cooperation efforts with the EU and UN include providing technical and institutional support, training prosecutors to fight corruption, research, data analysis and enhancing global and regional cooperation in this area.

In 2014, Egypt launched a national anti-corruption strategy. It was developed by the National Coordinating Committee for Combating Corruption while its implementation is coordinated by a technical committee headed by the Administrative Control Authority (ACA). The national strategy aims to fight corruption through setting specific objectives, policies, programs and mechanisms to control corruption and create a culture opposed to corruption. It adopts the objectives of raising the level of performance in the government, developing and updating the anti-corruption legislation, strengthening the judicial procedures to achieve prompt justice, strengthening civil society participation in combating corruption, raising living standards and achieving social justice and building trust between citizens and state institutions.

Furthermore, the Egyptian criminal code criminalizes active and passive abuse of power including facilitating payments and bribes. The law includes private employees and criminalizes private-to-private bribery.

The regulatory framework obligates public officials to declare their assets, upon taking their position and at the end of their term and every 2-5 years during their mandate. However, these declarations are not available for the public. All public officials, with the exception of judges, are required to declare loans, bank deposits, real estate assets and valuable movables.

In 2002, Egypt produced the Anti Money Laundering Law that prohibits laundering funds generated from crimes related to drugs, terrorism and exploitation.

Later in 2013, Egypt adopted a Conflict of Interest Law regulating what activities and assets senior public officials may and may not enjoy in line with the 2014 Code of Conduct of Public Employees which contains integrity provisions.

In Egypt, donations from corporate and foreign interests to political parties are forbidden. Financial transparency is a requirement to register political parties and all parties are required to disclose any donations they receive. Furthermore, the Central Audit Organization (CAO) monitors the activities of internal party auditors.

Additional reporting by Fatima Al-Wahaidy
]]>
5/11/2018 11:09:23 PM
<![CDATA[Ice Cube claims Qatar tried to bribe him for access to Bannon]]>CAIRO – 11 May 2018: Hip Hop star Ice Cube has accused U.S. President Donald Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon of taking part in a bribery plot involving his popular Big3 basketball league, led by Qatari businessmen.


Cube has filed a lawsuit claiming that Bannon, who led Trump's presidential campaign and was a high-level adviser to the president until last August, was the target of bribes, according to the Daily Mail.


BIG3’s lawyers are suing the Qatari Investment Authority, claiming they failed to give up a $5 million dollar investment for a minority ownership stake in the league.


“Instead of coming up with the $5 million, Sheikh Abdulla bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani, who is the CEO Qatari Investment Authority, stalled,” the affidavit said.


"These members and associates of the royal family made excuse after excuse for not paying, all of which is documented in text messages and emails, where the blame for their failure to fund the millions they owed the BIG3 ran the gamut from their 'sinuses,' 'hiking,' it being a 'long day bro,' and to bad press regarding Qatar associations with alleged funding of terrorism."


TMZ reported that Cube and his partner Jeff Kwatinetz are now seeking $1.2 billion in damages, in order to pay $20 million to each player in the BIG3 League.


In a footage released by TMZSports, Cube was confident about winning the case. “Stay out of American sports, if you want to do the right thing,” Cube said.



Cube and his manager filed a lawsuit against multiple Qatari investors last month accusing them of only investing $7.5 million in their league after agreeing to spend $20.5 million and seeking political influence.


They claim the Qatari investors agreed to pay $11.5 million up front to sponsor the BIG3, which features retired National Basketball Association (NBA) stars, last July - plus an additional $9 million over the next three years. However, the Qataris reportedly only paid $6.5 million in advance and a further $1 million in December.


According to the affidavit, defendants Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani and Ahmed al Rumaihi, a former Qatari diplomat and alleged member of the royal family, both served as secret liaisons for the Qatari government.


Cube and Kwatinetz are being represented by LA civil rights attorney Mark Geragos, who has represented numerous celebrities in the past, including Michael Jackson and Winona Ryder.

]]>
5/11/2018 10:07:44 PM
<![CDATA[ Cameroonian Dang wins Pan-African Parliament presidency]]>
Egypt competed for the presidential seat, but it didn’t win. Egyptian Parliamentarian Mostafa el-Gendi, who represented the North African area, managed to earn only 44 votes out of 224. Zimbabwean Fortune Charumbira, who represented South Africa in the elections, received 47 votes.

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FILE- Egyptian Parliamentarian Mostafa el-Gendi, who represented the North African area, managed to earn 44 votes out of 224.


Out of 258 Pan-African Parliament members eligible to vote, 222 members participated in the voting. Dang will officially be inaugurated on Friday, May 11.


According to the election regulations, the winner has to collect 50+1 votes out of all valid electoral votes. In case none of the competitors receive the needed votes, a re-election would take place on the same day. Fifty-five African countries are represented in the parliament, which is affiliated to the African Union.

Egyptian Parliamentarian Mostafa el-Gendi has made several visits to the member countries of the Pan-African Parliament.

Since taking office in 2014, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has exerted sincere efforts to strengthen the country’s relations with its African neighbors.

According to the State Information Service (SIS) analysis report on Sisi's official foreign visits, released last August, about 30 percent of his visits were to African countries or to participate in African meetings and summits since taking office in June 2014.

The SIS report stated that out of 69 official foreign visits, Sisi headed to 21 African countries, including Sudan, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Algeria, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Gabon and Chad.

He also met with 112 African leaders, whether during their visits to Egypt or while participating in international meetings and summits.

High-level meetings were conducted between Egyptian officials, including Sisi, and their African counterparts since June 2014, according to SIS.



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FILE- Egyptian Parliamentarian Mostafa el-Gendi, who represented the North African area, managed to earn 44 votes out of 224

]]>
5/11/2018 6:12:27 PM
<![CDATA[In-depth look at Cairo metro's fare increase ]]>
The metro is considered one of the main means of daily transportation for over 3.5 million of Greater Cairo's 21 million residents, according to estimates by the country's National Authority for Tunnels.

The ministry decided Thursday to increase the fare of metro tickets starting Friday based on the length of each commute, the ministry said in a press statement.

Commuters will be charged a base fare of LE 3 ($ 0.16) for the first nine stops and an additional LE 2 (total LE 5) for seven more stations. The highest ticket price has been fixed at LE 7 if the commuter travels more than 16 stations.

The previous price of a ticket was LE 2, without any determinations for the number of stations.

The price increase trended Google searches in Egypt on Friday, with more than 40,000 searches.

The new Cairo metro tickets new tickets - the yellow represents the first category for the first nine stops (LE 3), the green represents the second category the commuter will use the metro for 9 stations to less than 16 (LE 5), The red one represents highest ticket price for LE 7 if more than 16 stations.


Why the government increased the price of metro tickets

The Ministry of Transportation pointed out that it applies discounted fares for government workers, students, senior citizens and citizens with disabilities.

Mideast_Egypt_Subway__Khat_(1)
The Ministry of Transportation has increased the price of metro tickets for the second time in less than a year. Egypt Today/Photo by Hussien Tallal

The ministry pointed out in the statement that the increase comes to fund the implementation of the development plan for Greater Cairo’s metro. The hike also aims at covering operational costs of the railway system.

The steps target developing the metro system based on commutes, achieving social justice, and making up for a deficit of up to 94 percent from the expenses of maintenance during the fiscal years 2016/2017 and 2017/2018, the statement concluded.

In recent years, metro officials have urged the Cabinet to increase ticket prices in order to stop financial losses suffered by Cairo’s metro system, which is one of the oldest in the Middle East and Africa.

Connecting Greater Cairo

CAIRO - 13 April 2018: As of September, citizens of the affluent suburb Heliopolis will be able to stop at the first station of the under-construction fourth phase of the third metro line, which covers a distance of 48 km, making it the longest metro line in Egypt.




Egypt doubled the price of tickets in 2017

Egypt had doubled the price of metro tickets in July 2017 from LE 1 to LE 2, a move that came four months after Egypt floated the pound under its economic reform program.

Transportation Minister Hisham Arafat said the increase to LE 2 followed losses of LE 500 million, which put the network at risk, state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram reported.
افتتاح_محطه_مترو_حدايق_المعادي_بعد_التجديد_تصوير_اسلام_اسامه_20-7-2014_(57)
The Ministry of Transportation has increased the price of metro tickets for the second time in less than a year. Egypt Today/Photo by Hussien Tallal

The metro, Cairo's main means of transportation


The metro, which works everyday from 5:15 a.m. until 12:30 a.m., was first launched in 1987 and has since become the most important means of transportation in Greater Cairo, helping commuters avoid traffic jams or negotiate fares with unmetered taxis. Female commuters can either choose to take the non-segregated cars or use the women-only carriages. For many years the metro tickets cost LE 1, no matter how many stations were used, which was very convenient for everyone.

There were originally two lines – the oldest one running from Marg to Helwan, south of Cairo, and the second one running from Shubra to Giza. The newest third line runs from Attaba to Korba; although, it is not completely finished. Lines can currently be changed at three stations.




Mideast_Egypt_Subway__Khat_(7)
The Ministry of Transportation has increased the price of metro tickets for the second time in less than a year. Egypt Today/Photo by Hussien Tallal




]]>
5/11/2018 5:51:01 PM
<![CDATA[In numbers: Cost of govt. plans to develop metro ]]>
According to a video broadcasted on TV satellite channel ON LIVE about the state’s efforts to develop the cheapest and fastest transportation in Egypt, the construction works of the first phase of Cairo’s third line extension, which runs from Attaba to Cairo University, cost around €486 million ($580.9 million) and LE 5.48 billion ($309.69 million).

The third line’s first phase initially stretches from Attaba station to Abbasiya, while the second phase extends from Abbasiya to Heliopolis’ main station, called al-Ahram, and proceeds along Nasr City’s Fair Zone and Cairo Stadium, and then the Heliopolis district of Merghany.



Running along Giza’s districts of Imbaba, Kitkat, Bolaq El Dakror and Rod El Farag axis and ending with a stop at Cairo University, the third phase of the third line spreads 17.7 km.

The fourth phase of the third line’s extension plan is divided into two stages. The first stage involves covering stations in the districts of Heliopolis and Ain Shams, starting with Haroon Street and ending at Nozha City.

The second stage extends from Nozha City and stops at Cairo Airport.

The metro’s fourth line, the works of which already commenced at the beginning of 2018, will expectedly cover 6th October City, Nasr City, Heliopolis, Haram, Giza, Rehab and Old Cairo; it runs along 19 km.

The works of the first phase of the fourth line cost LE 30 billion.

The video also cites a contract that was signed earlier with the French Development Agency to develop Alexandria’s tram system with a total cost of €100 million.

Twenty new trains worth LE 2.3 billion have been added to operate along the metro’s first line, which travels between Helwan and Marg City.

The development plan also includes the maintenance of 17 trains at a cost of LE 335 million and the development of insurance and control systems with a total cost of LE 100 million.

It also includes the allocation of LE 360 million for the installation of 46 mobile escalators and 28 elevators.
]]>
5/11/2018 3:27:09 PM
<![CDATA[Trumps seeks 'very meaningful' summit in Singapore with N. Korea]]>
The date and location of the first-ever meeting of a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader was announced by Trump on Twitter.

"The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th. We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!" Trump wrote.

He made the announcement after a U.S. government aircraft touched down at Joint Base Andrews near Washington carrying the Americans who were released by North Korea in a move to clear the way for the bilateral summit.

The ex-prisoners are Korean-American missionary Kim Dong-chul, who was sentenced in 2016 to 10 years' hard labor; Kim Sang-duk, also known as Tony Kim, who taught for a month at a foreign-funded university before he was arrested in 2017; and Kim Hak-song, who also taught there and was detained last year.

North Korean state media said they were arrested for subversion or "hostile acts" against Pyongyang.

Trump faces a difficult task persuading Kim to abandon nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests that heightened U.S.-North Korean tensions throughout 2017.

The two men exchanged fiery rhetoric last year over North Korea's attempts to build a nuclear weapon that could reach the United States.

But tensions have since eased, starting around the time of the North's participation in the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February.

Trump greeted the freed Americans in the early-morning hours. He said on their arrival that he believed Kim, who has led North Korea for seven years and is believed to be in his mid-30s, wanted to bring his country "into the real world."

"I think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful," Trump said. "My proudest achievement will be - this is part of it - when we denuclearize that entire peninsula."

New U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has visited Pyongyang twice in recent weeks - once as head of the CIA - but there has been no sign that he cleared up the central question of whether North Korea will be willing to bargain away nuclear weapons that its rulers have long seen as crucial to their survival.

Trump is embarking on the meeting with Kim after sending shockwaves through the world on Tuesday by announcing the United States was pulling out of a 2015 accord imposing international oversight of Iran's nuclear program.

The move raised questions over whether North Korea might now be less inclined to negotiate its own nuclear deal with Washington.

Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke by telephone on Wednesday. The White House said they "affirmed" the shared goal of North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons program.

Japan worries that it could be the target of any first-use of nuclear weapons by Pyongyang.

'PHOTO OP' WORRY

Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the U.S. Senate, warned Trump against going too far too fast in Singapore. The Republican president, Schumer said, should insist upon strong, verifiable disarmament commitments from North Korea.

"I worry that this president, in his eagerness to strike a deal and get the acclaim and a photo op, will strike a quick one and a bad one, not a strong one, not a lasting one," Schumer said.

During Trump's presidency, Kim has overseen a series of weapons tests to showcase his military's progress on medium- and long-range missiles and atomic weapons that put the world on edge.

Last year, North Korea conducted more than a dozen tests that had missiles flying over the Sea of Japan, while another led experts to believe North Korea could possibly hit the mainland United States with a missile.

Trump has credited a U.S. "maximum pressure" campaign for drawing North Korea to the negotiating table and vowed to keep economic sanctions in place until Pyongyang takes concrete steps to denuclearize.

But former spy chief Kim Yong Chul, director of North Korea's United Front Department, said in a toast to Pompeo over lunch in Pyongyang this week: "We have perfected our nuclear capability. It is our policy to concentrate all efforts into economic progress."

Kim recently promised to suspend missile tests and shut a nuclear bomb test site.

North Korea is still technically at war with the United States and its ally South Korea because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a treaty.

The choice of Singapore will put the summit on friendly turf for Trump, as the island nation is a strong U.S. ally and the U.S. Navy frequently visits its port.

The wealthy financial and shipping hub is seen as a gateway between Asia and the West and has been called the “Switzerland of Asia," in contrast to North Korea's isolated economy that its leaders now want to modernize.

Nonetheless, Human Rights Watch has described Singapore as having a "stifling" political environment with severe restrictions on "basic rights."

U.S. officials had looked at several sites other than Singapore for the historic meeting.

Trump’s own preference was for the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, but aides argued it would look too much like Trump going to Kim’s turf.

A trip to Pyongyang was also seen as bad optics for Trump, U.S. officials said. Mongolia was considered but was seen as too close to China, they said.

Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held a rare round of talks at their heavily fortified demilitarized zone at the end of April, pledging to pursue peace after decades of conflict.

South Korea on Thursday said: “We hope the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula as well as permanent peace on the peninsula will successfully come about through this summit.”]]>
5/11/2018 2:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[US sanctions hit Iran Revolutionary Guard currency network]]>
In the first such action since President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear accord on Tuesday, the Treasury announced sanctions against six Iranian individuals and three companies tied to the IRGC who were part of the network, which it said handled "hundreds of millions" of dollars in exchange transactions.

The Treasury also singled out Iran's central bank as "complicit" in the IRGC operation, alleging the bank gave the operation access to funds held in offshore bank accounts.

"The Iranian regime and its Central Bank have abused access to entities in the UAE to acquire US dollars to fund the IRGC-QF's malign activities, including to fund and arm its regional proxy groups, by concealing the purpose for which the US dollars were acquired," said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

"We are intent on cutting off IRGC revenue streams wherever their source and whatever their destination," he said.

The individuals and companies included an alleged IRGC "front company" in Tehran, Jahan Aras Kish, and a Tehran money-changer, Rashed Exchange.

The US government made clear Tuesday when Trump announced the end of US participation in the JCPOA nuclear deal that going ahead, Washington was going to ramp up pressure on the IRGC and the Central Bank of Iran.

The new sanctions on the currency network ban US individuals and entities from doing business with them, aiming to lock them out of global dollar networks.]]>
5/11/2018 12:00:00 AM
<![CDATA['It's about war and peace': Germany and France urge restraint in Middle East]]>
Israel said it had attacked nearly all of Iran's military infrastructure in Syria, destroying dozens of sites, after Iranian forces fired rockets at Israeli-held territory for the first time.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the Iranian rocket attacks and Israel's response in Aachen, western Germany, and called for prudence and de-escalation.

"The escalations of the past few hours show us that it is truly about war and peace. And I can only call on all sides to exercise restraint here," Merkel said during a ceremony awarding Macron the Charlemagne Prize for strengthening EU integration.

Expectations of a flare-up in the Middle East were stoked by President Donald Trump's announcement on Tuesday that he was withdrawing the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

The Middle East was becoming very dangerous, said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, adding that there was no 'Plan B' in response to Trump's move and that France wanted to keep the accord alive even without Washington on board.

"It is clear that last night's incidents are part of a new context in the Middle East, where what we feared happening is becoming reality: the Syrian and Iranian issues are becoming intertwined," Le Drian told BFM TV.

The Trump administration portrayed its rejection of that agreement as a response, in part, to Tehran's interventions in the Middle East, underpinning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's tough line towards Iran.

"LET'S FACE IT"

Merkel told Iran's President Hassan Rouhani in a telephone call on Thursday that she supported maintaining the nuclear accord as long as Tehran upholds its side of the deal. Macron told Rouhani the same a day earlier.

Germany, France and Britain want talks to be held in a broader format on Iran's ballistic missile programme and its regional activities - including in Syria and Yemen.

In her speech in Aachen, Merkel urged the European Union to strengthen its foreign and defence policy, arguing that Europe could no longer fully rely on the United States to protect it.

"Let's face it, Europe is still in its infancy with regard to the common foreign policy," she said. "And it will be existentially necessary to make progress here because the nature of conflicts has completely changed since the end of the Cold War."

Pointing to the civil war in Syria, Merkel said that many of the global conflicts today were flaring on the doorstep of Europe.

"And it is no longer the case that the United States of America will simply protect us. Instead, Europe has to take its destiny into its own hands. That is the task for the future."

Macron echoed the call to flesh out Europe's common foreign and defence policy. "We made the choice to build peace in the Middle East. Other powers ... haven't kept their word," Macron said, without naming a country directly.

"We must succeed in building our own sovereignty, which in this region, will be the guarantor of stability," he said. ]]>
5/10/2018 9:50:00 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt rejects invitation to U.S. embassy event in Jerusalem]]>CAIRO – 10 May 2018: The Egyptian government has declined Israel’s invitation to attend the ceremony of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Thursday.


Less than half of foreign diplomats accepted the invitation to the U.S. Embassy event in Jerusalem.


According to Haaretz, some 30 out of the total 86 foreign ambassadors serving in Israel have accepted the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s invitation to the reception marking the U.S. embassy’s move to Jerusalem.


Foreign ambassadors of several states declined the invitation, including Germany, Russia, Poland, Australia, Ireland, Portugal and Sweden.


The ceremony, slated for Sunday night in Jerusalem, will include Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, U.S. President Donald Trump's adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka, as well as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and a delegation of U.S. lawmakers.


"Nothing comes for free," Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Saturday. "And the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem will come at a price and it is worth paying it. We should be prepared to pay a price."


At least three "U.S. Embassy" road signs went up in Jerusalem on Monday ahead of next week's opening of the mission in the city, according to Reuters.


Newsign-Embassy-1
Workers place flags at a road leading to the US consulate in the Jewish neighborhood of Arnona on the East-West Jerusalem line in Jerusalem – EPA-EFF

The signs, written in English, Hebrew and Arabic, were installed by workmen close to the south Jerusalem location of a U.S. consulate building that will be re-purposed as the embassy after being officially relocated on May 14 from Tel Aviv.

]]>
5/10/2018 9:31:48 PM
<![CDATA[Reasons behind Jazeera Arabic manager’s resignation]]>
Former deputy head of Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr, Ahmed Salem al-Yafei, succeeded Hilalah.

In a statement obtained by Jordanian Jo24, Hilalah wrote that his resignation comes as part of his plan to serve as the channel’s manager for four years. Hilalah was declared the general manager of the channel in July, 2014.

He said that change and renewal is an attitude adopted by successful organizations, adding that the number of years does not count; what matters is the success achieved.

Hilalah said that the “blockade” year was the cruelest the channel has witnessed along the past four years, referring to the Arab Quartet boycott of Qatar which has started on June 5, 2017.

hilalah
FILE - Photo circulated on social media of Hilalah carrying a machine gun


Qatar has been hit by its biggest diplomatic crisis in years after multiple Arab nations, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, cut ties with the emirate, accusing it of destabilizing the region with its support for Islamist groups.

The Arab quartet halted all land, air and sea traffic with Qatar, and withdrew their diplomats and ambassadors from the country. The Arab quartet issued 13 demands to Doha – then shortened to six principles – including closing Al Jazeera television, curbing relations with Iran and shutting down a Turkish military base.

Strike over pay disputes

In late April, staff at the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera English TV channel planned a one-day strike on May 9 over a pay dispute and bad working conditions, Guardian reported on Saturday.

Staff of the London-based Al-Jazeera English explained that the wage talks with the company have deteriorated.

“We’ve had an agreement with the company for three years on pay and they’ve never honored that. We’re devastated to be walking away from the jobs we love, but we’ve been left with no choice,” Brian Ging, senior field producer at Al-Jazeera Media Network, told Guardian.

“We’ve been very patient,” said Ging, who also serves as deputy president of the National Union of Journalists.

However, the planned strike was called off, following a statement by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), saying that a “Significant progress was made between Al Jazeera, the NUJ and The Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union (BECTU).

Congressmen complaint

In February, A bipartisan group of congressmen urged the Trump administration to open an investigation into the Qatari-funded news outlet Al Jazeera which published a story that entailed a months-long spy operation on American Jews and supporters of Israel.

Al Jazeera should register as a foreign agent under U.S. law. Such a designation under the Foreign Agents Registration Act would show Al Jazeera is under the thumb of the Qatari government, which funds its operations, and not an independent news organization, as it claims to be, the letter proposed by the congressmen said.

Al Jazeera has been sending letters to a slew of Jewish organizations and pro-Israel individuals asking them to comment on what appears to be secret recordings that the news outlet claims confirm Jewish meddling in foreign affairs, congressmen said.

The lawmakers referenced the Al Jazeera spy operation on the American Jewish community as evidence the outlet is operating on behalf of Qatar, which continues to finance terrorism.

Qatar’s double-face

A report issued in December by the right wing think tank, Gatestone Institute (GI), said that Qatar appears to be following a similar ideology to Iran as Qatar supports Hamas and Hezbollah.

“Qatar also pretends to the U.S. that it is supportive of its values, but in fact [it] has close ties with all the enemies of the U.S.,” the report stated. Qatar's Permanent Envoy to the Arab League has called Iran an “honorable state”, a country which the U.S. officially designated a terrorist state in 1984.

While Qatar makes itself out to be tolerant and supportive of democratic Americans and westerners, anyone who watches Al-Jazeera in Arabic will find nothing other than pure hatred of western values and enormous support for armed militias, like Hezbollah, and terrorist groups, like Hamas.

“Not Egyptian Diplomat”

In the UNESCO election in October, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zaid denied the video published by Qatar-based Al-Jazeera. The video claimed to show an Egyptian diplomat cheering in favor of the French UNESCO director general candidate against Qatar.

citizen
Egyptian citizen who cheered in favor of the French UNESCO director general candidate – Press photo


“Al-Jazeera is persistently an adept in disseminating false news,” Abu Zaid said in a tweet published on his official account, adding that the video disseminated by Al-Jazeera was not of an Egyptian diplomat or any other member of the Egyptian UNESCO envoy.




In an interview with Qatar TV in October, former Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani said that he regretted establishing the Al-Jazeera channel, as it has caused many problems for Qatar.
]]>
5/10/2018 6:30:12 PM
<![CDATA[Trump's allies encourage him to withdraw from Iran’s deal: Officials]]>
The United States' allies including the Middle Eastern countries and France encouraged Trump to pursue his decision; those countries supported the U. S. stance, according to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Andrew Peek, and Deputy Director of Policy Planning, David Tessler.

During a press briefing on the U.S. decision to withdraw from the agreement between the P5+1, the European Union and Iran on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the two American officials explained several details about the withdrawal decision.

They affirmed during their statements that Trump is seeking to impose political pressure on Iran until it changes its behaviors to achieve stability and security in the Middle East and the world.



The accusations of toppling or changing Tehran’s regime were completely denied by the two officials; they also affirmed that the United States is not having any disagreements with its European allies over the withdrawal decision and that dialogue among all parties is ongoing.

Moreover, the two diplomats said that the U.S. has been holding discussions to reach another deal with Iran and put new choices on the table.

It was assured that Trump was encouraged to move forward with the decision by the statements of French President Emmanuel Macron and his Middle East allies, who welcomed the decision shortly after it was announced, saying that they will handle any consequences of the decision in the economic field and in the oil market.

Describing the US talks with Europeans, Peek said, “These are good building blocks to move forward as we engage with the Europeans. We reached together to an agreement as a result of our long work for decades and quickly realized that we share similar prospection of the problem…Those agreements, and results that we reached regarding Iran’s deal would serve as good building blocks towards the next phase of our engagements with the Europeans.”

A lot of talks have also taken place between the United States and Israel before announcing the decision; however, the two officials refrained from revealing the details of these talks during the conference.

“We held real discussions with the Israeli government for about a month before the decision and especially during the past two weeks. We wanted to make sure that we were engaging them closely. All our talks are sensitive and confidential,” the officials stated.

They affirmed that the administration is trying to avoid any state of war with Iran. They assured that Trump thinks that putting economic and political pressures on Iran will make the needed changes.

They pointed out that they are keen to maintain and preserve their allies' economic interests in Tehran; however, “Iran’s regime has to bear the consequences of its behaviors.”

On May 8, President Trump announced the US withdrawal from the “defective” multinational nuclear deal with Iran. “The Iran deal is defective at its core,” Trump said in a televised address from the White House. “I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.”








]]>
5/10/2018 5:11:07 PM
<![CDATA[Israel says it attacked targets in Syria after Iranian rocket fire]]>
It was the heaviest Israeli barrage in Syria since the start in 2011 of its civil war, in which Iranians, allied Shi'ite militias and Russian soldiers have deployed in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in Syria. Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Iranian rockets either fell short of their targets, military bases in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, or were intercepted.

Expectations of a regional flare-up, amid warnings from Israel it was determined to prevent Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, were stoked by U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement on Tuesday that he was withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal.

The Trump administration portrayed its position against that agreement as a response, in part, to Tehran's military interventions in the region - underpinning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's tough line towards Iran.

The Golan attack was "just further demonstration that the Iranian regime cannot be trusted and another good reminder that the president made the right decision to get out of the Iran deal," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told Fox News.

Israel said 20 Iranian Grad and Fajr rockets were shot down by its Iron Dome air defence system or did not reach targets in the Golan, territory it captured from Syria in a 1967 war.

The Quds Force, an external arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, carried out the launch, Israel said.

Syrian state media said dozens of Israeli missiles struck a radar station, Syrian air defence positions and an ammunition dump, underscoring the risks of a wider escalation involving Iran and its regional allies.

Russia's defence ministry said Syria had shot down more than half of the missiles fired by Israel, RIA news agency reported.

"We hit ... almost all of the Iranian infrastructure in Syria," Lieberman said, in a question and answer session at the annual Herzliya security conference in Tel Aviv. "I hope we finished this chapter and everyone got the message."

Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus told reporters the Iranian attack was "commanded and ordered by (Quds Force chief General) Qassem Soleimani and it has not achieved its purpose".

Conricus said Israel responded by destroying dozens of Iranian military sites in Syria, as well as Syrian anti-aircraft units that tried unsuccessfully to shoot down Israeli planes.

"We do not know yet the (Iranian) casualty count," he said.

"But I can say that in terms of our purpose, we focused less on personnel and more on capabilities and hardware ... to inflict long-term damage on the Iranian military establishment in Syria. We assess it will take substantial time to replenish."

There was no immediate comment from Iran.

In the Golan Heights, Israeli schools opened as usual on Thursday morning, after sirens sent residents to shelters during the night.

Lieberman said Israel was not seeking escalation on the Syrian front. But Tzachi Hanegbi, a cabinet minister close to Netanyahu, cautioned that more confrontation could come.

"I don't think I can tell you that one blow, as effective and crushing as the one they (the Iranians) received last night, is enough to convince a regime that is usually very fanatical and determined," he said on Israel Radio.

NEW FRONT

The Israelis fear that Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah are turning Syria into a new front against them. Israel says its occasional strikes in Syria aim to foil that.

Iran vowed retaliation after a suspected Israeli air strike last month killed seven of its military personnel in a Syrian air base.

Israel regards Iran as its biggest threat, and has repeatedly targeted Iranian forces and allied militia in Syria.

On Tuesday, hours after Trump's announcement on the nuclear deal, Israeli rockets targeted a military base in Kisweh, a commander in the pro-Syrian government regional alliance said.

That attack killed 15 people, including eight Iranians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, though the commander said there were no casualties. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility.

Thursday's conflagration came hours after Netanyahu returned from a visit to Moscow, where he discussed concerns about Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Netanyahu said after the discussions that Russia was unlikely to limit Israel's armed actions in Syria. The Israeli military said Israel had forewarned Russia of its strikes on Thursday.

"There should be work to de-escalate the tensions," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov was quoted as saying on Thursday by the Tass news agency. He called the situation "very alarming".

French President Emmanuel Macron also appealed for calm.]]>
5/10/2018 12:43:04 PM
<![CDATA[EU can't save Iran nuclear deal after US move - senior Revolutionary Guard]]>
Britain, France and Germany said they remained committed to the deal despite Tuesday's decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to withdraw.

But Brigadier General Hossein Salami said Europe "cannot act independently over the nuclear deal," the semi-official Fars news agency quoted him as saying.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that Tehran would remain in the 2015 agreement, though Europe had only a "limited opportunity" to preserve it.

On Wednesday Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, cast doubt on the ability of the European signatories to guarantee Tehran's interests, adding: "I do not trust these countries either."

Khamenei has the final say on all state matters and commands the loyalty of the IRGC, which has huge political and economic influence domestically.

Salami said Iran's enemies were not seeking military confrontation. "They want to pressure our country by economic isolation ... Resistance is the only way to confront these enemies, not diplomacy," Fars quoted him as saying.

Trump also said on Tuesday he would revive U.S. economic sanctions against Iran, penalising foreign firms doing business with Tehran and further undermining what he called "a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made".

Europeans fear a collapse of the deal could raise the risk of deepening conflicts in the Middle East.

Early on Thursday, Iranian forces launched their first attack on Israel from inside Syria, firing rockets at army bases in the Golan Heights, Israel said.

That prompted one of the heaviest Israeli barrages against Syria since the conflict there began in 2011.

The pact, the signature foreign policy achievement of Trump's predecessor Barack Obama, was designed to prevent Iran developing a nuclear bomb in exchange for lifting most sanctions that had crippled its economy. Sanctions were removed in 2016.

Trump complained that the agreement failed to address Iran’s ballistic missile programme, its nuclear activities beyond 2025 or its role in conflicts in the Middle East, where Tehran has been involved in a proxy war from Lebanon to Yemen for decades.

In defiance of Western pressure to curb the missile programme, Tehran says it is essential precautionary defence against the United States and other adversaries, primarily Gulf Arab states and Israel.

"Exiting the deal and their concerns over Iran's missile work are excuses to bring our nation to its knees," Salami said.

The IRGC's overseas arm, the Quds force, operates in Iraq, Syria and Yemen among other places.]]>
5/10/2018 12:35:53 PM
<![CDATA[Parliament censures novelist Aswani over 'Republic of As IF']]>
“Upon the first look, there are institutions, a Parliament, a constitution and courts, but if you take a closer look, you find all of them [not as real as they look],” late author Ahmed Khaled Tawfik wrote in “Ida2a” in an article published March 23, describing the moral intended by Aswani’s novel.

Aswani's novel is talking about "how media and government formed [a malicious] alliance" to create what he calls "The Republic of As If," according to the cover of his novel.

Journalist Mostafa Bakri, a member of the Parliament's Media, Culture and Antiquities Committee, criticized the novel, saying that Aswani has been hostile toward the country and the state institutions, adding that he keeps on insulting the state’s patriot figures.

In an interview with Egypt Today, Bakri said that Aswani only aims, through his writings, to satisfy and follow the agenda of the western nations. He also accused Aswani of spreading lies.

Bakri has been known for his support to President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi

MP Nader Mostafa, secretary general of the committee, said that some states have failed to deliver their funds to the traitors inside the country, so these funds are now used to attract some authors and give them the chance to attack the state, adding that the state is in dire need of writers who can support it.

Mostafa is a member of the pro-governmental Parliament’s majority “Egypt Support” coalition.



Khaled Tawfik's Analysis

Commenting on the novel, Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, who died on April 2 at the age of 55, said, “As usual, you feel that Alaa al-Aswani [gives the priority to] the western Francophone reader. He writes what [this reader] likes.”

“I recognized in all his novels that he does not address Israel; maybe this reflects [his] noble ambition to [win] the noble prize; an author who attacks Israel will ever win the noble [prize].” Aswani’s most famous novel, "Yacoubian Building", was translated to Hebrew in 2016, which triggered Egyptian condemnation.

Despite the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty signed in 1979, Egyptian people have denounced Israel’s policies against Palestinians, holding the “Israeli occupation” of Palestine responsible for killing numerous Palestinian unarmed citizens.

“Aswani extremely hates the [Muslim] Brotherhood,” Tawfik stated. “'Republic of As If' is the republic where everything looks real. However, everything is an illusion,” Tawfik concluded.

"Yacoubian Building"

Dentist-turned-novelist, Aswani wrote "Omaret Yacoubian", translated as "The Yacoubian Building”, in 2002. The novel followed the lives of various people within the titular Yacoubian Building in Downtown Cairo.

yacoubian
A screenshot of the Yacoubian Building film - Khaled Al-Sawi (L) and Bassem Samra (R)


A film was released in 2006 based on the novel by director Marwan Hamed, and starred various Egyptian stars such as Adel Imam, Hend Sabry, and Nour el Sherif.

The novel was hit by much criticism, as it incorporates promiscuity and homosexuality, which are described in explicit details.

Additional reporting by Amr Kandil ]]>
5/10/2018 12:04:13 PM
<![CDATA[Arab justice officials promote boosting anti-terror co-op]]>CAIRO – 10 May 2018: The Executive Board of the Arab Justice Ministers Council called Wednesday for the enhancement of cooperation to encounter terrorism and dry up the sources of funding.


This came at the conclusion of the 62nd session of the Executive Board of the Arab Justice Ministers Council, which was held at the Arab League’s secretariat general in Cairo.


The session focused on the measures and procedures of fighting terrorism, which should be compatible with the principles of international law, taking into account human rights and the international humanitarian law.


The session, conducted under the chairmanship of Kuwait, called all member states of the council to brief national authorities responsible for eradicating terrorism on the importance of the aforementioned principles and measurements.


Participants urged Arab countries to boost cooperation in the field of sharing information regarding the fight against terrorist organizations, in addition to the activation of the 4th article of the Arab convention on combating terrorism.


The 4th article of the convention stipulates that contracting states shall cooperate for the prevention and suppression of terrorist offences, in accordance with the domestic laws and regulations of each state.


It also calls states to cooperate in the exchange of information for the suppression of terrorist offences and promptly notify other states of all the information or data in their possession that may prevent the occurrence of terrorist offences in their territory.

]]>
5/10/2018 5:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt Support Coalition rejects reconciliation with MB]]>CAIRO – 10 May 2018: Lawmaker and leader of the Egypt Support Coalition Mohammed Zaki el-Sewedy on Wednesday said the coalition did not, and will not, discuss any initiative to make reconciliation with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood organization.
Zaki added, during his participation at a seminar organized by Egyptian daily influential Youm7 at the coalition’s headquarter, that “there should not be any reconciliation when there is blood.”
“How could we make conciliation with who killed Egyptians,” Zaki said. “Blood and betrayal cannot be forgiven, any other scenarios are rejected.”
On Feb. 9, the coalition expressed, in a statement, its full support for Egypt's brave law enforcement forces for their efforts in the war against terrorism in North Sinai.
“The great Egyptian people, with all their political and partisan affiliations, strongly support the decisions taken by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi against terrorism," said Salah Hasballah, official spokesman of the coalition.
Hasballah added that they trust the unlimited ability of law enforcement forces to cleanse Sinai and all of Egypt from terrorist elements.
The Egyptian Armed Forces and police raised a state of high alert across Egyptian governorates to execute a comprehensive security crackdown against terrorists, according to statements issued by the Armed Forces.
]]>
5/10/2018 4:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Malaysia's Mahathir says confident of victory, with strong poll lead]]>
A win for the opposition would amount to a political earthquake in Malaysia, which has been governed by the same ruling coalition for decades.

Votes were still being counted after the closely-fought poll and the Election Commission did not confirm Mahathir had won.

But addressing reporters in Kuala Lumpur, Mahathir -- who came out of retirement to take on his former protege Najib and the party he himself led for years -- said he believed his coalition had achieved the number of parliamentary seats needed for victory.

"There is no way they can catch up," Mahathir said, referring to the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition which has led Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957.

It was an incredible development in an electrifying election race, that has seen Mahathir throw in his lot with an alliance packed with parties that he crushed while in power, which includes jailed opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim -- his former nemesis.

Analysts had widely predicted that Najib's BN would retain power. They have been accused of manipulating the electoral system for decades to tilt polls in their favour, and also exercise strong control over the media.

But with 176 out of 222 parliament seats counted, Mahathir's opposition alliance, Pact of Hope had 89 seats while BN had 68, with smaller parties taking the others, the Election Commission announced. A total of 112 seats are needed to win the election.

The opposition also made strong gains in Sarawak state on Borneo island, a long-time BN stronghold.

Key BN figures, including the head of the coalition's ethnic Indian and Chinese parties, also lost their seats, according to unofficial tallies on Bernama.

Journalists had flocked to the headquarters of Najib's United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the lynchpin in the ruling coalition -- but he failed to turn up to give a victory speech and the media were told to leave.

- 'Far behind' -

Mahathir had earlier accused the Election Commission of delaying the release of results "because we believe from our unofficial counting that they (BN) are left far behind and the likelihood is that they will not be forming the government".

He said the opposition had achieved the number of seats needed to win the election.

However the commission insisted it was not keeping back the results due to "bad faith" and urged people to be patient.

Huge numbers of voters earlier flocked to the polls across the country, despite Najib having called the election on a weekday in what critics said was a bid to keep turnout down.

Some voters complained they were forced to queue up outside polling stations for hours, sparking concerns they may not be able cast their ballots.

Najib had been under pressure to score an emphatic win after the government lost the popular vote for the first time at the last elections in 2013. Observers say his position as prime minister could be under threat if he does not do well.

The controversy surrounding 1MDB has dogged Najib since the story exploded in 2015. Billions of dollars were allegedly stolen from the fund, which was set up and overseen by Najib. The leader and 1MDB deny any wrongdoing.

But in rural areas, the rising cost of living, which has hit poor Malays hard, has been the main concern particularly after the introduction of an unpopular sales tax in 2015.

The opposition has faced an uphill battle for victory.

Critics have accused the BN of gerrymandering with a redrawing of electoral boundaries that created constituencies more likely to back them, while activists have alleged numerous irregularities in the electoral roll.

The opposition has been targeted by authorities during the campaign, with police launching a probe into Mahathir for allegedly breaking a controversial new law against "fake news" after he claimed a plane he chartered was sabotaged.]]>
5/10/2018 12:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Nations vow to save Iran nuclear deal after US pullout]]>
Trump's decision to ditch the accord and reimpose sanctions on the Islamic republic risks overturning years of painstaking diplomacy, worsening instability in the Middle East and threatens foreign companies' business in Iran worth billions of dollars.

Iran reacted furiously, with lawmakers burning a US flag and chanting "Death to America" in the Iranian parliament. But its regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Israel applauded the US move.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran too should quit the nuclear deal unless Europeans offer solid guarantees that trade relations would continue.

"If you don't succeed in obtaining a definitive guarantee -- and I really doubt that you can -- at that moment, we cannot continue like this," he told Iran's government in a televised speech.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Iran's Hassan Rouhani agreed on Wednesday to work toward the continued implementation of the nuclear deal despite the US decision, which Macron called "a mistake".

Other signatories, including major trade partner Beijing, promised to work to keep the accord in place.

China insisted it would maintain "normal economic and trade exchanges with Tehran" and "continue to devote itself to safeguard and implement the deal".

Earlier German Chancellor Angela Merkel said European signatories would "do everything" to ensure the agreement's parameters remain in place.

- Iran 'upholding commitments' -

Slapping aside more than a decade and a half of diplomacy by Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia and past US administrations, Trump called Tuesday for a "new and lasting deal".

He described the accord as an "embarrassment" to the United States that did nothing to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions.

But the UN's nuclear watchdog, which is charged with ensuring Iran abides by the terms of the deal, said Wednesday Tehran was upholding its "nuclear-related commitments".

"Iran is subject to the world's most robust nuclear verification regime," said International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director-general Yukiya Amano.

Trump said a deal with Iran would have to include not just deeper restrictions on its nuclear programme, but on its ballistic missiles and support for militant groups across the Middle East.

"We will not allow a regime that chants 'Death to America' to gain access to the most deadly weapons on Earth," he said.

In response, Rouhani warned Iran could resume uranium enrichment "without limit".

But he also said Iran would discuss its response with other parties to the deal before announcing a decision.

Iran has always denied seeking a nuclear weapon, insisting its atomic programme was for civilian purposes.

Doubling down on Wednesday, Trump told reporters at the White House there would be "very severe consequences" if Iran were to resume its nuclear enrichment programme, which the 2015 deal curbed in exchange for sanctions relief.

- Oil rallies -

Trump's decision marked a stark diplomatic defeat for Europe, whose leaders urged the US president to think again.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis insisted Wednesday that the US would keep working with its allies to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons -- despite Trump's withdrawal from a deal designed to do that.

"We will continue to work alongside our allies and partners to ensure that Iran can never acquire a nuclear weapon, and will work with others to address the range of Iran's malign influence," Mattis told a Senate panel.

Macron, who in recent weeks made a deliberately public effort to talk Trump around, said in an interview with German media that it was vital for the deal's other parties to reaffirm their commitment.

"The Europeans' decision allows us to prevent Iran from immediately restarting their (nuclear) activities and to avoid escalating tensions," Macron said.

Rouhani for his part said Iran's economic interests would however need to be "guaranteed" in light of Trump's decision, the Iranian presidency's website said.

Trump's advisor John Bolton said earlier that European firms doing business in Iran have a six-month deadline to wind up investments or risk US sanctions.

The move offers Trump a domestic victory, fulfilling a longstanding campaign promise. Oil prices on Wednesday hit their highest levels for three and a half years.

But the long-term impact for US foreign policy and for the Middle East was less clear.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the United States will "lose in the end" from its decision, while Russia's Vladimir Putin expressed his country's "deep concern" over the US withdrawal.

Some analysts warned the move would also complicate US efforts to reach an agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over his country's own more advanced weapons programme.

Former CIA director John Brennan said Trump's move "gave North Korea more reason to keep its nukes".]]>
5/9/2018 11:50:00 PM
<![CDATA[Europe has limited opportunity to preserve nuclear deal, Rouhani tells Macron]]>
"Under the current conditions, Europe has a very limited opportunity to preserve the nuclear deal, and must, as quickly as possible, clarify its position and specify and announce its intentions with regard to its obligations," ISNA quoted Rouhani as telling Macron in the phone call.

Macron traveled to the United States in late April in an attempt to convince U.S. President Donald Trump not to withdraw from the nuclear deal.

Rouhani told Macron that Iran's rights under the deal related to the selling of oil, banking, investment and insurance must be "guaranteed" in a transparent and clear way, ISNA reported.

Foreign companies who have contracts with Iran must also announce their decision after Trump's withdrawal from the deal, Rouhani told Macron, according to ISNA.

He also said Iran has met its obligations under the deal and has never enriched uranium for a weapons program.

In a speech on Tuesday, Trump said the nuclear deal would allow Iran to enrich uranium to "reach the brink of a nuclear breakout."

"Despite what Trump thinks, enrichment in Iran has never been for obtaining a nuclear weapon but instead has been for scientific and technical pursuits," Rouhani told Macron, according to ISNA.]]>
5/9/2018 8:40:00 PM
<![CDATA[Spain moves to block Catalan ex-leader forming government]]>
Madrid said it had appealed a new Catalan law that would have allowed Puigdemont to be elected at a distance while he waits in Berlin for German courts to rule on a Spanish request to extradite him.

"We are appealing (before the Constitutional Court)... against a law that aims to swear in someone who has fled from justice and is living abroad," Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told reporters at the lower house of parliament in Madrid.

The Constitutional Court later accepted the appeal, meaning the law will be blocked until the court makes a final decision, which could take months.

Catalan lawmakers must pick a leader to form a government by May 22 to avert more elections and plot a path out of a seven-month standoff which has given Spain, the euro zone's fourth-largest economy, its worst dose of instability in decades.

A spokesman for Puigdemont's party in the Madrid parliament played down the chances of fresh elections, saying the two main secessionist parties would agree on an alternative candidate.

"If (Puigdemont's candidacy) is blocked, I am sure Together for Catalonia and Republican Left of Catalonia will choose a candidate," Carles Campuzano said.

The disputed law was approved last week by the Barcelona parliament, which is still dominated by secessionist groups since elections last December that Rajoy had hoped would stifle the independence movement.

Puigdemont fled to Belgium in October after Rajoy fired his administration for holding a banned independence referendum, and was then arrested while travelling through Germany.

The central government still has direct control over the parliament he left behind, and it is not clear who the secessionist movement would call on next to take the mantle.

By moving to suspend the law, Madrid is likely to thwart the fifth attempt this year to put forward a leadership candidate, all of whom are either in prison or abroad. Puigdemont has now tried twice.

The deadlock has caused frustration in the pro-independence coalition. Last week, the jailed leader of the Republican Left of Catalonia called on his allies in Puigdemont's traditionally right-wing group to form a government and shake off direct rule. ]]>
5/9/2018 7:52:15 PM
<![CDATA[OPINION: Iran begins to reap rewards of foreign manipulation]]>
Iran has not fought a war in the traditional sense – as in an inter-state conflict – since the destructive war against Iraq and Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. However, it sits in the middle of a complicated game of power politics in the Middle East, and there is seldom an incident where Iranian influence is absent.

Syria

The Iranian leadership has refused to accept the toppling of the Syrian government. Not only would the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad invoke anti-authoritarian sentiment across the region, but it would remove a key ally of Tehran, and one essential to maintaining supply routes to Hezbollah. Hezbollah, meanwhile, plays a unique role, offering Iran access to the Mediterranean while also posing a threat to Israel from the north.

Conflict between two longstanding adversaries, Iran and Israel, has been threatening to erupt in Syria for many years. While Israel has avoided getting bogged down in the war, the growing presence of between 100,000 and 200,000 Iranian-backed militiamen in Syria, including many stationed along the Golan Heights, threatens to upset the delicate balance that has largely kept both militaries at bay.

Israel believes that Iran’s attempts to establish independent and permanent bases in Syria are not only a direct state-to-state challenge for Israel, but show Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani’s desire to improve Iran’s capacity for asymmetric warfare against Israel. High-tech surveillance and weaponry can be easily transported to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and threaten the Israeli border on multiple fault lines.

Israel is determined not to repeat the mistakes it made in Lebanon when it allowed Hezbollah to take grip on the country, and Netanyahu made clear his intentions to combat Iranian aggression and will not tolerate aggressive Iranian maneuvering close to the Israel border from the start.

On February 10, Israel identified and tracked an Iranian UAV that had reportedly violated Israeli airspace over the Golan Heights. Downed by an Israeli Apache helicopter, and later alleged to be armed and on a strike mission, Israel conducted a number of strikes against the Quds Force, the foreign-focused branch on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) headed by the infamous Qasem Soleimani. These have largely focused on the T4 military base in Syria, and on one occasion led to the downing of an Israeli F-16, which was the first combat loss for the Israeli Air Force since 1982.

Putin has proven unable to contain either side, but his role in meditating disputes and stability in Syria is more important following the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal. For Iran, this is a major success. They have strengthened supply routes to Hezbollah and established a strong military presence in Syria. Israel’s nerve is on the brink of breaking.

Lebanon

The last parliamentary elections to take place in the country occurred in 2009, for what was supposed to be a four-year term; however, much changed in the region during those four years. Uprising, revolution and war have caused much instability across the region. While Lebanon has fared well considering the catastrophic war in neighboring Syria, its parliament has twice extended its term in order to address security concerns and reform the country’s electoral laws.

Preliminary results will be pleasing to Tehran. The two major Shiite movements, Hezbollah and Amal, along with their allied Christian Free Patriotic Movement, are together expected to win around 67 of the 128 parliamentary seats. Hezbollah and Amal are both expected to see small rises in seats won, although along with their allies, a majority in parliament is likely.

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A man gestures as he drives a car with the picture of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on it, during the parliamentary election day, in Bint Jbeil, southern Lebanon May 6, 2018 - REUTERS/Aziz Taher

Its control will be limited, however, by the possible appointment again of Saad Hariri as prime minister. Although Hariri’s Future Party is expected to lose around 13 seats, bringing their representation to around 20, Hariri controls the largest Sunni faction, making him the leading candidate for premiership. The confessional political system in Lebanon requires that parliament seats are divided evenly between Muslims and Christians, the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni and the speaker of parliament a Shiite.

Hariri’s appointment would help to give the government international legitimacy and ensure the continued influx of foreign economic support, but Tehran has shown its ability to remain influential on multiple stages across multiple countries.

Saudi Arabia

In Yemen, on Saudi Arabia’s southern border, Iran has provided the essential support to the Houthi rebels to maintain their struggle against the authoritarian Yemeni government, causing instability on the Kingdom’s border. As two of the three major power axes, Iran and Saudi Arabia have long been caught in a struggle for regional hegemony. Saudi Arabia is engaged in a brutal campaign in support of the Yemeni government and has felt the reach of Iran’s influence.

Supposedly provided by Iran, Houthi rebels in Yemen have fired a number of missiles towards Saudi cities. In November of last year, debris from a Houthi-fired missile only just missed a passenger terminal at Riyadh’s international airport. Most recently, in late March, Saudi Arabia said its air defenses destroyed seven ballistic missiles that targeted at least four Saudi cities, including the capital Riyadh. Disconcertingly, videos shared on social media depicted a fired Patriot missile doing a U-turn in mid-air and then crashing with a huge flash on the ground.

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdrawal from the groundbreaking nuclear deal with Iran threatens to create a deep schism between the U.S. and the other signatories of the deal, including the U.S.’s close European allies.

Prior to Trump’s expected withdrawal on May 8, European leaders scrambled to persuade the U.S. president to abide by the deal and uphold the integrity of the country. Officials from the U.K., France, Germany and the EU have affirmed their support for the deal, potentially aligning them on a collision course with an uncompromising and unpredictable president.

Again, Iran is at the center of a potential diplomatic crisis. European leaders must make a choice between succumbing to Trump’s wishes, meaning losing credibility and supporting what is believed to risk further conflict in the Middle East, or stand unified against their closest ally on its biggest foreign policy move to date. If the latter holds true, this moment could signal another downward shift in the U.S.’s role in the Middle East.

Iran’s clout across four foreign capitals – Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa – has been no easy feat to establish and maintain. Cannon fodder from Afghanistan and Pakistan are filling the ranks of Iran’s militia as Soleimani looks to operate autonomously across Iraq and Syria. With the promise of $800 a month and residency in Iran, a pledge of allegiance to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is more an economic opportunity to some than an ideological alliance. Economic challenges are still ripe in Iran, however, as demonstrated by the recent crash in the Iranian rial, but Soleimani and his Quds Force are not likely to be deterred by domestic calls to reallocate finances.

Soleimani has extended Tehran’s hold on key parts of the Sunni Arab world, and he is keen to reap the rewards of his investment.

Since 2003, Iran has sponsored, through training and funding, Shiite militia in Iraq to counter the extremist Sunni groups who emerged after the disbandment of the Ba’ath Party. Groups including Kata'ib Hezbollah and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq served Tehran’s interests during the U.S.-led occupation and continue to do so to this day under the auspices of Hashd al-Shaabi. While Iran provides a deep well of military and financial support, Baghdad provides the essential political legitimacy to these groups, and reducing Tehran’s influence proves complex, since Hashd al-Shaabi elements provide much needed support to the Iraqi Army.

The Iraqi election set for May 12 will be another arguably more important test of Iran’s growing influence across the region. The elections are taking place in the midst of major security challenges and tests to stability in a country beset with division and discontent. ]]>
5/9/2018 2:02:07 PM
<![CDATA[WRAPUP: Europeans scramble to save Iran deal after Trump reneges]]>
"The deal is not dead. There's an American withdrawal from the deal but the deal is still there," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who had backed the deal only reluctantly and remained suspicious of Washington, accused Trump of lying, adding: "Mr Trump, I tell you on behalf of the Iranian people: You've made a mistake."

French President Emmanuel Macron was due to speak later in the day to his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, Le Drian said. Iran also signalled its willingness to talk.

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French President Emmanuel Macron attends a press conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, June 12, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Trump announced on Tuesday he would reimpose U.S. economic sanctions on Iran to undermine what he called "a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made".

The 2015 agreement, worked out by the United States, five other world powers and Iran, lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program. The fruit of more than a decade of diplomacy, the pact was designed to prevent Iran obtaining a nuclear bomb.

Trump complained that the deal, the signature foreign policy achievement of his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, did not address Iran's ballistic missile program, its nuclear activities beyond 2025 or its role in conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

His decision raises the risk of deepening conflicts in the Middle East, puts the United States at odds with European diplomatic and business interests, and casts uncertainty over global oil supplies. Oil prices rose more than 2 percent on Wednesday, with Brent hitting a 3-1/2-year high.

It could also strengthen the hand of hardliners at the expense of reformers in Iran's political scene.

"REGION DESERVES BETTER"

France's Le Drian said Iran was honouring its commitments under the accord.

"The region deserves better than further destabilisation provoked by American withdrawal. So we want to adhere to it and see to it that Iran does too, that Iran behaves with restraint," he told French radio station RTL.

The European Union said it would remain committed to the deal and would ensure sanctions on Iran remain lifted, as long as Tehran meets its commitments. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said it was "totally unclear what the U.S. envisages as an alternative to the deal".

France and others were well aware that there were concerns about issues other than nuclear capability, but they could be addressed without ditching the nuclear deal, Le Drian said.

Macron's contact with Rouhani will be followed by meetings next week, probably on Monday, involving the Iranians and European counterparts from France, Britain and Germany.

Russia has also said it remains committed to the deal; the Russian and German foreign ministers were also due to meet in Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said.

The prospects of saving the deal depend in large measure on whether international companies are willing and able still to do business with Iran despite the U.S. sanctions.

Le Drian said meetings would also be held with firms including oil giant Total and others with major business and economic stakes in the region.

In a harbinger of what could be in store, Trump's new ambassador to Germany said German businesses should halt their activities in Iran immediately.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the United States should not consider itself the world's "economic policeman".

European companies including carmaker PSA, plane manufacturer Airbus and engineering group Siemens said they were keeping a close eye on the situation.

On his official website, Khamenei said Trump's announcement of his decision had been "silly and superficial", adding: "He had maybe more than 10 lies in his comments."

"DEATH TO AMERICA!"

Lawmakers in parliament burned a U.S. flag and a symbolic copy of the deal, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and chanted "Death to America!".

President Hassan Rouhani, a reformist who had hoped that the deal would boost living standards in Iran, struck a more pragmatic tone in a televised speech, saying Iran would negotiate with European countries, China and Russia.

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Iran's President Hassan Rouhani. REUTERS

"If at the end of this short period we conclude that we can fully benefit from the JCPOA with the cooperation of all countries, the deal will remain," he said.

Trump's decision adds to the strain on the transatlantic alliance since he took office 16 months ago. One by one, European leaders came to Washington and tried to meet his demands, while pleading with him to preserve the deal.

The Trump administration kept the door open to negotiating another deal with allies, but it is far from clear whether the Europeans would pursue that option or be able to convince Iran to accept it.

The leaders of Britain, Germany and France, signatories to the deal along with China and Russia, said in a joint statement that Trump's decision was a cause for "regret and concern".

China's foreign ministry said Beijing would defend the deal and urged parties "to assume a responsible attitude".

A Western diplomat was more pointed.

"It announces sanctions for which the first victims will be Trump’s European allies," the diplomat said, adding that it was clear Trump did not care about the alliance.

Abandoning the pact was one of the most consequential decisions of Trump's "America First" policy, which has led him to quit the global Paris climate accord, come close to a trade war with China and pull out of an Asian-Pacific trade deal.

It also appeared to reflect the growing influence within the administration of Iran hawks such as new National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who arrived in Pyongyang on Wednesday to prepare for a summit that Trump hopes will secure North Korea's denuclearisation.

COMPLYING WITH DEAL

Iran denies long-held Western suspicions that it tried in the past to develop atomic weapons and says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

U.N. inspectors say Iran has not broken the nuclear deal and senior U.S. officials themselves have said several times that Iran is in technical compliance with the pact.

Renewing sanctions would make it much harder for Iran to sell its oil abroad or use the international banking system.

Iran is the third-largest member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and pumps about 3.8 million barrels per day of crude, or just under 4 percent of global supply. China, India, Japan and South Korea buy most of its 2.5 million bpd of exports.

The U.S. Treasury says sanctions related to Iran's energy, auto and financial sectors will be reimposed in three and six months.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said a license for Boeing Co to sell passenger jets to Iran will be revoked, scuttling a $38 billion deal. The ban will also hit Europe's Airbus, whose planes contain U.S.-made parts.

Trump said the nuclear agreement did not prevent Iran from cheating and continuing to pursue nuclear weapons.

"It is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement," he said. "The Iran deal is defective at its core."

Trump said he was willing to negotiate a new deal with Iran, but Iran has already ruled that out.

Iran's growing military and political power in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq worries the United States, Israel and Washington's Gulf Arab allies such as Saudi Arabia.

Among the few nations to welcome Trump's decision were Israel and Saudi Arabia, Iran's arch-foes in the Middle East.
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5/9/2018 12:39:58 PM
<![CDATA[Report: 6 female lawmakers in Hezbollah-dominated Parliament]]>
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced on Monday that his Future Movement obtained 21 parliamentary seats. The statements came at a press conference in Beirut, where Hariri said that the parliamentary elections are "a great achievement that prevents the political vacuum."

"I am still an ally of Lebanese President Michel Aoun because this alliance achieves stability for the country," added Hariri, who also stressed that he may leave his post as Lebanon's premier if he does not "like the situation in the next stage".

The Iran-backed Hezbollah won more than half of the Parliament's seats, at least 67 seats in the 128-seat Parliament will be dominated by Hezbollah and its political allies, as state TV reports revealed on Monday.

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Slap Image: FrontPage of Pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar newspaper on May 7, 2018.

Celebrating the victory of the Shiite bloc in Lebanon, pro-Hezbollah newspaper, Al-Akbhar, published a picture of Hariri on Monday’s front page, under the headline of “The Slap”.

The election came amid severe disputes among the big powers in Lebanon, in the absence of the classical alliances and coalitions that Lebanon had been used to in the past years.

According to the new amended law, the Lebanese people cast their votes in 15 electoral constituencies, most notably the stronghold of the Hariri family, “Beirut II”, where Hezbollah’s political wings have sought to control and guarantee the loss of the Hariri family.

President Aoun called on Lebanese expats to take part in the electoral process and to “take advantage of this right for the first time in Lebanon’s electoral history.” Lebanese expatriates cast votes in the parliamentary election for the first time with new amendments to the election law, amid a fierce state of polarization between Lebanon’s political factions.

“The parliamentary polls are the only way to ensure democracy,” Aoun added in press statements prior to the voting day, urging Lebanese youth to participate intensively in the election.

According to the Lebanese constitution approved in 1943, Lebanon’s president is always a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the Parliament speaker a Shi'ite, as power is split among religious groups according to the quotas adjusted at the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.

The 128 seats in the parliament are split equally between Christians and Muslims: 64 for Christians and 64 for Muslims, including Druze. The parliamentary poll was postponed three times since 2009 over disputes among political factions about the electoral law.

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Lebanese Chart Image: A Chart published by Reuters illustrating the Lebanese Parliament's composition

Lebanese women's participation in the poll has brought fresh faces to the parliament, most notably anchorwoman, Paula Yacoubian, who does not belong to the traditional political class. Females made up 50.8 percent of registered voters in 2018, according to the United Nations.

The 42-year old media figure has Armenian origins as her family survived the genocide.

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Lebanese TV journalist Paula Yacoubian is the only candidate from outside the traditional political class to have won a seat in Lebanon's election-AFP

Lawyer Roula Tabsh also won a seat in the capital city as she ran on Hariri's Future Movement list; pledging to advocate for women's rights.

The 50-year-old politician, Sethrida Geagea, returned for a new term in Parliament, amid accusations of being anti-Muslim.

Inaya Ezzedine, 57, also won a seat in the Parliament. Ezzedine served as minister for administrative reform; she hails from Hezbollah's ally, Amal Movement.

Dima Jamali, who ran on the Future Movement's list, is also a fresh face in the Parliament and is representing Lebanon's second city, Tripoli.

PM Saad Hariri's aunt was re-elected and kept, for the fifth time, the seat she has held in Lebanon's southern district of Sidon.

After the assassination of her brother in 2005, she stopped wearing skirt-suits and make-up and began covering her hair with a traditional white headscarf.

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Bahia Hariri- AFP
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5/9/2018 11:36:09 AM
<![CDATA[Jordan urges political solution to rid Mideast of nuclear arms]]>
Al-Safadi spoke in Germany before U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday he would pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.

"We all need to work together in making sure that we solve the conflicts of the region ... and strive for a Middle East that is free of all weapons of mass destruction," he told reporters after a meeting with leaders of Chancellor Angela Merkel's right-left "grand coalition" government.

"If we do not look at the political picture and ... find a way to ensure that the whole region is free of (these weapons), we'll be looking at a lot of dangerous repercussions that will affect the region in terms of an arms race," he said.

In March, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS News that his kingdom would "without a doubt" develop nuclear weapons if Iran, Riyadh's arch foe, did so.

Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East, although it neither confirms nor denies possessing atomic weapons.

Trump said he pulled out of the 2015 agreement partly because it does not address Iran's ballistic missile program or its role in wars in Syria and Yemen, and does not permanently prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

Germany, France and Britain, in a joint statement, decried the U.S. decision and pledged to uphold the nuclear deal together with Tehran despite Washington's departure. They called on the United States to refrain from taking steps that would prevent other countries from upholding the accord.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran aimed to continue to comply with the deal's terms, and would swiftly reach out to the other signatories - Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China - to keep it in place.

Volker Kauder, head of Merkel's conservatives in parliament, said continued dialogue was needed to avoid isolating Iran.

"That would only further exacerbate the situation in the Middle East," Kauder told reporters in Murnau, where Merkel and other leaders of the coalition government are gathered for a retreat.

Al-Safadi also expressed concern about the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv on May 14 and the possible consequences.

"Jerusalem should be the capital of an independent Palestinian state in the borders of 1967. We should avoid everything that calls stability into question," he said.]]>
5/9/2018 6:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egyptian, Sudan manage to broker a land border ports agreement]]>
The meeting was held at the Diplomatic club in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. Egyptian delegation was headed by Fathi Abdul Azim,head of the Arabian African cooperation sector in the Egyptian Ministry of investment, Sudanese delegation was headed by Undersecretary of State Abdul Ghani Na’em.

Abdul Azim told Egypt Today that both parties decided to organize a conference where Egyptian and Sudanese businessmen will be invited to check “Kostol” land border port in Egypt, a step to build more investment partnerships boosting economic cooperation between Egypt and Sudan.

The discussion with the Sudanese officials ended with success, we managed to broker agreements to enhance the goods fleet between both countries through land border ports such as Kostol, added Abul Azim.

“Egyptian and Sudanese passengers are exempt from all customs fees, except in certain cases based on both countries’ laws and regulations,” continued Abdul Azim.

The meeting tracked all the obstacles facing the cargo trucks transferring between both countries, added Abdul Azim.

Egyptian state executed multiple projects to improve the services at the land border ports in coordination with the Sudanese officials. The projects included paving roads, setting several services facilities at the road to secure continuation of traffic.

Egyptian – Sudanese relations had witnessed a deterioration caused by disputes over the ownership of Halayib triangle border area. Sudan has recalled its ambassador to Egypt for consultations on January 4 before his return on March 5.]]>
5/9/2018 6:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[EU 'determined to preserve' Iran nuclear deal: Mogherini]]>
The 2015 accord "is delivering on its goal which is guaranteeing that Iran doesn't develop nuclear weapons, the European Union is determined to preserve it," Mogherini said.

EU President Donald Tusk said the Iran deal would be on the agenda when the bloc's leaders meet for a summit in Sofia next week.

"Policies of @realDonaldTrump on #IranDeal and trade will meet a united European approach. EU leaders will tackle both issues at the summit in Sofia next week," Tusk wrote on Twitter.

Mogherini made a direct appeal to the Iranian people and their leaders to stick with the accord after US President Donald Trump said Washington was ditching what he called a "defective" agreement.

"Stay true to your commitments as we will stay true to ours and together with the rest of the international community we will preserve this nuclear deal," Mogherini said at a hastily arranged press conference in Rome.

She warned she was "particularly worried" by Trump's announcement of new sanctions on Iran, saying the EU would act to defend its economic interests.

An EU official said the European Commission, the bloc's executive, would meet next week to discuss possible countermeasures to US sanctions.

The official called Trump's decision "the worst that could have been taken".

European powers Britain, France and Germany led a campaign to persuade Trump to stick with the deal negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama, arguing that it was the most effective way of stopping Iran developing nuclear weapons.

But the massive diplomatic push ended in failure as Trump -- as expected -- announced the US was pulling out and reimposing sanctions that had been relaxed in return for Iran abandoning its nuclear programme.

But Mogherini said the EU would stick with the accord, which was also signed by Russia and China.

"As long as Iran continues to implement its nuclear related commitments, as it is doing so far, the European Union will remain committed to the continued full and effective implementation of the nuclear deal," she said.

"We fully trust the work, competence and autonomy of the International Atomic Energy Agency that has published 10 reports certifying that Iran has fully complied with its commitments."

Senior British, German, French and EU officials held last-ditch talks with Iran's deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi in Brussels just hours before Trump's announcement, stressing that Europe was committed to the deal whatever the news from the White House.

A German foreign ministry source said it was important to keep talks going in coming days to avoid "uncontrolled escalation" after Trump's decision.]]>
5/9/2018 4:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Haftar vows to fight armed militias in Libya]]>
A Military Egyptian delegation attended the graduation ceremony, headed by General Mohamed El-Keshki, deputy minister of defense for external relations.

Haftar vowed to keep the current military campaign against terrorist armed militias in Libya.

The graduation of the Libyan military class coincides with the fourth anniversary of operation Karama (battle for dignity), launched by the army in 2014 to combat rival militias.

The graduation ceremony coincided with the fourth year of the “Karama” military campaign launched by Haftar in 2014.


The Libyan military commander praised, during a speech he gave, his forces’ successful operations in several Libyan fronts.

The Libyan commander has recently launched on May 7 a military offensive against armed militias in the port city of Derna.]]>
5/9/2018 2:51:00 AM
<![CDATA[UK, France, Germany urge U.S. not to block others from sticking to Iran deal]]>
Trump announced that he is pulling America out of the 2015 deal worked out by the United States, the three European countries, other international powers and Iran to ease sanctions in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear programme.

"We urge the U.S. to ensure that the structures of the JCPOA (deal) can remain intact and to avoid taking action which obstructs its full implementation by all other parties to the deal," the leaders of Britain, Germany and France said in a joint statement provided by Prime Minister Theresa May's office.

May spoke by telephone with France's President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel after Trump made his statement and the United States said it intended to reimpose sanctions on Iran.

In the joint statement, the three leaders said that they took note of Trump's decision "with regret and concern".

"Our governments remain committed to ensuring the agreement is upheld, and will work with all the remaining parties to the deal to ensure this remains the case, including through ensuring the continuing economic benefits to the Iranian people that are linked to the agreement," they said.

The United States' ambassador to Germany told German businesses to stop trading with Iran, and a German business association said it feared that European companies that traded with Iran would risk U.S. fines.

Britain, in updated advice to exporters late on Tuesday, said it "continues to fully support expanding our trade relationship with Iran and encourages UK businesses to take advantage of the commercial opportunities that arise".

But it warned British businesses and their staff to seek legal advice on how they might be affected by U.S. sanctions.

The Confederation of British Industry said U.S. sanctions "could significantly impact UK businesses operating in Iran".

The European joint statement also urged Iran "to show restraint" in response to the U.S. decision.

"Iran must continue to meet its own obligations under the deal, cooperating fully and in a timely manner with IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) inspection requirements," the three European leaders said.

"There must be no doubt: Iran's nuclear programme must always remain peaceful and civilian."

Concerns about Iran's ballistic missile programme and activities in Syria, Iraq and Yemen also needed to be addressed further, the leaders said. ]]>
5/9/2018 2:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Israel orders HRW official deported]]>CAIRO – 9 May 2018: The Israeli Interior Ministry on Tuesday said it had ordered the representative of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Tel Aviv to leave within 14 days, accusing him of supporting a boycott against Israel.


Omar Shakir, the Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine director, posted on Twitter that the Israeli government has ordered him deported after compiling a 7-pg intel dossier on him.




“First time in HRW history Israel orders official out. Year ago it denied work permit before reversing, accusing us of 'propaganda'. Now its BDS. Real aim to muzzle dissent,” Shakir added to his post.


The international non-governmental organization criticized Israel for the decision as it said on Twitter, “Why has Israel, which refers to itself as lone democracy in the region, joined ranks of North Korea, Sudan & Iran that block access to HRW and ordered country director Omar Shakir deported?”


HRW said in a Tuesday statement that the decision showed that Israel was seeking to suppress criticism of its human rights record, and that it would challenge the decision in court.


“Authorities based the decision on a dossier a government ministry compiled on Shakir’s activities spanning over a decade, almost all of them predating his HRW employment,” the statement said. “The decision comes a year after the Interior Ministry granted HRW a permit to employ Shakir as a foreign expert, after initially refusing to issue it.


“Israeli authorities should reverse the decision, HRW stands fully behind Shakir.”


According to the HRW official website, in 2011, Israeli authorities passed a law allowing people to file lawsuits and seek damages against anyone who publicly calls for boycotts of Israel, defined to include boycotts of settlements.


On Nov. 16, 2017, the Israeli Interior Ministry notified HRW that, based on a private lawsuit filed in a district court in Jerusalem challenging the work permit, it had initiated a review of Shakir’s status in Israel.


In December, the Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Ministry furnished a dossier “on Shakir’s activities in the boycott field over the years.” It included a recommendation, endorsed by the strategic affairs and public diplomacy minister, Gilad Erdan, that “Shakir should be stripped of his work visa and denied re-entry into the country.”


HRW applied in January 2018 to extend Shakir’s work visa, which was due to expire on March 31. On March 29, the Interior Ministry extended the visa for a month pending a decision on revocation.


In March 2017, an amendment to the Law of Entry, cited in the May 7 letter, empowered authorities to refuse entry into the country to activists who publicly call for or have committed to participate in a boycott against Israel.


Last year, Israel initially denied Shakir, who has denied the accusations against him, a work permit, in a move criticized by the U.S. government, pushing Israel to grant him a one-year work visa.


“Troubling to see this action taken against my colleague and HRW; democratic values require ensuring space for robust debate, free expression & of course human rights advocacy.” Human rights researcher and attorney Steve Swerdlow posted on Twitter.


“Having been in these shoes in another part of the globe can say muzzling the messenger is not the answer,” Swerdlow added.


On Tuesday Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said he had acted on the recommendation of Gilad Erdan, the minister for strategic affairs, whose department said it had gathered data that Shakir had for years supported a boycott of Israel.


“It is inconceivable that a boycott activist can receive a permit to remain in Israel so that he can act in every possible way against the state. I will use all means to expel such people from the country,” Deri’s statement said.


“Israeli minister of interior proudly announces that he is deporting HRW's representative from Israel,” Sari Bashi, Israel Palestine advocacy director of Human Rights Watch. “Does he think he can hide Israeli human rights abuses by getting rid of those who document them?”





]]>
5/9/2018 1:32:28 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt closely follows up Iran deal developments - Foreign Ministry]]>
Egypt understands the US and international keenness to address all regional and international concerns related to the nuclear deal with Iran and Iran's interference in the internal affairs of the Arab countries, the ministry added.

“The ministry called on Iran to fulfill its obligations in accordance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Ensuring the continuation of its status as a non-nuclear weapon state and enhancing the chances of establishing a Middle East free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, which will promote stability and peace in the region”, read the Statement.

Egypt renewed its firm stance on the need to preserve the security and stability of the region and the safety of its peoples.

The statement voiced Egypt's deep concern about any policies aimed at expanding the influence in the Arab world and the negative impact on the national security of Arab countries.

Egypt stressed the importance of the participation of all the concerned Arab parties in any dialogue on the future of the region, in particular the possibility of amending the nuclear deal with Iran.

Egypt called on all regional powers, including Iran, to stop adopting policies or actions aimed at harming the security of the Arab region.

Egypt hopes that current developments will not result in any regional armed conflicts that would threaten its stability and security, the statement concluded.
]]>
5/9/2018 1:01:46 AM
<![CDATA[Sisi seeks to retrieve Egypt-Africa relations: Spokesperson]]>CAIRO – 8 May 2018: Presidency Spokesperson Bassam Radi on Tuesday affirmed that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is one of the prominent and experienced African leaderships in the continent.


Radi added, during his interview with TV host Tamer Amin on Al-Hayah satellite channel, that Museveni’s visit to Egypt comes within the framework of Egyptian-African relations, especially with countries of the Nile Basin.


Ugandan President Museveni visited Egypt on Tuesday upon President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s invitation for a joint press conference that addressed countering terrorism, investment and establishing a new navigational course between African countries through the Nile River.


Museveni said that he looks at President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi as a “warrior” who defends freedoms. He also added that he is glad to see Egypt now enjoying a stable and progressive leadership.


Radi clarified that the international and regional circumstances during the 70s and 80s were the reason behind the sit-back in Egypt’s relations with the African continent, however, president Sisi is currently working on retrieving these relations.


It is pertinent to mention that Egypt was elected by African leaders in Addis Ababa to head the African Union's upcoming 31st session in 2019.


The 30th African Union Summit kicked off Sunday under the theme of “Winning the fight against corruption: A sustainable path to Africa’s transformation” in Addis Ababa with the participation of President Sisi as well as 54 African leaders.


]]>
5/9/2018 12:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. Treasury to terminate Iran aircraft license- US official]]>
"Within the first 90 days the Treasury Department is going to work to terminate the specific licenses that were issued pursuant to the statement of licensing policy on civil aviation," a senior State Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Treasury will be reaching out to private-sector companies and work to terminate those license in an orderly way," the official said.]]>
5/8/2018 11:37:19 PM
<![CDATA[Trump defies allies to withdraw US from Iran nuclear deal]]>
His decision itself came as little surprise -- the US leader has long scorned what he called the "disastrous" 2015 accord -- but his suggestion that the regime must change underlined the risks of a dangerous new escalation in the Middle East.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised that Washington will work with its friends to build a new agreement to curtail Iran's alleged quest for nuclear weapons -- but there was no disguising that Trump's decision marked a stark diplomatic defeat for Europe, whose leaders had begged him to think again.

"I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal," Trump declared in a White House address, branding the landmark 2015 accord that was endorsed by Britain, China, Germany, Russia and Barack Obama's previous US administration "defective at its core."

Trump -- who enjoys close ties with Iran's foes Saudi Arabia and Israel -- said he had consulted America's friends in the Middle East and concluded "that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement."

"America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail," Trump vowed. "We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction and we will not allow a regime that chants 'Death to America' to gain access to the most deadly weapons on Earth."

Trump's hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton said that European firms would have a "wind down" period to cancel any investments made in Iran under the terms of the accord, after the world agreed to give Tehran sanctions relief in return for it scaling back its enrichment program and placing its nuclear industry under international inspection.

But there was no disguising the dismay in European capitals, whose diplomats see the deal as the best way of keeping tabs on Iran's ambitions while heading off the risk of a destabilizing new arms race in the Middle East, where tensions are already soaring between Tehran and both Israel and the Gulf monarchies.

"France, Germany, and the UK regret the US decision to leave the JCPOA (Iran deal). The nuclear non-proliferation regime is at stake," France's President Emmanuel Macron wrote.

"We will work collectively on a broader framework, covering nuclear activity, the post-2025 period, ballistic activity, and stability in the Middle-East, notably Syria, Yemen, and Iraq," he added.

The European Union's chief diplomat Federica Mogherini, who helped oversee the talks with Iran that led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, insisted the accord "is delivering on its goal which is guaranteeing that Iran doesn't develop nuclear weapons."

And she added: "the European Union is determined to preserve it."

In contrast, Israel's Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, who last week released a trove of intelligence on a pre-2003 Iranian plan to develop a nuclear weapon which Trump cited approvingly in his speech, was overjoyed.

"Israel fully supports President Trump's bold decision today to reject the disastrous nuclear deal," Netanyahu said, in a televised address, even as his country opened bomb shelters and put the military on high alert in case of attack from the Iranian forces deployed in Syria in defense of Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Saudi Arabian state media said the kingdom "supports and welcomes" Trump's decision.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani -- who some deal supporters see as a reforming moderate who will be undermined by any collapse in the deal -- was furious, accusing Trump of "psychological warfare" and vowing to take the matter up with the agreement's other signatories, including Washington's rivals Moscow and Beijing.

- No 'Plan B'? -

Meanwhile, former Obama administration officials warned that the decision puts the US on a collision course with Iran, distances the White House from its key allies and put US citizens held in Iran at risk.

Former deputy secretary of state Tony Blinken, who helped negotiate the accord, called it a "monumental mistake" and former senior diplomat Wendy Sherman told reporters Trump was putting international stability at risk for purely domestic political purposes.

"This has been a crisis that Trump has been precipitating himself to answer his base, to fulfil a campaign pledge that he made, without any sense whatsoever of what Plan B is," she told reporters.

"It says that the United States is not a reliable partner," she added, insisting that the existing deal permanently prevents Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon.

Blinken said ending the deal gives "hardliners in Iran an excuse to restart their pursuit of nuclear weapons, but without the united international coalition to oppose them or inspectors on the ground to expose them."

Trump had had until May 12 to decide whether to continue to waive sanctions on Iran's central bank and its oil sector dealings, a key pillar of the 2015 agreement, but moved more quickly than expected and cancelled sanctions that were not yet up for review.

- Fall of regime? -

For months, critics have been warning ending the waivers would unravel the carefully constructed deal, plunge Iran's already struggling economy into crisis and expose the biggest transatlantic rift since the Iraq War.

But some US officials close to Trump, as well as hawkish Washington lobbyists, argue that an Iranian economic collapse could lead to Tehran's Islamist regime falling -- and that this would be a good thing.

Ahead of Trump's verdict, diplomats shifted into damage limitation mode, hoping that beyond his inevitably harsh rhetoric, he stops short of immediately reimposing sanctions.

In Brussels, officials are already working on "blocking" measures that would protect EU citizens and companies from US prosecution.

"We are having conversations obviously and we are working on a number of proposals that could protect European companies and operators," a senior EU official told reporters.]]>
5/8/2018 10:09:43 PM
<![CDATA[KSA seeks joint Arab efforts to resolve Palestine issues]]>CAIRO – 8 May 2018: Minister of Culture and Information of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad chaired Tuesday the ninth meeting of the Executive Bureau of the Arab Ministers of Information Council.


During the meeting, Awwad emphasized the necessity of fostering joint Arab media work to shed the light on the Palestinian case and to reclaim the legitimate rights of Palestinians.


Awwad made the remarks in his presidential speech at the 9th session of the executive bureau at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on Tuesday.


Awwad also highlighted Kind Salman Bin Abdulaziz’ statement during the 29th Arab Summit in Dhahran, that “the Palestinian issue is the first and foremost issue of Arabs and Muslims and it will remain so until the Palestinian people regain all their legitimate rights.”


Legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, according to the meeting and King Salman’s statement includes the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.


Awwad also affirmed the need to exert utmost efforts to tackle the crises facing the Arab region.


Moreover, the Saudi Minister said utmost efforts must be taken in order to reach a political solution to the crisis in Yemen and provide humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people through a comprehensive humanitarian operations plan.


The meetings concluded with various draft resolutions to be submitted to the council, on its 49th session, set to take place on Wednesday, to approve them.


]]>
5/8/2018 10:03:59 PM
<![CDATA[Israel goes on high alert over Syria as Trump quits Iran deal]]>
The announcement came minutes before U.S. President Donald Trump declared he was withdrawing from the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran, a move that has stirred concern about a possible regional flare-up.

Israeli media said the order to prepare bomb shelters was unprecedented during Syria's seven-year-old civil war, in which Israel is formally neutral, though it has carried out cross-border strikes at suspected deployments by Iranian forces supporting Damascus and arms transfers to Hezbollah guerrillas.

Iran has blamed Israel for an April 9 strike that killed seven of its personnel at a Syrian airbase and has vowed revenge.

In its statement, Israel's military further said that its defence systems had been deployed "and IDF (Israel Defence Force) troops are on high alert for an attack".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a televised address after Trump's announcement, lauding the U.S. president's hard tack on Iran and alluding to the tensions over Syria.

"For months now, Iran has been transferring lethal weaponry to its forces in Syria, with the purpose of striking at Israel," Netanyahu said. "We will respond mightily to any attack on our territory."]]>
5/8/2018 8:49:36 PM
<![CDATA[Political parties prepare for local elections ]]>
The Ministry of Local Development has reportedly allocated specific portions from its 2018/2019 budget to local councils, implying the government’s intention to permit municipal councils to work once again, MP Yousry al Asiouty, member of the parliamentary committee for local development, said in press remarks on Friday.

The local administration law will be expectedly passed during the current parliamentary session and then the government will be able to hold the municipal elections.

For his part, Yasser al-Hudaibi, official spokesman of the Wafd Party, said that the party is ready to run in the municipal elections, adding that the party is open to go in alliance with other parties and national forces to contest the elections in a mixed-party list under the leadership of the party.

Hudaibi added that Wafd preferred engaging other parties to form a political alliance as it is difficult for any party to win all the seats in all constituencies.

In the same context, Islam Ghazoli, member of the Political Bureau of Al Masryeen Al Ahrar (Liberal Egyptians Party), said that the party has been working on developing a comprehensive and ambitious strategy to prepare its cadres of young people and women to be able to actively participate in the municipal elections, stressing that the party seeks to empower fresh faces in the political scene.

Mohamed Amin, deputy chairman of the Conservative Party for Youth Affairs, pointed out that the party held several meetings to train its cadres in preparation for the local elections, stressing the need to expedite the issuance of the local administration law.

He pointed out that more meetings of the community dialogue should be held on the draft law to highlight the importance, impact and definition of the electoral system, stressing the importance of local administration in reducing the burden on the House of Representatives.

He explained that the Conservative Party is open to the electoral alliances in local council elections.


The local administration law stipulates that 75 percent of the seats shall be dedicated to the single-member seats, while 25 percent goes to the candidates of the winning mixed-party list.

Are municipal councils indispensable for development or corruption breeders?



In press statements, Wadhah al-Hamzawi, former governor of Sohag, said that the suspension of municipal councils has had a negative effect on governorates’ development because it had enabled the governors to easily implement development projects.

“The governor used to first come forward to the municipal council of his governorate before he could allocate any plots of land for investment purposes, and now he is obliged to present any development plans to the Cabinet during its meeting with the governorates, which lasts for only four hours,” he illustrated.

Hamzawi added that the governor may find himself not having the adequate time to discuss all aspects of the governorate’s development plan.

On the other hand, former Minister of Local Development, Ahmed Zaky Abdeen, said that the former local councils did not have an effective role in contributing to the development of the governorates.

“The problem boils down to the lack of experienced and qualified people in these councils,” he added.

Former Deputy Minister of Local Development Mohamed Attia told Tahrir News that the bribery charges unveiled by the Administrative Control Authority (ACA) is “just the tip of an iceberg”, stressing the need to form a body of law officers that can be entitled with overseeing the work of the municipal councils and that has the authority to immediately arrest corrupt officials.

From November 2017 to January 2018, the ACA managed to arrest several officials involved in bribery charges.

Following the 2011 revolution and the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, municipal councils were dissolved, as their heads were unfairly elected during Mubarak’s era.
]]>
5/8/2018 8:35:13 PM
<![CDATA[School history book criticized over text on Cairo Fire]]>
The Cairo Fire, also known as Black Saturday, took place in January 1952 under the British occupation of Egypt.

The book’s controversial text reads, “The fedayeen (independent fighters willing to sacrifice themselves) started to attack the British camps. The [Egyptian] government deployed more [auxiliary policemen] to support the fedayeen. When the British [troops] figured out [the government’s plan,] they cordoned Ismailia police station to disarm the policemen on January 25, 1952.”

“However, Fouad Seraj al-Deen, [Egypt’s] Interior Minister [at the time] ordered the [auxiliary policemen] to resist, and consequently, dozens of them (auxiliary policemen) were killed. When the news reached Cairo, auxiliary policemen there rebelled, which led to the [occurrence of] the Cairo Fire in January 26, 1952,” the text reads.

january 25
A crowd marches towards Shepherd Hotel in Cairo, Egypt on Jan. 25, 1952


Teachers’ criticism

Waleed M., a history teacher, said that the context of the text may mislead readers to think that the policemen were accountable for the fire. Some phrases need to be added in order for the true meaning to be understood, Waleed added.

Some teachers in classes and private centers misuse the text to spread wrong information among students, which incriminates policemen, Ahmed A., another history teacher, said, adding that the text has caused disputes between patriot teachers and those who belong to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Historian Gamal Shakra

Defending the auxiliary policemen, historian Gamal Shakra, a professor of contemporary history at Ain Shams University, said that the policemen had rebelled just like any other Egyptian citizen who cared about his country.

Some unknown groups were behind the incident, including the Muslim Brotherhood, as the fall of King Farouk of Egypt was beneficial to the MB, Shakra claimed.

Education Ministry slams claims

Ministry of Education spokesperson Ahmed Khairy slammed critics of the text, saying that the text mentioned that the policemen rebelled following the death of their colleagues in Ismailia, during which the fire took place, adding that the text does not accuse any party of causing the fire.

On January 25, 1952, the British authorities demanded that policemen in Ismailia surrender their weapons and leave the Suez Canal zone. However, Seraj Al-Deen ordered policemen to open fire and fight until the very last bullet. The confrontation reportedly left about 50 policemen dead. For this reason, Egypt celebrates National Police Day on January 25 every year.

No group has officially been held guilty yet for the Cairo Fire, which happened on the following day. Various reports accuse King Farouk, the British occupation and the MB of planning the fire; however, no irrefutable evidence has officially proved the claims.

ahram
1952 Cairo fire - Ahram newspaper – Wikimedia commons


The Cairo Fire reportedly killed about 23 people and scorched some 300 shops, 13 grand hotels, 40 cinemas, 16 clubs, and 73 cafes and restaurants, according to media reports.

In 2014, Zaki Al-Beheiry, author of “Mistakes of the Contemporary History Books”, described the history book for the second year of the secondary stage of education as inaccurate, adding that it incorporates 120 disastrous mistakes.

Additional reporting by Amr Kandil ]]>
5/8/2018 5:46:39 PM
<![CDATA[Looking at Ugandan-Egyptian relations ]]>
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s visit to Egypt comes within the framework of the continuous cooperation between the two countries in different fields.

During Museveni’s meeting with Sisi, a number of agreements will besigned to promote the bilateral cooperation in the fields of agriculture, industry, electricity and renewable energy, according to Ambassador Bassam Radi, presidency spokesman.
image 1
TV Screenshot of Sisi reception of Ugandan President in Cairo
Ugandan-Egyptian political relations

Uganda and Egyptenjoy strong, friendly relations because of the common vision the two states share towards several international and regional issues, including water, terrorism and regional crises.

Egypt has provided Uganda with training programs in combating terrorism at the Egyptian military faculties to promote security and defense cooperation between the two countriesas well as other training programs in water management, health, agriculture and media.

In May 2014, Egypt trained10 Ugandan technicians on designing, building and maintaining rainwater harvesting dams, as part of a $2-million grant offered by Egypt to implement a number of rainwater harvesting dams in Uganda.

Regarding the Nile file, Uganda held in June 2017 a summit of the Nile Basin countries, which had taken place after Museveni's mediation efforts to facilitate the dialogue on the fair usage and management of the water resources of the Nile River.

In this regard, Uganda's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sam Kahamba Kutesa affirmed on Monday, May 7, that Egypt has the right to receive and enjoy its full share of Nile water without being threatened in any way.
image 2
Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry met with his Ugandan counterpart Sam Kahamba Kutesa-Press Photo
He said that further talks and discussions are expected to take place between the two countries, especially regarding water, communications and technology.

Economic relations

In light of the reformist vision adopted by Ugandan President Museveni to develop his country, Egypt is interested in fostering the bilateral cooperation with Uganda in different fields such as economy and trade, increasing the trade exchange between the two countries and establishing more common projects in Uganda.

Egypt runs, in partnership with Uganda,a mega project called the Uganda-Egypt Aquatic Weed Control, launched in 1998, with an estimated investment of $20million, to eliminate water weeds from Ugandan lakes; in addition to other projects which aim to improve the lives of fishermen in different areas.


In 2010, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the two countries, in which Egypt donated $4.5 million to Uganda to construct water catchment dams, bore holes, and fish ponds.

Egyptian investments in Uganda also include the Cairo International Bank, Egypt Air, Mantrac Uganda ltd, Arab Contractors, al-Nasr Export and Import Company and African Development Incorporation.

Trade Exchange between Egypt and Uganda increased 27 percent year-on-year to reach $66 million, Head of the Export Development Authority (EDA) Sherine el-Shorbagy said on Tuesday.

Ina conference organized by the Federation of Egyptian Industries’ Cooperation with Africa Committee, Shorbagy said that the free trade agreement signed between Egypt and Uganda in April is expected to boost cooperation between both countries by 50 percent by 2020.

Head of the Africa Committee Sherif el-Gabaly said that a visit by an Egyptian delegation of 25 businessmen to the Ugandan capital will be organized after the month of Ramadan to explore investment opportunities.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry said on Monday during a press conference with his Ugandan counterpart that an Egyptian company is conducting a study to establish several projects in Uganda, with an estimated investment of$300 million, in the fields of electricity and energy.

Egypt’s eye on Africa

President Sisi visited several African countries since taking office in June 2014, participating in summits and conducting bilateral talks with the majority of the African leaders.

In June 2014, Sisi participated in the African Union Summit in the Equatorial Guinea as his first presidential visit within the continent, which was considered then a restoration of the African-Egyptian relations after years of neglect during Hosni Mubarak’s era.

Several short visits during 2015 followed the African Union Summit participation, including visits to Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda per Museveni's invitation in December 2016.

The Egyptian president encourages Egyptian investments in Africa in fields he deemed as "high priority" such as construction, infrastructure, oil and gas mining, agriculture, telecommunications and information technology.

President Sisi enhanced the Egyptian-African ties by paying visits to a number of African countries, organizing "Africa 2017" forum in Sharm El-Sheikh and hosting African youths during the World Youth Forum.]]>
5/8/2018 4:02:30 PM
<![CDATA[WRAPUP: Trump to unveil Iran decision Tuesday; Europeans move his way]]>
Trump has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the deal, which eased economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program, unless France, Germany and Britain - which also signed the agreement - fix what he has called its flaws.

The senior U.S. official said the European allies had moved significantly in Trump's direction on what he sees as the defects - the failure to address Iran's ballistic missile program, the terms under which international inspectors visit suspected Iranian sites, and "sunset" clauses under which some terms expire.

The official did not know, however, if the Europeans had done enough to convince Trump to remain in the deal.

"The big question in my mind is does he think the Europeans have moved far enough so that we can all be unified and announce a deal? That's one option," said the official. "Or (does he conclude) the Europeans have not moved far enough and we say they’ve got to move more?"

European diplomats said privately they expected Trump to effectively withdraw from the agreement, which was struck by six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - and Iran in July 2015.

"It's pretty obvious to me that unless something changes in the next few days, I believe the president will not waive the sanctions," one European diplomat said, adding he saw only a "very small" chance that Trump stays in the deal.

European leaders have warned that Trump's withdrawal would strike a blow to the alliance between Western Europe and the United States, and undo years of negotiations that they say were successful in halting Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Iran has ruled out renegotiating the accord and threatened to retaliate, although it has not said exactly how, if Washington pulls out.

Trump gave no indication of which way he was leaning on Monday, saying only in a Twitter post that he would announce his decision at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Tuesday.

IRAN BACKLASH?

Under the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the United States committed to easing a series of U.S. sanctions on Iran and it has done so under a string of "waivers" that effectively suspend them.

Under U.S. law, Trump has until Saturday to decide whether to reintroduce U.S. sanctions related to Iran's central bank and Iranian oil exports.

The reimposition of sanctions would dissuade foreign companies from doing business with Iran because they could be subject to U.S. penalties.

Bringing back U.S. sanctions could also trigger a backlash by Iran, which could resume its nuclear arms program or punish U.S. allies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon, diplomats said.

On Monday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested Iran could remain in the accord even if the United States dropped out but that Tehran would fiercely resist U.S. pressure to limit its influence in the Middle East.

Rouhani said the Islamic Republic had been preparing for every possible scenario, including a deal without Washington - which would still include the other signatories that remain committed to it - or no deal at all.

"We are prepared for all scenarios and no change will occur in our lives next week," Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state TV.

"If we can get what we want from a deal without America, then Iran will continue to remain committed to the deal. What Iran wants is our interests to be guaranteed by its non-American signatories. ... In that case, getting rid of America's mischievous presence will be fine for Iran."

Trump's Iran tweet helped oil prices break $70 a barrel to reach their highest level since late 2014.

ALLIES COMMITTED TO DEAL

Britain, France and Germany remain committed to the accord and, in an effort to address U.S. complaints, want to open talks on Iran's ballistic missile program, its nuclear activities beyond 2025 - when pivotal provisions of the deal expire - and its role in the wars in Syria and Yemen.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, in Washington this week, said the deal's weaknesses could be remedied.

"At this moment Britain is working alongside the Trump administration and our French and German allies to ensure that they are," he said in a commentary in the New York Times.

Johnson met U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence on Monday.

Diplomats say Iran would rather the deal remain intact out of concern about a revival of domestic unrest over economic hardships that mounted over the years sanctions were in place.

Sanctions imposed on Iran in early 2012 by the United States and European Union over its nuclear program cut Iran's crude exports from a peak of 2.5 million barrels per day before the sanctions to a little more than 1 million bpd.

But Iran re-emerged as a major oil exporter in January 2016 when international sanctions were suspended in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran's clerical rulers have repeatedly ruled out reducing its sway across the region, as the United States and its European allies may seek as part of any new deal.

Underlining Tehran's growing regional clout, pro-Iranian group Hezbollah and its political allies won just over half the seats in Lebanon's parliamentary election, unofficial results showed on Monday.]]>
5/8/2018 11:37:27 AM
<![CDATA[Update: Sisi receives his Ugandan counterpart at presidential palace ]]>



During the meeting, a number of agreements will be signed between Egypt and Uganda to promote the bilateral cooperation in the fields of agriculture, industry, electricity and renewable energy, according to Ambassador Bassam Radi, presidency spokesman.

Museveni’s visit aims to discuss ways to promote the bilateral relations,in line with Egypt’s concern to coordinate and cooperate with its brotherly African countries in different fields. The talks will focus on a number of African issues of common interest.

Kutesa announced on Monday during a joint press conference with Shoukry in Cairo that Sisi’s past visit to Uganda left a lot of “great cooperation memories” between the two countries.

In June 2017, Sisi visited Uganda to participate in the Nile Basin Summit;several talks were held between Sisi and his Ugandan counterpart on the sidelines of the summit. Sisi’s first presidential visit to Uganda was in December 2016,where the two leaders praised the long-historical relations between the two countries and affirmed that efforts will be exerted to enhance the two countries’ relations and cooperation.

During the press conference, Kutesa said that he discussed several issues with Shoukry and agreed to organize a joint business forum with Egypt and the African Union next year. He added that his government is completely supportive of Egypt in its war against terrorism, praising Egypt’s role in unifying the African nations.

Kutesa also affirmed that Egypt has the right to receive and enjoy its full share of Nile water without being threatened in any way. He said that further talks and discussions are expected to take place between the two countries, especially regarding water, communications and technology.]]>
5/8/2018 11:32:24 AM
<![CDATA[GERD is scientific issue, not political: Shoukry]]>
During a press conference with his Ugandan counterpart, Sam Kahamba Kutesa, Shoukry remarked that the talks on the technical issues of GERD were stalled due to Ethiopia’s and Sudan’s stance towards the preliminary report.

He mentioned that Egypt suggested including the World Bank as a neutral mediator in the tripartite technical committee’s talks on the GERD.

He discussed with his Ugandan counterpart several regional issues, including the Nile issue, the recent developments in the GERD negotiations, African Union reforms and Uganda’s participation in the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeeping forces, along with a project linking Lake Victoria and Mediterranean Sea.

Abu Zeid said that Shoukry referred to the available opportunities to launch common public and private projects between the two states in the water and electrical fields.

He added that the Egyptian private sector is willing to increase its investments in Uganda. He referred to an Egyptian company that is conducting a study to establish several projects, estimated as $300 million, in the field of electricity and energy, which is considered an impetus for the Ugandan Business Forum, scheduled to be held in Cairo on May 8 as a part of Egypt’s attempt to increase trade exchange with Uganda.

Abu Zeid further remarked that Shoukry stressed on Egypt’s support for the development occurring in Uganda, adding that around 230 Ugandan trainees have benefitted from the training programs launched by the Egyptian Agency of Partnership for Development in the past two years in different fields, such as health, energy, environment, agriculture, mining, combating terrorism, security, defense and water resources management.

Additionally, Shoukry mentioned that the Ministry of Electricity and Energy has provided training for 240 Ugandan trainees over the last few years.

In the same context, Minister of Defense Sedki Sobhi met on Monday with visiting Ugandan Minister of State for Defense and Veteran Affairs Rwamirama Bright Kanyontore.

The meeting touched on the latest regional and international developments along with their repercussions on security and stability in the African continent.

Both ministers discussed a number of issues of mutual concern in light of the cooperation ties binding the armed forces of both countries.

They also tackled means to benefit from the Egyptian military expertise in view of developing domains of care and services offered to veterans and those who were injured in military operations.

Sobhi asserted the deep-rooted ties binding all peoples of the Nile Valley, voicing Egypt's keenness on cooperating and exchanging expertise with brotherly countries for the sake of all African peoples. ]]>
5/8/2018 10:18:39 AM