<![CDATA[rss-Politics]]> All Rights Reserved for The Cairo post <![CDATA[Politics]]>]]> 100 29 <![CDATA[Belarus' Lukashenko dismisses top ministers, names new PM]]>
The shake-up comes days after Lukashenko, who has run Belarus along Soviet-style command lines since 1994, criticised government leaders for their ineffectiveness.

Lukashenko named Sergei Rumas, the head of the country's Development Bank, as new prime minister, the presidential press service said in a statement. Rumas replaces Andrei Kobyakov, who had served as Belarus' prime minister since 2014.

Lukashenko also named four new deputy prime ministers, as well as new ministers of the economy, communications and industry, among other posts.

The 63-year-old leader has heeded some calls from the West to show more leniency towards political opposition, but opponents say their freedom to operate remains severely limited.]]>
8/18/2018 4:03:51 PM
<![CDATA[VICMED: A feasible bid for smooth-sailing Nile basin ties?]]>
Egypt, which suffers from water scarcity, has launched the notion of a shipping route in 2013. Since then, negotiations have been under way among the Nile Basin countries on Egypt’s pre-feasibility study related to the project’s economic, social, and environmental benefits.

Due to the cataracts and dams that exist along the Nile and some swamps, the pre-feasibility study, of which Egypt Today obtained a copy from Head of the Nile Sector at the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation Dr. Ahmed Bahaa Al-Din, provides six alternatives to make the longest river in the world navigable for a trade movement.

Before shedding light on the alternatives, let’s take a general look over the Nile course from its upstream Lake Victoria to downstream flow in the Mediterranean Sea. The 6,650-kilometers-long Nile has two tributaries; the first one is the White Nile, which starts at Lake Victoria in Central Africa, particularly in Uganda, to South Sudan, then Sudan, and finally Egypt. Meanwhile, the second tributary is the Blue Nile, which starts from the Ethiopian Plateau.

As per Alternative 1, the route will be “navigable” and start from Jinja city of Uganda; the vessels will come from Kenya and Tanzania through Lake Victoria bound for the port of Jinja, from which the vessels will start their trade journey to the city of Packwash in Uganda, then move through the White Nile and complete it to the Mediterranean Sea.


Alternative 1 includes the possibility of linking Lake Edward to Lake Albert, from which the White Nile starts at the port of Packwash, via a railway system.

This alternative aims to upgrade the railway network that connects Uganda with the North Corridor in the East African Community (EAC), which include Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. The EAC transportation network could expand from Owen Falls to Juba in South Sudan.

In Alternative 2, the navigation route would start in South Sudan’s Juba, while the connection from Lake Victoria, to Juba and Lake Albert to Juba will be through ground transportation routes. Also, the railway connection between Lake Edward to Lake Albert of Alternative 1 will be kept.


“This is substituted by strengthening the Uganda railway network and terminal at Packwash, as well as the enhancements of the Northern corridor networks and facilities, while extending it to Juba,” the alternative mentions.

The second alternative also requires building an 800 kilometers-long roadway between the Sudanese port of Abu Hamad to Egypt’s Aswan, in order to save time, cost, and a distance of 2,300 kilometers that could be taken if the vessels navigated via the Nile between these two cities.

The third alternative of the pre-feasibility study does not differ from Alternative 2, except for expanding the would-be railway route from Packwash city to Juba.


The fourth alternative has no difference from Alternative 1.


Alternative 5 does not differ much from Alternative 3, except for suggesting creating a navigational channel between Abu Hammad and Aswan, instead of establishing a ground transportation route.


Moreover, the sixth and last alternative is similar to Alternative 1 with the suggestion of an Abu Hamad-Aswan navigational route. Digging the navigational channel between these two cities could impact the demography of communities living along the 2,300 kilometers route. Therefore, this alternative will probably be ruled out as studies will take into consideration the social, economic and environmental aspects, according to Mamdouh Mohamed Hassan, head of the Central Department for Technical Cooperation at the Nile Sector of the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation.


However, the new channels could create new communities that would result in a touristic boost in the area, he added.

“Alternative 1 is navigable and all obstacles along the Nile such as cataracts and dams could be removed via technical and industrial works,” he told Egypt Today, adding that the water passages could be created around the dams for the shipment of the vessels.

“The specialists [in such works] said the navigational alternative could be implemented [...] but its cost will be very expensive,” he said, noting that some western countries have experience in such industrial works.

In June 2016, China announced the largest ship elevator at Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze, the longest river in Asia. The elevator carries the ship with water, allowing the ship to float inside of it, while it crosses over the dam to the other side of the river, according to National Geographic Magazine.

‘Media show’

Professor of Soil Sciences and Water Resources in the Faculty of Agriculture at Cairo University, Nader Noureldeen, views the VICMED project as “a mere media show”, since the Ministry of Water Resources did not take into consideration many significant factors, namely the economic feasibility and the absence of cost-benefit analysis.

“I met with the Minister of Water Resources [Mohamed Abdel-Ati] two months ago, I asked him about the project, its feasibility and sustainability. During the meeting, I stated my reservations concerning the project but the minister could not give me any logic scientific answers,” Noureldeen told Egypt Today.

Noureldeen ruled out the project in terms of profitable economic feasibility and its high cost of establishment; “it would be unaffordable for the Nile Basin countries that mostly live on foreign aid,” he explained.

In a statement on Feb. 16, 2017, Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation said that the trade navigational line would be a “vital economic route” for the landlocked countries, such as Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia and Rwanda.

Noureldeen further explained that it would be hard to deduce the expected trade volume of 10 Nile basin countries, except for Egypt, from the project’s feasibility, adding that some landlocked countries such as Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and Ethiopia have other fast routes via maritime navigation in the seas and oceans.

“Ethiopia can transport its goods via Djibouti, Somali and Eritrean ports, particularly, after Asmara and Addis Ababa reached reconciliation,” Noureldeen continued.

As for Tanzania and Kenya, their goods could be shipped via the Port of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Mombasa (Kenya) on the Indian Ocean.

Furthermore, the professor’s third reservation considers how Egypt will deal with the dams on the Nile river starting from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea. “How are the vessels going to pass through the Nile amid the existence of the High Dam of Egypt, Merowe Dam and the Jebal Aulia Dam in Sudan (on the White Nile)?” Noureldeen questioned.

In addition, Uganda has many swamps and its Lake Kyoga is shallow, as its depth is estimated to be at 4-5 meters deep, Noureldeen continued, saying “in order to dig the lake, it needs to be 14 meters deep.”

Another obstacle that could possibly hinder the project is the Sudd Swamp which is classified as the biggest fresh water swamp in the world and extends for 500 kilometers, in South Sudan, which has no slopes and water stay in swamps, the professor added.

The Sudd was an area of an incomplete mega-project between Sudan and Egypt; they had started digging Jonglei Canal to deliver some of this swamp water (of which 30 billion cubic meters every year is lost by evaporation and deep seepage) to Egypt and Sudan.

Water flow of the White Nile became very weak at Lake No after passing across this long wide swamp, where it meets the Sobat River that comes from south Ethiopia, which provides the Nile with 11 billion cubic meters originating from the Ethiopian Plateau, and gives a “kiss of life” to the low speed of White Nile flow to push it forward north until Khartoum, he continued.

Moreover, most of the Nile Basin countries export agricultural products and organic food, which should be transported rapidly; hence, the Nile trade shipping movement is very slow compared to maritime navigation.

“Furthermore, the logistics that will be used for uploading and downloading the goods would waste time, he said, begging a question on the expected cost-benefit analysis, especially when we transfer (forward or alternate) from navigation to trucks across the free roads,” Noureldeen said.

However, Hassan said that there will be a cost-benefit analysis to find the most suitable alternative, adding that what has been done so far is the pre-feasibility study and other Nile Basin countries will give their final decisions after the full feasibility study.

“Drafting the feasibility study requires more data that should be collected, along with a demographic survey that will be carried out,” he added, noting that the feasibility study will tackle the economic situations of all Nile Basin countries.

The full feasibility study needs several financial contributions as its operational cost is higher than what has been spent on the pre-feasibility study, which have not provided all the essential informational needed,” Hassan said.

It has been estimated that the final cost of the feasibility study could reach $10 million; however, the cost could be divided into two installments. The first one estimated at $6 million, he added, saying that a promotional panel for the VICMED would be held in the upcoming Cairo Water Week (CWW) due in October 2018.

Egypt submitted its preliminary report on the project to the member states of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) in June 2018, according to Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Mohamed Abdel Ati in a statement. The report proposed revolves around establishing an African regional authority to work on the project, he said, adding that the report tackles proposed reference terms for an international tender to conduct feasibility economic studies of the project.

The pre-feasibility study includes the establishment of a regional training center to prepare human cadres from the member states to ensure the sustainability of the project, he added. Permanent job opportunities will be provided for individuals of NEPAD countries, Abdel Ati said.

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is coordinating the project among the member states. It is agreed that the African Development Bank (AFDB) will finance the first phase of the project with $560,000 in grant to fund the pre-feasibility study. The total cost of the project was estimated at $10-12 billion.

Uganda supports

On May 8, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi hosted his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni in the Egyptian presidential palace in Cairo, discussing the bilateral relations and the VICMED projects, eventually agreeing to take implementing procedures for the VICMED project, according to a statement issued by the Egyptian Presidential Office.

Ugandan Commissioner of Transboundary Resources at the Ministry of Water and Environment, Jackson Twinomujuni, told Egypt Today via mail that Ugandan authorities highly appreciate the project and are looking forward to positive outcomes from the feasibility studies. “The government is giving it all its support to ensure its success,” he said.

Commenting on the six alternatives, Twinomujuni said that all scenarios are considered and the most suitable alternative – based on the Feasibility study – will be implemented. “The selection will be based on various criteria (economic, technical, environmental, etc.),” he continued.

On Feb. 22, 2016, Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Tanzanian Minister of Transport agreed to create Nile navigation from the Nile and Lake Victoria.

Along the Mediterranean Sea, the Egyptian side was preparing the Damietta Branch of the Nile, which spills into the Mediterranean, according to a statement from the ministry on Jan. 16, 2016. The branch has been developed for the VICMED project.]]>
8/18/2018 3:27:25 PM
<![CDATA[Banned from traveling in Egypt? Terror lists, extra cash top reasons]]>
According to lawyer and legal expert Abdul Rahman Anani, these are the reasons which led to the prevention of travel abroad;

- If the Technical Office of the Attorney General issued a report to prevent travel; regarding involvement in criminal cases.

- If the travelers are on the terror list.

- If they are escapees from military service.

- Possession of amounts exceeding $10,000 or the equivalent of other currencies.

- Possession of drugs in large quantities, especially if they are on prevention lists.

- Possession of medication included in the narcotics schedule, except if the travelers have treatment fees and medical reports.

- If the traveler is included on the travel ban list for security pursuit.

According to Prevention of Travel Law, there are 11 official bodies entitled to send a report to prevent people from traveling abroad such as the attorney general, investigations judges and the assistant minister of justice for illegal gain.

Counselor Michel Halim said that all international conventions, treaties and laws have been involved in temporary travel ban but if the traveler submitted the Proof of Innocence, the competent authorities will cancel the ban on travel.

Since the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013, Egypt has put several figures on a terrorist list because of their attempts to incite chaos across the country.

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.
8/18/2018 2:49:06 PM
<![CDATA[Ghana mourns death of Annan, "one of our greatest compatriots"]]>
He ordered Ghana's national flag to be flown at half-mast across the country and in all of the country's diplomatic missions from Monday for one week.

Annan, who was also a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, died in hospital in Bern, Switzerland, in the early hours of Saturday aged 80.

Akufo-Addo said the government and people of Ghana were saddened by the news of the death of "one of our greatest compatriots".

"Consummate international diplomat and highly respected former Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan was the first from sub-Saharan Africa to occupy this exalted position. He brought considerable renown to our country by this position and through his conduct and comportment in the global arena," an official statement said.

"He was an ardent believer in the capacity of the Ghanaian to chart his or her own course onto the path of progress and prosperity."]]>
8/18/2018 1:18:34 PM
<![CDATA[Turkish police release Hisham Abdullah despite Interpol terror list]]>
Abdullah is an Egyptian actor who happens to have participated in the January 25, 2011 that ousted President Hosni Mubarak and he also participated in the June 30, 2013 revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood group.

However, after he moved to Turkey to work on Al-Sharq’s channel, launched in 2014, he often criticized the current Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s leadership. Al-Sharq is one of the Turkish channels known for opposing the Egyptian government and presenting incidents in a way that can often distort the reality of the situation.

Both Egypt and Turkey are member states in Interpol and have, theoretically speaking, an obligation to combat terrorism and crime because it is the common goal of all Interpol member states.

Even though Interpol’s primary role is to “assist law enforcement agencies around the world in combating all forms of transnational crime and terrorism,” why Turkish national security would free Abdullah after arrest, before sending him back to Egypt, his home-country that placed him on the terror list, is a matter of debate that requires a detailed look into Interpol’s rules.

The way Interpol works is that, different types of alerts, known as notices, are sent out to all countries regarding an individual ‘wanted’ by the national authority. These notices come in different levels, some are sent to collect extra information on a suspect’s identity and some are just for warning.

If a Red Notice is sent on a certain individual, this means it is a request to locate, arrest and extradite the suspect back to the location of crime or incident, usually the home-country. However, Interpol does not actually have the authority to force member states to actually arrest the individual with the Red Notice because “each member country decides for itself what legal value to give a Red Notice within their borders,” as per what is written on Interpol’s official website.

Regardless of whether or not Turkey should have the right to decide what happens to Abdullah, sources revealed he was arrested by police on the account of overstaying his visa, alongside being placed on Interpol’s terror list. Interestingly, the owner of Al-Sharq channel did not offer Abdullah any actual support.

The sources also revealed that a number of Muslim Brotherhood supporters mediated and asked Turkish authorities to release Abdullah, according to media reports, amid expectations that Abdullah may face deportation.

However, it is likely that Abdullah will not be deported to Egypt, according to his wife, Ghada Naguib, who explained in a Facebook video that the she was promised by authorities in Turkey that her husband’s crisis would end soon on Friday.
8/18/2018 12:16:21 PM
<![CDATA[Trump says DC rained on military parade, will go to Paris instead]]>
Trump had ordered a show of military prowess after marveling at France's Bastille Day parade last year -- but critics said it would be a waste of money and akin to events staged by authoritarian regimes such as North Korea.

Late Thursday, the Pentagon said the controversial event, originally scheduled for November 10 in Washington, was being pushed back to a possible date in 2019.

A US official told AFP on Thursday the planning estimate had gone as high as $92 million, though no final figure had been reached.

Trump said he pulled the plug because local politicians were charging a "ridiculously high" price.

"The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it," Trump said Friday.

"When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it."

The Republican president vowed to attend a different event at a base near Washington and then "go to the Paris parade, celebrating the end of the War, on November 11th."

"Maybe we will do something next year in D.C. when the cost comes WAY DOWN," Trump said: "Now we can buy some more jet fighters!"

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser hit back, sarcastically emulating the president's characteristic Twitter tone.

"Yup, I'm Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington DC, the local politician who finally got thru to the reality star in the White House with the realities ($21.6M) of parades/events/demonstrations in Trump America (sad)," she tweeted.

DC's City Council, which has no Republican members, chimed in on Twitter: "Better late. Then: never. Tanks but no tanks."

- Helping veterans -

Trump reveres all things military, and surrounded himself with former and current generals when he took office.

Even before becoming president, aides reported that Trump had considered a military parade to mark his inauguration -- although that idea was eventually scrapped.

Trump went to a military academy, but received multiple deferments, including once reportedly for bone spurs, from having to serve during the Vietnam War.

Instead of buying new fighter jets, as Trump had suggested in his tweet, critics said the money saved from not having a parade could be better spent improving the lives of veterans.

"Until such time as we can celebrate victory in the War on Terrorism and bring our military home, we think the parade money would be better spent fully funding the Department of Veteran Affairs and giving our troops and their families the best care possible," the American Legion's national commander Denise Rohan said.

Senator Jack Reed, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said halting the parade was the right call.

"It would have diverted resources and manpower from core missions," he said.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis scoffed at the cost estimate and attacked the media for reporting the number.

"Whoever told you that is probably smoking something that's legal in my state but is not in most states," said Mattis, who hails from Washington state, where pot is legal.

"Whoever wrote it needs to get better sources... I guarantee you there's been no cost estimate to me," he told reporters traveling with him in South America.]]>
8/18/2018 3:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Turkey's lira weakens 4 pct, Trump says won't take pastor's detention 'sitting down']]>
The case of Andrew Brunson, an evangelical Christian missionary from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for two decades, has become a flashpoint between Washington and Ankara and accelerated a widening currency crisis.

The lira has lost nearly 40 percent of its value against the dollar this year as investors fret about President Tayyip Erdogan's influence over monetary policy.

Heavy selling in recent weeks has spread to other emerging market currencies and global stocks and deepened concerns about the economy, particularly Turkey's dependence on energy imports and whether foreign-currency debt poses a risk to banks.

"They should have given him back a long time ago, and Turkey has in my opinion acted very, very badly," Trump told reporters at the White House, referring to Brunson. "So, we haven't seen the last of that. We are not going to take it sitting down. They can't take our people."

Trump's comments came after a court in Izmir province rejected an appeal to release Brunson from house arrest, saying evidence was still being collected and the pastor posed a flight risk, according to a copy of the court ruling seen by Reuters.

Brunson is being held on terrorism charges, which he denies. Trump, who counts evangelical Christians among his core supporters, has increasingly championed the pastor's case.

It was not immediately clear what additional measures, if any, Trump could be considering. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Trump in cabinet on Thursday that more sanctions were ready if Brunson were not freed.

The United States and Turkey have imposed tit-for-tat tariffs in an escalating attempt by Trump to induce Erdogan into giving up the pastor. Erdogan has cast the tariffs, and the lira's sell-off, as an "economic war" against Turkey.

At 1827 GMT the currency stood at 6.0350 to the dollar, 4 percent weaker after tumbling as much as 7 percent earlier. Turkey's dollar bonds fell, while the cost of insuring exposure to Turkish debt rose.

As the row deepens, Turkey has reached out to European allies and spoken of improving strained ties with the bloc. On Friday, Finance Minister Berat Albayrak and his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire spoke by telephone.

Albayrak's ministry said they had discussed U.S. sanctions against Turkey and agreed to act together in responding to such moves and to boost cooperation between their countries.


"Diplomatic negotiations hit speedbumps and that's not unusual in these kinds of situations," said Jay Sekulow, a personal attorney for Trump who is also representing Brunson's family. "We remain hopeful there will be a prompt resolution. Having said that, we fully support the president's approach."

Whatever action the United States takes looks likely to cause more pain for Turkish assets.

"There has been no improvement in relations with the U.S. and additional sanctions may be on the horizon," said William Jackson of Capital Economics in a note to clients, adding that the lira could see a downward trend in 2019 and beyond.

Turkey's banking watchdog has taken steps to stabilise the currency, limiting futures transactions for offshore investors and lowering limits on swap transactions. On Friday, it further broadened those caps.

But some economists have called for more decisive moves.

Turkey and its firms face repayments of nearly $3.8 billion on foreign currency bonds in October, Societe General has calculated. It estimates Turkey's short-term external debt at $180 billion and total external debt at $460 billion -- the highest in emerging markets.

Companies that for years have borrowed abroad at low interest rates have seen their cost of servicing foreign debt rise by a quarter in lira terms in two months.

Standard & Poor's is scheduled to release a review of Turkey's sovereign credit rating late on Friday.

Ratings agency Fitch said the absence of an orthodox monetary policy response to the lira's fall, and the rhetoric of Turkish authorities, had "increased the difficulty of restoring economic stability and sustainability".


Albayrak, Erdogan's son-in-law, told investors on Thursday that Turkey would emerge stronger from the currency crisis, insisting its banks were healthy and signalling it could ride out the dispute with Washington.

Economists gave Albayrak's presentation a qualified welcome and the lira initially found some support, helped by Qatar's pledge to invest $15 billion in Turkey.

Deep concerns remain about the potential for damage to the economy, however. Turkey is dependent on imports, priced in hard currency, for almost all of its energy needs. Erdogan has remained defiant, urging Turks to sell their gold and dollars for lira. But foreign currency deposits held by local investors rose to $159.9 billion in the week to Aug. 10, from $158.6 billion a week earlier, central bank data showed.

Turkish markets will be closed from midday on Monday for the rest of the week for the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival. ]]>
8/18/2018 3:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[Musk's tunnel-boring firm seeks U.S. tariff exemption for Chinese parts]]>
In a July 31 letter posted last week on a government website, the Boring Co asked the U.S. Trade Representative to exempt parts like cutterheads, screw conveyors and related machinery. Boring seeks "limited parts from China in the near-term for use in a small number of tunnel boring machines." The letter added those parts are "readily available only from China."

Privately held Boring added that it is "working to develop and manufacture our own tunnel boring machines" and wants to "restore the now-dormant American tunnel boring machine industry."

The company said for planned tunnels, including a project between Washington and Baltimore, it will "use machines that are majority-composed of U.S. content."

The tariffs could cause "severe economic harm" to the company and U.S. interests and could result in a delay of one to two years in the construction of a proposed Washington-to-Baltimore tunnel that it plans to eventually extend to New York.

Exempting the parts will not harm U.S. industry, the company said, and noted that tunneling is not one of 10 sectors identified in China's "Made in 2025" plan. The company said its business model is "predicated upon substantially reducing the cost of tunneling."

Musk, who is also chief executive of Tesla Inc, in June proposed building a $1 billion underground transit system in Chicago. The plan would send people from Chicago’s downtown Loop district to O’Hare International Airport at 150 miles (241 km) per hour.

The Boring Co has been promoting its plans for tunnels that would allow high-speed travel between cities. The company initially plans to ferry passengers between Washington and Baltimore on autonomous electric vehicles carrying 8 to 16 passengers at 125-150 miles per hour, but would not use tracks or railway equipment.

On Wednesday, the company proposed to build a 3.6-mile tunnel between Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and the city's subway system.

The U.S. Trade Representative's Office and Boring did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Boring said in an earlier letter it was converting from diesel-powered to electric-powered construction equipment and had innovated in "concrete mixing, segment production, excavation and hauling practices."

Other companies including General Motors Co have sought exemptions from new U.S. tariffs imposed on Chinese imports.]]>
8/18/2018 12:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[UN to hold peace talks between Yemeni gov't, Houthis in Geneva]]>CAIRO – 18 August 2018: UN envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths announced Friday that formal invitations were sent to the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels for talks on Sept. 6 in Geneva.

Both parties are invited to a peace talk at ending a three-year conflict that has killed over 10,000 people.

Griffiths told the Security Council earlier this month that the pace of fighting in Yemen has increased and “the Red Sea is now a theatre of war.” According to Griffiths, only the Yemeni government and the Houthis were invited for now.

“The time is past to resume the political process and he hopes to discuss a framework for peace negotiations with the internationally recognized government and Houthi rebels,” Griffiths added.

On Friday, Yemeni Minister of Local Administration Abdel-Raqeeb Fateh accused Houthi militants of storming a World Food Program (WFP) warehouse in Hodeidah and turning it into barracks.

Yemen has been suffering a wracking violence since 2014 when the Iran-backed Houthi militants began seizing parts of the country, including the capital Sanaa, and Hudaydah, Yemen’s largest port.

The fighting in Yemen has displaced more than two million people, caused a cholera outbreak infecting nearly one million people and put the country on the brink of famine.

8/18/2018 12:05:00 AM
<![CDATA[Houthi militants storm WFP warehouse in Hodeidah: Minister]]>CAIRO – 17 August 2018: Yemeni Minister of Local Administration Abdel-Raqeeb Fateh has accused Houthi militants of storming a World Food Program (WFP) warehouse in Hodeidah, AP reported.

The WFP humanitarian aid warehouse has reportedly been turned into a military barracks for the Houthi militants in Al-Durayhimi district in Hodeidah, Yemen’s largest port.

Hodeidah has become a fighting scene between pro-government forces and the Iran-backed Houthis.

“Thousands of families were caught in the district's crossfire between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition forces fighting them,” Fateh said.

The Arab coalition is supporting the government troops in the battle to recapture Hodeidah for the grip of Houthis who seized the capital Sanaa in 2014.

Earlier this month, the coalition accused the Houthis of carrying out a mortar attack on a hospital and fish market in Yemen, killing at least 55 people.

The UN on Friday said it had invited the Yemeni government and the Houthis for peace talks in Geneva on Sep. 6.

8/17/2018 10:52:51 PM
<![CDATA[Germany looks at easing immigration laws to fill skilled labor gaps]]>
Such plans could be sensitive in a country where anti-immigration sentiment has helped drive support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and a row over asylum policy almost toppled Chancellor Angela Merkel's government in July.

The new proposal mainly addresses relaxing migration policy for professionals outside the EU, since EU citizens enjoy free labour movement in the bloc.

A lack of skilled labour and a shortage of young people willing to commit to on-the-job training for up to 3-1/2 years have become big concerns for managers in Europe's largest economy.

Germany bet on more than a million refugees who arrived in 2015 to fill workforce gaps, but a lack of German-language skills and the inability of most refugees to prove any qualifications has slowed the process.

A record 1.2 million jobs remain unfilled in Germany, the Federal Labour Office said earlier this month.

The German Interior, Labour and Economy ministries agreed to recruit more foreign skilled labour to Germany, the paper seen by Reuters showed.

They have sent the proposal paper to the rest of the cabinet, which will take a decision on it soon and changes to it are still possible, two government sources said.

"We will adjust the federal government's concept of skilled labour and focus on three areas: domestic, European and international skilled worker potentials," the paper, on which Interior Minister Horst Seehofer took the lead, said.

Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU) - Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), takes a hard line on immigration and asylum issues. He vowed in July to present a migration law for professional workers by autumn.

Seehofer faces a tough regional vote in Bavaria in October, when the AfD is expected to win seats in the state assembly. The anti-immigrant AfD's popularity has surged since the migrant influx and it became the country's third largest party in September's election.

Germany already has a "blue card" system that makes it easier for companies to hire foreign academics and professionals.

The paper proposes that the government will no longer insist that companies give preference to German citizens in filling vacancies before looking for non-EU foreigners.

Graduates and workers with vocational training will have an opportunity to come to Germany to look for a job within a certain period of time if they meet qualification and language requirements.

They will not have access to social welfare benefits during that period but will be allowed to work in jobs for which they are overqualified so they can earn some money, the paper added.

Qualification recognition procedures in Germany will become faster and easier, the paper said, adding that the government is planning an advertising campaign in selected countries. ]]>
8/17/2018 1:59:23 PM
<![CDATA[Exclusive: Fuad Masum talks ties with Egypt, challenges facing Iraq after IS loss ]]> Egypt Today . Masum also discussed ways to boost bilateral ties, and told of the strategic and security challenges Iraq is facing ahead of the assigning of a new government.

Below is a transcript of Masum’s interview with Egypt Today.

ET: Why has the new government not formed yet after parliamentary elections were held in May?

Masum: Constitutionally speaking, there is no delay in the formation of the new government, and per the schedule, Aug. 15 is the last day to receive appeals against the results of the vote count and sorting of the parliamentary election held on May 12.

The stage that comes after considering the appeals is the ratification of the final results by the Federal Supreme Court, then the House of Representatives will convene within 15 days to elect a Parliament speaker and his deputies with an absolute majority of members’ votes required for victory.

A new president for the republic will then be elected, and will in turn assign a candidate of the largest parliamentary bloc to head and form a new Iraqi government.

We are confident that everyone will accomplish the procedures according to the constitution’s principles, as we also hope political powers reach understandings and rapprochement regarding the forming of the largest bloc ahead of the first parliamentary session.

ET: Who is responsible for considering appeals against parliamentary election results?

Masum: The Supreme Judicial Authority has been in charge of this issue. The authority has assigned nine judges to replace nine other members of the Board of Commissioners after the Parliament froze their membership over accusations that are not proven yet.

The Board of Commissioners is the highest authority in the Independent High Electoral Commission.

Everyone has the right to doubt or appeal poll results or any decision announced, but the important thing is to reveal the truth before the Iraqi people and respect justice and equity among everyone as per the constitution.

ET: Why is there a lack of trust in some politicians in the Iraqi judiciary?

Masum: We have not seen this lack of trust in the Iraqi judiciary system, on the contrary; everyone has showed respect to the decisions taken by the Board of Commissioners, and the provisions of the Electoral Judiciary on the final results of the manual vote count and sorting.

The Independent High Electoral Commission announced days ago that the results of manual counting are not very different from the electronic sorting. Our focus is now on enhancing confidence and understanding among all Iraqis as we await the official lists of the winning parliamentary candidates to convene the House of Representatives.

ET: Do you fear Islamic State’s return amid the current economic situation in Iraq?

Masum: We freed all Iraqi lands from IS control and destroyed its military might, but the danger of terrorist groups has not completely disappeared, there are still sleeping cells with hidden agents found in the desert and other areas; however, it cannot lead to another invasion of radical group.

Iraq is trying to solve the reasons behind the re-emergence of radical groups, namely: ending poverty and unemployment; deepening societal awareness; developing educational curricula; boosting international and regional security cooperation; enhancing national unity, justice and equity without discrimination and consolidating a democratic regime.

This is a long process and needs national, regional and international strategic plans to stop radical groups from recruiting foreigners in terrorism groups, and cut their financial sources.

ET: How will Iraq be affected by the construction of the Iranian and Turkish dams?

Masum: The damages will be large, and the water levels of the Tigris River in Mosul, Baghdad and other areas have already witnessed a significant decline after the Turkish government started filling the Ilısu Dam, and the Iranian government has taken measures to reduce water levels of the Little Zab River, which resulted in a drinking water crisis in Qaladiza city in Kurdistan’s Sulaymaniyah.

The reduction in the water levels in Iraq has dangerous effects on the environment, agriculture and the economy of the country, in addition to the dangers threatening livestock, and causing desertification and drought that we are already suffering from.

We are in continuous contact with Turkey and Iran to address this issue in a constructive manner and to serve the interests of all parties, especially since Iraq has an agreement with Turkey on the amounts of water stored and shared.

The water issue is a priority for us, and hence, we redouble efforts to protect this vital wealth for the future of the country through programs that raise awareness against wasting water.

We also seek to regulate the optimal utilization of this national wealth by speeding up the enactment of the Water Council Law, the Water Fund Law and other related laws.

ET: Did the states participating in the Iraq Reconstruction Conference held in Kuwait uphold their commitments?

Masum: Commitments have been partly met thus far, and we are willing to move forward to implement reconstruction plans, and the country has promising investment opportunities in several sectors, especially electricity, water, housing, agriculture, tourism, transport, ports and other services.

ET: How can joint cooperation between Egypt and Iraq in combating terrorism be boosted?

Masum: There is a mutual cooperation in different aspects; atop of which is combating terrorism. Bilateral coordination has reaped its fruits in the last period after the successful arrest of a number of terror cells and the thwarting of a terror plot against Egypt set by IS militants. We are working on enhancing and widening this cooperation between both countries.

ET: Did the companies start reconstructing liberated Iraqi cities? Are there any Egyptian companies taking part in this?

Masum: The plans for the reconstruction of the cities that were freed from terrorism are currently under way. Iraq gives attention to the participation of Egyptian investment institutions in rebuilding all affected areas; besides, we also seek to benefit from Egyptian expertise in all fields, especially industry, tourism, agriculture in addition to other economic, cultural and political aspects.

Translated by

Nourhan Magdi

8/17/2018 12:14:00 PM
<![CDATA[US threatens more Turkey sanctions if pastor not freed]]>
Deepening a spat that has rattled financial markets and threated to split a long-standing defense and political alliance, Mnuchin on Thursday suggested the next spiral of tit-for-tat sanctions was coming soon.

"We have put sanctions on several of their cabinet members," Mnuchin told President Donald Trump in a cabinet meeting attended by the press, including AFP.

"We have more that we are planning to do if they don't release him quickly."

Trump prefaced Mnuchin's remarks by saying that Turkey had not been a very good friend to America.

Referring to imprisoned pastor Andrew Brunson, Trump said "they have a great Christian pastor there, he's a very innocent man."

The threat comes as Turkey sought to reassure investors rattled by the sanctions-fueled crash of the Turkish lira, insisting the country would emerge stronger.

Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, addressed hundreds of foreign investors from the United States, Europe and Asia via a conference call in a bid to soothe the markets.

The lira has clawed back some ground over the last two days -- after losing almost a quarter of its value on Friday and Monday -- but economists are warning that Turkey must urgently address its economic imbalances to avoid more troubles ahead.

"Turkey will emerge stronger from these (currency) fluctuations," Albayrak was quoted by state-run TRT television as saying during the conference call.

Albayrak rejected seeking a bailout from the IMF, an option never seen as likely given that Erdogan often boasts of paying off Turkey's past IMF debts in May 2013.

The lira, which earlier this week traded at well over seven to the dollar, held onto its gains during Albayrak's discussion, trading at 5.7 against the greenback.

"We will turn this crisis into an opportunity," said Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin after a cabinet meeting chaired by the president, saying measures taken so far had helped bring about a "rapid improvement process" over the last two days.

- 'Not fast enough' -

But Albayrak, who was appointed last month in a largely unexpected move, will have a tough time restoring order to an economy plagued by high inflation and a current account imbalance.

The lira's months-long slide has accelerated as a result of the diplomatic standoff with Washington over Brunson's detention. A Trump tweet on Friday announcing a doubling of aluminum and steel tariffs for Turkey triggered the rout in the currency markets.

The lira's drop in value is certain to further fuel inflation, which is already near 16 percent.

Albayrak said there would be no concessions on fiscal discipline, adding: "We are targeting lowering inflation into the single digits as soon as possible."

However, analysts are calling for a sharp hike in interest rates -- which Erdogan adamantly opposes because it will put a brake on economic growth.

In an intensifying cycle of tensions with the United States, Erdogan has called for a boycott of US electronic goods such as iPhones and Ankara has sharply hiked tariffs on some US products.

He has also warned Ankara could start looking for new allies, as well as new markets.

- New markets -

Qatar, backed by Erdogan during the Saudi-led embargoes on the emirate in 2017, on Wednesday pledged to channel $15 billion direct investment into Turkey, a sign of burgeoning ties between the two countries.

Analysts say Turkey is also likely to seek a more dynamic economic relationship with China and Russia, with whom ties have warmed considerably in recent years.

Turkey has also in recent days shown an interest in repairing ties with Europe after a crisis sparked by Ankara's crackdown on alleged plotters of the 2016 failed coup.

Erdogan and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron agreed in a phone call Thursday to foster trade ties, a Turkish presidential source said.

Albayrak spoke Thursday with his German counterpart Olaf Scholz and they agreed to "take steps in order to reinforce economic cooperation," Albayrak's office said.

Meanwhile, Turkish courts have moved to defuse other legal cases that have irritated relations with the EU.

An Istanbul court allowed the release of Amnesty International's Turkey chair Taner Kilic Wednesday, who spent more than a year in jail over alleged links to the 2016 coup bid.

And the day earlier, two Greek soldiers held by Turkey since March for illegally crossing the border were also freed.]]>
8/17/2018 2:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egyptians with Gender Dysphoria tell their sufferings]]>
A total of 2,350 cases of divorce and separation were filed in the period between 2016 and 2017, according to data Youm7 obtained from Egypt’s Family Court Complex, because people got married with GD, and their true sexual identity were eventually revealed.

The pre-marriage health check-up is an obligatory procedure in accordance with the Egyptian code. However, most married people do not undergo real medical examinations and forge the results instead, according to most the interviewed cases.

“We were overwhelmed because of wedding preparations. We had no time and just found that many important things should be done before the wedding. Consequently, the differences between me and my fiancé mounted. That is why I have asked for her photos and a copy of her ID to get the pre-marriage health certificate without undergoing any examination,” said Hani M, adding that theoretically speaking the couple should undergo medical tests, yet practically, this does not happen most times.

“I got married to him without undergoing a medical examination... The procedure was done without going to any hospitals,” said another wife, Noha Fawzy, who married in 2016.

As for Ibrahim Metwali, his marriage was “a most painful blow”, adding that such a matter never came into his mind. Meanwhile, his wife said that her family forced her to marry.

“They [her family members] imprisoned me and told me ‘you will die and your secret will be buried with you’,” she said.

“I have lived for 26 years as a woman as it was assigned at birth. But my feelings are masculine. I could not dare tell my mother because she was always rebuking me and beating me. She [his mother] was always refusing my masculine tendency,” said Suheir Khaled in a lawsuit file at a family court.

“They [her family members] imprisoned me when I tried to go to a doctor,” she added. “They forced me to marry Mustafa. Since then, violence escalated and was perpetrated by my husband after I refused to have sex with him. In the beginning, he accused me of having affairs with other men, but when he learned about my condition, he treated me as if I was infected with the plague.”

“He called me a monster”

After being a spinster for 44 years, Saadiya Abdel Moneim was forced to marry a drug addict even though her family was aware of her condition.

“My mother forced me to leave school after I reached puberty, telling me not to disclose my issue. Since then, I’ve been lonely. My siblings lived their own lives and abandoned me in my isolated room talking to myself,” Abdel Moneim said in her lawsuit at a family court in Old Cairo to obtain divorce.

“They [her family members] sold me to a drug addict, even though they were aware that I couldn’t have sex. It was a catastrophe when my husband called me a ‘monster’. He dragged me to a police station to report me and disclose my condition,” she said. “Everyone disowned me, even my siblings refused to help me.”

Hundreds of cases were filed against people with GD in Egypt ‘s court over charges of “cheating and fraud.”

“It is out of our hands… We are victims,” this phrase became a slogan uttered by those who suffer from GD.

Adel Safwan tried to commit suicide several times, but his family succeeded in saving him. Now, his wife is suing him at the Al-Wayli Family Court, calling for her divorce.

“My husband died and I had to marry another man to take care of me and my daughter. But, I married a man [the second husband] without knowing his condition,” said Hamida Naser. “He abandoned me from the first day of our marriage. I learned later that he is a man with gender dysphoria. He looks like me but lives in the body of a man.”

“I suffered psychologically from that problem and was subjected to a medical examination to try and correct it, but my family prevented me and intimidated me by telling me that our relatives wouldn’t accept my condition,” her husband said before the judge.

In a response to a question on whether the people with gender dysphoria have the legal right to annul their marriage with taking all post-divorce rights, lawyer Khaled al-Masry said that in that case the marriage contract will be terminated by a court ruling because sexual pleasure, one of the main conditions in a marriage, does not exist.

If the husband was aware of his wife’s sexual defect before marriage, the contract will not be annulled, he continued. However, the wife has the right to ask for her divorce from her GD spouse even if she was aware of his condition before their marriage, Al-Masry added.

If a wife is physically a female but has masculine tendency, her husband has the right to terminate the marriage contract. However, his legal right turns invalid following the three-year period, the lawyer said. There is a legal difference between terminating the marriage contract and divorce, as the wife has the right to get her post-divorce rights, but if the contract is annulled, she has no rights as the marriage was carried out on “deception.”

On the other hand, a presiding judge, who considers GD-related cases, has the legal right to postpone the trial for a period of time based on medical reports if the defect is seen as “curable”, according to the lawyer. This period of time could last for many years without putting an end to their suffering.
8/16/2018 7:47:26 PM
<![CDATA[AIDS: A ghost haunting children’s innocence ]]>
Since the first day of Yahya’s birth, it was easy to spot the differences between him and other children. He does not grow normally like other children. He does not eat or drink the same as they do, and he suffers from serious complications in his lungs, and other symptoms and pains.

“I committed a crime against my son when I accepted to spend my life with an irresponsible husband, who ruined my life and subjected me to beating and humiliation. I wished I had succeeded both times I tried to commit suicide. My son indulged into the scourge that he inherited from his father,” said Yahya’s mother, Marwa, who was granted divorce due to her husband’s betrayal.

“AIDS was the dramatic end of the quagmire I lived in due to my ex-husband's abusive relationship with prostitutes and his friends," she said.

“I tried to commit suicide and to abort my child when I learned that my husband was infected with AIDS, but I failed. Then, I escaped to my family, who threw me out,” she explained. “They [her family members] told me that they were scared of me transmitting the virus to them despite the doctor's confirmation that I had not contracted the virus yet. They forced me to return to him [her husband] and to live with him as if we were in a closed prison. I was constantly anxious, waiting to find out that I was infected with the virus. "

“I gave birth to my son Yahya. When I saw him for the first time, I was scared when the doctors told me that my son was AIDS-positive. The disaster occurred when we discovered that my son and I both had the virus, now. Our lives were destroyed,” the mother said.

“My son is getting sicker by the second and his condition is worsening because of his weak body. His growth has stopped and that resulted in chronic symptoms, and serious problems in the lungs," she said.

The mother finally got divorced by a family court ruling after she submitted medical results proving that her husband was the reason for her suffering. Marwa is now living on aid and works as a saleswoman in a shop without revealing the reality of her illness to avoid people’s judgmental looks and moral accusation against her.

Paying the price of silence

“Death, sometimes, could be less severe than seeing your child suffering and paying the price of silence to domestic violence and the husband’s disgraceful behavior. The price of accepting life with that man. The price of submission to his threats and blackmailing,” said Zeinab, a 39-year-old wife, whose daughter contracted the virus from her father.

“My husband, Y.K., used to travel and work abroad. He returned home only on vacations, so it was difficult to have a baby with him. I also dreamt of having a baby until the miracle occurred and God gave me my daughter Bassant. Having a baby made me forget my husband’s violence and anger and my miserable life, which would almost end several times with divorce,” said Zeinab.

“When my husband returned home to reside with us, he was very sick. I tried to find out the reasons behind his suffering, but he was always refusing to tell me anything. He isolated himself and rarely came close to me or my child,” she continued.

“When my 6-year-old daughter fainted and her body turned weak and she started vomiting blood, I rushed to a doctor, who told me that she was infected with HIV,” she added, saying “I was unable to utter a word. When I returned home, my husband told me about the calamity that was to ruin our lives forever.”

"My husband cheated on me. I was exploited because of my kindness after I stood with him for 11 years. I had to endure his despicable actions and morals. He destroyed the only hope for which I live: my daughter. I wait for the death of my child all time, ever since the doctor told me that she only had three to five years left. I have to live with her away from everyone, to feel safe.”

Children with HIV are rarely cured and physicians estimate they only live between eight to 10 years.

A shock after a pleasant surprise

In another case, Youm7 talked with Taghreed, a mother of a 6-year-old child infected with HIV. “I spent miserable years with my husbands, during which I got divorced twice. But we got back together again because of my three children, [who should grow up between two parents]. I knew he was betraying me. I was sleeping with him even though I knew that he was having an affair.”

In Islam, spouses have the right to remarry twice after getting divorce. In the case that a husband divorces his wife for the third time, they can no longer remarry unless she marries another man first.

“His HIV infection was a pleasant surprise in retaliation for his bad deeds with me over all these years. I was smiling at him [when he was talking about his infection],” she said, adding that she was praying for his death.

“I realized later that he was beating and raping me when I refused to have sex with him. And then I realized my calamity,” she continued.

Taghreed continued, while crying, that her child was also infected with the virus. “My husband doesn't die, does not suffer any pain, and lives despite his health,” she said.

“My son and I were punished for living with that man,” said Taghreed, who filed for her divorce at Zananiri court.

Poverty that kills

Poverty pushed a 16-year-old girl to pay the price of getting married to a man from a Gulf State, who was married to several women for his pleasure only, subsequently leaving them and their children without any rights. The Arab man left Walaa G. and her child alone and she discovered later that she carries the virus. Her calamity peaked when the symptoms of the disease began showing on her face and parts of her body in 2010. She weighed less than 40 kilograms. By that time, the virus was transmitted to her child who lives illegally without a document proving the Arab man’s parenthood.

"When I became sick, I went to a clinic for abortion. I underwent several tests,” she said. “I saw her facial reaction of panic when she told me that I had AIDS. Due to my illiteracy, I did not know what she meant but realized that it was dangerous when she drove me out of the clinic and advised me to hide him from everyone,” she said.

“I went to several doctors after some good people helped me conduct tests for myself and my child. They confirmed that the disease was transmitted to my son too. That is the secret of his weakness and permanent illness,” Walaa continued.

"I would not have been able to pay for the treatment without the help I received from one of the charities in Imbaba. I could have been dead by now,” she said.

“HIV is transmitted from an HIV-positive mother to her child. Many mothers do not know that they are infected with the virus. The primary symptoms of the disease are the same ones exhibited by the influenza such as fever and diarrhea; the virus then stays in the body for a long time and its symptoms then appear,” said Pediatric physician Dr. Sobhy Abdel Moneim.

The possibility of transmitting the virus from mothers to their babies was estimated to be 20 percent. However, this percentage could increase during cesarean delivery, Abdel Moneim added

Facts and statistics:

• 10,000 people live with HIV according to the Minister of Health’s data, while anti-AIDS associations estimated the number at more than 230,000 cases.
• 880 cases were reported as of 2014; 812 persons still alive and 64 others are dead.
• Infected women represent 82 percent, compared to 18 percent for men
• 39 percent of cases were transmitted via sexual relations and 19 percent through drug addiction
• 2 percent of HIV-positive patients are mothers.

8/16/2018 6:59:19 PM
<![CDATA[Sisi approves USAID fund to support Egypt’s water security]]>
The aid will help support water security in Egypt and provide the state's water companies, including the Holding Company for Water and Wastewater (HCWW) and its subordinate companies with the required technical support.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will, according to the agreement, fund Egypt with an amount of money that does not exceed $50,847,041 (about LE 910 million) according to the state-owned newspaper.

On September 27, 2017, the official website of the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Egypt reported that the two countries signed assistance agreements and amendments worth over $100 million to support U.S.-Egypt priorities in fields including water, agriculture, education and health.

The agreements were signed by Sherry Carlin, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) mission director to Egypt and Sahar Nasr, the Egyptian minister of investment and international cooperation.

USAID efforts in Egypt

The American people have invested in Egypt through USAID by about $30 billion since 1978.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) grants Egypt $100 -112 million annually, divided among several activities and aspects, including economic development, entrepreneurships and scholarships, according to Carlin.

On the sidelines of the graduation ceremony of 37 Egyptian students from the USAID-funded grant programs in Egypt last July, Carlin said that the agency carries out several activities in cooperation with the Egyptian government, such as coordinating with the HCWW to set up several projects especially in Sinai.

She added that the agency holds activities in the cultural tourism field through the restoration of many Egyptian archaeological sites. Carlin referred that USAID also works with Egypt’s Ministry of Health, affirming that they are extremely interested in backing democracy, controlling violence and combating illegal immigration.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo said in a statement in May that the USAID will implement a 5-year program to fund Egypt with $19 million to help Egypt’s family planning efforts.

In November 2017, USAID signed a historic $15 million agreement with the Egyptian Ministry of Education to improve education in Egypt. USAID stated on its official Facebook account that over 100,000 new teaching materials will be developed, including scripted lesson plans for teachers and books for learners and over 150,000 early grade teachers who will be trained – impacting 7.2 million children in 17,000 schools nationwide.

“Since 2016, USAID’s project to improve the skills and job-readiness of technical students has secured employment for nearly 7,000 and internships for over 5,350 students,” said USAID economist Jacinto Fabiosa. “More than 24,000 students have benefited from career guidance sessions and over 21,000 students received training in entrepreneurship.”

U.S. military aid

In late July, the United States decided to lift hold on the military aid to Egypt which the former withheld in August 2017 over allegations of human rights and democracy breaches in Egypt.

The $195 million military aid –– will be released by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said that the U.S. decision to lift the hold off some military aid to Egypt emphasizes the significant relations between the two countries and their keenness to support bilateral ties.]]>
8/16/2018 4:43:26 PM
<![CDATA[Turkey arrests Egyptian actor, opposition TV presenter: sources]]>
The sources revealed that police stopped Abdullah in the district where he lives, and that Ayman Nour, Al-Sharq channel owner, did not offer Abdullah any actual support.

The sources also revealed that a number of Muslim Brotherhood supporters mediated and asked the Turkish authorities to release Abdullah, according to media reports, amid expectations that Abdullah may face deportation.

Who is Abdullah?

Abdullah is an Egyptian actor who appeared in many films and drama series, including “Al-Tareeq ela Eilat” (Way to Eilat), and “Layaly Al-Helmiya” (Helmiya nights). He participated in the January 25 revolution in 2011 against ousted President Hosni Mubarak, and also in the June 30, 2013 revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood group.

However, he moved to Turkey to work in Al-Sharq channel that was launched in 2014. Abdullah appears in his TV program on Al-Sharq, attacking Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s policies.

Few days before the Egyptian presidential election in March, Egyptian opposition activist, Ramy Jan, returned from Turkey. He accused the Muslim Brotherhood of committing violations against him.

"I thought I was fighting with the oppressed side, I wanted to... ascertain the extent of the Brotherhood's grievance," he said. "But after a long journey from 2012 until 2018, and after dealing directly with them, I realized that these people only have hatred for Egypt.”

Al-Sharq and Mekameleen channels are Turkey-based institutions known for extremely opposing the Egyptian government. Staffs of the two channels are dedicated to report incidents against the state and analyze them in a way that distorts the image of the Egyptian leadership. Moreover, they influence people to speak against the state.

Unethical practice

In an interview with Egypt Today, Mohamed Mohsen, an Egyptian citizen said: “I was interviewed by a correspondent for an anonymous channel in one of Giza’s streets in 2016. The correspondent did not reveal to me the channel’s identity which I think is very unethical.”

He added, “He asked me about the shortage in medicines at this time and how the government failed to carry out its duty. He influenced me to criticize the government. Few days later, a friend of mine told me that I appeared on Mekameleen channel.”

In a telephone interview in June with the Pro-Muslim Brotherhood “terrorist” organization's TV channel, George Ishak, member of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), said that the police forces killed a number of secretly abducted people in Arish city, without presenting any detailed evidence of the incident.

In July, Ishak justified his statements by saying that he did not know he was speaking to a channel hostile to Egypt. He also said that the channel twisted his statement, adding that the Arish case that he had described as enforced disappearance was later revealed to be of a terrorist who was eliminated by security forces.

Additional reporting by Egypt Today Staff
Some names and identifying details have been changed upon sources' request ]]>
8/16/2018 3:25:21 PM
<![CDATA[NEOM: A new channel for Egyptian-Saudi cooperation]]>
NEOM is the first private zone to span Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan and to be funded by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, as well as local and international investors, Mohamed bin Salman stated.

The visit is considered to be unprecedented and exceptional, as President Sisi is the first high-ranked official to be welcomed by Kind Salman in NEOM.

During the meeting, the leaders exchanged views on the latest developments in the region, its national security, issues of mutual development interests, and bilateral relations.

Additionally, the Saudi allies organized a large banquet, with many princes and ministers attending the meeting in addition to the Head of the Egyptian General Intelligence, Abbas Kamel.

The meeting endorsed the harmonious and strategic frameworks that make up Egyptian-Saudi relations. In a sign of warmer relations and closer cooperation, both Egypt and Saudi Arabia embarked on mutual and collaborative initiatives to boost stability and development in the region.

Recently, the Saudi-Egyptian accord has brought many indications that underline the depth of the relationship between the two countries, and their partnership in renaissance, development and security through various mega projects.

From the beginning, there was a recognition that cooperation between the two countries is indispensable for stability in the region, and therefore the two countries needed to find a way to expand their cooperation beyond the existing status quo. Accordingly, both states allowed many new channels for cooperation to tighten their relations and enhance the region’s security.

NEOM is a $500 billion business and industrial zone in which both Egypt and Jordan are to be partners with Saudi Arabia. The NEOM city project was launched by Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman in October 2017, involving the creation of a huge transnational city and economic zone that covers 26,500 square kilometers in Saudi Arabia. Within that initiative, Egypt would allocate more than 1,000 square kilometers of land to the project in the South Sinai governorate.
The significance of the meeting in NEOM

According to Professor Gamal Soltan, an academic advisor at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies ACPSS and former professor of International Relations and Middle Eastern Politics at The American University in Cairo, being held in NEOM, the meeting had both strategic and political significance.

Strategically, welcoming Sisi as the first high-ranked official in NEOM signifies the full partnership between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, without which the project would not have been realized despite the leading role played by the Kingdom.

Politically, the visit indicates the good shape of the bilateral relations between both states. Additionally, organizing the meeting one day after the visit of the Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to Egypt highlights the fact that Egypt and Saudi Arabia are in continuous consultation and dialogue regarding the Yemeni issue, negating all rumors about any disaccord between them and about Egyptian military contribution in the war in Yemen, stated Sultan.

Furthermore, Sultan stressed the fact that the leaders of both regimes are fully aware of the necessity of working together, and avoiding enmity despite any differences. This awareness is built upon previous history of disagreement between them back in the 1960s during the conflict in Yemen which resulted in deterioration for both of them. Hence, both regimes are willing to manage their differences to maintain agreement.

Moreover, Sultan highlighted the major and crucial role played by Saudi Arabia backing Egypt when it fell in the hands of the Muslim Brothers. The Kingdom feared the collapse of Egypt “the older sister” which in turn would have led to the collapse of the whole Arab region. In 2013, Saudi Arabia supported Egypt politically and financially to curb the MB’s oppressive regime and boost Sisi`s initiative to save the country, the professor said.

Furthermore, the new city reflects the common interest of Egypt and Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism. On the one hand, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the driving force behind sweeping social, religious, and economic changes in Saudi Arabia, took the initiative to counter “radical ideologies" through spreading a more tolerant and moderate version of Islam. The mega-city, with its own judicial system and legislation is designed to attract international investors, in an attempt to put his initiative into practice.

He also delivered a warning to ultraconservatives, vowing to destroy "extremist ideologies" and return to "a more moderate Islam.” "We want to lead normal lives, where our religion and our traditions translate into tolerance, so that we coexist with the world and take part in developing the world,” he stated.

On the other hand, Egypt continues its fight against terrorism since 2013 through the state initiative to develop Sinai. General Khalid Fouda, the governor of South Sinai, said that the free zone to be built in Nuweiba serving the NEOM project will be built on one million square meters in Nuweiba that will no longer be neglected. Ayman Hosny, a member of Ras Sedr Investors Association, said that the new project announced by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a cultural extension of the urban and touristic development in South Sinai, specifically in Ras Sedr region, which is the first region to benefit from the geographical importance of NEOM, ending the old myth of “the neglected Sinai” and closing all possible channels for terrorist activities there.

Economically, the Egyptian Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation announced that it will also finance the development of the Egyptian side of NEOM mega-city and a free economic zone.

The new agreements come within the Egyptian government's plans to stimulate foreign direct investment, focusing on developing the poor governorates by enhancing economic activities and providing job opportunities for Egyptians there.

The Kingdom’s unrivaled leader, Prince Mohammed, is spearheading efforts to prepare Saudi Arabia for the post-oil era, in which he intends to end Saudi Arabia’s long dependency on the oil sector by diversifying the Kingdom’s economic sector. The Saudi Prince stated that NEOM as an economic zone will have many ports, “some of them in Saudi Arabia and some of them in Egypt.”

NEOM overlooks the Red Sea, one of the world’s most prominent economic arteries, through which nearly one tenth of the world’s trade flows; facilitating NEOM's rapid emergence as a global hub that has potential to bring together trade from Asia, Africa, Europe and America.

The megacity is to transform the economy and society by introducing a raft of liberalizing reforms as planned by President Sisi and King Salman. The city aims to embrace digital technologies and services to make it a major commercial location in the Middle East. Consequently, such development will be a major driver of tourism.

According to Al Arabiya the name of the project has significant connotation. The first three characters "NEO" comes from the Latin word which means “new” and the fourth character "M" is the abbreviation of the Arabic word “Mostaqbal” which means “future.”

NEOM enjoys an uninterrupted coastline stretching over 468 kilometers that will be powered solely by sources of renewable energy.

The zone focuses on nine specialized investment sectors including energy, water, mobility, food, technological and digital science, advanced manufacturing, media, and entertainment.

According to the Egyptian and Saudi governments, these sectors stimulate economic growth and diversification by nurturing international innovation and manufacturing. As a result, it will drive local industries, and enhance GDP growth in the Kingdom, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.
8/16/2018 1:52:11 PM
<![CDATA[Interview: Dronka Monastery receives Copts, Muslims in celebration of Virgin Mary]]>
The event commemorates the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt to escape King Herod’s persecution. Below is an interview with Bishop Yuanes on that occasion.

1 - What do you think of the recent murder of Bishop Epiphanuis in St. Macarius Monastery?

The events unfolding at St. Maracrius Monastery are a passing phase. We must be patient and pray for this crisis to pass, but people are in a hurry to know the truth.

2 - Is there a conflict between the schools of late Coptic icons Pope Shenouda and head of St. Macarius Monastery Matthew the Poor?

This is a question to be asked to Pope Tawadros. I am the archbishop of Assiut, and I trust Pope Tawadros and the Monastic Committee. All I want to say is “prayer and patience.”

3 - You were close to late Pope Shenouda. How was your relationship with him?

I did not leave the company of late Pope Shenouda for 21.5 years. I learned a lot from his character and experience. When we have an issue in Assiut, I always remember him and how he dealt with such matters.

4 – Have you faced challenges since you were appointed bishop of Assiut?
I have not faced problems by Copts or officials since I became the archbishop in 2015. I have noticed cooperation and love amongst everybody, and people in Assiut are pious and God-fearing.

A (11)-2
Bishop Yuanes of Asyut during the interview in August 2018 – Ahmed Dream

5 – What do you think of late Bishop Michael of Assiut?

The people in Assiut are fond of late Michael, because he was able to reach their hearts with his piety. Furthermore, he revived Dronka Monastery, and thanks to him, the celebration of the virgin fasting on Aug. 7 is one of the largest in Egypt.

6 – What is your say about the controversy of women’s clothes at weddings?

There is a verse in the Bible that says: “In a like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness with good works.”

When I talked about women’s attire in weddings inside the church, it was because it is God’s house. None of the people in Assiut objected, but some outside Egypt became upset and attacked me, claiming the church has imposed a costume on women. That is not true.

7 - How are the celebrations of the Fast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary at Dronka Monastery?

This celebration is attended by Christians and Muslims. The monastery provided buses to transport visitors from the gates to the top of the Western Mountain. It is one of the most important celebrations of the Virgin in Egypt, and about 3 million people visit Dronka over two weeks, according to executive authorities in Assiut.

8 – How do the Egyptian people feel about Virgin Mary?

The relationship between the Egyptian people and the Virgin is one of love and intercession. Dronka Monastery is a destination for thousands of Egyptian and foreign visitors, because it is the last station in the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt, and from which they began their journey back to Palestine.

9 – Is the number of visitors to Dronka Monastery on the rise?

The number of visitors to Dronka Monastery is increasing. I would like to thank security and executive authorities that secure and organize the celebrations. The state’s efforts in its war on terror, especially in Sinai, are felt here in Assiut in terms of safety.

Interview by Mahmoud Agamy
8/16/2018 1:49:48 PM
<![CDATA[Muslim Brotherhood sued internationally over burning 42 churches ]]>
The suit demands the outlawed organization pay compensation worth 5 billion Euros ($5.6 million) over damages caused to the churches. The incidents date back to the riots erupted by Brotherhood supporters while the police was dispersing two sit-ins in Raba’a el-Adawiya and Al-Nahda squares in August 2013.

Supporters of deposed President Mohamed Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood clash with anti-Mursi protesters during a march in Shubra street in Cairo October 4, 2013. REUTERS/ Mohamed Abd El Ghany

“The lawsuit has also requested arresting a number of Brotherhood leaders who are at large abroad over their involvement in damaging acts,” Ghobrael told Egypt Today.

According to Ghobrael, the organizations suing the Brotherhood international group contacted Interpol over the arrest of the fugitive members, including Mahmoud Ezzat, the Chargé d’Affaires of the Brotherhood. Interpol does not send officers into countries to arrest wanted individuals, but arrests in each Interpol member country are carried out by national police in accordance with the law.

Since the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013, several Muslim Brotherhood leaders and supporters were arrested and tried over terror-related charges, while others made their way outside the country, escaping prosecution.
Egypt has repeatedly sent requests to Interpol, which in return renewed its red notices for wanted individuals, hosted in different countries abroad, including Qatar.

File Photo: A number of defendants standing inside a Cairo Court deck during their trial – AFP

On Saturday, a failed bombing attack took place near Virgin Mary church in Mostorod, Cairo. The suicide attack is believed to have been thwarted due to tight security measures that made the bomber retract. The incident did not result in civilian causalities, except for the suicide bomber who was killed right after the explosive belt blew up before he could reach the church.

Investigations into the incident revealed that a terrorist cell tried to target the church with an explosive bomb containing poisonous nails to cause fatal injuries to the largest number of victims in the vicinity.

Sources said that extremists received training through social media on how to manufacture explosive devices using toxic nails, commissioned by terrorist leaders who reside abroad.

Muslim Brotherhood uses poisonous nails in explosives: investigations

CAIRO - 15 August 2018: Investigations with the terrorist cell that tried to target the Virgin Mary church in Mostorod revealed that the extremists had cloaked the nails used in the manufacture of the explosive bomb with poisonous materials to cause fatal injuries in the largest number of victims in the scene.


Churches located in Upper Egypt took the lion’s share of vandalism. Minya had the upsetting distinction of being ranked first in the attacks with the Church of St. Mina of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Church of Saint Mark, and Pastor of the Church of the Virgin Mary and Anba Abram in Daljah all being attacked.

Interpol building – AFP

The security guards of the Minya churches share their harrowing experiences during the attack in the following statements.

“I sat in the church until I heard sounds and chants coming in the direction of the church so I hid behind the door,” said Attia. He described a pickup truck slamming into the church’s door until it knocked it over. Hundreds of men then stormed into the church carrying weapons, explosives and Molotov cocktails and carried all that they could and left, Attia said.

The Brotherhood members regarded attacking the churches as their revenge against Coptic Egyptians who made their stance against the Brotherhood and support for the Armed Forces quite clear during the June 30 revolution.

All the churches that were attacked during the dispersal have since been rebuilt or renovated, according to Bishop Baiman, president of the Crisis Committee at the Holy Synod, and the supervisor of the restoration missions.


Drafted in 1986 under the title of "Building Bases of Support", a formerly classified document by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) unveiled the radical approach of the outlawed Brotherhood and how it threatens the national quests for social cohesion, and that most of the terrorist groups and organizations still carry their terrorist credo, adopted and expressed in the books of the group’s co-founder and fundamentalist thinker and writer Sayyid Qotb.

"The Brotherhood has been successful in building a fundamental network through the recruitment of educators, students, journalists, other professionals and businessmen," said the document, adding that "increased factionalism is the Brotherhoods' most serious problem."

Ayman Abul Ela, head of the parliamentary committee of the Free Egyptians Party, said that the Muslim Brotherhood has maintained a violent and radical approach and that many extremist groups have already spun off of the mother Brotherhood.

Following release of CIA document, MPs rebuke Brotherhood's terrorist dogma

CAIRO - 14 August 2018: After a 32-year-old classified document by the CIA on the growing influence of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has been lately revealed, a number of parliamentarians voiced their condemnation of the Brotherhood's terrorist credo.

Abul Ela added that the United States has several similar documents in hand about the terrorist Brotherhood and is well aware of their involvement in terrorist acts.

Ahmad al-Awadi, a member of the parliamentarian committee of the National Defense and Security, said that the recent CIA documents on the Muslim Brotherhood come in line with the Egyptian political leadership's statements about the Brotherhood’s engagement in terrorist acts.

The Military Court delayed on Monday the prosecution of 304 defendants over the attempted assassination of Assistant Attorney General Zakaria Abdel Aziz.
The defendants belong to Hasm movement which is considered the armed group of the Muslim Brotherhood. The defendants include Mohammed Ali Bishr, a member of the Brotherhood's Guidance Bureau, and other leaders of the group.

The Supreme State Security relates the movement of Hasm to 17 terrorist incidents that targeted army officers, police, clerics, and prosecutors.

It said the head of the “central operations chamber” of the movement, Ahmed Mohamed Abdel Hafiz, left to Turkey, aided by a number of members of the Brotherhood group that include Ali Batikh, Majdi Shalash and Mohamed Ahmed Abdel Hadi.

Additional reporting by Dunya Hassanein and Nada Mostafa

8/16/2018 10:18:48 AM
<![CDATA[Ex-Trump aide Manafort had 'huge dumpster of hidden money]]>
Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Andres gave his closing statement in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, where Manafort is on trial on tax and bank fraud charges, along with failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.

The trial is the first to come out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The charges involve tax and bank fraud, not possible collusion between Russia and Donald Trump's campaign for president.

A Manafort conviction would undermine efforts by Trump and some Republican lawmakers to paint Mueller's Russia inquiry as a political witch hunt, while an acquittal would be a setback for the special counsel.

The star witness against Manafort was seen as Rick Gates, his former right-hand man, who was indicted along with Manafort but pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government.

The defense has portrayed Gates as a lying thief who had his hand in the "cookie jar" and was only trying to reduce his own sentence, noting Gates will be allowed to argue for probation even though he admitted to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars and being involved in Manafort's alleged crimes.

Andres argued that while Manafort did not "choose a Boy Scout" as his associate, Gates' testimony was corroborated by other evidence, including nearly 400 exhibits, and a series of financial professionals who took the stand for the prosecution.

"The star witness in this case is the documents,” Andres told the jury.

"That wasn’t a cookie jar," he added, referring to the tens of millions of dollars Manafort had overseas. "It was a huge dumpster of hidden money in foreign bank accounts."


Prosecutors say Manafort, 69, tried to mislead bankers with doctored financial statements in 2015 and 2016 to secure more than $20 million in loans and failed to pay taxes on more than $15 million that he earned as a political consultant in Ukraine.

Defense lawyers decided not to call any witnesses in the trial, and Manafort, a veteran Republican political operative, did not testify in his own defense.

In its closing argument, defense counsel argued that Manafort had been transparent with the banks and that any issues with his financial situation were well known to them before they extended him the loans.

They also sought to emphasize the idea that Manafort did not knowingly break the law -- a requirement for conviction -- and was rather failed by the bookkeepers, accountants and other professionals in whom he trusted his financial affairs.

"Sometimes the people we rely on are trustworthy. Sometimes they are not," said lawyer Richard Westling.

The defense took particular aim at Gates, who admitted in court to an extramarital affair. Gates also said he helped Manafort doctor financial statements, hide foreign income and evade hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S. income taxes.

Manafort's attorneys have portrayed Gates as living a secret life of infidelity and embezzlement. Defense lawyer Kevin Downing told the jury that Gates had shown himself to be a liar.

"He came in here trying to look all clean-shaven," Downing said. "He came in here and tried to get one over on you."

Manafort made millions of dollars working for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians before taking an unpaid position with Trump's campaign. He was on the campaign team for five months and led it in mid-2016 when Trump was selected as the Republican presidential nominee.

Prosecutors say Manafort hid money in offshore bank accounts and then used it to pay for over $6 million in New York and Virginia real estate, items such as antique rugs and fancy clothes, including a $15,000 jacket made of ostrich skin.

If found guilty on all 18 charges by the 12-person jury, he could face eight to 10 years in prison, according to sentencing expert Justin Paperny.

Manafort also faces a second trial in September in Washington, where he is accused of failing to disclose lobbying for Ukranian politicians, among other crimes.

After the defense concluded its closing argument, Andres objected to Downing's suggestions that a civil audit would have been more appropriate for Manafort's tax issues and that Mueller's office had unfairly singled him out.

Judge T.S. Ellis sided with Andres, agreeing to tell the jury that the government was not required to do a civil tax audit before bringing criminal charges and to instruct them that any suggestions about selective prosecution were to be ignored.

"We don't want the jury deciding this case on that issue," Ellis said.

Ellis was next set to instruct the jury, a process that he said would take an hour and a half. That made it likely the jury would not start deliberating until Thursday.]]>
8/16/2018 4:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Turkey slaps retaliatory tariff hikes on key US products]]>
The lira -- which lost just under a quarter of its value on Friday and Monday -- however continued to claw back some ground on financial markets, rallying around five percent against the dollar.

A court meanwhile rejected an appeal for the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson -- whose detention for almost two years sparked the crisis -- leaving no immediate solution to the Turkey-US row in sight.

The White House called Turkey's tariff hikes "regrettable" and repeated its call for Brunson's immediate release.

"The tariffs that the United States placed on Turkey were out of national security interests. Theirs are out of retaliation," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.

She lamented that Turkey had treated Brunson, "who we know to be a very good person and a strong Christian who has done nothing wrong, very unfairly, very badly".

The lira's fall had raised fears Turkey was on the verge of a fully-fledged economic crisis, especially in its banking system, that could spill over into Europe and other markets.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said the tariff hikes were ordered "within the framework of reciprocity in retaliation for the conscious attacks on our economy by the US administration".

The hikes were published in Turkey's Official Gazette in a decree signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has repeatedly described the crisis as an "economic war" that Turkey will win.

President Donald Trump had previously announced that the United States was doubling steel and aluminium tariffs on Turkey.

The Turkish tariff increases amount to a doubling of the existing rate, the state-run Anadolu news agency said, in an apparent parallel response to Trump's move.

The decree said the move brought tariffs to 50 percent on imports of US rice, 140 percent on hard alcoholic drinks like spirits, 60 percent on leaf tobacco and 60 percent on cosmetics.

- 'Dangerous game' -

Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan said Turkey had doubled tariffs on 22 products imported from the United States, saying the tariffs were together worth an additional $533 million.

Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin added: "Turkey is not in favour of an economic war with anyone but when attacked... will take all necessary steps."

Erdogan on Tuesday said Turkey would boycott US electronic goods like iPhones, even though he has himself been photographed repeatedly using the product himself.

Moves by the central bank to ensure Turkish banks have liquidity have gone some way to reassuring investors.

But analysts say such measures are artificial stop-gaps and do not deal with the core issues hurting Turkey's economy -- especially inflation approaching some 16 percent -- which are crying out for a sharp interest rate hike.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, warned the Turkish tariff hikes risked provoking a new reaction from Trump and ultimately adding to downward pressure on the lira.

"President Erdogan appears to be playing a dangerous game if he thinks he can come out on top in this spat with the US," he warned.

- 'Other markets' -

As a court in the western Turkish city of Izmir rejected a new appeal to free Brunson on Wednesday, spokesman Kalin said the US needs to be respectful of the judicial procedures in Turkey.

Erdogan has warned Turkey could seek alternative partners, pointing to Ankara's strong ties with Russia, Iran and China.

"The US is our major trade partner but it's not the only one," Pekcan, the trade minister, was quoted as saying by the official Anadolu news agency.

Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani of gas-rich Qatar, one of Turkey's very closest allies, on Wednesday held talks with Erdogan which also included Albayrak.

"Qatar has pledged $15 billion of direct investments in Turkey," presidential spokesman Kalin wrote on Twitter afterwards.

Erdogan thanked the emir and the people of Qatar for "standing by Turkey," the official Anadolu news agency reported.

Turkish officials have been keen to emphasise that Ankara wants to retain strong ties with Europe, which has also expressed deep unease with Trump's trade policies.

Erdogan spoke on the phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, the Turkish presidency said while he is due to speak with French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday.

Relieving tensions in a case that annoyed Brussels, a Turkish court Tuesday released two Greek soldiers detained since March on espionage charges for illegally crossing the border.

Onm Wednesday an Istanbul court also ordered the release of Amnesty International's Turkey chair Taner Kilic who has spent more than a year in jail over alleged links to a failed coup in 2016.

Kilic was released a few hours after the court ruling, an event which Amnesty's new Secretary General Kumi Naidoo called "a bittersweet moment after 14 months of unjust detention."]]>
8/16/2018 2:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Guterres urges world to support Egypt's efforts in Gaza]]>
Guterrs said that the Israeli authorities agreed to the calls of the International arena to avoid the harms of closing a civil crossing, adding that citizens in Gaza are set to face huge living difficulties in case of the crossing closure.

The UN secretary urged all the regional powers to support the Egyptian efforts in coordination with the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, to curb any military escalation between the Israeli army and the Palestinian factions in Gaza.

Egyptian diplomacy along with the UN managed to realize a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza, following an Israeli military aggression against Gaza last week.

Since Wednesday evening, the Gaza Strip was shelled by Israeli rockets, killing three Palestinians, including a pregnant women and her 18-year-old infant. Twelve others were injured in Israeli raids.

Israeli rockets resumed on Wednesday although the military wing of the Palestinian movement Hamas announced its acceptance of mutual ceasefire. Since then, the Egyptian authorities made a series of communications with several organizations and bodies to cease fire in Gaza and stop the escalation.

As for the inter-Palestine reconciliation, a source told Egypt Today on the condition of anonymity, that Fatah's Executive Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad has been in Cairo since Wednesday in order to conduct a number of positive talks with Egyptian officials regarding the mechanisms of the reconciliation process.

In October 2017, the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed a preliminary reconciliation deal in Cairo in the presence of Egyptian intelligence officials, in the latest in a series of attempts to end a decade-long Palestinian territorial
8/16/2018 12:53:42 AM
<![CDATA[UN humanitarian coordinator criticized for siding with Houthis]]>CAIRO – 16 August 2018: Yemen’s Minister of Information Muammar al-Eryani criticized Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande for taking sides with the Houthi militias backed by the Iranian regime, according to Alarabya.

Eryani criticized the UN mission’s dependence on misleading information which is provided by the coup militias, without referring to the Yemeni legitimate government.

He stressed that the Houthi militias deliberately target civilians directly in an attempt to influence the local and international opinion, Alarabya reported.

Grande, who insists on performing her tasks from Sanaa, despite the calls of the legitimate government for her to move to Aden, had met during the past few days with Mahdi al-Mashat, the head of the so-called Supreme Political Council of the Houthi militia, one of the wanted figures by the Arab coalition backing the Yemeni legitimate government.

It is noteworthy that several calls have been issued to international organizations to move from Sanaa to the temporary capital of Yemeni legitimacy in Aden, amid accusations that they are being blackmailed and under threat by the militia.

The UN has recently chosen its former humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Lise Grande, to assume the same task in Yemen, succeeding Jamie McGoldrick, who was also accused by the Yemeni legitimate government of being biased towards the Houthi militias.

8/16/2018 12:05:45 AM
<![CDATA[Qatar to aid Turkey, currency rallies but U.S. says tariffs to stay]]>
The White House stance appeared to give Turkish authorities little incentive to work for the release of Andrew Brunson, a pastor on trial in Turkey on terrorism charges and whose case Turkish officials have said was a matter for the courts.

The dispute is one of several between the NATO allies, including diverging interests in Syria and U.S. objections to Ankara's ambition to buy Russian defence systems, that have contributed to instability in Turkish financial markets.

While the Brunson matter appeared far from being resolved, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan got a shot in the arm from Qatar's Emir, who approved a package of economic projects, investments and deposits after the two met in Ankara.

The Qatari money will be channelled into banks and financial markets, a Turkish government source told Reuters.

The move by Turkey's Gulf ally offered further support to a lira rally after the Turkish central bank tightened liquidity and curbed selling of the currency.

The lira has lost nearly 40 percent against the dollar this year, driven by worries over Erdogan's growing control over the economy and his repeated calls for lower interest rates despite high inflation.

The dispute with the United States, focused on a tit-for-tat tariff row and Turkey's detention of Brunson, helped turn the currency's steady decline into meltdown.

It touched a record low of 7.24 to the dollar early on Monday, rattling global stock markets and threatening the stability of Turkey's financial sector.

President Donald Trump doubled tariffs on Turkish metals exports to the United States last week prompting Turkey, which says it will not bow to threats, to raise tariffs on U.S. cars, alcohol and tobacco by the same amount on Wednesday.

The White House called the Turkish response a step in the wrong direction and signalled a hard line on Brunson's release.

"Pastor Andrew Brunson is an innocent man held in Turkey & justice demands that he be released. Turkey would do well not to test @POTUS Trump’s resolve to see Americans who are wrongfully imprisoned in foreign lands returned home to the United States," Vice President Mike Pence said in a tweet.

Speaking in Washington, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders made clear the United States had no plan to remove the steel tariffs if Brunson were released though she said it could remove sanctions imposed on two senior Turkish officials.

The United States sanctioned Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, blaming both for being involved in the arrest and detention of Brunson, who is accused of backing a coup attempt against Erdogan two years ago, something he denies.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu struck a somewhat conciliatory note, saying Turkey was ready to discuss its issues with the United States as long as there are no threats.

Despite the political tensions, the lira rebounded some 6 percent on Wednesday, strengthening to around 6.0 to the dollar.

There was also optimism about better relations with the European Union after a Turkish court released two Greek soldiers pending trial. Cavusoglu said ties with the bloc, long strained, were on a firmer basis and had started normalising.

A banking watchdog's step to limit foreign exchange swap transactions also helped the currency.

"They are squeezing lira liquidity out of the system now and pushing interest rates higher," said Cristian Maggio, head of emerging markets strategy at TD Securities.

"Rates have gone up by 10 percent ... The central bank has not done this through a change in the benchmark rates, but they are squeezing liquidity, so the result is the same," he said.

The lira firmed as far as 5.75 against the dollar on Wednesday and stood at 5.90 at 2058 GMT.

The finance minister will seek to reassure international investors on Thursday in a conference call for which a ministry official said some far 3,000 people had signed up.

The chief executive of Turkey's Akbank said the banking sector remained strong and the measures taken to support the market had started to have an impact, adding there was no withdrawal of deposits.

There was no resolution to the Brunson case in sight. On Wednesday, a court in Izmir, where Brunson is on trial, rejected his appeal to be released from house arrest. An upper court had yet to rule on the appeal, his lawyer told Reuters.

In another high-profile case, a Turkish court freed Taner Kilic, the local chair of Amnesty International, a researcher from the rights group said.]]>
8/16/2018 12:03:59 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt on its way to renewing religious discourse]]>
The religious discourse can often be brought up in public spheres of life with religious figures commenting on politics and the day-to-day happenings. Whilst this is common in every religion, in recent years, Egypt has been faced with a wave of terrorism and radical, extremist thought.

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has repeatedly called for renewing the religious discourse as part of the war against terrorism. In order to curb extremist ideology that was often preached by extremist figures, mosques needed to be put under the Ministry of Awqaf’s jurisdiction.

Jumaa said that the first stage of renewing religious discourse was the ‘purification stage’ before taking control over the minbar. This meant purifying the minbar of extremists who spread violent ideas among citizens.

“There used to be very important mosques outside the control of the ministry, such as Asad Ibn al-Forat Mosque, Aziz bellah Mosque and Al-Qaed Ibrahim Mosque in Alexandria,” said Jumaa.

Although putting them all under the control of the ministry is difficult, today all mosques in Egypt are under the control of the Ministry of Awqaf, the minister added.

In his interview with Mohamed el-Baz on the TV show "90 minutes", Jumaa added that a number of laws were issued regarding the renewal of religious discourse for the sake of restoring the ministry’s minbars from the tight grips of extremists. “All mosques have been recovered from the hands of extremists,” Jumaa said.

“We have established an international training academy and we have allocated LE 40 million to spread the message abroad and to restore the role of Egypt in protecting Islam,” referred Jumaa.

According to the report, "The International Religious Freedom in Egypt" released by the US Department of State in 2016, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has called on scholars to renew religious discourse to combat extremist ideology. Sisi has repeatedly stressed that defeating terrorism is on top of his priorities and renewing religious discourse is one way to do that.

On July 17, 2017, metro fatwa kiosks were set up in Cairo’s metro stations by Al Azhar to offer religious advice to commuters on a daily basis. This was an attempt to combat extremist ideology by simplifying religious messages for the public, as per a previous article from Egypt Today.

Novelist and Socio-political research, Ammar Ali Hassan, wrote an article titled “A New Religious Discourse” in Al Ahram Weekly, saying that “Islam has been hijacked.”
Many do argue the same believing that terrorism and extremism have led to new thoughts being spread via mosques that are not directly under the control of the ministry.

However, according Dostor, MP Mohammed Abu Hamid, a member of the House of Representatives, said that Al-Azhar, with its current thinking, is incapable of leading the way towards renewing the religious discourse.

Regardless, many have spoken about renewing religious discourse, such as artist Mohamed Abla, who called for discussing the matter at the Arab Ministers Culture Conference.

“Before the Arab Ministers Culture Conference convenes in Cairo next October, we must tell them that the most important issue to be addressed is the renewal of religious discourse,” said Abla.

He clarified that renewing religious discourse is not completely the responsibility of Al Azhar and the Awqaf Ministry. Abla believes that this is also the responsibility of intellects.

Abla pointed out that it is important to discuss the radical changes that are happening in Arab countries because these changes have a lot to do with culture and values which impact a person’s thought.
8/15/2018 1:34:10 PM
<![CDATA[Muslim Brotherhood uses poisonous nails in explosives: investigations]]>
Sources said that the extremists received training through social media on how to manufacture explosive devices using toxic nails, commissioned by terrorist leaders who reside abroad.

The investigations revealed serious information about the financial support file recently assigned to the female members of the terrorist group, who serve as a link between the Brotherhood's leaders in Doha and Istanbul and the Brotherhood's youth inside the country.

Investigations indicated that the female members communicate through mobile applications with the terrorist leaders fleeing abroad and funds are transferred to them to pay extremists to commit terrorist acts inside the country.

Military Court delays trial of 304 Muslim Brotherhood members

CAIRO - 13 August 2018: The Military Court delayed on Monday the prosecution of 304 defendants over the attempted assassination of Assistant Attorney Genera; Zacaria abd al-Aziz. The defendants belong to the "Hasm" movement considered the armed group of the Muslim Brotherhood, held at the Institute of Police Secretaries in Batrah.

The Military Court delayed on Monday the prosecution of 304 defendants over the attempted assassination of Assistant Attorney General Zakaria Abdel Aziz.

The defendants belong to Hasm movement which is considered the armed group of the Muslim Brotherhood. The defendants include Mohammed Ali Bishr, a member of the Brotherhood's Guidance Bureau, and other leaders of the group.

The Supreme State Security relates the movement of the Hasm to 17 terrorist incidents targeting army officers, police, clerics, and prosecutors.

It said the head of the “central operations chamber” of the movement, Ahmed Mohamed Abdel Hafiz, left to Turkey, aided by a number of members of the Brotherhood group that include Ali Batikh, Majdi Shalash and Mohamed Ahmed Abdel Hadi.

Court renews detention of 9 MB-affiliated "Hasm group" members

CAIRO - 13 August 2018: Cairo Criminal Court on Monday renewed the detention of nine people accused of joining the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Hasm group for 45 days pending investigations. The suspects are accused of planning attacks against state institutions.

Cairo Criminal Court renewed on Monday the detention of nine people accused of joining the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Hasm group for 45 days pending investigations.

The suspects are accused of planning attacks against state institutions.

Earlier, the security bodies announced the arrest of the nine Hasm members upon an order from the public prosecutor over charges of planning to carry out acts of sabotage across the country during the upcoming period.
8/15/2018 1:22:27 PM
<![CDATA[Equality in inheritance stirs controversy in Egypt ]]>
The presenter of “90 Minutes” program, Mohamed el-Baz, said that women’s status nowadays differs from that in the prophet’s period as women today contribute more to societies and are breadwinners.

Egyptian law follows an interpretation of the Islamic law, in which a man inherits double the share of a female, with some exceptions, including the mother and father of a deceased person both receiving one-sixth of the deceased’s possessions, based on what is stated in the Qur’an.

Baz added that equality between men and women in inheritance does not contradict with God’s decree as it is no longer suitable for the conditions of today's community.
“Nobody can change the Qur’an’s verses regarding inheritance. We will preserve the holy text, but it will not come into effect as it is no longer appropriate for the community nowadays,” he remarked.

In the same context, a member of Egyptian Parliament's Social Solidarity Committee, Mohamed Abu Hamed, said that inheritance equality in Egypt is a very complicated issue as the religious discourse should be renewed for inheritance equality to be applied.

He added that Article 2 of the Constitution, stipulating that Shari'a (Islamic law) is the main source of legislation, will influence the religious point of view, stressing that Al-Azhar has criticized Tunisia’s decision in this regard.

MP Shoukry al-Gendy of the Religious Committee of Endowments and Religious Affairs said that the Qur’an’s texts on the inheritance for men and women are very clear, and all Muslims should obey God and his prophet, referring that such calls are void.

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi has called for the formation of a committee to study the issue of individual rights to further enact them and to consider equality between men and women in all fields including inheritance.

Essebsi remarked on the occasion of the National Women’s Day on August 13 that he will submit a draft law before the Parliament, calling for inheritance equality between men and women after the Parliament returns from its vacation in October.

He stressed that the draft law respects the freedom of individuals to choose to apply the inheritance equality or not.

"Inheritance is a matter for mankind that God left to the diligence of the people according to their era," the Tunisian president previously said on the occasion of the National Women’s Day on August 13, 2017.

A few weeks before the first municipal councils election since the Tunisian revolution in 2011, the political arena witnessed polarization and disputes. Essebsi’s requests shocked both social and political circles when he returned pleas for more freedoms and equality between men and women in various fields.

Essebsi’s request crossed all red lines and taboos, not only in Tunisia but in the Arab and Islamic world. Tunisia was the first Arab country to make such a move.

Essebsi asked the government and his minister of justice to end a regulation that prohibits the documentation of any marriage of a Tunisian Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man.

Essebsi pledged to find a form that does not conflict with public opinion. He cited Turkey's recognition of equality between men and women since Mostafa Kamal Ataturk's era.

He also stressed that Islam does not conflict with democracy and development, "In Tunisia, democracy goes hand in hand with respect for Islam," he said.

Essebsi praised the Parliament's approval in July of a landmark bill that criminalizes violence against women, making Tunisia the first Arab country to issue a law specifically addressing such violence.

Some 41 percent of Tunisian judges are women, while 60 percent are in the medical field, and 50 percent in the engineering sector, Essebi said.
Women’s rights in Egypt
Throughout 2017, women gained more rights in several fields with the support of the government.

On Dec. 5, Parliament passed a new inheritance law that gives women their legitimate right to inheritance after numerous suppressed women – especially in Upper Egypt and some rural and urban areas – were deprived of it.

Egypt used to have no sanctions to punish someone who keeps members of a family – usually women – from receiving their rightful shares of an inheritance.

Often an inheritance is kept from a woman because the family fears property ownership would transfer to her husband and not be kept in the immediate family.

Accordingly, the National Council for Women (NCW) started pressuring Parliament to issue a law guaranteeing inheritance rights for Egyptian women, until February when the Parliament’s Legislative Committee approved an amendment proposed by the government to Inheritance Law No. 77/43.

Under this amendment, a number of violations would be considered criminal offenses; such violations include intentionally depriving heirs of their rightful inheritance. The amendment proposes punishment of at least 3 years in prison and a fine ranging between LE 20,000-100,000 (around $1,119-5,595).

Also, hiding documents that could prove a person's legal right to an inheritance is considered a violation. In such cases, the offender would be sentenced to at least six months in prison and a fine ranging between LE 10,000-50,000. If the violation is repeated, the amendment calls for a sentence of at least 1 year in prison.

In a relevant context, early this year, Parliament approved a draft bill pushing for tougher penalties on sexual harassment. The bill imposed an increase in fines ranging between LE 5,000-10,000 on those who are found guilty of sexual harassment in public or private areas, with harassment defined as gestures, words, any modern means of communication or any other action that carries sexual or pornographic hints.

The Feb. 2017 Cabinet reshuffle included nine new portfolios, one of which was occupied by Hala al-Saeed, minister of planning. Furthermore, the Ministry of Investment and the Ministry of International Cooperation have been merged to become the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation headed by Sahar Nasr. This is in addition to the already appointed Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali and Minister of Immigration Nabila Makram.

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi announced that Egyptian women have played a vital and significant role to help Egyptian society overcome the current difficult conditions.

The Egyptian leader made his statements during an Iftar banquet held under his auspices to honor women after he announced 2017 as the “Year of Egyptian Women.”

During his speech, Sisi expressed his deep respect for Egyptian women's resilience.

“The Egyptian woman, unlike in many countries around the world, and due to the difficult circumstances of Egypt, endures so much. In fact, when we were on the economic reform procedures over the past two years, or longer, I knew that in every house, I, or rather Egypt, had a prop,” Sisi said in the video.
8/15/2018 10:52:03 AM
<![CDATA[European countries reach deal to share Aquarius migrants]]>
Spain offered to take 60 people and Germany said it would take "up to 50".

France said it would accept 60 from the Aquarius as well as a second rescue boat that arrived earlier in Malta, and Portugal offered to welcome 30 people. Luxembourg was also part of the deal.

The agreement is the fifth of its kind between Western European governments since June when Italy began turning away migrant rescue ships.

EU sources said the five host countries would send immigration officials to Malta to vet their asylum claims and identify possible economic migrants, who would be returned to their countries of origin.

The boat was initially refused entry by Italy and Malta after rescuing the migrants in two separate missions off the Libyan coast on Friday.

The Aquarius first hit the headlines in June after being stranded with 630 migrants on board, causing a major diplomatic row.

Spain's new Socialist government helped resolve the first standoff by allowing the boat to dock in Valencia and said it was again at the forefront of the solution to the latest one on Tuesday.

"Spain has coordinated a pioneering agreement with six countries to share the hosting of the people on the Aquarius... Spain will take 60 people," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez wrote on Twitter.

But Malta and France said the deal to allow the ship disembark its passengers, many of them unaccompanied teens from violence-wracked Somalia and repressive Eritrea, was their initiative.

"Malta will be making a concession allowing the vessel to enter its ports, despite having no legal obligation to do so," said a Maltese government statement posted on Twitter.

Thanking Malta for its gesture, French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter: "There is no alternative to cooperation."

But EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos warned that Europe could not rely on "ad-hoc arrangements".

Calling in a statement for "sustainable solutions", he said: "It is not the responsibility of one or a few member states only, but of the European Union as a whole."

- European attitudes hardening -

After elections in March that brought a populist, anti-immigrant government to power in Italy, far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini began turning away rescue ships operated by foreign NGOs.

For years, Italy had pleaded with its EU partners for help with a massive influx of arrivals that has seen 700,000 people land in the country since 2013, most of whom had made the short but treacherous sea crossing from Libya.

On Saturday, Salvini said the Aquarius would "never see an Italian port" again, accusing it of encouraging smugglers and migrants to take to the water in the knowledge that they will be rescued.

The Italian coast guard continues to rescue migrants, however.

Malta's government initially defended its decision to turn the Aquarius away, saying it was "neither the coordinating nor the competent authority for such a rescue" and had "no legal obligation" to provide a place of safety.

The government of the British territory of Gibraltar also announced late Monday that the ship would no longer be allowed to operate under its maritime flag.

The increasingly hostile stance reflects hardening public opinion in Europe towards migrants -- despite arrivals dipping sharply since 2015, when over a million people fleeing war or poverty crossed the Mediterranean.

The Aquarius has become a symbol of the unwillingness of many European countries to accept more newcomers, with Italy siding with conservative governments in eastern Europe intent on keeping out migrants.

At a summit in late June EU leaders agreed to consider setting up migrant processing centres outside the bloc, most likely in North Africa, in a bid to discourage them from boarding smuggler boats.

They also agreed to look at setting up "controlled centres" on European soil to sort refugees in need of protection from economic migrants -- but no country has offered to host any such centres.

The proposals are due for discussion at an EU migration summit in Austria in September.]]>
8/15/2018 2:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Freed in Turkey before spy trial, Greek soldiers await flight home]]>
The soldiers crossed into Turkey in March, in what Greece said was an accident while they were following the trail of suspected illegal migrants.

But a court in the western province of Edirne ordered their detention the same month on suspicion of attempted military espionage.

The same court ruled for their release on Tuesday after they said in a defence statement they had crossed the border by mistake, state news agency Anadolu said.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras welcomed the ruling. "The release of the two Greek officers is an act of justice which will contribute to friendship, good neighbourly relations and stability in the region," his office said in a statement.

The conditions of their release were not immediately clear, though Greece said it was sending an aircraft to pick them up.

The prime minister's office said his plane would fly them back to Thessaloniki, where they would be received early on Wednesday by the defence minister.

Long-time regional rivals Turkey and Greece have been at odds over a host of issues from ethnically divided Cyprus to rights in the Aegean Sea.

Rhetoric has recently been ratcheted up on both sides, particularly after the collapse of peace talks in Cyprus in July 2017.

But following a meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of a NATO summit in July, Tsipras said they had agreed to focus efforts on easing tensions in the Aegean.

Turkey has also called on Greece to return eight Turkish commandos who have sought asylum there after commandeering a helicopter to flee Turkey as a coup against Erdogan crumbled in July 2016. Turkey says they were involved, and has demanded they be returned to face trial.

In Brussels, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he was delighted by news of the Greek soldiers' imminent release.

"As I said (before)... Turkey has nothing to fear from its European neighbours. We want to see a democratic, stable and prosperous Turkey," he posted on his Twitter feed.]]>
8/15/2018 12:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Following release of CIA document, MPs rebuke Brotherhood’s terrorist dogma]]>
Drafted in 1986 under the title of "Building Bases of Support", a formerly classified document by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) unveiled the radical approach of the outlawed Brotherhood and how it threatens the national quests for social cohesion, and that most of the terrorist groups and organizations still carry their terrorist credo, adopted and expressed in the books of the group’s co-founder and fundamentalist thinker and writer Sayyid Qotb.

"The Brotherhood has been successful in building a fundamental network through the recruitment of educators, students, journalists, other professionals and businessmen," said the document, adding that "increased factionalism is the Brotherhoods' most serious problem."

Referring to the absconding scholar Youssef al-Qaradawi, the document warned against his role in contributing to the radical plots committed by the group.

Dubbed as “the Sheikh of suicide bombing”, Qaradawi was put on the terrorism watch list after being accused of escaping Wadi El-Natrun prison. He gave up his Egyptian citizenship, incited violence against Egypt and joined a terrorist organization. He articulated his permission for suicide bombing if it is required.

Qaradawi is banned from entering the US, UK and France.

For his part, Ayman Abul ela, head of the parliamentary committee of the Free Egyptians Party, said that the Muslim Brotherhood has maintained violent and radical approach and that many extremist groups have already spun off of the mother Brotherhood.

Abul Ela added that the United States has several similar documents in hand about the terrorist Brotherhood and is well aware of their involvement in terrorist acts.

He stressed that the Egyptian people took to streets on June 30 to demand the removal of the Brotherhood's regime, given the fact that they were cognizant of the threat their presence pose to the Egyptians' lives and peace of mind.

Ahmad al-Awadi, a member of the parliamentarian committee of the National Defense and Security, said that the recent CIA documents on the Muslim Brotherhood comes in line with the Egyptian political leadership's statements about the Brotherhood’s engagement in terrorist acts.

Awadi stressed that the Brotherhood's secrets became known to all countries, adding that the group has resorted to violence, killing the innocent and pursuing extremist approaches since its inception before the 1952 revolution.

“They eliminated everyone that was not with them, including police and army officers along with Egyptian intelligence officials,” he added.

In June, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that blacklisting the MB as a “totality” would complicate U.S. relations in the Middle East. He added, “but at the top of the quality chain, if I can call it that, there are elements of [MB] that have now become parts of governments,” Tillerson said, referring to MB elements in the Turkish Parliament.

Security services concluded Tuesday the necessary preparations to secure the country ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Rabaa sit-in dispersal.

The security plan was constructed to avoid attempts of breaking the law and of undermining the nation and its capabilities, security officials told Egypt Today.

With the aid of the Civil Protection Sector and the use of police dogs, many areas were inspected, particularly around state institutions. Also, a number of security ambushes in Cairo as well as border ambushes between governorates were established to boost security across the country.

Assistants of the minister of interior and security managers ensured the successful deployment of police on the streets.

Egypt witnesses the fifth anniversary of the dispersal of Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins where members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood had gathered and engaged into clashes with security forces on August 14, 2013.

Since December 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood has been declared a terrorist group in Egypt.

Experts determine why U.S. delays labeling MB terrorist group

CAIRO - 21 October 2017: In response to a question posed by FOX News anchor Sean Hannity on whether the U.S. should designate the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as a terrorist organization, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said the U.S.

8/14/2018 7:36:21 PM
<![CDATA[Egyptian MP highlights African people’s right in food security]]>
Concluding meetings of the Pan-African Parliament's committee on agriculture, natural resources and food security that took place in Egypt, Temraz affirmed the importance of coordination between the African states to guarantee self-sufficiency of agricultural output.

Temraz said that achieving food security requires spreading technology and establishing common farms that depend on using technology in the field of agricultural machinery in order to help reduce waste.

The Egyptian MP complained that some foreign companies use African lands and export their agricultural production to outside the continent. He asserted the need to deliver the agricultural output of these lands to the African people to ease their suffering.

Temraz called on the Egyptian Parliament’s agriculture committee to follow up on the issue and coordinate with the Pan-African Parliament to face the phenomenon of foreign companies purchasing African lands.

Mai Mahmoud, the secretary of the African Affairs Committee, stressed that the African continent has to provide African people with food.

The meetings that extended from Tuesday to Saturday were hosted by the Egyptian House of Representatives. Saturday’s meeting was attended by Chief Mandla Mandela, the grandson of the former South Africa President Nelson Mandela, and a number of officials from the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA).

In an interview with Egypt Today earlier this month, Mandela said it is the first time for a committee in the Pan-African Parliament, which is situated in South Africa, to visit another country and that’s only because of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. Egypt is really keen to assist Africans and to enable them to become self-sufficient because Sisi wants to see Africa as one of the continents speaking with one voice.

In August 2017, an Egyptian delegation headed to South Africa to attend the sessions of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) that took place from August 7 to 11.

The Pan African Parliament was established as an organ in the African Union (AU) in order to ensure the full participation of African peoples in the development and economic integration of the continent. The first Parliament was inaugurated on March 18, 2004 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and its headquarters is in Midrand, South Africa.
8/14/2018 1:39:20 PM
<![CDATA[Road to Raba’a: How MB leaders planned to threaten Egyptians]]>
Throughout the past five years, members and supporters of the Brotherhood which had been designated as a terrorist organization in December 2013, spread lies and allegations worldwide in a malicious attempt to claim that the Egyptian authorities and the incumbent regime are violating human rights.

In September 2015, a criminal court in eastern Cairo completed the two-year investigation into the dispersal events that took place in Rabaa Adawiya and Nahda squares.

The investigation concluded that the Brotherhood leaders were responsible for the violence that happened during the dispersal, such as MB Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, Guidance Bureau leaders, Mohamed Morsi’s son, former Islamist parliamentarians and members of the Islamic Group and the Construction and Development Party, most prominently Tarek al-Zomor and Assem Abdel Maged.

Investigations reveal unexpected facts about MB motives

The judicial investigations revealed that the most violent events were committed by MB supporters before August 14, 2013, which forced the authorities to apply the security option rather than reach a political solution.

June 21, 2013 was the first day of a violent series of clashes between the MB and the state institutions and people. According to the prosecution, the MB called for a million-man demonstration to terrorize the citizens, which had criticized the Brotherhood-led regime under the rule of Mohamed Morsi.

Fourteen Brotherhood leaders convened in a secret meeting on June 20, 2013, and agreed to confront civilians who criticized Morsi’s rule. The MB leaders that attended the meeting included Essam Erian, Abdel Rahman al-Bar, Assem Abdel Maged, Mohamed Beltagi, Safwat Hegazi, Osama Yassin, Bassem Ouda, Tarek Zomor, Essam Soltan, Osama Mohamed Morsi, Wagdi Ghonem, Ahmed Aref and Amr Zaki.

The Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau received many confidential reports two months before the June protests, confirming the popular anger against Morsi and the Brotherhood. Officials and statesmen had disclosed in various occasions that state apparatuses had advised Morsi to meet the protesters’ demands before the June protests.

In May 2013, Brotherhood leaders agreed to foil the June mass protests, so they sought the help of the Islamic Group. In early June, the Islamic Forces issued a statement calling for a million-man demonstration on June 21 at Rabaa Square. During that demonstration, the MB and Islamic Group supporters had threatened the state institutions.

The Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in was primarily forged by former Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated President 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).

Why did the army interfere in the June 30 revolution?

The one-year rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt showed how Morsi lacked a basic understanding of Egyptian political dynamics, and that is why he was unable to complete his term in office.

Morsi could not accomplish any progress in dealing with Egypt’s internal and external challenges, from minor domestic challenges to the external threats facing the government.

In 2012, Egyptians had high expectations after the 2011 revolution. Morsi was manipulating the political scene by appointing his affiliates in all government organizations and institutions, giving them privileges, enabling terrorist groups to expand in Sinai, threatening the Egyptian national security and working hard to “Brotherhoodize” the Egyptian civil state.

On July 1, Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) issued a statement titled, "The Final Hours", which read: "We swear to God that we are ready to sacrifice our blood for Egypt and its people against any terrorist, extremist or fool."

Former first lady Gehan Sadat was shocked when she saw her husband’s murderers honored and respected by Egypt’s then-President Morsi.

After the success of the security forces to disperse the Brotherhood sit-ins in Nahda and Rabaa al-Adawiya in August 2013, Brotherhood leader Beltagi threatened Egyptians to continue supporting terrorist groups in Sinai if Morsi was not reinstalled as the "legitimate president" of Egypt, according to a video circulated on the internet.

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi showed mercy to the brain-washed youth affiliated to different Islamist movements, including the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

On Dec. 14, 2016, Sisi said, “I have personally followed up on all recommendations emanating from this conference and I used my constitutional powers to issue pardons for a number of detained young people as a first batch, to be followed by others. I met with the committee that was formed to examine the cases of the detainees and got an understanding of its efforts.”

Until this moment, hundreds of young detainees have been freed after showing good intentions to interact with the Egyptian society and state.
8/14/2018 8:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[How media literacy could change our decisions online? MDLAB answers]]>
The digital era we live in requires us to be media literate in order to understand how and why the online platforms work, and how we can use it wisely.

Lebanon took an initiative to spread the word of media and digital literacy among Arabs and international media people through an academy that offers a 10-days program that includes workshops, sessions, and panel discussions presented by different professionals from the media field and allows participants to perform practical projects.

participants of the sixth Media and Digital Literacy Academy of Beirut MDLAB 2018 at the Lebanese American University of Beirut/ CC Press photo.

Dr. Paul Mihailidis from Emerson College lectures about Media Literacy: Opportunities and Challenges | CC Press photo

The Institute of Media Research and Training at the Lebanese American University in Beirut is hosting its sixth Media and Digital Literacy Academy of Beirut (MDLAB) between August 7 and August 17, 2018.

MDLAB is a program aiming to expand media and digital literacy education in the Arab world by providing the necessary training, curricular material and resources, and motivating participants to internalize values and learning outcomes, according a press release.

This year, MDLAB is hosting over 70 participants from different = countries including Jordan, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, and Germany.
The academy concludes with a closing ceremony on August featuring a special performance by a rising Arab artist.

The academy’s schedule is rich in topics that could affect our decisions online and how we perceive the digital platforms, says Jad Melki, the chairperson of the Department of Communication Arts at the Lebanese American University, who lectures on Gender Media.

Dr. Sarphan Uzunoglu from the Arctic University in Norway lectures on Social Media: Privacy, Surveillance and Security.

A lecture about Women War Correspondents: Shape-shifting in the Conflict Zone will be conducted by Dr. Lindsay Palmer from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The academy includes a number of panels to discuss Women Confronting Gender Discrimination, Minorities and the Marginalized in Media.

The academy also includes a number of workshops aiming to develop participants’ skills in data visualization, video editing, image shooting and editing, video production, technical orientation and advanced wordpress, audio editing and podcasting.

8/14/2018 1:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S.'s Pompeo, Saudi crown prince discuss Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen]]>
It said Pompeo thanked the crown prince "for Saudi Arabia's support for northeast Syria's urgent stabilization needs" and Riyadh's "engagement with the Iraqi government."

They also "discussed their support for a ceasefire in Afghanistan over the coming Eid, and peace in Afghanistan more broadly. They also reviewed the UN Special Envoy's work to resolve the conflict in Yemen and other topics of mutual interest," the statement said.
8/14/2018 12:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt unequivocally rejects Yemen’s transfer to foothold for non-Arab forces ]]>
“We unequivocally reject Yemen transferring a foothold for the non-Arab forces, or a platform that threatens its brotherly Arab countries’ security and stability, or the freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and Bab el-Mandeb Strait,” said President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi on Monday.

Hence, he added, Egypt confirms its firm commitment toward Yemen’s stability and unity as well as its continuous support for Yemen’s legitimate government.

“Your visit to Egypt is particularly important in light of the delicate and pivotal stage that Yemen is going through. The crisis’ repercussions were doubled by the enormous challenges in the Arab region, which unprecedentedly threaten its security and stability.

That requires us to devote efforts, promoting cooperation and coordination among the Arab countries to ward off the escalating dangers facing us all and to change the difficult reality of the brotherly Yemeni people.”

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi Aug. 13, 2018 - Press photo

Sisi confirmed that Egypt welcomes the UN envoy’s efforts in Yemen, aiming to resume negotiations in accordance with internationally agreed terms. The Gulf initiative, the outcomes of the national dialogue and the Security Council’s relevant resolutions are among the delegation’s top priorities.

He further remarked that he held fruitful talks with Hadi, which focused on ways to support and promote bilateral ties between the two countries in different fields, the recent developments of the Yemeni crisis and how to tackle current challenges given political and security consequences.

Sisi concluded that he confirms his concern to develop ties between Yemen and Egypt, which provide a solid foundation for moving together towards the future.

The press conference was preceded by talks reviewing how Egypt can best support Yemen to reach a political solution and alleviate humanitarian suffering.

During the talks, they discussed the common points for cooperation between the two countries to enhance the protection of marine navigation in the Red Sea and Bab el Mandeb strait so as not to be adversely affected by Yemeni crisis.

Sisi stated that Egypt is ready to increase training programs to build the capacity of Yemeni cadres in different fields, as well as offering scholarships and treatment grants.

The talks were followed by the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) and the Central Bank of Yemen on cooperation in the banking sector, particularly in the field of skills exchange and training of workers in this sector.
8/13/2018 8:21:13 PM
<![CDATA[Egyptian expat killed in Kuwait, murderer arrested: reports]]>
According to Al-Rai, the 30-year old Egyptian expat died from a fatal stab to the heart. The Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior has not yet revealed the name of the murdered expat or the identity of the Asian murderer. Kuwaiti authorities have found the knife the murderer used.

Erem News reported on Monday that the Kuwaiti authorities managed to arrest two people accused of stabbing an Arab citizen to the heart in Bnied Al-Gar before they could flee the country.

An Egyptian was previously shot dead at Kuwait’s Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh in January 2013. Also, the Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported in April, 2018 that an Egyptian person working at a weaponry store was injured when a Kuwaiti citizen was checking a shooting gun.

Egyptian teenager killed in France

In another incident, 16-year-old Abdullah al-Shishtawi’s body was returned to Egypt on a plane three months after he was killed in France during a fight with one of his colleagues that ended with the latter stabbing him, according to Egypt’s Al-Masry Al-Youm.

FILE - Abdullah al-Shishtawi

The victim’s brother, Ibrahim, told the Egyptian newspaper that Abdullah travelled to Paris in 2017 to enroll in a government-owned French school. He added that his brother was set to acquire the French citizenship two months before he was killed.

Ibrahim accused the French authorities of failing to fulfill their duties, and said that he is looking forward to receiving a letter from the court sent to their parents to attend the trial of their son’s murderer. The report did not identify the nationality of the murderer.

Egyptian prisoner mysteriously dies in Italy

Viterbo’s hospital in Italy notified the Egyptian Embassy in Rome in late July about the clinical death of Hassan Sharaf, 20, in the hospital where he was moved after he attempted to commit suicide in his solitary confinement cell, according to the hospital and prison claims.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said that the Ministry is following up on the investigation into the death of the Egyptian youth.

Sharaf was set to be released next September.

The Egyptian Embassy sent a delegation to Viterbo to meet with officials of the prison and hospital to disclose the circumstances of the incident, Abu Zeid said.

Hospital officials revealed that Sharaf was moved to the hospital on July 23 in a state of full unconsciousness after he tried to kill himself in the prison. The prison officials confirmed the hospital’s statements.

The embassy submitted a formal request to the prison administration to conduct a formal investigation into the case, Abu Zeid said, adding that the embassy also asked for Sharaf’s medical records.

According to information provided by his family, Sharaf illegally migrated to Italy when he was 15 after finishing his primary education reportedly to make a good living for himself and his family. He was then able to join school in Italy. However, he was sentenced to 3 years in prison when he was 17 years old.

Sabry Abu Heikal, the victim’s first cousin, said that Sharaf last contacted his family in the holy month of Ramadan, which ended this year on June 14. During the call, he said that he is persecuted by one of his inmates.

Mariam Moustafa dies in Nottingham

In late February, an 18-year-old Egyptian engineering student, Mariam Moustafa, was tragically attacked and put into coma by 10 British women of African descent.

In a statement issued on March 2, Ahmed Abu Zeid said they are following all of the case’s updates. On March 14, Mariam lost her life.

Abu Zeid said Egyptian authorities demanded the British authorities to take more serious steps in investigating the abusers, especially that they were captured by the CCTV cameras from the streets and bus where the incident took place.

The statement also accused the hospital were Mariam was taken with “negligence”, as they gave her first aid treatment and checked her out when she needed more care; accordingly, she fell into coma shortly after.

Chief Superintendent Rob Griffin of Nottinghamshire Police visited Egypt to update Mariam's family about the investigation’s latest outcome.

Griffin said: “We understand the depth of interest, sadness and concern in Egypt and in the UK over Mariam’s death, and remain committed to see that justice is done,” according to the Nottingham-based West Bridgford Wire.

Griffin added that Nottinghamshire Police and colleagues from the East Midlands Major Crime Unit are professionally investigating the case, adding that they did not rule out the perception that the crime might have been encouraged by hate.

Egyptian shot by militants in South Africa

Fathy Abdullah Gado, an Egyptian citizen was shot dead by armed criminals in South Africa, while he was driving a car laden with goods that he sells to his clients.

FILE - Fathy Abdullah Gado - photo courtesy of his father

“Last Wednesday [May 30], we received a phone call from one of his [Fathy’s] friends in South Africa, telling us about his death after an armed gang stopped him and his partner while they were driving a car, and tried to steal them by force. [Fathy] was killed, and his partner was injured by a fire shot,” said Fathy’s father.

In March, two Egyptian citizens – Tamer Sayed, 18, and Mohamed Abdel Sattar, 38 – were shot dead in Olievenhoutbosch, Centurion. The Egyptian Embassy in South Africa contacted officials to obtain body transport permits, and the two bodies were flown back to Egypt, the embassy said in a press statement.

Last November, Egyptian Mohamed Nawar was found dead in a shallow grave near a river in the reserve of Limpopo, South Africa. The investigation revealed that Nawar was killed and buried by a band of thieves who wanted his car.

Consequently, the Foreign Ministry urged Egyptian expats in South Africa to be cautious and not to walk around with large amounts of cash.

Additional reporting by Egypt Today Staff ]]>
8/13/2018 6:27:20 PM
<![CDATA[Into Egypt’s role in the Yemeni crisis ]]>
Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s visit to Cairo on Monday sheds light on strong Egyptian-Yemeni bilateral ties in different fields.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani said that Hadi will express his thanks to President Sisi for housing many Yemeni refugees amid the difficult circumstances Egypt faces.

He added that Hadi will discuss the situation in Yemen during his meeting with Sisi, confirming that Egypt supports Yemeni people and is interested in ending Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia and combating Iran’s regional attempts.

This will be Hadi’s third visit to visit Egypt since took office; he previously visited Sharm El- Sheikh to participate in the March 2015 Arab Summit and attended the new Suez Canal inauguration in August 2015.

Egypt’s role in Yemeni crisis

Egypt has long expressed its deep concern about the serious escalation of situation in Yemen leading to the execution of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh at the hands of Houthi militias.

Egypt supported Yemen’s GCC power transfer deal signed in 2011 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for former President Ali Abdullah Saleh handing over power to his deputy Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

During the Arab Summit held in Sharm el-Sheikh in March 2015, Egypt backed the Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm against Houthi fighters in Iran-backed Houthis, a move backing Yemeni legitimacy.

“Egypt has declared its political and military support, its participation with the coalition with an aerial and naval Egyptian force, as well as a ground force if necessary, in light of Egypt’s historic and unshakeable responsibility towards Arab and Gulf national security,” Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry told a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Sharm el-Sheikh.

As a part of its participation in Operation Decisive Storm, the Egyptian naval forced Iranian warships to retreat from the Bab al Mandeb strait in March 2015.

Additionally, the Egyptian National Defense agreed in January 2017 to extend the participation of required elementsfrom the Armed Forces in a combat operation outside the nation's border to defend Egyptian and Arab national security in the Gulf, Red Sea, and Bab al-Mandeb.

As for housing Yemeni refugees, Egypt has received 6,810 Yemeni refugees, according to the UN Refugee Agency. The most populous Arab country also rejects the idea of refugee camps and allows refugees to access to all Egyptian services.

In July 2018, Egypt’s Ministry of Education declared that Syrians and Yemenis are not required to pay the high fees imposed on other foreign nationals due to the hardships they have faced amid ongoing civil wars.

Economic relations between Egypt and Yemen have improved in the recent period upon directions from President Sisi and in solidarity with the Yemeni people. Egypt has sent humanitarian aid, including medicine, vaccines and medical equipment since April 2018.
The volume of trade exchange between Egypt and Yemen during 2011 reached $250 million.
8/13/2018 5:43:01 PM
<![CDATA[North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in will hold their third summit]]>
The two sides “agreed at the meeting to hold a South-North summit in Pyongyang in September as planned”, Yonhap quoted a joint statement as saying, without giving a precise date.

A trip by the South’s President Moon Jae-in to the North’s capital would be the first such visit for more than a decade, as the diplomatic thaw on the peninsula builds.

President Moon Jae-In and Chairman Kim Jong Un are going to have a third summit. The two Korea's are having high level talks in Panmunjom and preparing an agenda for the upcoming summit.

Good morning from Seoul! The two Koreas will kick off the high-level talks in Panmunjom soon to discuss the agenda in preparation for the third summit between Moon and Kim. I will keep updating news from the Office of Inter-Korean Dialogue. Stay tuned! @nknewsorg #NorthKorea

At the historic first summit between Moon and the North’s leader Kim Jong Un in Panmunjom in April they agreed the South’s president would visit Pyongyang during the autumn.

Monday’s high-level talks, taking place on the northern side of the truce village in the Demilitarized Zone, were proposed by the North last week as it lashed out at Washington for pushing ahead with sanctions.

In his opening statement, the North’s chief delegate Ri Son Gwon said: “As the Pyongyang meeting of the leaders of the north and south is being discussed, I think talking about the issue will provide answers to the wishes of the people.”

Using a proverb describing a very intimate friend to refer to inter-Korean ties, Ri added: « We have opened an era where we are advancing hand in hand rather than standing in each other’s way. »

Despite the rapprochement, international sanctions against the North for its nuclear and missile programmes have kept economic cooperation between the two Koreas from taking off, while little progress has been made on the key issue of Pyongyang’s denuclearisation.

South Korea’s Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, leading the delegation from Seoul, said it was important that the two Koreas keep « the same mind ».

“Many issues will be raised (at the meeting), but I think any problem can be resolved with that mindset,” Cho added.

Rapid rapprochement

Cho addressed the possibility of Pyongyang raising the issue of sanctions to the South, and said: « We will explain our position to the North. »

The rapid rapprochement between the two neighbours that began this year paved the way for a landmark meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June.

Cross-border exchanges between the two Koreas have significantly increased since then, with the neighbours planning to hold reunions for war-separated families next week for the first time in three years.

But although Trump touted his summit with Kim as a historic breakthrough, the nuclear-armed North has since criticised Washington for its « gangster-like » demands of complete, verifiable and irreversible disarmament.

Meanwhile the US has urged the international community to maintain tough sanctions on the isolated regime Seoul has caught three South Korean firms importing coal and iron from the North last year in violation of the measures.

Analysts say Moon could try to act as a mediator between the US and North Korea, having salvaged the Singapore meeting when Trump abruptly cancelled it.

If the third Moon-Kim summit takes place, the two are also expected to focus on hammering out a consensus on officially ending the 1950-53 Korean War, which concluded with an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

But Harry Harris, the US ambassador to South Korea, said Monday it was « too early » for such a declaration, Yonhap reported.]]>
8/13/2018 2:59:37 PM
<![CDATA[Disgraced monk Ash’eyaa: I failed killing Bishop Epiphanius twice]]>
During the investigation, Ash’eyaa said that he was planning to murder the late bishop but failed. In the first attempt he found Epiphanius praying and in the next time he couldn’t catch him before getting to the church, but in the third attempt he woke up early and killed him in the time between midnight and dawn.

The prosecution remanded Ash’eyaa for 15-day custody over murdering head of St. Macarius Monastery in Wadi Al-Natroun on Saturday.

Another Coptic monk was placed under arrest for four days pending investigations over killing Epiphanius.

Monk Faltaous al-Makary, whose birth name was Raymond Rasmi Mansour, was kept under arrest by the security forces in a hospital, where he receives treatment after trying to commit suicide via deliberately slitting his wrist and then jumping off a high building inside the monastery.

After being accused of being involved in the murder of Bishop Epiphanius, the 33-year-old monk confessed that he helped the expelled monk Ash’eyaa in killing the bishop.

Bishop Epiphanius was found dead on July 29 inside his monastery. Subsequently, the Coptic Church of Alexandria decided to strip Ash’eyaa of his rank following investigating him for committing “inappropriate actions” which contradict with monastic behavior and life.

Ash’eyaa tried to commit suicide a day after the murder, and he was detained at the monastery's clinic in Beheira governorate’s Natrun valley, but was released following the prosecution’s order. He reportedly used poison in his suicide attempt.

In a statement signed by Pope Tawadros II, the Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, the Orthodox Church revealed that a monastic investigation was conducted with Ash’eyaa by a special committee formed by the Monastic Committee and the Monasteries Affairs Committee of the Holy Synod.
8/13/2018 4:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Last lawsuit against Ahmed Ezz dismissed per reconciliation]]>
Inking a reconciliation deal worth LE100 million ($5.6 million) with the Egyptian government, the lawsuit against Ezz was dropped. By a court ruling few months ago, travel ban on the Egyptian businessman was lifted and his assets were unfrozen.

In 2012, the Criminal Court sentenced Ezz for 7 years in prison over money laundering charges. Ezz was referred to the Criminal Court after the State Security Prosecution found that the Egyptian businessman has made, in cooperation with others, about LE 4.8 billion ($269,043,216) in illicit gains in 10 years, during his term as the CEO of Dekheila Steel company.

Ezz also reconciled with the state in another two major lawsuits issued against him.

Dekheila steel, steel licenses lawsuits

The Prosecution’s investigation had found that former Industry Minister Ibrahim Mohamedeen illegally enabled Ezz to make about LE 687.4 million ($38.5 million) of illicit gains between 1999 and 2001 in the lawsuit known in media as “Dekheila Steel” that was filed against Ezz, Mohamedeen and 5 other Industry Ministry officials.

Moreover, investigations found that Ezz and Amr Assal, the former head of the industrial development authority squandered LE 660 million ($36.9 million) of public funds in the lawsuit known in media as “Steel Licences.”

In March, 2013, Ezz had been sentenced for 37 years in prison and fined him LE 2 billion ($112 million), before the Cassation Court cancelled the verdict and ordered the retrial of Ezz along with the other 6 defendants who had received sentences ranging from 3 to 7 years in prison.

In February, 2018, Prosecutor General Nabil Sadek said that Ezz will pay LE 1.7 billion ($95.3 million) to reconcile with the government.

In March, a Cairo criminal court dropped the lawsuit filed against Ezz and Assal. A month later, a court also dismissed the lawsuit filed against Ezz and the Industry Ministry after a reconciliation deal was inked.

Ezz was the secretary-general of the National Democratic Party (NDP) that was dissolved following the 2011 revolution. He also served as the spokesman of the party in the Parliament that was dominated at the time by the NDP.

Since the January revolution in 2011, The Egyptian judicial authority has judged a number of Mubarak-era officials over accusations including corruption, squandering public funds, and killing protestors.]]>
8/12/2018 8:27:02 PM
<![CDATA[12 terrorists killed in Northern Sinai]]>
Egypt’s national security sector was informed that a group of terrorists used a fenced land, located at Malalha district of the Third Police Station, Al-Arish, as their hideouts.
They were killed during an exchange of fire with the Security Forces, which found with them four automatic rifles, a cartridge, ammunitions, and two explosive devices.

In its recent statement number26, issued on Aug. 5, the Armed Forces declared that the Egyptian army and security forces eliminated 52 high-risk terrorists in various districts in North and Central Sinai, as part of the “Comprehensive Operation - Sinai 2018”. The terrorists possessed five automatic gun machines, an explosive bomb and ammunition.
The National Security Apparatus carried out a special operation in Arish City, the largest city in North Sinai, which resulted in the elimination of 13 high-risk Takfiris and the seizure of three gun machines and two explosive devices. The Egyptian army eliminated 39 high-risk terrorists in various districts in North and Central Sinai.

The Egyptian Air Forces destroyed 15 trucks loaded with ammunitions and arms while trying to penetrate Egypt’s western borders, and destroyed 17 other vehicles in the military’s southern region.

The Armed Forces and the police arrested together 49 Takfiri elements in North and Central Sinai. Twelve vehicles without metal plates loaded with ammunition and seven motorcycles used in criminal acts were also seized.

Moreover, 26 hotbeds, one hideout and one stock house were discovered in Central and North Sinai. The security forces found military suits used by the Takfiri elements and a dozenbooks and audio tapes that promote Takfiri ideology.

The military engineers detected and detonated 64 explosive devices which were planted to target our forces in operation areas.

Four tunnels were detected and destroyed as they were supplied with a motor, electricity cables, internet wires and a computer device along the border of Rafah city, Northern Sinai Peninsula.

As part of the intensive efforts of the Border Guards to coverall strategic directions, they managed to seize four shotguns, three sniper rifles, two automatic rifles, 200 different rounds of shots, seven pistol cartilages, 1,490 kilograms of cannabis, two million anesthetic tablets, and 11 4WD vehicles used for smuggling.

On the southern side, Border Guard forces, in cooperation with the police, managed to seize 34 transport vehicles and a fishing boat. The guards also succeeded to foil theattempt of 18 individuals to illegally infiltrate across international borders.

On the northern side, the guards succeeded to foil the illegal infiltration of 15 individuals and seized two vehicles and two boats used in smuggling.

Egypt has been struggling for years to contain terrorist activities in Sinai. Many military operations have been carried out by the army and police forces, killing hundreds of militants and building a buffer zone along the border with Gaza, so that Egyptian authorities can curb the flow of militants and weapons infiltrating through underground tunnels.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi authorized the army chief of staff to use “brute force” against terrorism. In February, the Egyptian Armed Forces launched a full-scale military operation titled "Sinai 2018" to confront terrorist elements in Sinai and other areas across the country. Military spokesman Tamer el-Rafae announced a major military operation to purge the country from terrorism.

Additional report by Nawal Sayed
8/12/2018 1:45:43 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt’s new traffic laws seek to curb car accidents]]>
The new traffic laws, which the Parliament will complete discussion on in the next session with the legislation of developed countries, “needs a favorable environment to be implemented, meaning that the particular use of technology is required,” said House Transport Committee deputy chair, Mohamed Abdullah Zain.

Zain added that the implementation of the new traffic laws depends on the use of technology and a reduction on the reliance of individuals.

He pointed out that the new law will combat the amount of road accidents because the law contains articles with penalties.

A recent report by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) showed that 47.2 percent of road accidents are due to privately-owned cars. Out of a total of 17,200 car accidents in 2017, 8,814 privately-owned cars caused them.

The new law also dictates that if drivers are going at speeds greater than 50 kilometers per hour, article 79 will punish violators by deducting four points, imprisonment for three months and a fine between LE 3,000-4,000.

Moreover, non-compliance in staying on the right side in two-way roads, according to article 77, would cost the driver two points and a fine between LE 200 to 400.

The new traffic law is also going to be imposing a number of penalties on truck drivers, often sought as a prime source of accidents on the road, as per a security source. Speeding or causing traffic will cost the driver four points, imprisonment for three months, and a fine between four and eight thousand pounds. This is expected to limit the problems trucks can cause on the roads.

With respect to those under the influence of drugs, five points will be deducted and in the event of a traffic violation, there would be a fine between four to eight thousand pounds with imprisonment for not more than six months. They would later be required to pass a training course determining fitness conditions before obtaining the license.

As part of the “National Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020”, Egypt is concerned about road safety and the levels of death and injuries it is causing.

“The Decade of Action for Road Safety,” that was officially proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 2010, hopes to improve the roads and behavior of drivers, for the safety of everyone.

According to Egypt’s report by the World Health Organization (WHO), “Road traffic injuries are a leading cause of deaths and hospitalization in Egypt.” As of right now during the summer, young adults can often be victims of tragic car accidents on their way back and from seaside areas outside Cairo.

WHO also published a report in 2012 explaining that raising public awareness on speeding and seatbelt wearing, advocating for road safety and implanting penalties for not complying with traffic laws should be an approach for improving the situation.

Going back to the importance of technology, the report also explained that installing cameras and training police to use them would help in reducing speed levels on the road.
8/12/2018 12:18:10 PM
<![CDATA[Mystery of Bishop Epiphanius' Death Solved]]>
The investigation team concluded that the murder of Bishop Epiphanius was committed by Isaiah Macarius with the help of Valtawa al-Maqari, who tried to commit suicide after Isaiah’s arrest.

Head of Anba Makar Monastery near Wadi El-Natroun in the coastal Beheira province, Bishop Epiphanius’s body was found inside the monastery in front of his own cell on July 30, 2018.

It was revealed that Isaiah Macarius told Valtawa al-Maqari that he wanted to take revenge on Bishop Epiphanius after discovering that he had violated some rules of monasticism, including abstraction and obedience.

The source explained that the victim gathered evidence that Isaiah himself had engaged in commercial transactions, the purchase of land and real estate. These are all violations in monasticism.

Valtawa, who tried to commit suicide, launched a page on Facebook with other monks against the head of the abbot. This violates monasticism as well. This could arguably be why Pope Tawadros II decided that monks should take down any social media pages on any social media platforms. He had expressed that having these social media accounts is not in congruence with monastic life.

Interestingly, the Egyptian Coptic Church defrocked Isaiah Macarius a week after the death of the bishop. He returned to his former name, Wael Saad Tawadros, according to Ahram Online. This could be seen as related to the accusations, however, the Coptic Orthodox church said that the decision had no relation to the investigation on the bishop’s murder.

The research team, composed of public security officers, national security officers, the lake's criminal investigation department and forensics officers, used technical assistance to check fingerprints, inspect the surveillance camera at the site and review the internal security measures of the church.

The source explained that the investigations regarding the accident were made on 400 workers in the monastery and 150 monks. The investigation included the location of everyone at the time of the crime and the research team also examined places surrounding the monastery and their workers too.

Although the incident may have been initially thought to be an act of terrorism, this has been ruled out.

8/12/2018 11:18:44 AM
<![CDATA[Ideological struggles: Background to Bishop Epiphanius’s death]]>
With Pope Tawadros II leading thousands of preachers and religious men and women, as well as millions of Egyptian Christians—and non-Egyptian Christians too, the Egyptian church has always been strong internationally, helping millions become more pious and thankful every year.

In light of the importance of the church and recent events, Egypt Today delves into the church’s history.

More than anything else, Bishop Epiphanius’s funeral brought more questions to the forefront of the Egyptian mind than answers. “You do not follow a particular individual,” said Pope Tawadros II as part of his speech to his fellow religious preachers. His sentence rang loud of the different ideological schools: The Pope Shenouda school and the ecclesiastical school of Matthew the poor.

But what is the difference between the school of Pope Shenouda and the ecclesiastical school of Matthew the poor?

A Blooming relationship

If we decide to go into the origin of the dispute between the two schools of thought, we first need to go back to the origin of the ideological difference between the two great symbolic men and the root of the relationship that Matthew had with his student Shenouda. Both enjoyed a good relationship that unfortunately ended with ideological clashes, with consequences that affected the church and is likely to continue to have effect on the future of the church.

During the 1940s and the 1950s, the Coptic Church saw a wave of young monks, bishops and priests that had university qualifications. These monks were different from the ones that came before them; they were not just looking at religious while being secluded in the desert, they were applying it to everyday life and they were armed with science and worldly knowledge that allowed them to make sense of the information given to them.

In fact, Pope Shenouda first joined the monastery due to influence from Matthew the poor.

The start of a disagreement

Father Matthew was nominated twice for the papal throne: First as a rival to Pope Cyril after the death of Pope Yusab II in 1956; and the second as a rival to Pope Shenouda after the death of Pope Cyril in 1971.

Before the latter ascended the throne of St. Mark, in 1971, when they differed on the revision of the Book of the Times in 1961, Pope Shenouda was entrusted with his review, but the first did not follow the observation of Anba Shenouda, then Bishop of education.

In a recorded video, Pope Shenouda confirmed that he had sent his remarks to Matthew more than once, but that the latter was determined to print his books in the same way as they had come, prompting the pope to respond to his books in lectures at the seminary without mentioning the name of the author.

“A faithful monk, but not aware of the seriousness of the wrong theological expression,” Pope Shenouda described Father Matthew in his writings.

From the beginning of the 1960s until early on in the 21st century, the ideological disputes continued between Matthew and Shenouda; the most prominent of which revolves around the question of human deification, the doctrine of expiation and redemption, biblical criticism and questioning parts of the Gospel of Mark, the role of good works in the days of salvation, the concept of unity with other communities, and other issues.

Father Matthew got hold of a complete collection of the words of the Fathers translated in English. Upon reading them, his thoughts and reflections altered to slightly reflect the readings that he had explored rather wisely. This showed in his writings, whereby he believed that uniting all Christians is possible; not through dialogue, but through the actions of fathers, something that Shenouda and his ideological wing strongly rejected.

The highest point of disagreement was reached when Pope Shenouda disagreed with President Anwar El-Sadat; this came as a result of Pope escalation against the state when he decided to cancel the celebrations of the Easter holidays and not to receive officials because of what happened in the red corner incident in which dozens of Copts, as a result of sectarian strife. Father Matthew did not agree with Pope Shenouda’s actions and had a sit-down with President Sadat to calm the situations, according to Matthew’s memoirs published after his death. Rather spectacularly, the memoirs of Pope Shenouda did not reflect this, and rather recorded that the meeting between Matthew and Sadat only made matters worse and more complicated.

Kamal Zakher, who specializes in Coptic affairs, argues, based on his observations over the years, that the dispute between the two was one of intellect and power, pointing out that Pope Shenouda excluded anyone who did not agree with his opinion. He also stressed that the ideological disputes are merely a hard outside for the real personal differences between the two.

How does the Monastry of Anba Makar fit in?

The Monastery of Anba Makar was the platform for struggles between the poor and Pope Shenouda.

The first decided to spend the remainder of his life in this convent between his disciples and his monks. Pope Shenouda returned to the cathedral.

The monastery of St. Anba Makar was closer to the intellectually and administratively independent of the church. His monks wore various monastic clothes. They read, translated and published books translated into several languages.

Pope Shenouda publicly declared his disagreement with them when he answered questions in his sermons. In one recording he said that love must be mutual. Pope Shenouda began to respond to the books of Father Matthew in his lectures at the seminary.

Throughout the era of Pope Shenouda, the writings of the late Father Matthew were banned from church. They are not sold in the libraries of the churches and are distributed only in the monastery of Anba Makar. Even an exhibition of the Coptic book at the cathedral witnessed the confiscation of copies of the books by Matthew.

What happened after Father Matthew’s death?

In 2009, after the death of Matthew, Pope Shenouda visited the monastery of Anba Makar on a historic visit. For the first time in the history of the modern church, he changed the monastic order of the monks of the monastery of Anba Makar to be unified with the rest of the monasteries. Monks were given the choice between wearing the traditional headdress and to keep their clothes, some of them wearing it became a follower of Pope Shenouda and some of them refused.

Why did the pope recommend Tawadros II to reconcile the monastery?

In 2013, Pope Tawadros decided to appoint new bishops. And as a result of Bishop Michael being in his 90s, Pope Tawadros II spent much time with tose in church finding out what I can wear. The divisions between the schools of Matthew the poor and the Pope However, sources from the monastery fathers confirm that Abba Epiphanius had obtained the majority of the voices of the parents belonging to the school of Matthew the poor monastic, and not all the abbots of the abbey, who abstained quite a few from them Vote for.

It was the Pope's first recommendation to Abba Epiphanius at the time of his creation of the "Congregation of the Convent" after the differences that they saw between 2006 and 2013.

What is the reason behind the Pope's anger during the funeral of Pope Epiphanius?

The Pope appeared sad and depressed at the funeral; for the first time, he sent firm messages to monks in a sermon broadcast before the public, where he used words of great significance. He said, “You do not follow a particular individual. You are the monks of St. Macarius the great,” after whom the Monastery is named.

He even asked them not to speak to the media, stressing that speaking to the press conflicts with one of main principals of becoming a monk: Choosing to remove oneself from worldly lives and pleasures.

Not under the Church’s control: The Monastery of Anba Makar

Until the death of Bishop Epanianus, the Monastry of Anba Makar was causing a slight problem and was a source of crises due to its independence from the cathedral. In 2009, Pope Shenouda brought the Monastery under the administrative power of the church. Since then, the church had an ideological change, as Pope Shenouda was now its monk, and his ideological followers were serving in it. They were, according to Sarah Allam, a Coptic affairs specialist, “his eyes inside.”

During his last days, three monks were nominated for the monastery's presidency. The pope said that the three candidates were among the monks' choices, but research reveals that they were handpicked by the Pope.

Among the many crises inherited by Bishop Epanianus was the case of the Yaqoub al-Maqari, the Monk who decided to build a fifth monastery in Wadi El-Natroun, bearing the name, ‘Virgin Mary and Bishop Karas’, and was able to complete most of the construction.

The death of Bishop Epiphanius

The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria announced July 29, the death of head St. Macarius Monastery in Wadi El-Natrun, Bishop Epiphanius.

The late bishop had set an example for the modest scholar and ascetic monk who continued to serve the country and the culture, Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Mostafa el-Feki said, mourning murdered Bishop Epiphanius.

The church’s statement mentioned that the bishop’s death is being investigated by the security authorities as mystery shrouds the incident. The statement pointed out that the Bishop’s funerals to be held after the investigation is closed.

Wagih Mikhail, head of the Center for Middle Eastern Christianity of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, said that Bishop Epiphanius lectured Muslims and Christians in the seminary, adding that he won the hearts of his students.

When Bishop Epiphanius was invited to an international Christian conference, he came early and gave a perfect academic speech, Wagih said. On the following day, Epiphanius sat in the last row in the hall and refused to sit in one of the front rows, saying: “yesterday I was a speaker. Today I came to learn,” Wagih added describing the late bishop’s modesty.

Bishop Epiphanius was born in 1954 in Tanta, Gharbia governorate and graduated from the Faculty of Medicine. In February 1984, he joined the Monastery of St. Macarius in Wadi El-Natrun and only a few months later, he was ordained as a monk. He was ordained as a priest in 2002, and was elected as the head of the monastery in 2013.

The late bishop was found dead and covered in blood on Sunday morning. The preliminary security investigation suggested that Bishop Epiphanius was hit by a sharp object. The body of the bishop was transferred to the morgue of the Wadi El-Natrun Central Hospital.

Suggestions that the crime is part of a terrorist attack were reportedly excluded as the bishop was not a famous public figure and did not look different from the monks inside the St. Macarius Monastery.

Monk Basil of the St. Macarius Monastery told Al-Watan that 130 monks live in the monastery and that the body of Bishop Epiphanius was discovered by Monk Gabriel. A part of Epiphanius’s brain got out of his skull which enhances the probability that the bishop was hit by a sharp object.

Monk Basil said that the crime took place at 3 a.m., adding that the monastery contacted Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria following the discovery of the crime. Basil excluded the possibility that Epiphanius was murdered by a thief, as Epiphanius did not own anything and none of his stuff was reported missing.

Basil suggested that the killer is someone inside the monastery as the killer surely knew that the monastery's passage where Epiphanius was killed is out of the surveillance cameras reach. In addition, he targeted the head of the monastery in particular.

The monk said that he cannot accuse anyone of committing the crime, saying that there were no disputes between Bishop Epiphanius and other monks or workers.
8/12/2018 11:11:08 AM
<![CDATA[Iran Supreme Leader calls for action to face "economic war"]]>
The rial currency has lost about half of its value since April under the threat of revived U.S. sanctions, with heavy demand for dollars among ordinary Iranians trying to protect their savings.

The cost of living has also soared, sparking sporadic demonstrations against profiteering and corruption, with many protesters chanting anti-government slogans.

The central bank and the judiciary have blamed "enemies" for the fall of the currency and a rapid rise in the price of gold coins, and the judiciary has said more than 40 people including a former central bank deputy have been arrested on charges carrying the death penalty.

The judiciary has suggested that arch-foes the United States and Israel as well as regional rival Saudi Arabia and government opponents living in exile are fomenting the unrest.

"The current special economic conditions are considered an economic war," judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani said in a letter to Khamenei, calling for the setting up of special courts to deal quickly with financial crimes, the television report said.

Khamenei agreed, saying: "The purpose (of the courts) should be to punish those guilty of corrupt economic practices swiftly and justly," the TV added. "The courts should be advised to (ensure) the accuracy of their rulings."

New Islamic revolutionary courts will be set up for two years and directed to impose maximum sentences on those "disrupting and corrupting the economy", and appeal rights will be curbed, Amoli Larijani proposed in his letter, read on state television.

In May, the United States pulled out of a 2015 deal between world powers and Tehran under which international sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

Washington this week reimposed sanctions on Iran’s purchase of U.S. dollars, its trade in gold and precious metals and its dealings with metals, coal and industrial-related software.

The United States has told other countries they must halt imports of Iranian oil from early November or face U.S. financial measures.]]>
8/12/2018 1:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Gargash praises Egypt’s efforts to secure Palestinian reconciliation]]>
“All the appreciation for the Egyptian efforts to realize the Palestinian reconciliation and save the citizens’ lives, Egypt has been and remains the most important guarantor of history and it has made great sacrifices to support the Palestinian people and their cause,” tweeted Gargash.

Egypt has managed to secure a reconciliation deal between both Palestinian rival parties, Hamas and Fatah, on October 12, a step hailed as a breakthrough to the decade-long division.

Egyptian authorities hosted a series of meetings which led to an agreement between Hamas and Fatah, under which the Palestinian Concession Government assumed administration affairs of Rafah Border on December 1.

Egyptian authorities have also played an active role to pacify the erupted situation in Gaza following a heavy Israeli aggression against the citizens in the strip.
8/12/2018 12:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Exclusive: Mandela’s grandson hails Egypt’s leading role in Africa]]>
On his first visit to Egypt, Chief Mandla Mandela narrated to Egypt Today in an exclusive interview stories about his grandfather’s life and the day of his death. Moreover, he expressed his opinion regarding the political situations in Egypt and its role among African countries.

1. Q: Have you visited Egypt before?

Mandela: No it’s my first time here in Egypt but I have read a lot about Egypt and its historical monuments such as the pyramids. I have also learned [about Egypt’s history] from my grandfather, since he visited 16 African countries in the early 1960s to mobilize the struggle for liberation. He looked into two top key areas, Egypt and Algeria. Actually, the Egyptians are the ones who advised him that the proper military strategy to be adopted for our struggle for liberation would be from Algerians and that’s why my grandfather attended his military training in Algeria. So we are forever grateful to Egypt and Algeria for the assistance given to the revolution movement across the continent.

The grandson of Nelson Mandela, Chief Mandla Mandela, during his debut visit to Egypt. Photo by Egypt Today

2. Q: Why do you visit Egypt at this time?

Mandela: In October last year, I became a member of the Pan-African Parliament and I was appointed in the Committee of Rural Economy, Agriculture and Environmental Affairs. I have come together with that committee to learn from Egypt and the Egyptian government what they have done in terms of climate change adaptation as well as their agricultural program.

3. Q: As a member of the Rural Economy and Agriculture Committee, how can we reduce Rural-urban migration in African countries?

Mandela: Today, we have the benefit of meeting the Egyptian Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, Ezz Eddin Abostait, who told us about how Egypt is doing a lot to ensure that young people from rural areas are given the opportunity to study agriculture and have agricultural job opportunities.

As you know, rural-urban migration is not just an Egyptian or African problem but a global problem. So for us, it’s quite enlightened to see programs like that the Egyptian government has been able to implement in order to attract young people into this industry. A career in agriculture is always regarded as a retirement career for the elderly and there is a perception in the world that young people don’t regard agriculture as cool.

4. Q: What do you think Egypt can offer to the rest of the African countries in the field of Agriculture?

Mandela: I think Egypt has a lot to offer to the rest of Africa; Egypt is able to adopt climate change. It has the advantage of teaching African countries how to adopt into climate change. Egypt is able to convert desert into urban land.

The grandson of Nelson Mandela, Chief Mandla Mandela, during an interview with Egypt Today's Jehad el-Sayed on the sidelines of his debut visit to Egypt. Photo by Egypt Today

5. Q: Can you describe the political relationship between Egypt and South Africa?

Mandela: I believe that both Egypt and South Africa are formidable powers in the continent. I consider that the leaders of the two countries need to play a crucial role in ensuring the stability and peace of the whole continent because it’s only when we truly aid the formerly-colonized countries in the continent can our economy survive.

I also believe that Egypt can continue playing a role to ensure that it assists Africans in attaining stability and peace in the continent. As to what we have seen in terms of the rural economy, Egypt has been able to ensure sustainability and food security and that is something that all of us as African countries can learn from Egypt.

6. Q: Since President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi took power in Egypt in 2014, he has been working on ending years of lack of communication with African countries; do you think that he managed to do so?

Mandela: It’s the first time for a committee in the Pan-African Parliament, which is situated in South Africa, to visit another country and that’s only because of President Sisi. Egypt is really extending its hands to assist Africans and to enable them to become self-sufficient because Sisi wants to see Africa as one of the continents speaking with one voice. We are here thanks to the Egyptian presidency and Parliament.

7. Q: If you have the chance to meet Sisi, what would you discuss with him?
Mandela: For me, I come from a rural village where my grandfather was born so a lot of my work and effort revolves around rural development. So, if I have a chance to meet with Sisi, I will try to understand exactly what the Egyptian government is doing in terms of assisting rural villages.

As you know, Africans, particularly those who live in rural Africa, are living in extreme poverty with no clean drinkable water, no proper sanitation, no school facilities or housing, so we learn from countries like Egypt what they have done to improve the rural community. As a proud Muslim also, I want also to know what Egypt is doing to ensure that Islam is reachable and accessible to people in rural areas. I know that I talk a lot about rural villages; I am very passionate about rural economy and people living in rural areas because that is where I’ve come from.

8. Q: How would you describe Egypt’s relations with other African countries?
Mandela: Egypt is part of Africa and it’s regarded as an African country. We as African countries don’t see it as a separate country. It’s a member state in the African Union, and we appreciate the role that Egypt plays in leading Africa. Egypt is a strong country amid all African countries.

9. Q: What do you think of the January 25 Revolution and the June 30 Revolution?

Mandela: The two Egyptian revolutions were really a benchmark for other revolutions that erupted through the continent.

10. Q: Apart from politics, what did you learn from your grandfather, Nelson Mandela? What do you want the world to know about him?

Mandela: I want the world to know about the simplicity of my grandfather and the real person that he was. I grew up in a small village as a 9-year-old boy, I used to hear people shouting in the street “Mandla, Viva Mandla” so I used to think that I’m a very popular kid and that everyone was shouting my name.

I went to my home and told my father, “Everyone in the street is proud of me and they’re shouting my name.” He laughed at me. One day, he sent me to go and meet the real man whose name is “Mandela” and what the people meant when they shouted his name.

So I went to a prison in Cape Town where I met my grandfather, and a hundred questions started to pour into my mind about what he was doing in prison and why people shout his name in the streets. I was ashamed of him for being in prison, thinking he must have done something wrong.

When I came home, my father was anxious to know what I had done when I met my grandfather. Mandela was wise ein writing a letter to one of his assistants, Helen Joseph, where he said: “Dear, I just had a visit from my grandson and I feel bad because his English needs development.”

Joseph then invited me to her house and ordered me to read the letter and tell her what I understood from it. I understood that my grandfather thought that my English was bad, but she said, “No, this is an encoded letter; your grandfather said you went to visit him. You had no clue about who he was in terms of the policies and his commitment to our struggle for liberation and therefore he asked me to educate you about the man he is.” The irony here is that he asked a white woman to educate me about him.

My grandfather dedicated 67 years of his life to save humanity. He is a man of service. This is why for me it’s important to work in the parliament for rural people in South Africa. I will continue sharing those memories of my grandfather with all people of all walks in life. “We should be in the service of communities and areas in which we are from,” that is what I learned from him.

11. Q: How long have you lived with your grandfather?

Mandela: I saw him for the first time when I was nine years old. I was only allowed to see him once a year in prison but after his release, I was able to live with him. In 1992, I moved on to stay with him up until he passed away in 2013.

12. Q: Tell us about the day of his death.

Mandela: It was Dec. 5, 2013, an unforgettable day for us when we bid farewell to a father, a grandfather, a husband and a father of our nation and a global icon. I remembered when my grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer and I had to visit him in hospital while he was in prison. I thought he was going to die. In 1990, when he was released, I thought he had come back to die in his home. None of us ever imagined that Mandela would live to be the president in 1994 and he would live to retire in 1999 and step down to hand over power to the next president.

None of us ever imagined that Mandela would establish the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. We have learned a lot from him and we have a lot of rich experiences and memories with him. This was a man that had lived his life fully to save people and humanity. So, “I am grateful to call this global icon, my grandfather”.

8/11/2018 1:56:55 PM
<![CDATA[Turkey's lira crisis: How bad can it get?]]>
The currency had spent much of 2014 hovering at just over two to the dollar but broke through the three mark for the first time after the 2016 failed coup bid and then slid to four earlier this year.

But the haemorrhaging reached an unprecedented intensity in the last weeks as Turkey's ties with the United States strained further and markets questioned their trust in Turkish policymakers, pushing the currency to five against the dollar.

A new bout of selling Friday on increased strains with the US forced the lira over six against the dollar for the first time, with the currency at one point shredding a quarter of its value in a single day.

Economists say that while the government may be tempted to muddle through the current situation in the hope the external and economic background improves, the lira's fall harbours considerable dangers for the economy, in particular the banking system.

- 'Tight grip on bank' -

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's current dash for growth coupled with unorthodox pronouncements on monetary policy -- including that lower rates can bring down inflation -- have put him on a collision course with markets.

The central bank, nominally independent but never defying Erdogan, appears to have abandoned the conventional monetary policy of using rates hikes as a tool to support the currency and bring down inflation.

Erdogan's "tight grip" on the central bank and the fact "higher interest rates do no fit with Turkey's economic growth strategy" meant that the central bank has kept interest rates on hold, Nora Neuteboom, economist at ABN Amro, told AFP.

"Erdogan's aim is to improve the economic position of households," she said, adding the government wanted to "keep the music playing" even as external and internal imbalances grow.

- 'Lost confidence' -

After his June 24 election victory, Erdogan put his son-in-law Berat Albayrak in charge of a newly expanded finance ministry while a new presidential system did away with the office of prime minister, whose last incumbent Binali Yildirim had on occasion urged caution in economic policy.

The new system also increased Erdogan's control over the central bank, which on July 24 baffled markets by leaving rates unchanged despite inflation that in July came in at 15.85 percent.

"The markets have lost confidence in the triumvirate of President Erdogan, his son-in-law as finance minister and the Turkish Central Bank's ability to act as it needs to," said Charles Robertson, global chief economist at Renaissance Capital.

According to the Capital Economics consultancy, the plunge in the lira risks putting further pressure on the banking sector in Turkey due to the scale of the credit boom and one third of bank lending being denominated in foreign currencies.

"If some of these vulnerabilities crystalize they could tip the economy into a full blown crisis," said its economist Yasemin Engin.

US investment bank Goldman Sachs alarmed investors with an assessment that a further drop in the lira to 7.1 to the dollar "could largely erode" the excess capital of Turkish banks.

- 'Diverting attention' -

As the lira tumbled in value -- with no breakthrough in sight in the impasse with the US, sparked by the jailing of American pastor Andrew Brunson -- the government has remained sanguine with few comments aimed at rallying markets.

The issue has also largely stayed off the front pages of mainstream Turkish newspapers, where critical Turkish economists are given little space, leaving social media as the main forum of debate.

"The pro-government media is diverting attention by showing movies and series," complained Mustafa outside an exchange booth close to Istanbul's Grand Bazaar.

The external value of the lira is not a prime concern of Erdogan's core supporters, many of whom have no plans for foreign holidays and readily accept government rhetoric that economic problems are caused by outsiders seeking to weaken Turkey.

"I have full confidence in this government, I'm sure it will find a way out and reverse the trend," said Erdogan supporter Sabahattin.

- IMF or new rate hike? -

Should the woes of the lira risk feeding into a widescale economic crisis, the government still has levers at its disposal.

It could impose capital controls on forex transfers or even call on the IMF for bailout help, although economists regard the former an extreme measure with only marginal probability and the latter unlikely given one of Erdogan's proudest achievements was paying off all of Turkey?s IMF debt in 2013.

But he could also swallow his pride and allow the central bank to make an emergency rate hike as it did on May 23 one month ahead of the elections, when a 300 basis points hike in the headline rate was announced.

"Erdogan is pragmatic," commented Neuteboom.

"And if the situation continues to deteriorate and the lira depreciation and high inflation have a too big an impact on the economic situation -- and that is what it looks like right now -- he will in the end give in."]]>
8/11/2018 12:00:24 PM
<![CDATA[Pro-EU Brit hits the road to spell out 'stop Brexit']]>
Andy Pardy, 28, from the southwest English city of Exeter, resigned from a consultancy job in June to embark on the 30,000-kilometre, 32-country "farewell tour" before Britain leaves the European Union next March.

The UK voted to quit the bloc in a divisive 2016 referendum, with 52 percent backing Leave and 48 percent voting Remain.

"I genuinely want to make the most of our last summer inside the EU," Pardy told AFP from the Arctic Circle in Finland as he completed the "P" in his "stop Brexit" pilgrimage.

"I just intend to show the best of what the continent has to offer and share a positive message."

The arch-Remainer is chronicling the adventure on his website and on Twitter, under the name "The Rogue Consultant", using a location-tracking app to document his progress -- and his emerging mantra.

He anticipates the journey, which will take him through 26 of the union's 28 member states, will entail 335 driving hours.

After growing up partly in Germany and previously living in Spain, Pardy wants to highlight the freedom of movement benefits that EU membership brings.

"The right to explore as well as live and work in Europe without tiresome red tape is an immense privilege," he said.

"It would be such a shame to make it more difficult."

The future of such visa-free arrangements for Britons is unclear amid stalled Brexit negotiations between London and Brussels.

- 'Personal statement' -

Pardy conjured up his politically-driven escapade while tracking himself jogging on a fitness app, realising he could use the tool to map out words.

"It just popped into my head," he recalled. "(I) thought I might be able to do something on a bigger scale."

A recent moped accident and death in the family also nudged him towards "re-evaluating" life.

So the digital consultant quit his job of five years, purchased a camper van for £6,000 ($7,650, 6,680 euros) and spent weeks painstakingly plotting his all-important route.

The roaming Remainer expects his expenses to cost a further £5,000 -- including off-setting the trip's carbon output -- cutting into savings originally earmarked to get a mortgage.

"It was a difficult decision," he said, of splashing out instead on an epic road trip.

"But it's a different experience and I just decided to go for it.

"I appreciate how fortunate I have been to be able to do this."

Pardy began his European odyssey solo in mid-July, mapping out the letter "S" over several days travelling through the British Isles.

Joined by his girlfriend, he next navigated Norway and Sweden -- camping inside the Arctic Circle and spotting a rare white reindeer -- before crossing into Finland to complete the word "stop" this week.

The subsequent stages of the road trip will see him spell out "Brexit" backwards, finishing the "B" in the Spanish city of Bilbao in late October.

"The journey has been incredible so far. I've met loads of wonderful people along the way, all of whom have been supportive," Pardy said.

The 28-year-old added he had been flooded with offers of accommodation, dinner and drinks meet-ups from supporters across Europe after his mission garnered media attention.

Pardy, a supporter of holding a second referendum on Brexit, is nonetheless content that his stunt's stated aim will likely remain unfulfilled.

"I've been frustrated with the debate and how Brexit has been progressing," he said.

"So I just wanted to do something positive and make a personal statement at the same time."]]>
8/11/2018 11:55:40 AM
<![CDATA[Labor draft law to reduce unemployment rate in Egypt: Parliament ]]>
He added that this draft law will contribute in encouraging young people to work in the private sector and will play a major role in reducing the rate of unemployment in Egypt and thus improving the national economy,

Deputy of Planning and Budgeting Committee in the House of Representatives, Mostafa Salem, has also said the proposals considered and studied by the government on whether to divide working days into shifts or to decrease the number of working days are aimed at redistributing working hours to make the most out of the number of employees

“These proposals will restructure the working day for employees to ensure that they utilize their energy in the best way possible. On top of that, it will help ease the work pressure while allowing them to benefit from the time they actually spend working,” said Salem.

Salem pointed out that these proposals are being studied by the government, be it to reorganize working shifts or number of days, which is expected to help reduce traffic congestion during rush hours. Instead of having all employees leave at the same time, they will leave at different timings during the day.

Traffic is a major issue which greatly impacts Egyptian citizens' health and the environment they live in.

Alongside a decrease in traffic levels, the plan will give some employees the opportunity to participate in other extra jobs to help them face pricing hikes, he added.

Salem said that it is better to have work divided into shifts or divide the working days amongst employees. This means working hours for shifts would be six hours across six days. If divided into three days, the working hours will be 10 hours. He stressed the importance of the government submitting a bill in this regard to be discussed in the Parliament.

The Middle East Monitor wrote that the Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) said the government is studying decreasing the number of working days for employees in the state’s administrative body without any changes in the wages or in the number of working hours.
8/11/2018 11:11:56 AM
<![CDATA[U.N. says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps]]>
Gay McDougall, a member of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, cited estimates that 2 million Uighurs and Muslim minorities were forced into "political camps for indoctrination" in the western Xinjiang autonomous region.

"We are deeply concerned at the many numerous and credible reports that we have received that in the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability (China) has changed the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internship camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of 'no rights zone'," she told the start of a two-day regular review of China's record, including Hong Kong and Macao.

China has said that Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists who plot attacks and stir up tensions between the mostly Muslim Uighur minority who call the region home and the ethnic Han Chinese majority.

A Chinese delegation of some 50 officials made no comment on her remarks at the Geneva session that is scheduled to continue on Monday.

The U.S. mission to the United Nations said on Twitter that it was "deeply troubled by reports of an ongoing crackdown on Uighurs and other Muslims in China."

"We call on China to end their counterproductive policies and free all of those who have been arbitrarily detained,” the U.S. mission said.

The allegations came from multiple sources, including activist group Chinese Human Rights Defenders, which said in a report last month that 21 percent of all arrests recorded in China in 2017 were in Xinjiang.

Earlier, Yu Jianhua, China's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said it was working towards equality and solidarity among all ethnic groups.

But McDougall said that members of the Uighur community and other Muslims were being treated as "enemies of the state" solely on the basis of their ethno-religious identity.

More than 100 Uighur students who returned to China from countries including Egypt and Turkey had been detained, with some dying in custody, she said.

Fatima-Binta Dah, a panel member, referred to "arbitrary and mass detention of almost 1 million Uighurs" and asked the Chinese delegation, "What is the level of religious freedom available now to Uighurs in China, what legal protection exists for them to practice their religion?"

Panelists also raised reports of mistreatment of Tibetans in the autonomous region, including inadequate use of the Tibetan language in the classroom and at court proceedings.

"The U.N. body maintained its integrity, the government got a very clear message," Golok Jigme, a Tibetan monk and former prisoner living in exile, told Reuters at the meeting. ]]>
8/11/2018 3:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[Relations with Egypt cannot be untied: Italy’s Minister of Interior]]>
“There is a fundamental relationship with Egypt,” he said, adding that Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and Egyptian Minister of Interior Mahmoud Tawfiq assured him the killers of Regeni will be identified in the framework of ongoing investigations. “I trust what they [Sisi and Tawfiq] say,” he said.
He added that the metro cameras’ footage, which Rome received from Cairo in May to investigate where and when Regeni disappeared, needs more investigations due to the presence of blanks in the video footage.

On July 18, Salvini held a meeting with Sisi and Tawfiq, Head of General Intelligence, Mr. Abbas Kamel, and Italy's Ambassador in Cairo.

“The president stressed the strong will and desire to reach a conclusion in the investigation of the Italian student Giulio Regeni's case, and the detection of the perpetrators to achieve justice,” President Sisi said during the meeting.

Speaker of the Italian Chamber of Deputies Roberto Fico will visit Egypt in September at the Egyptian House of Representatives’ speaker Ali Abdel Aal’s invitation.

Egypt and Italy have been aiming to improve relations post Regeni incident when an Italian student was murdered in 2016. Back then, Sisi had promised Italy’s interior minister and deputy prime minister that he would bring justice to those involved in the student’s death.

Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Enzo Milanesi has paid Egypt a three-day visit last week. Milanesi discussed counter-terrorism, bilateral relations and Regeni’s death.

Additional reporting by Dania Akkawi

8/10/2018 5:06:25 PM
<![CDATA[Speaker of Italian Chamber of Deputies visits Egypt in September]]>
Fico said in media remarks that he will head to Cairo in September, adding that the visit will be a good opportunity to ask for the truth behind Regeni’s death, Agenzia Nova reported on Thursday.

Egypt and Italy have been aiming to improve relations post Regeni incident when an Italian student was murdered in 2016. Back then, Sisi had promised Italy’s interior minister and deputy prime minister that he would bring justice to those involved in the student’s death.

Fico’s visit comes after another visit was paid by Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Enzo Milanesi last week. Milanesi discussed counter-terrorism, bilateral relations and Regeni’s death.

In case you missed it…

Italian FM: We must benefit from Egypt's counterterrorism experience

CAIRO - 5 August 2018: A variety of topics dealing with illegal immigration, the Palestinian issue, terrorism and the relationship between Italy and Egypt was discussed by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Milanesi in a press conference at the Tahrir Palace.

Additional reporting by Dania Akkawi

8/10/2018 2:16:01 PM
<![CDATA[U.S. transgender candidates could make history in upcoming races]]>
Kim Coco Iwamoto is up for the party's nomination for lieutenant governor of Hawaii on Saturday. Christine Hallquist leads in fundraising among Democrats seeking the nomination for governor of Vermont on Tuesday. And Alexandra Chandler is among 10 Democrats running in Massachusetts' 3rd Congressional District on Sept. 4.

Any of them would be the first openly transgender person to win a major party nomination for such an office in the United States.

"I do recognize the historic importance," Hallquist said in an interview. "That said, people in Vermont are going to elect me for what I'm bringing to Vermont. Very few people are going to vote because I am transgender."

The elections come at a time of uncertainty for transgender rights, which expanded under the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama. They have been reversed under Republican President Donald Trump's administration, a victory for religious conservatives who only recognize traditional gender roles.

The Trump administration has sought to ban transgender people from serving in the military, revoked anti-discrimination protection for transgender people in employment and rescinded guidelines directing public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice.

This year, 43 transgender candidates have run for political office at all levels in the United States, most of them Democrats but a few running as independents, for the Green Party or for nonpartisan offices, according to Logan Casey, a research associate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Only four have won primaries so far, all at the statehouse level, and have a general election ahead. Sixteen have lost primary or general elections and 23 have yet to face voters, Casey's research shows.

Transgender candidates are hoping to build on the breakthrough year of 2017, when at least 10 won office across the country at levels ranging from state legislator to zoning board - the most ever recorded.

"It was so thrilling. It felt that we had entered this moment as a community in entering political space," said Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, director of external relations of the political arm of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Danica Roem won her race for the Virginia House of Delegates last year, and Minneapolis elected two transgender people to the city council, Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham.

This year transgender activists are pinning their hopes on Hallquist, who has raised $132,000, more than double the $50,000 raised by her nearest Democratic competitor, James Ehlers. Both are part of a five-person field seeking to challenge incumbent Governor Phil Scott, the likely Republican nominee, in the Nov. 6 general election.

Hallquist enjoys name recognition as the former David Hallquist, the onetime chief executive of the Vermont Electric Cooperative who publicly transitioned to a female identity while leading the power utility in 2015.

Most transgender candidates are running in liberal locations. But in the conservative state of Montana, Amelia Marquez won the Democratic nomination for a state House of Representatives district in the Billings area and will run against Republican Rodney Garcia on Nov. 6.

The National Center for Transgender Equality is supporting some candidates through its Action Fund, which has endorsed Hallquist and Iwamoto and will be issuing more endorsements.

"We, of course, want them to win. But win or lose, it shows the community that we're here," Freedman-Gurspan said. "We're going to be speaking out."]]>
8/10/2018 2:00:00 PM
<![CDATA[A closer look at Egypt’s ongoing anti-corruption battle]]>
President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has always stressed on applying strict measures within the government institutions to crack down any violation. He hailed the role played by the ACA in different occasions.

1) Aug. 7, 2018: Head of Giza’s Al-Haram district

Major General Ibrahim Abdel Aaty, head of Giza’s Al-Haram district was detained for four days after security forces arrested him on Tuesday over accusations of receiving bribes from three construction companies.

According to preliminary investigation, Abdel Aaty negotiated with the three companies to receive a bribe consisting of three apartments, bank cheques besides an amount of money, according to the state-owned Al-Ahram. He received LE 700,000, according to the investigation.

Abdel Aaty was caught red-handed after the prosecution carried out legal procedures that allowed the police to record some of his negotiations with the companies, according to the investigation.

The district head received a bribe from the three companies to halt legal procedures that had to be carried out against some of the buildings that violate the law in al-Haram district, according to the investigation. The form of violation was not yet known by Egypt Today.

The accused major general denied all accusations. The prosecution ordered obtaining Abdel Aaty’s voiceprint as he also denies the recordings.

The prosecution listened to the representatives of the three construction companies, and formally accused Abdel Aaty of receiving bribes, misusing his authority and deliberately failing to perform his duties.

2) July 9, 2018: Head of the Customs Authority

Former Head of the Customs Authority Gamal Abdel Azim was arrested over accusations of receiving a financial bribe of LE 1 million from an importer of textiles in exchange for the termination of customs clearance procedures for certain imported goods.

On Aug. 7, Minister of Finance Mohmed Ma’it decided to appoint Kamal Hassan Negm as head of the Customs Authority.

The minister handed the new head his appointment decision in the presence of Deputy Minister of Finance of the Treasury Ihab Abu Aish, Assistant Minister for Revenue Amr al-Khouly, and Advisor to the Minister of Finance for Customs Affairs and former Head of the Authority Magdy Abdel Aziz.

The minister emphasized the important role played by customs officials in protecting citizens’ health, security and stability, stressing that they also play a role in protecting the country from drugs, crackers and harmful and illegal practices.

Negm was the head of the Central Administration of the Eastern Province in the customs operations sector.

3) July 18, 2018: Customs officer at Safaga

A customs officer at Safaga port was arrested in July by the ACA on counts of smuggling large quantities of customs-free perfume, cigarettes and appliances.

The investigation revealed that the defendant attempted to get the above mentioned goods through the customs department using his private car after he purchased them from the duty free.

During the investigations, the defendant admitted committing the offence and was referred to the prosecution.

4) May 30, 2018: Head of FIHC, major officials

The ACA ordered in May the detention of a number of high-profile officials over charges of corruption.

Egypt’s Attorney General Nabil Sadek referred on May 30 four officials to the court over receiving LE $2 million ($111,763.68) in bribes for accepting a tender bid from a commodities supply company.

The detained officials include the chairperson of the Food Industries Holding Company (FIHC), and his deputy, the Ministry of Supply’s spokesperson, and the supply minister advisor for communicating with Parliament.

5) May 5, 2018: Finance, Irrigation officials

The ACA arrested in May four officials from the Ministry of Finance over bribes worth around LE 500 million ($28.4 million).

The defendants are accused of taking bribes from the owners of private companies to facilitate the transfer of financial rights for their companies.

The ACA also arrested a female official from the Ministry of Irrigation over accusations of taking LE 30,000 as a bribe from the owner of a ship berth to facilitate obtaining the license.

At the same time, the ACA arrested several officials from many banks around the state over accusations of taking more than LE 11 million in bribes to facilitate credit procedures and loans for owners of major companies.

Also, the security forces arrested a person for impersonating an official in one of the supervisory authorities over accusations of taking LE 60,000 as a bribe from the owner of a property, claiming his ability to postpone the implementation of the decision to remove the property.

6) Jan. 14, 2018: Menoufia Governor Hisham Abdel Baset

Menoufia Governor Hisham Abdel Baset and two businessmen were arrested in January after the ACA managed to record phone calls by the governor proving he agreed to take LE 2 million as a bribe in return for land licenses.

The two businessmen admitted bribing the Menoufia governor in return for assigning the number of projects carried out by the province to a company owned by one of the accused, and facilitate the receipt of works and the speed of disbursement of financial dues.

According to security sources, the governor was under the ACA’s surveillance during the last period until he was detected to be involved in a number of corruption cases. The ACA then referred the governor to the public prosecution for investigation.

The first trial session for Abdel Baset and the two businessmen was held on June 9 by the Giza Criminal Court.

7) December 2017: Numerous corruption and bribery attempts foiled

The ACA succeeded in foiling several attempted corruption and bribery cases in December, one estimated to be worth LE 3 billion ($168 million) and another worth LE 77 million ($4.3 million) respectively, according to official statements.

The accusations targeted lawyers, officials, executive directors and heads of government institutions.

According to the statements, the ACA arrested a lawyer offering a bribe up to LE 100,000, along with a piece of land estimated to be worth LE 2 million, to the inspector of the Alexandria Survey Authority Directorate in order to deliver a space of land to him without mentioning the state’s ownership over parts of it.

Also, another evaluation general director affiliated with the Governmental Services Authority was arrested for receiving a bribe up to LE 180,000 from a scrap dealer in exchange for reducing the ton’s price from LE 6,000 to LE 4,000, which would affect the state's treasury by about LE 1.5 million ($83,934).

The ACA also managed to target a group of criminals in Alexandria who were aiming to take over several pieces of land estimated at LE 1.4 billion using forged contracts and papers.

Other criminals in several governorates were reported to be arrested for similar cases in Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, Luxor and Aswan.

In Suez, a former deputy director of housing and utilities was arrested for forging papers for real estate owners, enabling them to prove the payment of their due fees without actually paying anything to the state.

According to the ACA papers, this case only caused the state’s treasury to lose about LE 1 million.

8) Aug. 30, 2017: Customs Authority auditor

Security bodies arrested in August 2017, the Ministry of Finance Customs Authority auditor on charges of offering an official in the same authority a bribe of LE 2.5 million ($139,891) to facilitate seizing LE 47 million ($2.66 million) from its 2015/2016 fiscal year budget.

The budget was not used and was moved as payable accounts.

The security authorities detected the perpetrators’ manipulations to transfer the seized money to another bank account before it was divided amongst the three persons involved, including the account’s owner.

Earlier in the same month in Alexandria, the head of Al Raml's Court of Misdemeanors was arrested while receiving a bribe in a coffee shop. In a separate incident, the combating tax evasion head in Alexandria was also arrested after being accused of receiving a bribe estimated at LE 2 million from beach renters in North Coast.

9) Aug. 27, 2017: Deputy Governor of Alexandria

Security forces arrested deputy governor of Alexandria Souad al-Kholy in August in the General Office of Alexandria Governorate, with charges including bribery, damage of public money and making profit.

Investigations confirmed that the deputy has received money, material gifts and gold jewelry worth more than LE 1 million ($56,484) from businessmen in return for exploiting her powers, which caused losses in public money worth about LE 10 million.

On Thursday, Alexandria Governor Mohamed Soltan attended Kholy’s seventh trial session over accusations of bribery. Kholy’s trial was postponed to Sept. 23.

10) March 2017: Former Helwan governor

Former Helwan governor Hazem el-Qowaidi was arrested in March 2017 over accusations of receiving a bribe to illegally transfer government-owned land in Maadi to a private company.

He was also accused of receiving a Mercedes worth LE 1 million in return for the illegal transfer of an 800-square-meter land plot in Southern Cairo to a car company.

In February 2018, Cairo Criminal Court sentenced Qowaidi to five years in prison and a fine of LE 50,000 over receiving bribes during his office.

11) Jan. 20, 2017: A finance minister advisor

An advisor for the finance minister along with two other suspects were detained in January 2017 over accusations of receiving bribery to change the price of a land that was allocated to a touristic resort, according to media reports.

The accused included the Minister’s Deputy Tarek Farag Abdel Wahab; CEO of Start Light Travel Co. Mahmoud Fakhrani al-Razi; Tax Authority official Amal Abdel Wahab; and accountant Gamal Mahamoud Baraka.

According to the initial investigations carried out by Homeland Prosecution, the minister’s deputy asked the CEO for LE 4 million ($221,000) as a bribe to facilitate the measures required for the land. All of the people charged confessed to the crime, according to the investigations.

In January 2018, the advisor was sentenced to life imprisonment (25 years in prison) and a fine of LE 100,000 ($5,596). The two other suspects were acquitted of charges.

Earlier efforts by ACA

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 sentenced 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 at an exclusive sports club, clothing from high-end fashion stores and mobile phones.

In January 2017, former State Council Secretary-General Wael Shalaby reportedly committed suicide while in custody after being arrested 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.

President Sisi, during the Egyptian Family Iftar ceremony held earlier in June, affirmed that the regulatory institutions have been endorsed, saying that the state will not tolerate violations and will firmly fight against corruption.

Why bribery persists in Egypt

The Administrative Prosecution Authority presented in its annual report in late October a study on the causes of the spread of bribery in Egypt and effective ways to eliminate it.

Counselor Faryal Qutb, head of the committee which prepared the report, revealed five reasons behind bribery:

1. Poor moral and religious education.

2. Lack of real supervision and follow up.

3. Delays in the adjudication of disciplinary punishments for bribery crimes in a manner that does not achieve public and private deterrence.

4. Poor salaries of employees in general.

5. The large number of services accomplished by a limited number of employees.

Suggestions to eliminate the phenomenon

Counselor Saad Khalil, a member of the technical office, presented in the report five suggestions to eliminate bribery:

1. Increasing the minimum wage of employees to ensure a decent living. The state has made great strides in this direction.

2. Activating internal control systems and supervisory responsibility.

3. Employees deal with the public only when necessary.

4. Increasing penalties for such crimes to reach dismissal or deprivation of pension.

5. Choosing safe places to keep deposits, all while ensuring the efficiency of security and warning devices.

Egypt ranked 108th out of 176 countries on Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perception Index, scoring 34 points, down two points compared to 2015. 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.

Additional reporting by Amr Kandil, Jehad El-Sayed, Walaa Ali
MENA, Egypt Today Staff contributed to the article
8/10/2018 12:04:20 PM
<![CDATA[Russia vows to retaliate against new US sanctions]]>
The action by the US State Department is the latest salvo in a series of disputes between the rival powers and comes less than a month after US President Donald Trump met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

The State Department said Wednesday the new sanctions were in response to "the use of a 'Novichok' nerve agent in an attempt to assassinate UK citizen Sergei Skripal" -- who was a Russian double agent -- and his daughter Yulia on English soil in March.

They were aimed at punishing Putin's government for having "used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law," spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

But the punitive measures triggered a furious reaction from Moscow.

Russia will "work on developing retaliatory measures," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told journalists.

"Whatever the sanctions against Russia are, the retaliatory measures will be the same," she said.

"If they dream up some (measures), we will answer -- it's not our choice."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was equally emphatic.

"We consider categorically unacceptable the linking of new restrictions, which we as before consider illegal, to the case in Salisbury," he told journalists.

He said Moscow felt it could now "expect anything at all from Washington" but nevertheless retained "hopes of building constructive relations."

The announcement of sanctions caused Russian stock markets to drop dramatically on opening and the ruble reached its lowest point since November 2016. The markets and the currency rebounded slightly over the day while remaining sharply down.

Finance minister Anton Siluanov assured Russians that the government and the central bank have "all the necessary tools to ensure financial stability," saying the economy has become more resistant to external shocks in recent years.

Vladimir Vasilyev, a senior researcher at the Institute of the US and Canada in Moscow, said the Americans were strengthening sanctions "from an element of pressure into an ultimatum."

He said the countries were now in a state "balancing on the verge of war."

- Threat of wider sanctions -

The move could cut off hundreds of millions of dollars worth of exports to Russia, said a senior State Department official on condition of anonymity.

The official told reporters the administration decided to impose a "presumption of denial" for the sale to Russia of "national security sensitive" US technologies that require federal government approval.

Such technologies have often been used in items including electronic devices as well as calibration equipment. The exports were previously allowed on a case-by-case basis.

In the event of non-compliance, the official added, a second round of "draconian" sanctions would be given a green light. These could go as far as a ban on Russian airlines using US airports.

The latest US action follows the treasury's imposition of sanctions in March against 19 Russian citizens and five entities for interfering in the 2016 US election -- the toughest steps against Moscow since Trump took office.

Also in March, Washington ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats, and the closure of Russia's consulate general in Seattle.

Moscow ordered 60 American diplomats expelled in a tit-for-tat response.

- 'Provocative, reckless behaviour' -

Britain said it welcomed the US response to the chemical attack in Salisbury, the English town where the Skripals were poisoned.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said the sanctions would send "an unequivocal message to Russia that its provocative, reckless behaviour will not go unchallenged."

This week, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported that London was preparing to ask Moscow to extradite two Russian citizens suspected of carrying out the Salisbury attack.

The Skripals survived but one of two people poisoned by the same Novichok agent in a nearby town, 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess, subsequently died.

Moscow has angrily rejected any involvement in the poisoning, plunging diplomatic relations with London into crisis.

The Russian economy is still reeling from international sanctions imposed on Moscow in 2014 over its actions in Ukraine and a crash in oil prices the same year.

While Russia returned to growth in 2017 after two years of recession, it pales in comparison with growth figures seen during Putin's first two terms in office from 2000 to 2008 thanks to soaring oil prices.]]>
8/10/2018 2:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt seeks to stop escalation, Israeli attacks over Gaza Strip: Source]]>CAIRO – 10 August 2018: Egypt has been exerting a lot of efforts since yesterday in an attempt to stop the field escalations and Israeli attacks over the Gaza Strip, a reliable source said Thursday according to Sawa News Agency.

The source added that Egypt made a series of communications with several organizations and bodies to cease fire in the Gaza Strip and stop the situation from escalating.

Israeli warplanes on early Thursday struck a set of targets in the Gaza Strip and more than three Palestinians were reported killed; according to the Gaza Health Ministry, a pregnant woman, her one-year-old daughter and a Hamas militant were killed during the attacks.

The flare-up comes as Egypt is trying to broker a long-term cease-fire between the two sides.

Egypt, according to the source, is working with all of its force to preserve the lives of Palestinians and their dignity, pointing out that Egypt is trying to ease the situation between Palestine and Israel in order to prevent any escalations or actions that would drive the region to the brink of destruction.

Yesterday, a reliable source affirmed that Cairo is continuing its strenuous efforts with Palestinian officials in order to reach a number of understandings regarding the reconciliation process between Fatah and Hamas.

The efforts, according to the source, are aiming to stand on a united national Palestinian vision that provides a suitable and a decent life for Palestinians.

Moreover, the source stressed that coordination with the International Community to provide the necessary support for the establishment of development projects that would interest Palestinians and provide a safe environment that guarantees a continuous development in Palestine.

The source also added that Fatah's Executive Committee Member Azzam al-Ahmad has been in Cairo since Yesterday in order to conduct a number of positive talks with Egyptian officials regarding the mechanisms of the reconciliation process.

In Oct. 2017, the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have signed a preliminary reconciliation deal in Cairo in the presence of Egyptian intelligence officials, in the latest in a series of attempts to end a decade-long Palestinian territorial.

The source also pointed out that as an outcome to the understandings reached between Hamas and Fatah, Cairo will be witnessing a series of meetings between Egyptian, Fatah and Hamas officials in order to reach a national consensus regarding all the debatable issues for the sake of Palestinians.

Additional reporting by Ahmed Gomaa]]>
8/10/2018 12:08:56 AM
<![CDATA[Branded as bank robbers, burqa-wearing Britons fear attack]]>
Anti-hate crime groups said the comments by Johnson, who resigned last month, would encourage Islamophobic and sexist abuse at a time when attacks were already on the rise.

“This inflammatory language will in fact motivate and fuel hate crimes, particularly towards visibly Muslim women who wear the veil or the hijab,” Sajda Mughal, who runs the JAN Trust charity, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

She said that her group, which works with marginalised women, had already taken three calls in the last two days from hijab-wearing women who reported being called “letter boxes”.

A top Conservative known for flamboyant phrasing and eccentric stunts, Johnson is facing an internal Conservative investigation over his remarks, which have reignited a debate over religious facial coverings and split his party.

"The code of conduct process is strictly confidential," said a Conservative Party spokesman.

A former journalist who has often been accused of courting media attention, Johnson was not available for comment.

He has voiced leadership ambitions in the past and critics say the provocative remarks pander to anti-immigrant sentiment, which is sweeping Britain and swathes of Europe.


Denmark last week became the latest of several European countries to adopt curbs on face veils.

Johnson, who quit power over the state of Brexit negotiations, wrote in The Daily Telegraph this week that Denmark was wrong to ban the burqa, a head-to-toe cloak which conceals the face with a mesh or is worn in conjunction with the niqab - a face veil that leaves only the eyes exposed.

But Johnson also said the robe was oppressive, ridiculous and made women look like letter boxes and bank robbers, prompting an outcry from politicians and British Muslim groups.

Critics say burqas and similar face coverings pose a security risk and are a tool to control women. Supporters say women should be free to dress as they choose and that such divisive debate only increases pressure on them to cover up.


Official data says hate crime of all types is on the rise.

A Home Office report said more than 80,000 incidents were recorded across England and Wales in 2016-17, a jump of nearly a third on the year before. Most were deemed racist, with religiously-motivated incidents making up 7 percent (5,949).

The campaign group Tell MAMA, which records anti-Muslim attacks in Britain, said it had verified 1,201 such incidents last year, with figures steadily rising since 2015.

It said Islamophobia was “heavily gendered” with white men carrying out almost three quarters of verified incidents last year, while Muslim women made up more than half of victims.

The group’s founder Fiyaz Mughal said he feared Johnson’s remarks would embolden racists and provoke more attacks.

“The women who wear the niqab and report into us clearly report to us they are called telephone boxes, letter boxes, bin bags, when they are abused and when they are assaulted. The language is virtually identical,” he said.

Shreen Mahmood, a radio presenter in Birmingham who wears the hijab, said she had suffered verbal abuse and knew of others who had been spat at or had their head coverings pulled.

“Islamophobia does play a big role in Muslim women’s lives,” she said in a telephone interview from the Midlands. “I always carry water ... because of the potential of acid attacks and things like that – it’s something we are all aware of.”]]>
8/9/2018 7:25:00 PM
<![CDATA[Homicide, kidnapping steeply decrease in 2017: security report]]>
According to security reports, murder crimes decreased from 2890 in 2014 to 1360 in 2017. Interior Ministry managed to arrest the perpetrators of about 86 percent of murder cases in 2017, according to the reports.

Concerning robbery with force crimes, the reports revealed that the Interior Ministry could seize the perpetrators of 842 out of 925 crimes committed in 2017, while it could only seize the perpetrators of 998 out of 2107 crimes in 2014.

Kidnapping crimes decreased in 2017 to be 160 compared to 431 in 2014, according to the reports. In 2017, the Interior Ministry could seize the perpetrators of 95 percent of the kidnapping crimes, the report added.

It was also asserted that the Interior Ministry managed to seize the perpetrators of 100 percent of the 66 rape crimes committed in 2017. The rape crimes decreased by about 44 percent from 2014, the report pointed out.

In an interview with Egypt Today, Security Expert Alaa al-Deen Abdel Mageed, said that the decrease in crime rates took place due to the success of security forces in raiding many criminals’ hideouts, including Souhag’s al-Balabish, Sawam’a, Gazirat Tama, besides hideouts in Qena, Assiut, Qalyubia, Alexandria and Sharqia governorates.

Abdel Mageed also stated that the Interior Ministry’s efforts to seize unlicensed arms have helped decrease crime rates.

During the term of former Interior Minister, Magdi Abdel Ghaffar, the Interior Ministry started establishing one of the largest training institutes in the Middle East, reportedly covering an area of about 78 feddans (1 feddan = 1.038 acres) to train police personnel. The institute has been equipped with advanced training equipment and programs according to international standards.

Abdel Ghaffar said the institute should provide police personnel with the training required to be able to face crimes. He also affirmed the need to update training programs to prepare the trainees to fight terrorism, especially in North Sinai.

Abdel Ghaffar said the institute should provide police personnel with the training required to be able to face crimes, April, 2018 - Press photo

Crime hike following 2011 revolution

In 2013, security officials revealed that the rate of homicide almost tripled since the January revolution in 2011 that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak.

According to Egypt’s Interior Ministry officials, the rate of homicide almost tripled since the 2011 revolution due to a rise in unemployment, which the ministry views as an added obstacle to an already existing economic crisis.

In an interview with the Financial Times in the first half of 2013, Abdel Fatah Osman, then assistant interior minister for media, said that the police inherited “this mess”.

According to the Financial Times report, reported armed robberies increased from 233 in 2010 to reach 2,807 in 2012. Home invasions also increased, according to the report to 11,699 in 2012, instead of 7,368 in 2010. Kidnappings for ransom reportedly increased from 107 in 2010 to 412 in 2012.

Osman asserted that one of the factors behind the crime hike is the rise in weapons inflow to Egypt.

In June 2013, Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated former President Mohamed Morsi was ousted. About 10 months after the revolution, Field Marshal Abdel Fatah al-Sisi announced running for president and resigning from his military post.]]>
8/9/2018 3:49:56 PM
<![CDATA[Family Terrorism: How terrorists recruit nowadays]]>
What this means is that to recruit more individuals, terrorist organizations will try to spread within family frameworks. One way this is done is through marriages, such as those that took place during the formation of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The Observatory explained that a number of international reports confirmed that more than a quarter of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq have ties of kinship and friendship at varying degrees. When it comes to recruitment, terrorist organizations can use these ties to their benefit.

The study warned that confronting the phenomenon of family terrorism is difficult because of its secrecy and ability to plan and coordinate seriously dangerous operations.

Terrorist organizations developed their mechanisms to infiltrate social structure. It is true that terrorist groups may have family and relatives; however, what is new is that these family members participate in these terrorist attacks.

A rather horrendous example of family terrorism can be seen in the terrorist attacks in Indonesia in May 2018 when a family with a father, mother and son, targeted three churches in Surabaya, killing 12 people and injuring 40 others. A day after the attack, another family of five carried out a suicide attack on a police station, injuring dozens of people.

These incidents are not limited to certain countries. The United States also happened to witness a family terrorism attack at the bombing of the Boston Marathon back in 2013 carried out by brothers. The incident killed three and injured 264 people. Arab countries are not an exception to these phenomena. In July 2015, Saudi authorities announced the arrest of three brothers that were believed to be linked to the suicide attack on a Shia mosque in Kuwait.
Some of the questions on
family terrorism deal with what caused the phenomena to spread, how it spreads and why they have resorted to this type of recruitment.
The studies noted that family terrorism could be linked to issues of racism, discrimination, and non-integration, or rather marginalization, within societies that pushes these individuals into joining terrorist, extremist groups. To them, it could mean some sort of protection and a fulfillment in their ambitions to be part of something.

By recruiting entire extremist families, terrorist organizations can circumvent the strict restrictions imposed by the security services of different countries, since the association of terrorists with relatives facilitates coordination between them.

Alongside this, terrorists that join and persuade their own relatives use a so-called emotional bonding effect or socialization to increase their numbers. This can explain why terrorist organizations are keen on recruiting large numbers of women, as they play prominent roles in bringing up children.

Hence, many attacks now involve children being forced to commit terrorism themselves. Whether they are being forced by their radicalized parents or ring leaders in terrorist organizations, these children are victims. Without guidance or understanding of anything beyond the sphere of what they have seen and learned, the process of de-radicalization is difficult.

According to an article in ABC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, there is a secret school in Indonesia for the children of terrorism that aims to de-radicalize them, showing them the beauty of life, listening to music, playing games and making friends in hopes that they can re-integrate back into society.
]]>8/9/2018 12:12:05 PM<![CDATA[IS received Qatari, Israeli financial aid: Arrested terrorist]]>
The terrorist who was arrested by Iraqi forces during military operation near the Syrian borders said during his trial, in Baghdad on Wednesday, that he was communicating personally with someone called Sheikh Khaled Soliman in Qatar to get a $1 million monthly.

Maghribi said that he was communicating with several other Israeli officials who provided other financial aids for IS soldiers, along with allowing them to use their hospitals for emergencies.

He affirmed that an agreement between IS and Turkish authorities was conducted to exchange prisoners. Among the Turkish prisoners who were released by IS were several diplomats and high-level politicians.

About 450 IS prisoners were released from Turkish prisons per the agreement.

Later the relations between Turkey and IS expanded to include recruiting a number of Turks to join IS, along with using their hospitals to treat the wounded according to Maghribi.

Maghribi, who is originally a Moroccan citizen, used to work in electronic devices trade before joining the terrorist group. According to the Iraqi authorities, Maghribi can fluently speak more than three languages including English, French and Spanish.

Additional reporting by Ahmed Goma
8/9/2018 12:01:20 PM
<![CDATA[Parliament’s plan shows benefits of dividing working days]]>
“These proposals will restructure the working day for employees to ensure that they utilize their energy in the best way possible. On top of that, it will help ease the work pressure while allowing them to benefit from the time they actually spend working,” said Salem.

Salem pointed out that these proposals being studied by the government, be it to reorganize working shifts or number of days, will help reduce traffic congestion during rush hours. Instead of having all employees leave at the same time, they will leave at different timings during the day.

Traffic is a major issue which greatly impacts the Egyptian citizens' health and the environment they live in.

Alongside a decrease in traffic levels, the plan will give some employees the opportunity to participate in other extra jobs to help them face the prices hike, he added.

Salem said that it is better to have work divided into shifts or divide the working days amongst employees. This means working hours for shifts would be six hours across six days. If divided into three days, the working hours will be 10 hours. He stressed the importance of the government submitting a bill in this regard to be discussed in the Parliament.

The Middle East Monitor wrote that the Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) said the government is studying decreasing the number of working days for employees in the state’s administrative body without any changes in the wages or in the number of working hours.
8/9/2018 11:58:24 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. Senator Paul delivers letter from Trump to Putin's govt]]>
Three weeks after Trump was widely condemned for not standing up to Putin at their Helsinki summit, Paul said the letter from Trump had offered U.S. cooperation in various areas. The White House called it a letter of introduction for Paul, who was visiting Moscow.

Trump has sought to ease tensions between the former Cold War foes despite friction in the relationship that was exacerbated by U.S. intelligence findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, trying to tilt the outcome to Trump.

Paul, one of the few Republicans to defend Trump's widely panned performance at a July 16 news conference with Putin in Helsinki, said he had traveled to Moscow to encourage diplomacy.

"I was honored to deliver a letter from President Trump to President Vladimir Putin’s administration. The letter emphasized the importance of further engagement in various areas including countering terrorism, enhancing legislative dialogue and resuming cultural exchanges," Paul wrote in a Twitter post.

The White House said the Republican president had provided Paul with a "letter of introduction" for his trip at the senator's request.

“In the letter, the president mentioned topics of interest that Senator Paul wanted to discuss with President Putin,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that a letter from Trump to Putin had been delivered by diplomatic channels, the Interfax news agency reported. But Peskov said the Kremlin had not familiarized itself with the contents.

The president has called an investigation into possible ties between his campaign and Moscow a "witch hunt," but his administration has warned that the threat of meddling from Russia endures.

Last week, Trump's national security team said Russia is behind "pervasive" attempts to interfere in the November midterm elections, rejecting denials that Putin made directly to Trump.

Trump sparked outrage by largely accepting Putin's word over that of his intelligence agencies at the Helsinki news conference.

The president later corrected some of his remarks, saying he misspoke.

Paul, a member of the party's conservative wing who frequently takes antiwar positions, on Monday invited Russian lawmakers to visit Washington to discuss nuclear nonproliferation and terrorism. He also held talks in Moscow with parliamentarians and pledged to block new sanctions against Russia.

Trump's efforts to improve ties with Russia have not yielded significant results. In addition to tensions over election meddling, the two countries are also at odds over Syria and Ukraine.

The relationship has also created divisions within the administration. Trump's top intelligence official, Dan Coats, has said that he is in the dark about what Trump discussed with Putin in their one-on-one meeting in Helsinki.

Further U.S. sanctions on Russia over alleged election meddling, Syria and Ukraine could lead to a deeper rift and are hurting Russia's rouble.

Paul's colleagues in the Senate from both parties introduced legislation last week to impose strict new sanctions on Russia. A reported text of the draft bill published on Wednesday sent Russia's rouble to lows against the dollar last seen in April.]]>
8/9/2018 4:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Venezuela lifts opposition lawmakers' immunity for drone 'attack' trial]]>
Maduro, who has systematically sidelined the opposition as he tightens his grip over his troubled nation, accuses the opposition and Colombia of being behind the drone "attack" on Saturday.

He has singled out two lawmakers: Julio Borges, former speaker of the opposition-dominated legislature who now lives in exile; and Juan Requesens.

Requesens was seized by intelligence officers overnight, while Venezuela's Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered Borges' arrest.

The Constituent Assembly -- a body set up last year by Maduro to arrogate powers from the elected legislature -- followed up by stripping Borges and Requesens of their immunity.

The elected body, called the National Assembly, has said it will dismiss any attempt to remove its members' immunity as unconstitutional. Its past decisions, however, have been annulled by the Supreme Court.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab said moves were being made to put Requesens on trial, while Maduro is pressing Colombia and the US to extradite opposition figures he alleges are plotting to topple him from abroad, including Borges.

The embattled president says he was targeted by two drones carrying C4 explosives.

Live images on Saturday showed Maduro halting his speech at a Caracas military parade because of a detonation that immediately prompted dozens of soldiers in front of him to run away in panic.

Borges, who on Tuesday attended the swearing-in of Colombia's new president, Ivan Duque, called Maduro's accusation against him "a farce."

"Everyone knows that it's a set-up to persecute and convict anybody that opposes your dictatorship," Borges wrote on Twitter.

- Intensifying 'repression' -

Saab said Wednesday that three of seven suspects arrested in the wake of the incident had appeared before a judge.

Maduro has used his control of the Supreme Court, electoral authorities and security forces to concentrate power in his hands.

The Eurasia Group, a risk consultancy, said that following the drone incident, "the immediate impact will be for Maduro to intensify repression against his opponents and close ranks."

It added that, while there was no imminent fall predicted for Maduro, "holding onto power will become increasingly challenging in the long term, particularly if he fails to provide guarantees and privileges to key stakeholders amid deteriorating economic conditions, and while social dynamics remain fragile."

After Maduro established the all-powerful Constituent Assembly last year, four months of violent protests and a security crackdown flared in which 125 people were killed.

Venezuela's diplomatic isolation also deepened, with most countries in the Americas slamming Maduro as undemocratic and increasingly dictatorial.

The political turmoil has worsened Venezuela's ability to respond to its economic collapse.

The country, once one of the wealthiest in Latin America, is on the brink of total default as exports of oil -- the resource it depends upon -- decline and with them the hard currency Maduro's government needs.

Venezuela is in the grip of staggering hyperinflation, shortages of food and medicine, and is seeing an exodus of hundreds of thousands of its citizens, creating a regional humanitarian emergency.]]>
8/9/2018 3:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. imposes sanctions on Russia for nerve agent attack in UK]]>
A senior State Department official said it had notified the Kremlin of the sanctions earlier in the day.

Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russia's GRU military intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, were found slumped unconscious on a bench in the southern English city of Salisbury in March after a liquid form of the Novichok type of nerve agent was applied to his home's front door.

European countries and the United States expelled 100 Russian diplomats after the attack, in the strongest action by President Donald Trump against Russia since he came to office.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said it had been determined that Russia "has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law, or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals."

The sanctions would cover sensitive national-security controlled goods, a senior State Department official told reporters on a conference call, citing the 1991 Chemical and Biological Weapons and Warfare Elimination Act.

There would, however, be exemptions for space flight activities, government space cooperation, and areas covering commercial passenger aviation safety, which would be reviewed on a case by case basis, the official added.

"It is possible that trade affected could potentially reach hundreds of millions of dollars," the official added. "It's up to Russia how dramatic the impact is."

The official said a second batch of "more draconian" sanctions would be imposed after 90 days unless Russia gives "reliable assurances" that it will no longer use chemical weapons and allow on-site inspections by the United Nations or other international observer groups.

"If those criteria are not met - it is up to Russia to make that decision - a second round of sanctions ...will to be imposed," the official said, "They are in general more draconian than the first round."

A British government spokesman welcomed Washington's announcement, saying: "The strong international response to the use of a chemical weapon on the streets of Salisbury sends an unequivocal message to Russia that its provocative, reckless behavior will not go unchallenged."

The news came as Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul said on Wednesday he had delivered a letter from President Donald Trump to Russian President Vladimir Putin proposing cooperation. ]]>
8/9/2018 2:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt-Palestine co-op to reach mechanisms for Fatah, Hamas reconciliation deal]]>CAIRO – 9 August 2018: Cairo is continuing its strenuous efforts with Palestinian officials in order to reach a number of understandings regarding the reconciliation process between Fatah and Hamas, a reliable source affirmed Wednesday.

The efforts, according to the source, are aiming to stand on a united national Palestinian vision that provides a suitable and a decent life for Palestinians.

Moreover, the source stressed that coordination with the International Community to provide the necessary support for the establishment of development projects that would interest Palestinians and provide a safe environment that guarantees a continuous development in Palestine.

The source also added that Fatah's Executive Committee Member Azzam al-Ahmad has been in Cairo since Yesterday in order to conduct a number of positive talks with Egyptian officials regarding the mechanisms of the reconciliation process.

A delegation the includes Hamas’ officials and members also arrived in Cairo to review the procedures of the reconciliation process and the outcomes of the previous meetings between Fatah and Hamas, all to achieve the aspirations of the people of Palestine and to improve the situation in Palestine and the Gaza strip, according to the source.

In Oct. 2017, the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have signed a preliminary reconciliation deal in Cairo in the presence of Egyptian intelligence officials, in the latest in a series of attempts to end a decade-long Palestinian territorial.

The source also pointed out that as an outcome to the understandings reached between Hamas and Fatah, Cairo will be witnessing a series of meetings between Egyptian, Fatah and Hamas officials in order to reach a national consensus regarding all the debatable issues for the sake of Palestinians.

8/9/2018 12:56:46 AM
<![CDATA[UN peace envoy, Mladenov, reacts to situation in Gaza]]>
The Palestinian diplomat added that Mladenov is seeking to set a ceasefire between the armed Palestinian groups in Gaza and the Israeli army.

Gaza militants fired rockets into Israel and the Israeli military responded with air strikes on Wednesday despite talk from both sides of progress towards a possible truce to avert a fourth war in a decade.

A senior member of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that controls Gaza, said talks mediated by the United Nations and Egypt on a deal to tamp down tensions were in "advanced stages". The remarks were echoed by a top Israeli lawmaker, suggesting a possible breakthrough after four months of confrontations and clashes that stirred mutual threats of war.

Egyptian diplomatic efforts managed to realize a truce between Palestinian groups in Gaza and the Israeli army on July 13, after a heavy Israeli military aggression against citizens in Gaza.
8/9/2018 12:52:08 AM
<![CDATA[Shoukry, Pompeo discuss bilateral cooperation in Washington]]>
At the State Department Headquarter in Washington, Shoukry reviewed the political and economic developments in Egypt, and the features of the economic reform program. He also tackled Egypt’s efforts to counter terrorism, in the light of the successful military campaign of Sinai 2018, spokesperson of Foreign Ministry Ahmed Abu Zeid said in official statement released Sunday.

From his side, Pompeo asserted that Egypt is a strategic partner of the U.S. in the Middle East, confirming the keenness of the current U.S. administration on enhancing relations with Egypt. The Secretary of State also affirmed the U.S. commitment to back Egypt politically and economically through the cooperation mechanisms between the two countries, including U.S. aid program with its military and economic parts, which strengthen Egypt’s stability.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shakes hands with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry before their meeting at the State Department in Washington, U.S., August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Talks between Shoukry and Pompeo addressed the situation in Syria, focusing on the importance of supporting the Syrians’ right to decide their fate and protect their unity, the independence of their territories, according to Abu Zeid, revealing that Shoukry asserted the necessity of the political solution to the Syrian crisis.

The meeting also addressed the Palestinian cause, where Shoukry referred to the necessity to resume negotiations on peace process, Abu Zeid said, adding that Pompeo praised Egypt’s role in achieving reconciliation between Palestinian factions and easing the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza Strip.

Shoukry reviewed Egypt’s efforts to bridge the gap between Libyan parties and helping to unify the Libyan military institution, in a way enable it to accomplish its mission in counter terrorism and restore stability.

pompeo U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shakes hands with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry before their meeting at the State Department in Washington, U.S., August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

The foreign minister departed Monday to the United States where he met with Pompeo, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, and members of the American Chamber of Commerce.

The talks covered issues and challenges pertinent to the region’s stability and security as well as outlining the timetable for strategic discussions by the defense and foreign ministers of both countries.

The two-day visit is in preparation for President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi's upcoming visit to the U.S.

Regional security, development on top of Egyptian-US talks

CAIRO - 7 August 2018: Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry departed Monday to the United States where he is set to meet his American counterpart Mike Pompeo, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, and members of the American Chamber of Commerce.

8/9/2018 12:12:00 AM
<![CDATA[Canada PM says will press Saudi Arabia on rights, offers olive branch]]>
Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir - infuriated by Canada's demand last week that jailed rights activists be released immediately - said earlier on Wednesday that there was no room for mediation, adding that Ottawa knew what it needed to do to "fix its big mistake."

Riyadh on Sunday froze new trade with Canada and expelled the Canadian ambassador. It also ended state-backed educational and medical programmes in Canada.

Trudeau - who referred to the matter as "a diplomatic difference of opinion" - told reporters in Montreal that Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland had held a long conversation with her Saudi counterpart on Tuesday, but gave no details.

"Diplomatic talks continue ... we don't want to have poor relations with Saudi Arabia. It is a country that has great significance in the world, that is making progress in the area of human rights," he said.

"But we will continue underscoring challenges where and when they exist, in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere," he continued.

On Friday, Canada expressed concern over the arrests of activists in Saudi Arabia, including prominent women's rights campaigner Samar Badawi.

Her brother Raif Badawi, a prominent blogger, is serving a 10-year sentence and has been publicly flogged for expressing dissenting opinions online. His wife and children live in Canada and are Canadian citizens.

A number of women's rights activists, who campaigned for the right to drive and an end to the kingdom's male guardianship system, have been targeted in a government crackdown in recent months, human rights' groups say.

Jubeir said the kingdom was still "considering additional measures" against Canada, but did not elaborate. Canadian investments in Saudi Arabia were still ongoing and would not be affected by the dispute, he said.

The Financial Times, citing unidentified sources, reported that the Saudi central bank and state pension funds had instructed their overseas asset managers to dispose of their Canadian equities, bonds and cash holdings "no matter the cost".

The central bank did not immediately respond to a Reuters query for comment. Canada's foreign ministry said it was seeking clarity from the Saudi Arabian government.

A source at a Saudi bank told Reuters it was contacted by the central bank on Wednesday asking for information about all its Canadian exposure – investments in Canada and foreign exchange positions.


Since rising to power in 2015, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has courted Western allies to support his reform plans, offering billions of dollars of arms sales and promising to fight radicalism in the kingdom.

But the row threatens to slow Riyadh's foreign investment drive, a campaign already unsettled by a series of assertive foreign policy initiatives by the top oil exporter.

"Saudi Arabia simply cannot afford to alienate any other sections of the global community in the midst of its unpopular military engagement in Yemen, its indirect confrontation with Iran," commentator Jamal Khashoggi wrote in the Washington Post.

In addition to the trade freeze, Riyadh has stopped sending patients to Canadian hospitals and told hundreds of trainee doctors to leave Canada with only weeks' notice.

That could disrupt Canadian hospitals and end a 40-year-old program to train specialists for the kingdom.

Saudi authorities also suspended educational exchanges, and moved Saudi scholars to other countries. Saudi's state airline said it was suspending flights to and from Toronto.

Saudi Arabia's main state wheat-buying agency told grains exporters it will no longer accept Canadian-origin grains in international tenders, European traders said.

Bilateral trade between Canada and Saudi Arabia is worth nearly $4 billion a year. Canadian exports to Saudi Arabia were about $1.12 billion in 2017, or 0.2 percent of the total value of Canadian exports.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that Canada planned to seek help from United Arab Emirates and Britain to defuse the row. ]]>
8/9/2018 12:11:44 AM
<![CDATA[Editors’ meeting suggests raising Egyptian newspapers’ prices]]>
The meeting was set to discuss ways to rationalize distribution expenses as well as increasing paper prices, said Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Printing and Publishing House, Saad Selim.

Selim pointed out that the increase in paper prices is a concern for press organizations, especially after the 100 percent increase.

Gabr said that the meeting recommended forming a committee to search for new outlets for selling publications and conducting a feasibility study on establishing a paper mill.

Abdel Mohsen Salama, head of Egypt’s Press Syndicate, revealed that the cost of printing papers has recently increased from $540 to $979, calling on the state to subsidize such costs including papers and ink, which are all imported.

During the Wednesday meeting, Salama said that the rise in newspapers’ prices will not exceed LE 1 ($0.056), adding that it is a temporary solution.

Salama said that the meeting discussed solutions to the crisis including a mill in Egypt to manufacture papers. He added that the attendees agreed on establishing the mill to provide national, private and partisan newspapers with printing papers.

Khaled Salah, chairman of the board of directors and editor-in-chief of Youm7 newspaper, called for raising the prices of daily publications to LE5 ($0.28) and raising weekly publications to LE7 ($0.39), due to the crisis print journalism is facing.

Ahmed Bedeir, general manager of Dar El Shorouk publishing house, called for making the rise in newspapers’ prices gradual, as individuals’ salaries are static. He also called for opening a discussion with private and partisan newspapers as they are not financially backed by the state.

Bedeir suggested not raising the prices of all newspapers equally, as they vary in number of pages.

Seemingly not suggesting raising newspapers’ prices, Veto private newspaper’s Editor-in-chief Essam Kamel called for issuing a new draft law containing a number of suggestions including pushing the state to subsidize printing paper, as newspapers are participating in the war against terrorism.

Kamel said raising newspapers’ prices is not a satisfying solution because citizens will not handle the price hike of goods and services well nowadays.

Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Council for Media Regulation Abdel Fatah al-Gebali said that the state needs to back journalism, not national institutions only.

Gebali also issued a number of suggestions to solve the paper crisis; he called on the state to develop the paper mill in the modern Qena governorate’s Qus, attract investigators in the field of paper industry.

The newspapers will start to be sold in new prices starting Sept. 1, according to media reports. National newspapers are expected to cost LE3 ($0.17) instead of LE2 ($0.11).

The National Press Authority pointed out earlier that the Wednesday discussion comes within the framework of preserving the long history of Egyptian press and trying to look for alternative solutions that can help preserve this industry.

Mostafa Bakri, a member of the House of Representatives and the editor-in-chief of El-Osbo'a, said earlier: “Everyone is suffering from this crisis and print press is threatened and its journalists are threatened with homelessness.”

This will be reportedly the third hike in the print cost since the currency float in Egypt that took place in November 2016.

In an interview in July, Abdel Mohsen Salama said that state-owned Al-Ahram and a number of private and partisan newspapers have heavy debts.

Heads of the partisan newspapers have shaken their heads in disappointment over a recent hike in the printing cost, which has increased by 45 percent. They have urged the state to intervene to save partisan newspapers.

Nabil Zaki, CEO of the four-decade old newspaper Al-Ahali published by the National Progressive Unionist Party, said in July that the future of the partisan newspapers in Egypt is uncertain if the state did not intervene to support them.

Sayed Al-Toukhy, Al-Karama newspaper Editor-in-chief, which is published by the left-wing Dignity party founded in 1996, told Egypt Today that the journalism industry in general has suffered from low circulation and lack of ads.

He urged the state to be fair by funding private newspapers through providing them with papers and subsidized print cost, saying that the state funds the significant national newspapers with “hundreds of millions and billions [of pounds].”

Decreasing circulation rates

The circulation rates of the Egyptian printed newspapers have decreased from over a billion in 2010 to 534.6 millions in 2016, according to Egypt’s official Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).

Although the circulation rates of printed newspapers have increased from 2005 to 2010 by 14.5 percent, according to CAPMAS, they have continuously decreased since 2011.

The circulation rates also decreased from 2015 to 2016 by 4.6 percent, according to the official agency. ]]>
8/8/2018 5:04:07 PM
<![CDATA[Concerns over proposal disallowing non-media graduates from joining Press Syndicate]]>
Abed said it is time to allow only media graduates who received training after college to work in journalism, adding that many violations were committed and false information was disseminated by those who claim they are media persons.

Tamer Abdel kader, deputy of the Parliament's Culture and Media Committee, criticized the proposal saying that it will deprive many talented people from working in journalism

In an interview with Egypt Today, Abdel Kader said that journalism is not all about academic study, adding that it also requires talent and creativity. He added that late great writer Mohamed Hassaneen Heikal is not a media graduate. However, he is a role model for many Egyptian journalists and media persons.

Heikal was appointed as the minister of information in 1970.

FILE - From left, Heikal, Hoda Abdel Nasser, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser (third from left), 1966 – Wikipedia

Abdel Kader said that the National Press Authority law stipulates that at least 50 percent of the staff of any news institution must be members of the Syndicate of Journalists. Two years after the institution is launched, 70 percent of the staff should then join the syndicate. The other 30 percent are those under training and are set to be syndicate members after maximum two years of training.

Abdel Kader said that if Abed’s proposal came into effect, news institutions might be compelled to fire many trainees after their maximum training period is over, if they are not media graduates.

MP Youssef al-Qaeed, member of the Culture and Media Committee, told Egypt Today that limiting the membership of the syndicate to media graduates only is unconstitutional and unfair.

Qaeed said it is fine to have agricultural engineers writing in the field of agriculture, and to have individuals with military background writing in the military field. He added that proofreading news articles for example requires a Dar Al-Ulum graduate. Dar Al-Ulum is one of Cairo University's faculties specialized in teaching Arabic language and Islamic studies.

He said that journalism is not limited to writing, as there is press photography, and other forms of journalism, adding that a photo journalist can be a graduate of the photography section in the Faculty of Applied Arts.

Press, Media Syndicates membership

Unlike many other syndicates, including Egyptian Medical and Engineers’ Syndicates, the Syndicate of Journalists and the newly-established Media Syndicate's memberships are not granted for fresh graduates who have no work experience in media.

Both syndicates require candidates for membership to be Egyptians, have full legal capacity, to be free and not placed under guardianship, to have a bachelor’s degree, and to enjoy a good reputation. Moreover, candidates must have a clear criminal record and must not have been convicted in a crime.

Individuals wishing to join the Syndicate of Journalists have to be formally trained for a minimum of one year in one of the news agencies or press institutions whose publications are released in Egypt.

Media Syndicate is different from the Syndicate of Journalists as the former is responsible for regulating audio-visual media practices. It is also tasked with defending its members.
8/8/2018 4:55:47 PM
<![CDATA[Saudi Arabia says no room for mediation in Canada row, more measures possible]]>
"There is nothing to mediate. A mistake has been made and a mistake should be corrected," Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a news conference in Riyadh.

The kingdom was still "considering additional measures" against Canada, said Jubeir, without elaborating.

Saudi Arabia on Sunday froze new trade with Canada and expelled the Canadian ambassador in retaliation for Ottawa's call to free arrested Saudi civil society activists.

It also ended state-backed educational and medical programmes in Canada, making plans to relocate tens of thousands of Saudi students and patients to other countries.

Responding to a question about the reason for the activists' arrests, Jubeir said that charges against them would be made public once their cases reach the courts, repeating earlier allegations that they had been in touch with foreign entities.

Canadian investments in Saudi Arabia were still ongoing and would not be affected by the dispute, he said.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that Canada plans to seek help from United Arab Emirates and Britain to defuse the row, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The Financial Times reported that the Saudi central bank and state pension funds had instructed their overseas asset managers to dispose of their Canadian equities, bonds and cash holdings "no matter the cost", citing unnamed sources.

The central bank did not immediately respond to a Reuters query for comment.

A source at a Saudi bank told Reuters the bank was contacted by the central bank on Wednesday afternoon asking for information about all their Canadian exposure – investments in Canada and foreign exchange positions.

The bank had received no instructions to sell assets as they do not have any exposure there, the source said.

Since rising to power in 2015, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has courted Western allies to support his reform plans, offering billions of dollars of arms sales and promising to fight radicalism in the kingdom. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments were discussed during his trips to the United States and Europe.


State news agency SPA said Riyadh had stopped sending patients to Canadian hospitals and "is coordinating for the transfer of all Saudi patients from Canadian hospitals ... according to directives by the leadership."

It was unclear how many Saudi patients would be affected by the decision and how many were covered by the kingdom's health care system. The government provides health care services through several government agencies for public employees.

The move follows a series of measures the kingdom has taken since the row erupted on Monday.

The kingdom has suspended educational exchange programs with Canada and moved Saudi scholarship recipients to other countries, while Saudi state airline Saudi said it was suspending flights to and from Toronto.

Saudi Arabia's main state wheat buying agency, the Saudi Grains Organization (SAGO), has told grains exporters it will no longer accept Canadian-origin grains in its international purchase tenders, European traders said.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to hold a news conference in Montreal, where he will be pressed on the diplomatic crisis.

The dispute may damage what is a modest bilateral trade relationship worth nearly $4 billion a year. Canadian exports to Saudi Arabia totaled about $1.12 billion in 2017, or 0.2 percent of the total value of Canadian exports.
8/8/2018 4:32:21 PM
<![CDATA[Naguib Gabriel defends expelled monk against media attacks]]>
In an interview with the Coptic Youtube Channel Youmy Maak on Monday, Gabriel said that the investigation is still ongoing, urging media to stop discrediting Ash’eyaa by directing baseless accusations at the former monk. He added that security authorities have not yet revealed the perpetrator.

Ash’eyaa of the St. Macarius Monastery tried to commit suicide a day after the Coptic Church of Alexandria decided to strip him of his rank, a source close to his family revealed.

He was detained at the monastery's clinic in Beheira governorate’s Natrun valley, but was released following prosecution order at 5:20 a.m. He reportedly used poison in his suicide attempt.

Gabriel called on Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria to speak to people and disclose the circumstances of the unfamiliar crime that took place inside the monastery. Gabriel expected on Tuesday in an interview with 90 minutes program on al-Mihwar channel that the Pope’s speech to media can help protect the country from harm.

Gabriel said that monks of the St. Macarius Monastery are in a bad psychological condition due to the recent incidents.

On the same day Ash’eyaa attempted to kill himself, Faltaous al-Makary, another monk in his mid-thirties, deliberately cut his wrist and then jumped off a high building inside the monastery, according to a source in the church who refused to give a name.

The head of St. Macarius Monastery, Bishop Epiphanius, was found dead and covered in blood on July 29; however, Church spokesman Boules Halim denied any links between the expulsion of Ash'eyaa and the murder, saying that investigation is still ongoing.

In a statement signed by Pope Tawadros II, the Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, the Orthodox Church revealed that a monastic investigation was conducted with Ash’eyaa by a special committee formed by the Monastic Committee and the Monasteries Affairs of the Holy Synod.

The church said the former monk was investigated for the accusations issued against him and the “inappropriate actions” he committed which contradicted with monastic behavior and life, as he violated the commitment to the principles and vows of monasticism, including voluntary poverty, obedience and virtue.

The church’s statement did not explain the "inappropriate actions" committed by Ash’eyaa; instead, it expelled him from the St. Macarius Monastery in Wadi El-Natrun, to return to his birth name, Wael Saad.]]>
8/8/2018 2:58:01 PM
<![CDATA[Saudi Arabia stops medical treatment programs in Canada as row escalates]]>
Saudi Arabia froze new trade and investment with Canada and expelled the Canadian ambassador this week, pushing Canada to seek help from the United Arab Emirates and Britain to try to defuse the dispute.

Since rising to power in 2015, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has courted Western allies to support his reform plans, offering billions of dollars of arms sales and promising to fight radicalism in the kingdom. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments were discussed during his trips to the United States and Europe.

The dispute with Canada has shed light on scores of political and rights activists arrested in Saudi Arabia over the last two years.

State news agency SPA said Riyadh had stopped sending patients to Canadian hospitals and "is coordinating for the transfer of all Saudi patients from Canadian hospitals ... according to directives by the leadership."

It was unclear how many Saudi patients would be affected by the decision and how many were covered by the kingdom's health care system. The government provides health care services through several government agencies for public employees.

The move follows a series of measures the kingdom has taken since the row erupted on Monday.


The kingdom has suspended educational exchange programs with Canada and moved Saudi scholarship recipients to other countries, while Saudi state airline Saudi said it was suspending flights to and from Toronto.

Saudi Arabia's main state wheat buying agency, the Saudi Grains Organization (SAGO), has told grains exporters it will no longer accept Canadian-origin grains in its international purchase tenders, European traders said.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to hold a news conference in Montreal, where he will be pressed on the diplomatic crisis.

Canada is planning to seek help from Saudi Arabia's closest ally, the UAE, and Britain to defuse the dispute which looks set to damage what is a modest bilateral trade relationship worth nearly $4 billion a year. Canadian exports to Saudi Arabia totaled about $1.12 billion in 2017, or 0.2 percent of the total value of Canadian exports.

However, the row threatens to undermine Riyadh's drive to attract foreign investors, an effort hit by a series of sweeping policy initiatives by the top oil exporter's absolute rulers.

Inside Saudi Arabia, the measures were supported by a media campaign criticizing Canada's human rights record and praising the Saudi rulers' firmness in "protecting the kingdom's sovereignty."

Crown Prince Mohammed has launched a campaign of social and economic change, but has not eased the absolute monarchy’s total ban on political activism.

Canada expressed concern over the arrests of activists in Saudi Arabia, including women’s rights campaigner Samar Badawi, and called for their release. Riyadh said that amounted to "a blatant interference in the kingdom’s domestic affairs."
8/8/2018 12:05:48 PM
<![CDATA[Politician in hot water after calling for poll on changing current regime]]>
Opposition figure Marzouk called for conducting a public referendum asking people to vote in favor or against the current regime’s stay in power.

In case more than 50 percent of the electorate vote in favor of the regime, Marzouk said that everyone should then respect the regime’s policies.

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s term will end and the Parliament will be dissolved if more than fifty percent of the electorate vote against the regime, according to Marzouk’s proposal.

In an interview with Egypt Today, MP Margaret Azer said that the Egyptian people will not accept calls that aim to harm the country’s security. She called on media and civil society to highlight the achievements that took place during the current leadership’s term and to warn people against such calls.

MP Yasser Omar said that such calls are backed by parties hostile to the country. He affirmed the necessity to bring the promoters for these calls to justice. Omar claimed that President Sisi is only rejected by the Muslim Brotherhood group and their supporters.

MP Hamdy Bekheit asserted that Marzouk’s call is unconstitutional and illogic, saying that conducting referendums requires the prior approval of two thirds of the Parliament members. He added that Marzouk wants to incite “chaos” in the time Egypt needs stability.

Bekheit explained that the freedom of opinion and expression does not include attempts to disturb national security.

Spokesman of the National Progressive Unionist party, Nabil Zaki, announced rejecting Marzouk’s calls, saying that his party differentiates between criticizing the ruler and calls to demolish the regime. Zaki warned that many parties are willing to interfere in the country’s domestic affairs.

A number of lawyers announced suing Marzouk, accusing him of deliberately agitating public opinion, attempting to overthrow the regime, and insulting the judicial authority.

Marzouk is an Egyptian diplomat, politician and author. He worked as an ambassador to Finland, Uganda and Estonia. Marzouk served as an assistant foreign minister for African issues. He was appointed as a CEO for the Egyptian Diplomatic Club in 2007.

He was an official spokesman to the election campaign of the Egyptian Popular Current Chairman Hamdeen Sabahi, who was Sisi’s sole contender in the 2014 election.

Sabahi got a relatively very small number of votes in the election, Judge Anwar al-Asi, head of the presidential election committee, announced in a press conference in June 2014. He added that spoilt votes in the 2014 election exceeded the votes for Sabahi, with 1,040,608 ballots, state-owned Al-Ahram reported.

Asi said that Sisi won 96.9 percent of votes, with a turnout of 47.45 percent.

Lawyer Mohamed Abdel Halim said that persons accused of attempting to overthrow the regime in Egypt can face sentences up to a life imprisonment, according to the Egyptian law.

Criminal Expert Refaat Abdel Hamid said that those who incite overthrowing the regime face an equal punishment to those who directly attempt to commit such violation, according to law.]]>
8/8/2018 11:58:49 AM
<![CDATA[LE 400 million spent to help Nile Basin countries: minister]]>
In an interview with “90 Minutes” TV program with Mohamed al-Baz, Abdel Ati remarked that that the ministry is drilling wells for the water-scarce countries like Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan to solve the problem of water shortage in these countries.

He revealed that the absence of continuous dialogue among the Nile Basin countries causes disputes on Nile water.

“In the last 20 years, several dams have been built on the Nile River in consensus with Egypt; hence, Why is the (Renaissance) Dam surrounded with many fears?” He pointed out that Egypt is the most productive and qualified country in reusing water.

He pointed out that Egypt’s water resources plan 2017 - 2037, which is intended to resolve Egypt’s water-related issues, costs LE 900 billion, and was set in cooperation with nine ministries, particularly that the population rates will reach 170 million citizens by 2050.

As for protecting the Egyptian coasts, the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation added that the ministry has taken the necessary steps to save buildings on the Mediterranean coast during the winter, which cost LE 50 billion.

He remarked that citizens were not affected during the last two years by the consequences of floods because of the changes that happened at the ministry’s management; early warning systems for rains and floods have been activated to know the date and place of floods three days before they take place.

He further explained that Egypt has benefited from 1.25 billion cubic meters of rainfall and flood in the last season, and more than 200 installations, including dredges rain harvest, were established in Upper Egypt and Sinai.

Egypt suffers from a water deficit of 30 billion cubic meters; it annually needs at least 90 billion cubic meters of water to cover 90 million citizens’ needs. However, it currently has only 60 billion cubic meters, of which 55.5 billion cubic meters come from the Nile and just 5 billion cubic meters come from non-renewable subterranean water in the deserts.
Further decrease in Egypt's water resources is expected amid the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which could have a negative impact on Egypt’s Nile water share.

Despite the latest negotiations between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to resolve the technical issues of the dam, Egypt is keen to look for new sources of water and to rationalize its usage to overcome any water scarcity problems in the future.
Agriculture in Egypt depends heavily on the Nile River, and it consumes 84 percent of Egypt’s water resources; therefore, the state is working on maintaining the country's water security through taking procedures that may help rationalize the use of water.

The government starts with Agriculture to save water

The government has taken procedures aiming to rationalize water consumption through preventing the cultivation of crops that need large amounts of water.
Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel Ati decided to reduce the rice agriculture area in Egypt from 1,700,000 feddans to 724,200 feddans (1 feddan = 1.038 acres). According to the ministry, this decline will save 3 billion cubic meters of water. Simultaneously, the ministry is working on launching campaigns to raise farmers’ awareness and rationalize water usage.

Additional report by Rehab Ismail
8/8/2018 11:30:52 AM
<![CDATA[Cost of national newspapers may face an increase]]>
A meeting with the boards of national newspapers and editors of private press institutions will be held on Wednesday to discuss the increase in the price of paper and printing at the authority’s headquarters.

Head of Egypt’s National Press Authority, Karam Gabr, added that all the proposals will be compiled and evaluated for a collective decision regarding these current conditions.
Salama hoped that the government would help support the press as it is an important industry in Egypt.

"In this particular situation, we need to preserve the press industry. The press is an instrument of society enlightenment and we have to make sure it continues,” said Salama.
Salama added that there is a possibility the daily national print newspapers will cost LE 3. Meanwhile, weekly papers will cost LE 4.

Private newspapers are also going through a difficult phase in light of the increased cost of paper and printing. It is a daily challenge between providing services to readers and having to bear the heavy financial burdens placed on them. Hence, this causes them to increase the price of the print copies.

Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Printing and Publishing House, Saad Selim, said that the meeting will discuss ways to rationalize distribution expenses as well as increasing paper prices.

Selim pointed out that the increase in paper prices is a concern for press organizations, especially after the 100 percent increase.

The National Press Authority pointed out that this comes within the framework of preserving the long history of Egyptian press and trying to look for alternative solutions that can help preserve this industry.

Khaled Salah, chairman of the board of directors and editor-in-chief of Al-Youm Al-Sabaa Newspaper; Abdel-Moneim Saeed, chairman of Al-Masry Al-Youm; Adel Hamouda, editor-in-chief of Al-Fajr newspaper; Essam Kamel, editor-in-chief of Al-Dostour Newspaper; and heads of the boards of national press organizations will attend the meeting.

Mostafa Bakri, a member of the House of Representatives and the editor-in-chief of El-osbo'a said: “Everyone is suffering from this crisis and the printing press is threatened to stop and its journalists are threatened with homelessness.”
8/8/2018 11:21:14 AM
<![CDATA[Congo ruling coalition's presidential candidate to be announced "in the coming hours"]]>
Spokesman Lambert Mende's statement followed a meeting between Kabila and coalition members at his farm outside the capital Kinshasa. Candidates have until Wednesday afternoon to register with the national electoral commission.

Kabila, in power since 2001, is barred by term limits from running for re-election but has refused to commit publicly to not standing. That has raised fears he might do so anyway, which risks throwing the volatile central African country into chaos.

Security forces have killed dozens of protesters since Kabila refused to quit power at the end of mandate in December 2016, saying the government was not yet prepared to hold the election to succeed him. Militia violence in the eastern borderlands with Rwanda and Uganda has also risen.

Western powers and Congo's neighbours fear even worse violence across the country if Kabila digs in and runs, with memories still fresh of civil wars around the turn of the century that killed millions, most from hunger and disease.

Kabila met on Tuesday afternoon with members of his electoral coalition, the Common Front for Congo (FCC), at his farm in the village of Kingakati, about 80 km (50 miles) outside the Kinshasa.

Participants in the meeting included Mende, Commerce Minister Jean-Lucien Bussa, Planning Minister Modeste Bahati and the president of the lower house of parliament, Aubin Minaku.

Minaku has been tipped as one of the candidates to emerge as Kabila's chosen successor, as has former prime minister Augustin Matata Ponyo.

Several opposition candidates have also registered their candidacies for the Dec. 23 vote. They include former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was recently acquitted of war crimes at the International Criminal Court, and Vital Kamerhe, who finished third in the 2011 election.

On Tuesday, Felix Tshisekedi, the president of Congo's largest opposition party, the UDPS, and son of the late opposition icon Etienne Tshisekedi, filed his candidacy at the electoral commission headquarters in Kinshasa.

As Tshisekdi drove to the headquarters, clashes briefly broke out between supporters of his, who threw rocks, and police officers, who riposted with volleys of teargas, witnesses said.

Tryphon Kin-Kiey, a Kabila ally who founded a political party called "Kabila Desire", also submitted his candidacy on Tuesday as an independent, a move that was quickly disavowed by members of his political coalition. ]]>
8/8/2018 1:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Trump warns world against business with Iran as sanctions return]]>
Trump's May withdrawal from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran had spooked investors and triggered a run on the Iranian rial long before the punishing sanctions went back into force.

The sanctions reimposed on Tuesday, which target access to US banknotes and key industries such as cars and carpets, were unlikely to cause immediate economic turmoil.

Iran's markets were actually relatively buoyant, with the rial strengthening by 20 percent since Sunday after the government relaxed foreign exchange rules and allowed unlimited, tax-free gold and currency imports.

But the second tranche of sanctions, which kicks in on November 5 and targets Iran's vital oil sector, could be far more damaging -- even if several key customers such as China, India and Turkey have refused to significantly cut their purchases.

"The Iran sanctions have officially been cast. These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level," Trump wrote on Twitter.

"Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less."

European governments -- who signed the Iran nuclear deal along with Washington -- are infuriated by Trump's strategy, which has prompted many of their large firms to leave Iran for fear of US penalties.

Within hours of the sanctions taking effect, German carmaker Daimler said it had "suspended our already limited activities in Iran in accordance with the applicable sanctions".

Trump said Monday that he was open to new talks to reach a "more comprehensive deal" with Iran.

On Tuesday, his National Security Advisor John Bolton told Fox News: "We want to see a much broader retreat by Iran from their support for international terrorism, their belligerent military activity in the Middle East, and their ballistic missile, nuclear-related programs.

"There's a lot going on here that Iran needs to be held accountable for."

But Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has dismissed the idea of talks while sanctions are in effect, and accused America of waging "psychological warfare."

In Tehran, residents were on edge.

"I feel like my life is being destroyed," said one construction worker on the streets of the capital. "I can't afford to buy food, pay the rent."

- 'Not got this right' -

The return of US sanctions left some of Washington's partners unimpressed.

British Foreign Office Minister Alastair Burt said that the "Americans have really not got this right".

The nuclear deal was important "not only to the region's security but the world's security," he told the BBC.

Russia's foreign ministry said it was "deeply disappointed" by the return of sanctions, adding that it would do "everything necessary" to save the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters the global reaction to Trump's move showed that the US was diplomatically isolated.

- 'Poison cup' -

Most Iranians see US hostility as a basic fact of life, so their frustration is largely directed at their own leaders for not handling the situation better.

"Prices are rising again, but the reason is government corruption, not US sanctions," said Ali, a 35-year-old decorator in Tehran.

Long-running discontent over high prices, unemployment, water shortages and the lack of political reform has sparked numerous protests over the past week, though verifiable information is scarce due to heavy reporting restrictions.

Many hope and believe that Iran's leaders will "drink the poison cup" and negotiate with the US eventually.

There have been rumours that Trump and Rouhani could meet in New York in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly -- though Rouhani reportedly rejected US overtures for a meeting at last year's event.

Two countries that have welcomed the tough new US policy are Iran's regional rivals, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the renewed sanctions as "an important moment for Israel, for the US, for the region, for the whole world."

Iran's currency has lost around half its value since Trump announced the US would withdraw from the nuclear pact, but has surged since Sunday, following the arrest of the central bank's currency chief and new plans being announced.

The new rules mean foreign exchange bureaus will reopen after an attempt to fix the value of the rial in April backfired spectacularly, with corrupt traders making a fortune out of a mushrooming black market.]]>
8/8/2018 12:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt says it supports Saudi Arabia in rights row with Canada]]>
Cairo's foreign ministry said on its Facebook page that it was "concerned by the crisis between Saudi Arabia and Canada, which is a result of the negative tendency by some international ... sides of meddling in the internal affairs of countries in the region," without elaborating.

The Saudi government on Sunday recalled its ambassador from Ottawa, barred Canada's ambassador to Riyadh and placed a ban on new trade, denouncing Canada for urging the release of rights activists.

Egypt saw crucial U.S. military aid frozen last year over its own human rights record amid one of its toughest ever crackdowns on dissent, but that decision was reversed last month. ]]>
8/8/2018 12:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[FM Shoukry meets with US national security adviser, John Bolton]]>
Shoukry, currently visiting the US, said he is looking forward to working with Bolton to boost Cairo-Washington relations in a way that reflects how special and strategic they are, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said in a statement.

He underscored the importance of continuing efforts that aims to achieve mutual interests of the two countries.

Shoukry also presented a comprehensive review about the developments of conditions in Egypt, asserting the importance of the US support to Cairo in light of the current challenges besetting the Arab region.

The Egyptian top diplomat also called for holding the upcoming round of strategic dialogue and the 2+2 dialogue meetings between the two countries' ministers of foreign affairs and defense with the aim of discussing means to foster bilateral ties and exchanging views about regional and international issues of mutual concern.

As for the US aid program to Egypt, Shoukry said it reflects the importance of Cairo-Washington historic relations, achieves mutual interests, enhances Egypt's capability of combating security challenges and maintains peace and security in the region.

Meanwhile, Bolton said the US administration wants to keep the strategic nature of relations with Cairo and believes that Egypt is playing a pivotal role in maintaining stability and balance in the Middle East.

The US official was briefed by Shoukry on Egypt's anti-terrorism efforts, particularly with regard to the success achieved by the Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018.

He was also keen to know Egypt's vision and assessment of the conditions and developments in the Middle East, especially in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Palestine.

In this regard, the two sides discussed ways to overcome the deadlock reached in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Shoukry met as well with heads of several US companies investing or willing to invest in Egypt, topped by ExxonMobil, Honeywell and Cargill.

During a business lunch organized by the US Chamber of Commerce, Shoukry reviewed Egypt's economic reform program and efforts exerted by the Egyptian government to improve the economic sector and attract more investments into the country, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry Ahmed Abu Zeid said.

They also discussed means of increasing the volume of trade exchange between the two countries in a manner that serves the interests of the Egyptian and American peoples.

The strategic partnership between Egypt and the US requires that both countries strengthen mutual cooperation in all fields, not only in the oil sector, Shoukry noted.

The top Egyptian diplomat briefed the US investors on how the new investment law paves the way for businessmen to invest in Egypt.

The Egyptian government gives priority to the health and educational sectors, making it necessary to improve skills and capabilities of Egypt's manpower, he pointed out.

Shoukry further called on the US investors to do business in the SCZone and make use of the incentives offered by the Egyptian government there, noting that the Suez Canal Axis project will turn Egypt into a regional and international commercial hub.

The US businessmen, meanwhile, praised the mega projects established in Egypt over the past period.
8/7/2018 11:04:59 PM
<![CDATA[Cabinet approves draft law protecting personal data]]>
The draft law will be referred to the State Council then the Parliament for approval. Talaat said that the law’s executive regulations will be issued soon.

According to official reports, the law protects citizens’ “fully or partially electronically treated personal data.”

In a press statement following the meeting, Talaat said that the law prohibits gathering or processing individuals’ personal data or spreading them by any means without the permission of the concerned individuals, except in cases authorized legally.

Talaat affirmed the country’s keenness to attract international and regional investments in the field of database centers and to establish legally protected data centers.

The Cabinet announced that the law will be imposed on Egyptians inside the country and expatriates alike. It will be also enforced on non-Egyptians inside and outside Egypt as long as the data in question belong to Egyptian citizens or foreigners staying inside Egypt.

Violators of the law will be punished by a minimum of one year imprisonment and a fine of not more than LE 1 million ($55,988) and not less than LE 100,000 ($5,598), according to a statement released by the Cabinet.

The draft law has been issued upon the president's directives, according to Talaat. It aims to raise the level of data security inside the country and to organize electronic marketing activities and data transfer, according to the statement.

A center for protecting personal data will be established at the Information Technology Industry Development Authority, according to the statement.

Workers at the center will be empowered by law to arrest violators in their field of work. The workers will be appointed by the minister of justice.

Legal steps for draft laws

According to Egyptian legislations, ministers have to send their draft laws to the council of ministers before the council sends it to the Parliament. However, Parliament members can directly propose draft laws to the Parliament for approval.

Following the approval of the council of ministers on a draft law introduced by a ministry, this ministry should then coordinate with other ministries and related parties to prepare the draft law in its last form before it is submitted again to the council.

The Cabinet has to send the draft law to the State Council in order for the latter to send notes about it. The Cabinet usually sends the State Council’s notes to the Justice Ministry to know their legal opinion about these notes. However, the Cabinet is not constitutionally obliged to commit to the State Council’s opinion and notes about the draft law.

According to the constitution, the State Council is an independent judicial authority specialized in settling various types of disputes, including administrative ones, in addition to reviewing and phrasing draft laws and legislative decisions.

The council of ministers then has to send the draft law to the Parliament with all researches, attachments, copy of the experts’ opinions and an explanatory memorandum attached to the draft law.

The Parliament has the right to approve or reject the draft law introduced by the Cabinet. The Parliament then refers the draft law to the Proposals and Complaints Committee to prepare a report on it and submit it to the Parliament again.

Securing privacy rights

Egyptian law criminalizes activities, including violations of an individual’s private life without their permission, and sentences the violator to prison in case he is proven guilty.

Taking photos of a person in a private place, transmitting a conversation in a private place or overhearing a telephone conversation without permission may lead to a prison sentence of up to a year, according to Egypt’s penal code (309 bis, 309 bis A).

Moreover, an individual convicted of blackmailing someone by threatening to release their private conversation may face a prison sentence of up to five years.

The law also criminalizes the use of modern technology to commit such violations against an individual’s will, and orders the confiscation of the equipment used, and the subsequent deletion or destruction of recordings.

Additional reporting by Amr Mohamed Kandil ]]>
8/7/2018 8:20:09 PM
<![CDATA[Regional security, development on top of Egyptian-US talks ]]>
The talks will cover issues and challenges pertinent to the region’s stability and security as well as outlining the timetable for strategic discussions by the defense and foreign ministers of both countries.

Shoukry and Pompeo will discuss bilateral relations including the economic, military, and development aspects of the USAID’s program in Egypt. The Egyptian minister will brief his counterpart on the socio-economic reforms program adopted by the country to boost production, and achieve stability and growth.

Shoukry will also showcase Egypt’s counter-terrorism efforts and the success accomplished by the Comprehensive Operation - Sinai 2018.

During his two-day visit, the minister will meet the representatives of top American companies investing or willing to invest in Egypt, take part in roundtable talks with key figures at research centers, and give media interviews.

Military Aid

The United States will very soon lift the hold on aid to Egypt after talks with an Egyptian military delegation, a source told Ahram Online in July.

The high-profile delegation, named the Military White Paper, is currently in Washington holding meetings with high-ranking U.S. military and security officials.

The $195 million military aid – withheld in August 2017 over allegations of human rights and democracy breaches – will be released by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee.

The source told Ahram Online that Egypt made it clear during the talks that such a stance would send a "wrong message that U.S. counterparts do not understand the nature of the challenges Egypt is facing, including the challenge of domestic and regional terrorism.”

Egypt and Israel receive U.S. military aid as part of the peace treaty signed in 1979. The annual amount allocated for Egypt is $1.3 billion. On the other hand, Israel and the United States signed an agreement in September 2016 for the latter to provide Israel with $35 billion in defense aid over the period of 10 years.

Since the year the peace treaty was signed, Israel has received $8 billion in economic aid yearly, while Egypt has received $1 billion.

Egypt has refuted the United States' claims pulled out of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in June of being biased against Israel.

During his meeting with Head of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) Mohamed Fayek in September, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi affirmed that Egypt will continue its efforts to maintain human rights and basic freedoms in line with confronting terrorism and protecting its national security from current dangers threatening the region.

Egypt has been engaged in a fight with terror in North Sinai since 2011 in parallel with January 25 Revolution. However, the attacks targeted civilians – especially Christians – and public institutions in the rest of the country after the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi, who is affiliated with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, in July 2013. Later on, the assaults were confined again to the border governorate.

Sinai 2018

The operation launched in February accomplished the following:
- Terrorist leaders were targeted in North and Central Sinai, and several terrorist hotbeds were identified and destroyed, while a large number of terrorists, criminals and suspects were killed or arrested.
- Destruction of terrorism infrastructure in North Sinai, such as tunnels, weapons and ammunition stores, improvised explosive devices, vehicles and motorcycles, explosive materials, mines and rockets.
- Recovering state sovereignty in the areas cleared of terrorists and deploying civilian police to ensure security of these places.
- Securing the previous presidential election and the secondary exams in North Sinai and the return of students to the University of Arish.
- Securing transportation of commodities to Sinai and movement of people to and from the border governorate.
- Cutting supply to terrorist elements, and preventing smuggling of weapons and ammunition, as well as the infiltration of terrorist elements into the country.

8/7/2018 1:43:07 PM
<![CDATA[Saudi-led Coalition continues to eradicate extremism: statement]]>
“The Coalition has and will continue to carry out Joint operations with brotherly and friendly Nations to dismantle the capabilities of said groups through air, naval and joint special forces operations under the international cooperative efforts to eradicate terrorism and sustain International Security.” He stated.

“We have followed what AP posted today entitled “AP investigation: Yemen war binds US, allies, al-Qaida”. What was stated in this article whether it was stories or conclusions, is unfounded an expressed the personal opinion of the author as there were no tangible evidence nor convincing arguments.

The writer should have followed the professional ethics of journalism and fact-checked such information before publication through communicating with the Joint Forces Command of the Coalition, and verifying the Coalition’s efforts in combating terrorism, the Coalition would have provided detailed information in this regard. All channels of communication with members of the media are open.” He added.

Col. AlMalki concluded that the Coalition will continue its efforts and operations to combat terrorist groups in Yemen under International efforts to eradicate terrorism all around the world, and its cooperation with brotherly and friendly Nations through intelligence-sharing and Joint operations to combat AQAP, ISIS and the terrorist Iranian-Houthi militia.]]>
8/7/2018 1:40:27 PM
<![CDATA[Higher budget ordered for school meals in Egypt]]>
In a meeting with the ministers of social solidarity, supply, education, health, and local development, Madbouly highlighted the importance of continuously improving the school nutrition system to provide students with healthy and nutritious meals.

The school nutrition service costs the state about LE 972 million ($54.36 million), according to official reports.

In March, 2017, 312 students had food poisoning systems after eating the school meals in Souhag. Shawky subsequently ordered the suspension of the service which served over 11 million students until further notice.

The ministry assigned the Egyptian Food Safety Authority with supervising the factories producing the components of the school meal.

Randa Hala¬wa, an Education Ministry official responsible for preventing dropping out, announced that the meal will be cancelled for preparatory and secondary students and will only target primary and pre-school children, state-owned Al-Ahram reported.

Halawa said that each meal will consist of 50 grams of biscuits for pre-school children and 80 grams for primary school students. In addition, they will be provided with two pâtés, a halava bar and a date pie.

In a meeting with a number of ministers in March, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi ordered carrying out changes in the way school meals are stored to prevent food poisoning.

In an interview on ON Live on March 10, Presidential spokesman Bassam Radi said that President Sisi tasted a date pie from the students' school meals to ensure the children’s safety.
8/7/2018 12:06:03 PM
<![CDATA[Sharm El-Sheikh to be declared green city in Nov.: Environment min.]]>
In a press conference on Monday, Fouad called on Minister of Education, Tarek Shawki, to involve environmental science in the curricula of various educational stages to provide students with information about environment and ways to preserve biological diversity.

Sharm El-Sheikh will host the 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 14) slated for November 17 – 29.

Biodiversity is defined as the diverse types of living organisms existing in an ecosystem. It defines the degree of variation. The community is considered more stable when larger number of diverse forms exists in it.

Concerning Sharm El-Sheikh city, Fouad earlier expressed hope that the EU supports the efforts exerted to declare the city located in South Sinai a green city.

In July, Fouad said that a number of projects will be carried out to turn Sharm El-Sheikh into a green city, including waste recycling, reuse of water and the use of environment friendly technology for renewable energy. She also revealed that the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) supports the project by $5 million, which represents the project’s budget.

This came during the minister’s participation with South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) Minister Edna Molewa, in the side sessions of the Biodiversity and Sustainable Development Conventions at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York.

During a press conference on launching the media campaign of the COP 14 in August, Fouad said that President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi's sponsorship of the convention marks an important historical stage of the political leadership's support for environmental issues.

Sisi follows up on conference preparations

In a meeting between Sisi, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, and the ministers of housing, local development and environment in late July, Fouad reviewed the preparations for hosting the Biodiversity Convention, which will reportedly receive over 5,000 attendees from different member states.

The decision that Egypt will host the 14th meeting of the conference was taken by the participants in the 13th meeting of the conference in Cancun, Mexico, in 2016, during the term of former Environment Minister Khaled Fahmi.

Egypt is the second African country to host the conference. Kenya hosted the event in May 2000.

Fouad succeeded Fahmi last June to become the third female minister to serve as the environment minister after Laila Rashid Eskandar and Nadia Makram Ebeid.

She has served as the acting director of the Center for Economic and Financial Research and Studies since 2014.

Fouad represented Egypt in a number of international conferences within the framework of the Green Climate Fund. In addition, she headed a committee that managed to get a fund of $54 million to support Egypt's environmental program for renewable energy.

Additional reporting by Walaa Ali, Egypt Today staff
8/7/2018 12:02:50 PM
<![CDATA[Star U.S. witness Gates testifies he committed crimes with Manafort]]>
Gates was expected to be a star witness in the government's case against Manafort having pleaded guilty in February and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors under a deal that could lead to a reduced sentence.

"We did not submit the required form designating he had control over an offshore account," Gates told the jury in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, on the fifth day of the trial.

When prosecutor Greg Andres asked why, Gates replied: "At Mr. Manafort's direction."

Gates also testified he and Manafort knew it was a crime because they had been notified by Manafort's accountants in emails.

Manafort's attorneys have signaled they will seek to blame Gates and have accused him of embezzling millions of dollars from Manafort. Gates and Manafort have known each other for two decades and ran a multimillion-dollar political consulting business. Gates also worked for the Trump election campaign.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank and tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. The charges largely predate his five months on the Trump campaign but were the first to go to trial arising from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

The jury has heard how Manafort made tens of millions of dollars for work with pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. Mueller is also investigating possible coordination between Trump campaign members and Russian officials in the election campaign, but the charges against Manafort do not address that.

Prosecutors on Monday went through a list of overseas corporations and Gates testified that all of them were controlled by Manafort and contained income earned by his political consulting work.

Gates said an associate, Konstantin Klimnik, had control over the overseas accounts. Klimnik is a Russian-Ukrainian political consultant who was indicted in June on charges stemming from the Mueller probe.

Gates testified that Manafort directed him to report overseas income as loans in order to lower taxable income and that at Manafort's request, did not disclose foreign bank accounts, which is required by law.

The jury had heard testimony on Friday and Monday from accountant Cynthia Laporta, who described how Manafort and Gates doctored financial statements and backdated loans.

In questioning Laporta on Monday, a prosecutor asked the accountant about a $10 million loan purportedly received by Manafort from Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska in 2006. Laporta, looking at a summary of loans to Manafort and his businesses, said she could not see any indication that the loan from Deripaska had been paid off.

Since the trial started before U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis last Tuesday, Manafort's lawyers have kept their cross-examinations brief and at times refrained from attempting to rebut damaging testimony in detail.

But Laporta's testimony raised the stakes for Manafort, legal experts said. Testifying under immunity, she was the first witness to admit she knew accounting maneuvers Manafort and Gates requested of her were wrong and could be crimes. One accounting trick saved Manafort $500,000 in taxes, she said.
8/7/2018 6:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Russian PM warns NATO admission of Georgia could trigger 'terrible conflict']]>
Medvedev's comments come weeks after President Vladimir Putin warned NATO against cultivating closer ties with Ukraine and Georgia, saying such a policy was irresponsible and would have unspecified consequences for the alliance.

"This (Georgia's entry to NATO) could provoke a terrible conflict. I don’t understand what they are doing this for," Medvedev told Russia's Kommersant newspaper in an interview.

Georgia's NATO ambitions have been a source of anger for Russia - which shares a border with ex-Soviet republic Georgia and does not want to see it join what it regards as a hostile military bloc - since 2008 when NATO leaders promised Georgia it would one day join the alliance.

Russian forces entered two breakaway Georgian regions in 2008, which remain garrisoned by Russian troops to this day, something Moscow says is in keeping with local people's wishes, but which the West and the Georgian government call an illegal occupation.

NATO leaders discussed ties with Georgia at their summit in Brussels in July, a move Medvedev, who was president when Russian and Georgian forces clashed in 2008, condemned.

"As for the recent NATO decision reaffirming its commitment to eventually admit Georgia, what can I say to this? It is an absolutely irresponsible position and a threat to peace," said Medvedev.

Prominent Georgian politicians are keen for their country to join the Western military alliance, but have seen their chances of joining hampered by Russian territorial incursions into the two breakaway territories - South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russia has recognised the two regions as independent states and Medvedev said Georgia's entry into NATO therefore raised the risk of conflict with Moscow.

Asked what would happen if Georgia joined NATO without the two regions and whether there was a risk of conflict, Medvedev said:

"Yes, clearly so, because we view Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. We understand that if any other country claims that they are part of its national territory, this may have severe consequences. Therefore, I hope that the NATO leadership will have enough sense not to take any steps in this direction."
8/7/2018 3:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Turkish lira hits record low after U.S. reviews duty-free access]]>
The U.S. Trade Representative's (USTR) review, announced on Friday, came after Ankara imposed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods in response to American tariffs on steel and aluminium.

The currency has lost 27 percent of its value this year, battered primarily by concerns about President Tayyip Erdogan's drive for greater control over monetary policy. On Monday, it fell some 5.5 percent to a record low of 5.4250 against the dollar, its biggest single-day drop.

The currency later firmed slightly and was trading at 5.3650 at 2041 GMT.

The sell-off prompted the central bank to step in and loosen the upper limit of banks' reserve requirements. However, that did little to prop up the lira, which also hit a record low versus the euro.

"The best bet now is to expect further weakness in the lira - Turkey really doesn't need this," said Per Hammarlund, chief emerging markets strategist at SEB.

"They should be doing more to support the lira, but in my view this will continue for a while longer and the lira will take another beating here."

The U.S. Trade Representative's office said the review could affect $1.66 billion worth of Turkish imports into the United States that benefited from the Generalised System of Preferences programme last year. They included motor vehicles and parts, jewellery, precious metals and stone products.

It was unclear whether any large, listed Turkish firms would be hit. Auto parts suppliers tend to be smaller, unlisted companies. Istanbul's main index fell 1.5 percent.

Data from the U.S. International Trade Commission showed that the biggest beneficiary of the duty-free programme were auto and auto parts makers, with exports of nearly $250 million last year. That was followed by precious stones and metals, at nearly $210 million.

A USTR spokeswoman said the review was unrelated to the case of Andrew Brunson, an American evangelical pastor who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades and is charged with supporting the group Ankara blames for an attempted coup in 2016. He denies any involvement in the coup attempt.

Relations between the NATO allies have steadily worsened, strained by differences on Syria policy and over Brunson's trial, exacerbating the sell-off in the lira.

The central bank said its move on the reserve requirements would free up $2.2 billion in liquidity for banks. The central bank could be expected to take similar moves ahead of its next policy meeting on Sept. 13, one forex banker said.

Washington last week imposed sanctions on Erdogan's justice minister and interior ministers, saying they played leading roles in organisations responsible for Brunson's arrest.

Erdogan said Turkey would retaliate by freezing assets of the U.S. interior and justice ministers in Turkey "if they have any".

"For a meaningful recovery in the lira, we're going to have to watch the news flow," said another Istanbul-based banker, who declined to be identified.
8/7/2018 12:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[The Impoverished can pay electricity bill debts on installments: Minister]]>
During his interview with Al-Shorouk, Shaker denied rumors concerning cutting power supply for poor clients who cannot pay the bill, saying that they will be able to pay their debts in monthly installments. Easing the suffering of citizens, the ministry said companies will not impose interest on bills paid on installments.

He also urged companies to act appropriately with clients nationwide.

Various electricity distribution companies started on Monday collecting bills with new electricity consumption costs from homeowners, according to the seven varying brackets.

On June 12, Shaker announced new hikes in electricity prices in a press conference.

According to Shaker, the overall increase does not exceed 26 percent, while the average hikes in bills for households amounts to around 24 percent.

The minister also affirmed that the new hikes save the country from potential losses that might reach LE 109 billion.

He added that users of the first bracket of the housing use segment only bear 18 percent of the total cost of the bill, as they pay LE 12 while the actual bill costs LE 65.

The new prices, according to the minister, come as part of the government’s economic reform program.

Housing use:

First bracket: From 0 to 50 kilowatts = (22 piasters up from 13).

Second bracket: From 51 kilowatts to 100 = (30 piasters up from 22).

Third bracket: From 0 to 200 kilowatts = (36 piasters up from 27).

Fourth bracket: From 201 to 350 kilowatts = (70 piasters up from 55).

Fifth bracket: From 351 kilowatts to 650 = (90 piasters up from 75).

Sixth bracket: From 651 to 1000 kilowatts = (135 piasters up from 125).

Seventh bracket: From 0 to more than 1000 kilowatts = (145 piasters up from 135).

Commercial use:

From 0 to 100 kilowatts = (55 piasters up from 45).

From 0 to 250 kilowatts = (100 piasters up from 84).

From 601 to 1000 kilowatts = (115 up from of 135).

From 0 to over 1000 kilowatts = (150 piasters up from 140).

Additional reporting by Hanan Mohamed
8/6/2018 7:08:46 PM
<![CDATA[EXCLUSIVE: Ethiopia asks for 5-6 yrs to fill GERD’s reservoir]]>
Hassan added that Egypt expressed its desire that Ethiopia abide by the Nile water quantity flow in filling the reservoir to “avoid any significant damage on the downstream countries.” “The average of the Nile water flow is 84 billion cubic meters, as it is variable between 50 billion cubic meters to 140 cubic meters,” he said.

Hassan also revealed that the current debate between Egypt and Ethiopia on GERD is a technical one.

Ethiopia started building the GERD in May 2011, immediately following the Egyptian 25 January Revolution. Cairo expressed its concerns over affecting its 55.5 billion cubic meters of the Nile water share. Since then, negotiations among the three countries were suspended for three years. However, talks resumed in 2014 and a Declaration of the Renaissance Dam Principles Charter tackling the management of the dam with written guarantees has since been signed. According to the charter, the dam’s reservoir cannot be filled without the approval of both Egypt and Sudan.

“Ethiopia has not yet begun to fill the reservoir of the Renaissance dam […] Egypt will not allow its (water) share of the Nile water to be affected,” said Egyptian Water Resources and Irrigation Minister Moahmed Adel Atti during his inauguration of a number of water-related projects on Thursday in Daqahlia governorate (Delta) last week.

Cairo said that Ethiopia has started building the dam “without consultation” in accordance with international accords, while Addis Ababa replied that it is not binding to any international accords.

The deals in question date back to 1929 and 1959 and were during the time of British colonization, where a total of 80 billion cubic meters of Nile water was allocated to Egypt (55.5 billion), and for Sudan (18.5 billion). The agreements also granted Egypt the right of veto against any projects that could be established on Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Sudan that may cause harm to its share, leaving out Ethiopia.
8/6/2018 5:59:05 PM
<![CDATA[115 persons killed in 21 terrorist acts in July: Observatory]]>
The observatory issues weekly statements to brief the public and media means about the terrorism index or the status of terrorist activities, so that the concerned authorities can analyze the statements’ outcomes and deal with them.

The statement warned that the terrorist operations’ map has been widened, noting that “Afghanistan witnessed six terrorist incidents by the hands of Taliban movement and ISIS, while the country is set to witness parliamentary polls in upcoming October.”

According to the statement, the Middle East comes in the second rank, after Afghanistan, in regards to wars and terrorism-related acts.

The terrorism index reveals that ISIS is seriously seeking to rebuild itself in Iraq. “Last week, ISIS issued a video recording for a military parade in Salahuddin and Nineveh governorates under the title of 'North Baghdad State'.”

“Al-Qaeda committed terrorist acts in Somalia, Yemen, Mali and Algeria,” the statement read.

Moreover, Al-Qaeda seeks to create a chaotic atmosphere in Yemen, following consecutive fails and losses due to the Arab Alliance strikes, US airstrikes and Yemeni security forces endeavors in different governorates inside Yemen.

Former officials in Somalia were assassinated, the French forces and UN missions were targeted in Mali and the Security forces in Algeria were also targeted.

The Youth Movement in Mozambique committed several attacks in northern Mozambique.
8/6/2018 1:47:37 PM
<![CDATA[Environment min. proposes hike in garbage collection fees]]>
On the sidelines of her participation in the annual meetings of the African Caucus for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Fouad said that the garbage collection bill paid for each house will range from LE 4 to LE 24 ($0.22 to $1.34), according to media reports.

A citizen told Egypt Today that she had paid LE 3 for garbage collection last month, which means that setting LE 4 as a minimum cost will represent an actual increase in the monthly bill.

During the meeting, Fouad revealed that the collection and transfer of garbage costs the state $3 for each person, while it costs some other states up to $7.

In February, former Environment Minister Khaled Fahmi announced that the minimum value for garbage collection bills will be LE2 ($0.11). The minimum value at the time was reportedly only LE1 (0.056).

The minister said that the value of the bill will be determined according to the nature and size of the housing unit, in addition to the area where it is located.

Fahmi said that solid waste management in Egypt costs the state LE 7 billion ($392,058) annually. He added that the state aims to direct 20 percent of the collected garbage to energy, and 60 percent to biological treatment of organic fertilizers.

Few days before the minister’s statements, a number of parliamentarians objected to Fahmi’s decision to impose new fees for garbage collection, noting that it will badly affect poor citizens. They demanded that the new fees be imposed on the rich only.

In late April, Fahmi said that 85 percent of citizens will not pay more than LE 10 as a maximum value for the garbage collection bill.

He added that a new value increase would be mainly endured by people living in fancy housing units, including villas and compounds with higher consumption of electricity.

Fahmi said that the collection of 20 million tons of garbage underscores the importance of recycling, adding that the collection process needs to be improved for this reason.

A worker picks through rubbish in garbage dump at a small recycling factory near Zaraeeb in the shanty area known also as Zabaleen or “Garbage City” on the Mokattam Hills in eastern Cairo, Egypt – Reuters

In October, the Cabinet allocated LE 300 million ($17 million) for the new waste collection system for purchasing necessary gear and paying the wages of the additional labor, Cairo Governor Atef Abdel Hamid said.

The new model aims to collect garbage door to door, and cancel garbage bins from streets to prevent garbage collectors from sorting waste in the streets, which was the old model of dealing with waste.

Waste-to-energy plants

Shehata al-Moqadis, head of the Garbage Collectors union, inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with an Italian company to build a waste recycling plant.

“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.”
Egypt has a festering waste management problem, with more than 80 million tons of garbage being disposed every year, according Fahmi.

Turning landfills to recycling plants

Landfills that have increased in size over years in Egypt are subject to plans that would see them turned into recycling centers.

In April, Fahmi said that Menoufia’s Abu Kharita, the biggest landfill in Egypt, will be replaced by the largest recycling plant in three months.

“The University of Alexandria will implement a plan for the disposal of the landfill, and we will provide experts to work on waste sorting,” Fahmy said.

“There is no society free from garbage, but we aim to solve the problem of waste within four years. Once a new law [on garbage disposal] is passed by the House of Representatives, a company will be selected to run the processes of disposal,” he added.

“Sell your garbage,” a project launched by Cairo Governorate in early 2017, aims to establish kiosks in different neighborhoods where people are encouraged to sell their used cans, plastic bottles, paper and cardboard instead of throwing them away. It began with two kiosks in the Heliopolis district in Cairo, and other kiosks are being prepared in other locations in the governorate.

Additional reporting by Dunya Hassanin
8/6/2018 4:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Secrets behind Qatar’s fishy host of World Cup exposed]]>
The Sunday Times reported that Blatter alleged that Qatar’s win was a result of a “combination of a rule-breaking collusion deal and political pressure” exerted on Michel Platini, the French member of FIFA executive committee. The claims were made in Blatter’s recently published book (My Truth), the 82-year-old’s defense of his 17-year reign as FIFA president, which ended with a six-year ban from football.

FIFA is coming under pressure to reopen its investigation of how Qatar was awarded the right to host the 2022 World Cup, after revelations that its bid team ran a “black operations” campaign against its rivals.

A senior source close to FIFA’s ethics committee has confirmed that none of the information about the campaign revealed by The Sunday Times last week had been made available to the inquiry into Qatar that ended four years ago.

The source said FIFA should now suspend key members of the Qatar bid while it looked into the allegations but claimed that the sports body’s ethics arm had become less independent under the current president, Gianni Infantino.

Last Month, The Sunday Times reported that it had been passed documents by a whistleblower who worked with the Qatar bid.

It reported claims that the bid team used a PR agency and former CIA operatives to disseminate fake propaganda about its main competitors, the USA and Australia, in a flagrant breach of the rules set down for bidding countries by football’s world governing body.

Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani

Qatar beat rival bids from the US, Australia, South Korea and Japan eight years ago to win the right to host the competition, and has faced questions over its shock win since.

The alleged smears against rival bidders reportedly involved recruiting prominent figures to criticize the bids in their own countries, thus giving the impression they lacked support at home.

About a year ago, Qatar was hit by its biggest diplomatic crisis after multiple Arab nations, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar, 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 Qatari peninsula. 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.

The four Arab countries severed relations with Doha over what they say was its close links to Iran, which has been accused of interfering in Arab countries’ affairs and being behind terrorist plots. Doha restored full diplomatic relations with Tehran amid the crisis.

One major disagreement between Qatar and its neighbors has been the former’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been outlawed as a terrorist group by the boycotting countries.

Since the eruption of the crisis, Qatar showed no intention of solving the strife. However, Qatar placed several people and entities on its terrorism list in March, including several Qatari nationals already blacklisted by the Arab quartet that accused Doha of supporting militants. Qatar’s issuance of a terror list of 19 individuals and eight entities has done little to impress decision-makers in the four Arab countries.
8/6/2018 3:38:18 AM
<![CDATA[Iran eases currency rules, hoping to buoy rial ahead of sanctions]]>
President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of an agreement to lift sanctions in return for Iran limiting its nuclear programme caused a run on the rial as companies and savers bought hard currency to protect themselves from the economic sanctions that could be imposed from Monday.

The plunge in the currency and soaring inflation have sparked sporadic demonstrations against profiteering and corruption, with many protesters chanting anti-government slogans.

The central bank has blamed "enemies" for the fall of the currency, and the judiciary said 29 people had been arrested on charges that carry the death penalty. On Sunday the judiciary said it had arrested a further seven people, including a former deputy central bank governor and five foreign exchange dealers.

A state body led by President Hassan Rouhani and including the heads of the judiciary and parliament on Sunday partially lifted a ban on the sale of foreign currency at floating rates, allowing exchange bureaux to sell at unofficial market rates for purposes such as overseas travel.

That reverses the decision in April to ban trading currency outside the rate of about 42,000 rials to the dollar

Ahead of the announcement of the new measures, the rial gained slightly on the unofficial market, trading at 98,500 to the dollar, compared with 103,000 on Saturday, according to foreign exchange website Boncast.com.

Central bank governor Abdolnaser Hemmati said the plan reflected Iran's self-confidence in the face of the looming U.S. sanctions.

"This shows our power. The same day you (Americans) impose sanctions we open our economy. We have no problems, so why should our people worry?," Hemmati said in a live televised interview.

Hemmati said the central bank would allow a "managed float" of the rial's exchange rate and try to avoid using up its reserves to support the currency.

"The central bank will try not to interfere in setting the price of hard currencies, which will be determined by supply and demand, however, the bank's supervision will prevent unbridled (market swings) and the creation of a black market," Hemmati said.

To encourage Iranians to return their hard cash to the economy, the plan allows the central bank to set up dollar savings accounts for ordinary people, state television said.

Non-oil exporters will be allowed to sell hard currency to importers, and there will be no limit on bringing currency or gold into the country.

Hard currency will be made available at a subsidised rate for purchases of basic goods and medicine, state television quoted a government statement about the plan as saying.

In July, Iran opened a secondary foreign-exchange market for importers of non-essential goods that are not eligible to receive the preferential rate from the central bank.

Starting this week, Washington will re-impose sanctions on Iran's purchases of U.S. dollars, its trade in gold and precious metals, and its dealings with metals, coal and industrial-related software.

The United States has told third countries they must halt imports of Iranian oil from early November or face U.S. financial measures.
8/6/2018 3:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo plays down North Korea sparring]]>
Both Pompeo and North Korean Foreign Minster Ri Yong Ho were in Singapore, less than two months after an unprecedented summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that Trump has hailed as a success despite a lack of concrete action by Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

Pompeo and Ri's interaction nevertheless appeared limited to a brief handshake at the ASEAN Regional Forum. When Pompeo left the meeting on Saturday, Ri delivered an address in which he said Pyongyang was alarmed by U.S. intentions. He also complained about U.S. calls to maintain sanctions on North Korea and reluctance to declare a formal end to the Korean War.

Pompeo was asked in a briefing to reporters traveling back with him to Washington whether he was concerned by Ri's remarks. He noted the tone of the North Korean statement was far different that it was last year.

"The minister made very clear of their continued commitment to denuclearize," Pompeo said. "I probably don't have his words exactly right, but it's pretty close. Compare the anger, frankly, over years and years, and hatred, as spewed by the North Koreans; his comments were different."

Pompeo stressed the U.S. "mission statement" remained clear.

"The U.N. Security Council has said they must end their nuclear program and their ballistic missile program. He has to deliver on the commitments he's made," he said, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

At the June 12 summit, Kim committed in broad terms to work toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula but North Korea has offered no details on how it might go about this. U.S. officials, including Pompeo, have said North Korea has continued to work on its weapons programs.

Ri said North Korea was committed to implementing a joint statement by Kim and Trump at their summit "in a responsible and good-faith manner." But he reiterated a call for a phased approach to talks, which differs from the U.S. insistence that North Korea give up its weapons before relief from sanctions.

Asked whether North Korea could be offered concessions other than sanctions relief, Pompeo replied: "I am not going to comment on the sanctions and what others may have proffered."

Asked why he had apparently not held a formal meeting with Ri in Singapore, Pompeo, who has been leading U.S. negotiating efforts with Pyongyang, replied: "Your question has a predicate and I'm just going to say, there are lots of conversations taking place."

According to the State Department, in their brief exchange on Saturday Pompeo told Ri: "We should talk again soon," to which Ri responded: "I agree, there are many productive conversations to be had."

Ri's later comments were not the first since the summit in which that North Korea has appeared to offer a more negative impression of the progress of talks with the United States shortly after Pompeo has departed from a meeting.

Following a trip to Pyongyang in July, Pompeo spoke of progress, but as soon as he had left the country North Korea accused the United States of "gangster-like" diplomacy, casting doubts about the future of the discussions. ]]>
8/6/2018 1:55:37 AM
<![CDATA[Italian FM: We must benefit from Egypt’s counterterrorism experience]]>
Both ministers discussed how to develop bilateral relations in all fields and they also opened up on regional issues of common concern.

Shoukry expressed his hope in that the Italian Foreign Minister’s visit is the first since 2015. He said that Cairo and Rome are working to strengthen relations and the challenges facing both countries in the crisis of terrorism. He added that Egypt and Italy will work together to enhance cooperation between the two countries, as their bilateral relations, particularly in terms of economic development, were discussed.

“There are historic ties between Cairo and Rome and we must remember the importance of cooperation in various fields,” said Milanesi.

An important matter addressed was that of Libya; how to maintain its stability and how to eliminate terrorism.

Milanesi stressed on the importance of holding Libyan elections so that their citizens can have a voice and a word that counts.

“Egypt supports the settlement efforts in Libya with the aim of eliminating terrorism and achieving stability,” said Shoukry.

Aside from terrorism, a troubling and current issue faced by both Italy and Egypt remains to be illegal immigration.

Milanesi praised Egypt’s efforts in dealing with the issue of illegal immigration. He expressed that although the immigrants are seeking a better future, it is important that matters in their home countries are resolved for stability.

Shoukry explained that Egypt has been able to stop the illegal migration flows from the Egyptian coast since September 2016.

“We appreciate Egypt's efforts in the face of illegal immigration but the steady flow of migrants must end,” said Milanesi. He added on to stress on the importance of curbing immigration levels, a matter that worries most European countries today.

Egypt deals with the issue of refugees in the region from a humanitarian perspective and rejects solutions based on the placement of refugees in camps or assembly centers that could isolate them from society.

The pressing issue of terrorism was also a matter of discussion as both states hope to protect their citizens from what many countries suffer from.

“Egypt's experience is great in the fight against terrorism and we must benefit from it,” said Milanesi.

Historically speaking, Cairo and Rome have strong ties and cooperation. This cooperation is critical for future success and for the strengthening of both states.

Being that Italy is the largest importer to Egypt with $1.8 billion and the fifth largest foreign investor in Egypt worth €7 billion, the two foreign ministers reviewed the most important features of the economic relations between the two countries.

“Cooperation between Egypt and Italy with respect to natural gas has contributed to strengthening relations and achieving even more discoveries,” said the Egyptian Foreign Minister.

As 2019 in Egypt has been declared the ‘Year of Education’ by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the Egyptian foreign minister also shared that there is great interest by the Egyptian government in establishing an Italian university in Egypt by launching a partnership between a public university, universities and academic institutions.

Alongside hopes in educational cooperation, Milanesi seeks to invest more funding in support of small and medium industries sector in Egypt, as well as supporting the agricultural sector and increasing dependence on Egyptian agricultural exports.

8/5/2018 5:29:58 PM
<![CDATA[Houthis plant 1 million mines in Yemen]]>
The gulf country launched in June the Saudi Project for Landmine Clearance (MASAM) to remove mines in Yemen, protect civilians and ensure the safe delivery of humanitarian supply.

The mines disposed of so far were located in Taiz, Red Sea Coast, Beihan, Osailan, Saada, Shabwa and Marib. The explosive charges killed 1,000 civilians until now, MASAM Director-General Osama al-Qasibi said.

"Most of these mines are internationally banned anti-vehicle and anti-personnel mines that originate from different sources, in addition to 288 locally devised or Iranian-made mines," the Saudi official stated.

Saudi Arabia announced that oil shipping through Bab-el-Mendeb Strait resumed on Saturday after it was halted on July 25, following failed attempts by Iran-backed Houthi militias to target two Saudi oil tankers, Saudi Minister of Energy, Industry, and Mineral Resources Khaled al-Faleh announced.

Faleh pointed out earlier on Saturday that the coalition is deploying tremendous efforts on behalf of the international community to secure Bab-el-Mendeb and Southern Red Sea, guaranteeing trade and oil flow, according to Sky News Arabia.

The minister added that securing such a location is an international and regional responsibility, and that there is a mutual international interest in contributing to such efforts.

The Saudi-led coalition's spokesperson Turki al-Maliki said in a press conference on Friday that the ship that got stuck on reef at Hodeidah port is an indicator that Houthi militias have failed in running the port. He pointed out that 22 million Yemenis have been in distress since Houthis’ rebellion against Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

The alliance called “Coalition Supporting Legitimacy in Yemen” has been operating in the country for three years against Houthis, who have been controlling Hodeidah port, the main conduit for supplies to Yemen.

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened Iran of deploying its military if it blocks Bab al-Mandeb strait that links the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.
8/5/2018 2:04:28 PM
<![CDATA[President Sisi, Italian foreign minister talk bilateral ties]]>
Milanesi's visit comes three years after the return of the Italian ambassador to Egypt.

Alongside meeting with the president, Milanesi will also meet with the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, for political discussions.

The discussions with Shoukry, which will be held at the Tahrir Palace, will be focused on ways of boosting bilateral relations between Egypt and Italy, said Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid in a statement on Saturday.

Milanesi will also visit on Sunday the Grand Egyptian Museum, after Egyptian artifacts seized in Italy were returned to their home; during the tour, he will be accompanied by the minister of culture and the minister of antiquities.

Since his arrival on Saturday, Milanesi opened a new operation room in the Italian Hospital in Abbasiya and visited the Botroseya Church that suffered a devastating terrorist attack in 2016.

A lot has been going on between Egypt and Italy lately.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry is still following up on the death of the 20 year old Egyptian. It was reported that he attempted to commit suicide in prison, although he was expected to be released next September.

More recently, Egypt has been coordinating with Italian authorities to extradite the blacklisted Mohamed Mahsoob who was held hostage in Italy, but later released due to his dual citizenship.

Egypt and Italy have been aiming to improve relations post the Regeni incident when an Italian student was murdered in 2016. Back then, Sisi had promised Italy’s interior minister and deputy prime minister that he would bring justice to those involved in the student’s death.
8/5/2018 1:57:13 PM
<![CDATA[Orthodox Church denies depriving St. Macarius monks of monasticism]]>

"The Monastic Affairs Committee at the Holy Synod has not yet issued any decisions regarding the removal of monks from the St. Macarius Monastery," spokesperson of the Orthodox Church Priest Boules Halim stated Saturday.

A photo of a document with the logo of the Monastic Affairs Committee at the Holy Synod, stating that monks Yacoub al-Makary, and Ash'eyaa al-Makary have been deprived of their monasticism, has been circulating on Facebook recently. The document sparked rumors that the two monks were being punished for the death of the bishop.

St. Macarius Monastery announced last year that monk Yacoub al-Makary was expelled, warning against engaging in any financial deals with him as he had collected donations to build a convent in Wadi al-Natrun under the name The Virgin and Bishop Caras.

Makary had been expelled last February by Bishop Epiphanius due to problems between them before he could gather signatures of his colleagues to stay, and declared obedience to the bishop.

In case of criminal prosecution, monks are deprived of their priesthood, in accordance with the Church law.

Head of St. Macarius Monastery, Bishop Epiphanius, was found dead and covered in blood on July 29. The preliminary security investigation suggested that the bishop was hit by a sharp object. The body of the bishop was transferred to the morgue of the Wadi El-Natrun Central Hospital.

Pope Tawadros II had issued a set of rules regulating monasticism on Thursday, including halting all applications for monasticism in Orthodox convents in Egypt for a year starting August 2018. Monasticism and priesthood will be withdrawn from any individuals who had established convents without acquiring consent from the patriarchy, deactivating all bishops’ social media accounts, among other strict regulations.


Pope Tawadros II issues new monasticism laws

CAIRO - 4 August 2018: Egyptian bishops deactivated their social media accounts after Pope Tawadros II had issued a set of rules regulating monasticism on Thursday. Although the decision only addresses monks, the bishops' initiative aims at setting an example of obedience to younger generations at convents. The Pope himself deactivated his accounts.

8/5/2018 1:12:29 PM
<![CDATA[Abdullah Azzam, the man behind bin Laden’s jihadism ]]>
She asserted that Azzam changed her son, a young man in his 20s, into a militant fighting in the "holy war" against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the mid-1980s.

“He was a very good child until he met some people who pretty much brainwashed him in his early 20s. You can call it a cult. I would always tell him to stay away from them, and he would never admit to me what he was doing, because he loved me so much,” She said to the Guardian.

Azzam was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood; he was a mentor and teacher of bin Laden and later became a founding member of al-Qaeda. Egypt Today presents the most important information about the Brotherhood leader.

Azzam is a Palestinian citizen who was born in 1941. He joined the Faculty of Sharia, Islamic law, at the University of Damascus and obtained a certificate of law. Then, he joined Al-Azhar University and received a master's degree in the fundamentals of jurisprudence.

Starting his career, he moved to Saudi Arabia to work at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. Upon his request, he was transferred to work for a year at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan, aiming to be close to jihadists in Afghanistan.

Since then, he took the post of the leader of jihadists in Afghanistan, and together with bin Laden, he started founding al-Qaeda terrorist organization.

Azzam was highly influenced by the thought of Sayed Qutb, a leading MB figure, and he was one of the most important al-Qaeda figures who worked to attract young people to participate in the fighting in Afghanistan.

“Muslims must be terrorists,” Azzam’s most repeated words that lead him at last to be assassinated, along with his sons Muhammad and Ibrahim, in Pakistan on November 24, 1989.
8/5/2018 1:06:49 PM
<![CDATA[Venezuela's Maduro says drone blast was bid to kill him, blames Colombia]]>
Maduro said "everything points" to a right-wing plot that initial investigation suggested was linked to Colombia and the U.S. state of Florida, where many Venezuelan exiles live. Several perpetrators were caught, he said, without elaborating.

Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said drones loaded with explosives detonated close to the military event in downtown Caracas. A Venezuelan who was visiting family nearby told Reuters she heard two explosions.

Maduro, a leftist who replaced President Hugo Chavez after his death in 2013, was unharmed but Rodriguez said seven National Guard soldiers were injured.

"This was an assassination attempt, they tried to assassinate me," Maduro said in a later televised address.

A little-known group called the "National Movement of Soldiers in T-shirts" claimed responsibility for the attack. In a series of posts on social media, the group said it had planned to fly two drones but that snipers shot them down.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro reacts during an event which was interrupted, in this still frame taken from video August 4, 2018, Caracas, Venezuela. VENEZUELAN GOVERNMENT TV/Handout via REUTERS

"We demonstrated that they are vulnerable. We didn't have success today, but it's just a question of time," said the group, which says it was founded in 2014 to bring together all of Venezuela's "groups of resistance."

The group did not respond to several requests for information from Reuters.

Maduro won a new six-year term in May but his main rivals disavowed the election and alleged massive irregularities.

Venezuela is suffering under the fifth year of a severe economic crisis that has sparked malnutrition, hyperinflation and mass emigration.

Maduro named Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos as being behind the attack, but gave no evidence to back that up.

"The name of Juan Manuel Santos is behind this attack ... the initial investigations point to Bogota," Maduro said.

A Colombian government source said Maduro's allegation was "absurd" and that Santos was celebrating his granddaughter's baptism on Saturday. "He is not thinking of anything else, least of all bringing down foreign governments," the source said.

During the incident, Maduro was speaking about Venezuela's economy in an address when audio of the live television coverage was suddenly cut off.

Maduro and others on the podium looked up startled and the cameras panned to soldiers who had been lined up in formation in the street. Scores of them ran in panic away from one area.

Photographs on social media appeared to show bodyguards shielding Maduro with black bulletproof panels. A photograph also showed an injured military official clutching his bloody head and being held up by colleagues.

OPEC member Venezuela's once-thriving socialist economy has collapsed since the 2014 fall of oil prices.

The self-described "son" of Chavez, former bus driver Maduro says he is battling an "imperialist" plot to destroy socialism and take over Venezuela's oil. Opponents accuse him of authoritarianism, saying he has destroyed a once-wealthy economy and ruthlessly crushed dissent.

Maduro said initial investigations indicated that "several of those intellectually responsible and the financiers of this attack live in the United States, in the state of Florida." He called on U.S. President Donald Trump to "fight these terrorist groups."

A senior State Department official said: "We've heard the reports coming out of Venezuela. We are carefully following the situation."

Last year, a rogue Venezuelan police officer hijacked a helicopter and fired at government buildings in what he said was an action against a dictator. The officer was hunted down and killed by Venezuelan forces.
8/5/2018 11:11:39 AM
<![CDATA[North Korea criticises 'alarming' US impatience on denuclearisation]]>
The contrasting comments at a security forum in Singapore came after a new UN report showed Pyongyang was continuing with its nuclear and missile programmes and evading sanctions through ship-to-ship oil transfers.

At historic talks with President Donald Trump in June, North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un signed up to a vague commitment to "denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula" -- a far cry from long-standing US demands for complete, verifiable and irreversible disarmament.

While US officials have publicly been optimistic about the agreement, Pyongyang appears to have made little substantial progress and concerns have been growing that some UN member states have been easing sanctions.

At the ASEAN Regional Forum, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho insisted North Korea stood "firm in its determination and commitment" to implement the June agreement signed in Singapore.

But he criticised the US for undermining confidence in the process: "What is alarming, however, is the insistent moves manifested within the US to go back to the old, far from its leader's intention."

Since the June agreement, Pyongyang had taken "goodwill measures", including a halt on nuclear and missile tests and "dismantling a nuclear test ground", he said, according to a statement.

- Sanctions worries -

"However, the United States, instead of responding to these measures, is raising its voice louder for maintaining the sanctions against the DPRK," he said, using the initials of the North's official name.

"As long as the US does not show in practice its strong will to remove our concerns, there will be no case whereby we will move forward first unilaterally," Ri added.

Ri also accused the US of "extremely inappropriate" behaviour by putting pressure on other countries not to send high-level delegations to celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of North Korea in September.

It was not the first time the North has appeared unhappy at what it sees at US impatience to push them quickly along the path of denuclearisation.

When Pompeo met with North Korean officials in Pyongyang last month to flesh out the regime's commitment, they condemned his "gangster-like" insistence that the North move towards unilateral disarmament.

Earlier at the same forum, Pompeo said he was emphasising to countries "the importance of maintaining diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea" but also said that he was "optimistic" about the prospects for progress when it came to North Korean denuclearisation.

Saturday's forum, hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), brings together top diplomats from 26 countries and the European Union for talks on political and security issues in the Asia-Pacific.

As well as the US and North Korea, it includes foreign ministers from China, Russia, South Korea and Japan, all countries traditionally involved in efforts to curtail the North's nuclear ambition.

At the meeting, the US delegation also delivered a letter from Trump intended for Kim, by passing it to Ri, Pompeo said in a tweet.

It was Trump's reply to a letter he received from Kim earlier this week, he said.

- All smiles -

Pompeo also briefly met the North's foreign minister Saturday. The US top diplomat went over to greet him at a joint photo of ministers ahead of the day's main forum, with the pair shaking hands, smiling and exchanging some words.

While the encounter was brief, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert described it as a "step in the right direction" given where US-North Korea relations were a year ago, as tensions soared due to the North's weapons tests.

Pompeo had already left the forum to fly to the next stop on his trip, Indonesia, when Ri delivered his fiery statement, she said.

On sanctions, Pompeo singled out Russia after reports suggested Moscow breached the measures by granting work permits to North Korean workers.

During meetings with other foreign ministers in Singapore, Pompeo said he had called specifically for sanctions to be enforced through halting ship-to-ship oil transfers.

Cutting off oil and fuel to the North would require enforcement primarily by China, which supplies most of North Korea's energy needs, but also by Russia, which delivers some oil to Pyongyang.]]>
8/5/2018 4:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Erdogan sanctions US officials in tit-for-tat row over pastor]]>
Turkey's holding of pastor Andrew Brunson on terror-related charges for almost two years has sparked one of the most intense crises between Washington and Ankara since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

But in his first comments on the dispute since Washington imposed the sanctions on Wednesday, Erdogan also appeared keen to ward off any further escalation by saying that neither side had an interest in a "lose-lose" scenario.

"Today I will give our friends instructions to freeze the assets in Turkey of the American justice and interior ministers, if they have any (such assets)," Erdogan said in a televised speech.

He did not specify to which members of the US administration he was referring.

The US attorney general is Jeff Sessions and while the United States does not have an interior ministry similar to Turkey, the Secretary of the Interior is Ryan Zinke and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security is Kirstjen Nielsen.

- 'Intense diplomacy' -

Erdogan's announcement was a response to Washington's decision to impose sanctions on Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul over Brunson's detention.

The sanctions freeze any property or assets on US soil held by the two ministers, and bar US citizens from doing business with them.

Turkish ministers have denied having any assets in the US and it is highly unlikely the American officials would have assets in Turkey. But analysts say the sanctions are still of critical importance.

"Although it is unlikely the sanctions will have much practical effect in either case, it is significant and unprecedented that two NATO allies have sanctioned members of each other's government," Amanda Sloat, a former State Department official and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told AFP.

The Turkish lira, which has plunged in value this year, has already reached the five to the dollar mark for the first time in history over the sanctions.

"There is a risk of more sanctions to come... which could hit more directly at the heart of Turkish government interests and which have the potential to cause a run on the lira," Anthony Skinner, director of Middle East and North Africa at risk management consultants Verisk Maplecroft, told AFP.

He said the "Achilles' heel" of Turkey's fragile economy was its exposure to foreign portfolio investments and credit.

And Erdogan appeared to indicate that he did not want the crisis to escalate further to full-scale economic sanctions.

"We don't want to be a party to lose-lose games. Moving political and judicial disputes into an economic dimension will be harmful for both sides," Erdogan said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who discussed the issue with Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday, said he was "hopeful" of progress in the "days and weeks to come".

Erdogan said diplomatic channels were working "very intensely" and added he thought "a significant part of the issues of discord can soon be left behind".

- 'High economic stakes' -

Brunson was moved to house arrest last week following nearly two years in jail on terror-related charges but the change only increased tensions.

President Donald Trump and his Vice President Mike Pence, who shares Brunson's evangelical Christian faith, have made his release and return back to his family in the United States a priority.

The US Treasury implemented the sanctions against the Turkish ministers under the 2016 Global Magnitsky Act named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow jail, and which allows the US to sanction foreign officials implicated in rights abuses.

The dispute is just one of a long list of problems in relations between Ankara and Washington, including Turkey's cosy ties with Russia and the failure of the US to extradite the alleged mastermind of the 2016 failed coup Fethullah Gulen.

Two Turkish employees of US consulates in Turkey are also currently in jail on terror charges and another is under house arrest.

"Given the high economic stakes for Turkey, some kind of agreement is more likely than not," said Skinner. "Erdogan has an unrivalled track-record of playing with fire, but he too knows when he has tracked too far across the coals."

Sloat argued "quiet diplomatic negotiations" were the best solution since "Trump will not back down until Brunson is home, while Erdogan does not want to look like he capitulated to the Americans".]]>
8/5/2018 3:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Iran protesters attack religious school as tensions mount]]>
Iranian authorities have barely mentioned days of protests in the major cities of Isfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad and Tehran, driven by concerns over water, the economy and wider anger at the political system.

During past unrest, conservative outlets have focused on attacks against sensitive symbols such as religious buildings as a way of tarnishing protesters.

"At 9:00 pm (1630 GMT on Friday) they attacked the school and tried to break the doors down and burn things," Fars quoted the head of the school in the town of Ishtehad, Hojatoleslam Hindiani, as saying, giving only his clerical rank and no first name.

"They were about 500 people and they chanted against the system but they were dispersed by the riot police and some have been arrested," Hindiani said.

Fars acknowledged protests have taken place in "five or six cities" since Tuesday over water shortages, rising prices and joblessness, with "about 1,000 or 2,000 people" taking part.

But it said these peaceful protests were taken over by people "who come into the crowd with political slogans such as 'Death to the dictator'".

It said this was part of a pre-planned plot by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia to exploit economic tensions inside Iran.

Because foreign media are barred from observing "unauthorised" protests, it has been impossible to verify any of these claims or the videos of protests spreading on social media.

- Clerical opposition -

With tensions high ahead of the return of US sanctions on Tuesday, the government of President Hassan Rouhani also faces opposition from conservatives and religious leaders, who have long disliked his outreach to the West and accuse him of governing only for the rich.

The conservative Qom News published a video of a protest in the holy city of Mashhad after Friday prayers, in which a cleric tells the crowd: "Most of your representatives don't care about people's problems.

"Most have two passports and their families are abroad. The judiciary should find these people and arrest them," the cleric says, to chants of "Allahu akbar" ("God is greater") from the crowd.

Former hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has fallen out with the conservative establishment since leaving office in 2013, has tried to ride this wave of anger.

In a Wednesday Twitter post, he called on US President Donald Trump to release a list of "relatives of Iranian government officials that have green cards and bank accounts in the United States", if such a record exists.

- Sanctions return -

So far, social media reports suggest the current protests are far from the scale of the unrest seen in December and January, when at least 25 people were killed in demonstrations that spread to dozens of towns and cities.

There were allegations at the time that they had been sparked by conservative opponents of Rouhani in Mashhad before quickly spiralling out of hand.

But all Iranians are concerned about the struggling economy, especially since the United States walked out of the nuclear deal in May and announced it would reimpose full sanctions in two stages.

The first phase hits on Tuesday with blocks on financial transactions and imports of raw materials, as well as sanctions on Iran's automotive sector and commercial aircraft purchases.

Iran Air announced it would take delivery of five ATR aircraft from the French-Italian firm on Sunday, sneaking under the wire before the sanctions return.

Iran says the sanctions are endangering lives by blocking the sale of new planes and spare parts for its ageing fleets.

Iran's Aseman Airlines was ordered to ground its fleet of ATR planes in February after one of them crashed in the Zagros mountains, killing all 66 people onboard.

Remaining sanctions -- including on Iran's oil and gas sector and central bank -- will resume on November 5.

Although smaller foreign firms have vowed to work around the US measures, multinationals such as France's Total and Peugeot, and Germany's Siemens have already said they will have to pull out.

It is not yet clear how all this will affect ordinary Iranians, but a European diplomat in Tehran who monitors the economy said prices of basic foods were already creeping up.

She said the collapse in the rial, which has lost more than half its value since April, was driven by people rushing to secure their savings in dollars because they lack faith in the government.

"There is a massive loss of confidence in the financial system and the government's ability to control things and withstand sanctions," she told AFP.]]>
8/5/2018 2:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Qatari forces break into activist's house, kidnap her daughter]]>CAIRO – 5 August 2018: Qatari poet and activist Latifa al-Mosaifri said Qatari forces broke into her house in the middle of the night and kidnapped her and her daughter for interrogation.

The audio clip was broadcast by anchor Ahmed Moussa on his night-time TV program on Sada El-Balad channel on Saturday.

“Qatari security forces broke into my house in the middle of the night, three people approached me while I was talking on my phone and a woman snatched the phone with an exaggrated force and the other two kiddnapped me and my daughter and threw me in a white SUV,… then I heard a guy with an Indian accent talking about meeting with a minister, so I thought it is a chance to talk to him about the suffering of a lot of Qatari citizens, but when I got there, I found myself surrounded by officers who kept asking me ridicuouls questions, slamming on the table, shouting and asking me about my relations with some opposition figures and I told them that they’d just to prove whatever I am accused of, and since you said you’ve been watching me for two years, so you would know my every move.”

Moussa praised the Qatari activist for her courage and slammed the Qatari Emir Tamim Bin Hamad for suppressing his opponents who only seek justice for the poor and oppressed.

About a year ago, Qatar was hit by its biggest diplomatic crisis after multiple Arab nations, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of destabilizing the region with its support to terrorism and terrorist organizations and having close ties with regional foe Iran.

8/5/2018 1:09:30 AM
<![CDATA[Oil shipping through Bab-el-Mendeb resumes: Saudi Arabia]]>
Faleh stated earlier on Saturday that the coalition is deploying tremendous efforts on behalf of the international community to secure Bab-el-Mendeb and Southern Red Sea guaranteeing trade and oil flow, according to Sky News Arabia.

The minister added that securing such a location is an international and regional responsibility, and that there is a mutual international interest in contributing to such efforts.

The Saudi-led coalition's spokesperson Turki al-Maliki said in a press conference on Friday that the ship that got stuck on reef at Hodeidah port is an indicator that Houthi Militias have failed in running the port. He pointed out that 22 million Yemenis have been in distress since Houthis’ rebellion against Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

The alliance called “Coalition Supporting Legitimacy in Yemen” has been operating in the country for three years against Houthis who have been controlling Hodeidah port, the main conduit for supplies to Yemen.

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened Iran of deploying its military, if it blocks Bab al-Mandeb strait that links the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

8/4/2018 2:30:47 PM
<![CDATA[Agriculture Ministry promotes cultivating short stable cotton]]>
Abou Steit asserted that cotton crops have a strategic importance and that Egyptian cotton should be restored to its global position. He pointed out that the ministry worked to support the cultivation of short staple cotton instead of importing this kind of cotton by local companies.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation issued a report showing that the total area of cotton cultivation this season increased by 118,000 feddans (122,484 acres) on a year-on-year basis, recording about 334,621 feddans.

Head of Agriculture Services and Follow up Sector Abbas el-Shenawy told Egypt Today that the government arranged intensive campaigns aiming to control pests in cotton crops, especially after increasing the areas of cultivation to solve framers' problems in all governorates of the republic.

Kafr el-Sheikh tops Egyptian governorates cultivating cotton

The report revealed that Kafr el-Sheikh governorate came at the top of the governorates in terms of cultivating cotton with a land of 97,000 feddans, followed by Beheira by 56,657 feddans, Dakhalia by 51,352 and Sharqiah by 48,349 feddans.

Al-Fayoum cultivated 16,162 feddans of cotton, and Gharbia cultivated 14,237 feddans, according to the report.

Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation Abdel Moneim el-Banna said that cultivation of Egyptian cotton started to recover, referring that the minimum cultivated area reached 130,000 feddans in 2016’s season.

In 2016, the Ministry of Agriculture announced it has taken measures to support the domestic cotton sector and increase long-term productivity of the long-staple and medium-length cotton.

The exports of the Egyptian cotton amounted to $462 million in 2016, a report by ITC Trade showed.

Three new varieties of high-yield cotton crop have been registered to suit the local yarn industry and increase its yield by 10 quintals per feddan, Banna added.

According to Banna, a classification map for Egyptian cotton was also prepared and distributed in the governorates, showing the cultivated varieties in each governorate, their productivity, and a map of the cultivars and the approved varieties for each fork.

Cotton exports up 181.6 percent during Q2 of 2017-2018

Former Trade and Industry Minister Tarek Kabil said in May that the government in Egypt is keen on upgrading the system of cotton cultivation and textile industry to better meet demands of the local market and enhance exports.

The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) said that Egyptian cotton exports (from December 2017 to February 2018) increased by 181.6 percent to reach 379,700 tons compared to 134,800 tons during the same quarter of the previous year.

In its quarterly newsletter for the second quarter of the 2017-2018 agricultural year (lasting from December 2017 to February 2018), the agency said that total consumption rates of domestic cotton reached 47,200 metric kantars (one kantar is equal to 45.02 kilograms), compared to 127,600 metric kantars during the same period of the previous year, registering a decrease of 63 percent.

Once the biggest producer of cotton globally, Egypt’s more than 20 million acres of cotton crops gradually started to disappear over the years. Only 220,000 acres of long-staple cotton were grown in 2017, according to official figures.

The number, however, is still an increase from 2011 figures; for instance, 2016/17 saw only 130,000 acres of cotton, the lowest in 100 years. The Ministry of Agriculture expects to double its production in the fiscal year ending this July, whereby it would reach 1.4 million kantar (around 247,000 tons), up from 700,000 kantar in the last fiscal year, and would sell at LE 3,000 per kantar. Policies are currently being formulated to ensure the sector bounces back to its full potential.
8/4/2018 11:10:06 AM
<![CDATA[Despite tensions, Russia seeks U.S. help to rebuild Syria]]>
The proposal was sent in a July 19 letter by Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the Russian military's General Staff, to U.S. Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to the memo which was seen by Reuters.

The Russian plan, which has not been previously reported, has received an icy reception in Washington. The memo said the U.S. policy was only to support such efforts if there were a political solution to end Syria's seven-year-old civil war, including steps like U.N.-supervised elections.

The proposal illustrates how Russia, having helped turn the tide of the war in favor of President Bashar al-Assad, is now pressing Washington and others to aid the reconstruction of areas under his control. Such an effort would likely further cement Assad's hold on power.

"The proposal argues that the Syrian regime lacks the equipment, fuel, other material, and funding needed to rebuild the country in order to accept refugee returns," according to the memo, which specified that the proposal related to Syrian government-held areas of the country.

The United States in 2011 adopted a policy that Assad must leave power but then watched as his forces, backed by Iran and then Russia, clawed back territory and secure Assad's position.

The United States has drawn a line on reconstruction assistance, saying it should be tied to a process that includes U.N.-supervised elections and a political transition in Syria. It blames Assad for Syria's devastation.

Dunford's office declined comment on communications with Gerasimov.

"In accordance with past practice, both Generals have agreed to keep the details of their conversations private," said spokeswoman Captain Paula Dunn.

The Kremlin and Russia's defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Syria conflict has killed an estimated half a million people, driven some 5.6 million people out of the country and displaced around 6.6 million within it.

Most of those who have fled are from the Sunni Muslim majority, and it is unclear whether Assad's Alawite-dominated government will allow all to return freely or whether they would want to. Sunnis made up the bulk of the armed opposition to Assad.

"The United States will only support refugee returns when they are safe, voluntary and dignified," said the memo, which is specifically about the Russian plan for Syria.

Rebuilding Syria will also be a massive effort, costing at least $250 billion, according one U.N. estimate.

Some U.S. officials believe Syria's dependence on the international community for reconstruction, along with the presence of U.S. and U.S.-backed forces in part of Syria, gives Washington leverage as diplomats push for a negotiated end to the war.


The exchange offered a rare glimpse into the military communications channel between Moscow and Washington, one that Dunford himself has fiercely sought to keep private.

Dunford, who speaks periodically with Gerasimov, has stressed that the two militaries need to be able to have candid, private communications to avoid misunderstandings that could lead to armed confrontation.

But it was unclear how reconstruction and refugees fit into military-to-military communications. Gerasimov's letter suggests that channel is also being used by Moscow to broach non-military matters.

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Syria, and the issue of refugees, at their July 16 summit in Helsinki. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the talks focused on "how we might get the refugees back."

But U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last week no policy changes came out of the summit. The U.S. government memo explicitly said the Russian proposal was not "an outcome" of the Trump-Putin talks, but cautioned that Russian officials were trying to present it differently.

"Russian diplomats and other officials have also been engaging in an aggressive campaign to describe the initiative in other capitals and to insinuate that it is an outcome of the U.S.-Russia meeting in Helsinki, which it is not, repeat not," the memo read.

The Russian cover letter for the proposal sent to Dunford recommended the United States, Russia and Jordan repurpose a hub designed to monitor a 2017 ceasefire agreement "to form a joint committee to implement the reconstruction and refugee return plan," the memo said. Jordan is hosting more than 650,000 Syrian refugees.

The Russian letter also suggests that the United States and Russia form a joint group to finance infrastructure renovation in Syria, the U.S. memo says.]]>
8/4/2018 2:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Turkey dismisses US sanctions over detained pastor, vows dialogue]]>
Andrew Brunson, who led a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir, is at the centre of one of the most serious crises in relations between the NATO allies in years.

Brunson was moved to house arrest last week following nearly two years in jail on terror-related charges but the change only increased tensions.

The US responded to the failure to fully free Brunson by hitting two top Turkish ministers with sanctions, prompting Ankara to threaten reciprocal measures.

"We have said from the start that the other side's threatening language and sanctions will not get any result. We repeated this today," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said after he and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met on the sidelines of a regional security summit in Singapore.

Two Turkish employees of US consulates in Turkey are also currently in jail on terror charges and another is under house arrest, while several Americans have been caught up in the crackdown that followed a failed 2016 coup.

"I hope they'll see this for what it is, a demonstration that we're very serious," Pompeo said in Singapore of the sanctions.

"Brunson needs to come home. As do all the Americans being held by the Turkish government," he added. "They've been holding these folks for a long time. These are innocent people."

- 'Relations will never break' -

On Friday State Department spokesman Heather Nauert said Pompeo and Cavusoglu had a "constructive conversation" and "agreed to continue to try to resolve the issues between our two countries".

Cavusoglu also said the talks were "extremely constructive" but warned in comments to Turkish media that all the issues would not be solved "after one meeting".

Turkish Finance Minister and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, said both sides wanted to continue dialogue.

"Even couples who are married for 40 years do not agree on every issue. They argue then make up," Albayrak said, adding: "Relations will never break off."

Erdogan, who is known for his sometimes provocative anti-Western rhetoric, has yet to comment.

He gave an almost two hour policy speech in Ankara Friday, without once referring directly to the tensions.

Some analysts have argued Turkey is wary of allowing any further escalation in the crisis, which has already sent the lira to record lows in value against the dollar of above 5 for the first time.

The standoff appears to be one of the most serious fallouts between the two NATO allies in modern history, along with the rows over the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

The US imposed the sanctions on Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, arguing that both men played a major role in the arrest and detention of the pastor.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who shares Brunson's evangelical Christian faith, have made his release a priority.

The pastor denies the charges against him and his defence team argues the case is built on questionable witness statements. His next hearing is set for October 12.

Brunson, whose trial began in the spring, faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted.

- Manbij roadmap -

US-Turkey ties were already strained over US support for a Syrian Kurdish militia which Turkey views as a terrorist group and the failure to extradite Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen blamed for the 2016 failed putsch.

After Ankara launched an offensive in January supporting Syrian rebels against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia in its western enclave of Afrin in Syria, the US called for restraint.

But the NATO allies then agreed on a roadmap for the YPG-held Manbij after Ankara threatened to extend the operation to the northern town where there are US forces.

Erdogan on Friday said in his Ankara speech that Turkey expected joint efforts regarding Manbij "to continue without being affected by other issues", in a possible indirect reference to the dispute with Washington.]]>
8/4/2018 1:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. envoy to U.N. accuses Russia of violating N.Korea sanctions]]>
The Trump administration also imposed targeted U.S sanctions on a Russian bank it said had facilitated a transaction with a person blacklisted by Washington for involvement with North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

This came on the same day that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, less than two months after a landmark U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore, flew back to the city-state and suggested that continued work on weapons programs by North Korea was inconsistent with its leader's commitment to denuclearization.

Russia denied a report by the Wall Street Journal that said Moscow was allowing thousands of fresh North Korean laborers into the country and granting them work permits in a potential breach of U.N sanctions.

Over 10,000 new North Korean workers have registered in Russia since September, the newspaper said, citing records from Russia's interior ministry.

Russia's action potentially violates U.N. sanctions aimed at pressuring Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons, the Journal reported, citing U.S. officials.

It also raises further questions about the extent to which North Korea's larger neighbors, including its biggest trading partner, China, are willing to keep up enforcement of U.S.-led international sanctions on Pyongyang.

In the summit with U.S. President Donald Trump on June 12, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who is seeking relief from tough sanctions, committed in broad terms to work towards denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But Pyongyang has offered no details on how it might go about this, and many experts doubt it will ever give up its nuclear arsenal.

"Credible reports of Russia violating U.N. Security Council resolutions on North Korean laborers working abroad are deeply troubling," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said later on Friday.

"Talk is cheap - Russia cannot support sanctions with their words in the Security Council only to violate them with their actions," Haley said in a statement.


Alexander Matsegora, Russia's ambassador to North Korea, denied Moscow had allowed any new workers to enter Russia, saying fresh documents had been issued to laborers already based in Russia who were working on old contracts, Interfax news agency reported.

He said the laborers were allowed to work in Russia until Nov. 29, 2019 as their work contracts had been signed before sanctions came into force, Interfax reported. He said 3,500 new work permits had been issued to workers who had signed contracts in Russia before Nov. 29, 2017, Interfax reported.

Labour Ministry records obtained by the Journal showed that a minimum of 700 new work permits had been issued to North Koreans in Russia this year, the paper said.

"It is estimated that North Korean laborers in Russia send between $150-$300 million annually to Pyongyang," a U.S. State Department spokesperson said. "Moscow should immediately and fully implement all the U.N. sanctions."

The labor prohibition is a part of a broader array of sanctions aimed at eliminating an important revenue stream for North Korea. Most of the money North Koreans earn abroad ends up in government coffers as workers toil in gruelling conditions, the Journal reported.

A separate report released on Thursday by the non-profit research organization C4ADS said initial restrictions in China and Russia - where around 80 percent of North Korean laborers are believed to work - appear to have loosened.

In Friday's sanctions announcement, the U.S. Treasury Department said Moscow-based Agrosoyuz Commercial Bank had conducted "a significant transaction" for Han Jang Su, the Moscow-based chief representative of Foreign Trade Bank (FTB), North Korea's primary foreign exchange bank.

The Treasury also added Ri Jong Won, the Moscow-based deputy representative of FTB, to its sanctions list and said both Ri and Han should be expelled from Russia.

A separate report released this week by the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies said between 2015 and 2017 the Moscow-based Independent Petroleum Company (IPC) sold far more oil to North Korea than what was officially reported.

Russia's ambassador to North Korea also denied Moscow was flouting U.N. restrictions on oil supplies to North Korea.

In September last year, Reuters found that at least eight North Korean ships that left Russia with a cargo of fuel had headed for their homeland despite declaring other destinations, a ploy that U.S. officials say is often used to undermine sanctions. ]]>
8/4/2018 12:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Ethiopia has not yet started filling GERD: Minister]]>
“Ethiopia has not yet begun to fill the reservoir of the Renaissance dam […] Egypt will not accept that its [water] share of the Nile water could be affected,” he said.

Both countries along with Sudan have differences on the possible threats that the GERD could impose on the downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia started to build the GERD in 2011 following the January 25 Revolution in Egypt. Since then, Cairo expressed its concerns over affecting its 55.5 billion cubic meters of the Nile water share.

The Egyptian government says that Egypt has started bodybuilding the dam “without consultation” in accordance with international accords, while Addis Ababa replied that it is not binding to any international accords as Ethiopia was not a colonial country controlled by any international deals formulated by the British Colonization.

As per the two 1929 and 1959 deals conducted during British colonization, a total of 80 billion cubic meters of Nile water was allocated to Egypt (55.5 billion), and for Sudan (18.5 billion). They also granted Egypt the right of veto against any projects that could be established on Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Sudan that may cause harm to its share, while the deal did not include Ethiopia among the deal countries.
The move of the construction of the dam led to a long diplomatic spat between both states. The African Horn state is in desperate need of the dam, as it suffers from staggering daily power outages.

Technical officials in the three countries opted to hire two French consultancy companies – BRL and Artelia – in September 2016, to study the possible impacts of the dam construction of Egypt and Sudan. However, the negotiations were brought to a halt in November 2017 as Ethiopia and Sudan objected to the companies’ preliminary report on the environmental impact of GERD.

In 2015, Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia signed the Declaration of the Renaissance Dam Principles Charter that tackles the management of the dam with written guarantees, and states that the dam’s reservoir cannot be filled without the approval of Egypt and Sudan. In December 2017, Egypt demanded the intervention of the World Bank in the matter, a move that was rejected by Ethiopia. Unconfirmed reports said that Ethiopia seeks to start filling the GERD’s reservoir during the upcoming Nile flood season in July.

However, a breakthrough was recently witnessed in the ongoing series of discussions among three countries.
8/3/2018 4:57:58 PM
<![CDATA[Zimbabwe's Mnangagwa calls for unity, rival questions election result]]>
The election, the first since the army removed 94-year-old Robert Mugabe from office in November, passed off relatively smoothly on the day, raising hopes of a break from a history of disputed and violent polls.

But an army crackdown on opposition supporters in which six people were killed and opposition claims that the vote was rigged revealed the deep rifts in Zimbabwean society that developed during Mugabe's four decades in power, when the security forces became a byword for heavy-handedness.

After three days of claims and counterclaims, 75-year-old Mnangagwa - a former spy chief under Mugabe - secured victory.

He polled 2.46 million votes against 2.15 million for 40-year-old opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced in the early hours of Friday morning.

"This is a new beginning. Let us join hands, in peace, unity and love, and together build a new Zimbabwe for all," Mnangagwa said on Twitter.

But his efforts to rehabilitate the image of a country synonymous with political repression and economic collapse were also undermined by a police raid on the headquarters of Chamisa's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Mnangagwa received 50.8 percent of the vote, just edging over the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff. The delays in announcing the presidential results and the narrow margin of victory fuelled the opposition accusations of rigging.

He now faces the challenge of persuading the international community that the army crackdown and lapses in the election process will not derail his promise of political and economic reforms needed to fix a moribund economy.

European Union observers said on Wednesday the elections had several problems, including media bias, voter intimidation, and mistrust in the electoral commission. Its final assessment will be critical in determining whether Zimbabwe can return into the international fold.


"The immediate priorities for Mnangagwa and his government will be to continue on the path of restoring the economy and boosting exports, helped by international engagement," said Christopher Dielmann, economist at Exotix Capital.

"By many accounts, this imperfect election delivered sufficient transparency, especially in relation to past results in the country, that should allow reengagement to occur relatively smoothly."

Chamisa, who earlier accused the election commission of trying to rig the vote, said on Friday it should release "proper and verified" results.

"I thought the force of will would prevail over will of force," he said in a tweet, without elaborating.

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa, current chair of the Southern African Development Community, urged all Zimbabweans to accept the poll results. https://tmsnrt.rs/2LWcHfm

The streets of the capital Harare were quiet early on Friday, with traffic thinner than usual. Water cannon and anti-riot police remained outside the MDC offices, a reminder of the clashes between opposition and the security forces this week.

"We are not happy with this election but what can we do?" said Patience Sithole, a cleaner in Harare.

"We don't trust these observers, we don't trust these courts. I'm not sure things will ever change in Zimbabwe."

The Herald newspaper, which acts as a mouthpiece for the government, hailed the election as reflecting the will of the majority and admonished the opposition.

"Unfortunately in Zimbabwe we have allowed to grow and flourish a culture of rabble-rousing and sham protests of alleged rigging whenever a party loses that this has become a default mode in the opposition," a Herald editorial said.]]>
8/3/2018 1:31:44 PM
<![CDATA[Ethiopian prosecutors to charge five over rally blast -Fana]]>
Two people were killed and more than 150 injured in the attack in Addis Ababa in June.

Fana Broadcasting Corporation reported that prosecutors had asked a court to grant them 15 days to file charges and to reject the suspects' request for bail.

Abiy, whose first few months in office have indicated that the nation of 100 million will open up to the world after decades of isolation, was whisked away by bodyguards moments after the attack.

Since the 41-year-old former intelligence officer assumed office, the ruling EPRDF coalition has ended a state of emergency, released political prisoners and announced plans to open up the economy -- including letting foreigners take stakes in state-run Ethiopian Airlines.

Earlier this month, the first commercial flight from Ethiopia to Eritrea in 20 years landed in Asmara, cementing a stunning rapprochement that ended a generation of hostility between the Horn of Africa neighbors.]]>
8/3/2018 1:01:41 PM
<![CDATA[ANALYSIS-Lebanon hits political logjam after election]]>
Negotiations have run into a knot of complications, notably how Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri can form a government that reflects the result while satisfying Western and Gulf Arab concerns over Hezbollah influence.

One senior politician said talks were in a state of "stagnation". A senior official from another party said there was no indication of compromises and forecast a period of "meaningless movement".

The heavily armed Hezbollah, with allied parties and independents, won more than 70 of parliament's 128 seats in the May 6 election, a reversal of Lebanon's 2009 vote when groups with Western and Saudi support scored a majority.

Hezbollah, designated a terrorist group by the United States, called it a victory for the "choice of the resistance" - a reference to the arsenal it has used in conflicts with Israel and more recently in neighbouring Syria's war.

Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani later put it more bluntly, saying Hezbollah had won.

The result has spawned new complications for Lebanon's tangled sectarian politics - long an arena for regional and international struggles played out through local allies.

Christians, Druze and Sunni Muslims are all jostling for ministries. Additionally, the Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah aims to move beyond its traditional backseat role in the next cabinet.

It wants three instead of two seats in this cabinet, and more influential ministries than it has previously held, to include public service providers.

With the group being targeted as part of a U.S. campaign against Iran, wider Hezbollah influence could raise questions about Western aid to a country that hosts around 1 million registered Syrian refugees.

U.S. support for Lebanon's army could also be in doubt.

Firas Maksad, director of The Arabia Foundation think tank in Washington, said the election had created a conundrum.

"You have election result that produced a more positive outcome for Hezbollah and its allies. These results need to be taken into consideration as the government is being put together," he said.

But "trying to form a government that would prove unwelcome in Riyadh, let alone Washington ... would come at a potentially steep cost for the country. Hariri is taking his time, and in many ways he is stuck."


Lebanon is used to lengthy cabinet negotiations. But the Western-backed Hariri and others gave reason to hope this time would be different because of a difficult economic situation. Politicians have warned of economic crisis.

The IMF wants to see immediate and substantial fiscal adjustment to improve the sustainability of Lebanon's public debt, which stood at over 150 percent of gross domestic product at the end of 2017. A Paris donors conference in April yielded pledges of billions, conditional on reform.

The next government will also have to address relations with Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad is well on top in the seven-and-a-half-year-old civil war there. His Lebanese allies, led by Hezbollah, want full ties restored.

Political commentator Rajeh Khoury said it was "difficult to see a government in the foreseeable period, unless some strange surprise occurs". Citing the economy, he said that the delay had come "at the worst time".

The election reflected shifts in Lebanon and the wider region. The Hariri-led March 14 alliance, which won the majority in 2009, disintegrated after that vote. Waning Saudi support accelerated the alliance's decline, as Riyadh's focus switched to confronting Iran in the Gulf, not Lebanon.

Saudi ties with Hariri also deteriorated over compromises towards Hezbollah and its allies. These included the 2016 deal that made Christian leader Michel Aoun president and saw Hariri return as premier.

Their relationship hit a low last November when Hariri was detained during a visit to Riyadh and forced to resign. He returned to Beirut and retracted his resignation after French intervention.

Iranian support for Hezbollah remained steadfast or grew.


The Hariris had been the dominant Sunni force in Lebanon since the 1975-90 civil war ended. But he lost more than a third of his seats in the last election, held under a new system.

Hezbollah allies gained at his expense. They included pro-Damascus politicians, some of whom returned to public office for the first time since Syria withdrew forces from Lebanon in 2005.

The one bright spot for Hezbollah opponents was an improved performance by the Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) party. It nearly doubled its MPs, closing the gap with the biggest Christian party, Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement.

Reconciling the demands of the LF and the Aounists is one of the main problems. Another is Druze rivalry.

Walid Jumblatt, Lebanon's main Druze leader and a former pillar of March 14, wants his party to control three cabinet seats allotted to the Druze. But Talal Arslan, a rival Druze politician and Hezbollah ally, wants one of these.

While Saudi Arabia remains less concerned with Lebanon than in years gone by, Maksad said it was probable Riyadh did not want to see the Lebanese Forces and Jumblatt marginalised.

"I don't know if that was explicitly communicated - it might have been - but I think that would be a good assumption on the part of Prime Minister Hariri," he said.

Additionally, Hezbollah's newly elected Sunni allies want a slice of government. "The problems could be solved tomorrow, or in a year's time," said a third senior politician.]]>
8/3/2018 12:57:54 PM
<![CDATA[MP condemns removal of dead person’s corneas without permission]]>
Mohamed Abdel Tawab is a citizen who died at the hospital due to a drop in blood pressure as he was lying in the Intensive Care Unit awaiting a cardiac catheterization operation. His family found his eyes bleeding and then knew that his corneas were missing from his body, and subsequently filed a complaint at the police department.

Farrag said that the Egyptian constitution stipulates that all citizens have the right to donate their body organs during their life following their approval or after their death by a written testament. She said that the hospital’s actions were subsequently illegal and that the perpetrators broke the law.

She also accused the hospital of disrespecting the body of a deceased person, as article No. 6 of the constitution stipulates that assaulting the human body or disfiguring it is a punishable crime. In addition, it is prohibited to carry out a medical or scientific experiment on someone without his written agreement, she added.

However, Dean of Al-Kasr Al-Ainy Medical School Fathy Khodeir earlier told “Al-Ashera Masaan” TV show that only the posterior surface of the corneas were removed which is a measure allowed by a law issued in 2003. The law states that cornea banks can obtain corneas from the following sources:
1) Corneas of individuals who give prior documented permission.
2) Corneas of individuals who die in accidents and whose bodies are subject to autopsy by prosecution.
3) Corneas of individuals who die in hospitals and medical institutions licensed to establish cornea banks under the supervision of three senior doctors.

In an interview with “Bel Waraka Wal Qalam” (By Paper and Pen) program on TEN, Magdy Morshed, a member of the Parliament’s Health Committee supported Khodeir’s statement, saying that corneas can be obtained from a dead person in licensed hospitals without prior permission of his parents.

He added that corneas are a tissue not an organ, and therefore, cornea transplantation is seen by the current law similar to blood transfusion.

Health official Abdel Hamid Abaza, head of the organs transplantation law committee, said that the law criminalizes taking out the body’s organs, but this law does not include the cornea.

He added that both eye banks of Cairo and Ain Shams universities were closed due to the scarcity of donated corneas, and importing corneas costs the citizens and the state a huge amount of money.

In an interview with Mohamed Al-Gheity on LTC TV, Ahmed Abdel Tawab, the victim’s brother said he formally accused the hospital of deliberately killing Mohamed to obtain his cornea. In another interview, he said that his brother was kept in the hospital for a week, during which he had undergone medical tests for the hospital to make sure that his corneas can be transplanted to the recipient.

Dar al-Iftaa, a government institution established to represent Islam in Egypt, issued a fatwa (Islamic opinion) in 2015, allowing those who need corneas for their eyes to obtain corneas from dead people. However, according to the fatwa, a prior agreement has to be obtained from the donor before death or from the donor’s heirs after the donor’s death. In addition, the donor has to be confirmed dead, and surgeons have to be almost sure that the transplantation operation will be conducted successfully.

Additional reporting by Noha Al-Tawil
8/3/2018 11:13:58 AM
<![CDATA[Zimbabwe tense as election results set to be unveiled]]>
The Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) said it would begin releasing results of the high-stakes vote at 10 pm (2000 GMT).

Downtown Harare was unusually quiet a day after six people were killed when troops fired live rounds against demonstrators alleging the vote had been rigged.

Soldiers and police cleared the city centre, shouting at pedestrians and traders to leave, as the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) continued to charge that the ruling ZANU-PF had stolen the election.

"What they have been trying to do of late is to play around," MDC leader Nelson Chamisa told reporters.

"That is rigging, that is manipulation, trying to bastardise the result, and that we will not allow."

The government has accused the MDC of inciting Wednesday's unrest and vowed to enforce a security clampdown.

Soldiers stood guard at ZANU-PF headquarters on Thursday, while armoured personnel carriers, water cannon trucks and police anti-riot vans took position outside MDC headquarters.

- Turning a page -

Monday's vote was meant to turn the page on years of brutal repression under Mugabe.

It has pitted 75-year-old President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe's former ZANU-PF ally, against Chamisa, 35 years his junior.

While the government warned that further protests would not be tolerated, Mnangagwa also said on Twitter that he wanted an independent investigation into the killings, and that he sought to settle differences "peacefully".

But Chamisa racheted up the pressure, accusing the government of turning tanks and guns on voters, and ruling out the prospect of a unity government.

"No unity government. There has to a government of the people elected by the people," he told reporters.

In official results from the parliamentary election, also held on Monday, ZANU-PF won easily -- suggesting Mnangagwa would be on course to retain the presidency.

Mnangagwa had promised a free and fair vote after the military ushered him to power when Mugabe was forced to resign.

A credible and peaceful vote was meant to end Zimbabwe's international isolation and attract foreign investment to revive the shattered economy.

Election observers from the Commonwealth issued a statement Thursday to "denounce the excessive use of force against unarmed civilians".

"It's disappointing -- the government's reaction only made things worse. It was heavy-handed," trader Timie Manuwere, 37, told AFP.

"But I didn't expect things to really change much with the elections. It was highly unlikely these guys would just give up power after eight months."

Former colonial power Britain appealed for Zimbabwe to remove the army from the streets.

Before the violence, European Union observers declared they found an "un-level playing field and lack of trust" in the election process.

- History of election violence -

Under Mugabe, elections were often marred by fraud and deadly violence.

Of 210 parliamentary seats, 207 have been counted with ZANU-PF winning 144 and the MDC Alliance just 61.

ZEC chairwoman Priscilla Chigumba, a high court judge, has flatly rejected allegations of bias and rigging.

Mugabe, 94, voted in Harare on Monday alongside his wife Grace after he stunned observers by calling for voters to reject ZANU-PF, his former party.

The campaign and polling day were lauded as relatively peaceful and open.

Mnangagwa was the clear election front-runner, benefitting from tacit military support and state resources. But Chamisa, a lawyer and pastor, sought to tap into the youth and urban vote.

Mnangagwa was allegedly involved in violence and intimidation during the 2008 elections when then opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the run-off after attacks claimed the lives of at least 200 of his supporters.

If no presidential candidate wins at least 50 percent of the ballots cast in the first round, a run-off is scheduled for September 8.]]>
8/3/2018 3:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. Congresswoman calls on Vietnam to release American held during visit]]>
The family had learned from U.S. officials that Michael Phuong Minh Nguyen, 54, was being held in Ho Chi Minh City, his brother-in-law, Mark Roberts, told a news conference in Orange County, California.

Nguyen is under investigation for suspected activity against the Vietnamese government, but has not formally been charged with any crime, Roberts said.

Nguyen, who was born in Vietnam and has lived in the United States since he was a child, was not known to be politically active and spends his time in California raising four daughters and running a printing business, his family said.

His fate threatens to become a diplomatic sore point between the United States and Vietnam.

Communist-ruled Vietnam tolerates little criticism and in recent months has been carrying out a crackdown on dissent and stepping up arrests of activists.

Congresswoman Mimi Walters, a Republican who represents Orange County, where Nguyen lives, told reporters she would meet with the Vietnamese ambassador in Washington on Friday.

"The Vietnamese government needs to know that there will be consequences if they don't treat American citizens with respect," Walters said. "I will do everything in my power to make sure we bring Mr Nguyen home."

A representative for the Vietnamese embassy did not immediately return calls.

Nguyen's case has stirred outrage in Orange County, which is home to a large population of Vietnamese-Americans who fled as refugees during or soon after the U.S. war in Vietnam ended in 1975.

Orange County is home to the Provisional National Government of Vietnam, an exile group opposed to the government in Hanoi.

Nguyen was not involved with any organizations other than his Catholic church, his sister-in-law, Christine Nguyen, 40, told Reuters in a phone interview.

Michael Nguyen flew to Vietnam on June 27 to visit friends while his wife, Helen, stayed in California with the couple's children, Roberts said. Helen, who works as a nurse, was last in contact with her husband on July 5.

This week, after frantic appeals for information, Nguyen's family learned from U.S. officials that he had been detained, Roberts said, adding that they had been told that U.S. officials had met with Nguyen.

When asked about Nguyen at a news conference on Thursday in Hanoi, a spokeswoman for the foreign ministry said her office would "ask the relevant authorities."

After another Vietnamese-American was detained in the Southeast Asian country during nationwide protests in June, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked for a speedy resolution to the case. The American was later ordered deported.

Pompeo is scheduled to meet on Friday in Singapore with foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes Vietnam.]]>
8/3/2018 3:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Turkey vows retaliation in crisis with US over pastor]]>
Tensions have soared over Turkey's detention on terror charges of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was first held in October 2016 and was moved to house arrest last week.

The sanctions targeting Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu freeze any property or assets on US soil held by the two ministers, and bar US citizens from doing business with them.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told journalists both ministers had "played leading roles in the arrest and detention of Pastor Brunson", who led a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir.

The US Treasury implemented the sanctions under the 2016 Global Magnitsky Act named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow jail, and which allows the US to sanction foreign officials implicated in rights abuses.

The Turkish foreign ministry warned that the move "will greatly damage constructive efforts" to solve outstanding issues.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who is set to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the next few days, said the move "will not go without response".

- 'Historic rupture' -

The standoff appears to be one of the most serious crises between Turkey and the United States in modern history, along with the rows over the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

"A historic rupture," said the headline in the opposition daily Cumhuriyet.

Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Programme at the Washington Institute, told AFP the crisis had erupted with Turkey undergoing a "transformation" under Erdogan which has seen the country more closely orientating towards the Muslim Middle East.

But Cagaptay said Ankara would think twice before escalating, given "the pain of the economic burden which is really costing Turkey", and suggested Erdogan might seek a "graceful exit" from the crisis.

The sanctions rattled financial markets with the Turkish lira hitting five to the dollar for the first time in history. The currency has lost four percent against the dollar in the last week alone.

Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, who is Erdogan's son-in-law, insisted the impact on the economy would be "limited" and said Turkey's priority "is to solve the issue with diplomacy and constructive efforts".

- Exchange deal? -

The row over Brunson escalated last week when US Vice President Mike Pence, like the pastor an evangelical Christian, said Turkey would face "significant sanctions" if this "innocent man of faith" was not freed.

His language was immediately echoed by President Donald Trump, who had enjoyed a relatively warm relationship with Erdogan and was even reported to have "fist-bumped" the Turkish president at a NATO summit last month.

US media reported there had been a deal with Turkey to free Brunson after Washington's ally Israel released a Turkish woman held on terror charges. But Turkish officials have rubbished the claims.

The senior US general in Europe, Curtis Scaparrotti, was on Thursday holding talks with Turkish military officials in Ankara but there was no indication the Brunson case would be raised.

The court trying Brunson has repeatedly refused to allow him to go free. The next hearing is October 12 with the pastor facing 35 years in jail if convicted.

He is accused of acting on behalf of two groups deemed by Turkey to be terrorist organisations -- the movement led by US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen who Ankara says was behind the 2016 coup bid and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

- 'We will get it' -

The row over Brunson is just one of a number of disputes which have buried any hope of a warming of ties under the Trump presidency.

Ankara and Washington are at odds over American support for a Kurdish militia in Syria and the United States is extremely wary over Turkey's growing cooperation with Russia and its deal to buy Russian air defence systems.

Two Turkish employees of US consulates in Turkey are also currently in jail on terror charges and another is under house arrest, while several Americans have been caught up in the crackdown that followed the failed coup.

Turkey is meanwhile furious the US has failed to extradite Gulen, who lives in rural Pennsylvania, to face trial over the coup bid.

Soylu tweeted that the only thing Turkey wanted in the US was Gulen's group, vowing: "We won't leave that there, we will get it!"

Gul dismissed the sanctions, saying: "I have neither a tree planted nor one penny in the US or any other country outside of Turkey."]]>
8/3/2018 2:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Iran naval drills underway amid tensions with U.S.]]>
One U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said possibly more than 100 vessels were involved in the drills, including small boats. A second official expected the drill could be wrapped up this week.

Iran has been furious over U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of an international nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Tehran. Senior Iranian officials have warned the country would not easily yield to a renewed U.S. campaign to strangle Iran's vital oil exports.

The U.S. military's Central Command on Wednesday confirmed it has seen an increase in Iranian naval activity, including in the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway for oil shipments that Iran's Revolutionary Guards have threatened to block.

"We are monitoring it closely, and will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways," said Navy Captain Bill Urban, the chief spokesman at Central Command, which oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East.

Central Command did not update its guidance on Thursday.

A third official said the Iranian naval operations did not appear to be affecting commercial maritime activity.

U.S. officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the drills appeared designed to send a message to Washington, which is intensifying its economic and diplomatic pressure on Tehran but so far stopping short of using the U.S. military to more aggressively counter Iran and its proxies.

But Iran did not appear interested in drawing attention to them. Iranian authorities have yet to comment on them and several officials contacted by Reuters declined to comment.

Trump's policies are already putting significant pressure on the Iranian economy, although U.S. intelligence suggests they may ultimately rally Iranians against the United States and strengthen Iran's hardline rulers, officials say.

Iran's currency plumbed new depths this week ahead of Aug. 7, when Washington is due to reimpose a first lot of sanctions following Trump's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Protests have broken out in Iran since the beginning of the year over high prices, water shortage, power cuts and alleged corruption.

On Tuesday, hundreds of people rallied in cities including Isfahan, Karaj, Shiraz and Ahvaz to protest high inflation caused in part by the weak rial.]]>
8/3/2018 2:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Blue Finance: Save oceans, make money]]>
The holidaymaker was enjoying his holiday by the beach when he found a turtle that was almost dead, according to his video. The turtle died a short time after he found it.

In a video made by the holidaymaker, he enthusiastically urges those who are enjoying their time on the beach to be aware of their surroundings and make sure to collect their waste and rubbish before they leave. “It may not affect you, but it will affect other creatures around you,” explains the holidaymaker in his video.

You may not see it, but it is true, he affirms.

On this sad note, we are reminded once again of the importance of marine life and the role we need to play to protect it.

With an ever increasing marine death toll due to plastic waste, oil spills and toxic waste being through in seas and oceans, it is essential for us to start taking steps to maintain our marine life. After all, global oceans are valued at $24 trillion, according to the London School of Economics (LSE). “The ocean makes up over 70% of the planet surface and is critical to the global climate, biodiversity and human health and well-being,” states the LSE.

How did we get here?

Stress due to extreme exploitation, over-fishing, manufacturing without proper care, which has led to climate change, improper disposing of waster and so on, has left the ocean more acidic and warming than normal. This has had a negative effect on the existence and well-being of some species; some have even gone extinct. Yet, we do not seem to understand the severity and the gravity in the situation that we now find ourselves in.

A complex ecosystem means that everything is connected. The extinction of a species will, therefore, affect other species, meaning they will both evolve and stay, or they will die out too. With this, a domino effect is created: Evolution or wipe out. Every time, there is this ultimatum, and once a species dies out, there is no bringing it back.

The saying “It is now or never” has never rung truer.

International consensus

To fix this issue, we need everyone on board, according to the Blue Finance Movement. A holistic, multi-level, multi-disciplinary view is needed to correctly address and fix this issue properly. Only through a holistic view can we really mitigate the negative consequences that have already started to happen as a result of our excessive neglect.

The good news? There is international consensus, almost.

“The Paris Agreement’s Preamble notes the importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems, including the ocean, and the proposed funding mechanisms for mitigation and adaptation are applicable to ocean and coastal solutions. Similarly, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG14) expressly aim to “conserve oceans and seas”. The UN General Assembly is discussing a marine biodiversity agreement under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which will be crucial to address the governance gaps,” reads the LSE’s website. However, it must be kept in mind that the US has recently left the Paris Agreement.

Still, there seems to be international agreement that now is the time to take action and that the ocean is vital for global climate, especially given the risk of certain areas becoming submerged under water if we do not take action now.

“Sea levels are rising. You can build costly dams to protect coastal areas or you can invest in mangroves and sea grasses that not only act as a buffer to coastlines but are also carbon sinks,” says Torsten Thiele, founder of the Global Ocean Trust. “But to move the needle on climate change, we need to work collectively. It is important to work with small countries to make their efforts count.”

Blue Finance

So, how does Blue Finance fit in?

Blue Finance is an initiative that aims to lobby and strengthen the case for creating and implementing solutions to keep the oceans clean. It aims to make the ocean habitat sustainable after the challenged that it has faced due to human greed and lack of care.

Their goal is to deliver evidence-based solutions that involve stakeholders at all levels, particularly the private sector and emerging economies. The former’s importance lies in the fact that they are the biggest reason behind ocean pollution, while the latter’s importance lies in the fact that emerging markets typically have lower environmental standards and therefore more pollution, as well as the fact that they typically move to industrialization, which produces much carbon dioxide and other harmful toxins that pollute air and water.

Their objectives:

(i) Contribute to research, lobbying, and policy-making circles on key issues concerning maritime resources.
(ii) Develop evidence-based recommendations for policy-makers.
(iii) Create inventive financing instruments for a cost-effective delivery of Blue Finance infrastructure projects.

Why focus on finance?

Commenting on their key objectives, Nicolas Pascal, founder and director of Blue Finance, says, “Quite simply, MPAs are one of the best tools we have right now for improving the health of the marine ecosystems. We can’t depend only on governments and grants to pay for marine conservation. We need a new source of financing that will allow for proper management – sustainable financing – and that is our role, to find investment opportunities that will contribute to better marine reserve management.”

“While we have seen an increase in the number of marine protected areas, many don’t do what they are designed to do unless they are effectively managed, and that needs money,” argues Pascal.

If they are able to reach their objective, argues Pascale, “Fisheries will be enhanced, tourism will improve because of the scenic beauty and calmer waters, and coastlines will be more resilient to the impact of waves caused by hurricanes. There’s nothing to lose.

Agreeing with this, Kristin Rechberger, chief executive of Dynamic Planet, which works with businesses that invest in nature, says, “You have to provide the data to show it is the interests of the country’s economy.”

“For economies that are reliant on fishing, we know that marine reserves can produce on average almost seven times the amount of biomass.”

In terms of how the blue market compared to the green market, Thiele argues, “We should get used to thinking about our ocean as this collective blue opportunity.”

8/2/2018 6:48:28 PM
<![CDATA[Muslim Brotherhood-era minister released in Italy]]>
Upon a request from the Interpol Egypt, the Italian authorities arrested Mahsoob in the city of Catania, located in Southern Italy, upon his arrival at Catania’s Airport, from France, where he resides, according to BBC Italy and Al-Dostour.

The reasons behind Mahsoub's release were not announced yet. After being released, Mahsoob said on his official Twitter account that he was released.

Few hours after his arrest, some Egyptian officials and lawmakers called for Mahsoob's extradition to be tried in Egypt over charges of "incitement of violence."

"Mahsoob could be extradited to Egypt, according to an official from the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs who told Egypt Today on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to brief the media, on Thursday.

Alongside his arrest, the Egyptian authorities requested his extradition with criminal sentences. Mahsoob is blacklisted by the Egyptian authorities and was previously sentenced to three years of prison for contempt of court.

The anonymous source said that the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) will present the case to an Italian judge who will consider the verdicts issued against Mahsoob and the nature of the cases he is accused of by the Egyptian judiciary.

The source also said that the extradition could take a long time due to the measures being taken at Interpol to study the sentences against all those who are wanted for extradition. The source assured that Interpol’s international rules require that accused fugitives be sent back to their countries.

Mostafa Bakry, a member of the House of Representatives, called on the Italian authorities to take the necessary legal measures to extradite the fugitive, Mahsoob, quickly.

Bakry pointed out that Mahsoob is one of those wanted for the incitement of terrorism in Egypt and other foreign countries.

He has already been sentenced several times, most notably with the charge of incitement to violence and the custody of his funds in case No. 28 in 2013.

Mahsoob tweeted on Aug. 1 saying: “The Italian police held me for three hours near the city of Catania at the request of Egyptian Authorities. They refused to disclose the charges against me.”

Mahsoob escaped from Egypt in 2013 although he was charged with several criminal verdicts by Egyptian courts due to legal and criminal offenses.

Regardless of the charges against Mahsoub, TV Presenter Osama Gawish tweeted saying, “Italian police detained him in order to hand him over to the Egyptian police under Convention on Extradition Act,” and that “his extradition to Egypt puts his life at risk.”

The Egyptian Syndicate of Lawyers withdrew Mahsoub’s membership in July 2018 because he had travelled abroad, did not practice the profession and did not pay membership fees.
8/2/2018 5:41:37 PM
<![CDATA[Empowering youth, PM directs to appoint young associate ministers]]>
In his interview with "Ra’iy Aam" (Public Opinion) TV program on TEN, Sultan said that hiring youth has been a successful experience, adding that the state wants to benefit from youth experience and allow them to enhance their skills, as they are the future leaders of the country.

On July 28-29, Sisi held the sixth youth conference in Cairo University in the attendance of 3,000 youths. The official page of the president announced receiving Egyptian university students’ questions from July 14 to July 24 for Sisi to answer them.

Many ministers in the current Cabinet, including Health Minister Hala Zayed, 51, and Youth Minister Ashraf Sobhi are relatively young.

In a meeting with young diplomatic figures on Thursday, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry affirmed the necessity of benefiting from such figures to improve and develop the ministry’s performance. He affirmed that the ministry seeks the best fresh graduates.

In a meeting with young diplomatic figures on Thursday, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry affirmed the necessity of benefiting from such figures to improve and develop the ministry’s performance - Press photo

Launching dialogues with our international partners and engaging them in forums like the World Youth Forum is very important as it shows that Egypt has a wealth of human cadres besides its vision to shape the future, said Foreign Minister Shoukry in an interview with ON Live in November.

Shoukry said that Egypt has a highly efficient and promising generation, assuring that Egypt‘s future will be led by conscious youth. With youth, Egypt is moving towards the future with steady steps.

In late July, Egypt's Planning Minister, Hala el-Said, said that Egyptian youth is the main wealth of Egypt. Egypt’s top priority is investing in the human capital through investing in education and health as well as in capacity building and training. The minister referred that Egypt is fortunate to have 60 percent of its population under the age of 30.

Said stated that young people should exert all their efforts to boost the country's economy, as well as social and environmental status, adding that young people must be actively involved with the government and civil society as their participation builds a better future for all Egyptians.

According to article 244 of the constitution, the state guarantees Egyptian youth, Christians, people with special needs and expats the right to get a suitable number of seats in the Parliament.

In 2016, following the 2015 parliamentary election, then prime minister's advisor on elections, Refaat Qomsan, said that the percentage of youth in the House of Representatives was unprecedented. He revealed that 60 parliamentarians were under the age of 35, and another 125 members are of the age range 36 to 45. He added that youth Parliament members represented 32.6 percent of members.

Moreover, hundreds of youth prisoners were released in the past few years by presidential pardons, according to lists created by the Presidential Pardon Committee and approved by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. The Committee was formed in October 2016 by a presidential decree.

Prisoners meet their families after being released per presidential pardon on first day of Eid Al-Fitr on June 15, 2018 - Hazim Abdel Samad/Egypt Today

8/2/2018 4:59:57 PM
<![CDATA[Find out how Abu Quir used social capital to reduce flood effects]]>
Consequently, disaster risk reduction (DRR) frameworks, like the Hyogo Framework and the Sendai Framework, have repeatedly emphasised the importance of reducing vulnerability and increasing coping capacities prior to the occurrence of extreme events, suggesting that better cooperation between society members, different societies, and formal institutions would result in better DRR, affirms two studies by the UNISDR in 2005 and 2015. Consequently, recent research has examined the link between social capital and DRR, concluding that social capital contributes positively towards reducing disaster risk.

Explaining Social Capital and DRR

The central idea of social capital is that relationships and social networks are a valuable asset, a resource, from which one draws power, according to multiple researchers. The central idea of social capital is that relationships and social networks are a valuable asset, a resource, from which one draws power. An individual, according to the social capital theory, is defined, at least partially, by whom they know and the extent to which they know them.

Social capital is often categorised into bonding, bridging, and linking ties. Bonding social capital refers to horizontal, egalitarian networks built around shared identities, like gender, ethnicity, geography, language, or religion. It is often inward-looking and exclusive, or even discriminatory against those who lie outside the mainstream identities, according to a 2016 report by the UNDP. A high level of bonding social capital means that societies can identify those who are most vulnerable amongst them, which would be useful to DRR initiatives.

Bridging social capital is also horizontal, and is accumulated through exchange relationships based on common interests, like political affiliations or social gatherings, as per a 2016 report by the UNDP. Despite being weaker than bonding networks, bridging networks often allow societies to move forward and develop, making it of key importance in preparing for natural hazards.

Linking social capital refers to vertical ties between community members and leaders or state institutions, according to a 2016 report published by the 2016. Linking is important as it allows effective coordination between people and government agencies in preparation for natural hazards.

In short, bonding, bridging, and linking ties all have their own role in maintaining a prosperous and solidary society, as well as their different contributions to DRR strategies.

The second concept, DRR, is a systematic approach to identifying, assessing, and reducing disaster risk through several socio- economic actions, the UNISDR decided in 2009. DRR initiatives require holistic frameworks that are often not confined to moments in time. The most significant framework to date has been the Hyogo Framework—UNISDR, 2005—which set out many key actions grouped under five priorities: two of which represented a ground-breaking development from the 1994 Yokohama Strategy. The Yokohama Strategy, whilst being an important document, neglected the role of the community and the link between societies and government institutions or NGOs—UNISDR, 1994.

To fill this gap, the Hyogo Framework stressed the importance of knowledge, innovation, and education at a local level, arguing that a society is better equipped to reduce its own vulnerabilities than anyone else. It suggested that societies could, at least to an extent, reduce their disaster risk on their own. Moreover, it pioneered the idea that disasters are not simply caused by extreme events but rather by a combination of factors, including hazard, vulnerability, exposure, and capacity to adapt.

Like the Hyogo Framework, the Sendai Framework echoes the idea of a multi-hazard approach—UNISDR, 2015. The Sendai Framework acknowledged the success of the Hyogo Framework but suggested that more emphasis should be placed on studying context- relevant, people-centric DRR approaches, implying that social capital and social networks have much to offer in this field. This is further illustrated in the Sendai Framework’s prioritization of the promotion of cooperation between community members; between different communities; and between society and diverse institutions, authorities, and stakeholders.

In other terms, it emphasises the accumulation of different levels of social capital. This emphasis is especially important for this study as it validates the study’s purpose and suggests that it is aligned with the core priorities of the UNISDR, which according to its mandate is the agency responsible for the coordination of disaster reduction, according to the United Nations General Assembly in 2002.

The relationship between Social Capital and Disaster Risk Reduction

Social capital allows communities to stand together and act collectively to reduce disaster risk and vulnerability as a direct result of its main characteristics: trust, reciprocity, shared norms and beliefs, information sharing, civic engagement and participation, according to the UNDP. Moreover, researchers argue that high social capital allows for the mobilisation of invisible resources, such as skills and knowledge held by society members, which encourages and generates new ideas, often leading societies to be less vulnerable in the face of natural hazards.

The positive correlation between high levels of social capital and effective DRR also seems to be rooted in the collective nature of DRR initiatives. When social capital is high, society members are willing to work together and invest time and money to develop the community and reduce vulnerability, even if they are not vulnerable. Moreover, social capital can substitute for the typically weak formal infrastructure and support systems in developing countries.

Nevertheless, social capital is not without its pitfalls. In fact, some argue that social capital should be contested and then rejected, arguing that it is merely a ‘buzzword’ that academics and practitioners use to get funding. This is somewhat ironic as most of Fine’s work revolves around social capital. Moreover, social networks have the potential to be ‘violent, repressive, bigoted, or otherwise destructive’. Those ostracised by society face increased vulnerability because of the decreased vulnerability of the ‘others’, concluding that social capital has more negative consequences than positive ones. It seems, therefore, that social capital is not apolitical, rather it goes up and down with the political wheel, concluding that those who benefit from the political system will often be the same people who reap the benefits of social capital, leaving the opposition or others behind.

Additionally, bonding social capital may create strong local cohesion but lead to disenfranchisement from the societal level. Daniel P. Aldrich, the amous social capital theorist, echoes this fear but does not agree with their conclusion, suggesting that in the developmental realm, social capital largely has a positive effect. Furthermore, studies on marginal settlements in Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Kenya and Nicaragua, and the US empirically confirm the high relevance of social capital for DRR purposes.

Frequency of natural hazard  (L) and mortality caused by natural disaster (R) in Egypt as a percentage - Egypt Today
Frequency of natural hazard (L) and mortality caused by natural disaster (R) in Egypt as a percentage - Egypt Today

How is social capital helping in Abu Quir?

Abu Quir is urban, and is situated in Egypt’s second largest city, Alexandria, spanning 230,000 hectares. Abu Quir suffers from rapid urbanisation and lack of proper land planning; however, residents are relatively affluent compared to other Egyptian cities. Abu Quir residents rely primarily on fishing and tourism, as Abu Quir is a summer and winter getaway, according to the World Bank.

With Egypt ranked 158th, according to the 2016 World Risk Index, its most frequent and deadly natural hazards that take place within the three countries are floods, according to the OFDA/CRED 2015 publication.

As a result, Abu Quir’s population suffers from marine elevation because of being on a narrow and partly raised coastal ridge on the Mediterranean Sea. Coastal erosion, and annual rainfall, coupled with informal areas, deteriorating infrastructure, rapid urbanisation, and a weak drainage system has made the population particularly vulnerable, as per the World Bank.

Social Capital in Abu Quir

Abu Quir’s social capital is partially based around youth teams and residents’ associations, however, more importantly it is based on the relationships between family elders, neighbours, and kinship, according to AUC researcher Dalia M. Gouda. Social networks are also built around schools or education centres via parents’ committees and in universities, social networks are also built through memberships in sports clubs, which are relatively cheap or government-sponsored in Alexandria and therefore attainable to everyone.

How they discussed it in Abu Quir

Abu Quir’s society has been battling coastal floods and floods caused by a weak and underdeveloped drainage system for decades. Currently the government is working, and has been working over the past four years, on strengthening their drainage systems and the general infrastructure, however, back then, they heavily relied on social capital to reduce disaster risk. Recently, climate change has led to increased flooding, resulting in unprecedented deaths in Abu Quir, according to The National.

Initially, this led to families, apartment-block committees, and neighbourhood watch committees to discuss the issue and the failures of the current risk reduction strategies. As people began to talk more about the issue, local media proliferated the subject. Civil leaders then emerged with the aim of fighting vulnerabilities that cause floods, like improper infrastructure. They spoke to, reportedly, tens of committees to collect theories and ideas from the community, and then took the issue to the local authorities, demanding a solution. It is clear that bonding ties allowed the community to put pressure on governments through linking ties, meaning that both were essential for the communities’ success.

Actions taken

Abu Quir’s urban community, which had resorted to the local government, enjoyed many positive changes because of mobilising their social capital. First, the local government instructed the establishment of a research team to identify the vulnerabilities, identifying deteriorating infrastructure, underdeveloped drainage system, and inaccurate weather forecasts as the primary three challenges.

Second, to address these issues, the research committee established an action branch, which established, monitored, evaluated, and maintained the DRR strategies implemented.

Third, the DRR action committee, after consulting scientists at the Alexandria University, rebuilt the deteriorating 16- kilometre seawall and jetties, according to research conducted in 2002.

Fourth, the DRR committee instructed builders to dry-proof the most vulnerable houses based on a vulnerability map developed by researchers.

Fifth, the DRR committee raised awareness on how households could safeguard in-home electrical systems by ensuring that the wires and electrical equipment are placed high. Furthermore, it advised that outdoor equipment be anchored and/or raised.

Sixth, the DRR committee established a route for emergency services, including fire engines, ambulances, army and police vehicles, and trucks with pumps, to take during floods to reach people as quickly as possible. This plan has been practiced multiple times, according to witnesses, and has shown great success during the 2015 flood, explains Khater.

Seventh, the Egyptian government has updated and is continuing to upgrade the drainage system in Abu Quir.

Eighth, newspapers and television channels have been urged to update their weather forecast equipment to allow for more accurate forecasts, as the recent vulnerabilities in the face of the 2015 flood in Abu Quir were partially because of inaccurate weather forecasts.

Since these actions have been taken, the Abu Quir community has, reportedly, suffered significantly less challenges and setbacks because of flooding.

8/2/2018 12:47:56 PM
<![CDATA[Understanding policy cycles]]>
Unfortunately, however, policy cycles appear to have more detractors than advocates. These critics, like Michael Hallsworth, dismiss the model as dangerous, naïve, and ‘divorced from reality’. The model’s advocates, on the other hand, acknowledge some criticisms but argue that the policy cycle still represents a useful heuristic device.

Defining Policy, Policy-Making and the Policy Cycle

Many researchers agree that policy is extremely hard to define. As the Institute of Government (IG) observed in 2011, ‘policies’ can refer to a wide variety of things, including the goals of political leaders, specific actions and legislation, general attitudes and postures, and a structure of practice. Hallsworth defines ‘policy-making’ as ‘the formal expression of activities undertaken by government to achieve outcomes, often through legislation.’.

However, this definition fails to convey the ways in which policy can be achieved by inaction.

The complex nature of policies and policymaking has led scholars to accept the policy cycle model as the most suitable approach to understanding the public-policy process. The policy cycle does not attempt to explain why policy decisions are made but rather how they are made. Originally set out by Harold D. Lasswell in 1956, the policy cycle divides the policy-making process into a series of stages, commencing at a notional beginning, where policy-makers begin to consider a problem, before eventually coming to a notional end, where the policy is implemented.

Over time, the policy cycle has become less linear and more circular, as policy-makers tend to make changed in the policies during the process to ensure that it works to the best possible level and that it is effective and efficient.

Many scholars have worked on the idea of the policy cycle, notably Jenkins—in 1978 particularly; however, Cairney provides perhaps the clearest representation of the model.

Cairney specifies the following stages: first, agenda setting, where a specific problem becomes the area of focus; second, policy formulation, where policy-makers weigh up how to address the problem; third, legitimation, where a policy is decided and enacted; fourth, policy implementation; fifth, evaluation of the policy’s success; finally, policy maintenance, succession or termination.

The Case for the Policy Cycle

Many analysts note the intuitive appeal of the policy cycle. There is a clear sense that this is how the policy-making process should work in a democracy: a problem becomes known, policy-makers analyse it, an appropriate policy is crafted and legitimised, and the policy is implemented (Jann and Wegrich, 2007:44). The Clean Air Act of 1956 is one such instance of the policy cycle in action (John, 2012:18). A large fog in London caused public concern; a lobbying campaign made policy-makers aware of the problem; policy options were considered and agreed; the policy was enacted in legislation; finally, smoke control was successfully implemented in London. The outcome was much clearer air in the capital and thus a successfully resolved problem. The Clean Air Act therefore offers evidence that the policy cycle is not only a laudable ideal but also achievable in practice.

The policy cycle holds appeal in other ways. First, it compels analysts to examine how the political system responds to policy problems, a clear area of democratic concern (John, 2012:18). Second, the modern portrayal of the policy cycle as circular rather than linear allows the experience of previous policies to inform new ones and identifies that few policies are completely new (Hallsworth et al., 2011:38). Third, by setting out an ideal process, the policy cycle offers policy-makers a template to survive external pressures by sticking as close to the stages as possible (Hallsworth et al., 2011:38). The policy cycle seems to be both an accurate description of policy-making, at least some of the time, and a useful prescription the rest of the time.

The Case Against the Policy Cycle

For its critics, the gap between the theory of the policy cycle and the reality of day-to-day policy-making is simply too great. Nearly every policymaker dismisses the cycle as unrealistic. The Cabinet Office, similarly, dismissed the concept in its advice to civil servants, explaining that policy-making is not as neat as the model suggests. Specifically, there are three problems with the model.

First, the policy cycle portrays each stage in linear sequence with a beginning, middle and end when the reality is that the stages “actually consist of a series of reversals and repetition”, according to Hallsworth’s research. In fact, critics argue that the policy cycle’s portrayal of distinct stages is unrealistic and inaccurate. Paul A. Sabatier, for instance, contends that each stage is intrinsically linked to the other stages. The IG’s interviews with policy-makers spell this out: interviewees report that the policymaking ‘stages’ overlap and often merge together. These ‘stages’ merge together as a result of many things, for example moral panics and the media.

A Moral panic is best understood as the process of arousing public concern over a matter that affects society’s wellbeing, usually through mass media. Moral panics pressure policymakers into skipping stages and implementing policies quickly. For example, the 1996 Dog Control Act, which followed the moral panic that spread after several dogs attacked children in public spaces. This suggests that the policy-cycle approach misses the humane side of policy-making; it looks at policymakers as machines and ignores the feelings of, both, the policymakers and the public. Moreover, mass media often plays a big part in agenda-setting and bringing issues to the attention of policymakers. However, the role of the media does not just stop there, it is capable of taking issues off the agenda at anytime, and prioritising other issues, mostly by utilising people’s social values and emotions; thus, not only does the policy-cycle approach dismiss the role of the media at the beginning of the cycle, it also dismisses it throughout the whole cycle.

Second, critics, like Sabatier, allege that the model is too top down and ignores the influence of other actors. In practice, policy is often made by street-level bureaucrats, such as teachers and policemen, who use their discretion when implementing policies in an attempt to advance their personal agenda, according to political researcher Lipsky. This means that those who implement the policies often make decisions that alter their design and aim, as Hallsworth explains. This creates an ‘implementation gap’ between the policy-makers’ expectations and the actual outcome.

Third, the policy cycle model fails to distinguish between different policy areas. In the UK, for example, some policy – agriculture, for instance - is much more ‘Europeanised’ by European Union membership than other areas. Thus, by trying to push all the policy types into the few stages available in the policy-cycle approach, the approach overlooks the unique processes that policies from different sections go through.

There are numerous empirical examples of how the policy cycle appears divorced from reality in practice. One example is the 10p tax reform announced by Gordon Brown with seemingly no preparation whatsoever in 2007, a clear example of unplanned policy-making on the hoof. More recently, the disastrous ‘pasty tax’ of 2012, when Chancellor George Osborne attempted to introduce an ‘unenforceable’ VAT reform on hot savoury food, was abandoned after a subsequent outcry, accorind to the BBC’s 2012 coverage of the issue.

Moreover, according to Damian McBride, a former civil servant, the mess occurred because ministers “didn’t check the proposals out thoroughly enough.” This illustrates how cack-handed policy can be formulated in a seemingly random way to address an apparently non-existent problem. Indeed, for every textbook example such as the Clean Air Act, there are arguably several policies that more closely resemble the pasty tax.

The Policy Cycle as a Heuristic Device

The policy cycle’s advocates, however, insist that we should not be too quick to dismiss the cycle approach. Cairney, for instance, argues that a model need not be accurate to be useful. In this sense, the policymaking process helps our understanding by breaking a complex process into clear stages.

Indeed, it is absurd to expect a model to explain every facet of something as complex as policy-making. In addition, without the policy cycle, it would be difficult to know where to start, and so we should not dismiss the policy cycle entirely, as Dorey explains.
8/2/2018 12:09:46 PM
<![CDATA[Cash Programs more effective in food availability crisis]]>
With Egypt’s location so close to many of the locations that often receive aid from countries all around the world, it is important to understand the difference in aids and the different effects they have on people, cultures and socity, as well as why people may prefer one to the other.

What are Cash transfer programs (CTP)?

Cash transfer programs (CTP) refers to conditional and unconditional programs where cash is directly given to beneficiaries. Conditional CTP provides money as a wage for working in public or community programs. Unconditional CTP provides beneficiaries with money without having to complete tasks. In both cases, beneficiaries can spend the cash freely to meet their basic needs, according to a report by ODI, released 2015.

Food availabity crises are understood to be situations of “severe food insecurity which threatens people’s lives and/or livelihoods,” explains Oxfam GB.

Unconditional CTP is more suitable during food availability crises due to time contraints and the need to preserve energy. Oxfam GB will argue for the use of CTP as an alternative to in-kind aid, providing evidence that risks associated with CTP can be mitigated.

What are the risk?

Diversion or theft: Cash is more tempting than in-kind aid because it can be diverted to illegal items easier and quicker, according to a report by MercyCorps in 2007. The organization, which operates in many developing countries, cites cases where cash from aid has been funnelled to illegal channels. Cash, like food aid, can also be captured by elites or unfairly taxed by landowners, explains the FAO in a 2011 report. In Uganda, beneficiaries reported that they spent the cash as soon as they received it because they feared theft.

Inflation: Sudden cash injections into markets may cause a rise in prices of key goods. This will cause recipients to get less for their money and will disadvantage non-recipients, agreed MercyCorps and the FAO. In Uganda, beneficiaries reported some price increases in local shops but beneficiaries overcame this by buying better-value products from larger shops.

Anti-social use: Beneficiaries may misuse funds by spending on non-essential or ‘vice goods’, like cigarettes and alcohol, suggests Oxfam. However, evidence suggests that a very small proportion of transfers are misused, as much research has shown.

Staff and beneficiary safety: Risks of attack for implementing agencies exist at the delivery, distribution, and storage phases, explains MercyCorps. Risks exist for beneficiaries who may be attacked on the way home, face extortion, or aggression by non-recipients.

Coordination and organisational capacities: Organisations, according to the FAO, have systems for in-kind aid but few of them have one for CTP. Agents often do not undergo training to expand their skills and capabilities to suit CTP. This often causes confusion and tension in the office. Lack of coordination between agencies means that food aid and cash programs are often employed at the same time, decreasing the chances that cash will be spent on food and other essential products.

Experts Recommend Mitigation strategies

Risk Mapping: Before setting up CTP, risk assessments need to be conducted to ensure that safeguards can be put in place. This includes analysis of existing financial systems and food markets, and assessing the risks of inflation due to cash injections. This assessment should examine purchase and price trends during normal times, different seasons, and crises, if possible. This approach was used in the Philippines and successfully helped limit risks. Implementing agents should undergo training to ensure they are familiar with CTP and can adapt to risks that arise during the program.

Electronic transfers (e-transfers): Their privacy and flexibility offer protection for staff and beneficiaries against theft, argued the British House of Commons in 2012. E-transfers eliminate need for storage and cash counting, which reduces human error and staff corruption, explains ODI. However, it is important to note that e-transfers may not always be feasible because of the infrastructure they require and the time they take to set up. This suggests that organisations should employ regular evaluation and preparedness strategies to ensure they are ready for any food availability crises.

Local distribution mechanisms: In Afghanistan and Somalia, aid organisations used local remittance companies to deliver money in remote or insecure areas. In Zambia, Oxfam subtracted money delivery to Standard Bank, which used security vans and police personnel to securely deliver the money, according to multiple evidence-based reports published by Horn Relief in 2004 and 2010. Local systems are usually trusted by beneficiaries and typically have their own safety mechanisms, which reduces looting and risks associated with storage. This seems to be especially the case in developing countries, especially if mobility is somewhat limited.

Distribution planning: If cash is being physically delivered, then distribution planning measures should be employed to mitigate risks. Agencies should:
o Take out insurance against risk of theft during the transportation process, suggests Oxfam, arguing that the money should be divided into bundles and hide them in different locations in the vehicle. Thieves tend to leave after some money has been surrendered.
o Ensure all vehicles are installed with communication devices, further explains Oxfam.
o Inform the community about the consequences of threats to staff or beneficiaries’ security: project will be suspended or withdrawn. To keep their benefits, the community will protect the program, suggested the World Food Programme in a 2014 report.
o Make smaller, more frequent distributions. This will increase chances of money being used for food and other essential products and reduce money transported at any one time by agency or outsourced company, explain aid researchers Creti and Jaspars, after looking at many cases.
o Vary distribution days and increase distribution locations to minimise walking distance for beneficiaries, which reduces chances of looting.
o Inform beneficiaries of date and location of distribution with short notice to minimise chances of non-beneficiaries finding out, explains Oxfam and the World Food Programme.
o Complete payments during daylight hours to give beneficiaries and staff time to safely leave site, says the World Food Programme.

Monitoring: Monitoring should be carried out on a regular basis to ensure payments are being made, money is being spent responsibly, and no beneficiaries are being abused because of the program, suggests the ICRC. Markets should be monitored closely to ensure that prices do not rise because of CTP. A communications line should be established to ensure any problems are reported by beneficiaries or local partners to the implementing agency, the ICRC states. Monitoring will ensure the program is reaching its targets without distorting local markets or compromising social relations.

CTP: cheaper, quicker, better

CTP, like any aid program, has possible risks. However, the benefits that CTP provides often make it a viable alternative to in-kind programs. CTP is cost-effective—take a look at Table one. CTP allows people to purchase food they are used to and like. CTP often stimulates local production and local markets. CTP, unlike in-kind aid, holds no hidden costs for beneficiaries.

A study done in Afghanistan by Crawford and Harvey in 2002 found that for every 50 kilograms of wheat received, seven kilograms were spent on transport and about 3-7 kilograms were spent on milling.

CTP can overcome logistical challenges. During the 2011/2012 Somalia famine, there were certain areas that were extremely insecure for in-kind aid to be delivered. CTP was employed, allowing 1.5 million people to be reached despite insecurities, explains ODI.

CTP - ET - Website
Cash Transfer Program (CTP) cases - Egypt Today
8/2/2018 12:04:49 PM
<![CDATA[The road towards stronger Egyptian-UK cultural links]]>
Besides their top and most beloved program, the British Council offers multiple other programs that aim to develop the cultural connections, as well as the scientific and artistic links, between Egypt and the UK. “From one participant to another, they take different things from the programs. So, one could learn about engaging with others, while another learns about accepting people with different abilities,” Alex Lambert, previous Acting Director and current Head of Programs at the British Council in Egypt, tells Egypt Today. To understand more about the British Council’s work over the years, its most popular programs and the Premier Skills Program, Egypt Today sits down with Lambert.

You are so young and have achieved quite a lot. Tell us how did it all start.

I feel like I have been working for many years actually.

Someone once told me, ‘Whatever you do, regardless of what it is, always do it to the best of your ability,’ and I have always tried to do that. I sometimes make mistakes, as we all often do, and I think it is really important to reflect on the things that we have done and the progress that we have made and look at what has worked well and what has not worked well, and learn from it. We also have to do things that we really enjoy and feel motivated by the work that we all do and hopefully, one’s work doesn’t feel like a day of work but rather like a hobby.

The British Council is a cultural exchange organization, and you have been a great Acting Director; what is your message to the Egyptian youths?

I think our message is that we always focus on creating opportunities for young people and the reason we do that is that by creating those opportunities for young Egyptians, it helps bridge connections between Egypt and the UK and ultimately our aim is to build friendly knowledge between the UK and Egypt; it is about building trust and understanding between those two countries. And to do that through the youths, through the English teaching, through the examinations that we run, through projects like the ones we have in education between universities or through developing skills, like the arts; right across all the work that we have, it is all about building those connections.

I think clearly 2018, for us, is a special year on many levels. It is our eightieth anniversary, so in December 1938, the British Council was first opened in Egypt—it was one of the first operations that we had around the world—and, it means that we have been doing that for decades; this kind of building of cultural relations. It has been around for so long that it has built a certain momentum and we have been able to engage with thousands of young people, probably millions of young Egyptians actually, and it is something that we really enjoy doing and that we would like to continue doing for the foreseeable future as well.

What is your evaluation of the British Council’s 80 years in Egypt?

We are still building on that evaluation actually. We are actually going through our history books and looking at the kind of things that we used to do as an organization and the kind of things that we used to do but stopped doing. But I think that building cultural relations is the thing that has been the undercurrent—that has continued—and that we have tried to maintain over [all these years]. Whatever is happening between the UK and any other country, it is absolutely crucial to have this cultural connection open and to open up scientific avenues between the UK and other countries.

You worked in Canada, Vietnam and South Sudan; how is Egypt different?

Actually, when I served in Canada, I was really struck by how friendly people were and I lived in Quebec and, as you know, Canadian winters are very harsh and really cold but the people are really warm and friendly. They are incredibly welcoming and warm-hearted and I have to admit, I never thought that I would meet more friendly people anywhere else in the world until I came to Egypt and I found Egyptians to be just as friendly. They are really welcoming and they are always willing to have a conversation and are always really interested to know what you are doing; they are really creative people, as well.

I also think they have a really good sense of humor. I think that is why British people and Egyptians have a particularly strong bond: We have a similar sense of humor. So, a joke you might tell in Egypt would probably work very well in the UK, but maybe not in other parts of the world. So, I think that is why we have a strong cultural bond.

Despite Cairo being such a mega-city—the largest city in Africa by far, it often feels like just a big village. You are often bumping into people you know and it feels as though you can reach out to almost anybody and they would be willing to give you a hand.

Could you tell us a bit about the Premier Skills Program?

So, I mentioned that 2018 is such an important year for us but it is an extra special year when you talk about the Premier Skills Program for a number of reasons. It is the first time that Egypt has been in the World Cup for 28 years. I know that the Egyptian team’s performance was not what everyone had hoped for but it is still a huge achievement to reach the World Cup finals. Also, for the Premier Skills Program, 2018 is the tenth anniversary of Premier Schools in Egypt and I think that it is one of the programs that most exhibit the British Council’s goals. It is ultimately a membership between a number of organizations. So, we bring the Premier Leagues’ world-renowned referees and coaches and on the ground here in Egypt we partner with the Ministry of Youth and Sports very closely. It is a partnership that we have seen grow and is going from strength to strength to potentially grow the project further.

I think, at the core, what the Premier Skills Program seeks to do works very well in Egypt because it provides opportunities for young Egyptians through football. Football is kind of the world’s most famous sport and it is a very effective way of engaging young people. Wherever I go in Egypt, people tend to know the Premier League; they seem to know about football rivalries in Egypt between Zamalek and Ahly; they seem to be talking about Mohamed Salah’s latest successes. So, I think it is a language that all Egyptians speak and a language that people speak worldwide.

And I should mention that it is not just in Egypt that we are running this program, we are actually running this program across 29 countries. Since it started, we have been growing it and have been working with thousands of people and coaches around the world and these coaches have then worked to train about 1.6 million people around the world.

People often ask us why we work with football. I think it is because it is very effective with young people. It captives their imagination and by finding something they are interested in, we are able to engage them in a very meaningful way: We use football to teach them about leadership, teamwork and developing specific skills that they then use when they go onto the next stages of their life, whether that is employment or education. Even football as just a sport, as a concept, is interesting for learning about yourself and about others. You have this notion of having a referee and that teaches you about arbitration. I think there is a lot in football; it teaches you a lot. So, that is why we work through football, to really engage young people in a simple way.

I think one of the best ways to see how effective the program is, is by speaking to beneficiaries and to coaches, but also to young Egyptians and the Egyptian coaches themselves that have gone through this program over the past few years and to the children who have been coached by these coaches.

So, we bring Premier League coaches over to Premier School countries, and they work with Egyptian coaches. They teach them about the beautiful game, they teach them how to be a good coach; they run very open sessions where coaches from across the county can speak to one another. One of the best things is that we get coaches from all over; I think that coaches from all 27 governorates have been involved in some way or another in the program and have been able to share experiences in coaching from their own governorates. The first phase is elementary—it is training—and the successful coaches, those who really engage, go on to the next stage. Since we started 10 or 11 years ago, thousands of kids have been reached through the Premier Skills Program. Given the popularity of football in Egypt and the popularity of the Premier League, we see it going on for many years.

You have two important segments: Individuals with special needs and women. Seeing women from Upper Egypt play football is not something we usually see; tell us how you bring those segments into the program and how you tailor to their needs?

It is really critical that we engage women, men, girls and boys as equally as possible because creating opportunities means you develop skills that you can then use to go achieve whatever afterwards, if you want to go and work or if you have other ambitions in life. Whatever program we are running, we try to make sure that it is reaching women and girls as equally as possible. We know that in certain parts of Egypt, it can be difficult sometimes for young girls to take part in football but that does not mean that they are not interested.

At the moment we have a project that is going on called ‘A thousand girls, a thousand dreams’. It has been going on from April to September, and the idea here is to train coaches in a way that allows them to go on and train young girls directly. I think just under 50 percent of our coaches are female, and we are always working to increase that as well. In terms of girls taking part in the program, about 60 percent of participants are girls.

To make sure our sessions are inclusive, we also run our sessions in venues that are accessible to all participants.

I think the thing is about our role is that we never want to say that it is ours, we are always in partnerships and the partnerships are always crucial for programs to work. We often seem to be the key organization but we are working in equal partnership with the Ministry of Sports and with the Premier League itself. Our experience is that partnerships are the best way to work.

The government is a great partner and even though I have only been in Egypt for a few months, we have already had a number of discussions about the Premier Skills Program and how we can expand; in particular, we have discussed how we can take the program to even more hard-to-reach places in Egypt. This is what we are looking at now: How can we take the program to border governorates? This is because we know that when you work with places outside of the capital, this is really where the people who need the opportunities most are. This is where the government has been so great; they genuinely have the interest of young Egyptians at heart and I know that part of their strategy is revolved around how they can engage women and girls more. This is one of the most exciting partnerships and discussions we have had with the Ministry.

How has the British Council contributed towards the arts and the creative economy in Egypt?

I was actually born in France and I grew up there and moved to the UK when I was nine. Now, if you have been to France and the UK, you will see that culture in France is seen everywhere. You can see it in the architecture and in museums. Then, when I moved to the UK, I did not understand where the culture was, and I think it took me a few years to understand that it is not a superficial culture. It is genuinely in everything we do and I think that the creative culture is one of the strengths of the UK; it [the UK] has been pushing it and developing it for several years and it is one of the fastest growing economies in the UK.

At the European level, it actually represents one of the greatest contributors to GDP; I think about 6.5 percent of the workforce is employed in the creative economy and about 6 percent of the GDP comes from the creative industry.

I think the UK has a lot of stories to share in that sector and that is why we have brought that to Egypt. In terms of how we can provide experiences of what we have and to provide how the future of the arts’ landscape can look like in Egypt and what it can provide towards the positive development, economic development and social development. It is one of the most exciting things we are doing. We are working with policy-makers, independent people in the art scene and institutions to see how people, particularly young people, can find employment in the arts. There is a famous quote from John Newbigin, who is the chair of Creative England, and he said, ‘Oil is the key resource of the 20th century, creativity is going to be the key resource of the 21st century.’

What kind of programs do you have for the arts?

It is mainly about showcasing the works of Egyptian and UK artists and bringing UK artists here for a natural share of artistic resources. Naturally, we tend to work with emerging artists—not experienced artists and the big names you may think of—that have a career to develop. In the arts’ world, it is about sharing. I think it helps both Egyptians and the British people to understand the cultures better.

It seems that after the hike in prices, many Egyptians are going to study in the UK. How does the British Council facilitate this?

Education is a big topic. We have one project that is called connecting classrooms that we have in many countries across the globe. It is for teachers and school leaders to improve the learning outcome in classrooms and we do this by sharing the resources that can be used anywhere online. It is about improving teachers’ ability. It is a smaller project, you might say, especially in terms of the size of Egypt but the feedback we get is very positive. We are framing that project to support the changes that are happening in the education sector in Egypt. The program is available in 11 governorates. It is really a case of having small but quality interventions in different parts of the country.

We are also launching another project called the National Teacher Training Project in partnership with the Ministry of Education. The plan is to try and reach 37,000 primary school teachers over two years and to improve their English proficiency so that they are better equipped in terms of actually delivering their classes; that should start in the next few months. It has been in the planning phase for about a year.

Moving to higher education, in general, it is about supporting Egyptians who are interested in studying in the UK. So, we organize exhibitions and fares two or three times a year, where different UK universities come and present the different undergraduate and post-graduate courses that they run so young Egyptians can find out all the information they want and sign up the course.

Recently, we facilitated the visit of 11 UK universities to come to Egypt to meet with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and to meet with Egyptian universities and look at how they can develop partnership models. Actually, Egypt is one of the biggest markets in the world for Egyptians studying UK qualifications and degrees. We recognize that the UK is a very expensive country to go to and it may not always be very easy to access education but now a lot of UK providers are providing and offering their courses in Egypt through various higher education institutions and online means as well. I think Egypt is actually the fifth largest market in the world in terms of UK transnational education, that is what we call it and I think the biggest in Africa as well. And of course, we are also working to facilitate setting up branches of UK universities in Egypt. The UK is interested in exploring that and the Egyptian government is excited to provide these campuses; our role is the middleman.
8/2/2018 11:56:39 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt will continue backing the Palestinian cause: Egypt's amb.]]>
This came during the celebration of July 23 Revolution anniversary that was held in the embassy on Tuesday night.

He added during his speech in the embassy in Ramallah that the Palestinian cause is one of the main causes that Egypt has been supporting for ages. “It’s considered to be an integral part of the Arab brotherly ties that connect the Middle Eastern countries,” Ashour stated.

High-profile politicians attended the celebration in Ramallah, including Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah along with other ministers and officials. Ashour asserted the importance of resuming the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation efforts to unite the Palestinian factions, enabling the country to negotiate with other authorities and governments.

Prime Minister Hamdallah praised Egypt’s efforts during his speech. “The Palestinian cause has been linked with Egyptian efforts throughout history. Egypt has always played a leading role in defending our rights, especially within the international organizations. Our bonds are strong and historical,” Hamdallah explained.

On Sunday, A high-level Fatah delegation arrived in Cairo to discuss the Palestinian reconciliation with Egyptian officials. Munir al-Jaghoub, head of Fatah's Information Department in the Office of Mobilization and Organization, said that the delegation includes Head of Palestinian General Intelligence Service Majid Faraj and members of Fatah Central Committee Azzam al-Ahmad, Husein Al-Sheikh and Rawhi Fattouh.

Jaghoub remarked that the delegation headed to Cairo upon the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss ways to deliver the perception of the Palestinian leadership, the current situation in Palestine and the file of reconciliation.

Abbas previously referred during the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization held on Saturday that Egypt sent several proposals tackling the Palestinian reconciliation and that a delegation would head to Egypt on Sunday to deliver the response.

“We are committed to the Palestinian stance taken on Oct. 21, 2017,” said Abbas.

The visit coincided with the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov’s meeting held with Egyptian officials on the Palestinian situation.

On July 11, a Hamas delegation, headed by Khalil al-Hayya, visited Cairo upon an invitation by the Egyptian intelligence to discuss reconciliation efforts and the situation in Gaza. During the visit, Egypt handed over several proposals to advance the stagnant process with Fatah.

Head of the Political Bureau of the Palestinian Hamas movement, Ismail Haniyeh, announced on July 19 that the group accepted an Egyptian proposal for reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Earlier this month, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov spoke to Egypt Today in an exclusive interview about the reconciliation between Palestinian rival factions, Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the two-state solution and the “deal of the century”.

Egypt has been backing the Palestinian reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas for a long time.
The reconciliation efforts under Egypt’s auspices officially began in October, when Egypt succeeded to hold a historic meeting between leaders of Fatah and Hamas, turning over the ten-year-old dispute into consensus, as the two parties reactivated the Cairo Agreement signed in 2011.
8/2/2018 11:00:07 AM
<![CDATA[Israel warns Iran of military response if it closed key Red Sea strait]]>
Last week, Saudi Arabia said it was suspending oil shipments through the strait, on the main sea route from the Middle East to Europe, after Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis attacked two ships in the waterway.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are in a three-year-old proxy war in Yemen, which lies on the southern side of Bab al-Mandeb.

Yemen's Houthis, who have previously threatened to block the strait, said last week they had the naval capability to hit Saudi ports and other Red Sea targets.

Iran has not threatened to block Bab al-Mandeb but has said it would block the Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Gulf, if it were prevented from exporting its own oil.

"If Iran will try to block the straits of Bab al-Mandeb, I am certain that it will find itself confronting an international coalition that will be determined to prevent this, and this coalition will also include all of Israel's military branches," Netanyahu said at a passing out parade for new naval officers in Haifa.

Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a separate speech at the event that Israel had "recently heard of threats to harm Israeli ships in the Red Sea." He gave no further details.

Ships bound for Israel, mainly from Asia, pass through the waterway to Eilat, or continue through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea. Ships bound for Jordan's Aqaba port and for some Saudi destinations must also pass through the strait.

Bab al-Mandeb is 29 km (18 miles) wide, making hundreds of ships potentially an easy target. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said an estimated 4.8 million barrels per day of crude oil and products flowed through it in 2016.

Israel has attacked Iranian forces in Syria and has insisted that they leave Syria completely. They have withdrawn to a distance of 85 km (53 miles) from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Russia's special envoy to Syria said on Wednesday.]]>
8/2/2018 4:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[US Korean War dead heading home at last]]>
Wednesday's repatriation marks an important step after US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held a summit, during which Kim agreed to send home the war dead.

Trump, who has faced criticism over the pace of progress since the June meeting, praised Kim for "keeping his word," and Vice President Mike Pence is set to meet families when the remains arrive back in the US at a ceremony in Hawaii.

Caskets carrying the 55 sets of remains were draped in the blue-and-white flag of the United Nations. Many nations fought in the Korean War, but most of the cases are thought to contain US troops.

More than 35,000 Americans were killed on the Korean peninsula during the 1950-1953 war, with 7,700 of these US troops still listed as missing in action -- most of them in North Korea.

It could take scientists and historians years to make final identifications.

John Byrd, director of scientific analysis at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), which has a large laboratory in Pearl Harbor, said preliminary findings suggest the remains are likely American.

They "are consistent with remains we have recovered in North Korea... in the past," Byrd told reporters at Osan US Air Base in South Korea.

The cases had been kept there since Friday, awaiting their repatriation to Hawaii for further forensic analysis.

"There's no reason at this point to doubt that they do relate to Korean War losses," Byrd added.

- 'Solemn reminder' -

Around 500 officials from the United Nations Command (UNC), the United States and South Korea attended a formal repatriation ceremony at Osan earlier Wednesday.

"This is a solemn reminder that our work is not complete until all have been accounted for, no matter how long it takes to do so," said General Vincent Brooks, commander of the UNC and United States Forces Korea.

After the ceremony, uniformed soldiers carefully loaded each case into two C-17 cargo planes, which later took off for Hawaii.

Byrd told reporters that "there was a single dog tag (US soldier's identity tag) provided with the remains."

"The family of that individual has been notified," he said, though he cautioned that the tag is not necessarily associated with the remains in the box.

The returned material also included military hardware and uniforms, including helmets, water bottles and boots.

- DNA, bones, dental records -

Former DPAA official Jeong Yang-seung, who previously worked on identifying US remains from the North, said it was unusual to locate dog tags during the search and recovery process.

"It's once in a blue moon that dog tags are recovered," Jeong, now professor of forensic anthropology at the Middle Tennessee State University, told AFP.

"I don't think North Korea is refusing to give dog tags when it has more but it probably doesn't have dog tags lying around," he said.

"So when... only one dog tag was provided, it's probably not to tease the US but rather that it was sent because it could offer clues to the remains."

DNA analysis, skeletal studies of bones, dental records and details of where the remains were found play a key role in such investigations.

"If it's identified quickly, it would be around five to six months, but if not, it could take decades," he said.

Between 1990 and 2005, North Korea allowed 229 sets of remains to be repatriated, but those operations were suspended when ties worsened over Pyongyang's banned nuclear weapons program.

Following the June summit, Trump had declared that Pyongyang was "no longer a Nuclear Threat," but Kim did not publicly promise to end work at the country's nuclear and missile facilities.

Instead, he spoke of committing to "work toward" eventual denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. He did not make any commitment to unilaterally disarm.

Still, experts see North Korea's return of the remains as an important gesture.

"It's a sign that they want to improve relations with us... and certainly for the families it's significant," Joel Wit, founder of the respected 38 North organization that monitors North Korea, told AFP.

Additionally, new satellite imagery from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station on North Korea's west coast suggests workers are dismantling an engine test stand, in line with a promise made to Trump.

Abraham Denmark, director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center, cautioned not to read too much into the repatriation.

"It is not a signal about Pyongyang's willingness to denuclearize or even reform its ways, and policymakers should not be fooled or distracted from the primary source of tension -– North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles," he said.]]>
8/2/2018 2:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Trump tells attorney general to end Russia probe]]>
In a series of tweets that quickly sparked accusations that Trump was publicly trying to pervert justice, the president decried the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller as "a disgrace."

"This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further," Trump said.

Aides rushed to limit the damage, insisting he was not issuing an order as Session's boss.

"It's not an order, it's the president's opinion," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters, adding that Trump wants the probe to "come to an end."

The president -- along with allies in conservative media -- has launched a long PR campaign against the Mueller probe, which he claims is biased and pursuing erroneous claims of collusion between his campaign team and Moscow.

"Russian Collusion with the Trump Campaign, one of the most successful in history, is a TOTAL HOAX," the president said Wednesday.

Mueller -- a respected former FBI director -- is investigating whether the Trump campaign aided or abetted an attempt by Russia to sway the 2016 presidential election, or tried to cover up the conspiracy.

He has so far lodged dozens of indictments, including those of suspected Russian hackers, and secured guilty pleas from at least three Trump aides charged with conspiracy and lying to investigators.

This was Trump's most direct demand yet that Sessions, who infuriated the president by recusing himself from the investigation, intervene to end the probe.

"The President of the United States just called on his Attorney General to put an end to an investigation in which the President, his family and campaign may be implicated," said Democratic congressman Adam Schiff.

"This is an attempt to obstruct justice hiding in plain sight. America must never accept it."

Even Trump's allies questioned the demand.

"I've said all along I see no evidence of collusion. But if anyone helped Russia to hack/steal they deserve justice," said Republican operative Ari Fleischer.

"Let Mueller finish his job. Neither POTUS nor Sessions should interfere. After all, nothing will help Trump more than Mueller concluding there is no crime."

Amid the criticism from both sides of the political aisle, Trump's personal attorneys also sought to walk back the comment, insisting the president was not ordering Sessions to do anything.

"The president has issued no order or direction to the Department of Justice on this," lawyer Jay Sekulow told The Washington Post.

Rudy Giuliani added: "He very carefully used the word 'should.'"

- In the courtroom -

Trump's latest Twitter tirade came on the second day of the trial of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on bank and tax fraud charges, which stemmed from the probe but were not directly related to his time on the campaign.

Trump tweeted on Wednesday that Manafort "worked for me for a very short period of time" but sought to defend his former aide's bona fides.

"Paul Manafort worked for Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other highly prominent and respected political leaders," he said.

Manafort served as Trump's campaign chief from May to August 2016 and the president asked Wednesday: "why didn't government tell me that he was under investigation."

"These old charges have nothing to do with Collusion - a Hoax!" he said.

Manafort's trial opened Tuesday with prosecutors accusing him of hiding from US tax authorities millions of dollars from past lobbying work for the pro-Russia president of Ukraine, and failing to report his foreign bank accounts.

In a further tweet, Trump suggested Manafort has been harshly mistreated.

"Looking back on history, who was treated worse, Alfonse Capone, legendary mob boss, killer and 'Public Enemy Number One,' or Paul Manafort," he wrote.

Manafort is scheduled to go on trial in September on separate charges brought by Mueller of conspiracy, money laundering and failing to register as an agent of a foreign government.]]>
8/2/2018 1:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[Britain seeks EU nations' support to avoid 'messy divorce']]>
Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt visited Vienna on Wednesday, after talks in Paris the day before, and warned "there is a real risk of a messy divorce, which would be a geostrategic mistake".

His trip was part of a wider European diplomatic offensive by Britain, which will see Prime Minister Theresa May meet French President Emmanuel Macron at his Mediterranean retreat on Friday.

She will seek to sell her proposal for close economic ties with the EU after Brexit, a half-in, half-out plan that has enraged her own eurosceptics but which she insists is the only practical way forward.

The European Commission's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has expressed scepticism and last week rejected a key element of the proposal relating to tariffs on the Irish border.

But London is seeking to emphasise directly to European capitals the need for greater flexibility, warning that all sides would suffer if Britain leaves the EU next March without an agreement in place.

"The probability of no deal is increasing by the day until we see a change of approach from the European Commission," Hunt told London's Evening Standard newspaper in an interview published Tuesday.

He added: "France and Germany have to send a strong signal to the Commission that we need to negotiate a pragmatic and sensible outcome that protects jobs on both sides of the Channel."

"For every job lost in the UK, there will be jobs lost in Europe as well if Brexit goes wrong," Hunt said.

- France and EU 'cohesion' -

Two of May's pro-Brexit ministers, including Hunt's predecessor Boris Johnson, resigned over her Brexit plan last month saying it would undermine the opportunities of leaving the EU.

But May is pressing ahead, discussing it with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month, and holding talks last week with the Austrian and Czech leaders.

On Friday, May will have a meeting and private dinner with Macron at the French presidential retreat at Bregancon, the first foreign leader to be invited there.

A government source told the Times that France was "holding fire" on May's Brexit plan.

"So we're making the case to them. It looks like the jury's still out on them, so that's why she's going," the source said.

It follows a visit to Paris by her Brexit minister Dominic Raab on Thursday, and another last week by her business secretary Greg Clark, who also visited Italy and Portugal.

France is seen as taking a particularly hard line in the Brexit negotiations, especially on financial services, where it has openly sought to poach businesses from the City of London.

Some British officials also believe France is opposing continued British involvement in the EU's Galileo satellite programme because of the potential benefits to its own aerospace sector.

However, Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl warned after talks with Hunt on Wednesday against attempts to divide the bloc, saying there was a "high degree of cohesion" in the EU on how to proceed.

Kneissl, whose country currently holds the rotating EU's presidency, added that it was "very clear" that the European Commission was leading the talks.

Barnier himself said last week that there was not a "sliver of difference" between him and the 27 EU leaders in the negotiations.

- Brexit worries -

As the government goes on the charm offensive abroad, concerns are growing in Britain itself about the practical impact of leaving the EU without a deal.

Downing Street was forced to deny on Monday that it had plans for the military to step in, but ministers have confirmed plans to stockpile food and medicines.

The impact of Britain's decision to leave the EU is already being felt -- official figures released Tuesday reveal Britain was the only G7 nation to experience a slowdown in 2017.

Meanwhile Freedom of Information requests from around 30 local authorities, lodged by Sky News, revealed their concerns about Brexit, ranging from a fall in agricultural land prices to a lack of Europeans working in the care sector.]]>
8/1/2018 4:20:19 PM
<![CDATA[Egyptian authorities follow up on mysterious death of citizen in Italy]]>
Abu Zeid said that Viterbo’s hospital notified the Egyptian Embassy in Rome on Monday about the death of Hassan Sharaf, 20, in the hospital where he was moved after he attempted to commit suicide in his solitary confinement cell, according to the hospital and prison claims.

Sharaf was set to be released next September.

The Egyptian Embassy sent a delegation to Viterbo to meet with officials of the prison and hospital to disclose the circumstances of the incident, Abu Zeid said.

Hospital officials revealed that Sharaf was moved to the hospital on July 23 in a state of full unconsciousness after he tried to kill himself in the prison. The prison officials confirmed the hospital’s statements.

The embassy submitted a formal request to the prison administration to conduct a formal investigation into the case, Abu Zeid said, adding that the embassy also asked for Sharaf’s medical records.

According to information provided by his family, Sharaf illegally migrated to Italy when he was 15 after finishing his primary education reportedly to make a good living for himself and his family. He was then able to join school in Italy. However, he was sentenced to 3 years in prison when he was 17 years old.

Sabry Abu Heikal, the victim’s first cousin, said that Sharaf last contacted his family in the holy month of Ramadan, which ended this year on June 14. During the call, he said that he is persecuted by one of his inmates.

Death of Mariam Moustafa
In late February, an 18-year-old Egyptian engineering student, Mariam Moustafa, was tragically attacked and put into coma by 10 British women of African descent.

In a statement issued on March 2, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said they are following all of the case’s updates. On March 14, Mariam died.

Abu Zeid said Egyptian authorities demanded the British authorities to take more serious steps in investigating the abusers, especially that they were captured by the CCTV cameras from the streets and bus where the incident took place.

The statement also accused the hospital were Mariam was taken with “negligence”, as they gave her first aid treatment and checked her out when she needed more care; accordingly, she fell into coma shortly after.

Chief Superintendent Rob Griffin of Nottinghamshire Police visited Egypt to update Mariam's family about the investigation’s latest outcome.

Griffin said: “We understand the depth of interest, sadness and concern in Egypt and in the UK over Mariam’s death, and remain committed to see that justice is done,” according to the Nottingham-based West Bridgford Wire.

Griffin added that Nottinghamshire Police and colleagues from the East Midlands Major Crime Unit are professionally investigating the case, adding that they did not rule out the perception that the crime might have been encouraged by hate.]]>
8/1/2018 2:30:19 PM
<![CDATA[Environment minister, EU’s Surkos talk 2018 Biodiversity Convention ]]>
Egypt will host the 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Biodiversity is defined as the diverse types of living organisms existing in an ecosystem. It defines the degree of variation. The community is considered more stable when larger number of diverse forms exists in it.

Fouad also discussed with Surkos ways to enhance mutual cooperation regarding various environment issues, including climate change. Surkos affirmed the EU's commitment to support the Egyptian efforts in the climate field. Scientifically, climate change can negatively affect biodiversity.

Fouad revealed to Surkos a number of issues that should be addressed in the Biodiversity Convention, including equalizing between developed and developing states through activating the Paris Agreement for climate change. According to the Paris Agreement, all member states shoulder common responsibility to combat climate change.

The agreement aims to keep the rise in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius in the current century in order to combat the threat of climate change. The agreement was signed in 2015.

Concerning Sharm El-Sheikh city, Fouad expressed hope that the EU supports efforts exerted to declare the city located in South Sinai a green city.

Earlier in July, Fouad said that the ministry seeks to announce Sharm El-Sheikh an environment friendly green city.

This came during the minister’s participation with her counterpart, South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) Minister Edna Molewa, in the side sessions of the Biodiversity and Sustainable Development Conventions at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York.

FILE - Naama bay in Sharm El-Sheikh city

Fouad added that a number of projects will be carried out to turn Sharm El-Sheikh into a green city, including waste recycling, reuse of water and the use of environment friendly technology for renewable energy. She also revealed that the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) supports the project by $5 million, which represents the project’s budget.

Sisi follows up on conference preparations
In a meeting between President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, and the ministers of housing, local development and environment on Tuesday, Fouad reviewed the preparations for hosting the Biodiversity Convention, which will reportedly receive over 5,000 attendees from different member states.

The decision that Egypt will host the 14th meeting of the conference was taken by the participants in the 13th meeting of the conference in Cancun, Mexico, in 2016, during the term of former Environment Minister Khaled Fahmi.

Egypt is the second African country to host the conference. Kenya hosted the event in May 2000.

Fouad succeeded Fahmi last June to become the third female minister to serve as the environment minister after Laila Rashid Eskandar and Nadia Makram Ebeid.

Fouad is an assistant professor of economy and political science in Cairo University. She has served as the acting director of the Center for Economic and Financial Research and Studies since 2014.

She represented Egypt in a number of international conferences within the framework of the Green Climate Fund. In addition, she headed a committee that managed to get a fund of $54 million to support Egypt's environmental program for renewable energy.]]>
8/1/2018 1:50:01 PM
<![CDATA[Mismari: Sisi has always backed Libyan Army]]>
During the sixth edition of the National Youth Conference, President Sisi affirmed Egypt's support to the LNA in its combat against armed groups and militias. He also stressed on the importance of the unity of the Libyan army and the need to hold elections in Libya as soon as possible.

In his interview with eXtra news, Mismari said that the Egyptian president has always supported the LNA and that his statements came after he deeply studied the situation in Libya. He added that Sisi is a military person who knows how to analyze the strategic situation.

The LNA spokesman praised the age-old Egyptian role in supporting Libya, saying that Egypt has even supported Libya in natural crises and tribal fights which Turkey had caused, according to him. He added that Egypt is keen to continue such efforts.

Qatar's role in Libya

Mismari said that al-Qaeda organization and the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Libya Shield Force tried to control oil institutions and export projects, and also tried to pass a lot of laws that would give them a bigger chance to control Libya.

During the interview, Mismari said that the efforts of those [conspirers] were foiled by the unity of the Libyan people, adding that this unity stopped Qatar from carrying out more plans.

Mismari said that following the 2011 incidents in Libya, which led to the death of then President Muammar al-Qaddafi and the rise of Islamists to power in Libya, Qatar received some of these Islamists in its most luxurious hotels and organized meetings for them with Qatari politicians and then-ruler of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa. He further added that these elements went back to Libya with Qatari grants and money.

The LNA spokesman said that after the Dignity Operation was launched in 2014, Qatar started to lose everything, and it definitely lost all the money it paid in Libya.

Mismari said that a number of terrorist camps supported by Qatar started to completely disappear, adding that Qatar has nothing left in Libya except some elements the LNA leadership knows well. He said that a full report on Qatar and other countries’ interventions including secret meetings, communications, and funds will be published in the right time.

The LNA forces earlier announced full control of the oil crescent which reportedly incorporates about 80 percent of Libya’s oil, after fierce clashes with rival militias that had controlled the region.

A spokesman for the Eastern Libyan Forces announced on June 21 that the forces are in full control of the Es Sider and Ras Lanuf oil ports in the country's oil crescent.

How Brotherhood, Qaeda view election

Mismari said that the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda fear losing the Libyan presidential and parliamentary elections that are set to be held in December, as this will lead them to completely leave the political scene; therefore, they do not want elections to be held.

They lost the last parliamentary election after they allied with each other in 2011, issued a number of laws and decisions, held full control over Libya, referred thousands of army men to retirement, destroyed the military institution and established the Libya Shield Force as an alternative army, and the Supreme Security Committee as an alternative police force, Mismari said.

Mismari stressed that they could never forget this loss.

Mismari said that Muslim Brotherhood tries to prevent the upcoming elections from being held, saying that elections cannot be held without a constitution. Mismari revealed that the Islamists’ demand to create a constitution first is part of their plan to stay for more years in power.

He added that the current constitution is full of defects and was created to serve the Muslim Brotherhood group.

In late May, Libya’s main rival leaders agreed on running presidential and parliamentary elections in December. They also agreed to finalize a constitutional base for the elections by September 16, 2018.

French President Emmanuel Macron hosts a meeting at the Elysee Palace that aims to end the Libyan crisis in the presence of Libya’s four main rivals, including head of the Libyan High Council of State Khaled Mishri, General Commander of Libyan National Army Khalifa Heftar, Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and speaker of the eastern House of Representatives Aguila Saleh – Twitter/Taher Al-Sonni

This came in a meeting hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace, with the aim of ending the Libyan crisis, in the presence of Libya’s four main rivals, including Head of the Libyan High Council of State Khaled Mishri, General Commander of Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar, Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, and speaker of the Eastern House of Representatives Aguila Saleh.]]>
8/1/2018 1:07:25 PM
<![CDATA[Year of 2019: Education and building the Egyptian character ]]>
The recommendations included naming the year 2019 as the "Year of Education", launching the National Project for the Development of the New Education System, the allocation of 20 percent of the scholarships within and outside Egypt to the teaching staff for 10 years and training teachers of technical education in accordance with international standards.

Alongside other developments, the Council of Ministers was mandated to link, or rather correlate, the university plans with the need of the state and to prepare a plan for the return of sports and cultural activities.

The conference consisted of top-scoring 2017/2018 thanaweya amma graduates, officials, ministers and other important figures, who came together to primarily discuss finding a way to build a generation fit for the future.

“We don’t want to reclaim the Egyptian character…but to work to develop it to keep up with our times,” said President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

Focusing on education is a top priority for the progression of Egypt and the development of youth.

“Do you want real education or do you want your kids to just get ‘degrees?’ A real educational reform is a harsh, long trip that requires sacrifice from students, teachers and parents,” said Sisi.

The first session, titled “The Strategy of Building the Egyptian Person,” focuses on character building that will be achieved via healthcare reform, proper education and sports.
Amongst the recommendations published by the Information Center is boosting the coordination between ministries to provide school students with opportunities to practice sports, cultural and artistic activities in youth centers and cultural palaces.

Minister of Youth, Ashraf Sobhy, explained that the ministry is aiming to enhance sports facilities and that programs regarding physical education will be made available for various age groups.

Interestingly, some of these discussions not only concern students in upper grades, but also nursery students. Parts of the recommendations mention the establishment of nurseries for creativity and innovation; these will be under the auspices of the Supreme Council of Universities to provide support for creative youth in all fields.

Although this recommendation is based on Prime Minister, Mostafa Madbouly’s point that character building is a Cabinet priority, as he stated in the first session, improving the standard of living will not be ignored.

"Egypt Take Off" program focuses on improving the standard of living via establishing housing projects and eliminating slums, stated Madbouly.
These developments will aid the economy by both creating jobs and bringing about the concept of entrepreneurship, he explained.

MP and Secretary of Human Rights Committee, Sherif al-Wardani stressed the importance of this conference, particularly in terms of science, education and development of youth.

Wardani pointed out that the process of developing education is a fundamental and important goal for the development of the Egyptian human.

He stressed the need to implement the recommendations of the youth conference as it is a link between the state and the youth.
8/1/2018 11:15:10 AM
<![CDATA[UK trade delegation highlights ways to support EdTec in Egypt]]>
This was a part of Egypt’s MENA Innovation 2018 conference, held from July 29 to 31, by UK Brains Innovation Summits Company in collaboration with the Egyptian ministries of education and technical education, communications and information technology, and higher education and research.

During the conference, a discussion was held between the direct Investment Working Group and UK Trade Envoy to Egypt, Donaldson, “to keep UK Egypt's No.1 investor, create more jobs for talented Egyptians” and support education technology (EdTech) in Egypt.

In the same context, Donaldson arrived in Cairo, Egypt, accompanied by the biggest foreign delegation to participate in Egypt’s MENA Innovation 2018 conference on education technology (EdTech), the British Embassy in Cairo announced.

British Ambassador in Egypt John Casson tweeted that education is the key to unleash potential and innovation in Egypt, which can provide world’s education to new people and places.

This conference is an official ministerial summit for the improvement of education and digital inclusion, which is one of Egypt’s great concerns and one of the pillars of the sixth edition of the National Youth Conference (NYC).

The conference brings together 22 government ministers from up to 30 countries across the MENA region and Sub-Saharan Africa.

On July 28, all education reform plans were displayed on the NYC first day, and President Sisi answered on Sunday the citizens' questions as part of his initiative “Ask the President”.

Sisi remarked that a number of schools called "Schools of Applied Technology" will be established, where students will receive and get paid for technical trainings as part of their degree requirements in collaboration with the private sector.

He added that education reforms will succeed through the cooperation and understanding of citizens. Otherwise, the deterioration in education will be further manifested in all other life aspects, the president explained.
8/1/2018 11:03:21 AM
<![CDATA[Tension mounts as Zimbabwe opposition claims election victory]]>
Electoral officials warned that gathering the results of the poll, which President Emmerson Mnangagwa said looked "extremely positive" for him, was "nowhere near" complete and no announcement would be made until as late as Saturday.

The candidates' competing claims following the first elections since former leader Robert Mugabe was ousted in November raise the prospect of fraud allegations and a possible run-off vote on September 8.

That would be required if no candidate wins 50 percent of ballots cast by Zimbabwe's 5.6 million voters in the first round.

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) official Tendai Biti said on Tuesday that the party was sure its candidate Nelson Chamisa had won and that if he was not declared victorious, it would "announce our own results".

That apparently prompted Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu to warn that anyone doing so would "provoke the wrath of the law and risk being sent to jail".

"We have noted with concern the actions and conduct of some political party leaders... who are openly declaring that they will announce results irrespective of provisions of the law," Mpofu said at a media briefing in harare. It is illegal to announce results before the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

The commission had earlier warned that the results of the presidential first round may not be known until Friday or even Saturday and would not be released until tallies were received from all 10,985 polling stations.

"We are nowhere near where we expected to be, so I can quite see us going into the fifth day which is allowed by law -- but we are working flat-out," ZEC chairwoman Priscilla Chigumba told journalists in the capital.

On Wednesday attention will shift to the European Union's electoral monitoring team which will deliver a much-anticipated report on the conduct of the campaign, the polls and counting processes.

Their findings will also be an important verdict on Mnangagwa, 75, who has staked his reputation on delivering credible polls.

"There are shortcomings that we have to check. We don't know yet whether it was a pattern," the EU's chief observer Elmar Brok told AFP during voting Monday.

Observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union will also deliver reports on the polls.

- 'Deliberate delay' -

Biti had earlier accused the ZEC of deliberately delaying the publication of results to help Mnangagwa's ruling ZANU-PF party.

"The results show beyond reasonable doubt that we have won the election and that the next president of Zimbabwe is Nelson Chamisa," Biti told a press conference at the party's headquarters in Harare on Tuesday.

Outside, MDC supporters danced jubilantly in the street brandishing "Vote Nelson Chamisa" posters while four water cannons and police personnel carriers patrolled nearby.

"We are however seriously concerned about evidence of interference... there is a deliberate delay in announcing the results. This delay is totally unacceptable," Biti added.

ZEC chair Chigumba has flatly denied allegations of bias and strongly disputed accusations of rigging.

Analysts have said it was unclear whether the country's generals, who ousted Mugabe and ushered Mnangagwa into office, would accept an MDC victory.

- Military intervention? -

"There is no way that ZANU-PF will accept an MDC victory. We know that people will be beaten -- especially in rural areas, like what they were doing before," said Harare shop worker Tracy Kubara, 26.

Ninety-four-year-old Mugabe, who was accused of political violence and rigging elections during his nearly four decades in power, voted in Harare alongside his wife Grace.

It followed a surprise press conference at his home on Sunday at which he stunned observers and called for voters to reject ZANU-PF, his former party.

Mnangagwa, Mugabe's former right-hand man, was the clear election front-runner, benefitting from tacit military support and control of state resources.

But Chamisa, 40, a lawyer and pastor who performed strongly on the campaign trail, sought to tap into the youth and urban vote.

He has repeatedly accused ZANU-PF and election authorities of trying to use a flawed electoral register and fixed ballot papers to steal the election.

Whoever wins will face a mass unemployment crisis and an economy shattered by the Mugabe-era seizure of white-owned farms, the collapse of agriculture, hyperinflation and an exodus of investment.]]>
8/1/2018 3:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[French government survives confidence votes over Benalla scandal]]>
There was little chance of bringing down the government given the comfortable majority enjoyed by Macron's Republic On The Move (LREM) party in the lower-house National Assembly.

But opposition lawmakers seized the opportunity to denounce a "constitutional crisis" following revelations that Macron's office knew top security aide Alexandre Benalla, had roughed up two protesters while posing as a police officer.

Macron's office gave him a two-week suspension after learning of a video showing the incident, but did not report it to prosecutors.

Several have demanded that the government "explain itself" over the worst scandal since Macron took office in May last year.

"Since the acts under scrutiny appear to have been covered up by free passes at the highest levels of the state, there is indeed a 'Benalla affair'," Socialist MP Valerie Rabault told Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and other cabinet ministers ahead of the votes.

"The disease runs deep -- it's called presidentialism", said leftist leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, accusing Macron of holding himself above parliament and the judiciary.

But only 143 MPs voted in favour of the confidence vote brought by rightwing parties, far short of the absolute majority of 289 votes needed to topple the government.

The confidence vote called by leftwing groups also failed, garnering just 74 votes.

- New allegations -

Numerous senior officials have already been hauled before parliamentary commissions over their responses to the affair, with LREM chief Christophe Castaner the latest to appear on Tuesday.

Macron has dismissed the scandal as a "storm in a teacup" but his opponents have continued to heap criticism on his handling of it, calling on him to address the nation.

The affair has taken a toll on the president's poll ratings, which are at their lowest since the former investment banker won the presidency last year on pledges to restore integrity and transparency to government.

Benalla, Macron's 26-year-old former chief bodyguard, was charged with assault and impersonating an officer after the video showing him hitting a protester and wrestling another while wearing a police helmet was published by French daily Le Monde this month.

He was also wearing a police armband at one point and was in possession of a police radio, though in hearings officials have said they do not know how he got them.

Days after the video emerged his was fired.

Prosecutors on Monday opened a new investigation over allegations from two more protesters that Benalla also manhandled them, hours before the incident that sparked the scandal.

In several media interviews, he has insisted that he was trying to help the police by bringing aggressive demonstrators under control, and that he himself did not use violence.

He was wearing a helmet that he was given for his own protection while attending the protest as an observer, he added.

LREM lawmakers have dismissed the votes as an attempt to derail Macron's reform drive, with the debate over planned constitutional amendments already set back by the row.

"Trying to bring down a government and its reforms because one official went out of control?" tweeted LREM spokesman Gabriel Attal.

Macron will be hoping for some respite as MPs head off on their summer break Wednesday.

Confidence votes are fairly common in France: there have been more than 100 since the current constitution was adopted in 1958.

Only once has such a move actually brought down a French government, that of Georges Pompidou in 1962.]]>
8/1/2018 3:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[Facebook uncovers political influence campaign ahead of midterms]]>
It said the "bad actor" accounts on the world's biggest social network and its photo-sharing site Instagram could not be tied directly to Russian actors, who American officials say used the platform to spread disinformation ahead of the 2016 US presidential election.

The US intelligence community has concluded that Russia sought to sway the vote in Donald Trump's favor, and Facebook was a primary tool in that effort, using targeted ads to escalate political tensions and push divisive online content.

Trump, now president, has repeatedly downplayed Kremlin efforts to interfere in US democracy.

Two weeks ago, he caused an international firestorm when he stood alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin and cast doubt on assertions that Russia tried to sabotage the vote.

With the 2018 mid-terms barely three months away, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced his company's crackdown.

"One of my top priorities for 2018 is to prevent misuse of Facebook," Zuckerberg said on his own Facebook page.

"We build services to bring people closer together and I want to ensure we're doing everything we can to prevent anyone from misusing them to drive us apart."

Facebook did say "some of the activity is consistent" with that of the Saint Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency -- the Russian troll farm that managed many false Facebook accounts used to influence the 2016 vote.

"We have found evidence of connections between these accounts and previously identified IRA accounts, but we don't believe the evidence is strong enough at this time to make public attribution to the IRA," Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamps said during a conference call with reporters.

"We can't say for sure if this is the IRA with improved capabilities or a different organization."

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, is heading a sprawling investigation into possible collusion with Russia by Trump's campaign to tip the vote toward the real estate tycoon.

Mueller has indicted the Russian group and 12 people, mainly Russian nationals, connected to the organization.

Facebook said it is shutting down 32 pages and accounts "engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior," even though it may never be known for certain what group or country was behind them.

The tech giant's investigation is at an early stage, but was revealed now because one of the pages being covertly operated was orchestrating a counter-protest to a white nationalism rally in Washington.

The coordinators of a deadly white-supremacist event in Charlottesville last year reportedly have been given a permit to hold a rally near the White House on August 12, the anniversary of the 2017 gathering.

Facebook said it will notify members of the social network who expressed interest in attending the counter-protest.

- US 'not doing' enough -

Facebook has briefed US law enforcement agencies, Congress and other tech companies about its findings.

"Today's disclosure is further evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation, and I am glad that Facebook is taking some steps to pinpoint and address this activity," said the Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat Mark Warner.

The panel's chairman, Republican Senator Richard Burr, said he was glad to see Facebook take a "much-needed step toward limiting the use of their platform by foreign influence campaigns."

"The goal of these operations is to sow discord, distrust and division," he added. "The Russians want a weak America."

US lawmakers have introduced multiple bills aimed at boosting election security.

While top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer applauded Facebook's action, he said the Trump administration itself "is not doing close to enough" to protect elections.

Some of the most-followed pages that were shut down included "Resisters" and "Aztlan Warriors."

The Resisters page enlisted support from real followers for an August protest in Washington against the far-right "Unite the Right" group.

Inauthentic pages dating back more than a year organized an array of real world events, all but two of which have taken place, according to Facebook.

The news comes just days after Facebook suffered the worst single-day evaporation of market value for any company, after missing revenue forecasts for the second quarter and offering soft growth projections.

Zuckerberg's firm says the slowdown will come in part due to its new approach to privacy and security, which helped experts uncover these so-called "bad actors."]]>
8/1/2018 2:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. senior official says he flagged risks for children from border separations]]>
Jonathan White, a senior U.S. Public Health Service official, told Congress that the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), where he worked until March 2018, had "raised a number of concerns" about the proposed policy in the year preceding its implementation.

Some 2,500 children were separated from their parents as part of Republican President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" policy toward illegal immigration. Many of them had crossed the U.S.-Mexican border illegally, while others had sought asylum. The separations were in place from early May until Trump stopped the practice last month in the face of intense global criticism.

"We raised a number of concerns in the ORR program about any policy which would result in family separation due to concerns we had about the best interest of the child," White told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that is looking into how the policy evolved.

He added that the agency had also flagged worries over the logistics of such a policy.

He did not say who in the administration was told of ORR's concerns, but when pressed by Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, White said, "Separation of children from their parents entails significant risk of harm to children."

White said he was told that "there was no policy that was going to result in separation of children from family units." He did not specify who in the administration told him that.

Immigrant advocates and lawyers have said that the policy has been chaotic, and that it was evident there was no plan in place for how to reunify families before the separations began on a large scale.

White was among five federal officials testifying before the Republican-controlled committee.

In response to questions from the senators about reports of women being sexually abused by guards in detention centers, Matthew Albence, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official, said there were "rigorous" inspections of facilities, with investigations launched on any reports of abuse.

When asked about conditions in family detention centers, he said, "I think the best way to describe them is more like a summer camp," adding that the facilities include soccer fields, an abundance of food and water, and medical care.

Administration witnesses did not reply directly when asked by senators whether they would want to send their own children to such a "summer camp."

The Project on Government Oversight, a non-governmental watchdog group, urged the committee to call DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to testify.

"The witnesses who testified (on Tuesday) couldn't answer some basic, serious questions about the implementation of the policy of separating parents and children with no plan to reunite them," said Sarah Turberville, director of the group's Constitution Project.

Trump, who made cracking down on illegal immigration a major part of his presidential campaign, repeated on Tuesday an earlier threat that he would be willing to have a government shutdown if Democrats do not vote for his immigration priorities, which include a wall on the southern border.

"A Government Shutdown is a very small price to pay for a safe and Prosperous America!" he wrote on Twitter. ]]>
8/1/2018 2:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. says it expects N.Korea to uphold promise to give up nuclear arms]]>
Questions have arisen over Pyongyang's commitment to denuclearize after U.S. spy satellite material detected renewed activity at the North Korean factory that produced the country's first intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the United States.

The department left open the possibility that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could meet North Korean officials during meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc in Singapore this weekend.

"We will be in some of the same meetings as North Korean officials. I certainly can't preclude any interaction taking place, but we have no meetings on the schedule," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.

Another State Department official, who earlier briefed reporters on Pompeo's trip to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia this week, said the secretary would remind ASEAN to adhere to sanctions against Pyongyang. There are concerns that fuel is being sold illegally to North Korea despite U.N. sanctions, the official said.

The official said that North Korea will participate in a 27-nation regional ASEAN forum on Saturday that Pompeo will also attend.

"We remain concerned about the scale of North Korea's illicit procurement, in particular of refined petroleum products via U.N.-prohibited ship-to-ship transfers," the official said.

Under the restrictions, Pyongyang is limited to importing 4 million barrels of crude and 500,000 barrels of products a year.

Pompeo has led talks with Pyongyang to denuclearize following a June summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Nauert said the United States was holding Kim to the commitment he made during the summit to denuclearize.

She declined to comment on the spy satellite images.

"What we are going on is the commitment that Chairman Kim made to our president, and that is the commitment to denuclearize. That is something that we certainly anticipate that he will hold up his end of the bargain," Nauert said.

One photo image showed a truck and covered trailer similar to those the North has used to move its ICBMs. Since the trailer was covered, it was not possible to know what, if anything, it was carrying.

Photos and infrared imaging, however, indicate vehicles moving in and out of the facility at Sanumdong, but do not show how advanced any missile construction might be.

The evidence obtained this month is the latest to suggest ongoing activity in North Korea's nuclear and missile facilities. Trump declared soon after the summit that North Korea no longer posed a nuclear threat. ]]>
8/1/2018 12:27:05 AM
<![CDATA[Iran rejects Trump offer of talks as "humiliation", without value]]>
Separately, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Trump's repudiation of the accord reached in 2015 was "illegal" and Iran would not easily yield to Washington's renewed campaign to strangle Iran's vital oil exports.

In May, Trump pulled the United States out of the multilateral deal concluded before he took office, denouncing it as one-sided in Iran's favour. On Monday, he declared that he would be willing to meet Rouhani without preconditions to discuss how to improve relations.

The head of Iran's Strategic Council on Foreign Relations said on Tuesday Tehran saw no worth in Trump's offer, made only a week after he warned Iran it risked dire consequences few had ever suffered in history if it made threats against Washington.

"Based on our bad experiences in negotiations with America and based on U.S. officials' violation of their commitments, it is natural that we see no value in his proposal," Kamal Kharrazi was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.

“Trump should first make up for his withdrawal from the nuclear deal and show that he respects his predecessors’ commitments and international law,” added Kharrazi, a former foreign minister.

The council was set up by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to help formulate long-term policies for the Islamic Republic.

Trump's move to force Iran into fresh negotiations has for now reunited Iranian hardliners who opposed the nuclear deal and moderates like Rouhani who championed it to end the Islamic Republic's economically crippling stand-off with Western powers.

Ali Motahari, the deputy speaker of Iran's parliament who is seen as part of Iran's moderate camp, said that to negotiate with Trump now "would be a humiliation".

"If Trump had not withdrawn from the nuclear deal and not imposed (new) sanctions on Iran, there would be no problem with negotiations with America," he told state news agency IRNA.

Iran's interior minister chimed in that Tehran did not trust Washington as a negotiating partner. "The United States is not trustworthy. How can we trust this country when it withdraws unilaterally from the nuclear deal?" Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.

A senior aide to Rouhani said the only way back to talks was for Washington to return to the nuclear agreement.

"Respecting the Iranian nation's rights, reducing hostilities and returning to the nuclear deal are steps that can be taken to pave the bumpy road of talks between Iran and America," Hamid Aboutalebi tweeted on Tuesday.

Under the 2015 deal, the fruit of Rouhani's efforts to ease Iran's international isolation to help revive its economy, Iran curbed its shadowy nuclear programme and won relief from U.N. and Western sanctions in return.


Trump condemned the deal in part because it did not cover Iran's ballistic missile programme and involvement in Middle East conflicts. He reactivated U.S. sanctions, the most all-encompassing measures against Iran, and warned countries to stop importing Iranian oil from Nov. 4 or risk U.S. penalties.

The three major European signatories to the 2015 deal have been searching for ways to salvage it but cautioned Tehran that they may not be able to persuade many major investors not to bolt from business with Iran to avoid U.S. punishment.

Rouhani said during a meeting with Britain's ambassador on Tuesday that after what he called the "illegal" U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, "the ball is in Europe's court now".

He added, "The Islamic Republic has never sought tension in the region and does not want any trouble in global waterways, but it will not easily give up on its rights to export oil.”

Rouhani and some senior military commanders have said Iran could disrupt oil shipments from Gulf states through the Strait of Hormuz if Washington tries to choke off Iranian oil exports.

Reiterating Tehran's official stance, Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency on Tuesday that the strait would remain open "if Iran's national interests are preserved".

Iran's OPEC governor, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, told Reuters on Tuesday that Trump was mistaken to expect Saudi Arabia and other oil producers to compensate for losses of Iranian oil caused by U.S. sanctions.

"It seems President Trump has been taken hostage by Saudi Arabia and a few producers when they claimed they can replace 2.5 million barrels per day of Iranian exports, encouraging him to take action against Iran,” Ardebili said.

"Now they and Russia sell more oil and more expensively. Not even from their incremental production but their stocks."

He said oil prices, which Trump has been pressuring the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to bring down by raising output, will instead rise unless the United States grants waivers to buyers of Iranian crude.

Iran’s currency plumbed new depths on Monday, dropping past 120,000 rials to the dollar, but Trump's expressed willingness to negotiate with Tehran sparked a minor recovery on Tuesday to 110,000 rials on the unofficial market.

Iranian Vice-President Eshagh Jahangiri said the government and the central bank would unveil a new economic plan by the end of this week to tackle the U.S. sanctions and the rial's fall.

Videos on social media showed hundreds of people rallying in Isfahan in central Iran in protest at high prices caused in part by the rial's devaluation under heightened U.S. pressure. ]]>
7/31/2018 5:18:00 PM
<![CDATA[Ministers Tarek Shawki, Khaled Abdel Ghaffar launch ICT Innovation Summit ]]>
The summit is held for the first time in Egypt. It is organized by UK 's Brains Innovation Summits Company, in collaboration with the Egyptian ministries of education and technical education, communications and IT, and higher education.

Almost 22 government ministers from across the MENA region and Sub-Saharan Africa participated in the summit.

The summit focuses on technology because education and technology come hand in hand to enable users to learn more efficiently.

The British companies taking part are pioneers in Ed Tech. The firms include innovative sharks like Blippit which assists both teachers and students to come up with beneficial educational apps.

Humanware is another UK participant; the firm focuses on building apps that assist the blind and vision-impaired individuals to learn more easily.

Ed Tech is the future of education, and several British companies are working hard to come up with software that could enable the Egyptian student to study and learn in a more efficient way.

Those who are in need of special care, children, adults, elderly and almost anyone could benefit from the Ed Tech approach.

The summit, held in Egypt, is a golden chance for leading businesses in the field to get together and share best practices.

Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Abdel Ghaffar, stated that the summit focuses on innovation and IT, referring to the high competition that the digital world witnesses nowadays.

The minister stressed that technology and innovation are the main forces that drive, improve and enrich any educational system.

The minister further stated that strategies of scientific research and innovation are will be implemented in Egypt’s vision 2030 in order to achieve sustainable development.

The minister further commented that the Ministry of Education and Scientific Research will take a new approach to encourage youth to innovate and improve their learning abilities and knowledge through focusing on Ed Tech.

According to Abdel Ghaffar, Egypt has jumped 10 ranks in the Global Innovation ranking, reaching the position 95.

Abdel Ghaffar assured the attendees that the ministry will always be committed to improve education in Egypt and improve the skills of the Egyptian students in general.

The summit is hosted by Egypt to encourage investing in the country and to create a regional market focusing on direct projects and co-operation with the private-sector.
Egypt aims to be the regional leader in IT innovations and digital creativity.

British Ambassador to Egypt John Casson said:

“Education is the key to unleashing Egypt’s potential, and new technology can get world class education to new people and places it has never reached before. Britain leads the world in using technology to transform education and so we are working closely with Egypt to make sure Egyptians can benefit from exciting new ways to access education and take control of their learning. We’re proud of British expertise in knowledge-intensive sectors from education to as technology and finance, and we are determined to use them to help Egyptian enterprise and innovation create jobs to help all Egyptians.’’
7/31/2018 3:12:18 PM
<![CDATA[Spain denies 'mass' migration, says Europe needs 'new blood']]>
"We're trivialising the word 'mass'," he told reporters after talks in Madrid with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi.

Close to 21,000 migrants have arrived in Spain by sea since the beginning of the year and 304 died in the attempt, the International Organization for Migration says.

The Libya-Italy Mediterranean route, which was the main one until recently, has dwindled by 80 percent while Spain has now become the main destination for migrants trying to reach Europe.

Migrants are also reaching Spain by land, with 602 managing to scramble over the double barrier between Morocco and the Spanish territory of Ceuta in North Africa last Thursday, throwing caustic quicklime, excrement and stones onto police below.

Borrell recognised that "this shocks public opinion and the disorderly nature of immigration produces fear."

But he said it was all relative, and "600 people is not massive compared to 1.3 million" Syrian refugees currently in Jordan.

"We're talking about 20,000 (migrants) so far this year for a country of more than 40 million inhabitants," the Socialist minister said. "That's not mass migration."

Borrell also said the arrivals were under control, even if NGOs are warning that many migrant reception centres in Spain are saturated.

He suggested this could even help Europe, where many countries have a low birth rate.

"Europe's demographic evolution shows that unless we want to gradually turn into an ageing continent, we need new blood, and it doesn't look like this new blood is coming from our capacity to procreate."

€30 million emergency plan

During two months in office, Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has asserted his liberal credentials by offering to receive hundreds of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, as the European Union struggles to agree on how to handle them.

The government said on Monday that it aims to invest 30 million euros in an emergency plan to manage the influx of migrants.

The money will go towards covering the initial costs of managing arrivals on the beaches, from staff to hand out blankets and food to managing the process of identification and determining whether people qualify for asylum, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister's office said.

Sanchez's political opponents including the hard-line new leader of the conservative People's Party (PP) have warned against creating a "pull factor" for migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

"Rather than a pull factor, we could talk about a lack of foresight in the last years of the previous government, which did nothing about increasing arrivals, and obliged this government to take urgent steps," Sanchez's office said in a statement.

Sanchez's office said the previous government left Spain unprepared for the influx, which has totalled almost 24,000 so far this year, according to the United Nations refugee agency, almost as many as made the trip throughout all of 2017.]]>
7/31/2018 12:56:47 PM
<![CDATA[US 'detects new activity' at North Korea missile site]]>
Photos and infrared imaging indicate vehicles moving in and out of the facility at Sanumdong, but do not show how advanced any missile construction might be, the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity because the intelligence is classified.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that North Korea appeared to be building one or two new liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles at the large research facility on the outskirts of Pyongyang, citing unidentified officials familiar with intelligence reporting.

According to the U.S. official who spoke to Reuters, one photo showed a truck and covered trailer similar to those the North has used to move its ICBMs. Since the trailer was covered, it was not possible to know what, if anything, it was carrying.

The White House said it did not comment on intelligence.

The evidence obtained this month is the latest to suggest ongoing activity in North Korea's nuclear and missile facilities despite talks with the United States and a June summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Trump declared soon afterward that North Korea no longer posed a nuclear threat.

Kim committed in a broad summit statement to work toward denuclearization, but Pyongyang has offered no details as to how it might go about that and subsequent talks have not gone smoothly.

It was not the first time U.S. intelligence clashed with the president's optimism. In late June, U.S. officials told U.S. media outlets that intelligence agencies believed North Korea had increased production of fuel for nuclear weapons and that it did not intend to fully give up its nuclear arsenal.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week that North Korea was continuing to produce fuel for nuclear bombs despite its pledge to denuclearize. But he insisted the Trump administration was still making progress in its talks with Pyongyang.

Joel Wit, a former State Department negotiator and founder of 38 North, a North Korea monitoring project, said it was unrealistic to expect North Korea to stop its programs "until the ink is dry on an agreement."

That was the case with U.S. negotiations with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and more recently with Iran, "which continued to build more centrifuges capable of producing nuclear material even as it negotiated with the United States to limit those capabilities," Wit said.

The Sanumdong factory produced two Hwasong-15 ICBMs, North Korea’s longest-range missiles, but the U.S. official noted that Pyongyang still had not tested a reliable re-entry vehicle capable of surviving a high-velocity trip through the Earth’s atmosphere and delivering a nuclear warhead.

It is possible, the official said, that any new missiles the North is building may be for further testing of such vehicles and of more accurate guidance systems.

“They seem to have figured out the engines, but not all the higher-tech stuff, and that might be what this is about,” the official said. “What’s more, a liquid-fueled ICBM doesn’t pose nearly the threat that a solid-fueled one would because they take so long to fuel, and that’s something we almost certainly could see in time to abort a launch, given our assets in the vicinity.”]]>
7/31/2018 12:39:32 PM
<![CDATA[MP praises Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s call to combat hate speech]]>
Mostafa said that there are online websites and satellite channels that are supported by terrorist organizations, adding that some countries secured safe resorts for such groups and supported them logistically and financially. He added that all parliaments should cooperate to set the strategy to combat hate speech.

Cairo has taken part in a working group on the communication and media strategy of the international coalition against Daesh (Islamic State), held in Washington.

Leading Egypt’s delegation, Abu Zeid said he was keen during the speech he delivered to assert the importance of such a critical stage for the US-led coalition after decisive blows struck Daesh terrorist organization.

The coalition members have to be aware of the gravity of this stage, which requires waging a fierce media and intellectual battle against the discourse of extremism, hatred and violence, Abu Zeid stressed.

Abu Zeid noted that there is no way to eliminate Daesh and other similar organizations without confronting this bizarre discourse, whatever its source might be, in all its forms, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

In this regard, the spokesman urged the working group to develop a code of conduct or guiding standards with the aim of combating the hatred discourse that spread on some TV channels and social media websites.

Formed in 2014, the coalition aims to defeat the Islamic State (IS) by tackling its infrastructure and preventing IS fighters from flowing across borders. The coalition is also tasked with combating the group’s propaganda.

The coalition is formed of 77 members. It discusses in its meetings media and intellectual strategies to combat the IS group.

In July 2017, following the boycott of Qatar by four Arab countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt over accusations of funding terrorism, Abu Zeid called for dropping Qatar’s membership of the coalition, saying that its presence may affect the coalition’s credibility.

In October 2017, Egypt, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia's ministers of information issued a statement in a meeting in Bahrain in which they stressed the importance of confronting hate speech and extremist rhetoric promoted by Qatar.

The four countries issued a list of demands in order for the ongoing boycott to end. The demands mainly include shutting Qatari Al-Jazeera network. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir blamed Qatar in July 2017 for advocating “hate speech” through Al-Jazeera.

The Islamic State (IS) group is a jihadist militant group, found in a number of Arab countries, mainly Iraq and Syria, where it was designated a terrorist organization. The IS claims that its supreme purpose is to retrieve the Islamic Caliphate.

The group used to publish professional videos of its members while beheading “disbelievers” and other people the group thinks they deserve to be murdered, including what they call “apostates.”

“A message signed with blood to the nation of the cross” operation – screenshot of a video released by the IS

In 2015, IS published a video dubbed “A message signed with blood to the nation of the cross”, where a number of masked IS members appeared beheading 21 Copts, including 20 Egyptians in Sirte, Libya.]]>
7/31/2018 11:49:10 AM
<![CDATA[Mali leader Ibrahim Boubacar Keita ahead in poll count - spokesman]]>
"According to our tally, IBK has come substantially ahead," his spokesman Mahamadou Camara told Reuters by telephone, using the popular nickname for the president taken from his initials.
7/31/2018 2:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[ The Eagle Response 2018 continues its exercises ]]>
The joint exercises, which are part of the military cooperation between Egypt and the US, have been taking place in the Red Sea. Troops from South Korea, Pakistan, and Jordan are participating as observers.

The exercises are part of a joint training plan set by the Armed Forces with brotherly countries to enhance the military cooperation and the exchange of training experiences.

The training activities focus on mines, safety methods, identification of search and detection equipment of mines, using remote control search vessels besides the joint practical exercises to conduct and practice the right to visit, board, search and seize (VBSS) suspect vessels, attacking and deploying on the coasts, according to the Egyptian Armed Forces’ statements.

Previously, Egypt hosted the U.S. biennial military exercise called "The Bright Star 2017"on the ground of the newly inaugurated military base, Mohamed Naguib, from September 10 to 20.

The joint military exercises are marked to be the first since the ouster of ex-President Muhammed Hosni Mubarak following a short hiatus in 2014 ordered by former American President Barack Obama.

Around 200 U.S. troops took part in the military exercises aiming at strengthening the military cooperation with Egypt whose role is vital in preserving the regional security and stability.

In late July, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi inaugurated Mohamed Naguib base which is considered the biggest military base in the Middle East and Africa.

The new military base includes 1,155 vital facilities, 72 training areas, a major conference hall, a large number of shooting ranges, and residences for the officers, along with 50 solar modules and a tank-transporting container of about 451 modern tankers.
7/31/2018 12:45:47 AM
<![CDATA[Sisi announces establishing technical center to serve disabled people]]>
During the inauguration of the 7th International Conference on Information Technology Convergence and Services for People with Disabilities (ICT4PwDs), Sisi also announced establishing an initiative that aims to enable disabled people to get services and information introduced by online websites of governmental institutions.

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Sisi said that the state has taken steps to take more advantage of the great powers of the Egyptian people with special needs, July, 30, 2018 – Courtesy of the presidency
During a day he described as the “happiest day” in his life, President Sisi honored a number of youth with special needs.

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President Sisi honored a number of youth with special needs, July, 30, 2018 – Courtesy of the presidency
Sisi said that the state has taken steps to take more advantage of the great powers of the Egyptian people with special needs, adding that the 2014 constitution has guaranteed them unprecedented rights, including securing seats in the Parliament for the disabled people.

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President Sisi honored a number of youth with special needs, July, 30, 2018 – Courtesy of the presidency

According to law no. 46 of 2014, the four electoral lists of the previous Parliamentary election had to contain at least a total of eight candidates of people with special needs out of 120 candidates. Those enlisted in the block vote system lists had to represent only about 20 percent of the Parliament members in the 2015 election.

Sisi affirmed that 2018 has witnessed the approval of a law for people with special needs, in addition, this year was declared a year for disabled people. He added that the state institutions were directed to work on involving those Egyptians in their development strategies.

Sisi issued law no. 10 for year 2018 on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on February 20, after being approved by the parliament.

The new law offers many commitments by the government to persons with disabilities following implementation of the new law; including Non-discrimination due to disability, or gender of the person with disabilities. And to ensure real equality in the enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in all fields, Respect their choices and how they express them by their own independent will, the right of persons with disabilities and their families to obtain all information that concerns them from all sectors.

The law also says that persons with disabilities shall exercise the right to education, learning, work and recreation, and in the use of public facilities and services. The right of the disabled to receive a combination of salary and pension, and the obligation to create all facilities in the country for the disabled, Adding to providing a safe environment for persons with disabilities, and not being subjected to economic, political or commercial exploitation, violence, abuse, torture, abuse, neglect, negligence, humiliating treatment or affecting any of their rights.

Sisi said that the use of communication tools and information technology nowadays to remove the obstacles people with special needs are facing, is considered one of the outcomes of the initiative which was launched two years ago to empower them in accordance with Egypt Vision “Sustainable Development Strategy: Egypt Vision 2030," and the related United Nations agreement.

The President affirmed that the government would exert much effort to create an appropriate environment for Egyptians with special needs.

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Sisi said that the state has taken steps to take more advantage of the great powers of the Egyptian people with special needs, July, 30, 2018 – Courtesy of the presidency
In 2015, the “Karama” (Dignity) program was launched, providing unconditional financial support programs for those who are underprivileged, namely the elderly and those who are fully disabled. The main aim of the programs is to eliminate absolute poverty and cover the basic needs of the elderly and people with disabilities.

The Ministry of Housing is allocating of 5 percent of the national project on public housing to PwDs and initiatives are underway to establish four accessible sites near Qena, Ismailia, Alexandria and Cairo.

The Egypt Information and Communication Technology Trust Fund (ICT-TF), jointly established by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and the UNDP, has several IT training and educational programs targeting people with disabilities in about 112 slum areas in Cairo.

Many service projects have been established in Governorates in Upper Egypt in cooperation with Terre des Homme, to advocate for rights and equal opportunities of PWD, and enhance their talents to enable them to operate and manage small projects for hand crafts. The Federation of Egyptian Industries’ initiative of “Equal for a better living” aims at providing 1,000 employment opportunities in private sector for persons with disabilities.

The allocation of a number of cell blocks for the prisoners with disabilities in three prisons, according to the Ministry of Interior; including Wadi Al-Natron in Beheira Governorate north of Cairo and Borg al-Arab in Alexandria. A further 42 prisons in Upper Egypt are being equipped with the special cell block. A total of 100 prisoners with disabilities have already been transferred to the special devised cellblocks.

People with disabilities in Egypt's 2014 constitution

Article 81 of Egypt's 2014 constitution states: "The State shall guarantee the health, economic, social, cultural, entertainment, sporting and educational rights of persons with disabilities strive to provide them with job opportunities, allocate a percentage of job opportunities to them, and adapt public facilities and their surrounding environment to their special needs. The State shall also ensure their exercise of all political rights and integration with other citizens in compliance with the principles of equality, justice and equal opportunities."

Seven other articles in the 2014 constitution also directly and indirectly address persons with disabilities, protecting their rights to equal health care, employment, education, political participation, and social inclusion.

Additional reporting by Rehab Ismail ]]>
7/30/2018 6:02:48 PM
<![CDATA[Bangladeshi PM, Egyptian Amb. discuss enhancement of mutual cooperation]]>
The Egyptian Ambassador passed on the president’s greetings and shared Egypt’s appreciation for the historical relations between the two countries.

The two look forward to increasing cooperation in all fields with the aim of serving mutual interests. They also discussed Egypt's support for Bangladesh in the humanitarian crisis regarding the displacement of more than one million people in the light of the Rohingya crisis.

The Prime Minister expressed her love and appreciation for Egypt. She pointed out Egypt’s prominent role in the wake of the Bangladeshi independence, referring to the former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s meeting with former leader Najib Al-Rahman, when 30 army tanks were given to the Bengali army.

Hasina thanked Egypt for its support to Bangladesh during the Rohingya crisis, as well as the humanitarian assistance it provided to mitigate the crisis last December.

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, and Egyptian Ambassador, Walid Shams - Egypt Today

She also pointed out that Bangladesh aspires to develop bilateral cooperation between the two countries by welcoming some Egyptian companies to invest within the country.

Hasina promised to facilitate all measures and overcome obstacles. With respect to the fight against terrorism, the Prime Minister stressed on benefiting from Egypt’s experience, especially after the success of the Egyptian army’s campaign to eliminate terrorist organizations in Northern Sinai.

Expressing her appreciation to Al-Azhar and the annual scholarships they give out to Bengali students, Hasina also explained the great importance behind spreading the central thought of Islam and countering radical thought.

7/30/2018 4:38:42 PM
<![CDATA[President Sisi highlights Egypt’s ‘fixed’ stance on regional issues]]>
During the sixth edition of the youth conference held Sunday in Cairo University, Sisi said that Egypt does not accept the presence of armed militias and terrorist groups in other countries, including Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Yemen.

He added that restoring security and stability is the duty of the government, the army and the police only.

Sisi affirmed Egypt’s keenness to achieve stability in Syria and support the political solution to solve the Syrian crisis.

He added that Egypt tries to facilitate holding elections in Syria by cooperating with the "moderate opposition".

Syrian cause

Egypt’s continuous efforts to support the Syrian cause led to a ceasefire agreement on July 16 between a number of armed opposition factions in the Syrian coast under Egyptian sponsorship, with Russian guarantee and the brokerage of Syria’s Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) opposition movement chairperson, Ahmed Jarba, according to several media reports.

The agreement stipulates participating in efforts to fight terrorism and working on reaching a political settlement to the Syrian crisis; it also stresses on the return of refugees and the displaced to their homes and the release of detainees. During the youth conference on Sunday, Sisi said that there are 500,000 Syrian refugees in Egypt.

The armed factions in the northern countryside of Homs, topped by Jaish al-Tawhid, signed an agreement in Cairo under Egyptian sponsorship, Russian guarantee and Jarba brokerage.

The agreement stipulates joining efforts of combating terrorism in Syria and establishing peace-keeping forces in the region.

The commanders of the factions participating in the meetings in Cairo thanked President Sisi for Egypt's efforts to find a solution to the Syrian crisis and alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people.

In a previous press conference held in Cairo last August, Jarba affirmed that choosing Egypt as a sponsor in the ceasefire agreements didn’t come out of nowhere, and he mentioned three reasons for the choice.
“First, Egypt has not been involved in any conflict with Syrian parties, which are main factors in the ceasefire agreements, and it has not backed any armed Syrian faction. Second, Egypt has good relations with Russia (co-sponsor of the ceasefire). Third, Egypt’s role is confined to mediation only,” he said.

Concerning Libya, Sisi affirmed during the conference Egypt's support to the Libyan National Army in its combat against armed groups and militias. He also stressed on the importance of the unity of the Libyan army and the need to hold elections in Libya as soon as possible.

Libyan cause
Libya, which is struggling to get through the critical political situation 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.

Egyptian President Sisi met on April 14 head of the Presidential Council of Libya Fayez al-Sarraj in the Saudi city of Dammam before the 29th Arab League Summit.

During the meeting, Sisi urged all the Libyan political factions to promote the national interest of their country and aid the United Nations (UN) envoy to Libya to restore peace to the troubled state, according to presidential spokesperson Bassam Radi.

The Libyan prime minister of Government of the National Accord “GNA” praised the Egyptian efforts to restore political stability in Libya and build its national institutions.

Libya’s Sarraj commended the Egyptian initiatives to unify the Libyan army, namely Egypt’s initiative that kicked off in July 2017 to unify the military institutions.

The initiative’s 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 in order to continue the discussions that started on Feb. 16.

In late May, four Libyan leaders agreed to hold elections on December 10 after a peace conference in Paris aimed at unifying the war-torn North African country.

The four men, who represent most but not all of Libya's rival factions, also agreed to "accept the results of elections, and ensure appropriate funds and strong security arrangements are in place".

The Libyan invitees were Prime Minister Sarraj, head of the UN-backed unity government in Tripoli, and 75-year-old military strongman Khalifa Haftar, whose Libyan National Army dominates the country's east.

Also present were Aguila Saleh Issa, the parliament speaker based in the eastern city of Tobruk, and Khalid al-Mishri, the newly-elected head of the High Council of State.

Representatives from 20 countries including Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates attended the talks, as well as representatives of Libya's neighbours Algeria and Tunisia.

The Palestinian cause

Regarding the Palestinian cause, President Sisi said that Egypt is working on easing the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza.

"Gaza is not exclusive to Hamas. It has Palestinian people who want to live," Sisi said addressing the Israeli public opinion, reiterating that "there is a great opportunity to achieve peace."

Sisi stressed Egypt’s support to the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

In a greeting cable sent to Sisi on July 23, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas voiced his appreciation for Egypt's support to the Palestinian people and its interest in their just cause in order to end the Israeli occupation and establish their own independent state.

U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, lauded Egypt's efforts to achieve a Palestinian national reconciliation, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Ahmed Abu Zeid, said on July 24.

The sixth edition of the National Youth Conference (NYC) kicked off on early Saturday at Cairo University, where Sisi met with young citizens to answer their questions, as part of his initiative “Ask the President”.

This is the first youth conference for Sisi in his second term in the office. The official page of President Sisi received Egyptian university students’ questions from July 14 to July 24, for the “Ask the President” initiative.

Over the last year and a half, Sisi held five national and international youth conferences under his auspices.

In October 2016, Egypt held the country's first National Youth Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh with the participation of 3,000 youth, the president, and a number of officials and experts.

In December 2016, the second National Youth Conference was held in Cairo.

In January 2017, the third National Youth Conference was held in Aswan.

In April 2017, the Egyptian city of Ismailia hosted the fourth National Youth Conference.

In July 2017, the last and fourth National Youth Conference was held in Alexandria. All conferences were attended by Sisi and a number of officials.

In November 2017, Egypt held its first World Youth Forum in Sharm El-Sheikh under the theme “We Need to Talk”, which attracted over 3,000 participants from all over the world.
7/30/2018 12:05:00 PM
<![CDATA[MP: Local administration’s law to be passed by Parliament in Nov.]]>
Egypt lives without a local government since all municipal councils were dissolved after the 2011 revolution.

Member of Parliament Ali Abdel Wahed said that conducting municipal elections is a need to allow supervision over the markets and the executive body, and the House of Representatives is expected to end discussions on the local administration’s draft law in November.

Reforming the system in order to shape a democratic local government is a way to implement a decentralized system and is pivotal to increase the quality of citizens’ everyday life.

The local authorities are usually responsible for providing public services, determining specific local public needs, including the social, economic, environmental, recreational, cultural, community or general development of your area and work on how to meet them.

According to a study by the World Bank on decentralization and the closeness of government to the people, Egypt is ranked 114 out of 182 countries, which indicates that the government needs to implement a more decentralized system.

According to the new law, citizens will elect representatives to their local governing bodies who are vested with the authority to make decisions about public services in their locality.

At a time when people hope that the new administrative system focuses on providing quick and modern services that would eliminate corruption and manipulation, some are afraid that the local authorities could be corruption breeders again.

Member of Parliament Essam Edris said that the absence of the Municipal Councils caused many problems in public services, infrastructure and abounded achieving a sustainable vision for development and decentralization.

On the other hand, former Minister of Local Development Ahmed Zaky Abdeen said that former local councils did not have an effective role in contributing to the development of governorates.

“The problem boils down to the lack of experienced and qualified people in these councils,” he added.

Municipal councils: a return for corruption?

CAIRO - 6 May 2018: The government plans to reactivate municipal councils, all of which were dissolved during the 2011 revolution, for being loaded with corruption and loyalists of former President Hosni Mubarak's regime.

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, a member of the parliamentary committee for local development said in press remarks in May.

The local administration law will expectedly pass during the current parliamentary session and then the government will be able to hold the municipal election.

“The local elections will be held during the first half of 2019 after the local administrative draft law is passed by parliament,” parliamentary spokesman Salah Hassaballah told reporters, according to MENA.

“The House of Representatives is keen to pass the draft law during the current legislative period.”

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.

Judicial supervision of local elections unprecedented: NEC

CAIRO - 11 July 2018: Mohamed Refaat, executive vice president of the National Elections Commission, said on Wednesday that the judicial supervision of local elections by the National Elections Commission is unprecedented. Refaat added during the round table organized by Al-Ahram Center for Political & Strategic Studies (ACPSS) that the NEC has overseen all the elections that took place in Egypt; the municipal, presidential and parliamentary elections.

Member of Parliament Ehab Abdel Azim said that reactivating the Municipal Councils will have the vision and resources to confront challenges from healthcare and housing to utilities and infrastructure. It will also help decrease bureaucracy and improve the government’s efficiency and eliminate the sources of corruption.

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. The last local elections in 2008 were won overwhelmingly by the now dissolved National Democratic Party, the ruling party of the Mubarak era.

Since this dissolution, new elections have been delayed pending drafting of a new local administration law.

Egypt to hold long-awaited local elections next year

CAIRO - 4 April 2018: Egypt plans to hold its first local elections in a decade in the first half of next year, the state news agency MENA reported on Wednesday. Egypt has been without local councils since ‬June 2011, when a court dissolved them after the popular uprising that ended the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak.

7/30/2018 10:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Foreign media correspondents underline stability in Bir al-Abd, Arish]]>
The SIS has organized a visit for foreign media correspondents to Bir al-Abd village and Arish city, North Sinai, to inspect the living and social status of civilians in the aftermath of the military operations to combat terrorism.

The foreign correspondents transferred what they saw, through videos and audios, the social and economic conditions of citizens residing in Arish and Bir al-Abd besides the development projects made at them.

The statement remarked that the correspondents conducted TV, radio and journalistic interviews with the residents, including sellers and buyers, in trade markets, ensuring the availability of different commodities and supply needs. Additionally, they interviewed citizens while practicing sports at Arish clubs and beaches.

Correspondents also visited al-Arish University and met a number of its professors and students who ensured the stability of the university and the regularity of the educational process.

Correspondents also met with students applying for military colleges while physically preparing for the admission tests with the support of the Armed Forces in Arish and Bir al-Abd.

The statement further remarked that the correspondents held a meeting with North Sinai’s governor on the comprehensive development operation done in north Sinai’s cities and villages, coinciding with the success of military operations carried out in the hotbeds of terrorists.

In the same context, the governor stressed that these operations have “not affected the daily lives of citizens or development projects, but rather it has raised their spirits and reaffirmed the cooperation and the trust between the citizens and the Armed Forces.”

“The foreign media, which have visited the governorate, are currently publishing and broadcasting the reports made by their correspondences on the continuation of the comprehensive development in Sinai and the stability made for their citizens in light of the success of military operations in eliminating the terrorist elements and hotbeds, destroying its infrastructure and reviving life in the regions where the operations are carried out,” added the statement.

During President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s inauguration of the Unified Command of East of the Canal to Combat Terrorism held on Feb. 26, Army Chief-of-Staff Mohamed Farid provided details about the comprehensive development plan in Sinai, according to the army’s statement.

Sisi was briefed on the forces and the command’s facilities before visiting the East of the Canal Command's headquarters, where tactics for the Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018 are planned.

During the visit, Farid provided details about the planning and implementing measures of the operation with its results over the past 16 days to uproot terrorism from Sinai and to impose security control over land and coastal boundaries as well as hubs where weapons and ammunition are supplied and smuggled to terrorists.

He also referred to the cooperation between the armed forces and police to eliminate terrorism from Northern Sinai. He added that the operation has been implemented upon two phases; the first determined the strategic targets and trained the forces in basic field and fighting skills to confront terrorism in cooperation with the police.

He added that the Armed Forces coordinated with all of the country’s institutions to provide social and health insurance by supplying them with ambulances and logistical services and facilities along with providing financial compensations and exceptional pensions to Northern Sinai’s citizens to compensate for any negative effects arising from the operation.

Farid submitted a report on the operation’s results, stressing that it is implemented not only in Northern Sinai but from the Suez Canal to the eastern borders of Sinai, and the armed forces have achieved great success in it.

He further explained that the Armed Forces have distributed food supplies: 615 tons of food commodities through the National Service Products Organization, around 450 tons of wheat, 1,120 supplementary general food rations estimated as 5,000 food rations daily, 9,600 gas cylinders, and 35,000 liters of petrol.

As for the medical services, Farid added that 13 tons of medical liquid oxygen and 72 doctors were provided for hospitals especially in Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid and medications and vaccines were distributed. Additionally, two hospitals in Central Sinai were constructed.

In addition, 1,529 university students were transmitted from Sinai’s university to other universities across Egypt along with facilitating the legal measures for the citizens.

Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Ali el-Moselhi said that six supply administrations and 228 supply shops are provided for 444,000 Northern Sinai citizens in conjunction with the military operations, referring that 72 percent of the citizens have supply cards.

Furthermore, Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Waly said that the ministry has coordinated with 15 major civil organizations in Northern Sinai to financially support the citizens.

Minister of Housing Mostafa Madbouly referred to the national project aiming to develop Sinai and to attract local and international investments to Sinai based on Sisi’s directives and to Sinai’s 2052 territorial development plan, confirming that roads, archaeological sites and natural reserves in Sinai have been developed as a part of the plan.

Chairman of the Armed Forces Engineering Authorities Kamel al-Wazir reviewed several national projects implemented within the framework of Sinai’s comprehensive development plan, including establishing fish farms, industrial regions, Bardawil Airport in central Sinai, 15 hospitals and 8,000 housing units along with upgrading nine hospitals.

President Sisi affirmed that the comprehensive development for Sinai started in 2014 and will last until 2022, with a cost of LE 275 billion ($15.5 billion). He has called on Egyptian businessmen to invest in Sinai as the area is Egypt’s primary security issue. ]]>
7/30/2018 8:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Shoukry, Mladenov discuss developments of Palestinian cause in Cairo]]>
The meeting tackled the most important issues of the Palestinian cause, where Shoukry review Egypt’s efforts to avert the


against disarmed civilians in the Palestinian territories, the spokesperson of Foreign Ministry Ahmed Abu Zeid stated Sunday, pointing out that the minister warned against the continuation of the current situation and not resuming the peace process, in the light of the two-state solution and relevant international legitimacy.

During the meeting, Shoukry addressed the recent practices by the Israeli side, like the issuance of the Jewish nation-state law, saying that they threaten the historical and legitimate rights of the Palestinians, which will have a negative impact on the future of the peace process and rights of the Palestinian refugees. Shoukry affirmed Egypt’s firm support to the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, foremost of which is the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Shoukry also reviewed Egypt’s efforts to achieve the reconciliation between Gaza and Ramallah, and to unify the Palestinian factions as a key step in peace process, and improving the lives of Palestinian citizens in West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry (L) and United Nations’ Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov with the accompanied delegation in Cairo on July 29, 2018 - Press photo

The minister called on the international community to play its role in order to continue the pace of the humanitarian work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), as well as providing the necessary support to the Palestinian people through the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC).

On the other hand, Shoukry listened to Mladenov’s evaluation to the humanitarian conditions in the occupied territories of Palestine, the results of his communications and negotiations he carries out to mobilize the international efforts, and get a financial aid to support the UNRWA for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, besides the UN’s efforts to cease fire and start the reconstruction project.

From his side, Mladenov described the meeting with Shoukry in a tweet through his official Twitter account as a “positive discussion,” saying: “It was focused on the latest developments in the West Bank and how to avoid escalation in Gaza, resolve all humanitarian issues and support reconciliation.”

He expressed the UN’s appreciation to Egypt’s role in pushing the Palestinian reconciliation and ending the division between its factions, and its keenness on coordinating with the Egyptian administration during this critical phase.

Mladenov also met with Egyptian officials in order to de-escalate the situation in Gaza, and support the Egypt-led reconciliation process, according to another tweet of Mladenov.

At the end of the meeting, the two parties agreed on continuing consultation and coordination in the upcoming period to push the peace process and root stability in the region.

In an interview with Egypt Today in earlier July, Nickolay Mladenov affirmed that Cairo government has always been, and still is, a vital and key player amid the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, adding that Rafah border crossing, which Egypt opens regularly to ease the people’s suffering in Gaza, is considered to be a “lifeline” for Palestinians.

He added that the UN is doing its best to back Egypt’s efforts to reach complete reconciliation among Palestinian factions. He affirmed that Egypt has done a lot already to reach stability and decrease violence.

A high-level


delegation is set to arrive in Cairo on Sunday, in order to discuss the Palestinian reconciliation with Egyptian officials.


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: UN Special Coordinator Mladenov speaks about Palestinian-Israeli conflict

CAIRO - 11 July 2018: Only hours before the arrival of Hamas official delegation, which is expected to re-open the reconciliation issue with the Egyptian government after being halted for several months; The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov speaks to Egypt Today in an exclusive interview about Palestinian rival factions reconciliation, Egypt's role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the two-state solution and the "deal of century".

7/29/2018 10:32:11 PM
<![CDATA[Abbas praises Ahed’s struggle for Palestine’s freedom]]>
Abbas received Ahed and her mother Nariman in the Palestinian presidential headquarters in Ramallah, after they were released on Sunday from Israel’s Sharon prison, according to the Palestinian News Agency WAFA. Ahed spent more than 7 months in prison over hitting an Israeli soldier.

The Palestinian president said that the model for peaceful popular resistance set by Ahed, Nabi Saleh village and all Palestinian villages and cities proves to the world that our people will continue to decisively defend their land.

He added that this kind of resistance perfectly confronts the Israeli occupation’s arrogance and exposes its savagery to the whole world.

The Palestinian 17-year old iconic activist lauded Abbas’s efforts in following up on her situation. She also praised his full support to her family and her resistance against the occupation which does not respect the international laws, according to WAFA.

Fatah deputy Chairman Mahmoud al-Aloul and Fatah Movement Central Committee member Minister Hussein al-Sheikh attended the meeting. Abbas is the leader of the Fatah ruling faction.

Tamimi was arrested last December after appearing in a video 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.

Mariam Barghouti, a Palestinian activist close to the Tamimi family and Ahed’s mother, Nariman, confirmed to AFP that the request for a public trial had been rejected.

Ahed faced 12 charges, including aggravated assault. In March, she was sentenced to serve eight months in jail.

In 2012, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan bestowed a medal on Ahed, as she appeared in a video shouting angrily at Israeli soldiers following the arrest of her brother Waad al-Tamimi.

The Israeli forces arrested Ahed, Mohammed and Waad several times, while Bassim and Nariman were arrested nine and five times, respectively, according to media sources.

Additional reporting by Amr Mohamed Kandil
7/29/2018 3:25:52 PM
<![CDATA[Fatah delegation to arrive in Cairo to discuss Palestinian reconciliation ]]>
Munir al-Jaghoub,head of Fatah's Information Department in the Office of Mobilization and Organization, said that the delegation includes Head of Palestinian General Intelligence Service Major General Majid Faraj and members of Fatah Central Committee Azzam al-Ahmad, Husein Al-Sheikh and Rawhi Fattouh.

Al-Jaghoub remarked that the delegation will head to Cairo upon the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the ways to deliver the perception of the Palestinian leadership, the current situation in Palestine and the file of reconciliation.
Abbas previously referred during the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization held on Saturday that Egypt has sent an idea to tackle Palestinian reconciliation; hence, a delegation will head to Egypt on Sunday for this regard.

“We are committedto the Palestinian stance taken on Oct. 21, 2017,” said Abbas.
The visit coincides with the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov’s meeting, which will be held with Egyptian officials on the Palestinian situation particularly in Gaza.

Previously, a Hamas delegation, headed by Khalil al-Hayya, visited Cairo on July 11 at the invitation of Egyptian intelligence to discuss the reconciliation as well as the situation in Gaza, during which Egypt has handed over several proposals to advance the stagnant process with Fatah.

Hence, Head of the Political Bureau of the Palestinian Hamas movement Ismail Haniyeh announced on July 19 that the group has accepted an Egyptian proposal for reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Earlier this month, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process NickolayMladenovspoketo Egypt Today in an exclusive interview about Palestinian rival factions reconciliation, Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the two-state solution and the “deal of century”.

Mladenov affirmed in his statements that Cairo government has always been, and still is, a vital and key player amid the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, adding that Rafah border crossing, which Egypt opens regularly to ease people’s suffering in Gaza, is considered to be a “lifeline” for Palestinians.

He added that the United Nations is doing its best to back Egypt’s efforts to reach complete reconciliation among Palestinian factions. He affirmed that Egypt has done a lot already to reach stability and decrease violence.

Egypt has been backing the Palestinian reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas for a long time.

The reconciliation efforts under Egypt’s auspices officially began in October, when Egypt succeeded to hold a historic meeting between leaders of Fatah and Hamas, turning over the ten-year-old dispute for the sake of a new era of consensus, as the two parties reactivated the Cairo Agreement signed in 2011.

Removing the disagreements and finding common ground has always been Egypt's goal,enabling it to keep the negotiations open. Egyptian leaders have reiterated on various occasions that the unity between Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions is a must for serious negotiations with Israel over an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders whose capital city is East Jerusalem.

For their part, the Palestinian factions have insisted on giving Egypt the leading role in running the mediation between them. They believe Egypt has no hidden ambitions, unlike other regional powers that seek benefits from Palestinian territory.

Cairo has played a key role in the reconciliation process between Fatah and Hamas. In October 2017, a reconciliation agreement was signed in Cairo between both parties. A high-profile Egyptian delegation has been visiting Gaza frequently during the past period to meet with all parties in order to ease any tensions that may prevent the reconciliation agreement from being fully-implemented.

On Feb. 25, the delegation started one of its longest visits, which lasted until March 8. During the visit, the delegation met with several Palestinian leaders from all parties and factions.

The list of separate meetings included meetings with Palestinian Minister of Transportation SamehTubeila, Palestinian Minister of Culture Ihab Bseiso, head of Hamas’ political bureau Ismail Haniyeh, a number of tribal heads in Gaza, and several members of the Palestinian unity government, according to Palestinian media outlets.

Earlier, on Dec. 6, U.S. President Donald Trump announced the relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, officially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. Backing Trump’s move, Guatemala, Honduras and Romania also announced their willingness to move their embassies to Jerusalem.

On April 3, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received Egyptian Intelligence Service Chief Abbas Kamel and his accompanying delegation at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah.

The Egyptian delegation was on mission to deliver an important message from President Sisi to his Palestinian counterpart. For his part, Abbas stressed the depth of relations between the Egyptian and Palestinian leadership and people, and the Palestinian leadership's keenness to boost relations in the framework of the mutual interest of the two brotherly peoples.

During the meeting, they discussed the latest developments in the Palestinian territories and the Egyptian efforts exerted to achieve inter-Palestinian reconciliation.

On September 17, 2017, Hamas announced the dissolution of its 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.

President Abbas said in statements to media outlets 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.

Additional report by Nawal Sayed]]>
7/29/2018 2:16:43 PM
<![CDATA[First glimpse of Japanese schools in Egypt, families’ impressions]]>
The schools will focus on teaching the Egyptian curriculum, while implementing some distinctive features of Japanese education, such as focusing on music, arts and collective games, as well as teaching cleanliness and self-reliance.

Enrollment in the schools started this year, and classes will begin in September with the 2018/2019 educational year.

Even though they are called “Japanese schools”, students will not learn the Japanese language in them. Instead, they will study the same exact curriculum as other international schools.

In addition, they teach Tukatsu to children, which is a Japanese educational activity that is based on developing both a sense of community and responsibility for the students towards society and school life.

Besides that, the activity works on achieving a balanced development between social, emotional and educational growth, as well as with developing a spirit of cooperation with others in order to cultivate balanced and integrated mindsets in the students.

The fees, however, will cost more than other international schools, the Ministry of Education has not yet given an exact figure but it is believed that the fees will exceed LE 5,000, with additional expenses for activities and such.

Khelloud Farouk, a mother of a child with Down Syndrome, said to Egypt Today that she applied forher child at a Japanese school, noting that she still does not know if the school will accept her son or not because of his situation, explaining that she found in the Japanese school a better opportunity forlearning.

Another father, Sameh Emara, said that he applied for his daughter at a Japanese school but was surprised by the large increase in expenses, noting that LE 10,000 is too much for school fees per year.

“Either they study in Arabic or English, I have no problem. The Japanese school is the only opportunity available to my daughter as there are no good schools near my home,” a mother said.

The schools will also require cooperation from the parents; they are expected to give 20 hours of their time to the school per year.

The classes and the schools themselves are modeled according to the Japanese style, with a focus on spacious rooms and individual desks for each student. In addition, there will be more than one board in each class, to help the teacher arrange students’ seating as they like.

This Japanese experiment will be introduced with 200 new schools; 100 of them are still under construction. The admission requirements are not going to be too different from other international schools; they ask for an application and state that priority will be given to the older child. Unlike other international schools, there will not be any exams for the parents.

According to the President of the Association of Private Schools, el-Mandooh el-Hussainy, the private education system in Egypt supports the public education system, as it tries to relieve the burden and pressure of the number of students, which is 18 million, including two million other students in private education.]]>
7/29/2018 10:28:59 AM
<![CDATA[Palestinian teenager jailed for slapping soldiers released from prison]]>
Tamimi, 17, and her mother Nariman were driven early on Sunday from the Sharon prison inside Israel to a checkpoint leading to the occupied West Bank, where they live, prison spokesman Assaf Librati said.

They were then handed over to Israeli soldiers, he said, who brought them to their village of Nabi Saleh.

After being released by the soldiers, Tamimi made brief comments to crowds and journalists gathered, saying she hoped everyone would come to a news conference later in the day.

Her father Bassem put his arms around the two of them as they walked together along the road, the crowd chanting "we want to live in freedom".

Family members and supporters had also gathered at the checkpoint to greet them, but the military vehicles driving them did not stop there and continued into the West Bank.

Israeli authorities appeared keen to avoid media coverage as much as possible, and conflicting information had meant supporters and journalists scrambled to arrive on time at the correct location.

Tamimi and her mother were first expected to arrive at a checkpoint near the Palestinian city of Tulkarm in the West Bank, but the location was changed three times before it was finally announced they were being taken to a crossing at Rantis, about an hour's drive away.

There had been slight tension at the checkpoint before Tamimi's arrival as a few men with Israeli flags approached supporters holding a Palestinian flags. Words were exchanged but there was no violence.

In a sign of the sensitivity of the case, Israeli authorities on Saturday arrested two Italians and a Palestinian for painting Tamimi's now-familiar image on the Israeli separation wall cutting off the West Bank.

Both Tamimi and her mother were sentenced to eight months in an Israeli military court following a plea deal over the December incident, which the family said took place in their yard in Nabi Saleh.

Video of it went viral, leading Palestinians to view her as a hero standing up to Israel's occupation.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has praised her and social media has been flooded with support.

But for Israelis, Tamimi is being used by her activist family as a pawn in staged provocations.

They point to a series of previous such incidents involving her, with older pictures of her confronting soldiers widely shared online.

Many Israelis also praised the restraint of the soldiers, who remained calm throughout, though others said her actions merited a tougher response.

- Embassy protests -

Tamimi was arrested in the early hours of December 19, four days after the incident. She was 16 at the time.

Her mother Nariman was also arrested, as was her cousin Nour, who was freed in March.

Israel's military said the soldiers were in the area on the day of the incident to prevent Palestinians from throwing stones at Israeli motorists.

The video shows the cousins approaching two soldiers and telling them to leave before shoving, kicking and slapping them.

Ahed Tamimi is the most aggressive of the two in the video.

The heavily armed soldiers do not respond in the face of what appears to be an attempt to provoke rather than seriously harm them.

They then move backwards after Nariman Tamimi becomes involved.

The scuffle took place amid clashes and protests against US President Donald Trump's controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Relatives say that a member of the Tamimi family was wounded in the head by a rubber bullet fired during those protests.]]>
7/29/2018 9:59:02 AM
<![CDATA[Sudanese delegation to visit Cairo ahead Presidential meeting]]>
Shaltout added that a Sudanese official delegation is expected to visit Cairo in August to discuss intensively the bilateral relations in order to surf new spots of partnerships. The visit will suggest the topics and priorities to be discussed during the expected meeting between Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al Sisi and his Sudanese counterpart Omar al Bashir in October.

Shaltout pointed out that the Foreign Ministries in both States are tasked to set a time schedule to realize the agreements signed between the two countries since 2016.

Both governments brokered lately a series of deals in order to enhance the bilateral relations which witnessed a slight tense amid the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) talks, However they had a speedy recovery after both countries’ officials were eager to contain any possible disagreements.

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al Sisi has received in Cairo the Sudanese foreign minister el-Dardiri Mohamed Ahmed, The latter chose Egypt to be the first country he visits after assuming the office in May. President Abdel Fatah al Sisi has also visited Khartoum on July 19 where he met with his Sudanese counterpart Omar al Bashir.
7/29/2018 5:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Israeli Arab lawmaker quits 'racist' parliament over law]]>
The new legislation speaks of Israel as the historic homeland of the Jews and says they have a "unique" right to self-determination there. It also revokes the longstanding status of Arabic as an official language alongside Hebrew.

Zouheir Bahloul, of the opposition Zionist Union party, said he could not face telling his grandson that he remained part of the same chamber which passed the law.

"I am resigning from the Knesset," he said on Reshet TV, in reference to Israel's parliament.

"The nation state law officially, constitutionally, removes the Arab population from the path of equality in Israel," he said in Hebrew.

"Should I sit on the fence? Should I give legitimacy to this destructive, racist, extremist parliament?"

Bahloul said that his resignation would officially take effect when parliament returns from its summer recess in September, but he pledged not to reconsider in the meantime.

"I faithfully promise that I shall not go back," he said.

After the law was approved earlier this month Arab members of parliament branded the legislation "racist" and ripped up copies of the bill in the Knesset chamber.

Arab citizens make up some 17.5 percent of Israel's more than eight million population.

The law makes no mention of equality and Israel's democratic character, implying the country's Jewish identity takes precedence.

Leaders of Israel's 130,000-strong Druze Arab community, which unlike Muslims and Christians is subject to the military draft, has filed a challenge to the law with the country's Supreme Court.

On Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks with Israeli Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Muafak Tarif and a retired Druze general.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu made no commitment and said that he would continue to hold consultations," the premier's office said in a statement.

Also present at the meeting was Communications Minister Ayoob Kara, a member of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party.

He voted in favour of the law and has since reportedly received death threats.]]>
7/29/2018 3:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. cardinal steps down amid widening sex abuse scandal]]>
McCarrick, 88, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., is the first cardinal in living memory to lose his red hat and title. Other cardinals who have been disciplined in sexual abuse scandals kept their membership in the College of Cardinals and their honorific "your eminence".

The allegations against McCarrick, which first surfaced publicly last month, came with Francis facing an image crisis on a second front, in Chile, where a growing abuse scandal has enveloped the Church.

A Vatican statement said the pope, acting only hours after McCarrick offered his resignation on Friday night, ordered his suspension from the exercise of any public ministry. This means he remains a priest but will be allowed to say Mass only in private.

Francis also ordered McCarrick to go into seclusion "for a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial".

The Vatican said the pope wanted to send a strong message that high rank would no longer be a shield.

"The important point is that McCarrick is no longer a cardinal. What this means is that, no matter how important your position, no matter how prestigious, when it comes to sex abuse you're going to be held accountable. That is the message being sent today," spokesman Greg Burke told Reuters Television.

McCarrick's sudden fall from grace stunned the American Church because he was a widely respected leader for decades and a confidant of popes and presidents.

Last month, American Church officials said allegations that he sexually abused a 16-year-old boy almost 50 years ago were credible and substantiated..

Since then, another minor has come forward with allegations that McCarrick abused him when he was 11 years old, and several men have come forward to allege that McCarrick forced them to sleep with him at a beach house in New Jersey when they were adult seminarians studying for the priesthood.


McCarrick has said that he had "absolutely no recollection" of the alleged abuse of the teenager 50 years ago but has not commented on the other allegations.

The New York Times reported last week that two dioceses in New Jersey, where McCarrick served as bishop before being promoted to Washington in 2000, had reached financial settlements in 2005 and 2007 with men who said they were abused by McCarrick as adults decades ago.

Some U.S. Catholics have said the Vatican should send an inspector to the United States to determine who in the U.S. Church hierarchy knew of the alleged incidents and why McCarrick's rise was not impeded.

"The Vatican must investigate and publish its conclusions regarding McCarrick's advancement and very successful career," said Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, a U.S.-based group that tracks abuse cases.

"The officials responsible must be identified and disciplined, and the investigative file must be made public," McKiernan said in a statement.

In 2013, Cardinal Keith O'Brien of Scotland recused himself from participating in the conclave that elected Francis after he was caught up in a sexual abuse scandal involving seminarians. He later renounced rights and privileges of being a cardinal but kept his red hat and title until his death earlier this year.

The last person to resign from the College of Cardinals is believed to be French theologian Louis Billot, who left over a disagreement with Pope Pius XI in 1927, according to the U.S. newspaper, National Catholic Reporter.]]>
7/29/2018 2:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Iran woos local investors as U.S. sanctions loom, currency falls]]>
In May the United States pulled out of a multinational deal to lift sanctions against Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear programme, and Washington has told countries they must halt all imports of Iranian oil from Nov. 4 or face U.S. financial measures.

The new Iranian plan, along with action against alleged financial crime, appears to be aimed at easing concern over the U.S. decision.

The probable return of sanctions has triggered a rapid fall of Iran’s currency, protests by bazaar traders usually loyal to the Islamist rulers, and a public outcry over alleged profiteering.

The plan will offer attractive prices and flexible terms as well as tax holidays for investors who agree to take over some of the 76,000 government projects which are unfinished or idle, Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri said on state television.

"Over the past few months, the country's liquidity has gone into housing, foreign exchange and gold coins, raising prices and provoking public concerns," Jahangiri was quoted as saying by the website of the state broadcaster.

"A main issue in the meeting ... was to find solutions to push liquidity towards employment and activating manufacturing," Jahangiri added after the meeting attended by President Hassan Rouhani, and the heads of parliament and the judiciary.


The sanctions start to come into effect in August but some European companies investing in Iran and with big U.S. operations have already announced they will pull out of business deals with Tehran.

The Iranian rial plunged to a record low against the U.S. dollar on the unofficial market on Saturday. The dollar was offered for as much as 97,500 rials, compared to about 85,500 a week ago, according to foreign exchange website Bonbast.com.

The currency has lost more than half of its value this year because of a weak economy, financial difficulties at local banks and heavy demand for dollars among Iranians who fear the effects of sanctions.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said on Saturday that 18 people had been arrested over alleged profiteering from foreign exchange dealings and the illegal importing of luxury cars, state television reported.

In late December, demonstrations which began over economic hardship spread to more than 80 Iranian cities and towns. At least 25 people died in the unrest, the biggest expression of public discontent in almost a decade.

Demonstrators initially vented their anger over high prices and alleged corruption, but the protests took on a rare political dimension, with a growing number of people calling on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down.]]>
7/29/2018 1:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Peru president proposes referendum on political, judicial reform]]>
Vizcarra called for a popular vote not just to fast track judicial reforms, but also to gauge support for a ban on private financing of political campaigns, an end to the reelection of lawmakers and the creation of a second chamber in Congress.

The proposal is Vizcarra's latest attempt to distance himself from a political class widely seen as corrupt, following the resignation of the former president in March and a cronyism scandal that has roiled the justice system in recent weeks.

"My government is making a decided bet on strengthening the state as a whole in order to defeat the criminal and corrupt mafias that feed off our country," Vizcarra said before Congress in his first Independence Day speech since taking office four months ago.

"We need the input of all citizens. That's why we're convinced that a referendum is healthy for our democracy."

It was unclear if Congress would give the green light needed for the referendum to be called. Without backing from lawmakers, Vizcarra would have to collect hundreds of thousands of voters' signatures.

The head of the opposition party, Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former authoritarian leader Alberto Fujimori, called for reflection. "Let's remember that only in democracy and with respect for institutionality can we institute true change," Fujimori said on Facebook.

Vizcarra did not propose a date for the referendum. But Peruvians will go to polls later in October to select mayors, governors and other local officials in regional elections.

A former vice president and governor of a small mining region, Vizcarra vowed to fight corruption "at any cost" when he took office to replace Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who resigned the presidency to avoid impeachment on graft and vote-buying allegations he denied.

Since then, a second crisis has gripped the nation of 32 million people as local media have published a stream of phone conversations that appear to show judges trading favors with businessmen, lawmakers and the country's new attorney general.

Thousands of Peruvians have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest systemic graft, with many calling for fresh elections. A majority of Peruvians now disapprove of Congress, the government, the judiciary and prosecutors, according to a recent Ipsos poll.

"This crisis has reached a breaking point," Vizcarra said. "That's why, as president of the republic, I've decided, with the support of the citizenry, to lead a change long sought by honest Peruvians."]]>
7/29/2018 1:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Catalan ex-leader, in Belgium, vows to pursue independence bid]]>
Four months after he was detained in Germany at Madrid's request, Puigdemont was able to travel to Belgium after a Spanish court dropped a European arrest warrant for him.

"This is not the end of my journey. I will travel to the last corner of our continent to defend the just cause of the Catalan people," he said at the offices of Catalonia's delegation in Brussels.

He was joined at the news conference by his designated successor Quim Torra, who still considers him the "legitimate president" of Catalonia.

Puigdemont was later greeted by around 300 supporters when he travelled south of the Belgian capital to the town of Waterloo, known for another battle -- French emperor Napoleon's defeat by a mix of European forces in 1815.

The 55-year-old former regional leader intends to set up a "Republican council" at his Waterloo base to continue to fight for Catalan independence, as well as an assembly composed of local officials to work in parallel with the Catalan government.

"My political activity will be based in Belgium, of course with the aim of pursuing the mandate by the people" for an independent Catalonia, Puigdemont said in Berlin when he announced his return earlier this week.

Sacked as Catalan president after a failed secession bid on October 27, Puigdemont and several members of his executive fled to Brussels several days later.

He was then arrested in Germany at the end of March on his return from a trip to Finland.

- Arrest warrant dropped -

Puigdemont was freed on bail and a German court ruled that he could be extradited only on possible corruption charges and not for "rebellion" as sought by Madrid.

Following that decision, Spain's Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena, in charge of the case against separatist leaders, dropped the international arrest warrant.

From Belgium, Puigdemont will be able to travel where he likes, except to Spain where he is still wanted for rebellion, which carries up to 25 years in jail, and for misuse of public funds.

In theory, he could remain in self-exile for 20 years, which in Spain's legal system is the time limit after which the rebellion charge would no longer be valid.

Although power is now officially in Torra's hands, Puigdemont continues to exert strong influence in the region.

"In Brussels, we will continue... to develop activities linked to that which the people of Catalonia approved on October 1," Puigdemont said in Germany, in reference to the referendum banned by Spain's courts and marred by police violence.

Five other leading members of the pro-independence movement are in Belgium, Switzerland and Scotland.]]>
7/29/2018 1:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Imran Khan's party begins coalition talks as rivals plan protests]]>
Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) won 116 seats in Wednesday's ballot, short of the 137 needed for a simple majority but a surprisingly strong showing that helped fuel suspicion of rigging.

The latest tally, which was updated Saturday afternoon following long delays, showed the outgoing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party in distant second place with 64 seats.

Khan's party has begun reaching out to potential coalition partners to form a government, according to spokesman Fawad Chaudhry, a task that analysts said should be straightforward.

"We have contacted small parties and independent members, they will soon meet party leaders in Islamabad," Chaudhry said late Friday.

A PTI representative later added that the party was hoping to form a government within two weeks before Pakistan's independence day celebrations on August 14.

"We expect that Imran Khan will take the oath as a prime minister before August 14," PTI representative Naeem ul Haq told reporters Saturday.

Haq's comments followed an announcement by rival parties a day earlier vowing to launch a protest "movement", after foreign observers voiced concerns about the contest.

More than a dozen parties calling themselves the All Parties Conference (APC) promised to protest over the results.

However the group remained divided with some parties pledging to boycott joining the National Assembly and others calling for a new vote.

The PML-N announced its support for the group but stopped short of saying it would boycott the new parliament.

And the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which was notably absent from the APC, said in a separate announcement that it rejected the results, but vowed to try to convince the other parties to participate in the parliamentary process.

- 'No stamina' -

Retired general and analyst Talat Masood said the APC may succeed in sparking pockets of unrest but did not see the movement upsetting stability at the national level.

"Opposition parties are divided and they are not genuinely in a mood to form any major opposition. I don't think they have this stamina and the support of the people for going for a big movement," said Masood.

The protests announcement late Friday came as the United States, the European Union and other observers aired reservations over widespread claims that the powerful military had tried to fix the playing field in Khan's favour.

Khan's victory represents an end to decades of rotating leadership between the PML-N and the Bhutto dynasty's PPP that was punctuated by periods of military rule.

The vote was meant to be a rare democratic transition in the Muslim country, which has been ruled by the powerful army for roughly half its history.

But it was marred by violence and allegations of military interference in the months leading up to the vote, with Khan seen as the beneficiary.

The former cricket star will face myriad challenges, including militant extremism, an economic crisis with speculation that Pakistan will have to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, water shortages and a booming population.

He will also have to contend with the same issue as many of his predecessors: how to maintain a balance of power in civil-military relations.]]>
7/29/2018 12:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[#We_are_sorry_Sisi goes up Twitter's trending hashtags]]>CAIRO – 29 July 2018: A new hashtag initiated Saturday in support of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has been gaining popularity among Twitter users in Egypt with more than 6,921,225 reaches in less than one day according to Keyhole

The hashtag, namely #حقك_علينا_يا_سيسي (#We_are_sorry_Sisi) found its way on the Twitter platform after President Sisi expressed sadness over a hashtag that was initiated demanding him to resign, despite of the numerous achievements and ongoing projects and plans.

The hashtag was initiated by Muslim Brotherhood web trolls that spread rumors and demands for overthrowing the state; moreover, after some digging, some Twitter users discovered that the hashtag in the French Guiana and spread out in Qatar, UK, U.S. and Canada.

During his speech at the 6th edition of National Youth Conference (NYC) at Cairo University on Saturday, president Sisi asserted that the reform is an ongoing process that will not be finished in just a few years.

“When I try to lift you from the “position of need”, a hashtag called for “Sisi to step down”, therefore, I have the right to be upset,” The Egyptian leader said during his speech. “We are a nation that is in a position of need on economic, educational, ethical, and social levels, and that must end.”

“During Sisi’s era, the Egyptian fleet became one of the most powerful fleets in the world,” Twitter user @amiraamgad6 tweeted.

@MahaRocket tweeted that the country’s cash reserve reached around $37 billion from $16 billion in 2014.

Moreover, Twitter user @hala_abdalwhab said nations do not rise with hashtags and neither do rulers rule with hashtags, nor do they toppled by hashtags.

“They are infuriated because of Sisi’s achievements; our president is only there because we want him and only true Egyptians pray for him, may God make you victorious over your enemies Mr. President,” Twitter user @Ibrahimkishk6 said.

@faten_ahmedm also described Sisi as a “miracle maker as he turned the country’s economy from an acute fall to an astonishing rise, he made Egypt a beehive that operates day and night.”

@GGigitawil also said, “You are the hope and God’s gift to Egypt to preserve it.”

It is pertinent to mention that In January, #My_Vote_For_Sisi_2018 cropped up Twitter’s trending hashtags with thousands of interactions and retweets in support of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s candidacy in the presidential elections.

Another hashtag was initiated in Oct. 2017 by the official twitter account of “Alashan Tbneeha” (To Build It) campaign, @presidentEgyptt, namely #صوتنا_للسيسي (Arabic for Our vote for Sisi); it cropped up Twitter’s trends by more than 73,600 tweets and 68,500 retweets in only one day according to Trendsmap - Analytics.

The hashtag has cropped up Twitter’s trends

To Build It, was a public campaign that kicked off in Sep. 2017 to demand President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to run for a second term as President of Egypt; it witnessed a remarkable turnout by citizens and renowned figures of the Egyptian society as the signatures phase of the campaign was launched.

The main aim of the campaign was to gather signatures on a petition that demanded a second inauguration of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi as President of Egypt.

Sisi garnered 97.08 percent of valid votes in the presidential election, where more than 21.8 million people voted for him. The turnout stood at 24,254,152 voters, representing 41 percent of 50,078,138 registered voters.

In a televised speech after winning the election, Sisi pledged to keep his promise in serving the nation and thanked all Egyptians for trusting him to lead the country.

7/29/2018 12:28:33 AM
<![CDATA[ Facts about Rabaa sit-in dispersal case ]]>
Egypt Today presents important facts about the case in points below for easy briefing.

The court set 67 case hearings until its final decision has been issued.

Among the 75 defendants sentenced to death Saturday are members of the top Muslim Brotherhood guidance bureau Essam el-Erian, Safwat Hegazy, Mohamed el Beltagy, Usama Yassin, Essam Maged, Abdel Rahman al-Barr, Issam Sultan, Basem Odeh, Wagdy Ghoneim.

“The court decided unanimously to refer the defendants to the Mufti for legal opinion in relation to the accused," the court said in the referral decision.

Sentencing photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zaid (Shawkan) and 738 other defendants has been postponed to Sept. 7, as per today’s court ruling.

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

On Aug. 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.

Following the Rabaa sit-in dispersal on Aug. 14, 2013, the city of El Idwa in Minya governorate witnessed acts of violence and vandalism, during which a police station was attacked and a police officer was killed. In April 2014, the Minya Criminal Court sentenced all defendants to death. However, a retrial was ordered after overturning the ruling by the Court of Cassation.

7/28/2018 5:13:08 PM
<![CDATA[Brexit on agenda for September EU leaders' meeting in Salzburg -Britain]]>
"The summit will also cover illegal migration, and on this the Prime Minister confirmed that the UK will continue to work closely with the EU now and after Brexit," May's office said in a statement.

Britain has yet to agree a long-term trade relationship with the European Union or finalise a transition deal that is meant to take effect when it leaves the bloc on March 29 next year.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier rejected key elements of Britain's new trade proposals on Thursday even as he and his new British counterpart Dominic Raab voiced a shared determination to reach a deal by October.

Kurz, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, received May for talks in Salzburg on Friday and said it was important for both sides to avoid a "hard" or disorderly Brexit.]]>
7/28/2018 1:44:44 PM
<![CDATA[In test of re-election prospects of Australian PM, by-election voting begins]]>
In what is being called "Super Saturday", voters in five seats will go to the polls after a handful of opposition lawmakers were forced from office after falling foul of the country's constitution that bans politicians from elected office if they are dual citizens.

The five by-elections will bring to a close a citizenship crisis that saw about a dozen lawmakers forced from office, including the then Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce - a removal that briefly cost the government its parliamentary majority.

Winning at least one seat will aid the legislative agenda of Turnbull who heads a coalition government made up of Liberal and National party MPs and has policy heavily shaped by a strong conservative backbench.

Some political analysts believe a very strong showing in the by-elections could tempt Turnbull to call an early poll, particularly if the ruling coalition government secures victory in the seat of Longman.

Polls indicate the ruling centre-right government has a strong chance of winning the Labor-held seat of Longman, in the state of Queensland, after Pauline Hanson's nationalist One Nation Party encouraged its supporters to preference Turnbull ahead of the country's opposition Labor Party on their ballot papers.

Longman is one of five marginal seats in Queensland, which is heavily dominated by rural, conservative voters, a demographic that has not taken to Turnbull, a social liberal who made his fortune in banking before entering politics.]]>
7/28/2018 1:37:23 PM
<![CDATA[Deposed Catalan leader Puigdemont to return to Belgium]]>
"My political activity will be based in Belgium, of course with the aim of pursuing the mandate by the people" for an independent Catalonia, Puigdemont said in Berlin when he announced his return this week.

Four months after he was detained in Germany at Madrid's request, Puigdemont can return to Belgium as he no longer runs the risk of extradition to Spain after the Spanish court cancelled the warrant.

The 55-year-old former regional leader, with his signature shaggy Beatles-style mop, will continue to fight for Catalan independence south of Brussels in the town of Waterloo, which is known for another battle -- French emperor Napoleon's defeat by a mix of European forces in 1815.

Sacked as Catalan president after a failed secession bid on October 27, Puigdemont and several members of his executive fled to Brussels several days later.

He was then arrested in Germany at the end of March on his return from a trip to Finland.

Puigdemont was freed on bail around 10 days later and set about waiting for a German court decision on an extradition request by Spain, where he is wanted over his role in the independence drive.

But the German court ruled that he could be extradited only on possible corruption charges and not for "rebellion" as sought by Madrid but which is not recognised under German law.

Following that decision, Spain's Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena, in charge of the case against separatist leaders, dropped the international arrest warrant.

- Welcoming party -

From Belgium, Puigdemont will be able to travel where he likes, save Spain where he is still wanted for rebellion, which carries up to 25 years in jail, and for misuse of public funds.

In theory, he could remain in self-exile for 20 years, which in Spain's legal system is the time limit after which the rebellion charge would no longer be valid.

Puigdemont is set to be greeted by a welcoming party comprising members of Catalonia's government as well as other pro-independence organisations.

Puigdemont will hold a news conference with his designated successor Quim Torra, who still considers him to be the "legitimate president" of Catalonia, at 11:00 am (0900 GMT) on Saturday.

He will then head to Waterloo for a ceremony at 4:00 pm.

Puigdemont intends to set up a "Republican council" at his home in Waterloo, as well as an assembly composed of local officials to work in parallel with the Catalan government.

- 'Time for action' -

Although power is now officially in the Torra's hands, Puigdemont continues to exert strong influence in the region.

In an illustration of Puigdemont's influence, he managed to reverse his party's stance for greater openness for dialogue with Madrid.

"In Brussels, we will continue... to develop activities linked to that which the people of Catalonia approved on October 1," said Puigdemont, in reference to the referendum that was banned by Spain's courts and marred by police violence.

"It's no longer a Spanish affair that can be resolved internally; a European view is necessary for the Catalonia question," said the region's former president, who expects to travel to other European countries to push his case.

Besides Puigdemont, five other leading members of his pro-independence movement are in Belgium, Switzerland and Scotland.

Torra met Spain's new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in early July, with the socialist leader promising to find a way out of the crisis.

Puigdemont wants Sanchez to allow a referendum on the question of independence for Catalonia -- something that the prime minister has refused categorically.

He also wants Spain to release nine separatists.

"The change in Spain's government is supposed to come with a change in style and climate... but it's not the time for gestures, it's the time for action," he said.]]>
7/28/2018 1:33:34 PM
<![CDATA[Houthis force military units to attend brainwashing courses: Yemeni Min.]]>
“This is something they will never succeed in doing,” al-Eryani said on his Twitter account on Friday. He added that Houthi militias threatened military members with demobilization and military trials if they refused to attend the alleged courses.

“Houthis’ forcible courses are just another attempt at brainwashing Yemenis. They are aiming to change their ideologies, principles and beliefs. Soldier’s Military doctrine should be only devoted to their country. They will never succeed in cloning another [set of] Islamic Revolutionary Guards,” Eryani wrote on Twitter.

In a following tweet, Eryani assured the military members who are within the areas of Houthi forces control that all measures are taken against them by the militias are not legal. He called on them to resist the armed group and join the legitimate forces.

Eryani has been tweeting regularly lately regarding the latest escalations in Yemen. On July 6, he wrote that Yemeni civilians in al-Hudaydah city are suffering mainly because of the violations of Houthi militias who use civilians as human protecting shields during clashes.

He added that Houthi militias know that the safety of civilians is the priority of the legitimate government in Yemen; therefore, they use them in the middle of battles to survive.

Moreover, Al-Eryani wondered about the discussions of some international organizations regarding the situation in Yemen, especially closing the roads in al-Hudaydah, and neglecting to point out that Houthi militias keep controlling the city.

“Why do these organizations never mention the Houthis’ responsibility over this closure, especially since they are the main controllers of the city at the moment?” Eryani asked.

He also demanded that international organizations attribute the current violations in Hudaydah to the armed militias that use civilians as human shields. “We also wish these organizations would make it clear in their reports that civilians usually escape the conflict zones heading to other locations of which the Yemeni government has control over,” Eryani added in his Twitter thread.

He affirmed that the government is extremely keen on maintain and protecting civilians’ lives, and try as much as possible to provide them with safe roads and passages to move safely from militia control areas.

The situation has been escalating and deteriorating rapidly in al-Hudaydah city since June 2018. Clashes have been increasing between the forces of the Yemeni president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and Houthis as both sides accused each other of using civilians as shields; however, international media outlets have been reporting that the flaming battle caused the closure of certain main roads, and preventing humanitarian access to civilians.

Hodeida International Airport has been the goal of both sides as the Saudi Arabian-led military forces in Yemen have claimed more than once that it has been liberated of Houthis; on the other hand, the armed militias are giving frequent statements assuring that they are still controlling the vital airport.
7/28/2018 11:01:33 AM
<![CDATA[Revealed: 2 police officers facilitated Hasm-led terrorist acts]]>
Brotherhood leaders inside Egypt have recruited two police officers in exchange for money so that they could provide them with leaks on the timing and directions of their targets.

The investigations concluded with including the two police officers convicted with assisting terrorist organizations to the list of defendants in a case that concerns the founding of Hasm.

Members of both Hasm and Lewaa al-Thawra terrorist movements revealed during the investigations to be intellectually trained to combat countries' regimes and governments, aiming to destabilize and topple them.

According to some of the defendants' confessions, Egypt's Supreme State Security affirmed that the two formations were based on takfiri ideas. It was assured that the terrorist plans of Hasm and Lewaa al-Thawra groups targeted Egypt's stability and security.

Currently, there are about 278 defendants investigated in the case; however, only 52 of them gave complete confessions regarding their roles as part of the terrorist groups.

It was also revealed during the investigations that the terrorist formations have about 21 different residences in the countries' governorates, including Damietta, Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Menoufia, Fayoum, Qalyoubia, Assiut, Sharqiah and Beheira governorates.

It was proved that the two armed groups targeted vital buildings and organizations' headquarters in addition to several police officials.

The defendants’ confessions also assured that the armed groups were working on manufacturing arms, not just using them in terrorist acts.

Hasm group is supposedly linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, a group which is deemed illegal in Egypt. However, the Brotherhood’s media spokesman, Talaat Fahmi, denied the Brotherhood’s links to Hasm to Turkish-led Anadul agency in December 2016. He said the Brotherhood could never be linked to those who commit violence and bloodshed.

Tal’at Habib, a researcher and expert on Islamic movements, told Egypt Today on Friday that Hasm is directly linked to the Brotherhood’s members and leaders, directly refuting Fahmi’s statement. Habib cited a Hasm statement that came out after top Brotherhood leader Mohamed Kamal’s death in October 2016. They vowed revenge for his killing.

Hasm's first statement was issued in July 2016 when the group claimed responsibility for the killing of a senior policeman named Mahmoud Abdel Hamid in Fayoum. Hamid was the head of the investigations department in Fayoum’s Tamya district.

According to Habib, Hasm is the crystallized form of militant groups that grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, such as the Ikhwan Brigades and the Popular Resistance. The group formed after the violent dispersal during the Rabaa and al-Nahda sit-ins in July 2013.

“Hasm’s methods and techniques are mainly primitive and of minimal costs,” Habib said. He added that they also get some of their arms by stealing them from police stations and ambushes.

Hasm, the group behind terror acts in Egypt

CAIRO - 22 July 2017: In less than two weeks, the militant group Hasm has claimed responsibility for three deadly attacks that claimed the lives of more than four policemen and injured dozens. A number of questions swirl in our minds regarding the little-known Hasm. What is Hasm?

Additional reporting by Aya Samir ]]>
7/28/2018 10:37:23 AM
<![CDATA[Army spox reviews developments of Sinai 2018 operation]]>
He also spoke about the reasons for the decline in terrorist acts in Sinai and praised the role of the Egyptian intelligence services in in cutting arms and ammunition supply lines to terrorists.

What has the Sinai 2018 operation accomplished so far?

In regard with the north-east direction:
- Terrorist leaders were targeted in north and central Sinai, and several terrorist hotbeds were identified and destroyed, while a large numbers of terrorists and criminals who were wanted or suspected of supporting terrorists were killed or arrested.
- Destruction of terrorism infrastructure in the North Sinai, such as tunnels, weapons and ammunition stores, improvised explosive devices, vehicles and motorcycles, explosive materials, mines and rockets.
- Recovering state sovereignty in the areas cleared of terrorists and deployment of civilian police to ensure security of these places.
- Securing the previous presidential elections and the secondary exams in North Sinai and the return of students to the University of Arish.
- Securing transportation of commodities to Sinai and movement of people to and from the border governorate.
- Cutting supply to terrorist elements, and preventing smuggling of weapons and ammunition, as well as movement of terrorist elements to the country.

What about the west and south directions?

Large numbers of vehicles loaded with weapons, ammunition and drugs were seized and destroyed. A large numbers of individuals were arrested during attempts to illegally migrate to or from the country, in addition to the elements involved in the drugs smuggling and human trafficking operations which were used to finance terrorism.

Egyptian military forces are attacking terrorists in Sinai during the full-scale operation dubbed Sinai 2018 (Egypt's Armed Forces Official Website)

What are the major stages of Sinai 2018 operation?

There are two main stages: the first stage is the planning, preparation and equipping of forces that was carried out upon the instruction of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, starting from February 9. The second stage included confronting terrorist elements and enhancing security of borders, and it will continue until the achievement of all its goals.

What are the most prominent steps of these stages?

- Collecting information through an intensive plan for careful monitoring of terrorist hotbeds, especially in north and central Sinai, in cooperation with Sinai residents.
- Training of military and police personnel to conduct counter-terrorism operations.
- Intensive drills on the ground between army and police.
- Psychological and moral rehabilitation of the participating forces.
- Conducting frequent security raids against terrorist sites.
- Destroying tunnels used in smuggling and continuing procedures of imposing the buffer zone with the Gaza Strip.

What are the results of Sinai 2018?

Since the launch of the operation in February 2018, army forces killed more than 321 terrorists, confiscated more than 1,000 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), destroyed 548 vehicles, 881 motorcycles, 419 drug plantations, 94.5 tons of narcotics, more than 11 tunnels along Sinai border.

Does Egypt confront random local terrorist groups or externally supported elements?

Certainly, terrorist groups in Egypt receive support from external powers, whether funding, logistical or information support. These external powers aim at undermining the security and stability of the country.

Egyptian air force launched airstrikes against terrorists in Sinai during the full-scale operation dubbed Sinai 2018 (Egypt's Armed Forces Official Website)

What are the precautions adopted by the armed forces to ensure safety of civilians during military operations?

The armed forces always abide to rules, regulations and standards of human rights and provide full protection for civilians in all areas of security confrontations. The armed forces also coordinate with all state institutions to provide commodities supply, health care and social services to residents of Sinai.

What are the measures adopted by armed forces to cut external support of terrorist groups in Sinai?

The armed forces continue the imposition of the buffer zone on the north-east border, destroying a large number of tunnels in this area. We also imposed a complete siege on terrorist strongholds in the north and central Sinai, with tightening of security measures at border crossings and roads leading to the Sinai Peninsula to prevent movement of terrorist elements coming from other governorates. Naval forces restored their control over the Sinai coast in the Mediterranean and Red Sea to prevent smuggling and illegal migration, especially from Rafah and El-Arish.

Did the external support of extremist elements in Sinai decline recently?

Of course, it declined significantly recently due to the success of the monitoring and intelligence operations, and the deployment of forces across the governorate.

What is the estimated number of terrorists in Sinai currently?

There is certainly a significant decline in the number of terrorists in Sinai after the successful strikes of the armed forces in the comprehensive confrontation. The armed forces also succeeded in eliminating most of the main terrorist leaders. We can notice that the numbers of terrorists who are killed or arrested are decreasing gradually and their ability to carry out terrorist operations also declined considerably.

An Egyptian troop securing a public facility

Are the military statements sufficient to respond to rumors and fake news about the situation in Sinai?

The military statements play an important role in raising awareness of public opinion about the real situation in Sinai. We present all important information about the military operation with full transparency and credibility. However, some anti-state media outlets release fake news to incite terrorists to fight against the Egyptian army and police, therefore we always call for media outlets to ensure accuracy in covering 'Sinai 2018’ and urge reporters to use only official outlets as sources.

What are the purposes of joint maneuvers and exercises between the Egyptian armed forces and some sister and friendly countries?

Since the beginning of the comprehensive operation "Sinai 2018" in February, the Egyptian armed forces carried out 11 joint maneuvers, including eight joint exercises with foreign countries (four with France and other four with USA, Spain, Britain, Cyprus, and Greece), and three exercises with Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain. These trainings aim at exchanging experience in planning, organizing and implementing of military activities, developing skills of participating elements and their ability to carry out tactical tasks to secure vital places and counter threats.

After the completion of the Sinai 2018, how do the armed forces prepare for the development of Sinai?

President al-Sisi instructed the armed forces to speed the implementation of development projects in Sinai to improve the social conditions of the border governorate. The Armed Forces Engineering Authority was assigned to implement 290 projects in Sinai at a cost of LE 175 billion, of which 134 projects have been completed.
7/28/2018 4:20:41 AM
<![CDATA[All you need to know about Ezbet Mohsen terror case]]>
Attorney General Nabil Sadek had ordered to refer the 30 defendants to the Emergency High State Security Criminal Court for charges of forming a terrorist group, adopting the Takfiri ideology of ISIS, targeting churches and state facilities and receiving military trainings by ISIS members in Syria and Libya.

All defendants are accused of dozens of charges, but three of them are the most dangerous as follows:

Possession of explosive devices

Investigations revealed that some of the defendants had possessed a number of explosive belts, the crime for which the penalty law punishes its maker with a life sentence in prison as long as the possession is not licensed.

Moreover, Article 102 of the Criminal Code stipulates that the “death penalty is a punishment for the crime of using explosives with an intention of committing crimes mentioned in Article 87, political assassination or damaging public facilities.”

Possession of arms and ammunition

On July 14, the Criminal Court revealed during a session the amounts of ammunition and weapons seized at the terrorist cell headquarters at Ezbet Mohsen district in Alexandria.

Persons possessing unlicensed arms must be punished with imprisonment and be fined with not more than LE 5,000, according to the 394/195 Law, modified in 2012.

Furthermore, a fine of less than LE 15,000 and an imprisonment sentence are imposed on whoever possesses specific types of unlicensed arms such as riffles and gunfire. In the meantime, those possessing unlicensed automatic machines must be punished with a life sentence in prison and fine of less than LE 20,000, according to the Penalty Code.

Joining an outlawed group

The general prosecution accuses the 30 defendants of being affiliates to a terrorist group formed illegally.

A group of terrorists admitted in May 2017 carrying out the Palm Sunday attacks on April 9, 2017, targeting Mar Girgis’s Church in Tanta and St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, which left at least 45 dead and around 125 injured.

Egypt has been struggling for years to contain terrorist activities in Sinai. Many military operations have been carried out by army and police forces, killing hundreds of militants and building a buffer zone along the border with Gaza, so that the Egyptian authorities can curb the flow of militants and weapons infiltrating through underground tunnels.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi authorized the army chief of staff to use “all brute force” against terrorism.

In February, the Egyptian Armed Forces launched a full-scale military operation titled "Sinai 2018" to confront terrorist elements in Sinai and other areas across the country.

Military spokesman Tamer el-Refae announced a major military operation to purge the country from terrorism.
7/27/2018 6:29:56 PM
<![CDATA[OCHA: 182,618 people remain displaced in southern Syria]]>
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke said that the Government of Syria has made rapid territorial gains over the past weeks, and currently only a stretch of land near the Golan area remains under Non-State Armed Group-control (NSAG), while a 200 km2 area is under the control of the Daesh-affiliated Jaysh Khaled Bin Walid Waleed group (JKBW).

The United Nations are very concerned regarding JKBW’s policy of restricting the freedom of movement of civilians who are trying to leave the area, and only limited numbers of civilians were able to escape, he said.

While the current number of civilians trapped in the JKBW-controlled area could not be confirmed, the UN estimated that prior to the escalation of hostilities up to 55,000 people were located in said area, noting that several thousands have reportedly since managed to flee, he added.

Those who stay behind remain subject to heightened hostilities. For example, between 21 and 23 July, intense airstrikes were reported on JKBW-held areas in the Yarmouk Basin, including on al-Shajra, Hayt, Tasil, Jellin, Sahm al-Golan, Adwan and Tal al-Jumou’, and various reports suggest that at least 32 civilians were killed, including eleven children and three women, the spokesman said.

The UN is further particularly concerned about the humanitarian situation of the 100,000 individuals in the Golan area, who continue to face hostilities and lack access to assistance and services, he added.]]>
7/27/2018 3:28:21 PM
<![CDATA[Gov't denies claims UK Home Secretary opens door to Egyptian women's migration]]>
In its report, the center said that it had contacts with the Interior Ministry, which refuted the matter as "bare of truth".

The Interior Ministry made it clear that Britain did not issue any documents on this score, the report added.

On July 19, the UK embassy in Cairo issued a clarification of UK Asylum policy to deny unfounded claims that have recently spread on social networks on this score.

"We’re aware of rumors on social media that the UK has a policy in place specific to women’s migration. This appears to be based on the UK’s Asylum guidance regarding gender-based violence," the embassy said in its statement.

"In line with the UK’s obligations under 1951 Refugee Convention, and the European Convention on Human Rights, the UK has an asylum policy designed to ensure that individuals who face persecution or serious harm in their countries are offered protection and not expected to return to their country," it added.

"All asylum claims, including claims based on a fear of gender-based harm, are carefully considered on their individual merits by assessing evidence provided by the individual against relevant country information," it said.

"There is no provision in the Immigration Rules for someone to seek asylum from abroad and we will only consider asylum claims lodged in the UK. Those who need international protection should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach," it said.

"It is important to draw a distinction between migration and asylum, which is an international legal obligation designed to protect the most vulnerable from serious harm," it said.]]>
7/27/2018 2:53:24 PM
<![CDATA[Nepal vice president talks 60 years of relations with Egypt]]>
Pun’s statements came throughout the inauguration of a cultural exhibition held to introduce the Egyptian civilization by the Egyptian Embassy in Nepal on the occasion of 66th anniversary of the July 23 Revolution and in celebration of 60 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

He stated that the Egyptian civilization is a place of pride, and that holding this cultural exhibition for the first time in Nepal, which shows some of the Pharaonic monuments,represents the best advertising of Egypt’s tourism.

On the other hand, Egypt’s Ambassador to Nepal Iman Mostafa told Egypt Today that the Egyptian-Nepalese relations will witness a development through all fields, especially in the field of tourism and trade exchange during the upcoming period.

The diplomatic relations between Nepal and Egypt wereestablished onJuly 16, 1957. Nepal inaugurated its embassy in Cairo in 1966 and Egypt’s embassy was opened in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, in 1970. Nepal backed the Camp David Accord signed by Egypt and Israel in 1978, which ultimately led to the signing of the Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1979.

Egypt signed a trade agreement with Nepal on 23 December 1975; this agreement has been ratified and a new agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation between the two countries was signed on 16 July 2007. There is a potential to further boost trade and investment between Nepal and Egypt. The volume of trade is insignificance in view of the scope currently.

An agreement of Cultural, Scientific and Technical Cooperation was signed between the two countries on 12 February 1976 with a target to expand the scope of cooperation in the fields of culture, science and technology.
7/27/2018 2:18:30 PM
<![CDATA[Egyptian-Indian relations witnessing fast-paced growth: Indian amb.]]>
In statements to MENA, the ambassador said that exchange of visits by officials of both countries reflects the momentum of the ties and eagerness to push forward cooperation at all levels.

As for trade exchange, Kulshreshth described it as better in comparison with the past year, pointing out to the keenness of Indian companies to pump investments in Egypt.

India's investments in Egypt stand at nearly three billion dollar, the ambassador said.

He highlighted the eagerness of Indian tourists to visit Egypt.

Meanwhile, the Indian envoy hailed mega projects being implemented in Egypt, namely the New Administrative Capital and the Suez Canal axis.]]>
7/27/2018 1:39:47 PM
<![CDATA[Cairo calls for developing media code of conduct to combat hatred discourse]]>
Leading Egypt’s delegation, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said he was keen during the speech he delivered at the event to assert the importance of such a critical stage for the US-led coalition after decisive blows were struck to Daesh terrorist organization on the ground.

The coalition members have to be aware of the gravity of this stage, which requires waging a fierce media and intellectual battle against the discourse of extremism, hatred and violence, he said.

Abu Zeid noted that there is no way to eliminate Daesh and other similar organizations without confronting this bizarre discourse, whatever its source, in all its forms, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

In this regard, the spokesman urged the working group to develop a code of conduct or guiding standards with the aim of combating hatred discourse that spreads on some TV channels and social media websites.

He also highlighted the importance of Al Azhar and Dar Al-Iftaa in fighting extremist ideology and confronting the discourse of hatred.]]>
7/27/2018 1:35:14 PM
<![CDATA[Iraq's top cleric Sistani calls for new government as soon as possible]]>
Sistani also encouraged the incumbent government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to respond urgently to protesters' demands for jobs and better basic services and jobs.

"The current government must work hard urgently to implement citizens' demands to reduce their suffering and misery," Sistani's representative said in the Shi'ite holy city of Kerbala. ]]>
7/27/2018 1:23:29 PM
<![CDATA[Foreign Ministry praises U.S. decision to release suspended aid]]>
The United States will very soon lift the hold off aid to Egypt after talks with a military delegation from the latter, a source told Ahram Online on Wednesday.

The $195 million military aid – withheld in August 2017 over allegations of human rights and democracy breaches – will be released by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee.

In an interview with Sherif Amer on MBC, Abu Zeid said that the Egyptian Foreign Ministry had announced arranging a telephone call between Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. During the call, Shoukry was notified by the U.S. decision.

Pompeo affirmed the U.S. keenness to enhance strategic relations with Egypt, and the commitment to back Egypt politically, economically and developmentally, through the current cooperation strategies between the two states, including the USAID program with Egypt, adding that more aid will be provided to Egypt in the next period.

Egypt and Israel receive U.S. military aid as part of the peace treaty signed in 1979. The annual amount allocated for Egypt is $1.3 billion. On the other hand, Israel and the United States signed an agreement in September 2016 for the latter to provide Israel with $35 billion in defense aid over the period of 10 years.

Since the treaty was signed, Israel has received an economic aid of $8 billion yearly, while Egypt has received $1 billion.

In August 2017, the U.S. announced a decision to deny $95.7 million in grants and aid to Egypt, and to delay the disbursement of $195 million in military aid because of alleged human rights violations.

The Washington Post published a report in October claiming that Egypt secretly imported more than 24,000 North Korean rocket-propelled grenades in violation of UN Security Council sanctions. Shoukry denied that the shipment was destined for Egyptian military.

Shoukry stressed that Egypt is a non-permanent member of the Security Council, and is committed to the council's resolutions. He noted that the Security Council delegates and investigators had participated in all the measures taken against the North Korean shipment until the sanctions committee issued its report on the case, denying that the shipment was destined for Egypt.

In an interview with Egypt Today in October, U.S. Representative for Iowa Steve King expressed concerns about the decision as he considers Egypt, under the leadership of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, to be a key ally in the region and an important counterweight in the fight against terrorism.

“Egypt is a key player in the fight against Islamic Radicalism, and these suggested cuts appear to contradict the Trump Administration’s own stated desire to support Egypt and its people in the fight against terror,” he stated.

Additional reporting by Noha Al-Tawil, Mohamed Abdel Maguid, Eman Hanna
7/26/2018 3:04:54 PM
<![CDATA[Suleiman Khater play creators sentenced to 2-month suspended prison]]>
The six defendants include playwright and director of the play, who were accused of insulting the Armed Forces, using military uniform without permission, and showcasing a play without the approval of the censorship authority.

Playwright Waleed Atef and director Ahmed El-Garhy were arrested in March were arrested following their show at Giza’s Shooting Club, over a report filed by lawyer Samir Sabri, who accused them of mocking the Egyptian army’s role in fighting state’s enemies.

Since the play concerns the Armed Forces, the artists were referred to the military tribunal for prosecution.

The suspended sentence is a judicial verdict which is not enforced unless a further crime is committed during a specified period, and it would be dismissed in case the defendant did not commit an illegal action during the period he should have been spent in prison and if the defendant performed a period of probation.

The arrest of the six actors caused a controversy amongst artists, some defended their right in expressing their opinion and some saw that they crossed the line; however, nobody could confirm how the play insulted the army. In a statement released in March, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights voiced concerns over the arrest of Garhy and Atef, saying that such decisions and accusations violate the constitutional right of freedom expression.

In an interview with Ahmed Moussa past February, Garhy denied the accusations, saying that the play was misunderstood.

“We cannot and shouldn’t mock the Armed Forces. No civilian can mock someone defends him,” Garhy told Moussa on his talk show “Ala Maso’lity aired on Sada al-Balad TV channel on February 28.

The play is about a police conscript called Suleiman Khater who opened fire on seven Israeli tourists in Sinai killing six of them in 1985, during Hosni Mubarak tenure. The only survivor was a 5-year-old girl who was shielded by her mother, according to some reports.

Khater was sentenced to life in prison. However, he was found dead inside his cell after spending about a year in prison. The Egyptian authorities and official reports said that Khater hung himself to death.

Police conscripts are part of the Armed Forces, not Interior Ministry.

In March, Parliamentarian Solaf Darwish submitted a five-article draft law to criminalize acts of defamation against the Armed Forces and police.

Article 1 stipulates that those who publicly insult or publish things to defame or abuse the Armed Forces or police, or incite another person to commit an act or say something against the police and Armed Forces shall be punished with at least three years in prison and a LE 10,000 fine.

The penalty could be doubled by suspending the newspaper that continues to publish fake news to insult the Armed Forces and police.

Anyone who distributes and displays photos that lead to the defamation of both the Armed Forces and police by any means shall be punished with at least five years in jail and a LE 5,000 fine.

Law enforcement officers shall seize writings, photos and any other means to defame the Armed Forces and police, and then refer the crime to the Public Prosecution. If the Public Prosecution acknowledges the crimes, it shall file them to the Court of First Instance that shall issue its decree after the hearings. The decree cannot be appealed.]]>
7/26/2018 2:14:48 PM
<![CDATA[Venezuela's last anti-Maduro paper clings on as media intimidation grows]]>
A poster on a wall warns employees not to steal toilet paper while another asks for medicine for a reporter's mother, as the scarcity of basic goods that has forced over a million people to leave Venezuela also takes its toll on the country's last independent national newspaper.

Printing the paper has become a daily struggle, its editors say. Currency controls imposed by the Venezuelan government are strangling imports, meaning newsprint, ink and printing equipment are scarce.

Now, however, El Nacional finds itself at a potentially perilous juncture after President Nicolas Maduro's top lieutenant successfully sued for defamation in a Venezuelan court.

Diosdado Cabello, head of Venezuela's powerful Constituent Assembly, sued El Nacional in 2015 after it re-published an article from Spanish newspaper ABC reporting he was under investigation by U.S. authorities for drug trafficking.

Cabello has denied any involvement in the drug trade. He says there is no proof against him and the accusations are aimed at tarnishing his reputation.

While pro-government newspapers like Ultimas Noticias operate freely in Venezuela, El Nacional often finds itself in the crosshairs of Maduro's ruling Socialist party.

El Nacional’s independent reporting and headlines documenting power cuts, allegations of electoral fraud and strikes by desperate workers have prompted senior government leaders to regularly single out El Nacional's coverage for public criticism.

Maduro's supporters have assailed the paper as biased and accuse it of trying to precipitate his ouster. El Nacional denies this and says it accurately covers the current crisis.

The paper says the report it published in January 2015 was correct. In May, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned Cabello, freezing his assets and imposing a travel ban, and said in a statement he had organized drug shipments from Venezuela to Europe and shared the profits with Maduro, who is also under U.S. sanctions.

A suit brought by Cabello against the Wall Street Journal in 2015 for reporting his alleged links to drug trafficking was dismissed by U.S. courts. A spokeswoman for Dow Jones, which publishes the Journal, said the newspaper did not face any legal action in Venezuela related to that reporting.

In June, a tribunal in Caracas ordered El Nacional to pay Cabello the 1 billion bolivars he demanded in 2015 for libel for publishing the ABC story. Due to hyperinflation, that is worth just $300 today but the court said it should be adjusted for price rises.

As the central bank has not published inflation data for three years, it is unclear how high the final award might be but according to Cabello it could potentially amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.

"I swear to you I will make you pay," Cabello said on his weekly state TV show in June, referring by name to El Nacional's owner Miguel Henrique Otero, who recently emigrated to Spain.

Cabello showed a mocked-up front page of El Nacional entitled "The Wall Street Furrial", named after his hometown of El Furrial, fuelling speculation by pro-government legislators that he would seize the newspaper if it could not pay the fine.

Asked by Reuters about his plans, Cabello said his lawyer had asked the court to update the fine using the expected 2018 inflation rate the newspaper published in June of 300,000 percent - based on a calculation by Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly.

"As El Nacional never lies, the figure should be what they put on their front page," Cabello said, adding that inflation for the previous two years should also be taken into account.

The court said in its ruling it would assign an independent expert to calculate how to update the fine but did not say who that would be.


El Nacional's lawyer Juan Garanton said the newspaper had appealed the ruling. The court's decision makes no mention of what would happen if the it is unable to pay but Garanton said Cabello would have no right to seize the paper.

Under Venezuelan commercial law, if a company does not pay a court-imposed fine, the tribunal can seize its assets for auction.

"I don't think he wants the paper...What he wants is to disrupt it," Garanton said.

Otero, whose grandfather founded the paper 75 years ago, declined to comment on the fine or the possibility of a takeover.

In a phone interview from Madrid, he said advertising on El Nacional's foreign-hosted website was earning it valuable hard currency to keep the publication going.

"We're going to try to maintain the print edition until the end, even if it's just a page, because it's politically symbolic," he said.

In addition to the prospect of a punishing fine, El Nacional faces other challenges. Staffing at the newspaper is one-fifth of the 2,000 employees it had over a decade ago. More staff join the exodus of Venezuelans emigrating each week, editor-in-chief Patricia Spadaro said.

"They can't endure the crisis," Spadaro said, surrounded by dozens of empty cubicles. The United Nations estimates that 1 million Venezuelans left the country between 2015 and 2017, from a population of around 32 million.

Due to lack of paper, El Nacional says its circulation has dwindled to 20,000 copies, just one-tenth of what it was a decade ago.

Spadaro said a nationalized company that controls paper distribution, the Alfredo Maneiro Editorial Corporation, did not sell to El Nacional. Instead, the newspaper buys from a joint-venture of major Latin American newspapers, importing supplies by ship.

"There has been a policy to suffocate the independent media in Venezuela," Spadaro said.

Neither the Information Ministry nor the Maneiro Corporation, controlled by the ministry, responded to multiple requests for comment.]]>
7/26/2018 12:33:28 PM
<![CDATA[Ex-bodyguard says enemies created crisis to get at Macron]]>
Alexandre Benalla was fired last week after Le Monde newspaper identified him in footage showing him hitting a male protester and dragging away a woman while off duty and wearing a riot helmet and police tags.

Critics say Macron's office failed to properly punish Benalla or refer him promptly to judicial authorities.

Benalla told Le Monde in his first interview since the crisis erupted that he had committed a "big mistake", but insisted enemies had used it against him.

"My case has been used to settle scores, it's taken on proportions... I won't say I was the fall-guy, I'm just saying it served various interests, an interest to get at the president of the republic," Benalla said.

Benalla did not give names but blamed "politicians and police" for exploiting the incident for their ends.

Critics say Macron's handling of the case shows he has lost touch with ordinary people since taking office 14 months ago.

Benalla is now the target of a judicial investigation and there are also probes under way in the upper and lower houses of parliament into how Macron's office handled the incident.]]>
7/26/2018 11:44:25 AM
<![CDATA[Leaked tape piles pressure on Trump, with ex-lawyer to speak 'truth']]>
On the tape, which was broadcast Tuesday, Trump can be heard discussing with Cohen how to hush up allegations that he had an affair with a Playboy model in 2006, and buying the rights to her story.

The tape was reportedly made two months before the 2016 presidential election and weeks before the Trump campaign denied any knowledge about Karen McDougal's allegations of a 10-month fling with the tycoon.

Cohen's lawyer released the tape to television network CNN, an arch critic of the Trump administration, and in a flurry of interviews declared his client had "turned a corner" and would continue to speak "the truth."

Cohen, who once declared he was so loyal he would "take a bullet for the president," is under federal investigation in New York for his business dealings and reportedly whether hush payments violated campaign finance laws.

In addition to being involved in efforts to hush up McDougal's story, he famously paid $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels just weeks before the election to silence her own claims of an alleged one-night stand with Trump.

The leaking of the tape and reports that there are further recordings has fanned speculation about how much damage Cohen can inflict on the president and whether he is now mulling a cooperation deal with federal prosecutors.

In an ABC News interview released on July 2, Cohen said his family and the country commanded his "first loyalty," the first fuel to that speculation.

- 'Tell the truth' -

On Wednesday, his newly hired, high-powered attorney Lanny Davis compared the Cohen tape to the Watergate tapes that ultimately forced Republican president Richard Nixon to resign in 1974 to avoid impeachment.

"Listen to the tape in the way that (former White House counsel) John Dean had a tape that did in Richard Nixon," he told ABC television. "Ultimately Donald Trump is going to be done in by the truth."

Davis, who worked for the Bill Clinton White House, told ABC that Cohen had "more tapes." He told CNN that his client had "turned a corner in his life" and was "now dedicated to telling the truth."

On Wednesday, a seething Trump lashed out, tweeting: "What kind of a lawyer would tape a client? So sad! Is this a first, never heard of it before?"

"Why was the tape so abruptly terminated (cut) while I was presumably saying positive things?"

While Trump suggested over the weekend that Cohen may have acted illegally in secretly taping their discussion, jurists said it might not be so simple.

On the tape, Trump and Cohen talk about buying the rights to McDougal's story, which she had sold a month earlier to the National Enquirer for $150,000. The tabloid never published the story. The rights were never bought.

- 'Protecting himself' -

During the campaign, the Trump team denied any knowledge of the deal between McDougal and American Media, the magazine's parent company.

But on tape, the candidate expresses no surprise when the issue comes up and Cohen talks about essentially reimbursing the company for what it paid McDougal.

"It really does signal a more aggressive stance on the part of Michael Cohen," Jeanne Zaino, professor of political science at Iona College, told AFP when asked about the significance of the leak.

"It suggests he might be no longer on the president's side," agreed Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

"Ultimately Michael Cohen seems to be a person who will be first and foremost concerned with protecting himself," Zelizer added.

On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported on a deeper alliance forged between Cohen and American Media, which it said federal investigators were examining as part of the investigation into Cohen's business affairs.

"I think it's probably in his (Cohen's) interests to pursue some kind of deal. I can't imagine he wants to continue to pay high-priced lawyers," said Paul Beck, professor emeritus of political science at Ohio State University.

"The longer this is in the public eye the more damaging it is going to be for Republicans in the November (mid-term) elections," he told AFP.]]>
7/26/2018 4:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Trump postpones Putin visit as Pompeo defends Russia stance]]>
Facing mounting calls to release the details of Trump's closed-door talks with Putin, the US administration stepped up its damage control operation, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo going before Congress to defend his boss.

The US leader himself, under fire over plans to invite Putin to the White House in the fall, opted to delay until 2019 -- pushing the talks back until Robert Mueller has completed his probe into Moscow's election interference, according to National Security Advisor John Bolton.

And Pompeo went on the offensive to stress steps Trump has taken to show resolve against the Kremlin, stepping into a white-hot spotlight during a grilling by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The top diplomat said he would back bipartisan efforts in Congress to slap new sanctions on Russia in response to their meddling in the 2016 US election, and as a deterrent against meddling this year or in 2020.

"I personally made clear to the Russians that there will be severe consequences for interference in our democratic processes," he said in his opening statement.

Pompeo reaffirmed as official policy that the United States "rejects Russia's attempted annexation of Crimea" -- an issue on which the US leader had appeared to waver.

And with the US president accused -- including by members of his own Republican party -- of casting doubt on the alliance's founding principle of mutual defense, Pompeo sought to smooth ruffled feathers.

"NATO will remain an indispensable pillar of American national security," he said. "We know weakness provokes our enemies, but strength and cohesion protect us."

On the North Korea front, Pompeo also struck a resolute tone, warning that Washington will not let nuclear negotiations "drag out to no end," amid criticism that Trump's June summit with Kim Jong Un has so far yielded few results.

"We are engaged in patient diplomacy, but we will not let this drag out to no end," Pompeo said.

- 'Submissive and deferential' -

Lawmakers -- and America's allies around the world -- have been eager to learn the details of Trump's one-on-one July 16 meeting with Putin, including whether Trump made any secret promises to Putin or as-yet undisclosed verbal agreements.

Republicans and Democrats alike have described Trump's performance as a betrayal of US interests and too conciliatory towards the Russian leader.

The hearing quickly turned testy as lawmakers sought details on what exactly transpired in the Finnish capital.

"I don't think that's unfair to know," Senator Robert Menendez, the panel's top Democrat, told Pompeo. "Did he tell Putin that he'll release or ultimately relax sanctions?"

"Senator, what you need to conduct your role, your appropriate role, I will provide you today," a steely Pompeo shot back, without answering the question.

While Pompeo gave no hints of any secret promises or deals between the presidents, the US State Department has said three "modest proposals" emerged from the summit: a high-level business leaders' working group; a council of US and Russian political experts, diplomats and military officials; and discussions between the two presidents' national security staffs.

Republican Senator Bob Corker, the committee's chairman, issued a blistering critique of Trump's performance in Helsinki, saying the president appeared "submissive and deferential" standing next to Putin, and reprimanding the White House effort to throw a veil over the proceedings.

"We really need a clear understanding as to what is going on," Corker said.

With Moscow asserting that "agreements" had been reached between the leaders over Syria, the content of their two-hour conversation with no one else but their interpreters present has been the subject of conjecture.

"I gave up NOTHING," Trump wrote on Twitter on Monday.

Congress has been rattled by Trump's Helsinki showing, particularly when he appeared to accept Putin's denial that Russia interfered in the 2016 election -- dismissing US intelligence conclusions.

Congressional leaders in Trump's Republican Party have made clear that the Russian strongman is not welcome in the US Capitol.

The intensity of the criticism prompted days of conflicting statements from the White House, and ultimately an extraordinary U-turn from Trump who said he misspoke and did, in fact, believe Russia meddled in the election.]]>
7/26/2018 3:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[US, France sanction Syria chemical program suppliers]]>
The move, which comes as part of a coordinated action with France, targets the procurement network for Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), which the US Treasury Department said is the agency responsible for developing chemical weapons.

Among the entities targeted by Treasury sanctions are a Lebanon-based company called Electronics Katrangi Trading, which "has provided, or attempted to provide, financial, material, technological, or other support for, or goods or services in support of, the SSRC," Sigal Mandelker, Treasury's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.

The sanctions also target Lebanon-based Top Technologies SARL, which specializes in the import and export of electronic components.]]>
7/26/2018 1:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt, France FMs discuss over phone bilateral ties, Libya crisis]]>
Shoukry hailed the deeply-rooted relations between the two countries, said the Foreign Ministry's spokesman, Ahmed Abu-Zeid.

The top diplomat said Egypt looks forward to developing the ties in all fields, especially in the light of great opportunities available for cooperation between the two sides.

For his part, Le Drian stressed the importance of the bilateral relations and France's appreciation of the Egyptian role in supporting stability in the region, said the spokesman.

He was also keen to inform Shoukry of the outcome of his recent visit to Libya in the light of the Egyptian efforts in support of stability and political settlement in Libya.

The FMs also mulled the next steps to achieve consensus between all Libyan parties, added the spokesman.]]>
7/26/2018 12:44:49 AM
<![CDATA[After criticism, Trump delays second Putin meeting to next year]]>
Trump said last week he would invite Putin to Washington for an autumn meeting, a daring rebuttal to fierce criticism over their summit in Helsinki, in which he appeared to give credence to the Russian leader's assertion that Moscow did not interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The invitation sparked a new outcry, including from lawmakers in Trump's Republican party, who argued that Putin is an adversary not worthy of a White House visit and that they still did not know what the leaders had discussed during their two-hour, one-on-one meeting.

"The president believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we’ve agreed that it will be after the first of the year," Bolton said in a statement.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow interfered to sway the vote toward Trump, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether Trump's campaign worked with the Russians.

Trump rejected the criticism sparked by his Helsinki news conference with Putin and said he misspoke in a series of flip-flops over the summit. He then abruptly issued the invitation to Putin.

Reflecting the unease among U.S. lawmakers, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that Putin would not be invited to address Congress or visit the Capitol if he accepted Trump's invitation.

The Kremlin said this week that although Washington and Moscow agreed there was a need for another Putin-Trump meeting, Russia had not yet begun any practical preparations for a new meeting.

"There are other options (to meet) which our leaders can look at," aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters, citing a meeting of G20 leaders in Argentina which starts at the end of November.

Trump has repeatedly called Mueller's probe into meddling in the 2016 election a "witch hunt," a claim that he repeated in a tweet the same day he met with Putin in Helsinki.]]>
7/26/2018 12:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Why Israel arrested Palestinian writer Lama Khater]]>
In a statement, the ministry commented on the arrest of Khater, saying that it comes within the framework of the occupation’s government policy to cancel the role of opinion holders and political and social activists, by detaining them without real charges or fair judgment.

Khater was arrested from her home in Hebron. Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s political leader, handed over to Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, on Tuesday a photo showing the moment Khater was arrested.

Palestinian journalist Lama Khater embraces her son before being arrested by Israeli soldiers in Hebron on Tuesday – Social media

Israeli media did not mention that Khater is accused of committing violent actions or cooperating with “terrorist” groups. Instead, the Israeli Jerusalem Post, for example, said that she was arrested for her “harsh anti-Israel writings.”

The ministry called on all human rights organizations to support Khater in order for her to be released, as her detention is considered a big loss for the Palestinian detainees who Khater had defended and expressed, adding that detainees view Khater as a mirror that reflects their suffering.

Lawyer Nadi Al-Aseer said that Khater is suffering cruel and intensified interrogation by the Israeli authorities in the investigation department of Ashkelon Prison.

Khater told Aseer that she has been interrogated while being tied to a chair all of the time, adding that interrogators do not enable her to sleep and continuously insult her, according to media reports.

Hoda Naieem, a Palestinian Parliamentarian, called on women support institutions to act in support of Khater, saying that Israel fights against freedom of media.

“Lama Khater was arrested because it uncovers the crimes of the occupation against our people, and this confirms that this occupation does not take laws, customs or international standards into consideration,” Naieem stated.

Khater, 42, is a political and media analyst. She was born in the West Bank’s Ramallah city. Khater is a mother of five. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Arabic Language from the Faculty of Arts in Hebron University. Khater’s writings focus on defending the Palestinian issue and combating occupation.

“Two years ago, the occupation tried to arrest my wife,” Khater’s husband Hazem Al-Fakhory said in an interview with Felestin newspaper. He added that the occupation forces did not arrest her at the time because their youngest son was only 20 months old as Israeli law allows detained mothers to take their sons or daughters if they are younger than two.

“About five days ago, the occupation’s investigative [system] summoned me. All the meeting was about my wife. It incorporated threat messages over what they called incitement against occupation,” Fakhory said, adding that they threatened to arrest her if she does not cease incitement against the state.

“During the meeting they asked me about my child’s age, who is two years old. According to their law, they can arrest her [alone] without taking her [child] now. Since the meeting, I’ve been expecting them to arrest her at any moment, me,” Fakhory said, according to Felestin’s reports.

About 60 female detainees are being held in Israeli prisons, according to the Ministry of Detainees.
7/25/2018 6:07:19 PM
<![CDATA[U.S. to lift hold on military aid to Egypt]]>
The high-profile delegation, named the Military White Paper, is currently at Washington where it held meetings with high-ranking U.S. military and security officials.

The $195 million military aid – withheld in August 2017 over allegations of human rights and democracy breaches – will be released by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee.

The source told Ahram Online that Egypt made it clear during the talks that such a stance would send a "wrong message that U.S. counterparts do not understand the nature of the challenges Egypt is facing, including the challenge of domestic and regional terrorism.”

Egypt and Israel receive U.S. military aid as part of the peace treaty signed in 1979. The annual amount allocated for Egypt is $1.3 billion. On the other hand, Israel and the United States signed an agreement in September 2016 for the latter to provide $35 billion in defense aid over the period of 10 years.

In the same year the peace treaty was signed, Israel was receiving $8 billion economic aid yearly, while Egypt was getting $1 billion.

Egypt has refuted the claims by the United States which has pulled out of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in June for being biased against Israel.

During his meeting with the Head of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) Mohamed Fayek in September, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi affirmed that Egypt will continue its efforts to maintain human rights and basic freedoms in line with confronting terrorism and protecting its national security from current dangers threatening the region.

Egypt has been engaged in a fight with terror in North Sinai since 2011 along with the January 25 Revolution. However, the attacks targeted civilians – especially Christians – and public institutions in the rest of the country after the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi, who is affiliated with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, in July 2013. Later on, the assaults were confined again to the border governorate.

7/25/2018 4:06:34 PM
<![CDATA[First Egyptian guidebook for drafting laws completed]]>
Following three years of hard work, the legislative guidebook was issued for the lawmakers inside and outside Egypt to help improve the process of issuing new laws or modifying old ones in a scientific way, according to the minister.

The guidebook underscores the right of all Parliament members to directly propose draft laws to the Parliament for approval. However, ministers have to send their draft laws to the council of ministers before the council sends it to the Parliament.

Draft laws should be proposed with the aim of executing the state’s general policy and the Cabinet’s program and meeting the country’s international commitments, according to the guidebook.

One of the main recommendations of the guidebook is checking the constitution while proposing draft laws, in order to protect them from being eliminated in case they were found to be unconstitutional.

Legislators also have to make sure that the national draft laws proposed are compatible with the international instruments Egypt has signed, in order to protect the government from being internationally censured.

Imprisonment punishment suggested by a draft law should not be too cruel for the illegal action committed, according to the guidebook.

Legislators should avoid issuing draft laws that contradict with the actual national laws. They subsequently should stop using phrases like “other laws contradicting this law are cancelled” and “the law is applied as long as it does not contradict other laws.”

Following the approval of the council of ministers on a draft law introduced by a ministry, this ministry should then coordinate with other ministries and related parties to prepare the draft law in its last form before it is submitted again to the council.

The Cabinet has to send the draft law then to the State Council in order for the latter to send notes about it. The Cabinet usually sends the State Council’s notes to the Justice Ministry to know their legal opinion about these notes. However, the Cabinet is not constitutionally obliged to commit to the State Council’s opinion and notes about the draft law.

According to the constitution, the State Council is an independent judicial authority specialized in settling many types of disputes including administrative ones, in addition to reviewing and phrasing draft laws and legislative decisions.

The council of ministries then has to send the draft law to the Parliament with all researches, attachments, copy of the experts’ opinions and an explanatory memorandum all attached to the draft law.

The Parliament has the right to approve or reject the draft law introduced by the Cabinet. The Parliament then refers the draft law to the Proposals and Complaints Committee to prepare a report on it and submit it to the Parliament again.

The President has the right to issue or reject draft laws. In case the President rejects a draft law, he has to send it back for reconsideration to the Parliament within 30 days of the Parliament’s notification. If the president does not send it back within a month to the Parliament, or if at least two thirds of the Parliament members approve it again after it was sent back, the draft law would be issued as a law.

Reported cover of the First Egyptian legislative guidebook

7/25/2018 3:41:37 PM
<![CDATA[What did police do in Arish in 6 months?]]>
Security forces managed to eliminate 13 terrorist elements in Al-Masaeed district in the North Sinai city of Arish after fire exchange, according to a security report on Tuesday.

Raiding the terrorists' hideout, the forces seized weapons, ammunition and explosive devices. According to the source, the eliminated terrorists planned to carry out attacks on military and police personnel as well as some citizens.

The source added that a number of four machine guns, two cartridge firearms, three explosive devices, and 83 bullets were found.

Earlier in July, security forces managed to eliminate 11 takfiri elements after fire exchange, while raiding a terrorist hideout in Arish’s Omran district, according to security sources.

Following the raid, the security forces could seize three machine guns, a cartridge firearm and two explosive devices possessed by the takfiris, according to the sources.

The investigations revealed that the terrorists had planned to target state institutions and carry out destructive attacks on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda sit-ins dispersal.

The protestors who backed ousted Muslim Brotherhood affiliated President Mohamed Morsi were dispersed on August, 14, 2013, as the security forces said that some protestors were armed. The dispersal of the two protests caused the death of dozens of policemen and hundreds of Morsi supporters, according to reports. The two parties hold each other responsible for the violence.

According to the security source, the eliminated terrorists had contacted a number of terrorist leaders outside the country, who funded them to buy weapons and explosives.

Security forces also managed to foil a terrorist attack that was aiming to target vital organizations and facilities inside Egypt during Eid Al-Fitr, according to the Ministry of Interior's statement released on June 11.

Four terrorists were killed in Al-Ubaidat neighborhood, Arish, during fire exchange between the security forces and terrorists, according to the ministry’s statement. A number of guns and rifles were seized by the police after storming the terrorists’ hideout.

On May 30, Egypt’s security forces succeeded in foiling attempts to establish new camps for terrorists along Wahat Road, the same place that witnessed the massive terrorist attack that killed at least 16 police officers last October.

The new camp was planning to target several buildings, police officers, and vital areas and locations inside the country during Ramadan, sources told Egypt Today.

Arish, the largest city in North Sinai, has witnessed numerous terrorist attacks since Morsi's ousting in 2013, which led to the death of hundreds of citizens, security personnel and army men.

In November, 2017, 311 Muslim worshippers were reported killed during Friday prayers, when a group of takfiri elements stormed Al-Rawdah mosque in Al-Arish, and opened fire on worshippers. The incident has been reported as Egypt’s deadliest terrorist attack in modern history.

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi announced that Egypt will face terrorism with “brutal force”, placing terrorism combat on top of his priorities during his first and second terms.

In February 2018, army spokesman Tamer el-Refae announced in a strongly worded televised statement that the military and police forces initiated Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018.

The operation involved land, naval and air forces, as well as the police and border guards, targeting "terrorist and criminal elements and organizations" in North and Central Sinai, as well as parts of the Nile Delta and the Western Desert along the porous border with Libya, strongholds of a persistent Islamic State (IS) group insurgency that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and policemen.

During the ongoing military operation, army and security forces managed to eliminate dozens of takfiri elements, seize a number of explosive devices, weapons and ammunition, and damage cannabis farms, besides other accomplishments, according to the consecutive army statements.
7/25/2018 12:27:08 PM
<![CDATA[Syrian opposition makes 50-member list to draft constitution]]>
The list included five members from the Cairo Conference for Syrian Opposition. Those are actor Gamal Soliman, Firas al-Khaldy, Kasem Darwish, Ahmed al-Ahmar, and Amar al-Nahas.

On the other hand, the Syrian regime has drawn up a list of 50 members the majority of which is affiliated with the ruling party, al-Baath, and the Syrian People Conference.

Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura visited several Arab countries to consult over the articles of the prospective constitution, and the parties that will participate in the drafting process.

A source told Egypt Today that Egypt - which was visited by de Mistura last month - and Saudi Arabia reject any foreign dictations or interventions in the drafting process, asserting that the decision making process should be exclusive to Syrian parties.

The abovementioned UN resolution was endorsed by the Security Council after a road map was put forward by the Syrian parties that participated in the first Geneva talks in 2015. The map stipulated the necessity of drafting a new constitution, and holding free and fair elections.

Earlier, an Egypt-mediated ceasefire agreement was reached between a number of armed opposition factions in the Syrian coast, with a Russian guarantee and the brokerage of Syria’s Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) opposition movement chairperson, Ahmed Jarba, according to several media reports.

The agreement stipulates participating in efforts to fight terrorism and reach a political settlement to the Syrian crisis, and instructs the return of the refugees and the displaced to their homes and the release of detainees. The agreement stipulates joining efforts to combat terrorism in Syria and establish peace-keeping forces in the region.

Syrian reconciliation

Egypt and Russia have brokered two ceasefire agreements between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and armed opposition fighters in certain areas in Northern Syria.

On July 23, 2017, the first ceasefire was announced in the Ghouta region in Damascus. The agreement signed with Egyptian mediation, according to the statement, came after three days of negations in the presence of representatives of the Syrian opposition, Syrian regime and the Russian Defense Ministry.

The agreement's conditions included, “a complete ceasefire binding to all parties, the entry ban of all military troops into Eastern Ghouta, and building Russian observation sites inside Ghouta to monitor the parties’ commitment to the agreement.”

The second de-escalation deal was announced in an area in Northern Homs on August 3, 2017.

Thousands of displaced Syrians headed home after rebels and the government reached a ceasefire deal in the south following more than two weeks of deadly bombardment.

Under the agreement announced after talks between rebels and regime ally Moscow, opposition fighters will hand over a territory in the southern province of Daraa near the Jordanian border.

Daraa is seen as the cradle of the uprising that sparked Syria's seven-year war, and the government retaking full control of it would be a symbolic victory for President Assad.

A Russia-backed regime offensive in Daraa has displaced more than 320,000 people since June 19, the United Nations says, including tens of thousands who fled south to the sealed border with Jordan.

Calm reigned over the region on Saturday as the two sides finalized the ceasefire deal, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.

The Syrian political situation has been deteriorating since the protests that emerged with the Arab Spring revolutions in 2011, when the opposition created the “Free Syrian Army” to face Assad’s forces. The situation worsened when the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group began interfering in the country in 2014.

More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's war started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.

7/25/2018 10:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Trump defends trade strategy ahead of EU chief's visit]]>
"What the European Union is doing to us is incredible, how bad. They made $151 billion last year, our trade deficit with the European Union. They sound nice, but they're rough," he told a convention of Veterans of Foreigh Wars.

Trump claimed that after threatening the EU with tariffs on Mercedes-Benz and BMW autos, they replied: "When can we, ah, show up? When can we be there? Would tomorrow be okay?"

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is scheduled to meet Trump Wednesday in Washington, a last-ditch effort to convince him to hold off imposing punitive tariffs on European auto exports to the US.

The Europeans say such levies would trigger a global economic earthquake and earn a withering riposte from Brussels.

In his speech to an appreciative audience in Kansas, Trump was re-emphasizing a theme he had addressed earlier Tuesday on Twitter, when he boasted" "Tariffs are the greatest!"

"Either a country which has treated the United States unfairly on Trade negotiates a fair deal, or it gets hit with tariffs," he tweeted, likening the US as a "'piggy bank' that's being robbed" through trade imbalances.

The threatened car tariffs, which would deal a blow to Germany's mighty automobile industry, come on top of high levies already slapped by Trump on aluminum and steel imports.

The European Commission has reacted with retaliatory tariffs, but new US levies on cars would prompt Europe to take further action.

Other US allies including Canada and Mexico have also hit back against the steel and aluminum tariffs.

"We have to think of ourselves," Trump said in Kansas City.

"We gotta fight it," he said, referring to "disaster" trade deals.

But the foreign minister of Germany, Europe's biggest economy, said Tuesday that the continent "will not be threatened by President Trump. If we cede once, we will often have to deal with such behavior in the future," Heikod Maas wrote on Twitter.

"No one has an interest in having punitive tariffs, because everyone loses in the end," he said.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said over the weekend that Europeans "refuse to negotiate with a gun to the head."]]>
7/25/2018 1:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Haniyeh, Mladenov discuss humanitarian situation in Gaza]]>
The two officials also discussed the Israeli occupation’s violations concerning repeated storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque. Haniyeh called on the UN to intervene and put an end to such actions.

As many as 1,023 Israeli settlers stormed into Al Aqsa Mosque in the morning on Sunday guarded by Israeli forces, an official of the Palestinian Awqaf Ministry said. Eyewitnesses said that the settlers stormed into the mosque from Bab el Magharba and conducted provocative tours in it.

Haniyeh also discussed with Mladenov the crisis of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In January, the U.S. State Department said that Washington would withhold $65 million it had planned to pay the UNRWA, saying it needed to make unspecified reforms.

In a Twitter post on January 2 Trump said that Washington gives the Palestinians "hundreds of millions of dollars a year and get no appreciation or respect.”

On Saturday, the Arab League Assistant Secretary General for Arab and Palestinian Affairs Saeed Abu Ali said that the US suspended most of its share in the budget of the UNRWA, causing a 446-million-dollar deficit.

Palestinian journalist Lama Khater embraces her son before being arrested by Israeli soldiers in Hebron on Tuesday – Social media

During the meeting, Haniyeh condemned Israel’s continuous arrests of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, and handed over to Mladenov a photo showing the moment when the Palestinian journalist and writer Lama Khater was arrested.

Khater was arrested along with 13 Palestinian people in the West Bank, according to Palestinian media reports on Tuesday. Israeli army said in a statement that 14 Palestinians were detained due to their engagement in hostile activities against Israeli people and soldiers.

Improving humanitarian situation

The UN aims to provide 4479 men and women in Gaza with jobs, within the framework of the (DEEP), according to a statement issued by the office of Mladenov, earlier in July.

The Deprived Families Economic Empowerment Program (DEEP) launched by the UN seeks to improve living conditions of socially marginalized Palestinian families.

Amid high unemployment rate in Gaza which exceeds 60 percent, as reported by some statistics, Mladenov’s office stated that the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) will create more than 2,500 short-term jobs in Gaza in 12 months for 2979 people with women being granted 40 percent of the jobs.

The UN program has recently created a plan to provide 1,500 men and women, including people with special needs, with short to medium term jobs. The program will train people to help develop public services, employ sea rescuers and enable 420 fishermen to restore their jobs.

The program will be funded with a total of $3.5 million by the Islamic Development Bank, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and the UNDP.

In a statement, Mladenov affirmed that the UNDP efforts to create jobs are much needed during the current stage.

Earlier in the same month, Mladenov affirmed that the Egyptian government has always been, and still is, a vital and key player in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

He added that the Rafah Border Crossing, which Egypt opens regularly to ease the people’s suffering in Gaza, is considered to be a “lifeline” for Palestinians.

Mladenov said that the United Nations is doing its best to back Egypt’s efforts to reach complete reconciliation among Palestinian factions, stressing that Egypt has exerted a lot of efforts already to reach stability and decrease violence.

Additional reporting by Amr Mohamed Kandil ]]>
7/25/2018 12:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt’s Parliament puts an end for rumor-mongers, MP]]>
Badawi said in a phone call with the TV show “Public Opinion” that the Parliament approved a bill in May to combat cyber security crimes; the law contains articles that impose prison sentences or fine on those who promote rumors through social media platforms.

Badawi added that fake news cause an atmosphere of frustration among the users of social media websites.

Several rumors have circulated widely on social media, such as the one that claimed that the government is planning to fire many of its employees in accordance with the International Monetary Fund’s deal (IMF), and the rumor that claimed cancelling the ration cards of employees whose salaries exceed LE 1000.

Badawi said that people who launch unlicensed websites will face a punishment of not less than three years in prison or a fine of LE 100,000.

Parliament also approved article 9 of the cybercrime law, allowing the Attorney General or specialized investigative authorities to impose travel bans on persons charged with 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.

7/24/2018 12:18:23 PM
<![CDATA[Nasser’s assailants were victims of MB trickery]]>
Atwa added in phone call with TV host Eman el-Hosary on Monday that he was trained in 1951 by the officers who orchestrated July 23 Revolution. Atwa was a member of a commando force which operated against the English troops in the Canal cities.

Atwa said that the Muslim Brotherhood lured him with another two college students into the attempt on President Nasser’s life in 1954. The three young men received the assassination plan from Hassan al-Hudaybi, the second general guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to Atwa.

On October, 26, 1954 in Alexandria … Terrorist members in the Muslim Brotherhood party tried to assassinate late President Nasser, However the attempt was foiled.
7/24/2018 12:16:36 PM