<![CDATA[rss-Politics]]> All Rights Reserved for The Cairo post <![CDATA[Politics]]>]]> 100 29 <![CDATA[Trump administration issues new rules on U.S. visa waivers]]>
The program allows citizens of mainly European countries to travel to the United States for up to 90 days without a visa. Citizens from the 38 countries are required to obtain a so-called travel authorization to enter the United States.

President Donald Trump has sought to tighten the rules for those seeking to visit or live in the United States in several ways, saying restrictions are necessary for security reasons.

The changes will apply to all countries in the program. One change is that they will be required to use U.S. information to screen travelers crossing their borders from third countries. Many countries in the program already do that, one administration official said.

Countries whose citizens stay longer than authorized during visits to the United States at a relatively higher rate will be required to conduct public awareness campaigns on the consequences of overstays, the officials said. One existing penalty is that people who overstay a visit may not travel visa-free to the United States in the future.

The threshold for the overstay rate triggering the public information campaign requirement is two percent, the officials said. In the 2016 fiscal year, of the VWP countries, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, and San Marino, a wealthy enclave landlocked inside central Italy, had total overstay rates higher than two percent, according to a report by the Department of Homeland Security.

The overall overstay rate for VWP countries is 0.68 percent, lower than non-VWP countries excluding Canada and Mexico, which is at 2.07 percent, according to the DHS report.

Members of Congress have expressed concern about the security risks of overstays. A May 2017 report by the DHS inspector general found the department lacked a comprehensive system to gather information on departing visitors, forcing it to rely on third-party data to confirm departures, which is sometimes faulty.

The United States will also start assessing VWP countries on their safeguards against "insider threats" at their airports, especially those with direct flights to the United States, officials said.

The goal is to ensure countries "make sure that airport employees, aviation workers et cetera, aren't corrupted or are co-opted to pose a threat to aircraft, especially those that are U.S.-bound," an official said.]]>
12/16/2017 3:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[Mattis says North Korean ICBM not yet a 'capable threat' against U.S.]]>
"It has not yet shown to be a capable threat against us right now ... we're still doing the forensics analysis," Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.

Last month, North Korea said it had successfully tested a new type of ICBM that could reach all of the U.S. mainland and South Korea and U.S.-based experts said data from the Nov. 29 test appeared to support that.

Mattis did not elaborate on what was lacking in the test to show it was not a capable threat.

He said himself immediately after the test that the missile had gone higher than any previous North Korean launch and that it was part of a research and development effort "to continue building ballistic missiles that can threaten everywhere in the world, basically."

U.S.-based experts, some of whom have been skeptical about past North Korean claims, said last month that data and photos from the test appeared to confirm North Korea had a missile of sufficient power to deliver a nuclear warhead anywhere in America.

But experts and U.S. officials have said questions remain about whether it has a re-entry vehicle capable of protecting a nuclear warhead as it speeds toward its target and about the accuracy of its guidance systems.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said this latest test put Washington within range, but Pyongyang still needed to prove it had mastered re-entry, terminal stage guidance and warhead activation.

Some U.S. based experts believe North Korea could be only two or three tests away from being able to declare the missile operational.

U.S. President Donald Trump vowed "it won't happen" after North Korean said in January is was in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States.

Trump has said all options are on the table, including military ones, although his administration has made clear it prefers a diplomatic solution.

"It continues to be a diplomatically led effort," Mattis said. "When we're ready to have conversations ... dialogues, that will be up to the president and secretary of state."

At a U.N. Security Council session on the crisis on Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged North Korea to carry out a "sustained cessation" of weapons testing to allow the two countries to hold talks. ]]>
12/16/2017 2:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Lebanon interior minister signs law for May election]]>
Parliament had extended its own mandate three times since current lawmakers were elected in 2009 for what was meant to be a four-year term.

A new law creates a proportional representation system for parliament and alters the number of districts from which lawmakers are elected. The election will also be the first where the large number of Lebanese citizens abroad can vote. When registration closed in late November 92,810 had registered to cast their ballot, the foreign minister said at the time.

Machnouk said Lebanese abroad would be able to vote on April 22 and 28.]]>
12/15/2017 6:39:06 PM
<![CDATA[France, Germany to unveil eurozone reforms in March]]>
Meeting without departure-bound Britain, the bloc's 27 leaders were tasked by EU President Donald Tusk to speak freely about their often clashing visions for the single currency's future at a summit widely expected to be dominated by Brexit.

Overhauling the eurozone and making it more resilient to economic shocks has been a top priority of French President Emmanuel Macron, as well as European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker.

But these ambitions have been stymied by political uncertainty in Germany, where Macron-ally Merkel is still trying to form a government after the pro-business FDP party abandoned talks amid doubts about eurozone reform.

"We will find a common position because it is necessary for Europe," Merkel said at a news briefing, speaking alongside Macron after a summit that was dominated by Brexit.

Merkel's overture to France will rankle her conservative CDU party, which toes a austerity-minded line on economic matters.

Reform of the eurozone is often blocked in a political split, with rich countries -- such as Germany and the Netherlands -- reticent to adopt policies that share risks with their heavily-indebted eurozone partners, such as France, Spain, Italy or Greece.

The Netherlands pushed its austerity-driven vision of the eurozone at the summit, with Prime Minister Mark Rutte demanding reforms by overspending governments.

"I noticed that with a certain number of our colleagues that with the euro we always talk money... not how we can make our economies more competitive," Rutte said after the talks.

The resistance has so far blocked Macron's idea of a eurozone budget and held up the creation of a Europe-wide deposit insurance scheme, the last remaining pillar of the banking union.

"To us, it is more important to make some member states more resilient for the next financial crisis," an EU diplomat said.

- 'Large consensus' -

The loss of momentum was confirmed in proposals last week by the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, that put off more ambitious ideas, such as the creation of a European finance minister, until after European elections in 2019.

The original plan was for leaders to discuss a range of topics on Friday, with a further summit in June to table concrete decisions.

According to EU President Donald Tusk, who coordinates the summits, there exists a "large consensus" to create a European Monetary Fund that would function as a financial firewall to any new financial crisis and handle bailouts.

There is also support to complete the banking union, albeit at a very gradual pace.

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12/15/2017 5:23:33 PM
<![CDATA[Pakistani top court rejects bid to bar opposition leader Imran Khan]]>
The ruling was hailed as a vindication by Khan’s opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party but drew questions from Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, which had filed the case.

The two parties will contest general elections in 2018, along with the Pakistan People’s Party and several smaller parties.

“No dishonesty or omission can be attributed to (Khan). This petition has no merits and is hereby dismissed,” Chief Justice Saqib Nisar told the court.

Khan had led the legal drive that led to Sharif being disqualified in July over unreported income and the opening of a criminal corruption case against the former prime minister.

A lawmaker from Sharif’s ruling party filed a separate complaint late last year alleging Khan and PTI secretary general Jahangir Tareen owned offshore companies and had not disclosed their assets.

While Khan was cleared on Friday, the Supreme Court disqualified Tareen.

“The respondent is declared not to be an honest person. He ceased to be member of the parliament. The respondent is disqualified,” Nisar said of Tareen.

PTI spokesman Naeem Ul Haq said the party was disappointed with the judgment on Tareen.

A senior PML-N leader, Miftah Ismial, told Reuters the party accepted Friday’s Supreme Court decision as final.

“However, not being a lawyer I don’t follow how Imran Khan was not considered an owner of the offshore company ... given that the flat owned by it was only used by Imran Khan and the sale proceeds from the flat also went to Imran Khan.”

Sharif’s supporters have alleged that some elements of Pakistan’s military may have had a hand in the court’s disqualification of the former prime minister.


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12/15/2017 4:35:44 PM
<![CDATA[Sisi’s re-election camp resumes international tour]]>
Launched in mid-September, To Build It aims to collect signatures of support for incumbent President Sisi, urging him to run for a second term as a head of state. The campaign started its international tour in early December to promote Sisi’s achievements abroad, during his first term as president.

In June 2014, President Sisi came to power in the aftermath of the June 30, 2013 popular uprising which toppled former Muslim Brotherhood affiliated President Mohammed Morsi. ]]>
12/15/2017 3:41:16 PM
<![CDATA[Erdogan says Turkey seeking to annul Trump decision ]]>
Erdogan was speaking two days after a Muslim leaders meeting in Istanbul condemned U.S. President Donald Trump's decision, calling on the world to respond by recognising East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

"We will work for the annulment of this unjust decision firstly at the UN Security Council, and if a veto comes from there, the General Assembly," Erdogan told crowds gathered in the central Anatolian city of Konya via teleconference.

The United States is a permanent Security Council member with veto powers, meaning any move to overturn Washington's decision at the council would certainly be blocked.

Jerusalem, revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, is home to Islam's third holiest site and has been at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades. Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it in an action not recognised internationally.

Trump's decision broke with decades of U.S. policy and international consensus that the city's status must be left to Israeli-Palestinian talks, leading to harsh criticisms from Muslim countries and Israel's closest European allies, who have also rejected the move.

A communique issued after Wednesday's summit of more than 50 Muslim countries, including U.S. allies, said they considered Trump's move to be a declaration that Washington was withdrawing from its role "as sponsor of peace" in the Middle East.

Asked about the criticism during an interview with Israel's Makor Rishon daily, the U.S. ambassador to Israel said Trump had done "what is good for America".

"President Trump...does not intend to reverse himself, despite the various condemnations and declarations," Ambassador David Friedman said.]]>
12/15/2017 3:32:25 PM
<![CDATA[EU leaders agree Brexit talks can move on to phase two]]>
President of the European council Donald Tusk tweeted: “EU leaders agree to move on to the second phase of Brexit talks” and congratulated British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Initially, the second phase of Brexit talks will be dominated by discussions over the transition period, under which the UK will continue to abide by EU law for roughly two years, but not have a role in any decision-making institutions.]]>
12/15/2017 3:23:15 PM
<![CDATA[Qatar is recruiting paid social media trolls to distort Arab countries]]>
Qatari Leaks published a video on its twitter account showing that Doha spent $90 million dollars to launch a cyber army aiming to boycott countries that are targeting Qatar, and spreading rumors; there are more than 50,000 fake accounts on social media run by Azmi Bishara.

Qatar has been hit by its biggest diplomatic crisis in years after multiple Arab nations, including Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, cut ties with the country, accusing it of destabilizing the region with its support of Islamist groups.


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12/15/2017 12:07:01 PM
<![CDATA['I'm not running': Peru's president Kucyznski refuses to resign]]>
In a televised address to the nation shortly before midnight Thursday, Kuczynski offered his first explanation of the $782,000 that his consulting firm received between 2004 and 2007 from consortiums led by Odebrecht, much of them while he was a Cabinet minister in a previous government that awarded the Brazilian company a major highway contract.

Surrounded by his Cabinet, he said he had no management role in the consulting firm, Westfield Capital, while in public office and all of the payments were for contracts signed by a business partner.

"I'm not running and I'm not hiding because I have no reason to," the former Wall Street investor said, vowing to produce his personal banking records for public scrutiny. "I'm not going to abdicate my honor, my values or my responsibilities as president of all Peruvians."

Kuczynski's defiant address ended a 24-hour period of political turbulence that started Wednesday as opposition lawmakers presented documents provided by Odebrecht showing payments to Westfield as well as $4 million to another firm, First Capital, owned by the same business partner.

Peru's two biggest parties, which between them have enough seats in congress to remove Kuczynski, said lawmakers could initiate impeachment proceedings as early as Friday unless Kuczynski stepped down.

"The country right now can't afford the luxury of having a president that is so questioned," said Daniel Salaverry, a spokesman for the Popular Force party.

As recently as last month, Kuczynski had denied having any professional or political ties to Odebrecht while at the same time wagging his finger at three predecessors accused of taking bribes from the company.

Authorities across Latin America have moved swiftly to charge politicians accused of taking some $800 million in bribes that Odebrecht acknowledged paying in a 2016 plea agreement with the U.S. Justice Department. The graft including some $29 million paid in Peru during the 2001-2006 administration of President Alejandro Toledo and two of his successors. Kuczynski served as Toledo's finance chief and prime minister.

Kuczynski spent most of Thursday holed up in the presidential palace with top aides trying to devise a strategy to fight back. As rumors swirled he would resign, Peru's stock exchange - until recently the darling of foreign investors - had its biggest tumble in two years, falling 3.5 percent.

Kuczynski, 79, was elected president in 2016 after a lucrative career in business. He campaigned on a pledge to clean up corruption and provide much-needed stability in one of South America's most politically volatile nations.

Kuczynski said all of his earnings from Westfield were duly reported to Peru's tax authority. Of the $4 million in payments to First Capital, he said only a single transaction, for which he held up an invoice, was for financial consulting services he provided the firm in 2012 as part of its work on an Odebrecht-owned irrigation project.

"I'm an honest man and have been all my life," he said.

Peruvians are unlikely to be convinced by his reassurances that he did nothing wrong, analysts said.

Steve Levitsky, a Harvard University political scientist who has spent years studying Peru, said Kuczynski was already a weak president with little legislative or popular support before the corruption allegations, which had been quietly dogging him for some time, broke into the open.

"He definitely seems to be dead in the water," said Levitsky. "It's not that what he did was necessarily illegal, but the fact that he swore over and over again that he had no ties to Odebrecht and that was proven to be nakedly false."

Reflecting his tenuous grip on power, Kuczynski on Wednesday agreed to meet with a congressional committee investigating Odebrecht's ties to politicians - something he had earlier refused. Peru's chief prosecutor's office also said Thursday it was initiating an investigation although it can't indict a sitting president.

El Comercio, the nation's largest newspaper, summed up the uncertainty threatening to plunge Peru into a period of political instability in an editorial Thursday.

"The undesirable scenario of a presidential vacancy . is dangerously close," said the newspaper, which supported Kuczynski in the 2016 election. "And unfortunately the person who most contributed to putting us in this ominous trance - taking with it loyal collaborators who trusted him blindly - is the head of state himself with his ambiguous, drip-drip revelations."]]>
12/15/2017 12:02:35 PM
<![CDATA[Rohingya 'rather die' than return to oppression in Myanmar]]>
The arrangement signed by Myanmar and Bangladesh in November to start repatriating refugees within two months is viewed with deep suspicion and dread by Rohingya still traumatised by the violent expulsion from their homeland.

"They make deals, but they won't follow them," said Rohingya refugee Mohammad Syed, who estimated his age at 33.

"When we go back, they will torture and kill us again."

Their fear is not misplaced.

Doctors Without Borders said Thursday that at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the first month of a Myanmar army crackdown on rebels in Rakhine state that began in August.

The worst bouts of violence have subsided but Rohingya continue to flee, the UN says.

Nearly 650,000 of the Muslim minority have fled across the border into Cox's Bazar district in southeastern Bangladesh since the army campaign began.

The UN rights chief said in December the catalogue of abuses -- including indiscriminate killings, mass rape and the razing of hundreds of Rohingya villages -- contained "elements of genocide".

Myanmar has consistently denied committing atrocities in Rakhine, saying the crackdown was a proportionate response to the Rohingya militants who attacked police posts on August 25, killing around a dozen officials.

But rights groups say the conditions are not in place to ensure safe, voluntary and dignified returns, and Rohingya sense danger lurking behind Myanmar's assurances.

"It's a trap. They have given such assurances before, and still made our lives hell," said Rohingya woman Dolu, who goes by one name, in a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar.

"I would rather live here. We get food and shelter here, and we can pray freely. We are allowed to live."

- Fear of return -

The Rohingya have reason to be wary.

The persecuted minority has been the target of past pogroms in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, which does not recognise the group as a genuine ethnicity and has stripped them of citizenship.

Many have no homes left after their villages were torched.

Those still living in Rakhine, Myanmar's poorest state, face heavy restrictions on work, travel and access to basic services.

More than 100,000 Rohingya displaced by a 2012 outbreak of violence have been trapped in squalid camps in central Rakhine ever since.

Aid groups have warned Myanmar they would boycott any new camps for Rohingya returnees, saying refugees must be allowed to settle in their own homes and not forced into ghetto-like conditions.

"They have to recognise us as citizens of the country. They have to give us proper Rohingya identity cards. Only then we will go back," said 25-year-old Rohingya man Aziz Khan at Kutupalong, a gigantic camp in Cox's Bazar.

"Otherwise we would rather die here in Bangladesh."

Bangladesh has been praised for opening its borders as waves of Rohingya civilians fled army reprisals and Buddhist mobs.

But the government has always maintained that the refugees would one day return, tussling for months with Myanmar over the terms of repatriation deal.

Before the latest surge, Bangladesh was already hosting hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled previous waves of persecution.

This crisis has put enormous pressure on ordinary Bangladeshis living in Cox's Bazar, where the refugee population has grown four-fold since August.

"It is good news, goodbye to them. It is time they go back to where they belong," said Ehsaan Hossain, a shopkeeper at Cox's Bazar where prices for basic goods has skyrocketed.

Others complained about the headache of frequent identity checks and roadside patrols since the Rohingya influx began.

But rickshaw driver Mohammad Ali worried his income -- which had doubled since the flood of refugees -- would slump if the Rohingya suddenly left en masse.

"In a way, I will miss them if they leave," the 30-year-old told AFP.

]]>
12/15/2017 12:00:00 PM
<![CDATA[Iraqi VP says Iraq advances towards new stage of building]]>
Addressing the fourth Dental Medical Conference held in Najaf governorate, Maliki expressed appreciation for each one contributed to achieving such victory, stressing that Iraq is advancing towards building and reconstruction stages, Iraqi National News Agency reported. ]]>
12/15/2017 11:52:05 AM
<![CDATA[Parliament to discuss new health insurance bill Sunday]]>
The new bill would provide complete health care for citizens who cannot afford to pay – who comprise 30-40 percent of the population.

During the last month, the health committee in Parliament held intensive meetings with the Minister of Health Ahmed Emad Al-Din and related state officials to hear the government’s view of the bill and put its report.

The government hopes that the House of Representatives will approve the bill during the current legislative session, to be applied partly in the next fiscal year (FY) 2018/2019.

The new bill would establish three new administrative bodies to manage the new system: a financing body; a healthcare body that delivers the service in primary healthcare units and hospitals; and a body that will handle accreditation of service units and providers, quality of service, and supervision of operations.

Egypt has allocated EGP 53.3 billion in the current FY 2016/2017 budget to healthcare, representing 5.7 percent of total government spending. The state spending for healthcare is seen as insufficient and far below international standards.
]]>
12/15/2017 4:38:13 AM
<![CDATA[Britain to lose if it leaves EU, says French ambassador]]>
French voters chose President Emmanuel Macron who is a backer of the European Union, Romatet said on the sidelines of a seminar on the future of Europe, which was held at the American University in Cairo.

British Ambassador to Egypt John Casson and a number of politicians and academics were present.

Romatet added Britain will lose a big part of its influence if it leaves the European bloc.

Meanwhile, Casson said the national state has become weaker than before, as governments became unable to use all their authorities because they are scattered through different institutions.

He explained that his country's exit from the EU was to face globalization and immigration because Britain was restricted by its commitment to EU agreements.]]>
12/15/2017 2:20:43 AM
<![CDATA[Poland's new PM sees punishment from Brussels coming]]>
Several thousand people gathered in Poland's largest towns on Thursday evening to protest against a judiciary system overhaul, while the upper chamber of parliament discussed the proposed legislation.

Mateusz Morawiecki, who took over as Poland's premier this week, has defended the judicial changes pushed over two years by his predecessor from the same Law and Justice (PiS) party, saying they were necessary to heal the courts.

Western European Union peers, the bloc's executive Commission, opposition at home and democracy advocates say the reforms undermine court independence by putting them under more direct government control.

Under the legislation, parliament would have a virtual free hand in choosing members of the National Judiciary Council (KRS), a body that decides judicial appointments and promotions - a right earlier reserved chiefly for the judges themselves.

A second bill envisages lowering the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court judges to 65 years from 70, which would force a significant part of them to leave.

This, as well as the eurosceptic, nationalist PiS's changes to the state media, have prompted the Commission to threaten for many months to launch the so-called Article 7 against Warsaw.

PiS faced renewed accusations that it was muzzling free media after Poland's media regulator slapped a $415,000 fine on a leading, U.S.-owned news broadcaster TVN24 over its coverage of opposition protests in parliament last year.

Morawiecki rejected the view that the penalty amounted to an assault on the freedom of media in Poland, saying the country of 38 million people enjoyed full media pluralism. He expected TVN to challenge the move in courts which would make the final call.

PiS has also locked horns with the EU over large-scale logging in the unique Bialowieza forest, which Warsaw says is necessary to keep the woods healthy but Brussels and environmental groups say violate wildlife protection laws.

Bitter feuds over migration - which Morawiecki on Thursday called a political "hot potato" - have added to the growing isolation of the bloc's largest ex-communist country since PiS won elections in late 2015.

TENSIONS

Article 7 would see Poland's government denounced as undemocratic and could lead to the suspension of Warsaw's voting rights in the EU. The latter, however, is unlikely as it would require the unanimous backing of all the other EU states, something PiS ally Hungary has vowed to block.

But Morawiecki, speaking ahead of his first summit of EU leaders in Brussels, seemed to accept that the blow was coming.

"If a process has started and, as far as I understand, the decision has already been made that next Wednesday the European Commission plans to start (the procedure), then it will most likely be triggered," he told reporters.

"From the start of such an unfair procedure for us, until it ends, we will certainly talk to our partners."

A senior EU official said the Commission's head, Jean-Claude Juncker would still seek to dissuade Warsaw from going ahead with the two judiciary laws, which were passed by Poland's lower chamber of parliament.

They must still go through the PiS-dominated upper house and be signed by the PiS-allied president to take effect.

"If the court changes go through then we will trigger Article 7," the senior official said. "If the changes are postponed until January, then we will see."

Morawiecki stuck to his guns over the courts and Poland's refusal to host some of the refugees who reach the bloc. He said Poland would respect the final ruling of the bloc's top court on the Bialowieza forest. So far, Warsaw has continued the logging despite an interim order by the court to stop immediately.

Morawiecki added he would seek to convince France to soften its stance on a reform of the bloc's labour laws. President Emmanuel Macron wants them tightened because he sees them as giving too much of a competitive edge to cheaper labour from the poorer eastern Europe at the expense of France's own workers. ]]>
12/15/2017 1:34:11 AM
<![CDATA[Colombia urgently crafting law to allow crime gangs to surrender]]>
The Gulf Clan, also known as the Usuga Clan and the Autodefensas Gaitanistas, has been accused of operating drug trafficking routes in partnership with Mexican cartels and taking part in illegal gold mining. It announced a ceasefire on Wednesday and has said its members were willing to turn themselves in.

Santos, speaking at a event about the eradication of coca crops in Antioquia province, hailed the ceasefire and said a surrender of the group would be welcome, but added that security forces will not halt actions against the group.

"If this organization wants to surrender to justice it's very welcome and we're working with the justice minister to put together some decrees and there's a law in Congress to facilitate the collective surrender of the Gulf Clan that we are classing as urgent," Santos said.

The president has said the government will not negotiate with the group because members are criminals and not politically motivated rebels like the now-demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) or National Liberation Army (ELN).

Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas, speaking at the same event, said operations against the Clan will continue.

"The fact that they won't shoot is good news but if they continue to commit crimes they will be targeted," he said. "We are not going to suspend operations or lower our guard." ]]>
12/15/2017 12:29:57 AM
<![CDATA[Syrian opposition says U.N. talks are in "great danger"]]>
Opposition negotiator Nasr Hariri told a news conference that the government of President Bashar al-Assad hated the talks process and rejected all negotiations, and although there was pressure from its ally Russia, "another state" was putting obstacles in the path of the Geneva talks. ]]>
12/15/2017 12:11:30 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. presents 'irrefutable evidence' of Iranian weaponry from Yemen]]>
According to Reuters, fragments of weaponry on display at a military hangar at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, just outside of Washington, explained how the missiles were concluded that it came, along with the other presented arms, from Iran.

Iran retrieved missile 1
A missile that the U.S. Department of Defense says is confirmed as a "Qiam" ballistic missile manufactured in Iran by its distinctively Iranian nine fueling ports and that the Pentagon says was fired by Houthi rebels from Yemen into Saudi Arabia on July 22, 2017 is seen on display at a military base in Washington, U.S. December 13, 2017. Picture taken December 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

“The arms included charred remnants of what the Pentagon said was an Iranian-made short-range ballistic missile fired from Yemen on Nov. 4 at King Khaled International Airport outside Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh,” Reuters reported.

The fragments also included a drone and an anti-tank weapon recovered in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition.

The unprecedented presentation of weaponry is part of following through on U.S. President Donald Trump’s new policy against Iran.

In October, Trump gave a heavily advertised speech on Iran policy; he claimed it to be unveiling “a new strategy to address the full range of Iran's destructive actions.”

Iran retrieved missile 2
A journalist photographs the guidance system of a missile bearing the logo of Iranian arms manufacturer that the U.S. Defense Department says proves that the weapon was manufactured in Iran but was also fired by Houthi rebels from Yemen into Saudi Arabia in July 2016, as it sits on display at a military base in Washington, U.S., December 13, 2017. Picture taken December 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

“The U.S. has long believed that Iran is providing weaponry to proxies and partners and militias throughout the region, and what we have here to show you today is proof,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Laura Seal, adding Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had recovered the arms and loaned them to Washington.

According to Reuters, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, was due to see the weapons on Thursday. The U.S. mission to the United Nations said she would offer “irrefutable evidence that Iran has deliberately violated its international obligations.”

Under the UN Security Council resolution that enshrines the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Tehran is prohibited from supplying, selling or transferring weapons outside the country unless approved in advance by the Security Council. Another UN resolution on Yemen bans the supply of weapons to Houthi leader Abul-Malik al-Houthi and any other militia.

The arms were believed by the Pentagon to be supplied by Iran as there are Iranian corporate logos on arms fragments as well as the “unique nature of the designs of Iranian weaponry” that of “unique valve-design”.

The designs included designs of short-range “Qiam” ballistic missiles. The Pentagon said it had obtained fragments of two Qiam missiles, one fired on Nov. 4 against the airport and another fired on July 22.

Iran retrieved missile 3
A missile that the U.S. Department of Defense says is confirmed as a "Qiam" ballistic missile manufactured in Iran by its distinctively Iranian nine fueling ports and that the Pentagon says was fired by Houthi rebels from Yemen into Saudi Arabia on July 22, 2017 is seen on display at a military base in Washington, U.S. December 13, 2017. Picture taken December 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

“The point of this entire display is that only Iran makes this missile. They have not given it to anybody else,” Seal said. “We haven’t seen this in the hands of anyone else except Iran and the Houthis.”

A new U.N. report found that the July 22 and Nov. 4 missiles fired at Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Houthi rebels appeared to have a “common origin.”

For its part, Saudi Arabia welcomed the UN report, according to the Saudi Press Agency on Thursday; it reiterated its condemnation of the Iranian regime for its support of terrorist Houthi militias in their aggressive and terrorist practices and their coup against legitimacy.

Saudi Arabia also condemned the Iranian regime for the violations of international resolutions, including Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1701, which prohibit supplying weapons to any extra-state militias in Lebanon (under Chapter VII), as well as Security Council resolutions 2231 and 2216, Al-Arabiya reported.

Iran retrieved missile 4
A missile guidance system circuit board bearing the SHIG logo of Iranian arms manufacturer Shahid Hemmat Industries Group, which the U.S. Defense Department says proves the weapon was manufactured in Iran before the Pentagon says it was fired by Houthi rebels from Yemen into Saudi Arabia in July 2016, is seen under a magnifying glass as it sits on display at a military base in Washington, U.S., December 13, 2017. Picture taken December 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

The Saudi Kingdom called upon the international community to take immediate action to ensure the implementation of the UN resolutions, which Iran violated, and to hold the Iranian regime accountable for its violations.
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12/14/2017 11:33:01 PM
<![CDATA[In first, U.S. presents its evidence of Iranian weaponry from Yemen]]>
Reuters was given advanced access to the military hangar at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling just outside of Washington where the U.S. Defense Department put the fragments of weaponry on display and explained how it concluded that they came from Iran.

The arms included charred remnants of what the Pentagon said was an Iranian-made short-range ballistic missile fired from Yemen on Nov. 4 at King Khaled International Airport outside Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh, as well as a drone and an anti-tank weapon recovered in Yemen by the Saudis.

Iran has denied supplying the Houthis with such weaponry.

"The U.S. has long believed that Iran is providing weaponry to proxies and partners and militias throughout the region, and what we have here to show you today is proof," said Pentagon spokeswoman Laura Seal, adding Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had recovered the arms and loaned them to Washington.

Saudi-led forces, which back the Yemeni government, have been fighting the Iran-allied Houthis in Yemen's more than two-year-long civil war.

The unprecedented presentation by the Pentagon is part of its follow-through on President Donald Trump's new Iran policy, which promises a far harder line toward Tehran.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, was due to see the weapons on Thursday. The U.S. mission to the United Nations said she would offer "irrefutable evidence that Iran has deliberately violated its international obligations."

Under a U.N. resolution that enshrines the Iran nuclear deal with world powers, Tehran is prohibited from supplying, selling or transferring weapons outside the country unless approved in advance by the U.N. Security Council. A separate U.N. resolution on Yemen bans the supply of weapons to Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi and others.

Katie Wheelbarger, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, acknowledged that there could be implications of such an accumulation of evidence against Iran, to include sanctions.

"You could see future sanctions... But the first step is at least to bring awareness and understanding and to have a similar picture of what we're looking at," Wheelbarger said.

IRAN LINKS

The Pentagon offered a detailed explanation of all of the reasons why it believed the arms came from Iran, noting Iranian corporate logos on arms fragments and the unique nature of the designs of Iranian weaponry.

That included the designs of short-range "Qiam" ballistic missiles. The Pentagon said it had obtained fragments of two Qiam missiles, one fired on Nov. 4 against the airport and another fired on July 22.

The Pentagon cited corporate logos of Iranian defense firms on jet vanes that help steer the missile's engine and on the circuit board helping drive its guidance system. It also said the missile's unique valve-design was only found in Iran.

Iran, it said, appeared to have tried to cover-up the shipment by disassembling the missile for transport, given crude welding used to stitch it back together.

"The point of this entire display is that only Iran makes this missile. They have not given it to anybody else," Seal said. "We haven't seen this in the hands of anyone else except Iran and the Houthis."

A new U.N. report found that the July 22 and Nov. 4 missiles fired at Saudi Arabia by Yemen's Houthi rebels appeared to have a "common origin." But the report said U.N. officials were still investigating U.S. and Saudi claims that Iran supplied them.

The Pentagon put on display other weapons with designs it said were unique to Iran's defense industry. It pointed to a key component of a Toophan anti-tank guided missile and a small drone aircraft, both of which were recovered in Yemen.

It also showed components of a drone-like navigation system like the one the Pentagon says was used by the Houthis to ram an exploding boat into a Saudi frigate on Jan. 30. The United Arab Emirates seized the system in late 2016 in the Red Sea.

"What makes these exploding boats so dangerous is not just that they can explode. It's that they have a guidance system that allows them to track and hit a moving target without an operator on board," Seal said.

"This computer system here represents that navigational system."]]>
12/14/2017 7:28:20 PM
<![CDATA[Putin says U.S. gripped by fabricated spymania, praises Trump]]>
Putin, who said he was on first name terms with Trump, also praised the U.S. president for what he said were his achievements.

"I'm not the one to evaluate the president's work. That needs to be done by the voters, the American people," Putin told his annual news conference in Moscow, in answer to a question.

"(But) we are objectively seeing that there have been some major accomplishments, even in the short time he has been working. Look at how the markets have grown. This speaks to investors' trust in the American economy."

Trump took office in January, saying he was keen to mend ties which had fallen to a post-Cold War low. But since then, ties have soured further after U.S. intelligence officials said Russia meddled in the presidential election, something Moscow denies.

Congress is also investigating alleged contacts between the Trump election campaign and Russian officials amid allegations that Moscow may have tried to exercise improper influence.

Putin dismissed those allegations and the idea of a Russia connection as "fabricated." He shrugged off accusations that Russia's ambassador to the United States had done something wrong by having contacts with Trump campaign figures saying it was "international practice" for diplomats to try to have contacts with all candidates in an election.

"What did someone see that was egregious about this? Why does it all have to take on some tint of spymania?," said Putin.

"This is all invented by people who oppose Trump to give his work an illegitimate character. The people who do this are dealing a blow to the state of (U.S.) domestic politics," he added, saying the accusations were disrespectful to U.S. voters.

Moscow understood that Trump's scope for improving ties with Russia was limited by the scandal, said Putin, but remained keen to try to improve relations.

"COMMON THREATS"

Washington and Moscow had many common interests, he said, citing the Middle East, North Korea, international terrorism, environmental problems and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

"You have to ask him (Trump) if he has such a desire (to improve ties) ... or whether it has disappeared. I hope that he has such a desire," said Putin.

"We will normalise our relations and will develop (them) and overcome common threats."

However, Putin lashed out at U.S. policy on North Korea, warning a U.S. strike there would have catastrophic consequences.

In one of the most dramatic moments of the news conference, Ksenia Sobchak, a TV personality who has said she plans to run against Putin in a presidential election in March, asked him about what she said was the lack of political competition.

Putin, 65, has been in power, either as president or prime minister, since the end of 1999.

In particular, Sobchak asked about the case of opposition leader Alexei Navalny who looks unlikely to be allowed to run in the election due to what Navalny says is a trumped up criminal case.

Putin, who polls suggest will be comfortably re-elected , warned that candidates like Navalny would destabilise Russia and usher in chaos if elected.

"Do you want attempted coups d'etat? We've lived through all that. Do you really want to go back to all that? I am sure that the overwhelming majority of Russian citizens do not want this."

Putin said the authorities were not afraid of genuine political competition and promised it would exist.

Navalny, commenting on social media, said Putin's response showed that barring him from taking part in next year's presidential election was "a political decision."

"It's like he's saying we're in power and we've decided that it (Navalny running) is a bad idea," Navalny said.

Putin disclosed he planned to run as an independent candidate and garner support from more than one party, in a sign the former KGB officer may be keen to strengthen his image as a "father of the nation" rather than as a party political figure.

Putin named as priority issues nurturing a high-tech economy, improving infrastructure, healthcare, education and productivity and increasing people's real incomes.

He coughed his way through the first part of the news conference at times, and misread a placard held up by a journalist which he incorrectly thought said "Bye Bye Putin," an error he quipped was due to age affecting his eyesight.]]>
12/14/2017 5:04:22 PM
<![CDATA[Qatari Leaks: Doha allocates $90 M to destabilize Quartet]]>
The video revealed that more than 50 thousand fake accounts have been created on social media sites. These sites are managed by Azmi Bishara. 50 percent of these accounts support Islamic stated (IS) and Al-Qaeda. Doha has also created an influx of polarizing material on many religious pages to contribute to this anti-Arab campaign.

Azmi Bishara, one of the most prominent faces in the field of Qatari politics, is an Israeli-Palestinian politician and a former member of the Israeli Knesset. He became well-known for promoting Qatar’s ideas and policies through Al-Jazeera's Qatari channel, before being selected to become the Qatari emir’s advisor.




Qatar has been hit by its biggest diplomatic crisis in years after multiple Arab nations, including Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, cut ties with the country, accusing it of destabilizing the region with its support of Islamist groups.


The Arab Quartet halted all land, air and sea traffic to and from Qatar and withdrew their diplomats and ambassadors from the country. Issuing a list of 13 demands to Doha – which was later shortened to six – including closing Al-Jazeera television, curbing relations with Iran and shutting down a military base in Turkey.]]>
12/14/2017 4:29:26 PM
<![CDATA[Shoukry: Jerusalem decisions of OIC summit complement each other]]>
In statements to MENA on Thursday, Shoukry said all parties exerted strenuous efforts with the aim of protecting the holy city of Jerusalem and keep its identity and legal status.

Shoukry took part in the OIC extraordinary summit, which was held in Istanbul on Wednesday, on behalf of President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi.

Meanwhile, Shoukry said, during his participation in the final session of the unofficial meetings of the African Union and African Commission permanent delegates committee, that contacts are currently underway with the Ethiopian side to set a date for convening a meeting of the higher Egyptian-Ethiopian Higher Committee.

Shoukry revealed that he will pay a visit to Addis Ababa soon for talks with his Ethiopian counterpart Workneh Gebeyehu and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

As per the resumption of the Russian flights to Egypt after the news of a visit by Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi to Moscow, Shoukry termed such "executive" steps as an outcome of the recent contacts made with the Russian friends to enhance Egypt's potentials and its abilities to manage and secure its airports.

He said the agreement with the Russian side would enhance such cooperation and put it in a legal framework.

The Egyptian top diplomat voiced hope that such steps and measures to resume direct flights between Cairo and Moscow would help in revamping the Egyptian economy as the Russian tourism movement is very important for Cairo. ]]>
12/14/2017 4:06:53 PM
<![CDATA[Israeli forces raid Birzeit University campus]]>
The university said that it is highly concerned over this brutal incursion, condemning the systematic Israeli policy to destroy the educational life in Palestine.

It also called on the international community and human rights organizations to condemn Israeli's aggression and guarantee the right of education for the Palestinians.

During the raid, Israeli soldiers seized banners and other material for the various student blocs. ]]>
12/14/2017 3:15:12 PM
<![CDATA[FM takes part in closing session of AU committee]]>
Addressing the gathering, Shoukry expressed pleasure for taking part in the session, pointing out that several African events were held in Egypt this week.

The four-day event tackled the African Union's strategic partnership with various world countries, notably China and India.

The event also tackled challenges besetting the African continent and measures taken so far to achieve the goals of the Agenda 2063.

Participants in the session extended thanks to Egypt for hosting the event and expressed their solidarity with it in the fight against terrorism. ]]>
12/14/2017 3:11:13 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt supports reforms in the African Union: FM ]]>
The Joint Retreat between the Permanent Representatives and the African Union Commission Working Methods was held in Cairo from Sunday December 10 through Thursday December 14 to review, evaluate, and come up with recommendations on the working methods and strategic partnerships within the African Union.

The working methods meetings tackled the mechanisms used to improve the African Union (AU)’s performance to effectively fulfill the interests of its member states. The strategic partnerships meetings addressed strengthening the union’s partnerships with the European Union, Arab countries, China, India, and South Korea in addition to benefiting from the competitive advantage of each partner to achieve development and prosperity in Africa.

The minister asserted that Egypt supports the ongoing structural and institutional reforms at the Union, which aims to accomplish governance and empower the African Union Commission to help member states fulfill the goals of the 2063 Agenda. In addition, he emphasized the importance of foiling any attempts to undermine the member states’ roles in supervising, monitoring, and evaluating the commission’s performance.

The ministry’s spokesperson Ambassador Ahmed Abou Zeid told press that Egypt hosted the Joint Retreat out of its desire to realize peace, security, and development in Africa, and its care for African causes and priorities.

Earlier this month, Egypt hosted the Africa Forum 2017 in Sharm El-Sheikh focusing on investments in the continent, and the meetings of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). In November, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized a high-level meeting titled “Peace, Security and Prosperity in the Red Sea: Towards a Regional Cooperation Framework,” which was the first of its kind in Africa and the Arab world to address common challenges and opportunities in the region.

The commission headquartered in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa acts as the administrative body of the African Union comprising 55 member states. The commission’s members are in charge of different areas of policies. ]]>
12/14/2017 2:56:15 PM
<![CDATA[Putin holds traditional year-end press conference]]>
This year, the number of Russian and foreign journalists accredited for the event broke last year's record, with 1,640 journalists expected to attend, Russia Today channel reported.

The December 13 event is the last of its kind during his third term in office.

Putin declined to discuss the details of his election program during today's press conference but affirmed that the development of infrastructure, healthcare, education and technology is his priority.

Putin said it wasn’t his job to develop a political opposition though Russia needs a balanced, competitive political system. He criticized activists for simply condemning the authorities rather than offering genuine alternative policies to people, many of whom were unhappy with the situation in Russia.

“Today, there are clear signs of recovery in the economy,” Putin said adding that domestic issues such as health, education, infrastructure and living standards would be his electoral priorities.

“Without any doubt, everything must be directed toward increasing citizens’ incomes", Putin further said.

He noted that the Russian economy Russian economy is set to grow by 1.6 percent this year while foreign investments were doubled this year and reached $23 billion with inflation and the deficit down as the inflation rate is at its lowest in modern history. ]]>
12/14/2017 2:45:12 PM
<![CDATA[Qatar is a new branch of Israel: Mansour]]>
In an interview with Tamer Amin on the Al-Hayat channel, Mansour said that what was said about Qatar’s regime having Zionist or Israeli or Jewish roots was confirmed over the last 20 years.

Speaking about Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser, chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), Mansour claimed that she has Judaized Arab people socially.

"Counting Qatar’s population today, you would find that the percentage of Arab people in Qatar is less than 40 percent," Mansour stated.

Describing former Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim as "a devil," Mansour said that bin Jassim was employed and paid by the U.S. Intelligence Community.

Mansour also charged Qatar of funding Israeli combatants with about $2 million dollars.
"Today, we are facing a new branch of Israel in the Eastern Arab World," Mansour added.

In an interview with Al-Arabiya in November, former Al-Qaeda organization member Ayman Dein described the Qatari policy as full of contradictions; supporting Islamist groups while establishing relations with Israel, and supporting Sunni groups while establishing relations with Iran.

On June 5, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar over accusations of sponsoring terrorist groups and interfering in other Arab nations’ internal affairs.]]>
12/14/2017 11:02:11 AM
<![CDATA[Terrorists meet in Qatar: Qaddaf al-Dam]]>
In an interview with Ahmed Mousa on Sada al-Balad, Qaddaf said that some groups accessed Egypt in order to assassinate him and conduct sabotage operations in the country.

Asked about Qatar’s involvement, Qaddaf al-Dam said that Qatar is a base for the activities of such groups.

Qaddaf al-dam was Tripoli’s special convoy to Cairo for many years. He left Libya for Egypt in February 2011, during the Libyan Civil War. He was arrested by the Interpol and the Egyptian authorities and was acquitted of all charges in 2013.
]]>
12/14/2017 11:01:08 AM
<![CDATA[UN envoy urges Putin to press for Syria elections]]>
Staffan de Mistura, who is mediating peace negotiations in Geneva, said that a military victory alone in Syria's six-year civil war was not enough for President Bashar al-Assad and that new polls were needed for him to "win the peace".

"There needs, straight away, to be a political process that includes everyone to achieve a new constitution and new elections," he told Swiss RTS television.

Russia intervened in Syria's devastating conflict in 2015, providing aerial and ground support for government forces, ostensibly to combat advances by what Moscow and Damascus termed "terrorist" groups.

On Tuesday, the first Russian troops began returning home after Putin ordered a pullout, saying their mission had been largely completed.

De Mistura said Putin "had to convince the (Syrian) government that there's no time to lose".

"We can talk about having won the territorial war, which is temporary, but the peace also needs to be won and for that there needs to be the courage to push the government to accept" new elections, which De Mistura said should be monitored by the UN.

Talks this month, the eight round of UN-brokered negotiations between the Syrian government and rebel factions, have snagged on the issue of Assad's future, with a rebel alliance insisting the president must go as part of any peace deal.

A parallel process organised by Moscow and including fellow government ally Iran and rebel backer Turkey, is set to resume next week in Astana, Kazakhstan.

More than 340,000 people have been killed since the conflict broke out in March 2011 when protests against Assad's rule sparked a brutal crackdown.]]>
12/14/2017 5:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Britain's May defeated in parliament over Brexit blueprint]]>
In a blow to May, already weakened after losing her Conservative Party's majority in a June election, the 650-seat parliament voted 309 to 305 in favour of an amendment to hand lawmakers more say over a final exit deal with the EU.

Up until the last minute of an often bitter debate in parliament, May's team tried to convince lawmakers in her party to give up their demands and side with a government fearful that the move will weaken its hand in tough Brexit negotiations.

Members of Parliament (MPs) are debating the EU withdrawal bill, which will repeal the 1972 legislation binding Britain to the EU and copy existing EU law into domestic law to ensure legal continuity after 'Exit Day' on March 29, 2019.

In focus on Wednesday was an amendment put forward by Conservative lawmaker and former attorney general, Dominic Grieve, who wants parliament to have a meaningful vote on any deal before it is finalised and for it to be written into law.

"There is a time for everybody to stand up and be counted," Grieve told parliament earlier, criticising some fellow members of the Conservative Party for calling him a traitor over his decision to vote against the government.

He dismissed a last-minute pledge by justice minister Dominic Raab for government to write the promise of a meaningful vote into law later on its journey through both houses of parliament as coming "too late".

The government was "disappointed" by the vote, a spokeswoman said in a statement, adding that "this amendment does not prevent us from preparing our statute book for exit day".

But with May due at an EU summit on Thursday to encourage the other 27 leaders to approve a move to the second phase of Brexit talks and begin a discussion about future trade, the defeat comes at a difficult time for the prime minister.

DEEP DIVISIONS

The EU withdrawal bill has been the focus of seven days of often bitter debate, underscoring the deep divisions over Brexit not only among the Conservatives but also in the main opposition Labour Party and across the country.

It has also highlighted May's weakness.

In June, she gambled on a snap election to strengthen her party's majority in the 650-seat parliament but instead bungled her campaign and ended up with a minority government propped up by the 10 votes of a small, pro-Brexit Northern Irish party.

Since then she has struggled to assert her authority over a Conservative Party which is deeply divided over the best route out of the EU.

"This defeat is a humiliating loss of authority for the government on the eve of the European Council meeting," Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a statement.

"Theresa May has resisted democratic accountability. Her refusal to listen means she will now have to accept Parliament taking back control."

Earlier, May had tried to persuade lawmakers to vote with the government for her Brexit blueprint, saying Grieve's amendment would put added time pressure on a government which wants to make Britain ready to leave the EU in March 2019.

"That could be at a very late stage in the proceedings which could mean that we are not able to have the orderly and smooth exit from the European Union that we wish to have," she told parliament before an hours-long debate on the exit plan.

Her spokesman said the government had "in good faith come forward with a strong package of concessions to deal with the spirit of the amendment".

Pro-Brexit lawmakers fear the amendment could force Britain to weaken its negotiating stance by offering parliament the opportunity of forcing ministers back to the negotiating table if it feels any final deal is not good enough.

Raab said that could convince the EU that Britain would not walk away from a bad deal.

"Actually if that looked likely we'd end up with worse terms, and we'd be positively incentivising the EU to give us worse terms," he told parliament.]]>
12/14/2017 2:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Backed by Putin, Russian military pushes into foreign policy]]>
In the past few months, at times wearing his desert military uniform, Shoigu has held talks with Syria's president in Damascus, met Israel's prime minister in Jerusalem and been received by the Emir of Qatar in Doha.

The defense ministry's forays into areas long regarded as the preserve of the foreign ministry are raising eyebrows in Russia, where strict protocol means ministers usually hold talks only with their direct foreign counterparts.

The military is reaping political dividends from what the Kremlin saw as its big successes in Crimea, annexed from Ukraine after Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms seized control of the peninsula in 2014, and Syria, where Russian forces helped turn the tide of war in President Bashar al-Assad's favour.

"That has translated into more top-table influence," said a long-serving Russian official who interacts with the defense ministry but declined to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

The Kremlin and the defense and foreign ministries did not respond to detailed requests for comment for this article, but three sources who know both ministries well confirmed the trend.

The growth of the military's influence has caused discontent among some Russian diplomats and unease among Western officials about the harder edge it is giving Russia's foreign policy.

Foreign policy-making has become more bellicose and more opaque, and this makes new Russian military adventures more likely, some Western officials say.

"If you allow the defense ministry a bigger say in foreign policy it's going to be looking for trouble," said one, who declined to be named because of the subject's sensitivity.

Shoigu's high profile has also revived talk of the long-time Putin loyalist as a possible presidential stand-in if Putin, who is seeking a fourth term in an election in March, had to step down suddenly and was unable to serve out a full six-year term.

Shoigu, 62, is not involved in party politics but opinion polls often put him among the top five most popular presidential possibles. His trust rating is also often second only to Putin, with whom he was pictured on a fishing trip this summer.

SYRIA ROLE

The military's influence has ebbed and flowed in Russia and, before that, the Soviet Union.

It had huge clout at the end of World War Two and in the 1950s after the death of Soviet leader Josef Stalin when Georgy Zhukov, a commander credited with a crucial role in defeating Nazi Germany, was defense minister.

But the ignominious Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, completed in 1989, two wars Russia fought in Chechnya after the Soviet Union's collapse, and the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine with the loss of all 118 people on board in 2000 left the military's prestige in tatters.

Under Putin, a former KGB agent who as president is the armed forces' commander-in-chief, its stock has risen. Defense spending has soared, the military has been deployed in Georgia, Ukraine and Syria and its actions are used to foster patriotism.

The military's growing political and foreign policy muscle is most noticeable when it comes to Syria.

After going to Damascus twice earlier this year for talks with Assad, Shoigu was at Putin's side this week when the president flew in to meet the Syrian leader. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has not visited Syria at all in 2017.

Unusually for a defense minister, Shoigu has been involved in diplomatic efforts to bring peace to Syria. In this role he has spoken about the importance of a new draft constitution for the country, met the U.N. special envoy on Syria and had talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

A Western official who has direct contact with the foreign and defense ministries said the Russian military had real heft in Damascus of a kind the foreign ministry did not.

There was "strong mutual trust" between the Russian military and senior people in Damascus, the official said, because "the Russians saved their asses and the Syrians respect that."

The foreign ministry retains strong Middle East experts and continues to play an important Syria role, helping run peace talks taking place in Kazakhstan. But Lavrov's own efforts to secure a U.S.-Russia deal on cooperating in Syria have shown how differently the foreign and defense ministries sometimes think.

Lavrov is still seen as a formidable diplomat whom Putin trusts and respects. But Western officials say he is not summoned to all important meetings and is not informed about major military operations in Syria.

POLICY INTERVENTIONS

The military's other foreign policy interventions include a role in Russia's alleged interference in last year's U.S. presidential election, U.S. intelligence agencies say.

They say the GRU, Russia's military foreign intelligence agency, hacked email accounts belonging to Democratic Party officials and politicians, and organised their leaking to the media to try to sway public opinion against Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump's main rival.

The Kremlin denies the allegations.

Other policy interventions included a news briefing in December 2015 at which the defense ministry said it had proof that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his family were benefiting from illegal smuggling of oil from Islamic State-held territory in Syria and Iraq.

Erdogan said the allegations, made at a briefing held a week after a Turkish air force jet shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian-Turkish border, amounted to slander.

The defense ministry's response to the incident was much sharper than that of Russian diplomats, part of a wide-ranging communications policy that has included frequent criticism of the U.S. State Department and Washington's foreign policy.

Shoigu was involved in talks between Putin and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in Moscow last month and the ministry hosted Khalifa Haftar, Eastern Libya's dominant military figure, aboard its sole aircraft carrier in January. During the visit, Haftar spoke to Shoigu via video link about fighting terrorism in the Middle East.

One Western official told Reuters such incidents were fuelling fears that Russia plans to expand its footprint beyond Syria, where it has an air base and a naval facility, to centres such as Yemen, Sudan or Afghanistan.

The military's influence in domestic policy-making has expanded too, Russian analysts and Western officials say, with Putin seeking its views on everything from the digital economy to food security.

That is in part because Putin, since the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, has altered the way he takes decisions and widened the scope of what the Security Council, which he chairs, discusses to include many domestic policy questions.

"At a time when there's a feeling that Russia is increasingly surrounded by enemies, Putin is consulting the intelligence services and the military more when he takes all decisions. He's meeting them all the time," said Tatyana Stanovaya, head of the analytical department at the Center for Political Technologies think tank.

Stanovaya said that did not mean the military was initiating ideas, but that its opinions were taken into account far more by Putin now than in the past and that it now had an important voice on domestic policy areas.]]>
12/14/2017 1:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Italy likely to hold national elections on March 4]]>
The source said the most likely date for the vote was March 4 but added that March 11 remained a possibility, with a final decision due shortly.

A national election must be held by May, but most political parties are keen to hold elections as soon as possible, with the last major piece of legislation, the 2018 budget, scheduled to be approved before the end of the year.

"A vote on March 4? That would be excellent. The sooner we go to the polls the better," said Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right Northern League party.

Italy's 10-year bond yield rose to a two-week high on the election reports, with investors concerned about political uncertainty in the euro zone's third biggest economy.

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right alliance is seen winning the most seats at the forthcoming ballot, opinion polls say. But he looks unlikely to secure enough votes to hold an absolute majority.

The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement is predicted to emerge as the largest single party in the next parliament, but it has repeatedly ruled out joining any coalition.

Berlusconi said at a book presentation on Wednesday that Italy should return to the polls if the vote produces no clear majority, with current Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni carrying on for "at least three months" during a new election campaign.

The often fractious alliance between Berlusconi and Salvini creaked on Wednesday when Salvini threatened to break off talks after Berlusconi's Forza Italia (Go Italy!) party declined to back a League proposal to toughen sanctions for violent crime.

The two parties have no common platform and have not settled on a commonly agreed candidate for prime minister.

ITALY AT A CROSSROADS

Support for the ruling centre-left Democratic Party (PD), headed by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, has fallen steadily in recent months, with the group heavily penalised by deep schisms and personality clashes.

The parliamentary source, who was in contact with President Sergio Mattarella, said the head of state would almost certainly dissolve both houses after Gentiloni had held a traditional end-of-year news conference, set for Dec. 28.

Gentiloni will remain as a caretaker prime minister until a new government is formed, helping to guarantee political stability in the interim.

Italy's economy is finally pulling clear of years of recession and is expected to post growth of 1.5 percent this year and next -- still lagging most of its euro zone peers.

Employers' association Confindustria warned on Wednesday that the recovery could be jeopardised by political uncertainty.

"The next elections will be very important, placing the country at a crossroads, with one path leading to a continuation of reforms and the other leading nowhere," it said in a report, warning parties against pursuing "demagogic measures".

Political leaders have already made a rash of promises that economists warn could damage the country's fragile finances, including pledges of generous handouts for pensioners and large tax cuts. ]]>
12/13/2017 11:00:23 PM
<![CDATA[5th UNAOC symposium on hate speech held Wednesday in Cairo]]>
The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) in collaboration with Egypt Media Development Program (EMDP), held its fifth symposium on countering hate speech against migrants and refugees in the media.

"The impact of people’s mass movements is now more pronounced than ever before... we've witnessed solidarity with refugees, but also xenophobia in the media," says Chief of Cabinet Nihal Saad, who is also the spokesperson for the High Representative of the UNAOC.

During the panel entitled “Traditional Media as a Vehicle for Hate speech,” Saad stressed the negative role that social media might play in propagating hate speech against refugees which could make them feel threatened and intimidated and she therefore calls for laws to regulate the usage on social media platforms.

Head of the Arabic Language Service at the Associated Press, Lamiaa Radi, underscored the international community’s unified efforts to tackle hate speech against migrants and refugees by spreading awareness through media campaigns and conferences.

Aligning with Radi, Sami Zaptia, the co-founder and managing editor of Libya Herald, said that “[we] should integrate new glossaries in English and Arabic to describe the events that the migrants and refugees witness throughout their journey.”

"Journalists - professionals and those in training - have to learn about fact-checking," says journalist and author Randa Habib, adding that journalists must truly digest the “red lines” and refrain from crossing them while doing their job abroad.

During the session “Understanding Hate Speech in a Global Context and Across Cultures,” Habib also said that refugees and migrants are the most targeted group in terms of hate speech.

We have to raise and show awareness in dealing with immigration issues that have become a global issue,” Ezzat Ibrahim, editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram Weekly, said during the panel. ]]>
12/13/2017 8:39:45 PM
<![CDATA[Venezuela's opposition takes EU human rights prize]]>
Foes of President Nicolas Maduro failed to dislodge him during months of street protests this year that turned violent killing more than 125 people, and have been dismayed to see him consolidate his power in recent months.

But they hope a presidential vote due in 2018 will galvanize exhausted and despondent supporters, and want foreign pressure for reforms to an election system they say is at the service of Maduro's "dictatorship".

"In the next few months, there should be a presidential election and we ask Europe and the free world to pay full attention," Julio Borges, head of the opposition-led National Assembly, said, receiving the Sakharov Prize.

"The regime has kidnapped democracy, and installed hunger and misery," he added during the ceremony at the EU parliament in Strasbourg.

The prize, named after Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, was awarded this year to Venezuela's National Assembly and "all political prisoners", according to the citation.

Venezuela's opposition won National Assembly elections in 2015, but the legislature has been sidelined by verdicts from the pro-government Supreme Court and the controversial election this year of a pro-Maduro Constituent Assembly superbody.

Another opposition leader Antonio Ledezma, who recently escaped house arrest in Venezuela and fled to Spain, said the EU prize ceremony was a painful moment because of the scores of opposition activists still jailed.

"I cannot be happy receiving this prize knowing that in the dungeons of Venezuela there remain, unjustly deprived of liberty, more than 300 political prisoners," he said.

Maduro, the 55-year-old successor to Hugo Chavez who has ruled Venezuela since 2013, denies the existence of political prisoners, saying all activists in detention are there for legitimate charges such as coup-plotting and violence.

Favorite to be the Socialist Party's candidate for the presidential vote, Maduro says he has faced down a U.S.-backed coup attempt by opponents this year. He frequently mocks both Borges and Ledezma in public speeches.

The opposition has a dilemma in choosing its candidate for the 2018 race, given that its most popular figures cannot run: Leopoldo Lopez is under house arrest, while Henrique Capriles is prohibited from holding office.

The European Union last month imposed an arms embargo on Venezuela, adding it to a list that includes North Korea and Syria. ]]>
12/13/2017 8:22:04 PM
<![CDATA[McMaster: Turkey, Qatar problematic for U.S. foreign policy]]>
During his meeting with his British counterpart, McMaster said that Turkey and Qatar, two major U.S. allies, are becoming more problematic in terms of American foreign policy.

He added that both nations are major supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which is also the main reason that Turkey’s relations with the West have suffered in recent years.

McMaster warned of political Islam as well as the Muslim Brotherhood for their extremist ideology. He also said that the MB is financed by charities and social organizations.

He further remarked that Qatar and Turkey have financed the MB, stressing that the U.S. administration is determined to combat extremist ideologies.

The Arab Quartet has disseminated many facts about Qatar’s relations with various extremists since the start of 2017. Qatar has hosted three individuals designated by the U.S. as terrorists, namely Wajdi Ghoneim, Saad bin Saad al-Kaabi and Abdul Rahman bin Umair al-Nuaimi.

However, Qatar has denied all the allegations, insisting that the campaign launched by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain to boycott Qatar is based on fabricated and false news.

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani delivered a speech in light of the current Gulf crisis in July.

During the speech, Tamim stated that all allegations against Qatar for supporting terrorism and extremists are not true.

On June 5, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar over accusations of sponsoring terrorist groups, and they then issued six demands that must be fulfilled by Qatar before a dialogue between Qatar and the Quartet can start.]]>
12/13/2017 8:11:47 PM
<![CDATA[OIC declares Trump's Jerusalem move as withdrawal from peace process ]]>
The draft statement declared East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine, and invited all countries to recognize the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital.

The whole Arab and Muslim nations "rejected and condemned" President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and stated that it means that the U.S. can no longer act as an "unbiased" sponsor in the Middle East peace talks.

The whole Arab and Muslim nations support all legal and peaceful steps that the State of Palestine seeks to take at the national and international levels in order to consolidate its sovereignty over Jerusalem and the occupied Palestinian territory in general.

Trump’s move is described as the “deliberate undermining of all peace efforts, an impetus (for) extremism and terrorism, and a threat to international peace and security," the draft reads.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry stated on Wednesday during his speech at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit that Egypt condemns Trump’s unilateral decision because it violates international legitimacy.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid published on his Twitter account excerpts from Shoukry’s speech saying: "Egypt deplores the unilateral American decision that violates international legitimacy. The stability of the region and the world cannot bear any uncalculated action against Jerusalem and it will not be achieved In light of indifference towards the feelings of millions of Arabs, Muslims and Christians."

The summit, called initially by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, brings together high-level delegations headed by Muslim leaders to discuss the implications of last Wednesday’s decision by U.S. President Trump to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and thus declare it as the capital of Israel.

International and regional condemnations poured down on the U.S. decision and several protests broke out at various U.S. embassies around the globe.]]>
12/13/2017 8:06:16 PM
<![CDATA[Germany to boost support for attack victims after criticism]]>
Several relatives of the 12 people who were killed in the December 19, 2016, truck rampage in Berlin had vented their anger in a withering open letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel, accusing her of "political inaction" and of failing to reach out to the bereaved.

In a report to the government on Wednesday on the handling of the aftermath of the attack, Kurt Beck, the official charged with the inquiry, listed a litany of shortcomings.

Some relatives desperately searching for their loved ones were only told three days after the attack that their family member had perished even though they could have been given early warning through facial identification.

Others were sent "bills for autopsies -- including warnings for late payment, I didn't want to believe it, but I had such a letter in hand," Beck told a press conference.

"Such experiences should never be repeated," he said, adding that Germany "was not prepared" to deal with the aftermath of an attack.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas acknowledged the problems and said the government wanted "to ensure that when something so terrible happens, that the relatives of victims are taken care of as well as possible."

"We have learnt from our mistakes," he said.

- Centralised unit -

Berlin will look at setting up a centralised unit that would take charge of relatives in such cases, providing them with psychological and logistical help rather than leaving them to run from hospital to hospital to find out if their loved ones have been hit.

It also plans to increase financial help to victims, after Beck noted that the current sum of up to 10,000 euros ($11,700) is below the average aid provided by eight other countries including neighbouring France.

Merkel, who has been criticised by grieving relatives for not personally presenting her condolences, will finally hold her first face-to-face meeting with the families on Monday.

A day later, a memorial service will be held to commemorate the victims.

The chancellor paid an unannounced visit late Tuesday to the Christmas market at Breitschiedplatz, where she laid a white rose at the site of the attack and spoke with stallholders, including one at whose stand two people were killed in the attack.

She also exchanged a few words with another stallholder whose stand was completely destroyed, national news agency DPA reported.]]>
12/13/2017 5:48:31 PM
<![CDATA[Russia ready to consider easing arms embargo for Libya ]]>
Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj said this month he was hopeful that a UN-imposed arms embargo would be partially lifted against some branches of the country's military, the Daily Mail reported on Wednesday.

The Libyan government is allowed to import weapons and related materiel with the approval of a UN Security Council committee overseeing the embargo imposed in 2011. ]]>
12/13/2017 5:35:27 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt condemns Trump’s ‘unilateral’ Jerusalem decision: FM ]]>
Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid published on his Twitter account excerpts from Shoukry’s speech saying, "Egypt deplores the unilateral American decision that violates international legitimacy. The stability of the region and the world cannot bear any uncalculated action against Jerusalem and it will not be achieved In light of indifference towards the feelings of millions of Arabs, Muslims and Christians."



He also added that “the Jerusalem issue should be based on justice in the face of the policies of violence and rewarding the occupier.... No party has the right to violate international law and historical rights to legitimize the annexation of land.”



Shoukry stated that Egypt does not accept dealing with Jerusalem outside the scope of international legitimacy, and that the Egyptian people will not tolerate any violation of the rights of the Palestinian people.

“We have a historical and moral responsibility to take a stance that satisfies our conscience and meets the aspirations of our nations ... We must stand strong and refuse to turn the world into a jungle in which the occupier defeats unarmed people.
Egypt, which has committed itself since 1948 to defend the rights of the Palestinian people and has exerted immense effort to defend them with all its strength, will be at the forefront of any Arab, regional or international action to reject any attempt, legitimizing the reality of the occupation of Jerusalem.”






The summit, called initially by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, brings together high-level delegations headed by Muslim leaders to discuss the implications of last Wednesday’s decision by U.S. President Trump to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and thus declare it as the capital of Israel.

International and regional condemnations poured down on the U.S. decision and several protests broke out at various U.S. embassies around the globe. ]]>
12/13/2017 5:33:26 PM
<![CDATA[UN expert says U.S. torture continues at Guantanamo Bay]]>
Former President Barack Obama ended the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" via executive order in January 2009, but Melzer said the historic use of torture in CIA custody had not yet led to prosecutions or compensation for victims.]]>
12/13/2017 5:09:38 PM
<![CDATA[Opinion: Toward a new narrative on the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam]]>
The issue of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), of course, was the subject I talked most about with many of my acquaintances. My experience at the Forum gave me hope that the future of our two historically tied countries (Ethiopia and Egypt) is safe in the hands of seasoned and balanced thinkers.

Alas, like everywhere else, the popular narrative on the dam is created not by people like the strong thinkers I met, but by a loud, unhinged media that spews out its unbalanced opinions at audiences hungry for information.

Unfortunately, the latter are led to harbor an unproductive, and at times dangerous, perception. According to the common narrative by the Egyptian media, Ethiopia's intentions on Abbay's (Ethiopia's name for the Nile) waters have always been framed as external intervention by supposedly anti-Egypt forces such as the US, Israel and now Qatar.

Such a condescending attitude toward Ethiopians, as people who cannot do anything about their fate, other than serving as instruments of external anti-Egypt forces, has undoubtedly not helped the attitude of Ethiopians toward Egypt and Egyptians, an attitude that is already riddled with myths and misconceptions.

Since the plan to build the GERD was made official, Egyptians have been voicing all forms of opposition, including threats to bomb the dam if Ethiopia ultimately builds it. In Ethiopia, all forms of media have sold stories and analyses based on Egyptian opposition to the dam. Chauvinism, racism, hate and historical animosity were all summoned to the public imagination.

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People started writing and talking about historical battles between Ethiopians and the Khedivate of Egypt (I bet many Egyptians have never heard of such battles, let alone their outcomes and historical importance). Many started to fear, others to celebrate, the possibility that an old Ethiopian prophecy about Abbay would come to pass.

There is a prophecy in Ethiopia that goes along the lines of 'If Abay is dammed, blood amounting to Abbay's waters would have to be shed.' Such gruesome prophecies are not idle statements uttered in a hypothetical vacuum. Rather, they are popular imaginations constructed based on Ethiopian people's quest of the Nile in relation to past history and current events.

Now, though I know some, from both sides, would be praying for such horrors, we can safely assume that such is not to the liking of the masses and governments of the two countries. What then can be done to avoid the state of mind and popular perceptions in both nations’ peoples that foment ideologies toward such dreadful horrors?

For the Egyptian thought-makers, especially the media, instead of continuing to feed on the external 'enemies of Egypt' and fixating on 'the historical water rights of Egypt' narration—both of which fail to recognize the dynamics of the Nile quest in Ethiopia—it would be more productive to understand the popular psychology and narration of the Ethiopian masses, in order to engage them, and in return help Ethiopians understand the legitimate fears of the Egyptians.

The Abbay quest in the Ethiopian popular imagination and belief system is so complex and dynamic that it behooves thorough reflection, before coming to conclusions and proposing solutions.

Ethiopians have repeatedly suffered from biblical-scale hunger and mass deaths due to droughts and associated crop failures. Though Ethiopians have always loved their country, there have been lingering grievances and bitterness that the land was unable to feed its loving people. Many Ethiopians, deeply religious as they are (or despite their piety), have for centuries accepted their tribulations as God’s wrath for their transgressions.

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Such a narrative has now transformed, and rightly so, into recognizing misfortunes as people's failure to harness their 'God-given' resources and use them judiciously. With this also came the blaming of external forces, who for centuries have deprived Ethiopians of their rights to express their grievances.

Colonial conspiracies; the acts of the Italians and their Ethiopian enablers that divided and weakened Ethiopia; Arab interventionists, mainly Egypt, who always liked to see a weak and divided Ethiopia, would all become the main culprits to blame for Ethiopian people's misfortunes.

Deep in the hearts of the Ethiopian masses, the bloody, almost half-century long Eritrean war for independence has always been framed as Egyptian and other Arab countries' proxy interventions to weaken Ethiopia.

Many Ethiopians and now some Eritreans blame Arabs, particularly Egypt, for intervening, supporting, fanning the flames and perpetuating normal Eritrean grievances into bloody secessionist wars, sacrificing the lives of millions of Eritreans and Ethiopians on the way.

When the Eritreans won the war of independence, and Ethiopians finally agreed to let Eritrea be a free and friendly nation, it was not long before Eritreans and Ethiopians were shocked to learn that the only opposition against Eritrea's official independence came from no other than Egypt itself.

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FILE - Eritrean soldiers celebrate the country's anniversary of independence from Ethiopia May 23, 2000


Eritreans felt betrayed, and Ethiopians confirmed what they had suspected: that Egypt had always wanted to keep Ethiopians fighting wars, lest they try using Abbay's waters.

It is almost an official line of thinking that Egypt would be using all possible opportunities to replicate the bloody Ethio-Eritrean wars on other fronts, mainly the Oromia and the Ethiopian Somali Ogaden.

Many other cases of maltreatment of Ethiopians at the hands of Arabs have also resulted in a stereotype of a bigoted, ruthless Arab who would do anything to his Ethiopian neighbor to keep the Habashi poor and unable to fight back or claim what is rightly his or hers.

Claims and stories spread through social media about the excessively inhuman treatment of Ethiopian and Eritrean domestic helpers across the wealthy Arab world; the extreme torture to exact ransom; the extraction and selling of body parts of Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees by Arab traffickers in Sinai; the cold-blooded decapitation of Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees by Arab Da'esh in Libya; and now the 'slave trade' and savage treatment of African refugees at the hands of lawless Arab Libyans.

Every day stories like these have all added to the historically held stereotype of a cruel, inhuman Arab, consolidating to young Ethiopians the stereotypes they grew up listening to. The Arabs hate Ethiopians so much they have a saying—'If you find a Habashi and a snake together, kill the Habashi first.' It is these historical backgrounds and contrived public narratives that formed the perception of Arabs as a natural enemy in the minds of everyday Ethiopians.

Due to such a negative understanding of the Arab world and, by extension, Egypt and Egyptians, not many Ethiopians recognize the poverty, the thirst for peace and stability of ordinary Egyptians and many across the Arab world.

Egyptian people's legitimate fears about the Nile waters are completely misunderstood and ignored. The Egyptian people's Nile quest and their apprehensiveness about the Ethiopian dam are, therefore, perceived as a continuation of the centuries-old efforts and deceptions by Egyptian rulers to make Ethiopians unable to use the waters that originate from their hinterland.

Unfortunately, such public discourse may, at times, find its way and dictate official policies and dispositions in Ethiopia. Even at this time, when the official view is, apparently, that of working together toward achieving an agreement for a fair utilization of Nile resources, Ethiopian local media, similar to its Egyptian counterpart, every day broadcasts news of Egyptian conspiracies and interventions to undermine Ethiopian stability and development.

The public do believe this, and not without a reason, adding to the vicious cycle of fear, suspicion, stereotyping and ultimately threatening future peace and security in our region. With such deep-rooted grievances and contrived misconceptions, any move by either of our countries, even an honest desire to engage positively, is probably going to be viewed by the other side as camouflage for a sinister ulterior motive.

Through twisted, centuries-old histories and conspiracies, Egypt has been framed, in the mind of the common Ethiopian, as the demon to be vanquished. It has also, ironically, captured the popular imagination among Ethiopian Christians and Muslims for centuries.

The followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church have always held a sense of belonging to the Egyptian Coptic Christian church—a church which shares a lot of resemblance and history to their own.

Both Ethiopian Christians and Muslims have always looked up to Egypt as a source of support, religious unity and strength, in a region where they feel their core traditional and religious values and legacies are threatened by ever-expanding extremist ideologies in the East African region.

Ethiopian Christians have always thought of the Egyptian Coptic Church as their second church. Ethiopians, despite their contrived view of Arabs and, by extension, Egypt, have always wanted a stable and prosperous Egypt as a buffer against extremism in their otherwise highly volatile zone.

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My point is, therefore, that each of the governments and political actors in both these countries, beyond using rhetoric that helps them gain popular support, should accept this truth. The truth that there is misunderstanding among the people and the elites with respect to the Nile quest and popular thinking. People should be allowed to understand one another and to listen to one another's fears, plights and aspirations.

Public diplomacy, aimed at creating steady understanding among the two countries' peoples, should be pursued. Instead of feeding the public uncensored facts and inflammatory rhetoric charged with hubris and ultranationalism, it would be more productive to allow the two historically tied people and governments to understand one another, and that should start by listening to the other side of the story.

Mulubrhan Balehegn is an Ethiopian analyst.
]]>
12/13/2017 3:42:34 PM
<![CDATA[UN judges hear appeal against radical Serb's war crimes acquittal]]>
The appeal hearing comes after several blows for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and its work for justice for the victims of the Balkans wars of the 1990s.

Those setbacks included the dramatic suicide of former Bosnian Croat military commander Slobodan Praljak.

He swallowed cyanide in the courtroom in late November just after judges upheld his 20-year jail term for war crimes -- their last sentence before the ICTY closes this month.

The building, which houses the tribunal's successor, the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), is now part of a crime scene for Dutch investigators.

Just a week earlier, Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic had to be dragged from the court during an angry outburst as he was jailed for life for genocide, among other charges. The man, dubbed the "Butcher of Bosnia", has announced his intention to appeal.

Set up in 1993, the ICTY has successfully prosecuted dozens of those responsible for the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II.

But hopes of bringing reconciliation to the bitterly divided region remain distant.

About 2,000 people packed a public memorial in Zagreb on Monday to honour Praljak as a hero.

"No one can compare to a great man like Slobodan," said Miroslav Tudjman, an MP of Croatia's conservative HDZ party and son of late Croatian nationalist Franjo Tudjman.

He slammed the UN judges as "incompetent and irresponsible" and said the court is "a parody, a theatre of the absurd".

- Contempt -

Seselj, now a member of the Serbian parliament with his Serbian Radical Party, has done little to hide his own contempt for the tribunal.

"I have nothing to do with the court in The Hague," he told AFP in Belgrade, adding he had spent 12 years "waiting for the court to prove the charges against me".

"Since I was acquitted in the first instance, I do not see what is left for this mechanism, what it can do with my verdict," added Seselj, now a member of the Serbian parliament with his Serbian Radical Party.

He planned to be absent Wednesday when judges at the MICT were to hear prosecutors' arguments from 1200 GMT.

Prosecutors insist Seselj was behind the murders of many Croats, Muslims and other non-Serb civilians in an unrelenting quest to create a "Greater Serbia".

Prosecutors are appealing after the first judges last year found Seselj, 63, not guilty on nine counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In their majority ruling, the judges said the prosecution had failed to prove "there was a widespread systematic attack against the non-Serb civilian population in large areas of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina."

Prosecutors also failed to prove any "causal link" between Seselj's fiery speeches and the wave of atrocities, they ruled.

When he told troops during the deadly three-month siege of the Croatian town of Vukovar in 1991 "to spare no one", he was merely "participating in the war effort by galvanising Serb forces," the judges concluded.

- Rule of law -

Seselj hailed his acquittal as "honourable and fair", but the verdict left prosecutors baffled.

Experts said the judgement overturned international law and rewrote the history of the Balkan conflicts, triggered as Yugoslavia broke apart in 1991 following the fall of communism.

The court's chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz insisted that "in large measure, the ICTY has achieved what it set out to do" by investigating crimes and prosecuting top officials.

He agreed at a Washington think-tank talk on Tuesday that reconciliation remained elusive, but said the tribunal's legacy would not be measured by its own work but by "whether the countries of the former Yugoslavia build the rule of law".

Balkan countries must "demonstrate that they can secure meaningful justice for the victims and show the courage to accept facts and pursue meaningful reconciliation".

A ruling in the Seselj appeal is due in early 2018.]]>
12/13/2017 2:08:37 PM
<![CDATA[Germany's SPD plays hard-to-get before first talks with Merkel]]>
Merkel, weakened by heavy losses to the far-right in a September election and then by the collapse last month of talks on a three-way alliance, is pinning her hopes on the SPD for a fourth term as chancellor and to avoid new elections.

But the mood between the two parties is sour and Merkel herself has been a frequent target of criticism by the Social Democrats.

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The SPD, stung by its worst election result since 1933 and riven by divisions on whether to work with Merkel after voters punished the party for sharing power with her over the last four years, warned a deal would not be made at any price.

“A decisive point for the SPD is that the social agenda has more prominence in Germany,” leading Social Democrat Carsten Schneider told German television.


“We are quite clear: There must be a greater degree of fairness for ordinary heroes,” he said.

Merkel and the leader of her Bavarian conservative allies were due to meet SPD leader Martin Schulz later on Wednesday.

The secrecy surrounding the talks underlined their sensitivity. With both sides having a lot to lose, the parties have not disclosed the time or venue for the meeting and do not plan to make public statements when it ends.

Schulz has made a pitch for EU integration leading to a United States of Europe by 2025, and the SPD wants a big spending boost on education, more nursery spots and a big healthcare reform to help “ordinary people”.

Merkel wants to maintain Germany’s solid finances, cut some taxes and expand the digital infrastructure.

The SPD had vowed to go into opposition after its dismal election result and only softened its approach, agreeing to meet Merkel, due to pressure from President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who wants to avoid new elections.

The SPD pulled no punches in attacking Merkel during the election campaign. Schulz has described Merkel, known for pragmatism rather than vision, as a vacuum cleaner of ideas and has also accused her of silencing debate on issues.

A row last month over a conservative minister breaking protocol to back an extension for an EU license for a weed-killer despite SPD opposition hurt ties at a crucial time.

One of the SPD’s deputies, Ralf Stegner, adopted a combative tone on Wednesday, saying nobody could dictate the terms to the SPD as the conservative bloc needed the party to rule.

Some in the SPD are prepared to contemplate another grand coalition, albeit with a clear SPD signature, but others prefer the idea of tolerating a minority government under Merkel.

One other option is a “KoKo” (cooperation coalition) agreement under which the SPD would agree to work with Merkel in some areas, such as a budget and European and foreign affairs, but force her to seek ad hoc majorities for other policies.

This idea is unpopular with conservatives who want a grand coalition. “We have to try it - but please, seriously,” Carsten Linnemann, head of a group representing small and medium-sized businesses in the conservative bloc, told ARD television.]]>
12/13/2017 1:46:59 PM
<![CDATA[Qatar collabs with Houthis, opens Jazeera office in Sana’a]]>
Undersecretary of the Yemeni Ministry of Information, Abdu Mughallis, said that Qatari media platforms such as Al-Jazeera openly put their weight behind the Houthi militias as part of Qatar’s broader plan to fragmentize Yemen and the whole region.

Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed in a shooting on Monday December 4, after switching allegiances in Yemen's civil war, abandoning his Iran-aligned Houthi allies in favor of the Saudi-led coalition.

Since June 5, the Arab quartet; Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have turned on Qatar with a complete air and trade boycott, hurling allegations that the state supports terrorism.]]>
12/13/2017 1:19:28 PM
<![CDATA[40 Arab rights organizations slam U.S. decision on Jerusalem]]>
The organizations considered the U.S. decision as a threat to peace and security in the region and a flagrant violation of the basic principles of the international order and legitimacy as well as of the right of self-determination of the Palestinians.

Trump’s decision would have a negative impact on peace negotiations, undermine the efforts already exerted and provoke Palestinians, the organizations said in a joint statement, confirming that this decision is a reversal of the political process since the Madrid Peace Conference 1992.

The United States ignored the international consensus and its unilateral decision of Palestinian sovereignty over Jerusalem, which is a grave breach of the responsibilities of states not party to any conflict, making the U.S. administration an active partner in international crimes towards Jerusalem including the settlements, forcible displacement and forced annexation of the land.

The United States has played a key role as a mediator and guarantor of reaching a peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis during the last three decades. Trump’s decision undermines the U.S. role as a guarantor of a fair solution to the conflict.

In a statement offered by the organizations, they pointed out that the legislation Israel is currently working on intends to give them control over the large settlement blocs around Jerusalem from the three sides which link the West Bank to the north, east and south, to obstruct any possibility of a viable Palestinian State.

The international community and its governments have to go beyond the condemnation of the decision, the statement added, stressing that it is time to adopt resolutions that include practical steps to end grave violations that jeopardize peace and stability in the region and the world.

The 40 organizations warned of the Israeli reaction to the Palestinian anger and of the use of excessive violence against the Palestinian people, who are exercising their right to demonstrate and protest against the U.S. decision, which would exacerbate the anger and lead to further instability and fuel conflicts in the region.

The statement was signed by 40 organizations from different Arab countries including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Egyptian Coalition on the Rights of the Child, the Association of Artica- Tunisia, the Youth for Torgha - Libya, the Syrian Human Rights Network - Syria, as well as many others.

On Wednesday night, Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel during a televised speech from the White House. Trump’s decision was met by a barrage of criticism and condemnations from many Arab and world leaders, while protests took place in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and different parts of the Arab world.

Clashes broke out between Israeli forces and Palestinians in the West Bank on Friday. Israeli forces fired tear gas on the protesters, killing two Palestinians and injuring more than 300 others. On Saturday, Israeli airstrikes killed two other Palestinians and injured dozens, raising the injured toll to 1,114 people, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health on Saturday.]]>
12/13/2017 12:31:30 PM
<![CDATA[Q&A: Tillerson changes tune on North Korea]]>
The apparent olive branch -- after a year of mutual threats by US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, and multiple missile tests by Pyongyang, coupled with its most powerful nuclear blast to date -- could help defuse sky-high tensions.

But with the two sides engaged in a war of words there is a long way to go before any negotiations -- let alone a deal.

Here are some questions and answers on the issue.

What has changed?

The US has for years refused to talk unless the North first takes steps towards dismantling its nuclear programme.

But the North has staged six atomic tests and declared itself a full nuclear state after the ICBM test on November 28, rendering the prospect of nuclear disarmament increasingly unrealistic, according to experts.

"We are ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk. We are ready to have the first meeting without preconditions. Let's just meet," Tillerson said at a forum in Washington.

William Perry, a former US Defense Secretary who helped broker the 1994 Agreed Framework nuclear deal with the North, said it was "very encouraging news".

"We must find a way to come to the table in order to de-escalate the volatile situation with North Korea," he tweeted.

What does Donald Trump think?

Trump administration officials have piled pressure on Pyongyang with US-led UN sanctions and talk of a potential pre-emptive attack, with National Security Adviser HR McMaster saying this month the potential for war was "increasing every day".

The president has previously dismissed Tillerson's push for talks with the North, tweeting in October that his top diplomat was "wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man" - his favoured epithet for Kim.

"Save your energy, Rex, we'll do what has to be done!" he added -- and rumours have swirled in recent weeks that Trump was about to sack him.

Whether Tillerson's words herald a major policy shift by the administration remains to be seen.

White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump's views on the North "have not changed".

How could North Korea react?

The North has long expressed a willingness to talk without preconditions and is likely to respond positively to any such offer, analysts say.

"They have believed that the US would have no choice but to sit down with the North for talks in the end... and they might have been right," said Chung Sung-Yoon, of the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul.

"The North's goal is to lay low and endure sanctions until the world will accept the reality that the North has become a nuclear power," he added.

The further its weapons programmes advance, the stronger its position becomes -- and it says it is now able to deliver a nuclear warhead anywhere on the US mainland, although experts believe it still lacks some of the required technology.

What will the North's neighbours say?

China, the North's sole major ally and economic lifeline, and South Korea are likely to welcome Tillerson's comments.

Beijing -- which is under increasing US pressure to tame its wayward neighbour -- has repeatedly pushed for talks, while South Korean President Moon Jae-In is a well-known advocate for dialogue.

Japan -- Washington's key military ally in Asia -- has also called for ways to defuse tensions. Some of the North's rocket tests have overflown the island nation, sparking alarm.

What has happened in previous talks?

Decades of Western attempts to persuade Pyongyang to abandon nuclear weapons have failed.

The Agreed Framework, which offered the North civilian nuclear reactors and other assistance in exchange for denuclearisation, fell apart after the US accused the isolated state of covertly restarting its weapons programme and aid delays angered Pyongyang, which eventually stormed out.

In 2003 the Beijing-led Six Party Talks began, bringing together the US, both Koreas, Russia, Japan and China in a tortuous process. North Korea pledged to give up its nuclear programmes in 2005, but carried out its first atomic blast the following year.

It walked out of the talks three years later, detonating its second device soon afterwards.

It has since continued its weapons drive, accelerating it after Kim inherited power in 2011 from his father Kim Jong-Il.]]>
12/13/2017 12:01:15 PM
<![CDATA[Harsh Singapore laws stifling free speech: HRW]]>
A report from the New York-based rights group said that while the financial hub was an economic success, it was time to relax tough regulations which are not in line with international human rights standards.

"Singapore promotes itself as a modern nation and a good place to do business, but people in a country that calls itself a democracy shouldn't be afraid to criticise the government or speak out about political issues," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The city-state has long been accused of using tough laws to stifle dissent but Robertson said its use of them had been stepped up in recent times.

Last month prominent human rights activist Jolovan Wham was charged with organising public protests without a permit over three small demonstrations staged in the last year.

Singapore does not allow protests without approval from police, except in one corner of a downtown park.

In August, the government launched legal action against the grandson of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew over a Facebook post linked to a feud in the ruling family.

In its first major report on Singapore since 2005, HRW also described the case of a news website that was probed for allegedly breaking election rules and a blogger sued for defamation after writing about social and economic issues affecting Singaporeans.

Singapore's government did not immediately respond to request for comment. It has previously said its laws are aimed at maintaining peace and public order.

The report, which drew on interviews with activists, journalists and academics, called for Singapore to drop prosecutions and investigations that violate the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and change laws inconsistent with international rights standards.

The report was launched in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of neighbouring Malaysia, as HRW did not believe they would have got permission from authorities to release it in Singapore, Robertson said.]]>
12/13/2017 11:53:25 AM
<![CDATA[Interview: Fayez al-Sarraj praises Egypt’s role in Libya]]>
Affirming that Egypt supports Libya’s stability and security, Sarraj started describing his visit to Cairo as “positive” and “distinguished”, assuring that several topics were tackled during the bilateral talks including the two states’ economic and security relations.

Egypt’s role in Libya’s reconstruction along with resuming direct flights between Cairo and Tripoli was also discussed during the meeting, Sarraj mentioned.

Commenting on the Libyan military meeting in Cairo last November, Sarraj said that there was no consensus on military positions during the meeting that tackled uniting the Libyan military. “However, we appreciate Egypt’s efforts in unifying the Libyan military in the face of terrorism,” he said.

According to the official statement issued by army spokesman Tamer al-Refae following the meeting last November, the Libyan military officials are supposed to resume their meetings again during the coming period to continue their discussions.

Regarding his visit to the United States Earlier in December, Sarraj said that he traveled per an invitation from his American counterpart Donald Trump. “I held several meetings with a number of officials including defense, state department and treasury ministers. I also meet with a number of congress members,” he added.

He explained further that Libya and the United States agreed on cooperating in several fields including countering international terrorism.

Tripoli security situation

Responding to a question about the current security situation in Tripoli, Sarraj assured that the Libyan forces succeeded in taking serious and positive steps regarding restoring security in the Libyan capital lately.

“We achieved tangible progress regarding Tripoli’s security. We controlled several armed militias and groups and succeeded to integrate them within military and security institutions; however we are sure that the coming period will witness more progress,” Sarraj stated.

Regarding his repeated meetings with the Commander-in-Chief of the Libyan Army, Khalifa Haftar, Sarraj said that they have reached ‘positive results’ during their meetings in France and the UAE. “We almost agreed on most of the issues during our meetings. Both of us are open to reaching points of mutual interests. Maybe you think that our steps are slow; however, it’s real and we are determined to achieve it,” he added.

Elections in Libya

In regards to the Libyan Elections, we need to make several amendments to create a transparent political atmosphere suitable for the electoral process in Libya, Sarraj said.

According to his statements, the United Nations envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salama, called for making political amendments last September in order to prepare the country for the upcoming elections. Moreover, Sarraj himself called for elections last June, however, several other actions and procedures must be taken before elections are carried out.

Regarding protecting and supervising the elections, Sarraj said that they have contacted the General Election Commission inside the country to discuss supervising the elections. He also added that the United Nations expressed its willingness to provide technical support to the Commission, as the Interior Ministry will be responsible for protecting the state’s facilities and buildings.

During the interview, Sarraj stressed that his country needs a border security system to offer more protection while facing terrorist and armed groups trying to enter the country. “We have discussed this issue more than once internationally during several diplomatic meeting as we know that it will affect the whole region,” Sarraj said.
]]>
12/13/2017 7:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Nigerian court drops most corruption charges against Senate president]]>
Bukola Saraki's three-year tenure as president of the upper house has been marred by numerous accusations of misconduct and investigations, though none have led to convictions.

The original charges are related to allegations that Saraki falsely declared his assets when he was a state governor from 2003 to 2011, to which he pleaded not guilty.

A Code of Conduct Tribunal cleared the Senate president of the charges in June, saying the case against him lacked substance.

The government mounted a legal challenge which led to Tuesday's ruling by the court of appeal that Saraki should be retried by the tribunal on three of the 18 charges against him.

The three counts relate to Saraki's acquisition of two houses in Ikoyi, an upmarket district in the southern commercial metropolis of Lagos.

"The appeal is dismissed in part in respects of the other 15 counts", said the judge, Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson, at the appeal court in the capital Abuja.

The Senate president's camp has previously denied any wrongdoing and on Tuesday issued a statement in which it said Saraki had been "victorious" due to the 15 charges being dropped.

The full details of the judgement on the final three charges against Saraki have not been released and will be addressed by his lawyers once they have been, the Senate president said in a statement.

Saraki ran unopposed for the post of Senate president, mainly with the backing of the opposition. He was not the ruling party's preferred candidate, which led to strains in his relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Senate president has been dogged by legal cases since taking office.

In October 2016 Saraki was cleared of altering Senate rules to get himself elected, and in March this year lawmakers cleared him of any wrongdoing over allegations that he attempted to evade payment of customs duties on a car. ]]>
12/13/2017 3:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Islamist hardliners approach to Jerusalem, inventing civil-Islamic conflict]]>
They partake in cheap trade in holy places to distract Muslims from the core of the issue, and they mislead people to market their notions that we are all non-Islamic and that if we return to Islam – "The special version of the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIL” – our lost dignity will return to us.

They are constantly misleading society, so we should fight their ideology early on within the society while we also fight to protect Jerusalem abroad.

This is the Great War in my opinion. I had addressed it in an earlier article about the relationship between the Islamic state and the civil state, and I tell you clearly, if the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was among us, he would not have put the Holy Quran on his weapon to defend Jerusalem. Rather, he would have thought and planned for the tools we possess in that confrontation. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not fight through prayers alone, nor by distinguishing between what is Islamic and what is otherwise in the arts of political and military action.

Who told you, my brother, that the Islamic state stands on the opposite side of civilizational liberalism, modernity, science and development. Take a look at the strategy adopted by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the founding of his pristine state in Yathrib (present-day Medina). Watch and reflect to know that Prophet Muhammad was a symbol of civilization and modernity, as well as a messenger for enlightenment. He was a political leader who knew the boundaries at which the revelation stops in order to make the intellect work. He and his distinguished companions after him knew the boundaries that the intellect cannot exceed in its respect of the revelation and the sanctity of the word of God.

What the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did in Medina was a civil and political miracle in an environment that had upset the mind and endowed itself to nomadism and ignorance. It is inconceivable that their present projects, which call for nomadism and ignorance rather than intellect, science and civilization, are related to Islam.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) sought the help of disbelievers against other disbelievers in the first stage of the “Dawah” (calling to Islam) in Mecca. It was the reality that forced him to seek help from one of the disbelievers to face the denial of the pagans of Quraish and their cruelty toward the Prophet. If one of the Muslims did this now, he would be chased by campaigns of “takfir” (apostasy) and sentenced to death.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) is the one who sent the first generation of Muslims to Abyssinia (present-day area of Ethiopia) to be under the protection of a Christian ruler in a Christian state. Had such action been taken by one of the Muslims today, the neo-fundamentalists would have questioned his faith and challenged him with the measures of loyalty and exoneration.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) is the one who drew a plan to migrate from Mecca to Medina, secretly holding alliances with the people Yathrib before he conveyed his alliance with them to the public, and he didn’t wait for Gabriel (peace be upon him) to lead him in the desert. The migration was a divine directive, but the planning and implementation were indeed human.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was the one who planned the project of citizenship in Yathrib with the immigrants and Ansar (his supporters from Medina), as well as with his numerous alliances with the Jews of the city.

It was the Prophet (peace be upon him) who decided to meet the army of Quraish in Badr – far from his fledgling state – to protect women and children, and to protect the political gain that sparked the hearts of Mecca's heathens with anger and sorrow.

It was the Prophet (peace be upon him) who, when he ordered that his army be camped before Bir Badr, publicly admitted in front of his friends that the revelation had nothing to do with this war. When asked by some of his friends whether this decision was from revelation or war and strategy, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, «It's war and strategy», and he came down at the advice of the war experts and set his troops after the well of Badr, depriving the heathen army of the water.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) is the one who suffered a cruel defeat at Uhud, after some Muslim soldiers violated his war plan against the army of Quraish. The defeat was not related to either the new religion or the revelation. Plans and implementation were the strengths or weaknesses of the prophetic project for political stability in his modern state.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) is the one who decided to dig the trench around the city to protect it from fear of the tyranny of the armies of "Al Ahzab"; he did not leave it up to the angels, but rather took the advice of his companion Salman. He did not await the revelation to decide what is best for the people of Yathrib in the face of the invading army.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) is the one who signed Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, which provided that all those who are extradited from Quraish must stay in Quraish and that he would not accept them if they migrated to Medina. In addition, all those who expiate from the people of Medina must be allowed by the Prophet to return to Quraish without harm. If an agreement of this content was signed by a Muslim political leader today, his people would rebel against him to defend the dignity of the religion, and he could even be assassinated by his own bodyguards or a handful of his soldiers.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) is the one who said to the people of Yathrib, “You know the issues of your life,” and he did not involve religion in agriculture, trade, state economics or the arts of governance, administration and war, which he adopted in the creation of his modern state. His companions did not stray off from his rational scientific approach in managing the state; Islam was one. The jurisprudence of his companions was extremely diverse in forms of succession, in the nature of enemies and friends, and in the financial and political management of the Islamic state.

Who then dares to make the political solution contrary to the Islamic solution, as if Islam did not already know the negotiating priorities, profit and loss calculations, and the arts of achieving religious and national goals with mental and negotiating merit? Who then dares to say that this is a political decision of Islam, and that another is not from Islam? Who then dares to imagine that the religion of God and the “Sunnah” (tradition) of His Prophet (peace be upon him) wanted us to have a rigid approach to the interests sent to Muslims, without understanding what God wanted us to be refined by reason and science?

Islam itself is a liberal, intellectual and civil religion with a historic testimony, and the companions themselves, in their diversity in the forms of governance and administration, proved that the revelation did not order us to take only one approach over another. It wanted to go from various modalities and ways in building, organizing and modernizing the state, and to investigate the administration of justice. I tell you, whenever the mind is absent and politicians merchandise religion in the name of God and justice, then know that it is not Islam or an Islamic state!!!

Wherever the mind and justice are together, you are into the fold of the state of Islam. Whenever we plan wisely, intellectually and with calculated pressures, we will take our rights in Jerusalem without the merchants of Jerusalem misleading us.
]]>
12/13/2017 2:11:32 AM
<![CDATA[Poland's new PM: national interest key in EU future debate]]>
Warsaw has grown increasingly isolated in the European Union since the Law and Justice party (PiS) won power two years ago. Critics say its efforts to assert control over the courts and public media have subverted democratic standards.

Morawiecki, 49, was named prime minister last week in a government reshuffle, replacing Beata Szydlo as the PiS party gears up for elections over the next three years.

Morawiecki said Warsaw's economic policy - based on generous public spending and a growing focus on domestic capital instead of foreign investment - should not change.

Echoing the eurosceptic PiS calls for more say in Brussels' policy-making for national governments, Morawiecki said Poland's "sovereignty and tradition should be used in defending national interests".

"The future of the European project is being decided now," Morawiecki told deputies. "Poland fits perfectly into the European puzzle, but it cannot be forced in incorrectly. By doing so, you will destroy both the puzzle and the piece," said Morawiecki, a former bank executive.

Britain's decision to leave the bloc has also meant that Poland lost an important ally in its calls to curb further EU integration, while the election of French President Emmanuel Macron has fanned new fears in Warsaw of losing influence.

Morawiecki said Poland would oppose a vision of a multi-speed Europe, supported by Macron and which countries in the EU's east fear would mean deeper cooperation in the West at the expense of the bloc's single market.

"We don't want further divisions ... we oppose splitting of Europe between those are who better and those who are inferior."

Addressing economic policy, Morawiecki said Poland should strive to find a "golden middle" between a lean state "which abandons its citizens and a bureaucracy. We don't want either."

"Our national sovereignty and tradition are an advantage in efforts to modernise Poland, not a burden, as some are trying to tell us," he said.

PiS has gained in popularity since becoming the first in post-communist Poland to govern without a coalition. It has benefited from fast economic growth, record low unemployment, generous welfare and an increased emphasis on traditional Catholic values in public life.

However, private investment remains weak, with economists saying companies are reluctant to spend amid uncertainty over taxation and the government's influence over the economy.

Morawiecki, who as finance minister was also responsible for economic development policy before his appointment as prime minister, has long called for a greater role for domestic capital in the economy.]]>
12/13/2017 1:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Tillerson: My failure if US resorts to force on North Korea]]>
And he added that if diplomacy and sanctions fail and the US military is forced to take pre-emptive action, it will have been a personal failure.

"You know, we can only do our part in this, and the regime in Pyongyang is going to have to come to some decision about their future," Tillerson said.

The United States has mobilized the world community to impose stringent economic and diplomatic sanctions on Kim Jong-un's regime to halt its nuclear drive.

But Pyongyang has continued to test ever more powerful ballistic missiles and boasts it can now target the US mainland with its nuclear arsenal.

Washington has pledged to deliver a denuclearized Korean peninsula, but the strategy hinges on China maintaining pressure and Kim agreeing to talk.

"We want them to make the right choice, which is to stop and say: 'Let's sit down to talk about it'," Tillerson said, in a year end speech to staff.

"Because if they keep going, they can cross a point at which there's nothing left for us in the diplomatic community to do," he warned.

"We've done everything we can do, as we don't want to get to that point," he said, stressing that he works closely with US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

"And I've said to my partner Secretary Mattis many times: 'If we get there, I've failed. And I don't want to fail'," he promised.

]]>
12/12/2017 9:33:30 PM
<![CDATA[U.N. warns of new Syrian refugee wave to Europe if aid dries up]]>
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was giving details of the $4.4 billion appeal to support 5.3 million Syrian refugees in surrounding countries as well as to host communities in Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt that have taken them in.

The agency, which has received only 53 percent of its $4.63 billion appeal for 2017, needs international support, Amin Awad, director of UNHCR's Middle East and North Africa bureau, told a news briefing.

He listed "many reasons", including: "The vast number of refugees that we have in the region, the geopolitical status of that region, the risk that a population of 5.3 million people can bring to an area, a small region already volatile as it is, if there is no assistance.

"We had the experience of 2015, we don't want to repeat that," he said.

The lack of funding led to an acute shortage of services that year, when one million refugees fled to Europe, he added. About half were Syrians, UNHCR figures show.

An EU-Turkey deal has largely halted the flow, but a UNHCR funding shortfall has led to fresh cutbacks in vital programmes providing food, health care, education and shelter to Syrian refugees, Awad said.

"That means we're not able to provide stoves, we are not able to deliver kerosene, we are not able to deliver enough thermal blankets, we are not able to winterise tents, we are not able to drain water and snow from camps, we are not able to do engineering work to insulate some of the buildings. People are sitting in cold, open buildings," he said.

Turkey currently hosts 3.3 million Syrian refugees, the largest number, followed by Lebanon with one million.

"These are the biggest donors, these are the real donors. They provided space, international protection," Awad said.

"Now the material assistance is left to the donors and international community... And that's not coming through. So we have to be prepared for consequences," he said.

Awad, asked about countries in the region closing their borders to Syrian refugees, replied: "Borders are managed, in some instance are closed."

Host countries have cited concerns over security, economic crises, and xenophobia, but Syrians continue to arrive, he said.

"Lebanon is still accepting vulnerable cases, medical cases, so is Turkey," Awad said.

There have been cases of "refoulement", returning refugees to places where they could face war or persecution, in violation of law, he said. "We are seeing expulsion, we are seeing people sent back."

UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards declined to provide specifics on Syrian refugees being expelled. ]]>
12/12/2017 7:32:14 PM
<![CDATA[Liberia to hold run-off vote on Dec. 26 - electoral commission]]>
Former soccer star George Weah faces Vice-President Joseph Boakai in the poll that was held up for several weeks by a court challenge by the candidate who came third in round one.

The winner replaces Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as president in what will be, if it goes smoothly, Liberia's first peaceful handover of power in 70 years.

The Supreme Court last week dismissed a complaint from third-place finisher Charles Brumskine's Liberty Party, which had said fraud had undermined the first round in October.

Electoral Commission chairman Jerome Korkoya said campaigning could start immediately but must end by December 24.

Liberians are eager for change after Nobel Peace Prize winning Sirleaf's 12-year rule, which sealed a lasting peace in a country that for decades had only known war, but which has failed to tackle corruption or much improve the lot of the poorest. ]]>
12/12/2017 7:18:29 PM
<![CDATA[Moderates walk out as French opposition veers right]]>
Wauquiez was elected head of the centre-right Republicans on Sunday, running on a hard-right platform that has seen him accused of cosying up to far-right National Front (FN) voters.

Twenty-four hours later, Xavier Bertrand, a party heavyweight from the northern Pas-de-Calais region, quit the Republicans -- the first of a handful of politicians to walk out.

"I no longer recognise my political family, so I've decided to quit," Bertrand, a moderate who served as the party's secretary-general from 2007 to 2010, said Monday evening, accusing Wauquiez of "aggressiveness".

On Tuesday, the mayor of the northern town of Roubaix, Guillaume Delbar, followed suit, as did two other Bertrand loyalists in the north.

Explaining his decision, Delbar said: "I cannot stay in a party whose leader did not choose clearly between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen".

Delbar was referring to Wauquiez's refusal to endorse Macron over the FN leader in this year's presidential election after the Republicans candidate, Francois Fillon, was knocked out of the race.

Mainstream parties of the left and right have traditionally rallied around the FN's opponent in the final round of elections to block the far-right's path to power.

But Wauquiez, a 42-year-old devout Catholic who takes a tough line on immigration and security, stopped short of backing Macron, only calling on voters to "not vote for Marine Le Pen".

Celebrating his election as party chief on Sunday, Wauquiez vowed to lead a "renaissance" of the right.

- 'I need you' -

He romped to victory over two little-known rivals, winning 75 percent of the votes cast by close to 100,000 party members.

But he faces a tough task to rebuild the once powerful party -- it changed its name from UMP to Republicans in 2015 -- which has lost millions of voters and several party heavyweights to Macron.

Analysts have said the only way the Republicans can survive Macron's centrist offensive is by tacking to the right to win voters from the FN -- at the risk of turning off more moderates.

On Tuesday, Wauquiez took a swipe at the departing Bertrand, saying it was "unacceptable to slam the door in this way".

But he also attempted to heal party divisions.

"Come as you are. I need you," he was quoted as telling Republicans lawmakers at a meeting, calling for "unity".

]]>
12/12/2017 6:32:41 PM
<![CDATA[Jordanian king meets King monarch to discuss Jerusalem]]>
The Jordanian Royal Cabinet said that both kings discussed, in the presence of the Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II and a number of officials from both sides, regional issues and the deep-rooted and historic relations between the two brotherly countries in all fields.

The two kings conferred about the consequences of the US' decision on the security and stability of the region, as well as on the efforts aimed at achieving peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The Jordanian king stressed the need to coordinate the Arab position and to unite efforts, as well as communicating with the international community over the Jerusalem issue.

The talks also focused on constant coordination and consultation between both countries over issues of common interest for the two sides, in a way which would achieve the interests of the Arab nations and boost security and stability in the world. ]]>
12/12/2017 6:29:39 PM
<![CDATA[Syria forces not yet victorious but IS already defeated]]>
On Saturday, the Baghdad government declared the end of a huge military effort that saw Iraqi forces painstakingly reclaim every little piece of the third of the country the jihadists controlled three years ago.

The Syrian side of the "caliphate" IS proclaimed in 2014 has also disintegrated, with now only gaggles of fighters launching short-lived attacks or clinging to small pockets where they are completely besieged.

IS no longer controls a single town in Syria and while it may still count several thousand fighters among its ranks, observers expect Damascus to declare final victory before the end of the year.

Syria's top ally Russia called it last week when senior military officer Sergei Rudskoi claimed "Syria has been completely liberated from fighters of this terrorist organisation".

On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron argued that was slightly premature and predicted that "military operations against Daesh (IS) in Syria will continue until mid- to late February".

Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, argued that IS was now largely rudderless and that surviving units were essentially fending for themselves.

"There no longer is one central command giving orders. IS has been turned into groups scattered over Syria," said Abdel Rahman, whose monitoring group relies on a wide network of sources across the country.

The group's fighters are most active in Syria's eastern Deir Ezzor province, where they are defending the last specks of land that used to be part of their "caliphate".

Several hundred fighters remain in that province alone, not enough to plan any realistic territorial reconquest but enough to cause damage in guerrilla-style attacks.

According to Abdel Rahman, 23 pro-government forces were killed Monday in an attack near Albu Kamal, the last major town IS controlled fully before it eventually lost it in November.

- Dregs of the caliphate -

IS is still active in the following areas:

+ The group still holds 18 villages on the eastern side of the Euphrates river in Deir Ezzor province, according to the Observatory.

+ It controls a small area in the northeastern province of Hasakeh, which Kurdish-led forces hope to reclaim swiftly.

+ The jihadists also hold remote areas in the central Homs province, mostly two pockets which the regime is expected to take on soon.

+ IS fighters are also in a small sliver of Hama province, further north, where they are battling jihadists from a rival group.

+ IS also has a presence in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk, in Damascus, but IS fighters there have been besieged for years.

+ The group also has fixed positions in two other areas of southern Damascus, Hajar al-Aswad and Tadamun.

+ In the southern province of Daraa, fighters affiliated to IS also have a small presence.

- No cohesion -

"We will probably witness the end of IS as a land-holding force very soon but it will keep existing through sleeper cells," Abdel Rahman said.

As the myriad of anti-jihadist forces clawed back land from IS over the past three years, thousands of routed jihadists are believed to have simply melted back into the desert or blended into civilian life.

The "caliphate" was doomed almost from birth and IS has long begun morphing back into an insurgency that can still strike almost anywhere in Iraq and Syria with deadly suicide attacks.

"It has tried to maintain governance where it exercises formal and full control, but the norm now is functioning as an insurgent group," said Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, an academic and expert on jihadists.

The whereabouts and current level of involvement of IS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are unknown. The group no longer has a clear centre of power and its once unstoppable propaganda machine is sputtering out a now anaemic production.

"I am sure there is still a chain of command but the overall structure is likely less cohesive than before," Tamimi said.

]]>
12/12/2017 6:12:34 PM
<![CDATA[EU withdraws support for Cambodia election.]]>
A Supreme Court ruling last month dissolved the main opposition to the incumbent Cambodian People's Party (CPP) after Hun Sen intensified his attacks on them with elections looming next year.

In a statement the European Union described the ruling as arbitrary and said as a result the election "cannot be seen as legitimate".

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) had won almost 45 percent of the vote in the 2013 national elections and nearly the same proportion in this year's local polls.

Its electoral success posed a threat to the 32-year rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who wants to press ahead with the elections despite international outcry over his assault on Cambodia's fragile democracy.

The EU said that the Supreme Court's decision and the subsequent reallocation of the opposition's national and local seats to other parties "denies the choice of those who voted for the party in the elections in 2013 and 2017".

Support provided by the EU to Cambodia's National Election Committee (NEC) includes funding for voter education materials, deployment of advisers, and assistance for a preliminary results management system.

National Election Committee deputy secretary-general Som Sorida expressed disappointment with the EU statement, but said other supporters, including Japan, South Korea, China and Russia remained in place.

In recent months, Cambodia's government has launched a sweeping crackdown on dissent and other perceived challenges to the regime, arresting CNRP leader Kem Sokha and sending dozens of lawmakers fleeing into exile to avoid a similar fate.

Hun Sen, who rose to power in the aftermath of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime, has said he wants to remain in office for another decade or so.

Analysts say US President Donald Trump's hands-off approach to human rights issues paired with support from regional behemoth China have emboldened Hun Sen to throw off any pretence to democracy and turn Cambodia into a one-party state.

But while Hun Sen has praised Trump's no-nonsense style, Washington has also taken steps to censure Cambodia for its recent actions, putting visa restrictions on senior officials this month and withdrawing its own support for the country's election authority in November.

Hun Sen has doubled down his position and has yet to face any protests about his attack on the opposition and democracy.

On Tuesday he said that his government did the "right thing" in dissolving the CNRP, in comments clearly alluding to the party and its leadership but that did not mention them by name.

"Though the head was cut, the body was destroyed, but the bad intentions of those who stand behind them have not subsided yet," Hun Sen said, adding "we must keep a careful eye on them."

]]>
12/12/2017 6:02:31 PM
<![CDATA[Draft amendments to inhibit prison visits to terror convicts]]>
The draft amendments consist of banning prison visits to terrorism convicts for two years, starting from the date the verdict is issued, to avoid any potential planning to launch terror attacks jeopardizing national security.

The MP suggests depriving terrorism prisoners of exceptional visits allowed during religious occasions, as well as any type of pardon, including presidential ones. Nasr el-Din told press that the proposed amendments aim to cut communication between members of terrorist organizations locally and abroad.


]]>
12/12/2017 12:54:43 PM
<![CDATA[More summits on Jerusalem: Saudi-Jordanian leaders convene ]]>
King Abdullah II bin al-Hussein is expected to arrive in Riyadh to convene with Saudi King Salman bin Abdel Aziz and Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salaman. The Saudi-Jordanian summit will tackle recent developments in the Arab region, most notably the American announcement over Jerusalem.

Jordan_s_King_Abdullah_(R)_welcomes_Saudi_Arabia_s_Deputy_Crown_Prince_and_Defence_Minister_Mohammed_bin_Salman_at_the_Royal_Palace_in_Amman_-AFP
Jordan's King Abdullah (R) welcomes Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman at the Royal Palace in Amman - AFP

The Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) plans to hold an emergency summit in Istanbul to discuss recent regional developments, especially pertaining to Jerusalem. Most OIC members are expected to attend, such as Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry and Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad.

On Monday, Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo and discussed means to confront the American announcement.

“Palestinians have changed their defensive attitude to attacking attitude against the American administration stances regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the occupied lands of Jerusalem,” Palestinian sources in Ramallah told Pan-Arab Al-hayat on Tuesday, adding that Abbas is expected to announce expelling the U.S. from any Palestinian-Israeli talks after Trump officially declared Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The sources stressed that “Abbas is backed by Europe, Russia, China, many UNSC member states and Arab countries, most importantly Egypt and Saudi Arabia.”

Israeli_forces_detain_a_Palestinian_protester_during_clashes_that_followed_protests_against_US_President_Donald_Trump_recognising_Jerusalem_as_the_capital_of_Israel,_in_Hebron
Israeli forces detain a Palestinian protester during clashes that followed protests against US President Donald Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Hebron- AFP

During his electoral campaign last year, Trump repeatedly promised to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and acknowledge Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital.

In April, Moscow announced its recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, expressing hope that the city’s eastern half might eventually serve as the capital of an independent Palestine.

Trump
President Donald Trump addresses the 2016 American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C. - AFP

The EU’s Foreign policy Chief Federica Mogherini rejected a call made by Israel’s prime minister to follow the U.S. in recognizing Jerusalem as the country’s capital, adding, during a news conference in Brussels, that there was “full EU unity” in support of the status quo.

Palestine’s Abbas, Egypt’s Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb and Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark Pope Tawadros II announced their refusal to meet with U.S.’s Vice President Mike Pence, who plans to visit the Arab region next week, in the aftermath of the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

pence
US Vice-President Mike Pence speaks as he attends the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the UN vote calling for "the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel", at Queens Museum in New York-AFP

Pence will meet President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to highlight U.S.-Egypt cooperation on security issues. "President Trump has directed me to go to the Middle East in late December," Pence said in a keynote speech delivered at the “In Defense of Christians” annual solidarity dinner for Christians in the Middle East.

His trip will also take him to Israel during Hanukkah to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, without meeting any official from the Palestinian side, AFP asserted on Monday. ]]>
12/12/2017 12:52:24 PM
<![CDATA[Israeli forces fire at Palestinian fishing boats near Gaza]]>
Palestinian fishing boats have been subject to daily attacks by Israeli boats, reported Palestine Today.

Four Palestinians were killed, and 1,632 were wounded in the aftermath of the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital to which the U.S. Embassy will be moved. Up to 1,327 people were injured in the West Bank and 305 in the Gaza Strip.

"On Monday, 146 Palestinian protesters were wounded in clashes with the Israeli forces; 77 were injured in the Gaza Strip and 69 in the West Bank," the Palestinian Health Ministry said in a statement published by the official WAFA news agency.

Al-Quds TV channel reported on Saturday that Israel launched airstrikes firing two missiles on Qadisiyyah, southern Gaza Strip, and three missiles on Badr in Gaza’s center.

Israel also targeted the Civil Administration headquarters in northern Gaza with two missiles. The attacks resulted in material losses, and fires in all targeted areas, according to Al-Quds TV channel.

On Friday, the Israeli military claimed that the airstrikes which caused two deaths, were in retaliation to an alleged attack by Hamas firing rockets on Israeli towns, and that they targeted a militant training camp, and a weapons depot, according to Reuters.

A member of the Fatah Central Committee Azam al-Ahmed denied in a TV phone interview on Friday that Hamas fired any rockets at Israel. ]]>
12/12/2017 12:20:54 PM
<![CDATA[Grand Imam discusses with senior scholars Jerusalem issue ]]>
Al-Azhar is finalizing the preparatory meetings comprising a number of experts to organize the international conference for the support of Jerusalem. The conference goals are: asserting the rejection of turning Jerusalem into Israel’s capital and discussing practical steps to strengthen the Arab and Palestinian identity of Jerusalem.

The conference will be held in January in collaboration with the Council of Muslim Sages. Invitations will be sent to senior scholars, politicians, as well as all regional and international organizations concerned with the Palestinian cause.

The conference was called for by Grand Imam Tayeb after the U.S. announcement on Wednesday. Sheikh Tayeb warned that such “unjust and inhumane” decisions would just promote hatred between people. The Grand Imam cancelled on Friday his meeting with U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence, which was due to take place on December 20 during Pence's Middle East tour. ]]>
12/12/2017 10:59:06 AM
<![CDATA[Qatar’s military deals since rift]]>
Qatar signed a €6 billion (about $7 billion) deal to purchase 24 Typhoon fighters from Britain, BBC reported Sunday.

According to the British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson, the order of Typhoons is the biggest in a decade.

Williamson and his Qatari counterpart Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah also signed an agreement for establishing a Joint Operational Squadron between both countries’ air forces, according to a statement by Qatar’s armed forces.

During his visit to Doha on December 7, French President Emmanuel Macron said he agreed on some $14.13 billion deals with Qatar, AP reported.

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A French navy Rafale Marine aircraft launches from USS Carl Vinson - Official U.S. Navy Page / Flickr

The deals included the purchase of 12 French-made Rafale fighter jets. Qatar said it would possibly purchase 36 more fighter jets, Reuters reported.

Qatar also agreed to purchase 490 VBCI armored vehicles from French Nexter.

The U.S. Department of Defense said in a press release that Raytheon, U.S. defense contractor, will install and maintain ‘Patriot’ air defense systems for the armed forces of Qatar, Sputnik reported on December 2.

Raytheon, the world's largest producer of guided missiles, was awarded a more than $150-million foreign military sales contract to carry out the process.

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U.S. Patriot missiles stand guard over Gaziantep, Turkey in 2013 – U.S. Army Europe / Flickr

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani said in August that Qatar sealed a deal with Italy worth about $5.9 billion to purchase seven navy vessels, according to Reuters.

Only few days after the Arab quartet boycotted Qatar, Qatar signed a $12billion deal in June to purchase 36 (F-15) jets from the U.S., Bloomberg News reported.

A pentagon agency said in November that the U.S. approved a possible $1.1 billion to service Qatar’s F-15QA fighter aircraft program.

In an interview with Sky News, former Egyptian Ambassador to Qatar Mohammed al-Menessy said that he sought the reason behind Qatar’s keenness to construct Al-Udeid Air Base.

According to Menessy, former Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber told him that the real danger on Qatar comes from its Gulf neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia.

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An aerial overhead view of "Ops Town" – Al-Udeid Air Base / U.S. Air Force

The Al-Udeid Air Base is a military base established in 1996 in the southwest of Doha. The base hosts more than 11,000 U.S. and coalition service members, and more than 100 aircrafts, according to media reports.

In an interview with TV host Lamees el-Hadidy, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that the Arab Quartet will not resort to using military force with Qatar, as the Qatari crisis is a “very small problem.”

On June 5, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Libya and Yemen decided to cut all diplomatic ties with Qatar, hurling allegations that the state supports terrorism.]]>
12/12/2017 9:17:11 AM
<![CDATA[UN, partners launch $4.4 billion regional appeal for more than 5 million Syrian refugees]]>
Well over five million Syrians need help, according to Amin Awad, the Director for the Middle East and North Africa of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

He added that nearly four million people in countries neighboring Syria including Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq also need relief after years spent supporting those displaced since fighting began in 2011.

“Syria remain uncontested the biggest humanitarian crisis of out time. Seven million inside plus 5.3 million outside; 12.3 million people. Another 10 million who stayed put in Syria did not leave their homes but they are cut off. They're cut off (from) livelihoods, services in education, health, separated from relatives, friends and they are in need also of humanitarian assistance. The whole nation is in need of humanitarian assistance,” Awad explained.

The UNHCR official said that the situation of 1.7 million Syrian refugee children was particularly worrying, as more than four in 10 are out of school.]]>
12/12/2017 5:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Europe rejects Trump's Jerusalem move]]>
Opposition from across the European spectrum came as Netanyahu made the first official trip to the EU by a sitting Israeli premier in 22 years.

Sweden’s top diplomat, Margot Wallstrom, said after the meeting "I have a hard time seeing that any other country would do that and I don’t think any other EU country will do it."

The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, reiterated the bloc’s commitment to a two-state solution, telling Netanyahu it would continue to recognize the international consensus on Jerusalem. The EU would increase its peace efforts and hold talks with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, next month, she said. ]]>
12/12/2017 4:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Opinion: Ali Abdullah Saleh’s death and Iran’s growing power]]>
Saleh was constantly playing with fire. He allied with Houthis – the old enemies he had fought for almost a decade, from 2004 to 2011. He then allied with Saudi Arabia after the 2011 protests, and then again defied Saudi Arabia. His tragic death was only expected.

The Houthis’ killing of Saleh and their launch of Iranian ballistic missiles against Saudi Arabia both indicate their growing power, which reflects Iranian power and regional domination, especially with the conclusion of the nuclear agreement. In addition, Houthis are seeking to punish the people of Sanaa and to detain and persecute members of the General People’s Congress – Saleh’s political party.

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Houthi followers rally to celebrate the killing of Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Looking at the consequences of Saleh’s death, we see that his alliance with Houthis was based on mutual benefits. Saleh benefitted from the military power Iran and Hezbollah gave Houthis. Houthis benefitted from Saleh’s army and the Yemeni intelligence apparatus affiliated to it.

After Saleh’s death, there is no doubt that Houthis have become the only major power in Yemen, as they proved their military power. Saleh’s forces may have succeeded in taking over some buildings as military bases, but Houthis got back and regained control of them. All this demonstrates that the conflict in Yemen will endure and that the armed conflict will go on unresolved. Negotiations could be held with the Sunni alliance, but under stricter conditions in favor of Houthis, as they control a vast area of Yemen.

The Houthis’ power in Yemen is growing, thanks to the support that Iran provides, and especially with the conclusion of the nuclear deal with it. The deal raised many concerns about the financial resources to be under Iran’s beck and call once sanctions are lifted.

Most experts agree that the deal did not push Iran to change its core political or ideological tendencies, and that it continued supporting its regional agents. This understanding is important when trying to assess the results of the nuclear deal with Iran, and when figuring out the steps that should be taken to minimize the potential negative outcomes of it.

The Houthis’ firing of ballistic missiles against Saudi Arabia was a new development. Iran keeps providing financial and military support and training to Houthis, including sending many shipments of arms.

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A view of damage on a street where Houthis have recently clashed with forces loyal to slain Yemeni former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah


Yemen matters to Iran only because of the Mandeb Strait and Saudi borders, as Saudi Arabia is Iran’s regional enemy. Therefore, Iran has no serious or strategic interests in Yemen, as it does in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Rather, Yemen constitutes a space to further expand Iran’s political power in the region to compete with the Saudi enemy.

Iran is seeking to drag Saudi Arabia into the messy Yemeni situation in order for Iran to take full control of the Syrian and Iraqi situations. Yemen shares borders with Saudi borders, and Iranian intervention and support of Houthis constitutes a threat to Saudi national security. Yemen could thus be used as a pretext to pressure Saudi Arabia about other regional issues, so Iranian gains are primarily political.

Iranian interests in Yemen are also based on its foreign policy, which promotes its ideology and the “revolutionary example” it is constantly trying to set. It is a pillar of its foreign policy, which depends on its ideology and relationship with Shia groups in the Arab region, which it uses to interfere in the internal affairs of Arab countries.

Perhaps regional and international agents must try to curb Iran and impose restrictions on its reaping the benefits of the nuclear agreement and the lifting of economic sanctions. This would impede its ability to meet its commitments toward the militias it supports.

In addition, regional cooperation must be achieved in order to confront the danger of the expanding non-state powers, like Hezbollah and Houthis, through developing a strategy and tactics that deal with these militias’ military doctrine, which integrates patterns of regular armies and their military approaches, as well as gang wars.

From the above, we conclude that Saudi Arabia has none other than two options. It could continue the war in Yemen while the humanitarian situation keeps deteriorating, but this will probably not work out. Sunni alliance forces have not been able to resolve the conflict militarily for years, and they have no ground forces.

The other option is negotiation with Houthis, either through reaching middle grounds as each party provides concessions, or resorting to the Security Council to issue a resolution forcing all parties to cease fighting and start negotiations. In this case, Arabs must emphasize that Iran’s intervention by supporting Houthis is a form of incitement and civil war-mongering in another country, which falls under the prohibition of the use of force against another state, according to the United Nations Charter. This makes the Yemeni crisis a threat to regional peace and security, not forgetting its disastrous humanitarian consequences, as this war progresses from bad to worse.

If Saudi Arabia pursues war, it and the Sunni alliance must support Ali Saleh’s son, commander of the Republican Guard loyal to Saleh, and foster coordination and cooperation between him and the forces of Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi’s vice president. They must support members of the General People’s Congress loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh and those also loyal to Mansur Hadi and his supporters. This means Saudi Arabia must work to reconcile these groups for them to work against Houthis.

The Yemeni crisis needs to be resolved promptly. The deadlock that the crisis reached and its prolongation leads to the further deterioration of the humanitarian situation around seven billion Yemenis are suffering from.



Yemenis are suffering from famine. About a million people are suffering from the cholera outbreaks. There are approximately three million Yemeni refugees.

A “deferred” crisis might even start if no political reconciliation is reached that satisfies all parties. This would include tribal and familial retaliation among Yemenis, as Houthis killed many of them, especially those who supported Ali Abdullah Saleh. ]]>
12/12/2017 1:37:35 AM
<![CDATA[146 Palestinians wounded in clashes over Jerusalem]]>
There were 77 injured in the Gaza Strip and 69 in the West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said in a statement carried by official WAFA news agency.

Hospitals treated 50 of those wounded, it added. ]]>
12/12/2017 1:12:50 AM
<![CDATA[UN warns tough N. Korea sanctions risk hurting millions]]>
Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein told the Security Council Monday that a chronic lack of food, partly due to resources which are diverted to the military, has made humanitarian aid provided by the UN and others "literally a lifeline for some 13 million acutely vulnerable individuals."

He urged the council to assess the human rights impact of sanctions that have slowed aid deliveries and minimize the humanitarian consequences.

Zeid also criticized China for returning North Koreans who escape from their country, saying they "are routinely subjected to multiple forms of torture and ill-treatment." ]]>
12/12/2017 1:08:14 AM
<![CDATA[Abul-Gheit asserts Arab League support for Palestinian cause]]>
The meeting deeply discussed ways to deal with with US president Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

It also dealt with Arab diplomatic action planned to be taken to reduce negative impacts of the US decision.

Abbas reviewed during the meeting steps to be taken by the Palestinian side to respond to the unfair decision that isolates the US and undermined its role as a historic sponsor of the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel,
said spokesman for the pan-Arab body Mahmoud Afifi .

Abul Gheit termed as clear and firm the Arab consensus on rejecting and condemning the US decision.

He said that the Arab League will continue to move on the diplomatic and media tracks, as mandated by a recent meeting of the Arab foreign minsiter, to turn this position into concrete steps.

The Arab League will not hesitate to support any position or course the Palestinians decide to take to respond to the unjust US decision, he said. ]]>
12/12/2017 1:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egyptian, Palestinian presidents discuss Jerusalem in Cairo]]>
President Sisi stressed Egypt’s stance on the necessity of preserving the historical and legal status of Jerusalem within the framework of related international references and United Nations resolutions, in addition to Egypt’s support for the “legitimate rights” of Palestinian people to establish their own state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Abbas displayed all Palestinian efforts deployed throughout the year to resume peace talks, stipulating that the U.S. decision was surprising, as the Palestinian Authority showed resilience to reach the two-state solution in accordance with the guidelines embodied in establishing a Palestinian state within the borders of June 4, 1967, and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Both leaders discussed possible measures that can be taken on the international scale to address the alarming repercussions of the U.S. decision, as well as preserving the Palestinian national reconciliation for its strategic importance in the current critical situation.

Abbas expressed his appreciation for Egypt’s continuous support for the Palestinian cause, asserting that mutual coordination and consultation would persist. The Palestinian president met earlier with Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit to discuss the steps Arab countries would take to confront the U.S. decision.]]>
12/11/2017 10:05:47 PM
<![CDATA[Hungary not planning to move embassy to Jerusalem]]>
"This (option) has not come up," Orban told reporters in response to a question in parliament according to an audio recording of his remarks published on the website of private broadcaster HirTV.

"Hungary sees no reason to change its Middle East policy," Orban said. "We will continue with the balanced politics we have been pursuing." He did not elaborate.

On Friday Hungary blocked a statement planned by all EU 28 governments in response to Trump's announcement and the Foreign Ministry said Hungary was in favor of a negotiated solution in the Middle East. ]]>
12/11/2017 9:32:45 PM
<![CDATA[Morawiecki sworn in as Polish PM amid dispute with EU]]>
Poland's ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) is at odds with the EU over immigration, logging in an ancient forest and government attempts to control the courts and the media. Critics say the eurosceptic party's policies have subverted democracy and the rule of law.

At the same time, acrimony between Tusk and the PiS dates back years. Poland, acting on orders from the PiS boss and long-time Tusk adversary Jaroslaw Kaczynski, was the sole member of the 28 EU members to vote in March against Tusk's re-election.

Morawiecki, 49, replaced Beata Szydlo, who became a deputy prime minister. PiS sacked the popular Szydlo last week in a bid to improve Poland's image abroad and prepare the conservatives for a series of elections.

Morawiecki will remain finance minister and economy minister. All other ministers have kept their jobs for now, although some ministerial changes are expected in weeks to come.

Morawiecki said his government will continue the work of Szydlo. He is expected to outline his policies on Tuesday.

Tusk, a former Polish prime minister before PiS came to power in 2015, said he counts on good cooperation.

"Acting for Poland's strong position in the European Union and for the unity of all member states is the need of the moment," Tusk wrote.

Former Polish President Lech Walesa, who is a critic of the PiS said on Twitter: "The circus has stayed the same, only the clowns have changed their roles." Walesa led protests and strikes that shook communist rule in the 1980s.

Szydlo's government was one of the most popular in Poland since the 1989 collapse of communism. It registered around 40 percent approval due to low unemployment, increases in public spending and a focus on traditional Catholic values in public life.]]>
12/11/2017 9:21:22 PM
<![CDATA[Putin’s visit: Dabaa project sealed, Russian flights pending]]>
Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant

Putin and Sisi witnessed the signing of the Dabaa nuclear power plant contracts between the Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy and Russian nuclear firm Rosatom. The contracts cover designing and constructing the plant, supplying nuclear fuel, consulting services for operation and maintenance, and fuel recycling.

The plant includes four third-generation reactors with a capacity of 1,200 megawatts (MW) each, for a total of 4,800 megawatts. The plant will be built on approximately 12,000 feddans and is expected to create over 50,000 job opportunities. The first reactor will be accomplished in 2026, while the rest will be finished in 2028.

A preliminary agreement was signed by Egypt and Russia in November 2015 to build a nuclear power plant in Dabaa, along with a $25 billion loan to cover 85 percent of the plant, with Egypt funding the remaining 15 percent. Local funding for the first two reactors will be 20 and 25 percent respectively, and will gradually increase to 35 percent for the other two reactors.

Jerusalem

Both leaders discussed the recent decision by the United States to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, and its repercussions on the region. The president and his Russian counterpart agreed on the necessity of adhering to the United Nations (U.N.) resolutions on Jerusalem’s status.

Syria

The talks included the potential political settlements in Syria and Libya. Both leaders agreed on increasing the de-confliction spots, which would support the negotiations led by the U.S. delegate to Syria.

Putin told President Sisi that he would inform him of the details of his meeting with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad earlier on Monday, and he also stressed “the many upcoming good projects, including the Dabaa nuclear power plant.”

Russia Today reported that Putin told the Egyptian president that he would also update him on Russia’s agreements with the leaderships of Turkey and Iran regarding the next steps of the political settlement in Syria.

Counterterrorism

Both presidents agreed on strengthening the exchange of information between both countries on anti-terrorism efforts, especially regarding the issue of terrorists fleeing instable spots to other countries. Sisi also highlighted that it is crucial for countries to inhibit the passage of terrorists through their territories, as well as reporting any relevant information to other countries and entitled international organizations.

Economic relations

Putin announced that a protocol will be signed by Russia and Egypt soon in order to resume direct flights from Russia to Egypt, as they have been halted after a plane carrying Russian tourists crashed over Sinai in 2015.

Later on, Russian Minister of Transport Maksim Sokolov stated that Russia is ready to sign a protocol with Egypt to resume direct passenger flights from Russia to Egypt this week, according to Reuters. Sokolov added that EgyptAir and Russian Aeroflot flights may resume in February.

On the other hand, President Sisi said that Egypt is looking forward to increasing Russian investment in Egypt, especially in the Russian industrial zone in the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone).

"Russia is giving huge importance to its economic ties with Egypt," Putin said, noting that the project is expected to amount to $7 billion serving industrial and logistics sectors. The size of Egyptian-Russian trade reached $4 billion in 2017, Putin added. ]]>
12/11/2017 9:15:46 PM
<![CDATA[Iraq in jubilation after ousting of ISIS]]>
Iraq has been captured by warfare for decades now. As coup after coup took place in the late 1950s and 1960s, Iraq soon found itself embroiled in major conflicts with Iran and the U.S. Traditional inter-state warfare wasn’t enough to satisfy the needs of Saddam Hussein, who crushed any whiff of domestic dissent with brute force and vengeance.

The 2003 U.S.-led invasion promised to sow the seeds of change and prosperity in a country reeling from the effects of extensive sanctions initiated after the Gulf War. “How could the overwhelming firepower of the U.S. not result in a resounding success?” These were the initial expectations of former U.S. President George W. Bush in his presumptuous “Mission Accomplished” speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. Although in hindsight Bush said he regretted this message, it set the scene for what would prove to be a major miscalculation of U.S. foreign policy.

With Saddam captured, Bush confidently broadcasted that the “dark era” for Iraq was over; however, it had only just begun.

These ancient Mesopotamian lands are far from easy to conquer, as many have tried and failed throughout history. Bush’s claim was followed by years of conflict, as insurgency and guerrilla warfare met counter-insurgency and the might of the U.S.-led coalition. Lines were drawn in sectarian sand, which spiralled uncontrollably and led to the rise of ISIS, who eventually captured a third of the country.

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Shias and Sunnis are being rallied to prevent ISIS from -destroying the country - REUTERS

Iraq has, once again, become a “liberated” country. 1,284 days after ISIS marched into Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and 1,253 days since Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi stood in the coveted al-Nuri Mosque and formally declared the foundation of his caliphate, ISIS no longer holds ground. The group was ousted from the country in a prolonged and multinational operation that has been deemed a victory, a success if you will.

But what parameters stipulate success? In this case, the absence of territory held by ISIS is the success. But it is a success that has come at great cost, and a success that suffers more challenges in this final stage.

The victory of the Iraqi security forces, Peshmerga, Hashd al-Shaabi and the international anti-ISIS coalition in crushing the spine of ISIS in Iraq is an undeniably commendable feat that many would have thought was unattainable just three years ago. However, the path of destruction left behind will take decades to repair. While ISIS holds no territory, it lurks in the shadows with members behind any door, in any market or any mosque waiting for the call to fight.

A promising future in Iraq requires a fundamental shift in the political and formal military structure, away from a fragmented state that allows individuals and militia the opportunity to fight for control. Individuals such as Hadi Al-Amiri wield vast influence, both political and military, while advancing the hostile interests of neighbouring Iran. These threats, which entrenched themselves in the context of ISIS’s expansion in Iraq, remain a major threat to the country and the population at large. Although a victory over ISIS has been won, many more victories will be needed.

Twitter:

@joseph_colonna

]]>
12/11/2017 8:07:59 PM
<![CDATA[Russia positions itself as Middle East broker ]]>
Trump’s decision, which includes the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, could possibly put the U.S. out of future peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel. Speculations ensued as to who would be a substitute for the U.S. as the main power player in the region.

Trump showed no sign of backtracking his decision, leaving the region enraged and thousands of Arabs protesting across the world.

The gap presumably left by the U.S. after a short-lived thaw with regional powers is now seeing Russia eager to fill the position of Middle East peace broker. On December 8, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared his deep concerns over Washington’s decision on Jerusalem, showing great interest in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Putin visited Cairo on Monday as part of a regional tour that included Syria and Turkey. During the visit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he discussed with President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi speeding up joint steps needed to resume direct passenger flights that have halted between both states since 2015.

Egypt is looking forward to increasing Russian investment in Egypt, especially in the Russian industrial zone in the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone), Sisi said Monday.

During a conference with Putin, Sisi signed the initial agreement to start working on the Dabaa nuclear power plant.

Putin told the Egyptian president that he would also update him on Russia’s agreements with the leaderships in Turkey and Iran regarding the next steps of the political settlement in Syria.

“Everyone now looks at Moscow as the key arbiter that needs to be consulted on every major issue in the Middle East,” Ilan Goldenberg, chief of staff to the U.S. special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations under former President Barak Obama, told VICE News.

Political expert Abdullah El Sinawy told Egypt Today that Russia exploits the mistakes of other countries to further its relations in the Middle East for its strategic interests, as Trump’s decision would harm its interests as well as the interests of European countries.

Russia has dramatically raised its profile in the region since launching a military operation in 2015 that supported Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in the face of rebel forces and its attempts to help find a political settlement for Syria’s long-running civil war.

These efforts are now led by Russia in partnership with Iran and Turkey, organizing local cease-fires and creating “de-escalation zones” to reduce the violence in Syria.

Russia also announced in November plans to host Syrian groups and government representatives for political talks on November 18, just 10 days before a new round of U.N.-sponsored talks are to start in Geneva. Putin has courted closer ties with Egypt and NATO-member Turkey, as well as other countries in the region, in the recent years.

Besides backing different sides in the Syria war, Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Ankara in September. They said they wanted to see progress on the TurkStream gas pipeline from Russia to Turkey and the Akkuyu nuclear power plant being built in Turkey in collaboration with Russia.

Russia and Egypt have had warm relations. In September, Moscow and Cairo drafted an agreement to allow each country's military to use the other's air bases.

In addition, Moscow has stood by Tehran while Trump has refused to re-certify the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Across the Gulf states, King Salman of Saudi Arabia visited Moscow in October and signed multibillion-dollar energy deals with Russia.]]>
12/11/2017 6:45:21 PM
<![CDATA[Lebanon calls for cutting ties with US over Jerusalem ]]>
Samad asserted that power is needed to protect rights, adding that Israel is the enemy of all Arab nations. He called on all Arab and Islamic states to cut diplomatic ties with the U.S. and boycott all American products.

Dozens of Lebanese took to the streets on Sunday to protest American President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Lebanese security forces fired tear gas and water cannons at protesters near the U.S. embassy in Lebanon on Sunday during the demonstration, TV footage showed.

Protesters, some of them waving the Palestinian flag, set fires in the street and threw projectiles toward security forces, who barricaded the main road leading to the U.S. embassy in the Awkar area north of Beirut.

During an emergency meeting in Cairo on Saturday, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil stated that Arab nations must impose economic sanctions against the U.S. so as to prevent Washington from moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem.

"Pre-emptive measures must be taken against the decision […] beginning with diplomatic measures, then political, then economic and financial sanctions," said Bassil during the Saturday meeting of foreign ministers at the Arab League in Cairo, according to Reuters.

Basil's speech received blessing of all Arab delegations and journalists who attended the urgent summit in Cairo, as he affirmed that “I call you all for an Arab-Arab reconciliation for the salvation for the Arab nation and restoration of its dignity.”

“Let's call for an urgent Arab summit with the title of Jerusalem,” Basil said.

Arab foreign ministers unanimously rejected the U.S. decision during the emergency meeting, considering it invalid and in violation of international laws and U.N. Security Council resolutions.

They stressed their belief that the decision is illegal, as it undermines the peace process, deepens tensions and elicits anger.

They called on the U.S. to cancel its decision and work with the international community to oblige Israel to end its occupation of Palestine through a peaceful solution that guarantees the establishment of a state with Jerusalem as its capital.

They urged the Security Council to issue a resolution confirming that the U.S. decision contradicts internationally legitimate resolutions.

On this regard, Arab foreign ministers agreed to convene an emergency Arab summit in Jordan and also agreed to maintain the Council of the Arab League in permanent session in order to evaluate the situation and to agree on future steps.

They called for upholding the relevant Security Council resolutions that reject any shift in the current legal status of Jerusalem.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that U.S. President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital cast a shadow over the peace process in Palestine, describing the decision as a regrettable shift in American policy.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari called on taking unconventional decisions and not just data, as this decision will lead to tensions in the region and religious conflict.

Jordanian Foreign Affairs Minister Ayman El Safdy said that peace will not be achieved between Israel and Palestine without Jerusalem, declaring Jordan's rejection of the U.S. decision.

Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that unilateral measures are null and void.

Saudi Arabia expressed its total rejection of the U.S. policy toward Jerusalem. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that Saudi Arabia has warned that any U.S. declaration on Jerusalem would have a negative impact on peace negotiations, undermine the efforts already exerted and provoke Palestinians.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki expressed his regret for the U.S. policy, as there is no peace without Palestine and no Palestine without Jerusalem.
]]>
12/11/2017 6:38:31 PM
<![CDATA[Russian tourism return and promoting bilateral relations]]>
With the historical visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Egypt on Monday, many workers in the tourism sector expect a major breakthrough in returning Russian aviation and tourists to Egypt as soon as possible.

The return of Russian tourism is a priority on Sisi's agenda with Putin, as it represents a strong boost to the Egyptian-Russian cooperation. Several experts expected a tourism protocol to be signed on Monday’s visit.

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Photo: 1: Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) meets with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) in Cairo, Egypt December 11, 2017 - REUTERS/Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool

The tourism issue, which is considered an issue of security, not politics, would show how Egypt is capable of attracting more Russian investment in the coming period.

The two most important issues to be discussed in this visit are the return of Russian tourism and the Dabaa nuclear power plant, stated Sherif Gad, director of the Russian Cultural Center, to Akhbar Al-Youm.

The bilateral relations between Egypt and Russia need to extend the communication bridge, particularly after an era of cold relations, added Gad.

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Photo: 2 : President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi receives his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, December 11, 2017 – Press Photo

Russian aviation and tourism were suspended after a Russian airplane was downed in Sinai on October 31, 2015, followed by measures and actions relevant to security requested by the Russian delegations for resuming flights between the two countries.

Egyptian airports are now equipped with the latest security mechanisms, including x-ray scanning devices and storage of footage from security cameras, as well as a fingerprint verification system for airport employees to control their entry and exit and to check the identity of individuals going beyond the customs section and the airstrips.

Russian inspection committees inspected Egyptian airports in the hopes of resuming direct flights as soon as possible, announcing that Egypt has become ready for the resumption of Russian flights.

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Photo: 3: Russian President Vladimir Putin with President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, 11 December 2017- Photo screenshot from OnLive

The most significant developments that President Sisi will discuss with his Russian counterpart are the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the death of former Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh by Iran-backed Houthi militias.

Sisi and Putin will discuss issues of common interest and tackle means of boosting the two countries’ cooperation in various fields, most notably the commercial, military and transportation fields.

Both leaders will attend the inauguration of Egypt's first nuclear power plant, which is located at the Mediterranean city of Dabaa in Marsa Matrouh, Egyptian Minister of Electricity Mohamed Shaker previously told Egypt Today.

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Photo: 4: President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi during his meeting with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in China - Press photo

A Russian delegation consisting of 35 officials arrived in Cairo on Thursday to prepare for Putin's visit to the capital, according to security forces at Cairo International Airport.

On September 5, Sisi invited Putin to attend the final signing ceremony of the Dabaa plant in Egypt, and Putin announced that he accepted the invitation. Prime Minister Sherif Ismail announced that the foundation stone of the Dabaa nuclear power plant will be laid soon.

In February 2015, the Russian President visited Egypt and attended the signing of a number of deals between Cairo and Moscow.]]>
12/11/2017 6:35:52 PM
<![CDATA[Timeline: Egypt’s nuclear history]]>
1961– In cooperation with Russia, the Inshas nuclear research facility in Sharqiya governorate, 60 kilometers east of Cairo, was Egypt’s first trial to use atomic energy. It has been used in agriculture and industrial research.

1964 – Egypt intended to have a nuclear reactor and offered an international tender to build it in Sidi Krir, near Alexandria. However, the project stopped due the war with Israel in 1967, as well as the Three Mile Island accident, in which a U.S. reactor suffered a partial nuclear meltdown.

1981 – The notion of possessing a nuclear power plant was revived and Dabaa city was announced – per a presidential decree – as nuclear plant location. Dabaa is located in Marsa Martouh governorate, 183.9 miles from Cairo on the North Coast.

1982 – The government evacuated 500 families from their homes in Dabaa to make way for the plant.

2006 – Former President Hosni Mubarak announced he would revive the Dabaa project, but nothing was changed.

2011 – The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) announced during its one-year rule following the January 25 Revolution that Dabaa is a “suitable” location and that the government will pay compensation to evacuated residents.

2012 – Former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi promised to meet Dabaa residents’ demands for compensation.

2013 – Former Interim President Adly Mansour promised to revive the Dabaa project.

2014 – In his inauguration, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi announced the Dabaa plant would be built during his tenure. In November, Sisi agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia would cooperate in building the plant.

2015 – Russia and Egypt initialed nuclear cooperation agreements to build the nuclear plant. On Aug. 26, both countries signed contracts to build the first phase of the plant that includes four out of eight reactors. It was scheduled that Dabaa residents would receive their houses in the new Dabaa city, which was built by the armed forces in 2015.

2017 – Egypt’s parliament approved the deal with Russia. The Dabaa Atomic Technical School was built, while a new city for Dabaa residents is being constructed. President Sisi and Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend the ceremony of signing the final contracts of the project.

2022 – The trial operation of the nuclear reactors will be carried out; each reactor will produce 1,200 megawatts.]]>
12/11/2017 3:39:06 PM
<![CDATA[Merkel, Social Democrats seek clarity on coalition talks]]>
The conservatives, meeting on Monday to map out their negotiating positions, believe compromises can be reached to renew the “grand coalition” that governed for the past four years.

The two blocs must overcome differences over the future of Europe, pensions, health care and education.

Merkel, whose CDU/CSU alliance last month failed to cut a coalition deal with two smaller parties after an inconclusive national election in September, is due to brief the media at 1 pm (1200 GMT).

Senior conservatives on Saturday rejected the vision for a “United States of Europe” put forward by SPD leader Martin Schulz, weakened after his party posted its worst post-war election result in September.

But Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the conservative premier of the Saarland region, told broadcaster ARD that she hoped some progress could emerge from this week’s talks with the SPD. “Maybe we can take a first big step in this direction this week,” she said.

SPD Secretary General Lars Klingbeil told ARD his party was open to all possibilities, including a renewed coalition with conservatives or a minority government.

“The ball is now in Mrs. Merkel’s court,” Klingbeil said, adding that the pace of negotiations depended to a large extent on the core demands of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).

“The SPD made its positions clear at its party conference. Now we’ll listen to what the CDU leader wants, what the CSU wants, and it will be clear very quickly if further discussions are worth it,” he said.

A poll published on Monday by broadcaster RTL and n-tv showed 71 percent of SPD members welcomed the party’s decision to talk with conservatives about forming a new ruling coalition, while 81 percent wanted the party to conduct tough negotiations.

Klingbeil said his party would seek clear commitments from the CDU to spend more on education and combat childhood poverty before entering coalition talks.

Julia Kloeckner, deputy leader of the CDU, warned the SPD against making exaggerated demands and criticised comments Klingbeil made over the weekend suggesting that talks could stretch as long as May.

“If the SPD thinks we have time forever, that is not our view,” she said.

Monday’s poll showed that 71 percent of German voters favored rapid negotiations on forming a new government.

Kloeckner said it was clear that the two political blocs would have to revisit issues such as integration, digitalization and development of rural areas before agreeing to a new coalition.

“A continuation of the previous grand coalition cannot happen,” she said.]]>
12/11/2017 2:00:07 PM
<![CDATA[Philippines' Duterte seeks martial law extension for south]]>
In a letter to lawmakers released by his office, Duterte said extending martial law was necessary in the southern region of Mindanao to contain an ongoing rebellion by Islamic State group supporters as well as a rising threat from communist guerrillas.

"I ask the Congress of the Philippines to further extend the proclamation of Martial Law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao for a period of one year from 01 January 2018," the letter said.

Duterte initially imposed military rule across Mindanao, which covers the southern third of the country and is home to about 20 million people, in May to quell an uprising by IS supporters in Marawi city.

Hundreds of gunmen rampaged through Marawi, the mainly Catholic Philippines' Islamic capital, in what authorities said was part of a campaign to establish a Southeast Asian caliphate for IS.

A US and Chinese-backed military campaign took five months to defeat the militants, with the conflict claiming more than 1,100 lives and leaving large parts of Marawi in ruins.

Although Duterte declared in October that Marawi had been "liberated" and military chiefs said most militant leaders had been killed, authorities have continued to warn that others who escaped are regrouping and recruiting in Mindanao.

The initial period of martial law was limited by the constitution to 60 days. But lawmakers in July endorsed an extension until the end of this year.

Martial law is an extremely sensitive issue in the Philippines, after dictator Ferdinand Marcos used military rule as a key weapon in holding onto power a generation ago.

Duterte, who has praised Marcos, has repeatedly said he may impose martial law across the entire nation.

Rights groups and other critics warn Duterte is destroying democracy in the Philippines with strongman rule and a war on drugs that has claimed thousands of lives.

But many Filipinos continue to support Duterte, believing tough tactics are needed to solve deep-rooted problems such as the decades-long conflicts with Islamist militants and communists.

Duterte enjoys overwhelming support in both houses of Congress.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on Duterte's martial law extension request this week, lower house majority leader Rodolfo Farinas told AFP.]]>
12/11/2017 1:38:25 PM
<![CDATA[Jerusalem priority on Sisi's agendas with Putin, Abbas]]>
The most significant developments that President Sisi will discuss with his Russian and Palestinian counterparts are the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the death of Yemeni former President Ali Abdallah Saleh by Iran-backed Houthi militias.

Sisi is expected to meet with his Russian counterpart Putin, who visits Egypt upon an official invitation, at El-Ittihadya Palace in Heliopolis, eastern Cairo.

Sisi and Putin will discuss issues of common interest and tackle means of boosting the two countries’ cooperation in various fields, most notably commercial, military and transportation fields.

Both leaders will speak to media outlets in a press conference after their summit, which marks the eighth summit between the two leaders. The first meeting between the two leaders took place in February, 2014, when Sisi was still a defense minister.

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C) and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (L) visit a cafe at the Rosa Khutor resort in Sochi, August 12, 2014. REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

President Sisi received a historically valuable gift from Russian President Putin during his visit to Russia in August, 2014. The gift is a model of a Pharaonic funerary boat that Ancient Egyptians used to place in the tomb of the deceased as a symbol of the voyage to the afterlife; according to expert analysis the boat dates back to circa 2100 BC.

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President Abdel Fattah El Sisi received a model of a Pharaonic funerary boat Ancient Egyptians from Russian President Vladimir Putin- Press Photo

It is worth mentioning that the Jerusalem issue will be on the table of discussion between Sisi and Putin.

“We reaffirm our commitment to the UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which includes the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. At the same time, we must state that in this context we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Another summit between Egyptian President Sisi and Palestinian President Abbas is also scheduled to be held on Monday in Cairo to discuss the U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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President Abdel Fattah al Sisi (R) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L) in Cairo on September 11, 2015- Press Photo

President Sisi made a phone call with Abbas on Sunday, discussing the importance of intensifying the international contacts to show the negative repercussions of Trump’s decision, which contradicts with the international resolutions, according to the Egyptian Presidential Spokesperson Bassam Radi.

On Wednesday night, United States’ President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel during a televised speech from the White House. Trump’s decision was met by a barrage of criticism and condemnations from many Arab and world leaders, while protests took place in Gaza strip, West Bank as well as different parts of the Arab world.

Clashes broke out between Israeli forces and Palestinians in the West Bank on Friday; Israeli forces fired tear gas on the protesters, killing two Palestinians and injuring more than 300 others. On Saturday, the Israeli airstrikes killed two other Palestinians and injured dozens, raising the injured toll to 1,114 people, according to Palestinian Ministry of Health on Saturday.

Egypt’s Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb and Pope Tawadros II announced their rejection to meet with U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence, who will visit Egypt on December 20. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced his rejection to meet with Pence, although the White House has warned that rejecting Pence’s meeting could have negative consequences.

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President Abdel Fattah El Sisi inaugurated the Gaza Reconstruction Conference hosted by the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Kingdom of Norway on October 12, 2014- Press Photo ]]>
12/11/2017 1:20:48 PM
<![CDATA[Europe's migrant crisis: the ghosts of Sid]]>
Every morning in the freezing winter cold they head for a closed printing factory, the last stop before the border with the EU.

Under police watch and sometimes harangued by locals, volunteers from western countries give the travellers coffee, apples, eggs and water for a wash.

A generator is installed to charge mobile phones. They also provide tents, shoes, clothes.

Some migrants who camp in the nearby forest, away from the police gaze, have a long walk. Their clothes are muddy, their faces worn.

"I am broken," said a 28-year old Afghan who introduced himself as "Sirg" and spoke of cold Serbian nights in the woods.

"We think tomorrow we will be dead," he said.

He said he had tried more than 60 times to reach Croatia, even making it to Slovenia once. But every time he was intercepted and sent back to Serbia.

According to Andrea Contenta of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), some 5,000 migrants are currently stuck in Serbia, mostly in official reception centres.

Some 500 sleep rough in Sid, others are in Belgrade or the northern town of Sombor.

Their chances of getting out of Serbia are steadily diminishing with borders increasingly better protected.

Time saps their strength, they sometimes get sick -- and money is scarce.

"We try every day. We are tired," says Hamza, 27, from the Algerian town of Biskra, who hopes to go to Belgium.

Croatian police intercepted him and sent him back overnight but he will try again the same day once he has warmed up.

Any means of transport will do. Some migrants hide in trucks, in the chassis of freight trains or on their roof.

Others simply try their luck on foot.

"Hopeless and left without alternative, some of them decide to take enormous risks to continue their journeys regardless of the dangers and hardship of cold winter," Contenta said.

"European measures of deterrence won't stop people," he added.

- Violence and tensions -

"I try and try again," said Ali Amjad, a 24-year-old from Kabul.

He has been in Serbia for almost two years, as has hs friend "Kako," who laughs maniacally and shows signs of psychiatric problems.

Sometimes fights break out between men of different nationalities.

Last week a north-African was stabbed in the heart and evacuated to a hospital in Novi Sad, the capital of Serbia's northern Vojvodina region that borders Croatia and Hungary.

A 21-year old Algerian, who introduced himself as Miki Salem, had his arm in a sling and bandages on his buttocks where he said he was stabbed.

"These were Afghans, it was not a fight, it was an attack for money," he recalled.

"We cannot stay here, this is a shitty life!" the pastry chef, who rules out going home, added.

"We are taking the risk, we are seeking the life," he said.

Once the winter becomes too harsh he will find a shelter in Belgrade then come back in March.

After the fight police apprehended several dozen migrants and sent them to a camp in the southern town of Presevo.

But they will almost certainly return -- shelling out another 150 euros ($175) to Serb smugglers for the trip by car.

For the local population, outbreaks of petty crime have strained relations.

Zoran Petrovic, a breeder from a nearby village, claims that since February numerous animals have gone missing.

"In last three months it has become massive. They come in a group of 10 to 15 and take five animals at once," he said.

Natasa Cvjetkovic, a councillor from the small opposition centrist SDS party, said she believed her community was "sacrificed" because it was small and remote.

"The main goal is to spare the big cities," she complained.]]>
12/11/2017 12:44:14 PM
<![CDATA[Venezuela's Maduro bans opposition parties from presidential vote]]>
That includes the groups of key figures who have led street protests against his rule such as Henrique Capriles, Leopoldo Lopez and others, Maduro told reporters after casting his vote in the municipal polls.

"That's what the National Constituent Assembly set out," he said, referring to a controversial Maduro-allied special powers legislature whose legitimacy has been questioned by many in the international community.

"If they don't want elections, what are they doing? What's the alternative? (Civil) war?" the president asked, visibly angry.

While municipal elections were under way across the country, Maduro clearly had his mind on the 2018 presidential race, in which he plans to seek reelection despite an approval rating of around 30 percent.

Crisis-weary voters meanwhile appeared to be staying away in droves from mayoral elections that the opposition is already boycotting.

Maduro said his party won more than 300 of Venezuela's 355 mayoral races. And the president insisted that 9.3 million people voted, which he called a record for a municipal vote.

In terms of politics, the local election stakes might seem low.

Yet a failure in municipal votes could be seen by many a sign the government had lost the support of the massive lower-income base it relies on to stay in power and in charge of the state-led economy.

Luis Emilio Rondon, a member of the electoral board, said that there were some irregularities involving pro-government candidates who are running some polling stations. He did not immediately say where, or address the extent of the issue.

But voting "cannot be restricted, obligatory, or supervised by people with political interests" therein, Rondon told reporters.

Lack of serious challenge

He also said he had received reports that in some polling stations run by the ruling PSUV, officials were making sure that those who have a special social benefits card get out to cast their votes.

He said some of these voters' "Fatherland Card," an electronic card that helps them get scarce food and medicine, were being scanned.

"There has been some confusion on voters' part about whether they have to go to the polls with their regular ID card and the Fatherland Card. This is not needed to vote. You only need your regular national ID," he stressed.

These are the last elections before presidential voting scheduled for late next year, in which Maduro says he will seek another term. Some analysts think they will be moved up to the early months of 2018.

The lack of a serious challenge Sunday to Maduro-aligned candidates led to skepticism in the main cities of Caracas, Maracaibo and San Cristobal.

Maduro's ruling socialist party was aided by the refusal of the three main parties in the opposition coalition Democratic Union Roundtable (MUD) to participate, though smaller parties decided to contest the election.

Victor Torres, a chauffeur in Maracaibo, said the election will do nothing to resolve what he considers to be the country's biggest woe: hyperinflation, estimated at 2,000 percent this year.

"The other day I went to buy a banana. In the morning it cost 1,900 bolivares and in the afternoon, 3,000. You can't live this way. I am disappointed with politicians," said Torres.

Yon Goicoechea was contesting the election against the wishes of his party because he says the opposition must "defend" its political space.

Goicoechea, who is running for mayor in a Caracas municipality, said the government "will try to steal the vote, but we will not give it away."

The balloting station where the president himself votes, in a poor area of Caracas called Catia, also looked deserted, an AFP reporter there said.

"Not voting is a mistake. Instead of moving forward, we are going backwards the way crabs do," said Carmen Leon, 78, after casting her ballot in Chacao, which has been home to many opposition leaders.]]>
12/11/2017 12:39:54 PM
<![CDATA[Shoukry: Sending Egyptian forces to Yemen is not an option ]]>
Shoukry stressed that sending Egyptian Military Forces to Yemen is not an option for the Egyptian Administration.

"The Arab-Qatari crisis remains the same, particularly as the Qatari side has not taken any action to respond to the Arab demands," stated Shoukry when asked about the Qatari crisis, adding that there is an Arab consensus to confront Iran's interference in the region.

When asked whether the peace process would end after U.S. President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli's capital, Shoukry explained that the peace process will not end unless Palestine is able to restore its legitimate rights and establish itself as a state.

Commenting on the situation of Ethiop’s Renaissance Dam, Shoukry said "Despite our understanding of Ethiopia's desire for development, there is a sense of trying to impose on an existing situation from the Ethiopian side without paying attention to the legal restrictions.”

“Egypt is ready to accept the technical studies which were entrusted to a global company with an unquestionable reputation, but so far we have not yet given the company the necessary declarations to start its work,” Shoukry added.

"Over the past seven months, the three countries [Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan] have not agreed on the company's approach for conducting the studies, while the dam is being built, and will reach advanced stages before the completion of the study," Shoukry explained.

Talking about the Egyptian relations with Russia, he said, “We have important relations with Russia in terms of exports and imports as well as major national projects.”

When asked whether flights between Moscow and Cairo will resume soon, Shoukry remarked that there is no specific date and there are ongoing technical communications with the Russian Aviation Ministry, adding that Egypt has benefitted from Russia's experiences which helped raise Egyptian capabilities to promote security measures in Egyptian airports.

Regarding the Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant deal with Russia, he noted that there are huge developments in many fields related to the national project regarding its design and funding.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Cairo on Monday, the Russian Kremlin stated on Thursday.

A Russian delegation consisting of 35 officials arrived in Cairo on Thursday December 7 to prepare for Putin's visit to the capital, according to security forces at Cairo International Airport.

"On Monday December 4, President Sisi received a telephone call from Putin during which the presidents discussed Egypt’s first under-construction nuclear power plant (NPP) in Dabaa," Egyptian presidential spokesperson Ambassador Bassam Rady, remarked in a statement.

"Both leaders will attend the inauguration of the NPP, located at the Mediterranean city of Dabaa in Marsa Matrouh, by the end of this year," Egypt’s Minister of Electricity Mohamed Shaker previously told Egypt Today.]]>
12/11/2017 11:46:37 AM
<![CDATA[France's conservatives choose leader to rattle Macron's perch]]>
The conservatives' ambitious new chief, 42-year old Laurent Wauquiez, is a hard-hitting critic of the 39-year-old centrist president, whom he dismisses as out of touch with rural France, weak on security and too much in favour of closer European integration.

Wauquiez wants the party to pull its weight after months when internal divisions and the shock from failing to make the run-off in this year's presidential election held them back.

"Tonight, the Right is back!" he told supporters.

"France needs the Right because the president of the Republic (Macron) is passive against crime ... and not firm enough against radical Islam," said Wauquiez, who wants to relaunch the Republicans by taking them further to the right.

He won an overwhelming mandate with three quarters of the near 100,000 votes cast by party members on Sunday.

Wauquiez bills himself as the champion of small-town, rural France - a France, he says, with which Macron has no connection as he pursues a "start-up nation".

While there are few policy parallels between the two men, Wauquiez and Macron actually have some traits in common. Both are younger than French political leaders usually are and are graduates from the country's top elite schools who promise to shake up the political establishment.

Inside Macron's camp, some ministers have cautioned against underestimating the threat of Wauquiez.

"We need to be wary because he is very gifted, very strong and there's nothing he won't do. He will establish a violent fight," Gerald Darmanin, Macron's budget minister and former member of the Republicans, told the newspaper Le Monde.

But Wauquiez's main challenge may well come from within.

He inherits a party divided in its response both to Macron's poaching of party stalwarts and economic policy that encroaches on its turf.

Moderate veterans, ill at ease with his wooing of far-right National Front voters, have warned they could leave the party if he does not water down his hardline views.

And opinion polls show he is not popular with voters overall. Both far-left 'France Unbowed' leader Jean-Luc Melenchon and far-right National Front chief Marine Le Pen have so far been viewed as stronger opponents to Macron, polls have shown.

"Now the hard part begins," said Jean-Daniel Levy, head of Harris Interactive pollsters.

Wauquiez has time to turn the party around.

French voters will next go to the polls only in 2019, for the European parliament election. The next presidential and parliamentary elections will be in 2022.]]>
12/11/2017 3:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[What to expect during Putin’s visit to Egypt ]]>
The military expert and the head of the former war intelligence reconnaissance body, Nasser Salim, said to Egypt Today on Sunday that "this is the right time for the Russian president's visit to Egypt because there are a lot of files that are being put up during this visit and appropriate solutions must be devised due to Egypt's strategic importance.”

Salim added that Egypt and Russia will definitely discuss the Palestinian crisis and the American declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

“In addition to the Syrian and Libyan files among the discussions, different views will be put forward on the incomprehensible actions of Trump, declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel and igniting the territory where a decision will be made to ensure the stability of the region,” Dr. Tariq Fahmi, professor of economics and political Science, stated to Egypt Today.

Of the most prominent issues on the table, as well, cooperation in counter terrorism comes on top.

2014-08-12T120000Z_391001318_GM1EA8D04BL01_RTRMADP_3_UKRAINE-CRISIS-RUSSIA-EGYPT
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C) and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (L) visit a cafe at the Rosa Khutor resort in Sochi, August 12, 2014. REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

“This cooperation is due to the increasing number of terrorist organizations in the region and their seriousness in the Middle East, so the terrorism issue will be given special priority during Putin's visit, as it threatens the whole region,” Salim explained.

Of prominence as well comes the Syrian issue and its impact on the region.
General Hisham Alhalabi, the military expert, informed Egypt Today that Putin's visit comes due to the importance of Egypt in the region, as well as the need for coordination and consultation for the stability of Syria because Syrian stability has become very important.

In terms of security, the two presidents are expected to discuss security matters pertaining to the World Cup set to be held in Russia in June of next year.

“Since Russia is hosting the World Cup in 2018 and must deal with the world's security services and exchange information with them, Egypt will help Russia in this file; especially as there are threats from ISIS regarding this global event,” Major General Talaat Musa, advisor to Nasser Military Academy, said to Egypt Today.

On the economic side, economic expert Mohamed Nasr told Egypt Today that the return of Russian aviation and tourism represents a strong and new boost to the Egyptian economy. “Putin's visit to Egypt should resolve this issue because Egypt is capable of attracting more Russian investment in the coming period,” Nasr explained.

"We need to increase economic cooperation with Turkey because it will have many economic effects, including increased Russian tourists in Egypt," he added. “Increasing Russian Investments and opening more Russian projects in Egypt will provide great job opportunities for young people. It has become necessary for Russia to establish an industrial zone in Egypt, as this will contribute to the stability of relations.”

Dr. Ahmed Karim, an analyst in Russian affairs, agreed with Nasr. Karim stated to Egypt Today that Egypt has to resolve the controversial points with the Russian side on top of which is the return of Russian aviation to Egypt as soon as possible, and the return of Russian tourists must not be postponed. ]]>
12/10/2017 11:00:27 PM
<![CDATA[ Honduras electoral court finds results 'consistent']]>
Court president David Matamoros says that the recount of less than one-third of the total number of boxes showed that tallies done at polling stations were well-executed.

The court's original tally put President Juan Orlando Hernandez ahead by more than 52,000 votes, or 1.6 percent in the presidential election of Nov. 26. But the electoral process was plagued by delays and inconsistencies, and Salvador Nasralla formally challenged the results Friday and demanded a full recount.

The electoral court has 30 days from the contest to declare a winner, potentially placing an announcement square in the holiday season.]]>
12/10/2017 10:42:02 PM
<![CDATA[Al Azhar urges to invalidate US decision ]]>
In a press release on Sunday on the occasion of celebrating the Human Rights Day, Al Azhar said the day unfortunately coincides this year with the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The US decision is stripping the Palestinians from their land and challenges Arabs and Muslims worldwide, the statement added.

Al Azhar also urged international organizations and world powers to work on invalidating the US decision concerning Jerusalem. ]]>
12/10/2017 10:35:38 PM
<![CDATA[Future of Iraq wavering amid difficult challenges post IS]]>
Iraq has engaged into a fierce war against IS and various militant groups since 2014 until Abadi declared the “defeat of IS” on the military level.

First of all, the reasons behind the creation of ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] must be identified so that the eradication of this fundamental group will be successfully achieved. Egypt Today sheds light on likely reasons behind IS creation as follows:

• Discrimination of Shiite-led government of Nouri al-Maliki

• Revenge attitude of Shiites against Sunni residents in various districts

• Unfair distribution of oil revenues, in addition to economic and social deteriorating circumstances

• Spread of corruption and lack of negotiations with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) post-Saddam era

Abadi_photo
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (C) holds an Iraqi flag as he announces victory over Islamic State in Mosul, Iraq, July 10, 2017- Reuters

Abadi stressed his upcoming battle will be against corruption, which deems a “natural extension of liberation of land and men.”

Kuwait revealed in august that it started contacting the World Bank and other countries to prepare for hosting a donors' conference next year on rebuilding Iraq. The donors' conference is expected to be held in first quarter of 2018, most probably in February.

Reconstruction

“ISIS won’t disappear,” expert in Iraqi affairs in Geneva Mohamed Weld Mohammadu told AFP on Sunday, adding that the military defeat is nonsufficient to eradicate the supporters of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

“Recent terrorist attacks revealed that most of militants had headed to desert areas after their defeat in many inhabitant cities,” Mohammadu said.

He stressed the reconstruction process must include social rehabilitation as the “social aspects are more important than infrastructure and military ones when it comes to ideological radicalism.”

Karim_Bitar_photo
Karim Emile Bitar , Senior Research Fellow, Institute for International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) and Associate Professor of International Relations, University Saint Joseph in Beyrouth- Via his Linkdin Profile

Karim Emile Bitar, Senior Fellow at the Institute for International and Strategic Affairs in Paris (IRIS), told AFP on Sunday that proxies and weakness of decentralized governments would be able to turn over the militant radicalism in Iraq.

“Feeling of suppression which many Sunnis have will remain a potential threat and rebellion for a new Jihadist group,” Bitar manifested according to the AFP report published on Sunday.

Origins of ISIS

Saddam Hussein was accused of humiliating and suppressing the Shiites in Iraq, as a result the Shiites have contributed positively to the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. All the rulers of Iraq since the emergence of its modern state in the 1920s came from the Sunni sect, although in general Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis lived in peace before 2003.

Saddam_photo
A U.S. soldier, Corporall Edward Chin, scaling a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad and draping the Stars and Stripes and a noose over the black metal visage of the ousted despot. The rope was used to tear down the ousted leader's statue - Reuters/GORAN TOMASEVIC

Various extremist groups emerged and started operating in Sunni areas in western, central and northern Iraq where the Sunni inhabitants suffered from oppression of the Shiite mayors and rulers, after holding the first general elections on June 28, 2004 following the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The interim president installed was Sheikh Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer, and the interim prime minister was Iyad Allawi, a man who had been a CIA asset according to former U.S. intelligence officials.

Allawi’s government was described as anti-Sunni rule, which had sought to vengeance from all Sunnis on behalf of Saddam Hussein. Therefore, many rebellion groups were created to fight against the Iraqi national government.

This sectarian behavior against the Sunni Iraqis had given a justification to extremists to brain-wash many Iraqis who belong to the Sunni sect, eluding them that the so-called Sunni-dominated Islamic caliphate would restore the Sunnis in power.

Reconciliation

The missing of containment of Saddam’s remnants and senior allies was another reason behind the current mess in Iraq. The Egyptian revolution which erupted in 2011 against former President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak made a fetal mistake when it did not allow embracing Mubarak regime’s remnants who declared their hands were free of blood which shed during the uprising at Tahrir and other governments’ squares.

Brotherhood_photo
Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi gesture with the "Rabaa" sign during a protest in Al-Haram street, in Cairo December 13, 2013- REUTERS/Stringer

The Egyptian mistake brought the Muslim Brotherhood group in power, although it was only one year before the Egyptians overthrew the Brotherhood via million-man demonstrations at streets. The same mistake occurred in the Iraqi case as the embracement of Saddam’s non-criminal leaders would have changed the fate of Iraq.

Unity is a must for building and reconstructing devastated areas. Fighting together only brings more enemies to the battlefield.

Future of Hashid Shaabi

The Shiite-led Hashid Shaabi forces [Popular Mobilization Forces] which emerged in 2014 upon Shiite initiative launched by Sayyed Ali Hosseini Sistani to combat ISIS in Iraqi cities.

Hashid_Shabbi_photo (1)
Iraqi Shi'ite Muslims from Hashid Shaabi (Popular Mobilization) march during a parade marking the annual al-Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Baghdad, Iraq July 1, 2016 - REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily/Files

In November 2016, the Iraqi Parliament drafted a law to place Hashid Shaabi militias under the government control led by Prime Minister Hadair Abadi.

AFP revealed that the Hashid Shaabi includes over 110 thousand soldiers, while experts speculate its man-force is between 60 and 140 thousand.

“The Future of the Hashid Shaabi militias is determined by the political balance which should put an end to the cold proxy between Iran and Saudi Arabia on the Iraqi territory,” Bitar added. ]]>
12/10/2017 9:00:05 PM
<![CDATA[Honduras tribunal says partial vote recount shows same result]]>
In the partial recount of 4,753 ballot boxes, the conservative Hernandez won 50.1 percent of the votes, against some 31.5 percent for his rival Salvador Nasralla from the center-left coalition Opposition Alliance against the Dictatorship.

The tribunal did not specify exactly how many votes from the Nov. 26 election were recounted. There are some 18,000 ballot boxes overall.

Including all votes, Nasralla trails conservative Orlando Hernandez by 1.6 percentage points according to the official count, which has been questioned by the two main opposition parties and a wide swathe of the diplomatic corps.

Observers from the Organization of American States (OAS) issued a series of recommendations this week to authorities including a recount of disputed ballots.

"What we can say is that the results of the recount are extremely consistent with what we had originally," David Matamoros, president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) said.

The election has been plagued with problems since voting stations closed, sparking concerns of deepening political instability in the poor, violent Central American nation.

The tribunal declared Nasralla the leader in an announcement on the morning after the vote, with just over half of the ballot boxes counted. However, it gave no further updates for about 36 hours. Once results then started flowing again, Nasralla's lead quickly started narrowing, sparking a major outcry.

Since early December, the government imposed a curfew which is still in place in 5 of the country's 18 departments.

Opposition parties on Friday presented formal requests to annul the election.

On Sunday afternoon, opposition groups were expected to take to the streets to protest the results. The electoral tribunal has until December 26 to declare a winner. ]]>
12/10/2017 8:48:52 PM
<![CDATA[American-Russian collision over Syria ascends ]]>
On Wednesday, Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov declared that IS no longer controls any territories in Syria except for some spots dominated by the opposition.

A spokesman for the U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) dismissed that in a statement to Sputnik on Saturday, saying that IS continues to operate in Deir al-Zour governorate. The Syrian national army declared the liberation of Deir al-Zour – described as the terrorists' last stronghold on the west bank of the Euphrates River – from IS in November.

Euphrates_Map
Syria map - CC via Wikimedia Commons/the United States Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook

He added that the United States still carries out airstrikes on the East Bank of the Middle Euphrates River Valley in support of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and that IS militants are likely to exist on the west bank of the Euphrates River, between the towns of Mayadin and Abu Kamal since Russia and the Syrian regime continue to launch airstrikes there.

On the same day, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov accused the U.S. forces of attempting to hamper the destruction of Daesh strongholds in the Euphrates valley where most aircraft encounters occur.

Russia Today reported that the Russian military cited as an example an incident that occurred on November 23 when a U.S. F-22 fighter allegedly prevented two Russian Su-25 strike aircraft from bombing an IS base to the west of the Euphrates River.

A Pentagon representative negated such incidents in a comment to Sputnik Saturday saying that claiming that “The U.S.-led coalition, not the Russian Federation or Syrian Regime, is the only force that has made meaningful progress against IS.”

The U.S. military has accused Russia and the Syrian regime of violating the policies agreed upon by the United States and Russia claiming that their aircrafts has been crossing into their airspace in Syria.

The spokesman for U.S. Air Forces Central Command Lt. Col. Damien Pickart said Saturday that the frequency of such incidents has slightly increased over the past week, and that they mounted to six and eight times daily in November on the east side of the Euphrates River despite mutual de-confliction calls.

"The greatest concern is that we could shoot down a Russian aircraft because its actions are seen as a threat to our air or ground forces," Pickart stated, according to CNN.

"It's been a challenge for our pilots to discern whether this is deliberate on the part of the Russian pilots, or if these are just honest mistakes," he added.

He indicated that most of the unsafe encounters take place in the airspace over the Middle Euphrates River Valley between the Syrian town of Mayadin and the Iraqi border, “where the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and Iraqi government troops are fighting the remnants of ISIS,” as CNN reported.

On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon stated, according to Russia Today, “We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to, to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups.”

The United States justifies its military presence in Syria on the basis of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force against Al-Qaeda and other terrorists by the U.S. Congress. However, the Syrian regime considers that presence illegal resorting to the military help of Russia since 2015.

The details of a phone call on Wednesday between the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford and his Russian counterpart Gen. Valery Gerasimov have not been unveiled, according to a spokesman for the Joint Staff.

There is still no indication of when the military presence of both the United States and Russia would end in Syria as anti-terrorism activities do not appear to end soon which makes possible further military maneuvers between both superpowers. ]]>
12/10/2017 6:44:54 PM
<![CDATA[Jordan’s parliament votes for re-studying 1994 peace treaty with Israel]]>Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty (Wadi ‘Araba) in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Parliament agreed to refer the treaty to the parliamentary legal committee for a comprehensive study upon a call from a number of parliamentarians following the U.S.’ decision.

The parliament also agreed to record all violations carried out by the Israeli occupation over the past years so that they can take a decision regarding such violations.

On Wednesday night, United States’ President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel during a televised speech from the White House. Trump’s decision was met by a barrage of criticism and condemnations from many Arab and world leaders, while protests took place in the Gaza Strip, West Bank as well as different parts of the Arab world.

Jordan is one of the Arab and world countries that announced their rejection of Trump’s unilateral decision.

A tripartite summit between Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and his Jordanian and Palestinian counterparts Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah II, respectively, will be held on Monday in Cairo to discuss the U.S.’ decision.

Clashes broke out between Israeli forces and Palestinians in the West Bank on Friday; Israeli forces fired tear gas on the protesters, killing two Palestinians and injuring more than 300 others. On Saturday, the Israeli airstrikes killed two other Palestinians and injured dozens, raising the injured toll to 1,114 people, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health on Saturday. ]]>
12/10/2017 6:10:46 PM
<![CDATA[Arab FMs call on UNSC to recognize US decision as contradictory to international law]]>
Arab foreign ministers unanimously rejected during the emergency meeting the U.S.’ decision, considering it invalid and in violation of international laws and UNSC’s resolutions.

They stressed their belief that the decision is illegal as it undermines the peace process, deepens tensions and elicits anger.

They called on the U.S. to cancel its decision and work with the international community to oblige Israel to end its occupation on Palestine through a peaceful solution that guarantees the establishment of its state with Jerusalem as its capital.

They urge the UNSC to issue a resolution confirming that the U.S.’ decision contradicts international legitimate resolutions.

On this regard, Arab foreign ministers agreed to convene an emergency Arab summit in Jordan and agreed also to maintain the Council of the Arab League as a permanent session to be held in order to evaluate the situation and to agree on future steps.

They called for upholding the relevant Security Council resolutions that reject any shift in the current legal status of Jerusalem.

In this context, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil urged that economic sanctions be considered to prevent the transfer of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Bassil said that actions must be taken against the U.S. decision “from diplomatic measures to political measures to economic and financial sanctions.”

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari called on taking unconventional decisions and not just data as this decision will lead to more tensions in the region and religious conflicts.

Egypt’s stance toward the decision

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital cast a shadow over the peace process in Palestine, describing the decision as a regrettable shift in American policy.

Shoukry stressed Egypt’s rejection of the American decision, pointing out that Israel's use of force to impose such decisions as a fait accompli in Jerusalem was illegal. He added that Trump’s move was unilateral and violated international law.

Shoukry noted that the U.S.’ decision is incompatible with Security Council resolutions’ 242 for 1967 and 252 for 1968 that have not recognized any measures taken by Israel to occupy other territories with military force.

Saudi Arabia’s call for U.S. to reverse its decision

Saudi Arabia expressed its total rejection of the U.S.’ policy toward Jerusalem. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that Saudi Arabia has warned that any U.S. declaration on Jerusalem would have a negative impact on peace negotiations, undermine the efforts exerted, and provoke Palestinians.

Al-Jubeir stressed that Jerusalem is one of the final solution issues that would be determined by negotiations held between parties and should not undergo one sided resolutions.

“The Arab initiative submitted by Saudi Arabia and endorsed by the 2002 Beirut Summit is a roadmap for resolving all crises,” al–Jubeir stated.

Palestine’s regret to U.S. policy

The Foreign Minister of the Palestinian National Authority Riyad al-Malki declared that Trump has violated international laws and U.S. guarantees, adding that by taking that decision the U.S. will drive itself from peace process negotiations.

He warned of the long term political and security consequences of Washington’s decision on Jerusalem that would give the Islamic State (IS) a chance to continue their terrorist efforts in the region and provoke a religious war.

“The U.S. administration is looking at the issue from a narrow angle and is dragging behind Israel,” he said.

He expressed his regret for the U.S. policy as there is no peace without Palestine and no Palestine without Jerusalem.

Jordan: No peace to be achieved without Jerusalem

In addition, Jordanian Foreign Affairs Minister Ayman El Safdy said that peace will not be achieved between Israel and Palestine without Jerusalem; declaring Jordanian rejection of the U.S.’ decision.

“There is no stability or security in the region if not felt by Palestinians,” El Safdy warned.

He pointed out that harming the identity of Jerusalem and displacing its people is a crime that the international community should condemn.

“The American decision must be met by an effective and capable Arab action. We need to move with the international community to confirm the invalidity of the American decision.”

Aboul Gheit: U.S. decision null and void

During the meeting, Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that unilateral measures are null and void.

“The U.S. decision on Jerusalem is null and what is built on it is necessarily void,” Gheit added.

He added that according to international law Jerusalem is an occupied territory and Israel has no sovereignty over it.

“The American decision undermines Arab confidence in the American side and urges Arab countries to reconsider the course of the peace process and the current moment invites us to think about the alternatives available,” he added.]]>
12/10/2017 5:44:44 PM
<![CDATA[Ajnad Misr, a group that launched 27 terror attacks in Cairo]]>
These terror attacks ensued following the ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi who is affiliated with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood over mass protests. The following is a compilation of their prosecution, crimes, and ideology.

Giza Criminal Court affirmed Thursday after the Grand Mufti’s endorsement the death sentence on 13 of 45 defendants affiliated with the terrorist group Ajnad Misr which committed 27 terror attacks incurring the death of 14 policemen and civilians.

Seventeen were given life sentences; while seven are due to serve five years in prison and two are to serve 15 years. On the other hand, five were cleared, and one was not sentenced because he died.

The convicts are accused of joining an illegal group, firearms acquisition, murder, murder attempt, terrorism, promoting jihadist ideas, as well as targeting police, military, and judiciary personnel.

The prosecution took place over 39 sessions and 34 months starting February 2015. The convicts have the right to file for appeal.

What is the Ajnad Misr Organization?

In a word, it is a Brotherhood Organization. The Muslim Brotherhood youth constitute the main part of it. Those youths used to lead the Brotherhood battles with the police in the streets of Al Haram, Ein Shams, and Al Alf Maskan neighborhoods.

The leaderships in Torrah Prison are the masterminds behind the establishment of the organization. They noticed the youth's fury after the breaking up of Rabaa and al Nahda sit-ins and the failure of the Burning Egypt Down Operation, which was intended to extend to Upper Egypt, Sinai and Alexandria and in which security forces, their buildings and officers were targeted and more than one military site was hit.

On January 23, 2014, Ajnad Misr declared their presence with a tweet: “In the name of God the Merciful, may He stand beside us.” The following day, the group released their first statement where they claimed responsibility for several attacks as early as November 20, 2013, and began a media campaign, “Retribution is Life,” which they promoted as a Twitter hashtag (in Arabic).

Since then, Ajnad Misr has been the most active terrorist group operating in Egypt outside the Sinai Peninsula.

On May 12, 2014, the Ministry of Interior announced that it had apprehended and obtained confessions from Ajnad operatives in Giza. The ministry released video confessions of the alleged terrorists. These confessions, however, have not been independently verified, and often, similar confessions are elicited under threat of torture.

Ideology:

Ajnad Misr differs from other terrorist groups operating in Egypt in that it does not fully insist on the establishment of an Islamic caliphate. Ajnad Misr recognizes the legitimacy of Egypt as a distinct nation (as opposed to the Islamic umma). The group also employs the language of the January 25, 2011 revolution, lamenting that “the goals of the revolution” have not been fulfilled.

Despite this difference, the group has adopted a language in its statements that would align it with a Salafi jihadi ideology, and the group quotes Ibn Taymiyyah, an Islamic scholar from the Middle Ages whose teachings have greatly influenced Salafism.

Also, unlike some other jihadi groups (particularly those affiliated with Al Qaeda), Ajnad Misr takes a sympathetic view toward civilians, even those in opposition to the group.

Ajnad Misr directs its hostilities toward state actors; although several of the terror acts for which it has claimed responsibility have also resulted in the loss of civilian lives, the group claims to avoid this at all costs. (Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, for instance, claim to avoid civilians, however they do not hesitate to claim attacks in which there are high civilian death tolls.)

The group specifically targets particular individuals who they perceive as offenders; this included Brigadier General Ahmed Zaki, killed in an April 23, 2014 attack, and whom the group condemned for his complicity in the arrest and torture of Egyptian youth.

The group takes a particular issue with the Egyptian state’s treatment of women, referencing abuse of female protesters and promising retribution to the mothers of those who had been killed at the hands of the state.

In this sense, Ajnad Misr’s ideological and operational logic falls somewhere between a traditional insurgency and the Salafi jihadi groups operating in Sinai. Regardless of any possible ideological differences, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has declared Ajnad Misr to be their “brothers.”


Notable Attacks:

Ajnad Misr claimed at least 15 attacks in Greater Cairo, many of which have been targeted toward particular police officers and/or their vehicles.

Ajnad Misr’s first coordinated attack took place on January 24, 2014, when a series of bombs exploded on the eve of the anniversary of the 2011 uprising that resulted in the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. Ajnad Misr claimed responsibility for two attacks on police in Giza, killing eight and wounding over 90. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis also claimed responsibility for the attacks, although they later ceded at least partial credit to Ajnad Misr.

On April 2, 2014, Ajnad Misr executed a series of bombings at Cairo University, killing a police officer and wounding others.

On April 15, 2014, the Soldiers of Egypt claimed responsibility for the Dokki bombing near the Cairo Opera House that injured a police officer, a recruit and a civilian; it also claimed responsibility on February 8, 2014 for an attack on police forces in Giza that injured 65.

In May 2014, the Cairo Criminal Court for Urgent Matters designated the Soldiers of Egypt group a terrorist organization.

On the first anniversary of massive protests calling for Morsi’s ouster, Ajnad Misr planned a series of explosions that occurred outside the Ittihadeya Palace in Heliopolis.

A Ministry of Interior explosives expert was killed while trying to defuse an explosive that detonated and other personnel were injured.

A second bomb exploded an hour later, injuring a policeman. The third explosion killed another explosives expert who was trying to defuse an explosive device. Ajnad Misr had announced these attacks via social media and later claimed to have defused some of the devices in order to minimize civilian casualties.

Group ‘95’:

The magic word was "Group 95," which used to be supervised by Osama Yassin, Minister of the Brotherhood Youth, and Muhammad al Beltagy, the Group's Active Joker.

Group 95 quickly began to include young second and third row leaderships, experienced in working with people. Active and trained elements from the Hazemoon groups were included as well. These groups were connected with the Brotherhood leaderships during their reign and they are the groups which arranged for the encirclement of the Constitutional Court and Media Production City in direct coordination with Khairat al Shater.

Since it began, the organization was supported with the most dangerous modern weapons, which constitutes the most important of all techniques of terrorist organizations today; that is, the media support.

A high-level media unit was formed and professional elements were carefully selected as cadres for "Ikwan Online" and "Rassd News" Networks. This media unit thus began to formulate and disseminate the organization's data and communicate with all stations to get to the targeted public opinion. This was done in a highly technical way that is beyond the organization's capabilities; acting at the level of terrorist operations.

The Ajnad Misr organization's journey, which began through the Brotherhood crowds that used to gather every Friday, depended on adding fuel to the events of the day side by side with the crowds demonstrating in neighborhoods through planting explosive devices that seem to have a limited effect in front of a gathering of police forces next to al Buhooth Station of the Subway Giza Line. They also planted bombs to target a similar gathering up at the Giza Bridge across from al Istiqama Mosque found in Giza Square.

Policemen suffered limited losses in their ranks as a result of the two operations, in which the explosive devices were described as homemade with a limited effect.

More Attacks:

• The group claimed responsibility for two bombings that occurred on February 7, 2014.

• The group claimed to have killed one policeman and injured eight people in a February 13, 2015 bombing near a police station in Ain Shams.

• The group detonated a bomb in 6th of October City on March 5, 2014.

• The group targeted a police car parked near the Israeli embassy in Cairo on March 11, 2014.
• The group placed a bomb in Nasr City on March 29, 2014.

• One police general was killed on April 2, 2014.

• One traffic policeman was wounded by a bomb on April 10, 2014.

• Two policemen and a civilian were wounded by a bomb on April 15, 2014.

• One police officer was killed by the group in Mohandessin on April 18, 2014.

• The group killed one member of the Central Security Forces in Cairo on April 23, 2014.
• The group killed two policemen in Cairo on June 30, 2014.

• The group killed two policemen in Cairo on September 20, 2014.

• The group claimed responsibility for a bombing that occurred on October 22, 2014 near Cairo University that injured 11 people.

• The group claimed responsibility for a bombing that occurred on November 20, 2014 near Helwan University that injured at least five police officers.

• The group injured four policemen in a bombing that occurred on December 5, 2014 near Ain Shams University.

• The group killed one policeman and injured three civilians in a January 2015 bombing in the Talbia district of Giza.

• The group killed one policeman and injured seven policemen and a civilian in a February 13, 2015 bombing in Cairo.

• The group claimed to have killed four policemen and injured eight people in a March 28, 2015 bombing near Cairo University.

• The group claimed responsibility for a bombing in Zamalek that occurred on April 6, 2015 that killed one policeman.

Additional reporting by

Nawal Sayed.

]]>
12/10/2017 4:12:59 PM
<![CDATA[Sisi, Shoukry discuss Libyan political course with Sarraj]]>
Sisi stressed that Egypt is keen on resolving the Libyan crisis politically, adding that a political accord is a must to restore order in Libya and to preserve its unity and integrity, according to a statement issued by the Egyptian Presidency Sunday.

The meeting was attended by high-profile leaders from both sides, namely Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed al-Taher, Libyan Minister of Finance Osama Hammad, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Egyptian Minister of Finance Amr el-Garhy, Egypt’s Intelligence Chief Khalid Fawzy and the Egyptian ambassador to Libya.

Egypt’s Presidential Spokesperson Bassam Rady said that Egypt has welcomed the frequent meetings of the Libyan military commanders in Cairo, he also stressed that Egypt confronts foreign proposals which aim at intervening into Libya’s domestic affairs.

“Sisi and Sarraj tackled means of cooperation between the two countries in combating terrorism and boosting international endeavors for developing a comprehensive strategy against terrorism,” the statement read.

On Friday, Sisi met with Minister of Finance Osama Hamad of the Libyan Government of National Accord, on the sidelines of the 2017 Africa Forum held in Sharm El-Sheikh.

During their meeting, Sisi stressed the importance of preserving the territorial unity of Libya, adding that Libya should work on preserving its stability. President Sisi expressed Egypt’s support of Libya given the social and historical relations that the two countries share.

Shoukry and Sarraj discussed, in a different meeting on Sunday, the political course of the Libyan crisis and Egypt's keenness to support the Libyan people’s freedom to decide their own future.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson Ahmed Abou Zeid said that Egypt welcomes Sarraj’s efforts to promote the political settlement in Libya and to support the UN envoy’s endeavors.
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Libya’s Presidential Council Chief Fayez al-Sarraj meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo on December 10, 2017- Press Photo

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Libya’s Presidential Council Chief Fayez al-Sarraj meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo on December 10, 2017- Press Photo

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Libya’s Presidential Council Chief Fayez al-Sarraj meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo on December 10, 2017- Press Photo

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Libya’s Presidential Council Chief Fayez al-Sarraj meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo on December 10, 2017- Press Photo

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Libya’s Presidential Council Chief Fayez al-Sarraj meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo on December 10, 2017- Press Photo

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12/10/2017 3:43:06 PM
<![CDATA[CBE Governor negates Ethiopian Dam funding by banks in Egypt]]>
Amer described, in a statement to the Middle East News Agency (MENA), the news as “hallucinations and myths.”

Social media users circulated a document indicating that six banks operating in Egypt purchased the bonds issued by the Ethiopian government to build the Renaissance Dam granting an interest rate of 36 percent.

The document showed a list of all institutions that bought these bonds including those banks, and it is part of a book titled “Renaissance Dam and the Nile” written by Heidi Farouk and Medhat El-Kady and published this year.

Farouk is a former foreign ministry counselor for borders and international sovereignty, and El-Kady is a former ambassador who has been deployed to Oman and Congo.

The banks mentioned are the Bank of Alexandria, the Arab Bank, the Islamic International Arab Bank, Banque du Caire, Citibank, and the Commercial International Bank (CIB).

The major shareholder of the Bank of Alexandria is the Italian banking group Intesa Sanpaolo. The Arab Bank is a Palestinian-Jordanian bank, and the parent organization of the Islamic International Arab Bank. Citibank is the consumer division of financial services multinational Citigroup headquartered in New York City.

Banque du Caire is an Egyptian bank whose parent organization is Banque Misr. CIB was founded in Egypt in 1975 by a merger between the National Bank of Egypt (NBE) and Chase Manhattan Bank.

Lawyer Amr Abdel Salam filed a complaint to the public prosecutor in order to hold an investigation as well as interrogating the CEOs of those banks and the book’s authors.

Constructions in the Grand Renaissance Dam started on April 2, 2011 at a cost of $4.8 billion. It was built by the Italian construction and engineering company Salini Impergilo.
The Italian company is headquartered in Milan. The dam is located on the Blue Nile with a capacity of 74 billion cubic meters, and is expected to generate up to 6,000 megawatts of power.

Since May 2011, Cairo has voiced its concern over how the dam can reduce the country’s annual shares of more than 56 billion cubic meters of Nile water. Egypt’s average water per-capita is expected to drop from 663 cubic meters per year to 582 cubic meters by 2025, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) in 2014. Addis Ababa, however, claimed that the dam is necessary for its development and will not harm downstream countries.

Meanwhile, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi signed a tripartite joint cooperation agreement in Khartoum on March 23, 2015 between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. In December 2015, Sisi addressed the public, saying that there is no reason to worry about the dam and that the matter would be resolved. The three countries held 14 rounds of consultation on resolving the disputes over the Renaissance Dam. However, these rounds failed to solve the dispute.

Former Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Hossam el-Moughazi, stated in November 2015 that the dam’s construction is going faster than the tripartite talks. On October 1, The Telegraph reported that Ethiopia is finalizing the construction of the dam and then will start filling its reservoir.

Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources, Mohamed Abdel-Ati, said that Tripartite National Committee on Renaissance Dam (TNCRD) did not reach an agreement on adopting guidelines. The guidelines were indicated in a report prepared by a technical committee on the effects of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile Basin States after two days of talks.

Abdel-Ati declared that Egypt approves of the report’s outcomes, but the Ethiopian and Sudanese did not express consensus and called for amendments. Egypt halted all negotiations and said that all future decisions are at the hand of the cabinet.]]>
12/10/2017 3:03:22 PM
<![CDATA[Palestinian FM: U.S. becomes part of conflict not broker]]>
The press conference took place at the Palestinian Embassy in Cairo; Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Malki stressed that the American stance opposes the U.S.’ obligations, international laws and the international stance towards the Palestinian cause.

President Abbas stressed Palestinian resentment, according to al-Malki. He also reiterated Palestinians’ stance which is a “complete rejection of the American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel.”

“Trump’s announcement over Jerusalem is politically and historically illegal and illegitimate,” al-Malki added during the press conference.

Jerusalem is “part and parcel of the occupied land of Palestine,” thus Trump’s announcement withdrew the U.S. from playing any role in meditation including group talks regarding the peace process and the end of the Middle East conflict talks, al-Malki added.

“The U.S. becomes a part of the conflict not broker,” he stressed.


The Arab League convened on Saturday to discuss the consequences of the American decision and to take a unified Arab stance. “We attended the urgent meeting of the Arab League Saturday upon a request from Jordan,” al-Malki noted.


He stressed that Palestine has submitted an official complaint to the United Nations against the American decision over Jerusalem, saying the Arab delegations at the UN will draft a law in accordance to the Article XI-27 to deprive the U.S. of its veto in any session related to the peace process talks.

“Eastern Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine,” al-Malki said.

Palestinian President Abbas will not meet with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on December 19 who will be touring the Middle East. Egypt’s Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb and Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria refused to meet with Pence, who will visit Egypt on December 20, according to official statements from Al-Azhar and the Orthodox Church on Saturday.

Al-Malki added that all options are on the table to protect Jerusalem from Israel, adding that “we will use all legal and political means to protect our Jerusalem.” ]]>
12/10/2017 2:57:44 PM
<![CDATA[Palestinian President to decline Trump’s meeting invitation]]>
The U.S. administration confirmed to Haaretz on Thursday that Trump invited Abbas to that meeting on Tuesday in a phone call while informing him of his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

A senior Palestinian official in Fatah Party named Jibril Rajoub declared on Thursday that U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence “is unwelcome in Palestine”. He is due to visit Israel and the West Bank on December 19, according to Haaretz.

The visit is part of a Middle East tour by Pence that includes Egypt as well. On Friday, Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb announced his rejection to meet with Pence. He said, "How can I sit with those who granted what they do not own to those who do not deserve it."

Pope Tawadros of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark rejected to meet with U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence, who will visit Egypt on December 20, announced Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church in a Saturday statement.

The Guardian reported that the Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyadh al-Maliki confirmed Abbas’ decision to reject meeting Pence, and that the Palestinian Authority (PA) would seek votes on resolutions at the UN Security Council, and the Arab League.

Trump’s decision was met by resentment from Arab and EU countries. The Czech Republic and China were exceptions. ]]>
12/10/2017 2:36:42 PM
<![CDATA[Palestinian developments: clashes, protests across the world ]]>
Israeli police forces have brutally faced the Palestinian protesters across the occupied land. Dozens of protesters have taken to streets in the West Bank on Sunday to protest against American President Donald Trump's Wednesday announcement regarding Jerusalem.

Arab nations have rejected the American decision on Jerusalem. Many protests have taken place in Arab and western capitals such as Moscow, Paris, Amman, Cairo and Beirut.

A number of Palestinians have sit-in before the Palestinian Embassy in Moscow, Russia, in protest against the American announcement over Jerusalem.

Protesters_are_sprayed_with_water_near_the_U.S._embassy_in_Awkar_east_of_Beirut,_Lebanon_December_10,2017._REUTERSMohamed_Azakir
Protesters are sprayed with water near the U.S. embassy in Awkar east of Beirut, Lebanon December 10,2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Lebanese protesters have engaged in violent clashes with the Lebanese security forces near the American Embassy in Beirut where they protested against Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Protesters, some of them waving the Palestinian flag, set fire in the street and threw projectiles towards the security forces who had barricaded the main road leading to the U.S. Embassy in the Awkar area north of Beirut, Reuters reported on Sunday.

Indonesian_protesters_shout_slogans_during_a_protest_in_front_of_the_US_consulate_general_in_Surabaya,_East_Java
Indonesian protesters shout slogans during a protest in front of the US consulate general in Surabaya, East Java province on December 8, 2017, against US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. / AFP / JUNI KRISWANTO

Thousands protested outside the U.S. Embassy in the Indonesian capital on Sunday against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, many waving banners saying "Palestine is in our hearts."]]>
12/10/2017 2:31:32 PM
<![CDATA[Liberman calls for boycotting Israeli Arabs amid protests over Jerusalem]]>
In his statements to the Army Radio of Israel, Liberman claimed that Umm el-Fahem residents want to be under the rule of the Palestinian Authority (PA) rather than Israel. He added that as a result Israeli citizens should not buy from the city’s stores, according to Jerusalem Post.

Jerusalem Post reported that a bus driver and two passengers were lightly wounded on Saturday evening as some protesters threw stones at the vehicle at Wadi Ara.

On the other hand, the Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan commented saying that, “Israel cannot give up on all areas with Arab populations,” and that more police enforcement within Arab communities is needed.

In response to Liberman’s statements, Likud Member of Knesset Oren Hazan described protestors in a tweet as terrorists, who support "Palestinian people," and that they should be dealt with accordingly, adding that their Israeli I.D. cards should be revoked.

Jerusalem Post reported that Hazan put "Palestinian people" between quotation marks in an indication that he does not “recognize the validity” of the term. Hazan stated to the Israeli 103 FM radio that his state should never give up any lands.

Israeli officials call Palestinians’ protests "terrorist acts," while such demonstrations have been recognized by protestors as “resistance against the occupation’s security forces.”

Israeli attacks on Palestinians have resulted in to 1,114 injuries and four deaths since Thursday, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Al-Quds TV channel reported that Israel launched airstrikes, firing two missiles on Qadisiyyah, southern Gaza Strip, and three missiles on Badar in Gaza’s center.

Israel also targeted the Civil Administration headquarters in northern Gaza with two missiles. The attacks resulted in material losses, and fires in all targeted areas, according to Al-Quds TV channel.

On Friday, the Israeli military claimed that the airstrikes that caused two deaths were in retaliation to an alleged attack by Hamas firing rockets on Israeli towns, and that they targeted a militant training camp, and a weapons depot, according to Reuters.

A member of the Fatah Central Committee Azam al-Ahmed denied in a TV phone interview on Friday that Hamas fired any rockets at Israel.

Four have been killed, and more than 300 have been injured in clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank after U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday.]]>
12/10/2017 1:22:22 PM
<![CDATA[N.Korea's African friends face test of loyalty]]>
While threats from the United States and UN sanctions have forced many governments on the continent to keep their distance from Pyongyang, the links are not yet confined to the past.

For watchers of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's regime, the country's presence on the African continent is unmissable and the hermit nation continues to benefit from discrete but vital relations.

Statues and Stalinist-style palaces of questionable aesthetic value made by North Korean artists have sprung up in many cities including Dakar, Windhoek, Maputo, Harare and Kinshasa.

But cooperation between the regime and African governments goes much further than construction projects.

Experts estimate that economic ties between Africa and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) are worth around $200 million (85 million euros) annually.

Minerals and fishing top the league table of exports, closely followed by North Korea's most controversial output -- arms.

Despite sanctions levied by the UN in 2006 in response to its nuclear weapons programme, North Korea's military cooperation with its allies on the continent is strong.

- Military hardware -

"A number of countries appear to maintain close relationships with the DPRK," said Graham Neville, an analyst at the London-based international affairs think-tank Chatham House.

"More than half of the countries in Africa -- around 30 -- engage in some form of trade with the DPRK."

Arms sales, which are strictly prohibited by the terms of the sanctions, have drawn the ire of the international community.

UN experts have accused 11 African countries of seeking closer military ties with Kim Jong-Un's regime in a report published in September.

According to the document, North Korea has agreed to supply light weapons to Eritrea and Democratic Republic of Congo, surface-to-air missiles to Mozambique, modern missiles or radar systems to Tanzania and to train security forces in Angola and Uganda.

The authors probed two North Korean companies active in Namibia -- Mansudae Overseas Project and Komid -- which constructed the new headquarters of Windhoek's spy agency, as well as a munitions factory.

Pyongang's largesse should come as no surprise. Since Africa's wars of liberation, North Korea has sought to befriend Marxist regimes on the continent.

"During the Cold War, North Korea gained a reputation for providing useful training for African militaries," said Samuel Ramani, an Oxford University specialist on the world's most reclusive nation.

In the most notorious case, Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe called in North Korea to train the infamous Fifth Brigade, which is accused of killing around 20,000 minority Ndebeles in the 1980s.

Kim Jong-Un's provocative run of missile tests and nuclear experiments have finally persuaded some of Pyongyang's African backers to step back.

Sudan has cut ties with the DPRK, while Uganda expelled North Korean military advisers and pledged to enforce the latest round of sanctions.

Tanzanian foreign minister Augustine Mahiga said recently that the country "had scaled down diplomatic relations to the minimum."

- 'Lack of a colonial past' -

Namibia has also vowed to scrap all of the contracts it signed with companies tied to Pyongyang.

"Even their nationals are sent back home. It's over," minister for the presidency Frans Kapofi told AFP.

And as many as 150 North Korean guest workers were recently asked to leave Angola, with officials insisting their contracts had expired.

"It doesn't mean we sever our ties with North Korea. It's an ally that has historically been with our country," said foreign minister Manuel Augusto.

A spokeswoman for Mozambique's government vowed to "work with the committee of (UN) experts set up to better understand any issues".

But in their recent report, the UN's experts found that it had "not yet provided a substantive response to this panel inquiry".

Mozambique is not alone, despite the mounting pressure from the United States, the European Union, Japan and South Korea.

China's reticence to definitively turn its back on its long-time ally appears to have sent conflicting signals to Africa's governments.

"China's unwillingness to implement UN sanctions provides a measure of protection for African countries," said Ramani, the Oxford academic.

North Korea is clearly a long way from losing all its major African allies.

"The DPRK's lack of a colonial past and their willingness to stand up to 'Western oppressors' is undoubtedly admired by some African governments," said Neville, the Chatham House analyst.

"Doing business with the DPRK could be attractive to some African countries because economic engagement is not conditional on governance and accountability reforms.

"This is especially true in terms of armaments and military equipment," he added.]]>
12/10/2017 11:24:04 AM
<![CDATA[Climate victims seek justice, on the street and in the courtroom]]>
Globally, there are at least 1,000 active legal cases related to climate change, more than two-thirds of them in the United States, according to a recent tally from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, in London.

A summit Tuesday in Paris -- with more than 50 heads of state attending -- on how to finance the transition to a low-carbon economy will be followed the next day by a climate justice forum.

- Concept -

The climate justice movement highlights the fact that rich nations are overwhelmingly to blame for causing climate change, but that poor ones have been the first to cope with its impacts.

The 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognised that inequality, declaring that developed countries bear a larger responsibility for fixing the problem.

After a climate justice "summit" in The Hague in 2000, a coalition of global non-governmental organisations (NGOs) -- which play a crucial role in chaneling grassroots activism -- adopted 27 principles.

These included the right to not suffer climate change impacts, a moratorium on new fossil fuel exploration, access to affordable and sustainable energy, the notion that rich nations and industry owe humanity an "ecological debt".

"Climate justice affirms the rights of unborn generations to natural resources, a stable climate and a healthy planet," they declared.

These ideas slowly gravitated from the fringes toward the centre of formal UN negotiations -- and finally into the preamble of the 2015 Paris Agreement, the 196-nation treaty that enjoins the world to cap global warming at "well under" two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

- Cases -

In parallel to the diplomatic arena, citizens and civic groups also tested the concept's power within a legal framework.

Some plaintiffs have targeted governments, while others have taken on individual companies. A few have made headlines:

- In 2015, a landmark court ruling in the Netherlands ordered the government to slash greenhouse gases a quarter by 2020. The case was brought by 900 Dutch citizens. The government is appealing.

- Last month, a German court agreed to hear a Peruvian farmer's case against energy giant RWE over climate change damage in the Andes, a decision hailed by campaigners as a "historic breakthrough".

Farmer Saul Luciano Lliuya says that RWE -- one of the world's top emitters of climate-altering carbon dioxide -- must share in the cost of protecting his hometown Huaraz from a glacier lake overflowing from melted snow and ice.

- Also in 2015, 21 young people sued the US federal government for allegedly violating their constitutional rights by failing to ensure a livable future. First under former president Barack Obama, and then under Donald Trump, the government has tried -- and failed -- to get the case thrown out.

If it goes to trial, as seems likely, "the judge will decide two things," said Daniel Galpern, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs.

"Has the United States in fact violated these fundamental constitutional rights? And, if so, whether to compel the government to come up with a plan to move us from disaster to security," he added.

The case could well go to the Supreme Court, he told AFP.

- Compensation -

The Paris Agreement "recognises the importance... of addressing loss and damage" caused by climate change, and has set up a mechanism to do so.

At the same time, however, this provision "does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation," according to a "decision" annexed to the treaty.

This does not mean that rich nations are off the hook, analysts say.

As some island nations literally sink beneath rising seas, pressure is mounting for a clear commitment for the rescue of climate-damaged economies and societies.

On the legal front, plaintiffs are pointing to scientific evidence that extreme weather events -- mega-storms, heat waves, droughts, flooding -- can be directly linked to climate change.

Other research apportions historic responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions, whether to countries or companies.

A 2014 study in Climatic Change, for example, calculated that accumulated CO2 and methane pollution stemming from oil, gas and coal produced by 90 major energy companies accounts for nearly two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions since 1850.

RWE -- the firm being sued by the Peruvian farmer -- was found to have emitted 0.47 percent of the total.

"The possibility of assigning contributions of individual regions to damage could have the potential to reshape environmental litigation," a quartet of scientists wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change last month.

"This raises questions regarding damage and responsibility in national jurisdictions, and thus climate justice."]]>
12/10/2017 11:22:31 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt rejects Trump’s decision over Jerusalem: FM Shoukry]]>
In his speech before the emergency session of the Arab League held Saturday in Cairo, Shoukry stressed Egypt’s rejection to the American decision, pointing out that Israel's use of force to impose such decisions as a fait accompli in Jerusalem was illegal. He added that Trump’s move was unilateral and violated international law.

“Egypt was one of the first countries to defend the Palestinian cause since 1948 and always called for achieving comprehensive peace at different international occasions,” Shoukry said.

He added, “It is unacceptable to turn a blind eye on the Palestinians’ right to establish their independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Shoukry stressed that achieving peace between Palestinians and Israelis is a key Arab strategic choice that comes in accordance with international law and related Security Council resolutions, as well as the Arab peace initiative launched in 2002 based on the “land for peace” principle and the two-state solution.

The emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers discussed measures that will be taken to deal with the U.S. decision in terms to defending occupied Jerusalem and its legal, historical and religious status.

The meeting in Cairo was called for by Palestinian and Jordanian delegates both concerned by the potential escalation of violence.

It comes amidst rising tensions in different Arab and Muslim-majority countries that witnessed protests against the decision that broke long-standing U.S. policy in the Middle East.

On Friday, two Palestinians were killed in Gaza in clashes with Israeli security forces, on a “day of rage” in protest against the American decision. Rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, as thousands of Palestinians took to the streets there and in the West Bank.

On the other hand, U.S. allies, including the European Union, have condemned Trump's decision and said it would hinder peace negotiations in the region.

The Security Council members pushed back against Trump’s announcement on December 6, which also included a vow to shift the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a process that could take three to four years to complete.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also attacked Trump’s decision and described it as "unhelpful" for the peace process, echoing British Prime Minister Theresa May, who vowed to confront Trump over his controversial announcement.

Johnson stressed that the U.K. still believes that the status of Jerusalem must be resolved as part of a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians.
]]>
12/10/2017 2:09:01 AM
<![CDATA[Arabs should consider economic sanctions on U.S. over Jerusalem]]>
"Pre-emptive measures (must be) taken against the decision ... beginning with diplomatic measures, then political, then economic and financial sanctions," Bassil said at a meeting of foreign ministers at the Arab League in Cairo.]]>
12/10/2017 12:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.N. says missiles fired at Saudi Arabia have 'common origin']]>
The officials traveled to Saudi Arabia to examine the debris of missiles fired on July 22 and Nov. 4, wrote U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in the fourth biannual report on the implementation of U.N. sanctions and restrictions on Iran.

They found "that the missiles had similar structural and manufacturing features which suggest a common origin," said Guterres in the Friday report to the U.N. Security Council, seen by Reuters on Saturday.

The report comes amid calls by the United States for Iran to be held accountable for violating U.N. Security Council resolutions on Yemen and Iran by supplying weapons to the Houthis.

Saudi-led forces, which back the Yemeni government, have fought the Iran-allied Houthis in Yemen's more than two-year-long civil war. Saudi Arabia's crown prince has described Iran's supply of rockets to the Houthis as "direct military aggression" that could be an act of war.

Iran has denied supplying the Houthis with weapons, saying the U.S. and Saudi allegations are "baseless and unfounded."

Guterre's report said the U.N. officials saw three components, which Saudi authorities said came from the missile fired on Nov. 4. The components "bore the castings of a logo similar to that of the Shahid Bagheri Industrial Group" - a U.N.-blacklisted company.

The officials are "still analyzing the information collected and will report back to the Security Council," wrote Guterres.]]>
12/9/2017 11:03:29 PM
<![CDATA[Video reveals Qatar’s hidden relations with Israel]]>
The video revealed Qatar’s normalization with the Israeli occupation and the long history of hidden relations between Qatar and Israel.

Qatar’s media arm, Al-Jazeera, was the first to open the door of normalization with Israel, the video pointed out.

Al-Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Walid Omary, said to Israeli newspaper Haaretz that since Al-Jazeera’s establishment, it has become an outlet for Israel to promote its opinions and dialogue before the Arab and Islamic world.

In 1996, Israel, under former PM Shimon Peres, opened its first trade office in the Qatari capital, Doha, which indicates that it was more than a trade office, especially as it was headed by an Israeli ambassador from the Foreign Ministry, added Omary.

The video further revealed that Al-Jazeera hosted Israeli military spokesman Avijaa Adraei several times to address Arab audiences and promote Israeli terms regarding Arabic heritage.

Al-Jazeera also hosted former Israeli President Shimon Peres, as well as Tzipi Livni, former Israeli foreign minister and leader of Israel’s “Kadima” Party.



Earlier, the Arab Writers Union blamed Qatar’s Al-Jazeera in a statement for the destructive role it plays, as the channel represents “takfiri” ideology and spreads hatred, in addition to interfering in the internal affairs of the other Arab countries through encouraging disorder and inciting murder.

The statement condemned the Qatari regime for funding and supporting terrorism in other Arab nations. It also called on Arab writers, cultural figures and organizations to totally suspend dealings with Qatar until it complies with all the demands that the Arab quartet had outlined earlier.

"It is no longer acceptable for the media, including the Qatari ones such as Al-Jazeera, to be immune from liability for the damages afflicting the region," said Dr. Ahmed Hamli, president of the Arab Federation, earlier on the sidelines of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s 36th session.

Following the Arab boycott of Doha, a list of 13 demands was handed to Doha’s government by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain for reconciliation, which included the closing of Al-Jazeera broadcasting channel.]]>
12/9/2017 11:03:02 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt is first step in battling terrorism: French amb to Cairo]]>
“Egypt is the first step in battling terrorism, and we in France are clear that we will do everything we can to aid Egypt in this war against terrorism. France’s security begins with Egypt’s security,” the French ambassador stated.

Romatet explained that due to being targeted by terrorism, Egypt may suffer a drop in investments. “Egypt today is attractive because it represents a large market and that is why it is an attractive investment hub,” he elaborated.

“More and more French companies are interested in investing in Egypt even though the world thinks its falling into a dark pit,” Romatet stressed.

Below is the full transcript of the interview.

There is another worrisome front for Europe and that is Libya. What measures are you taking in this matter, especially since the Skhirat Accords are due to end this month and will create a political and constitutional vacuum?

Two years ago, a framework was adopted by the UN and by the conflicting parties in the east and west of Libya, and therefore the Skhirat Accords, which are to expire on December 17, were made. The agreement should be immediately extended, and this was our focus during the weeks of work with Ghassan Salame, UN’s special representative in Libya, and with all the parties involved in the Libyan situation including Egypt which acts as a major player in Libyan stability.

In this respect I would like to affirm that France and Egypt share the same objectives in regards to the fight against terrorism in Libya and preserving the unity of the Libyan state. We are seeking the formation of a new constitution and a stabilized government, therefore both countries are working closely and hand in hand on the political and intelligence levels to ensure the realization of the said objectives.

In the aftermath of the Rawdah Mosque attack, how can France support Egypt in its fight against terrorism?

Egypt has paid a very costly toll in its fight with terrorism, and the Rawdah attack shows how much Egypt is targeted by terrorists. All countries share this objective of assisting Egypt in this war till it emerges victorious. For us, Egypt is the first line of defense against terrorism, and it is clear to us in France that we should and would do all that is necessary and available to support Egypt in this war because Egypt’s security and that of France are closely intertwined. Our security begins in Egypt, and that’s why we cannot spare any efforts on this matter, and will offer Egypt all it needs to win this war which Egypt cannot but win.

What is the sort of collaboration made between Cairo and Paris in this respect?

There is a vast and extensive collaboration that covers many aspects such as intelligence and coordination. Our objective is to ensure that Egypt becomes a secure and peaceful country, and therefore France is assisting Egypt in achieving such an objective, for, as I have already said, our security in France starts here in Egypt.

Many French firms operate in Egypt. Do you think that the attacks have any impact on the business of those firms?

This is one of the factors related to the anti-terrorist fight in Egypt because terror and the lack of security can definitely have a negative impact on the atmosphere of investment. Luckily, though, that at this point terrorist groups have been contained within a particular area where no French investments are existent, and this is exactly why we must help the Egyptian government, to ensure that terrorism is contained and eradicated which will, in turn, affect business positively.

Today, Egypt is a big and attractive market which, additionally, has launched a platform for attracting investors, the thing that makes more and more French companies interested in the Egyptian market despite the global view that Egypt lies in the heart of a very disturbed region.

Six months have passed since the Qatari crisis, and there are some international reports which link Doha to terrorism-funding. Is France investigating the matter?

We have strong and close ties with all the countries in the region, with the United Arab Emirates, with Saudi Arabia, with Egypt who is a major partner to France of course, and also with Qatar with whom we have kept our ties intact because France has the ability to converse with everyone in the region, and no one should ask France to choose between one country and another.

We keep good relations with all countries in the region because this is our duty. On the other hand, though, all countries should undoubtedly be committed to the war against terrorism and should keep a clean record in regards to the funding of terrorist groups and to hate speeches in their media apparatuses. I say it again, fighting terrorism necessitates global moves. ]]>
12/9/2017 10:55:02 PM
<![CDATA[Libyan military delegation holds fourth meeting in Cairo]]>
Delegation members stressed the importance of the military institution’s unity to combat terrorism and to prevent any foreign intervention in the country’s internal affairs to preserve the state’s sovereignty.

Delegates also called on the international community to back the national military’s efforts without attempting to impose any selective ideology upon it. They also called for the Libyan people to support unification endeavors and for the media to stick to professional and ethical norms, refraining from propagating fragmentation among the Libyan people.

They concluded by expressing their appreciation for Egypt’s continuous support to reinstate stability in the country. The next meeting will include discussions over precise mechanisms to reorganize the military institutions in Libya.

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi stressed the importance of preserving the territorial unity of Libya, said the Minister of Finance Osama Hamad of the Libyan Government of National Accord in a press statement on Saturday.

Sisi met with Hamad on Friday at the 2017 Africa Forum which was held in Sharm El-Sheikh. During their meeting, Sisi stressed that Libya should work on preserving its stability, expressing Egypt’s support for Libya given the social historical relations that the two countries share.

Libya has been plagued by civil war since the assassination of late Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011, incurring the formation of many extremist militant groups which include local and foreign militants and the rise of trafficking and illegal trade.]]>
12/9/2017 6:35:11 PM
<![CDATA[Human Rights Day: Egypt asserts upholding human rights values ]]>
The Egyptian foreign minister pointed out in a statement on Saturday, that Egypt is celebrating World Human Rights Day which coincidences with the 69th anniversary of the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948.

Egypt played a vital role in drafting the universal declaration of human rights, and other related international and regional treaties, adding to its continuous contributions in enhancing international human rights law, the statement added.

Egypt’s membership in the UN Human Rights Council and its position as the Council’s Vice-Chairman speaks to the rising appreciation of its regional and global prominence and are an assertion of its role and efforts within the Council and across the various international forums concerned with human rights.

The statement added, “This occasion also represents an important opportunity to put more attention on the destructive effects of terrorism on the enjoyment of human rights in all their political, civil, social, and cultural forms.”

These destructive effects include hindering development, destroying infrastructure, damaging tourism, negatively affecting investment flows, and hampering economic growth. This meaning was recently agreed upon by the majority of UN member states. It emphasizes the state’s responsibility and duty to protect all individuals in its territories from the mounting terror threat.

The UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Human Rights Declaration, on December 10, 1948. Such a declaration, which encloses the principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms, is – up until now- considered the principal reference for all human rights.

The principal human rights agreements, such as the two International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights were an offshoot of the Universal Declaration. Moreover, the Conventions on Combating Torture; Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and Discrimination Against Women; Agreements on the Rights of Children, Labourers, Emigrants and Disabled stemmed from this declaration as well.]]>
12/9/2017 3:55:48 PM
<![CDATA[Putin, Sisi to tackle issues amid Jerusalem developments]]>
Amr el-Deeb, an expert at Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod University, asserted that the anticipated visit by President Vladimir Putin to Cairo on December 11 is a significant visit, following the recent developments in Jerusalem after the U.S. administration announced the relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city on Wednesday.

Egyptian-Russian mutual interests

El-Deeb noted that the agreement to establish the Dabaa nuclear station would see major progress during the visit, adding that “Egypt signed, two days ago, an agreement to exchange expertise with the Czech Republic in the field of peaceful nuclear energy.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin will witness the signing of an agreement to establish an Egyptian-Russian industrial city in the Suez Canal area during his upcoming visit to Egypt, stated Chairman of the Egyptian-European Business Council Mohamed Abul Enein on Saturday.

2017-636217166919296402-929
Russian tourists are shown leaving the country after their vacations, at the airport of the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Nov. 6, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

He mentioned that the Russian factories and firms are keen on operating in Egypt even if they do not make a financial profit because they seek to establish a geo-economic relationship with the Middle East and Egypt in particular.

On the return of Russian tourism to Egypt, el-Deeb expressed his wishes to settle this issue during the upcoming visit in Cairo, describing it as an “issue of security, not politics.”

The Syrian Crisis

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Free Syrian Army fighters prepare mortar shells before firing towards forces loyal to Syria's president Bashar Al-Assad on the outskirts of Doreen town, in Jabal al-Akrad area in Syria's northwestern Latakia province, March 8, 2015- Reuters

Sisi and Putin have previously exerted sincere endeavors to resolve the Syrian crisis which has resulted recently in many ceasefire agreements.

“The Russian announcement about the end of fighting ISIS was the final step before determining the Syrian future which should be tackled by the two countries during the visit in Cairo,” el-Deeb added. ]]>
12/9/2017 3:35:14 PM
<![CDATA[Former U.S. ambassadors to Israel denounce Trump’s Jerusalem decision ]]>
“All but two of 11 former United States ambassadors to Israel contacted by The New York Times after President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital thought the plan was wrongheaded, dangerous or deeply flawed,” The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

The two former ambassadors who conceded that Trump’s decision was the “right thing to do” did so under the pretense that “we’ve been remiss in not recognizing realities as they are,” as Edward S. Walker, Jr., who was the ambassador to Israel from 1997 to 1999, stated.

The majority of the ambassadors interviewed however, do not share this view.

Daniel C. Krutzer, who was ambassador during the Bush administration from 2001 to 2005, does not think that there are any upsides to the matter.

“There are many downsides, both diplomatically and in terms of the Middle East peace process, and no upside,” Kurtzer said to The New York Times. “We are isolated internationally once again — except for the Israeli government, which supports this — and we are taking ourselves out of the role the president says he wants to play as a peace broker.”

Furthermore, former Ambassador Richard H. Jones (2005-2009) suspected that the matter would actually spark bigger tensions in the Middle East. The former ambassador believes that the Islamic State and Hamas may “exploit the issue to incite violence,” The New York Times reported.

“Several of the ambassadors were open to recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. But they said that should happen as part of a broader strategy that would also require the Israelis to halt or slow settlement construction and that would recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state,” The New York Times article stated.

Sharing a similar view, former Ambassador William Caldwell Harrop (1992-1993) felt that Trump’s declaration was “slightly reckless” and in a sense, “masochistic”. Several ambassadors agreed that the declaration was in a way intended to provoke, since Trump could have phrased the declaration in a much more diplomatic manner.

Theorizing over the U.S.’ interests in making such a decision

The disappointment and head-shaking were not limited to the former U.S. ambassadors alone. Many around the world still exhibit feelings of shock following Trump’s declaration. It seems nonsensical at the surface, but it most definitely carries an agenda, and one that many have speculated over.

One of the most sought out theories is the most obvious one: Trump is causing rife in the region; he is raising the heat on the conflict already stewing in the Middle East.

Taha Khatib, a political analyst, stated to Egypt Today that the decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel aims to strike at regional interests. “The aim is to divide the Arab region, not simply Palestine… What Trump has done no other U.S. president dared do; what he has done is steal what is rightfully theirs [Palestinians’],” Khatib commented.

“Let me be honest, this decision is angering the entire region and prompting Palestinians to hold a third intifada. But this intifada can’t be held by the Palestinians alone, all Arabs need to be involved in this intifada,” Khatib explained.

Similarly, Oday Anwar, a Palestinian political analyst, agreed with Khatib and the nine former U.S. ambassadors.

“Trump has ended the peace process to serve American interests, and he did so to avert attention from the issues currently plaguing the U.S. This man wanted to ignite the region with an uncalculated decision to fulfill a promise he made to Israel,” Anwar remarked.

Several other political analysts agreed with the theory. Even the U.S. ambassadors themselves are not convinced that Trump is truly “committed to spreading peace in the region” as he stated. Its several factors that cause one’s intuition to view such a phrase with more than mere skepticism.

It’s the phrasing of the speech, it’s the manner with which U.S. representatives defend Israel during every UN Security Council that pertains to them. It’s just that the matter seems more vindictive and power-boasting than it seems diplomatic. And to make matters worse, vindictive and power-boasting is the only kind of language Donald Trump speaks. ]]>
12/9/2017 2:57:30 PM
<![CDATA[Indians vote in first stage of election seen as acid test for Modi]]>
Modi has himself led the campaign to ensure that his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) retains power in his home state, as a combined opposition mounted the biggest challenge ahead of the general election in 2019.

Three big polls carried out in the run-up to the vote on Saturday and next week have predicted a victory for BJP but with a greatly reduced majority.

Voters started turning up early in the morning and some had to wait for about 15 minutes due to a malfunction in the electronic voting machine.

In the first few hours, more than 15 percent of voters in Surendranagar district cast their ballot, according to state government officials.

An ABP-CDS poll this week gave the BJP 91-99 seats in the 182-member state house and the main opposition Congress 78-86, suggesting a close fight. To win, a party needs 92 seats.

The surveys have often gone wrong, though, and Modi himself remains far more popular across the country than his rivals, including Rahul Gandhi who is leading the Congress charge to weaken Modi in his home base.

Votes from the election will be counted on Dec. 18 and the results announced the same day.

In the first stage of state assembly elections on Saturday, 977 candidates are trying their luck in 89 constituencies spread across 19 districts of Gujarat, according to the Election Commission.

More than 21 million people will vote during the first stage of the election on Saturday.

Modi has thrown himself into the campaign, addressing dozens of rallies over the past month, saying he alone could deliver on development.

Gujarati businesses, which form the core of Modi's support base, have complained that the Goods and Services Tax introduced this year and late last year's shock move to abolish 500 and 1,000 rupee bank notes, accounting for 86 percent of cash in circulation, aggravated already tough economic conditions.

Hindu-majority Gujarat is one of India’s richest and fastest growing states but also one of its most communally divided.

About 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed after a wave of riots rocked Gujarat in 2002, when Modi was chief minister. A Supreme Court investigation found no case against Modi, who denied any wrongdoing.]]>
12/9/2017 1:42:08 PM
<![CDATA[Centrists struggle in polarized Brazil ahead of polls]]>
On Saturday, one of the country's most established centrist forces, the Brazilian Social Democratic Party, or PSDB, will take a first step in trying to become the missing piece of that puzzle.

The PSDB convention will choose Sao Paulo state Governor Geraldo Alckmin as its leader, effectively launching him as the party's candidate for the October 2018 polls.

He'll have a lot of catching up to do.

Faced by that hostile voter landscape, the PSDB's other big step expected soon is to quit the coalition government headed by the center-right PMDB and scandal-ridden President Michel Temer.

Temer, who took over after the impeachment of leftist president Dilma Rousseff in 2016, is mired in corruption charges and widely disliked for his attempt to push through austerity reforms. With single-digit ratings, he is the most unpopular president on record.

But will breaking from the government and naming Alckmin persuade voters that the PSDB can bring a fresh start?

- Alckmin tarnished too -

Betinho Gomes, a PSDB legislator, thinks so.

"The need for a centrist candidate who contrasts with the extreme left and right will promote alliances between several parties and Alckmin will be a key player," he said. "This scenario is made for a PSDB victory."

But while Alckmin, 65, has the party machine behind him, he may be seen as more of the same at a time when Brazilians are thirsting for something different.

So far he is polling only at a modest seven percent.

Crucially, Alckmin is alleged to have taken dirty money in the sprawling "Car Wash" scandal that has uncovered systemic embezzlement and bribery between politicians and some of Brazil's biggest companies. This is not a good time to be a graft-tainted politician in Brazil.

"He has a chance, but not much of one. No PSDB candidate is doing well in the polls and their party was hit hard by the corruption scandals," said Fernando Lattman-Weltman, an analyst at the Instituto de Ciencias Sociales.

The PSDB was the big winner in municipal elections held in 2016, but building on that in the presidential and congressional elections of 2018 will depend on the tepid economic recovery currently underway strengthening.

If that happens, the centrists will be able to argue that Brazil doesn't need any radical shift left or right. But if the recovery peters out, voter anger may leave the PSDB out in the cold.

"If the economic recovery fails, then the whole political movement (that replaced leftist Rousseff) will fail," Betinho said.]]>
12/9/2017 11:50:20 AM
<![CDATA[Big Media scrambles to meet challenge from Big Tech]]>
That's why Big Media are scrambling for partnerships and tie-ups to bolster their content arsenal in the face of a well-funded onslaught from the tech sector.

This shifting landscape helps explain talks between Walt Disney Co. and 21st Century Fox to sell key television and film assets from the Rupert Murdoch family-controlled group, and a proposed AT&T purchase of media-entertainment powerhouse Time Warner.

More deals are likely as the industry adapts to a consumer shift to online, on-demand services like Netflix, and efforts by tech giants such as Facebook and Apple to jump into original content.

"It's an incredibly complicated game of musical chairs happening simultaneously," said Robert Thompson, who heads Syracuse University's Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture.

"Everyone is trying to make sure that when the music stops they have enough content and people to keep making it for them."

- 'Game of Thrones' -

The old model of hefty pay TV packages supporting the content creators is fading, and the struggle for power in the industry is now referred to by some analysts as a "Game of Thrones," a reference to the popular HBO series.

Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon have already disrupted the sector. According to a report by the investment firm Raymond James, 31 percent of Americans said their primary source of video was streaming services.

About 32 percent of consumers have canceled or "traded down" to a less expensive package, and many young viewers rely entirely on Internet platforms for video, the report said.

Google-owned YouTube is also ramping up its original content offerings and Apple has reportedly created a $1 billion war chest for its television service programs.

"It's more than taking away money and subscriptions. It's about viewership, eyeballs," said Bruce Leichtman of Leichtman Research Group, who follows media and entertainment.

Richard Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG Research, says the established "legacy" companies are being forced to sell, diversify or "scale up" to compete against tech players.

But Greenfield said Disney's plan to acquire Fox's stake in Sky TV and studio assets while gearing up for its own streaming offerings may not be enough.

Disney, which owns the ABC television network along with ESPN sports channels, still appears wedded to "legacy distribution platforms," Greenfield said in a research note.

With more consumers moving away from big pay TV bundles, "industry fundamentals are worsening by the day," Greenfield writes.

"At the same time the tech giants/platforms are flourishing and they are taking aim at consumer time spent with legacy media."

Analyst Brian Wieser at Pivotal Research said the moves come amid concerns about eroding profits, and mergers can give the firms better scale.

"The pursuit of size allows for more cost efficiencies and a better negotiating position" for content, Wieser said.

- Pipes and content -

An AT&T-Time Warner deal would merge one of the largest distribution platforms -- AT&T's pay TV and Internet service -- with the media-entertainment conglomerate's HBO, CNN and other content channels, putting it on the same level as Comcast, a cable giant which owns NBCUniversal.

But the Trump administration's Department of Justice has filed an antitrust suit to block the AT&T deal, fueling concerns the move is aimed at punishing White House foe CNN.

The "vertical integration" of a company with content as well as "pipes" could present a formidable foe to the tech sector.

And a plan by US regulators to end "net neutrality" -- rules aimed at treating all online traffic equally -- may force companies like Netflix and Amazon to pay more to deliver to consumers.

With relaxed rules, firms like AT&T and Comcast may be able to use some of the same tools employed by Netflix and Facebook by garnering data on viewers for promotions and advertising, according to independent media consultant Alan Wolk.

"Right now if you are ABC, you have no idea who is watching your shows," Wolk said.

Having better data "is probably the most important thing" for these media firms, Wolk said, adding that it allows for more efficient targeted advertising.

Thompson, of the Bleier Center, said that even as the industry faces disruption, content creators -- writers, directors and producers -- will have more choices and potentially more bargaining power.

"I think these new tech operations can disrupt the old legacy means of distribution, but they still have to make this stuff," he said.

While Big Tech has disrupted many industries, its roots come from a culture of math and engineering geeks who may not be adapted to the entertainment sector.

Wolk said Google-owned YouTube "bombed pretty badly" with most of its shows for a paid streaming service.

"They didn't hire anyone with Hollywood programming experience and they underestimated the skill for this," he said.

Apple by contrast "made a smart move" by hiring entertainment executives, according to Wolk, and Facebook is pursuing a different strategy of finding "niche" programs for devotees of certain kinds of shows.]]>
12/9/2017 11:46:34 AM
<![CDATA[European states push U.S. for detailed Middle East peace proposals]]>
Trump's reversal of decades of U.S. policy on Wednesday sparked a Palestinian "day of rage" on Friday. Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated, scores were hurt and at least one was killed in clashes with Israeli troops.

Amid anger in the Arab world and concern among Washington's Western allies, the United Nations Security Council met on Friday at the request of eight of the 15 members - Britain, France, Sweden, Bolivia, Uruguay, Italy, Senegal and Egypt.

In a joint statement after the meeting, Britain, France, Germany, Sweden and Italy said the U.S. decision, which includes plans to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, was "unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region."

"We stand ready to contribute to all credible efforts to restart the peace process, on the basis of internationally agreed parameters, leading to a two-State solution," they said. "We encourage the U.S. Administration to now bring forward detailed proposals for an Israel-Palestinian settlement."

Egypt's U.N. Ambassador Amr Aboulatta said the U.S. decision would have "a grave, negative impact" on the peace process.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the Washington has credibility as a mediator with both Israel and the Palestinians and accused the United Nations of damaging rather than advancing peace prospects with unfair attacks on Israel.

"Israel will never be, and should never be, bullied into an agreement by the United Nations, or by any collection of countries that have proven their disregard for Israel's security," Haley said.

ESCALATION RISK

Haley said Trump was committed to the peace process and that the United States had not taken a position on Jerusalem's borders or boundaries and was not advocating any changes to the arrangements at the holy sites.

"Our actions are intended to help advance the cause of peace," she said. "We believe we might be closer to that goal than ever before."

Earlier on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during a news conference in Paris that any final decision on the status of Jerusalem would depend on negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

United Nations Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov warned there was a risk of violent escalation.

"There is a serious risk today that we may see a chain of unilateral actions, which can only push us further away from achieving our shared goal of peace," Mladenov told the U.N. Security Council.

Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be its capital. Palestinians want the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future independent state of their own.

Most countries consider East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after capturing it in the 1967 Middle East War, to be occupied territory, including the Old City, home to sites considered holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.

A U.N. Security Council resolution adopted in December last year "underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations."

That resolution was approved with 14 votes in favor and an abstention by former U.S. President Barack Obama's administration, which defied heavy pressure from long-time ally Israel and Trump, who was then president-elect, for Washington to wield its veto.]]>
12/9/2017 1:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[Trump's recognition contradicts 1967 borders demarcation]]>
Trump’s announcement came as a shock as shown by numerous international reactions that condemned and criticized the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

On April 1, a communiqué read by Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit during the 28th Arab League summit discouraged all countries from recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital or moving their embassies there.

“The League stresses its insistence to initiate serious and dynamic peace talks to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” Aboul Gheit said. “Achieving safety and stability requires a settlement based on a two-state solution and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” he added.

The pre-1967 border is a demarcation line set in 1949 according to an agreement between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria; it was signed after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

The pre-1967 border served as the Israeli state’s borders from 1949 until 1967 when a war erupted between Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, in which the Israel Defense Forces managed to recover the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordanian control, among other territories.

In Feb., U.S. President Donald Trump backed away from a decades-long policy of supporting a two-state solution in the Middle East. During a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump asked Netanyahu to hold back on settlements for a while, adding that he is open to either a two-state or a one-state solution.

“So I am looking at two states and one state. I am very happy with the one that both parties like,” Trump said. “If Israel and the Palestinians are happy, then I am happy with the one they like the best.”

About 10 months later, Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital indicated that he could not care less about Palestinians. The sole recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was made regardless of any considerations to the Arab region that got much infuriated after announcing the decision.

Palestinian Ambassador to the Arab League Diab Al-Louh Wednesday described U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as “insolent” and “impertinent”.

Al-Louh said during a phone interview with Al-Hayah satellite channel that Trump’s decision is as dangerous as the Balfour Declaration. “Today, Trump gave what he does not own to those who do not deserve.”

The Balfour Declaration was issued by the British government during World War I announcing support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.

“Jerusalem is not Trump’s or the Jew’s, it is Palestine’s capital and is part of the lands occupied by Israel in 1967,” Al-Louh said. “Neither Trump, nor Israel, have the right to change Jerusalem’s geographical features according to the International Law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in his

speech

during the Arab League summit, said since 2009 Israel has been working to undermine the two-state solution by accelerating the pace of settlements and the confiscation of land.

For his part, Palestinian Fattah leader and Political analyst Ayman al-Raqab stated Thursday that U.S. is no longer a fair sponsor of the peace process, but an enemy, stressing that the Arab countries should take a swift action against Trump’s resolution.]]>
12/9/2017 12:54:35 AM
<![CDATA[Opinion: How do Arab countries counteract Trump’s decision on Jerusalem?]]>
Protests sparked in Palestine; Israeli security forces are now on full alert in preparation for confrontations. The significance of the American decision and its implications can be of help when considering the possibilities of Arab and international action to counteract the American action which violates international legitimacy according to the United Nations General Assembly, the Security Council, and the International Court of Justice.
The following lines explain how:

Trump’s announcement:

Trump’s announcement of moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was an execution of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which was issued by Congress and stated that a U.S. embassy was to be established in Jerusalem by the year 1999.
However, the execution of the act has been delayed by numerous presidents because of the status of peace negotiations as well as the issues of the borders and of the refugees.

Some believed the Congress Act, issued under pressures from Benjamin Netanyahu and his allying lobby inside the U.S. was an attempt to undermine the Oslo Accords.
U.S. presidents have since delayed the execution of the Act for six months as per article 7 in section (B) of the Act, the president has to notify Congress as to the reasons for delaying. All U.S. presidents consistently used the United States’ national security as the reason for delay; Clinton, George Bush Jr., and Obama have all previously delayed the Act. The American motive behind the execution delay was to avoid anything that could have undermined the peace process and consequently, harm or threaten American interests.

In executing the Jerusalem Embassy Act, Trump’s administration turned a blind eye to whatever consequences the decision may lead to, be it riots and unrest in Jerusalem, or sabotaging any chances of realizing peace. Some attribute the decision to reasons that have to do with the internal affairs of the U.S.

International community:

Throughout the years of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, no agreement was ever made concerning Jerusalem. Since the conflicting parties could not reach an agreement, the United Nations did not take sides or attempt to impose solutions, and therefore the Jerusalem issue remained unresolved until the concerned parties would reach an agreement.

In that sense, establishing embassies or any similar official move by any of the international community parties was considered a violation of any chance for political settlement in the future, and therefore such moves were avoided by all parties.

In recent years, the international community has not acknowledge the single sided Israeli moves in Eastern Jerusalem, nor did it concede to what Israel calls ‘facts on the ground’ which Israel created by expanding its settlements.

International legitimacy resolutions concerning Jerusalem: “Security Council, United Nations and International Court of Justice, article no. 78”:

The UN resolution 181 in 1947 recommended the creation of a special international regime in Jerusalem; resolution 252 in 1968 affirmed that any acquisition of territory by Israel by means of conquest is inadmissible; resolution 465 in 1980 declared all Israeli activities in Jerusalem a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which resulted in closing a number of embassies in Western Jerusalem (Jerusalem does not have any representational offices for other countries).

Last year’s UN resolution condemned the settlement-expansion activities and demographic changes exercised by Israel; and finally, the resolution of the International Court of Justice concerning the Israeli West Bank barrier stated that "no territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal", arguing that all the lands acquired by Israel during the 1967 war are deemed occupied lands, including Eastern Jerusalem.

Thus, and owing to the aforementioned facts, we conclude that the legal status of Jerusalem according to resolutions of international community and international legitimacy is that of ‘occupied land’, and therefore a single-sided American move cannot change the internationally acknowledged legal status of Jerusalem.

Arabs’ options:

Global reactions condemn and reject the American decision on account of the fact that it obstructs the path of negotiations. Egypt called upon the Security Council to hold an urgent meeting. Likewise, a meeting was arranged for the Arab Ministers of Foreign Affairs to study the situation. Since the American decision reflects its complete alignment with Israel the following considerations should be taken care of:

1. The necessity of calling up and coordinating the efforts of international organizations, especially the United Nations General Assembly, in affirming the international community’s rejection of Jerusalem’s annexation to any state as per the resolutions of international legitimacy.

2. Coordinating with European partners and activating their role in all upcoming peace negotiations. As President Sisi announced before, the Palestinian situation should be resolved in accordance with the Arab and French initiatives.

3. Discounting the American partner on accounts of taking sides. It is also noteworthy that Palestine’s success in attaining the status of a UN Observer by collecting the votes of member countries only means the support of the international community to the two-state solution, let alone European countries’ recognition of Palestine as an independent state, and the growing number of boycott campaigns of Israeli products that come from settlements.

All these efforts affirm the international community’s approval of the two-state solution, and therefore any transgression on Jerusalem’s status is a hindrance to any resolution going in that direction, which means that European countries will probably not take the same approach recently taken by the U.S.

Hence, Arab-European efforts should be well-coordinated in international circles to affirm the status of Jerusalem in accordance with international legitimacy resolutions in order to achieve what is known as ‘soft balancing’ in international relations. In other words, other powers challenging the single-sided decisions of the U.S. in international assemblies would internationally delegitimize the U.S. decis]]>
12/8/2017 7:58:37 PM
<![CDATA[UN says 1.25 million S. Sudanese are one step from famine]]>
Lowcock told the UN Security Council (UNSC) that seven million people inside the country; almost two-thirds of the remaining population, still need humanitarian aid, Fox News reported on Friday.

"The next lean season beginning in March is likely to see famine conditions in several locations across the country," Lowcock said. "We were able to reverse famine conditions this year, with significant resources and risks, and we must avoid a repeat of this", he added.

UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix called the security situation in South Sudan "precarious" and warned of escalating military conflict and inter-communal fighting as the dry season sets in.

Lacroix urged the Security Council "to remain vigilant and exert more effort to condemn and stop the violence, protect civilians and urgently facilitate a political settlement of the conflict." ]]>
12/8/2017 6:56:09 PM
<![CDATA[EU, Jordan voice backing for Palestinian state]]>
"We definitely don't give up," Mogherini said, after US President Donald Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital sent shock waves through the region and sparked protests.

She said the Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995 -- which started a process aimed at achieving a peace treaty and fulfilling "the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination" -- remained the objective.

The "only realistic solution is based on two states with Jerusalem as the capital of both states," she said.

Safadi echoed her, saying: We cannot give up. There is no alternative to the two-state solution."

The peace process has been languishing since 2014.

Trump's defiant announcement has been met with an almost universal diplomatic backlash, and prompted a call for a new intifada, or uprising, from the leader of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group which runs the Gaza Strip.

The status of Jerusalem is deeply sensitive for Muslims, and protesters have been taking to the streets in cities across the world following the policy shift.

Mogherini said she had suggested that the "quartet" working on the peace process -- the EU, the US, Russia and the United Nations -- be "enlarged" to include Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Norway.

She said the idea of a Palestinian state with its capital and its own institutions was essential for security in the region, including that of Israeli citizens.

Trump said his defiant move -- making good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge -- marks the start of a "new approach" to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But many analysts question how a fair peace process could be possible by granting such a major Israeli demand while seeming to require nothing in return.

Israel has long claimed all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector of the city as the capital of their future state.

]]>
12/8/2017 5:07:53 PM
<![CDATA[MP: Trump’s decision on Jerusalem ‘wrong and stupid’]]>
Major-General Shoukry el-Gendy, head of parliament’s religious and endowments affairs committee told Egypt Today that “U.S. President Trump’s decision is against the interests of all Arabs and Muslims.”




“Arab and Muslim nations must revolt and unite against this decision,” el-Gendy said.

He added that “in order to force Israel and the U.S. to respect our identity, Arabs and Muslims must forget about all our disputes.”

On Wednesday night, United States’ President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel during a televised speech from the White House. Trump’s decision was met by a barrage of criticism and condemnations from many Arab and world leaders; protests took place in the Gaza strip, West Bank and different parts of the Arab world.

The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine called for staging protests against Trump’s decision as a third intifada (uprising).

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has filed a complaint in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) against Donald Trump’s decision on Thursday, Sky News Arabia reported.

After a four-hour meeting between the Palestinian factions of Fatah and Hamas to discuss Trump’s decision on Thursday, both factions announced their total rejection of the U.S. president‘s decision, stating that such a decision is an attack on Palestinian people.

They agreed to continue the process of inter-Palestinian reconciliation and put an end to the crises in the Gaza Strip. They reiterated that they will mobilize more people to reject this decision, saying that the best response is to have Palestinians unite in politics and on the ground.]]>
12/8/2017 5:04:35 PM
<![CDATA[Tunisia and Morocco summon U.S. ambassadors over Jerusalem ]]>
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi summoned his country’s U.S. ambassador to inform him of Tunisia's condemnation of the U.S. administration's decision to relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Tunisian media reported Friday.

Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Nasser Bourita summoned their ambassadors from the U.S., UK, Russia, China and France on Wednesday over U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The foreign minister took the move upon directives from King Mohammed VI in the presence of Palestinian Ambassador in Rabat Jamal al-Shobaki, the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Wednesday.

On Wednesday night, U.S. President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel during a televised speech from the White House. Trump’s decision was met by a barrage of criticism and condemnations from many Arab and world leaders, while protests took places in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and different parts of the Arab world.

The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine called for staging protests against Trump’s decision to be a third intifada (uprising).

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has filed a complaint in the UN Security Council (UNSC) against Trump on Thursday, Sky News Arabia reported.

After a four-hour meeting between the Palestinian factions of Fatah and Hamas to discuss Trump’s decision on Thursday, both factions announced their total rejection of the U.S. President‘s decision, stating that such a decision is an attack on Palestinian people.

They agreed to continue the process of inter-Palestinian reconciliation and put an end to the crises in the Gaza Strip. They reiterated that they will mobilize more people to reject this decision, saying that the best response is uniting the Palestinian people in politics and on the ground.]]>
12/8/2017 4:57:11 PM
<![CDATA[Doubts about Washington hinder North Korea deal: Lavrov]]>
The question is "how to convince North Korea that a deal won't be rejected in a year or two by a new American administration," Lavrov told journalists, according to a translation of his remarks on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

"North Korea needs security guarantees, especially when Washington is about to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal," he said.

"Now I hope we will be able to open the dialogue on the nuclear problem in the Korean peninsula."

After a meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday, Lavrov had said Moscow was ready to broker talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

"We know that North Korea wants foremost to discuss security guarantees with the United States. We're ready to support, to participate in these negotiations," Lavrov said Thursday.

"We are convinced of the need to end the vicious cycle of confrontation, carelessness and provocations."

Tensions have reached alarming levels on the Korean peninsula after several missile launches by North Korea, including last week's test-firing of a new ballistic missile which Pyongyang said was capable of reaching the United States.

A few days later the US and South Korea kicked off their largest joint air exercise ever, an operation North Korea labelled an "all-out provocation".

US President Donald Trump has also criticised or pulled out of several international accords and engagements signed onto by the US, including the Paris climate pact and the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

]]>
12/8/2017 4:30:23 PM
<![CDATA[UN warns against any hasty returns of Rohingya to Myanmar]]>
Some 20,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar to Bangladesh in November, and at least 270 so far in December, bringing the total since violence erupted on August 25 to 646,000, according to the UNHCR and International Organization of Migration (IOM).

The two countries have signed an agreement on voluntary repatriation which refers to establishing a joint working group within three weeks of the Nov. 23 signing. UNHCR is not party to the pact or involved in the bilateral discussions for now.

"It is critical that the returns are not rushed or premature," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told a briefing. "People can't be moving back in into conditions in Rakhine state that simply aren't sustainable."

Htin Lynn, Myanmar's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, said on Tuesday that his government hoped returns would begin within two months. He was addressing the Human Rights Council, where the top U.N. rights official said that Myanmar's security forces may be guilty of genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority .

The UNHCR has not been formally invited to join the working group, although its Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly Clements is holding talks in Bangladesh, Edwards said, adding that discussions were "still at a very preliminary stage".

He could not say whether UNHCR was in talks with Myanmar authorities on its role, but hoped the agency would be part of the joint working group.

Edwards, asked whether the two-month time was premature, said: "The return timeline of course is something that we are going to have to look closely at ... We don't want to see returns happening either involuntarily or precipitiously and before conditions are ready."

In all, Bangladesh is hosting a total of more than 858,000 Rohingya, including previous waves, IOM figures show.

"We have had ... a cycle of displacement from Rakhine state over many decades, of people being marginalised, of violence, of people fleeing and then people returning," Edwards said.

"Now this cycle has to be broken, which means that we have to find a way to ensure that there is a lasting solution for these people."

WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher said that it had distributed food to 32,000 people in northern Rakhine in November.

"Everybody agrees that the situation is very dire on ground, that all of the U.N. agencies need more access, that the violence has to stop and that these people can live in safety where they want to live," she said. ]]>
12/8/2017 3:32:11 PM
<![CDATA[Indian driver beaten up, jailed in Doha for joining work late ]]>
The Qatari employer filed a complaint against Mohammed Imran Ali Khan, a resident of Jahanuma in the Phool Bagh area, for damaging his car.

Doha Police arrested Khan on the night of December 2 and has since been in their custody.

Qatar is home to 630,000 Indian nationals, the single largest group of migrants in the country of 2 million. Many work in low paid construction jobs, building stadiums and other infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup.

In March, Amnesty International stated that migrants faced abuses that in some cases amounted to forced labor. Workers reported squalid living conditions, having their salaries withheld for months and their passports confiscated by employers.

Qatar’s disrespect for human rights has been clearly revealed in the treatment of migrant construction workers in the building of the stadium for the 2022 World Cup.

Foreign and Arab newspapers disclosed the harsh conditions and unjust practices that were imposed on domestic workers in Doha.

The Carbonated News website revealed the existence of about 4,000 migrants at risk of death due to the denial of humanity and the lack of Qatari officials’ mercy. It stated that those migrants work in harsh summer temperatures to build new stadiums.

The newspaper, Construction Week Online, described the workers' situation in Qatar as "non-humanitarian" and pointed out that the Qatari government has no "mercy" because it treats the workers as "slaves.”

The Saudi Okaz newspaper published a report earlier detailing the tough conditions and long working hours from which the migrant workers suffer.

According to Aliqtisadi, a Saudi Arabian news website, foreign workers in Qatar declined by 6.2 percent in the second quarter of 2017 after its support for terrorism was established.

Qatar’s relations with several Arab and Gulf states have been strained since May 24, when a Qatari state-run news agency reported Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani’s statements regarding the Gulf foreign policy with Iran, which described it as “unwise.”

On June 5, 2017, several countries, including Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, severed diplomatic ties with Doha over accusations of Qatar backing and funding terrorist groups.

On June 23, 2017, the four Arab states had 13 demands of Qatar, which were presented by Kuwait, the mediator in the crisis. The demands included that Qatar shut down Al-Jazeera TV network, cut diplomatic ties with Iran, stop financing and supporting terror groups, including the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, and end Turkey's military presence in Doha. ]]>
12/8/2017 3:05:06 PM
<![CDATA[Why Corsica is not the new Catalonia]]>
The ruling alliance of separatists and pro-autonomy candidates took 45 percent of the vote in last weekend's first round of regional elections, advances they look set to cement in Sunday's final round.

The score represents a ten-point rise in the Pe a Corsica ("For Corsica") alliance's showing when they came to power at the local level two years ago on the island where Napoleon was born.

Like Spain's Catalonia, the stunningly beautiful island wedged between France and Italy has its own language, a proud identity and a history of testy relations with the central government.

But while the Catalan separatists led by Carles Puigdemont went as far as a full-blown independence declaration, Corsican nationalists are sticking to more modest goals.

Energised by last weekend's gains to push for more autonomy, they have already revived three demands long rejected by Paris.

They want equal recognition for the Corsican language and an amnesty for convicts they consider to be political prisoners.

And they want the state to recognise a special Corsican residency status -- partly an effort to fight property speculation fuelled by foreigners snapping up holiday homes.

These are sensitive issues on an island where a four-decade bombing campaign by the National Liberation Front of Corsica (FLNC) -- mainly targeting state infrastructure -- was called off only in 2014.

The worst nationalist attack saw France's top official on the island, Claude Erignac, assassinated in 1998.

- Nationalism, the new normal -

Calm returned when the FLNC laid down its weapons -- which, according to political analyst Jerome Fourquet, has helped to "normalise nationalism".

The nationalists have become "a responsible, presentable political force", Fourquet wrote in a report for the Jean Jaures Foundation.

As part of this more moderate approach, nationalists assure that an immediate independence bid is not on the table.

Even separatist leader Jean-Guy Talamoni -- nicknamed by some "the Corsican Puigdemont" -- suggests the island would split from France in 10 or 15 years at the earliest, if a majority supported it.

Yet opinion polls show that most of Corsica's 330,000 residents, many of whom live off seasonal tourism and rely heavily on state subsidies, want to stay part of France.

Even in the northern village of Belgodere, where nationalists scored 90.22 percent last Sunday, the result was largely a reflection of local problems.

"I'm not voting out of political allegiance, or for autonomy or independence," said Jean-Paul Pernet, the village's only doctor, who backed the nationalists.

He voted, he said, "for people who will bring concrete plans" to rural areas that feel isolated and neglected by authorities.

- Much poorer than Catalonia -

The nationalists' opponents have repeatedly raised the prospect of Corsica being "the next Catalonia".

But Andre Fazi, a politics lecturer at Corsica University, dismissed a Catalonia-style independence bid as a "fantasy".

For Thierry Dominici, a Corsica specialist at the University of Bordeaux, the main barrier to independence is the island's heavy economic dependence on the mainland.

That is not the case for Catalonia, where chief among many separatists' complaints is that their wealthy region, representing a fifth of Spain's economic output, does not get enough back for what it pays into national coffers.

Corsica, by contrast, represents just 0.4 percent of the French economy, suffering from higher unemployment and poverty rates than the mainland.

"An economically viable Corsica -- I don't think we'll see it in my lifetime," Dominici said.

"Even in terms of constitutional law, it's a completely different situation," he added.

While Catalonia already enjoys widespread autonomy in policy areas such as health, education and policing, "France is the most centralised unitary state in Europe," Dominici said.

Even hardline Corsican separatists like the small U Rinnovu party have limited themselves to pushing for an independence referendum in 2032.

But there are keen expectations in the nationalist camp that their election gains could build momentum for greater autonomy.

"The state has everything to gain in responding to at least one of their three demands," Dominici said.

"If it does nothing, the islanders will take to the streets. The nationalists won't even have to ask them to do it."

]]>
12/8/2017 2:57:40 PM
<![CDATA[Brexit: What we know]]>
- Timing -

Following Britain's vote to leave the European Union in a June 2016 referendum, the country is officially scheduled to break off on March 29, 2019.

Negotiations with Brussels began in June, with three key issues -- the financial settlement, EU citizens' rights and the Irish border -- to be settled before talks could move on to the future trade relationship between the two parties.

After several months of wrangling, the European Commission said on Friday it "recommends sufficient progress" had been made although approval is still needed from a summit of EU leaders next week.

- Transition period -

In a speech in Florence, May said Britain would seek a time-limited "implementation period" after Brexit to give businesses time to adapt.

The transition period would last "around two years", although this loose phrasing has caused divisions in the British cabinet.

May has said Britain intends to leave the European single market in order to end the free movement of people from the continent.

Free movement could continue during the transition period, although EU citizens would have to register on arrival in Britain.

- Brexit bill -

May said in Florence that Britain would honour commitments made during its membership up until the end of the current budget cycle in 2020.

Brussels announced last month that Britain was "very close" to an agreement on the bill, with reports that the settlement could be up to 55 billion euros.

But a senior British source told the Press Association news agency on Friday it would be between 40 and 45 billion euros.

- Rights of EU, UK citizens -

The status of more than three million Europeans living in Britain, and more than one million British expatriates, is a key issue for both sides.

Following Friday's agreement, May said the rights of EU citizens in Britain would be "enshrined in UK law and enforced by British courts".

British citizens living in the EU will also retain their rights.

In the passage which may cause the most anger among Brexiteers, Britain agreed that its courts will be able to refer issues about EU citizens' rights to the European Court of Justice for eight years after leaving the European Union.

- No hard border with Ireland -

The deal guarantees the "avoidance of a hard border" between EU member Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland, a key issue in maintaining peace in the province.

Dublin and London had appeared to reach a deal, with the British government apparently ready to allow Northern Ireland to remain aligned with EU customs and single market rules.

But the deal was torpedoed by Northern Ireland's DUP, the pro-British party that props up May's government in Westminster, who demanded that there be no regulatory divergence between Northern Ireland and the British mainland.

After days of talks, an agreement was reached after Britain vowed to find a way to avoid a hard border "through the overall EU-UK relationship".

However, if this cannot be achieved, Britain will keep "full alignment" with EU single market and customs union rules that "support North-South cooperation".

This raises the spectre that the whole of Britain could be bound by EU regulations unless it finds a way of maintaining a frictionless border.

- What happens next? -

An EU summit on December 14-15 is set to formally give the go-ahead for the beginning of negotiations on a transition period and the future partnership between the UK and the EU.

Britain has said it is confident of wrapping up both sets of negotiations -- withdrawal and future trade ties -- by the time it leaves the EU but many others have warned the negotiations could take years.

May has ruled out staying in the EU's customs union so that Britain can strike its own trade deals with countries outside the bloc.

EU lead negotiator Michel Barnier says the withdrawal negotiations must be wrapped up by October 2018 to give the European Parliament time to ratify any deal.

May has promised the British parliament a vote on the final Brexit deal but warned that rejecting it meant Britain would leave without any agreement.

Before then, she must push eight bills relating to Brexit through the House of Commons.

MPs are currently scrutinising the first bill, which will repeal Britain's EU membership and transfer four decades of European law onto the UK statute books.

burs-jwp/dt/ser

]]>
12/8/2017 2:15:53 PM
<![CDATA[France's Macron says external powers must stop interfering in Lebanon ]]>
"For Lebanon to be protected from regional crises it's essential that all Lebanese parties and regional actors respect the principle of non-interference," Macron said at the opening of international meeting on Lebanon in Paris.

"The meeting today must show the will of international community to see the policy of regional disassociation put into place effectively by all in the country." ]]>
12/8/2017 11:27:35 AM
<![CDATA[Hundreds more Israeli police deployed ahead of main Muslim prayers]]>
"Several hundred additional police and border police have been deployed inside and in the vicinity of the Old City," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.

The situation was calm early Friday in Jerusalem's Old City, the location of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third-holiest site in Islam and where thousands typically attend the main weekly prayers.

Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, was calling for a "day of rage" on Friday and protests were expected over Trump's move on Wednesday recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The disputed city lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with both sides seeing it as their capital.

]]>
12/8/2017 10:45:24 AM
<![CDATA[Boris Johnson slams MB for manipulating freedoms in UK]]>
During his Thursday speech at the Foreign Office in London, Johnson called on the western governments to pay more attention to the Brotherhood’s activities in their countries, and called for renewing western foreign policies to tackle Islamic extremism in the Middle East.

“We must be clear-eyed about this organization {Muslim Brotherhood}. It manifests itself in different ways in different places,” Johnson said.

He also criticized the Brotherhood for attacking Pope Francis during his last visit to Cairo in April, when they described him “the Pope of terrorism” and accused the Egyptian security forces that were tasked with guarding him of being “Christian militias.”

He stressed, “No excuse for the kind of poisonous rhetoric we are seeing from the Muslim Brotherhood. They are exculpating the true culprits and encouraging terrorism by making wild claims about the Egyptian government.”

The Brotherhood in Egypt was designated as a terrorist organization in 2013 after accusations that they were responsible for a suicide bomb attack on a police station that killed 16 people.

The Egyptian government has demanded the UK to ban the organization for its support of terrorism, however the British government decided that the Brotherhood did not meet the threshold for a proscribed group. Johnson criticized the group’s recent conduct in the Middle East and Britain, accusing it of exploiting its presence in the country to achieve its political agenda.

“It is plainly wrong that Islamists exploit freedoms here in the UK, it is all too clear that some affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood are willing to turn a blind eye to terrorism,” Johnson said.

Johnson also attacked the U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital after the decision sparked waves of protest.

He added it was, “not helpful”, echoing Theresa May who vowed to confront Trump over his controversial announcement.

Johnson stressed that the UK still believes that the status of Jerusalem must be resolved as part of a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.]]>
12/8/2017 10:23:08 AM
<![CDATA[Trump, Democrats face off over potential government shutdown]]>
U.S. House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer will join Trump and Republican congressional leaders for talks after canceling a similarly planned meeting last week when the president posted a note on Twitter attacking their policy positions.

Trump and Congress are facing a deadline of midnight Friday to pass new spending legislation or trigger the closure of many federal offices.

A bill to keep the government operating through Dec. 22 easily cleared a procedural hurdle in the House, setting up a vote on passage later on Thursday.

If the Senate goes along, as expected, the White House and congressional leaders will have to intensify negotiations on a series of contentious issues in order to come up with the next government funding bill that would stave off partial shutdowns on Dec. 23.

Talks with Schumer and Pelosi, whom Trump has referred to as “Chuck and Nancy,” could be the start of a protracted blame game. The Republican president said on Wednesday that Democrats were looking at something “very dangerous” for the United States: “They are looking at shutting down.”

On Thursday, Schumer said Trump seemed to be rooting for a shutdown and if one occurs, “it will fall on his shoulders.”

“His party controls the Senate, the House and the presidency,” he said. “Nobody here wants to see a shutdown. We Democrats are not interested in one.”

The meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. (2000 GMT).

The Republican-controlled House is expected to vote on Thursday on a bill that would keep the government open at current spending levels through Dec. 22 while lawmakers negotiate a longer-term solution.

The legislation will include some short-term help for states running out of money to finance a health insurance program for lower-income children.

A House procedural vote on the measure is expected around 1:30 p.m. ET (1830 GMT), with a vote on passage possible around 4:30 p.m. ET (2130 GMT).

House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters he felt good about the vote count on the spending bill.

Democrats, whose votes will be required to pass the temporary spending measure in the Senate, are pushing their own priorities, including legislative protections for young people brought to the United States illegally as children and healthcare subsidies that Trump has ended for low-income people.]]>
12/8/2017 12:24:36 AM
<![CDATA[Rawdah mosque attack shows Egypt is targeted: French amb in Cairo]]>
The French ambassador made clear France’s stance on the issue of Jerusalem during the interview.

“Our stand on this issue is clear; any decision regarding Jerusalem can never be single sided, and there is a UN resolution about this specific matter because the situation of Jerusalem cannot be settled except through negotiations,” Romatet stated.

When asked about the measures that France took and is expected to take in light of the decision U.S. President Donald Trump televised Wednesday, Romatet remarked that French President Emmanuel Macron had phoned his American counterpart and advised him against taking such a decision.

"It is the headquarters of many government ministries. For many years, visiting American diplomats met their Israeli counterparts in Jerusalem… It is now the heart of one of the most successful democracies in the world," U.S. President Donald Trump has stated during his speech Wednesday.


"Through all of these years, presidents representing the United States have refused to acknowledge Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Today, we acknowledge that Jerusalem is the Israeli capital. It is the right thing to do. It is something that has to be done," Trump continued.


Trump has asserted that this decision does not in any way represent a departure from efforts to establish a lasting peace in the region.


"The U.S. would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides," he affirmed, adding that the question of the Israeli borders, including in Jerusalem, are up the the parties concerned.


“I affirm my administration’s longstanding commitment to peace,” Trump said. He emphasized the controversial step will lead to "different or better results," and that it is a "necessary condition" to achieve peace.

Egypt and France: Terrorism and Investments

Concerning Egyptian-French relations, Romatet stated that “the Al-Rawdah mosque attack emphasized that terrorism clearly targets Egypt.”

“Egypt is the first step in battling terrorism, and we in France are clear that we will do everything we can to aid Egypt in this war against terrorism. France’s security begins with Egypt’s security,” the French ambassador stated.

Romatet explained that due to being targeted by terrorism, Egypt may suffer a drop in investments. “Egypt today is attractive because it represents a large market and that is why it is an attractive investment hub,” he elaborated.

“More and more French companies are interested in investing in Egypt even though the world thinks its falling into a dark pit,” Romatet stressed. ]]>
12/7/2017 9:54:04 PM
<![CDATA[Egyptian parliament condemns Trump's Jerusalem decision]]>
Gammal called on Arab presidents to hold an emergency summit in order to take a firm stance against Trump’s decision, “the decision which reveals his bias to Israel.”

He stressed the importance of clearly informing the U.S. that its economic, political and security interests with Arab countries will be adversely affected by this decision.

He also stressed that the United States should not play a fundamental role in resolving the Palestinian issue and that the solution should be reached consensually and internationally through the United Nations. “It is important to unify the Palestinian factions to one entity,” Gammal emphasized.

Parliament's Religious Affairs Committee head, Osama Al-Abd, denounced Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

He called on the international community to take a decisive stand against this resolution, stressing the importance of a unified Arab stance towards the ongoing attempts of Israel to Judaize Jerusalem.

Trump’s decision will not be accepted by the Arab governments and people. It represents a “death bullet” against the peace process in the Middle East.

Head of the Social Solidarity Committee MP Abdul Hadi El-Qasabi stated that Trump’s decision “came out of nowhere” and contravened all international laws and norms, particularly international conventions.

El-Qasabi warned of the repercussions of this decision, asking "where were the international organizations when this decision was taken, and how do they accept this blatant and unlawful interference with the issue of Jerusalem?"

In a press conference, head of the housing committee Moataz Mahmoud stated that this resolution undermined the peace process in the Middle East, stressing that Jerusalem is an Arab land and will remain an Arab land.

“The Egyptian House of Representatives chaired by Ali Abdel Aal is completely against Trump’s decision,” Mahmoud stated.

United States President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday during a televised speech from the White House, Washington D.C.

"It is the headquarters of many government ministries. For many years, visiting American diplomats met their Israeli counterparts in Jerusalem… It is now the heart of one of the most successful democracies in the world," Trump stated during his speech on Wednesday.]]>
12/7/2017 6:39:53 PM
<![CDATA[Trump and Democrats face off ]]>
U.S. House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer will join Trump and Republican congressional leaders for talks after canceling a similarly planned meeting last week when the president posted a note on Twitter attacking their policy positions.

Trump and Congress are facing a deadline of midnight Friday to pass new spending legislation. If they cannot agree on the terms, parts of the federal government could shut down.

Talks with Schumer and Pelosi, whom Trump has referred to as "Chuck and Nancy," could be the start of a protracted blame game. The Republican president said on Wednesday that Democrats were looking at something "very dangerous" for the United States: "They are looking at shutting down."

Pelosi responded in a tweet that Trump was the only person talking about such a scenario.

"Democrats are hopeful the president will be open to an agreement to address the urgent needs of the American people and keep government open," she wrote.

The meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. (2000 GMT).

The Republican-controlled House is expected to vote on Thursday on a bill that would keep the government open at current spending levels through Dec. 22 while lawmakers negotiate a longer-term solution. The legislation will include some short-term help for states running out of money to finance a health insurance program for lower-income children.

A House procedural vote on the measure is expected around 1:30 p.m. ET (1830 GMT), with a vote on passage possible around 4:30 p.m. ET (2130 GMT).

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged senators to support the stop-gap funding bill he expects the House to send over.

He said the measure will provide more time for bipartisan work on addressing "a number of the priorities of our nation in the coming weeks."

Some conservative Republicans may oppose the spending bill on the grounds that the time period is too short and forces more crucial decision-making right before the holidays. But the measure is expected to pass the House and move to the Senate.

The White House said Trump would sign the stopgap measure.

Conservative House Republicans said their real focus was on what would happen next. Going forward, they favor legislation that would hold down spending levels for everything but defense, and they also want work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients. Medicaid is a government health insurance program for the poor and disabled.

“That would be very important to us,” said Representative Mark Walker, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the largest grouping of conservatives in the House.

Democrats, whose votes will be required to pass the temporary spending measure in the Senate, are pushing their own priorities, including legislative protections for young people brought to the United States illegally as children and healthcare subsidies that Trump has ended for low-income people. ]]>
12/7/2017 5:52:07 PM
<![CDATA[Al Qaeda condemns Trump's Jerusalem move, calls for action]]>
U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday reversed decades of U.S. policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In the statement carried by the U.S. SITE monitoring group, the Yemen-based AQAP said Trump's decision was the result of what it said were "normalisation steps" between some Gulf Arab countries and Israel.

"It is also a clear challenge to the Muslim world that sees the centrality of the Palestinian cause," the group said. "In the face of this serious events, we stand by our people in Palestine and support them with all we possess."

Addressing Islamist militants, the group called on them to close ranks to be ready to support Palestinians and urged Muslims to help with money and weapons.

"If you do not move, God forbid, then tomorrow the holiest of places and the Muslims' Qiblah, Mecca, will be sold and you will find then no one to defend it," it said.

The AQAP, which was formed in 2009 by the merger of al Qaeda's Saudi and Yemeni branches, is regarded by the United States as one of the most dangerous groups of the network founded by Osama bin Laden.

The United States has repeatedly carried out drone strikes on members and leaders of the group, which makes remote areas in southern Yemen as its main base. ]]>
12/7/2017 5:42:25 PM
<![CDATA[French president to open Lebanon support group meeting]]>
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed will co-chair the meeting aiming to garner the support of the international community for Lebanon’s sovereignty, stability and security.

Germany, China, the US, Italy, the UK, Russia, the EU, the Arab League, the World Bank, the UN Development Program and the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon will all take part in the meeting.]]>
12/7/2017 5:36:05 PM
<![CDATA[Turkish court remands pro-Kurdish co-leader in jail]]>
Selahattin Demirtas, who has already been in detention since his arrest 13 months ago, was not allowed to appear in court for security reasons and refused to take part via video link. He faces up to 142 years in prison on terrorism-related charges.]]>
12/7/2017 5:30:53 PM
<![CDATA[Israeli forces arrest 36 Palestinians in rallies across Gaza Strip ]]>
Several Palestinian factions organized mass rallies in different governorates in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, protesting against U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

Many outraged Palestinians demonstrated in the Gaza Strip, waving Palestinian flags, photos of Al-Aqsa Mosque and banners proclaiming Jerusalem as “our eternal capital” and calling it a “red line.” The protesters burned American and Israeli flags, as well as photos of Trump.

Clashes broke out between Palestinians and Israeli occupation forces when the latter attempted to prevent Palestinians from protesting. The clashes have resulted in injuring many people as bullets, rubber and gas bombs were fired at the stone-throwers, injuring around 25 people.

Israeli occupation forces arrested 36 Palestinians across governorates and installed iron gates at the entrance of Abda village, located 10 kilometers southwest of the city of Hebron in the southern part of the West Bank, to sever all communications with the villages’ residents.

Meanwhile, protests broke out in several Arab countries after U.S. President Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday night.

"Through all of these years, presidents representing the United States have refused to acknowledge Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Today, we acknowledge that Jerusalem is the Israeli capital. It is the right thing to do. It is something that has to be done," Trump stated.

In Jordan, several demonstrators gathered in front of the American Embassy, chanting slogans in support of the Palestinian cause, such as “we would sacrifice our blood and soul for the sake of Palestine.”

The U.S. Embassy in Amman issued a statement advising its nationals to stay away from demonstrations that arose as a result of Trump’s latest decision.

In Palestine, the demonstrations began on Wednesday night, shortly after Trump’s speech. Several Palestinian officials said that they "rejected" the declaration, which could cause a new Intifada.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh addressed Palestinians and the Arab world in a televised speech on Thursday morning, saying that "Jerusalem is our honor... If you lose it, then you have no dignity."

United States President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday during a televised speech from the White House. ]]>
12/7/2017 5:17:13 PM
<![CDATA[On Jerusalem, Trump obeys will of US people: Tillerson]]>
Tillerson is in Europe on a three-city tour and his talks with America's allies have been partly overshadowed by global outrage at Trump's controversial decision.

But Washington's top diplomat has stood by his boss and insists the decision has not marred what has otherwise been a very positive reception from EU and NATO colleagues.

"The president is simply carrying out the will of the American people," Tillerson said at a news conference with Austria's Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz.

The former oilman said Trump had merely implemented an existing American law that obliges the president to one day move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

"Nothing is different other than the president has now implemented the 1995 law," he said, insisting Washington wants Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate a peace deal.

"This has to do with the US law and a US decision and every country has a right to decide what it wants to decide as to its embassy in Israel," Tillerson said.

Earlier, US officials told reporters that when Trump was making his decision Tillerson had asked for time to check that US embassies were protected from any protests.

But, publicly, he has strongly supported the move.

In Brussels, this week, European leaders made it clear that they want Jerusalem's final status to be decided through direct negotiations as part of a final peace deal.

Standing next to Tillerson, Kurz -- who is soon to become Austria's chancellor in a new coalition government -- echoed this view.

"And I think we should do anything possible to avoid further escalation in the region," he said.

]]>
12/7/2017 4:26:20 PM
<![CDATA[Rohingya refugee crisis a 'grave security risk' ICG warns]]>
Raids by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on August 25 sparked the vicious Myanmar army response which has forced more than 620,000 Rohingya to flee Rakhine state for Bangladesh.

ARSA "appears determined to regroup and remain relevant" and may draw on desperate Rohingya refugees languishing in camps for future operations, the ICG International Crisis Group said in the report.

The group may "shift to cross-border attacks" using Bangladesh as a base for recruitment and training, the study said, cautioning the risk of an ever-deepening cycle of violence is all too real.

"Such attacks would have profoundly negative consequences," straining Myanmar-Bangladesh relations and worsening contempt for the Rohingya "that would further diminish prospects of an eventual refugee return".

Global outcry over the refugee crisis, one of the worst in recent history, has triggered a hyper-defensive response inside the country, where anti-Rohingya attitudes have hardened since ARSA's emergence.

Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya as a distinct ethnic group eligible for citizenship, instead calling them "Bengali", suggesting they are illegal immigrants.

In another serious looming risk, ICG warned that Rohingya's plight has become a "cause celebre of the Muslim world" with Al-Qaeda, Islamic State and other global jihadi groups calling for attacks on Myanmar.

Myanmar's military has repeatedly used the terror threat to justify its campaign in northern Rakhine state.

ARSA has distanced itself from any wider global cause for jihad, saying it is only fighting to protect Rohingya rights.

International pressure is ratcheting up on Myanmar.

This week the UN rights chief said Myanmar's crackdown on the Rohingya showed possible "elements of genocide", as calls for the safe and sustainable repatriation of refugees grows.

Myanmar refutes any wrongdoing saying it was forced into a defensive action by ARSA attacks.

It has agreed with Bangladesh to start repatriation of "eligible" refugees within a few months.

But there are widespread doubts over how many Rohingya can prove they are entitled to return to Rakhine, or want to go back to areas riddled with communal mistrust and where their villages were razed.

China, a key strategic ally of Myanmar, is pitching itself as an arbiter in the crisis, and has repeatedly urged the international community to take a softline on Myanmar.

But pressure is mounting in the West -- particularly Washington -- to reimpose targeted sanctions on Myanmar military figures.

Sanctions were slowly rolled back in recent years as reward for democratic gains after decades of outright junta rule.

The ICG study said any fresh sanctions would backfire by isolating Myanmar and calcifying hatred towards the Rohingya.

]]>
12/7/2017 1:17:42 PM
<![CDATA[Michael Flynn promised to 'rip up' sanctions against Russia]]>
As President Donald Trump delivered his inaugural address on Capitol Hill in January, his incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn, sitting a few yards away, texted a former business partner that a nuclear power project that would require lifting sanctions on Russia was "good to go," a senior House Democrat said in a letter released on Wednesday.

Quoting a confidential informant, Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote that Alex Copson, the managing partner of ACU Strategic Partners, told the informant that Flynn would see that the sanctions on Moscow were "ripped up."

In the letter to Representative Trey Gowdy, the panel’s Republican chairman, Cummings demanded that Gowdy subpoena documents on the nuclear power plan from the White House, Flynn, Copson, their partners and associates.

Cummings said he had found the unnamed informant to be "authentic, credible, and reliable," and offered to produce the individual for Gowdy.

Gowdy told reporters later on Wednesday that he was not going to have the Oversight Committee look into the issues raised in Cummings letter, because it falls outside the scope of the committee's responsibilities. He suggested the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia's role in the 2016 U.S. election, take up the matter. Copson and ACU did not immediately respond to detailed requests for comment, while an attorney for Flynn declined to comment.

The White House referred inquiries to Trump's personal White House attorney, Ty Cobb, who declined to comment.

If true, the informant’s story adds new evidence that the project’s promoters believed that Flynn and Trump backed the plan for a consortium of U.S., Russian and French firms to build and operate 45 nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries.

Reuters last week published documents that showed Copson and other plan proponents believed they had Flynn and Trump in their corner. The documents also revealed previously unreported aspects of the ACU proposal, including the involvement of a Russian nuclear equipment manufacturer currently under U.S. sanctions.

Flynn was a consultant to ACU from April 2015 to June 2016, according to amended financial disclosure forms he filed in August 2017.

Flynn, who served only 24 days as Trump's national security adviser, pleaded guilty last week to lying to FBI agents working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller about his contacts with asenior Russian diplomat. Mueller is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 elections.

Cummings wrote that he delayed releasing the letter at Mueller’s request until the special counsel "completed certain investigative steps. They have now informed us that they have done so."

Cummings said the informant, who contacted his staff in June, met Copson at a Jan. 20 inaugural event in Washington.

The two had not known each other, Cummings said.

Copson described the nuclear project and told the informant that he had "just got this text message" from Flynn saying that the plan was "good to go" and that Copson should contact his colleagues to "let them know to put things in place," Cummings wrote.

Copson showed the informant the text message, according to Cummings. While the informant did not read the message, he saw the time stamp of 12:11 pm, which was about 10 minutes into Trump’s inaugural address.

"Mike has been putting everything in place for us," Copson told the informant, Cummings wrote. "This is going to make a lot of wealthy people."

“The whistleblower was extremely uncomfortable with the conversation,” Cummings wrote. “While at the event, the whistleblower made brief notes of Mr. Copson’s name and the discussion. The whistleblower left the event shortly thereafter.”

]]>
12/7/2017 1:13:18 PM
<![CDATA[Trump's decision to bring America before SC: Former US Amb]]>
The former ambassador further contended that America has lost its ability to play the role of a mediator in this issue as it put its thumb on the scale of one party, confirming that such move only serves the interests of Israel, particularly in the areas of the West bank and Gaza where the Israeli colonization is still ongoing.

Orabi further said that the US Embassy relocation enables Israel to claim Al-Quds as capital, derailing reconciliation and peace processes, and asking for bringing the issue to the Security Council which will fuse world's tanks to stand against the unlawful decision that was taken solely.

Trump announced Wednesday evening that he has decided to officially recognize Al-Quds as the capital of Israel amid growing global and regional condemnations and worldwide warnings.
]]>
12/7/2017 12:46:48 PM
<![CDATA[International reactions to Trump's controversial decision]]>

Jerusalem is eternal Palestinian capital, Abbas

Palestinian President

Mahmoud Abbas

said on Wednesday that Jerusalem was the "eternal capital of the State of Palestine" in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement that he was recognizing the city as Israel's capital.

download (13)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas looks on as Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al Khalid al Sabah and Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki (not seen) sign an agreement and a memorandum of understanding, in the West Bank city of Ramallah Sep



Hamas urges action against U.S. interests over Trump's "flagrant aggression"

Palestinian Islamist group

Hamas

said U.S. President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and decision to move the U.S. embassy to the city was a "flagrant aggression against the Palestinian people".

download (11)
Palestinian Hamas militants march during a military parade marking the 29th anniversary of the founding of the Hamas movement, in the northern of Gaza Strip December 8, 2016. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem



Egypt rejects U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem - Foreign Ministry

Egypt rejected the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, the

foreign ministry

said on Wednesday.

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Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry - REUTERS



Sisi discusses Trump’s decision with Palestine’s Abbas

Egypt's President

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

received a phone call from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the repercussions of the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, a statement from the Egyptian presidency said on Wednesday.

34230
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attends a ceremony to sign military contracts with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (unseen) at the Ittihadiya presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, October 10, 2015 - REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh



Iran "seriously condemns" U.S. decision to move its embassy

Iran

"seriously condemns" the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, the Islamic Republic said Wednesday in a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs carried by state media.

iran1a
SUPREME LEADER: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, shown at a 2009 clerical gathering, oversees an organization called Setad that has assets estimated at about $95 billion. REUTERS/Khamenei.ir/Handout



Lebanese president says Trump decision threatens stability

Lebanon's President

Michel Aoun

said on Wednesday that U.S. President Donald Trump's Jerusalem decision was dangerous and threatened the credibility of the United States as a broker of the peace process in the region.

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Lebanese President Michel Aoun is seen at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, November 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir



Tunisian labour union: Jerusalem decision a "declaration of war"

Tunisia's powerful labour union

UGTT

said U.S. President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and decision to move the U.S. embassy to the city was a declaration of war, a statement said on Wednesday.

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Tunisia's Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi speaks during a news conference in Tunis, February 11, 2014. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi



Jordan rejects Trump's move on Jerusalem, says legally null

Jordan

rejected on Wednesday the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel saying it was "legally null" because it consolidated Israel's occupation of the eastern sector of the contested city in the 1967 war.

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Jordan's King Abdullah meets with members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the U.S. Capitol in Washington February 3, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron



Syrian president says Jerusalem to be Palestinian capital

The Palestinian cause will stay alive among Arabs until the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, the

Syrian president's

office said on Wednesday in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's Jerusalem decision.

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Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with Turkey's Halk TV in Damascus, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA on October 4, 2013. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters



Morocco expresses deep concern over Jerusalem decision

Morocco

summoned the U.S. charge d'affaires to express its deep concern over the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, state news agency MAP said on Wednesday.

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King Mohammed VI of Morocco reviews a guard of honour at the National palace during his state visit to Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, November 19, 2016. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri



Turkey condemns U.S. move on Jerusalem as "irresponsible"

Turkey's foreign ministry

on Wednesday condemned a decision by the United States to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as "irresponsible" and called on Washington to reconsider the move.

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Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu answers a question during an interview with Reuters in Ankara, Turkey, August 24, 2015. REUTERS/Umit Bektas



EU seriously concerned about Trump's Jerusalem decision

The

European Union

expressed serious concern on Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, saying it could have repercussions for peace prospects.

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European Union flags fly in front of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels October 12, 2012. REUTERS/Yves Herman



Saudi king, Turkish president discuss U.S. embassy move decision

Saudi Arabia's

King Salman

discussed the "most prominent developments" in the region in a telephone call from the Turkish president, the Saudi state news agency reported, after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. Embassy in Israel would be moved to Jerusalem

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Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud waves during a reception ceremony for Emir of Kuwait Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 16, 2017. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS



France's Macron says does not back Trump Jerusalem decision

France does not support U.S. President Donald Trump's "unilateral" decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and called for calm across the region, President

Emmanuel Macron

said on Wednesday.

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French President Emmanuel Macron attends a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

]]>
12/6/2017 11:53:23 PM
<![CDATA[Trump's Jerusalem decision: key questions answered]]>
"Through all of these years, presidents representing the United States have refused to acknowledge Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Today, we acknowledge that Jerusalem is the Israeli capital. It is the right thing to do. It is something that has to be done,” Trump stated.

With this decision, long awaited by the Israeli government, Trump fulfilled his campaign promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem.

Many international analysts have expected that Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would serve as the last nail in Trump's coffin in terms of the peace process between Palestinians and the Israelis.

Egypt Today presents a look at some of the key questions surrounding Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

When was the law to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem passed?

In 1995, Congress passed a law that called for an embassy to be established in Jerusalem. Every president since Bill Clinton has signed a waiver twice a year that cites national security concerns, out of fear that it would alienate Arab allies and damage the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

When did Trump sign a waiver to postpone the U.S. Embassy’s move?

Trump issued a similar waiver in June, but he missed a Monday deadline for such a waiver this week.

U.S. sources said, “If he signs the wavier this week, that will not be indicative of him reversing his opinion; it will just be a question of timing. It will be when, not if.”

What effect will Trump's declaration have?

Jerusalem's status is central to the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, and the change in U.S. policy carries deep symbolic meaning, as it will be seen as backing Israeli sovereignty over the city, something the international community does not recognize.

Palestinian leaders have warned that any change to the status quo would mean the end of the peace process.

U.S. officials, however, insist that Trump "remains committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians and is optimistic that peace can be achieved."

One official said that Trump's decision "doesn't change the status quo with respect to the holy sites and other sensitive issues."

Since the news about Trump’s decision waived, protests have erupted in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian leaders have called for "three days of rage" against the move.

Over the past 20 years, the Jerusalem issue has been at the heart of much of the violence between Palestinians and Israelis, including the Intifada, or uprising, in 2000.

How did Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas respond to Trump’s decision?

“Earlier, President Mahmoud Abbas received a telephone call from U.S. President Donald Trump in which he notified the President (Abbas) of his intention to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem," spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in a statement.

The statement did not say whether Trump elaborated on the timing of such a move.

"President Abbas warned of the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world," Abu Rudeineh said.

Reuters reported that Abbas will deliver a televised speech after listening to President Trump's speech.

What was the Arab leaders’ stance on Trump’s decision?

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi cautioned Trump against “taking measures that would undermine the chances of peace in the Middle East.”

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, ruler of one of the U.S.’s closest Middle Eastern allies, told Trump in a phone call, “Any American announcement regarding the situation of Jerusalem prior to reaching a permanent settlement will harm peace talks and increase tensions in the area.”

In a statement through Saudi Arabia’s SPA news agency, Salman called the move a “dangerous step” that is “likely to inflame the passions of Muslims around the world.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Israel as news of Trump’s decision emerged.

“Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims,” said Erdogan. “We implore the U.S. once again: You cannot take this step.”

How did international newspapers react to Trump’s decision?

International newspapers on Wednesday had mixed reactions to Donald Trump’s expected decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announce that he is moving the American embassy there from Tel Aviv.

By upending nearly seven decades of American foreign policy, the U.S. president is “potentially destroying his efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” The New York Times reported.

Trump’s decision was described in the American newspaper as a high-risk foray into the thicket of the Middle East, driven not by diplomatic calculations but by a campaign promise.

Under the title, “Don’t move U.S. embassy to Jerusalem,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported that even if Trump was a brilliant negotiator, unilaterally altering U.S. policy regarding Jerusalem to accord with the Israeli position would unnecessarily antagonize a billion Muslims and undercut the United States’ ability to broker a future peace deal.

“It is also exceptionally unwise to risk another conflagration in the Middle East when it is already engulfed in a bloody conflict and instability from Syria to Yemen and tensions are rising between Saudi Arabia and Iran,” stated the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Of all the issues at the heart of the enduring conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, none is as sensitive as the status of Jerusalem. Donald Trump’s approach to it threatens to smash a long-standing international consensus in a disruptive and dangerous way,” British newspaper The Guardian stated.

Canadian and Chinese national newspapers went on to describe Trump’s intentions as “catastrophic”, raising questions about the White House’s ultimate strategy and intentions.]]>
12/6/2017 10:50:24 PM
<![CDATA[Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital "insolent": Palestinian Amb.]]>
Al-Louh said during a phone interview with Al-Hayah satellite channel that Trump’s decision is as dangerous as the Balfour Declaration. “Today, Trump gave what he does not own to those who do not deserve.”

The Balfour Declaration was issued by the British government during World War I announcing support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.

“Jerusalem is not Trump’s or the Jew’s, it is Palestine’s capital and is part of the lands occupied by Israel in 1967,” Al-Louh said. “Neither Trump, nor Israel, have the right to change Jerusalem’s geographical features according to the International Law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Trump’s decision was described in American newspaper as a high-risk foray into the thicket of the Middle East, driven not by diplomatic calculations but by a campaign promise.

Al-Louh pointed out that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is standing on these serious developments, stressing that called President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi to discuss the situation.

“We cannot accept any political settlement, peace, security or stability, we will not be contempt with anything but full sovereignty over Jerusalem,” Al-Louh added.

Al-Louh also confirmed that Palestinians are struggling against the Israeli occupation, affirming that Palestinians aspire to live in peace.

“We have already accepted 22% of the historic occupied Palestinian lands only so that we can live in peace and with dignity alongside with other people of the region,” Al-Louh said. “Now, Trump eliminated any opportunity of hope to achieve security and stability in the region.” ]]>
12/6/2017 10:26:53 PM
<![CDATA[Trump and Jerusalem: International newspapers react ahead of speech]]>CAIRO – 6 December 2017: International newspaper on Wednesday had mixed reactions to Donald Trump’s expected decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announce that he is moving the American Embassy there from Tel Aviv.

By upending nearly seven decades of American foreign policy, the U.S. president is “potentially destroying his efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” The New York Times reported.

Trump’s decision was described in the American newspaper as a high-risk foray into the thicket of the Middle East, driven not by diplomatic calculations but by a campaign promise.

Under the title, “Don’t move U.S. embassy to Jerusalem,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported that even if Trump was a brilliant negotiator, unilaterally altering U.S. policy regarding Jerusalem to accord with the Israeli position would unnecessarily antagonize a billion Muslims and undercut the United States’ ability to broker a future peace deal.

“It is also exceptionally unwise to risk another conflagration in the Middle East when it is already engulfed in a bloody conflict and instability from Syria to Yemen and tensions are rising between Saudi Arabia and Iran,” stated the San Francisco Chronicle.

Trump’s decision was also met by criticism in most of the British press. “America will be the first country in the world to disrupt the delicate stalemate by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel alone,” the British newspaper iNews stated.

“There is no logical answer to why Trump has done this. His stance may be that he is thriving on the publicity. There is no need to do this from any aspect of political thinking, it makes very little sense,” Yossi Mekelberg, professor of International Relations at Regent's University London told iNews.

“Of all the issues at the heart of the enduring conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, none is as sensitive as the status of Jerusalem. Donald Trump’s approach to it threatens to smash a long-standing international consensus in a disruptive and dangerous way,” British newspaper The Guardian stated.

Canadian and Chinese national newspapers went to describe Trump’s intentions as “catastrophic” raising questions about the White House’s ultimate strategy and intentions.]]>
12/6/2017 7:41:12 PM
<![CDATA[Relocating U.S. embassy is provocation of Arabs: Aboul Gheit]]>
Aboul Gheit warned against the “dangerous magnitude of the negative consequences” of this decision, suggesting that the decision, which will stand in the way of peace, illustrates that the U.S. does not digest the situation properly.

The Secretary-General said in a Wednesday press statement, “Jerusalem has its special status in the hearts of the Arab Christian or Muslims,” describing the move as a futile attempt to manipulate its fate.

Aboul Gheit continued, “I was staggered by the involvement of the U.S. administration in the unjustified provocation of the feelings of 360 million Arabs, and 1.5 billion Muslims with the sole purpose to make Israel content.”

Earlier on Wednesday, President Donald Trump informed his Palestinian counterpart of his intention to relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a move which implicitly gives Israel the right to call Jerusalem the Israeli capital.

Shortly afterwards, a hashtag entitled “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine” became the most trending worldwide, with millions of tweets condemning the potential implied U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Several international and regional condemnations trailed Tuesday’s announcement.]]>
12/6/2017 6:53:42 PM
<![CDATA[Trump on Jerusalem: He is not all ears]]>
“It was one of his pledges when he was running for presidency,” Nourhan el-Sheikh, political science professor told Egypt Today in statements on Wednesday. She added that Trump’s interests with the Israeli lobby within the United States is huge, “the decision will benefit him on both levels as an American president and as a businessman.”

After one year in the White House, Trump has not fulfilled many of the pledges he made during the elections; but the choice to fulfill this one now is not so surprising according to el-Sheikh.

“Maybe he is relying on the current Arabian disputes, wars and conflicts. Admitting that the majority of the Arab governments are witnessing their weakest periods is no wonder, so they might be thinking that this is the perfect time to announce their decision,” el-Sheikh explained.

So Trump has announced his willingness to turn the Israeli dream “that will severely damage the peace process in the Middle East” into a reality, but does he really knows what he is doing?

The decision is not difficult logistically according to the CNN, the U.S. already has a consulate in Jerusalem, all that the move entails is a simply change in the names between the consulate and the current embassy in Tel Aviv. Trump’s pledge is easily fulfilled and the interests are gained, but what happens to the U.S. relations in the Middle East; what about the Arab anger and the potential protests?

Arab countries have already issued several statements warning and condemning Trump’s decision. Most Islamic governments including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and even the Arab League have expressed their deep concern regarding the rage that could be provoked in the Arab community by the decision, but as we are still waiting on Trump’s final declaration which should be announced in the coming hours, it is not yet certain that he has listened.

In her statements to Egypt Today, el-Sheikh wondered if Trump would risk his good relations with some of the region’s governments including Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

“Relocating the embassy would provoke the Islamic world due to the great importance of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims all over the world,” King Salman of Saudi Arabia told Trump over a phone call on Tuesday. He added that the Saudi policy has always been to support the Palestinian cause until reaching a final settlement between Palestine and Israel.

In another statement on December 5, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that “Jerusalem is a red line” for Muslims all over the world. He threatened that this declaration would lead to Ankara cutting its diplomatic ties with Israel.

Hamas tweeted on December 2 warning of the consequences of the American announcement to move the embassy, calling to escalate the protests expressing their refusal and anger.




In his article for The Independent, December 5, Robert Fisk wondered if Trump would be expecting a “warm welcome and traditional sword dance in Riyadh” the next time he visits it as he did, along with his Foreign Affairs Minister Rex Tillerson last May during his first tour as a president.



“In a way, we should have expected this: mad presidents do mad things… But is there no one in the White House able to restrain him?” Fisk continued.

What about the consequences beyond Muslims and Arabs?

This decision is also a waste of decades of peace efforts.

“The European government’s stances, which clearly refuses the decision should be taken more seriously by Trump; they are not torn up by disputes, conflicts and wars the same as the Middle East,” el-Sheikh told Egypt Today.

Some European and Asian countries are expected to take serious measures as a reaction over Trump’s declaration; she added however, “We hope that these measures will exceed the well-known diplomatic procedures.”

A survey carried out by Brookings Institution on December 1 showed that Americans do not completely agree with their president’s decision to relocate the embassy. Responding to the question “do you support or oppose the U.S. moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?” about 63 percent voted for oppose.

If Trump would listen to the advice, surveys, condemnations and warnings from most of the world’s leaders, he would refrain from announcing the decision, but in the coming hours we will know just exactly how Trump’s diplomacy works.

Update:

In a televised speech from the White House Wednesday night, Trump has officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

"Through all of these years, presidents representing the United States have refused to acknowledge Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Today, we acknowledge that Jerusalem is the Israeli capital. It is the right thing to do. It is something that has to be done," Trump stated.



Majority of the world leaders refused to acknowledge Trump’s decision, including Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Britain, France, Canada, Morocco and Germany. “We refuse Trump’s decision. It is a unilateral and unfortunate decision which undermines the peace process.” Most of the leaders unanimously agreed. Other statements even described the step as a "declaration of war" and "kiss of death." Calls for protests and demonstrations went viral within the Arab world, as Trump himself said that he is expecting.

“There will, of course, be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement. But we are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at peace and a place far greater in understanding and cooperation,” he stated during his speech.

Trump’s determination that this ‘refused’ declaration would actually be a step towards peace proves what Fisk has said in his article, December 5, "President Trump is bananas!"]]>
12/6/2017 6:50:27 PM
<![CDATA[Hamas thanks Egypt for efforts to end inter-Palestinian split]]>
In its Wednesday statement, Hamas also extended its appreciation to the Egyptian intelligence, as well as the Egyptian delegation, which arrived in Gaza several days ago to follow up on the reconciliation agreement signed in Egypt in October.

“We in Hamas renew our full commitment to all that has been agreed upon, and press ahead with the implementation of all steps stipulated the agreements signed,” the statement said, crediting “Egypt’s generous care and sponsorship.”

Palestinian National Authorities and factions met in Cairo on November 21 and 22 after an Egyptian invitation to resume talks between Fatah and Hamas. The discussions aimed at finding common grounds on which implementing the next step of their Egyptian-brokered reconciliation deal can take place.

Egypt, which hosted a series of meetings over the past two days between both parties, had invited Palestinian factions that signed the 2011 accord to hold their coming meeting on November 21, 2017, in Cairo.]]>
12/6/2017 6:17:47 PM
<![CDATA[Flying of Israeli flag in holy sites provokes Palestinians]]>
Demonstrations sparked in many Palestinian cities, protesting against Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy, a move that would formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Protesters burned photos of both Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, declaring their rejection of the decision and raising signs reading “No to the Judaization of Jerusalem.”

On Wednesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned the U.S. President that moving the embassy to Jerusalem would yield negative consequences, which adds Palestine to the growing list of nations who have rejected the decision including Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

People across the Middle East are outraged after President Trump announced his intentions regarding Jerusalem; the move would severely damage the ongoing peace process in the region.

Egyptian Parliament members have issued several official statements condemning the U.S. declaration. Tarek Radwan, a member of Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement to Egypt Today that the decision will increase the tensions in the region, and inflame Arab feelings, as it does not serve the aim to end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

He added that the U.S. declaration to move its embassy is completely contrary to the United Nations’ conventions, and the solution of establishing the two states. “More tensions and conflicts will grow within the region,” Radwan said.

He also demanded that the Arab League take a firm stance in regards to U.S. intentions. ]]>
12/6/2017 4:25:08 PM
<![CDATA[Arab League holds extraordinary session on U.S. Embassy’s move ]]>
According to a Palestinian-prepared memo obtained by the Middle East News Agency, the meeting will discuss the next steps by Arab countries towards a potential decision which is a violation of international law, the UN Security Council resolutions and the Fourth Geneva Convention, as the memo reported.

Earlier on Wednesday, President Donald Trump informed his Palestinian counterpart of his intention to relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a move which implicitly gives Israel the right to call Jerusalem the Israeli capital.

Shortly afterwards, a Hashtag entitled “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine” is currently the most trending worldwide, with millions of tweets condemning the potential implied U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Several international and regional condemnations trailed Tuesday’s announcement.]]>
12/6/2017 4:23:01 PM
<![CDATA[Yemen’s fate after Ali Abdullah Saleh: expected scenarios]]>
The 69-year-old’s assassination came just days after his announcement of breaking off ties with Houthis and his willingness for dialogue with the Saudi-led coalition.

At the security level, it is also expected that Houthis will seek to take control over the capital Sana’a, and assassinate and arrest leaders of the GPC in the next few days.

Some parliament members and experts in Arab matters expressed their expectations regarding the Yemeni future. Saad el-Gammal, head of the Arab Affairs Committee, said that the Yemeni president betrayed his country when he allied with Houthis in an attempt to destroy Yemen.

"Then Saleh announced the war against Houthis and called for an uprising against them; he expressed his willingness to engage with the Arab coalition countries, which led the Houthis to attack his house and kill him," added Gammal.

"Supporters of Ali Saleh and his tribe will react strongly to what happened which will have negative consequences not only on Yemen but on the whole region," stated Gammal, adding that he sympathizes only with Yemeni people, hoping they avoid all these bloody conflicts.

In the same context, political expert Abdel Moneim Said stated that Houthis were very powerful; Saleh had chosen the wrong way when he allied with them for a long time, and he had to be careful announcing war against them.

"Iran-backed Houthis were able to enter a war against the leaders of GPC, and started with killing Saleh," Said added, pointing out that Saleh’s murder created a state of imbalance in his forces, but that imbalance is not expected to last for long because the army also has tribal ties.

"The conflict in Yemen will continue to be more severe in the coming stage, especially that Iran supports the Houthis with money and weapons; also, the assassination process involved foreign intelligence services, enabling Houthis to kill the Yemeni president," Said explained.

Parliament member Mostafa Bakry stressed that Yemen now faces a lot of risks as well as street fights of political and tribal nature as Saleh belongs to one of the biggest tribes in Yemen.

"The next phase will witness an increase in the influence of Iran in Yemen which will threaten Gulf States; moreover, Houthis will further control the executive positions in the country, which will lead to civil war," added Bakry.

The U.N. Security Council issued a statement expressing serious concern about the devastating humanitarian impact of the conflict, and calling on all parties to allow unhindered access for humanitarian supplies, and to facilitate access for essential imports of food, fuel, and medical supplies. It also called on all parties to renew their commitment to a cessation of hostilities.

In December 2017, former President Saleh reportedly switched war sides and his forces clashed with Houthis in the capital Sana'a. A Houthi-affiliated TV station announced the murder of Saleh after fierce fighting in the capital.]]>
12/6/2017 4:09:57 PM
<![CDATA[Opinion: “Deal of the Century” Leaks and Israeli Shamelessness]]>
To Israel, this land must be fully dominated by Jews after evacuating it from Palestinian “intruders”. However, this dream turns sour with the fact that there are four million Palestinians living on this land, besides 1.8 million others in the West Bank. These people also believe this is an Arab and Islamic land that is impossible to give up; that it constitutes an inseparable part of their history and present, and that they will never leave it regardless of the pressures exerted upon them, restraints imposed on them or temptations offered them to venture into the unknown.

We have to keep all this in mind when reading the shameless statements that Minister of Social Equality Gila Gamliel made as she participated in an international conference sponsored by the UN in Cairo. She said that the realistic solution would be for Palestinians to establish their state in parts of Sinai, while Israel annexes the West Bank, making it impossible for a Palestinian state to ever be founded.

The same minister had made detailed statements a few days ago to an Israeli magazine, where she provided further details about this worthless vision, as she linked Egyptians’ waiving of parts of Sinai with providing it with economic support. She pointed out that the ISIL crisis in Sinai is deepening, which threatens Egypt’s stability, and said she considers this to be in the best interests of both Israel and Egypt.

The Israeli minister’s shamelessness does not only stem from making the statements while she was in Egypt, but also from giving herself the right to think on behalf of the Egyptian state, and specifying for us as a government and as citizens what lies in our best interests, citing getting rid of the ISIL danger threatening us.

As for the statements themselves, proposing that Gaza becomes the only Palestinian state without any connection to the West Bank is an old Israeli proposition. Israel brings it to the fore every time there exists an international or American plan that seeks to find a historical solution based on giving Palestinians part of their legitimate national rights by giving them a “state” in Gaza, in exchange for guaranteeing Israeli security, and an Israeli-Arab normalization, making Israeli occupation of another part of the historical land of Palestine “legitimate”.

In the past, Israelis successfully stifled all rational ideas for a solution, and held on to their extremist demands. They made the best use of the bitter Arab reality since 2011, including the Palestinian division, which was akin to a historical gift to Israel. Israel could perfectly employ said division in delegitimizing Palestinian delegates, and implementing policies for the active establishment of fast-growing settlements in the West Bank. The number of settlers rose to 120,000 in more than 100 settlements. Some estimates indicate that there are even 320,000 settlers on Palestinian lands, especially Area C, which is still under Israeli security’s control.

Just as us, Arabs, are anticipating what Trump will bestow upon the region and its people, they too are waiting for the day to come when the American plan will be declared by the beginning of next year. We know that the team which will develop it consists of four individuals, and that three of them are Zionist Jews who believe in Israel’s unlimited entitlements at the expense of Palestinians and Arabs.

The Israeli Right, however, is probably concerned that this American plan could ask for concessions with unacceptable consequences. In that case, extremist rightists will make statements that will count as messages to those in charge of the anticipated plan, warning them to keep Israeli demands and visions into consideration while at the same time warning them against pressuring Israel.

The almost confirmed leaks published by the New York Times mid-November demonstrate some aspects of the anticipated American plan. It includes Israeli steps to build trust before withdrawing from Area C, leaving it to the National Authority, and other steps to improve economic and living conditions in the Gaza Strip. A Palestinian state shall be established based on “land exchange”, not on what former American presidents agreed on.

In the past, exchange of lands used to be limited to only Israel and Palestine, the West Bank and what is known as “Israel”. However, today, this exchange of lands will involve other countries. Perhaps the Israeli minister’s statements are an indicator, albeit limited, of President Trump’s plan which is yet to be officially announced.

It is noteworthy that, in statements to the New York Times, the White House’s spokesperson said that a new approach is being followed, which differs from past approaches, and that all visions to resolve the conflict will be taken into consideration. It is well-known that there are many visions, and some of them promote Israeli settler colonialism, whereas others seek out a more balanced solution. A third vision overburdens nobody but Arabs with finding a solution.

The Trump Administration has no intentions of imposing any solution on stakeholders, according to Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Special representative for international negotiations. Greenblatt emphasized that there is no specific deadline for negotiations, and that procedures will be taken to build trust and that stakeholders will be given the opportunity to interact with all ideas as they wish. This means Americans will not be involved in the conflict which could ensue if their plan is not welcomed, and that they will not go the extra mile to conclude the so called “Deal of the Century”.

This only means that the deal will only constitute a new opportunity for Israel to create more settlements, and impose further restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. As for the Palestinian state, this would not be the time for it. ]]>
12/6/2017 3:47:13 PM
<![CDATA[Houthis commit atrocities against Yemeni women ]]>
The video shows Houthi rebels firing shots at women for raising photos of Saleh and violently dispersing them and tearing apart Saleh’s photos.





The General People's Congress Party announced on December 5 the murder of its chairman and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, following reports of cancelling his alliance with Houthi rebels and joining the Saudi-led military coalition.

After the incident, Yemeni rebels, who have full control over the capital Sana'a, have detained more than 40 media staff, including staff of Yemen Today, a television channel affiliated with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh who was killed by the Houthi rebels on Monday as he fled the capital following the collapse of their uneasy three-year alliance.

In addition, Yemen's permanent representative to the United Nations, Khaled Hussein al-yemany said that the Houthi militias killed over a 1000 military and political leaders of the General People's Congress and presidential guards over the past two days.

In a statement to Al-Arabiya, yemany said that killing operations are ongoing around the clock. ]]>
12/6/2017 2:07:14 PM
<![CDATA[Arab concerned reactions to Trump's intentions ]]>
Parliament members issued several official statements, condemning the U.S. declaration, including Tarek Radwan, member of Foreign Affairs Committee, who said in a statement to Egypt Today on Wednesday that the decision will increase the tensions in the region, inflame the Arab feelings, as it does not serve the aim to end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

He added that the U.S. declaration to move its embassy is completely contrary to the United Nations conventions, and the solution of establishing the two states. “More tensions and conflicts will grow within the region,” Radwan said.

He also demanded that the Arab league should take a firm stance in regards to the announced intentions by the U.S.

Parliamentarian Ahmed Sharawy said in a statement on Monday that Trump’s decision to move the embassy would be considered as clear bias towards Israel over the Palestinian’s right.

He added that the U.S. administration should be aware of the dangerous consequences of its decision.

On December 5, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States (LAS) Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that the U.S. administration’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem will undermine the United States’ major role in the mediation process between Palestinians and the occupying power.

Delivering a speech to Permanent Representatives during a discussion session on developments affecting the status of Jerusalem and its legal and historical status, Aboul Gheit said that the decision will have negative consequences not only on Palestine, but also on the whole region.

"Moving any embassy especially the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem will contribute in changing the legal and political status of the city as it hinders the anticipated settlement and questions Washington’s commitment for the two-State solution," stated Aboul Gheit.

In an official statement on Tuesday, Jordan’s government called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League and Islamic Cooperation Organization on Saturday December 9, to discuss the decision of the US president.

Over a phone call on December 5, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry discussed with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian the U.S. administration’s plan to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The two ministers expressed their hope that the U.S. administration reconsiders its plan before making a final decision, due to its potentially dangerous impact on the region and the peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel.

In another phone call on Tuesday, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi talked with Trump about his intentions. Sisi stressed the necessity of not proceeding with the measures that would undermine the prospects of peace talks and which, consecutively, would complicate the situation in the Middle East.

Several Arab governments expressed their anger and concern over Trump’s announcement; however according to a statement from the White House, President Trump is expected to deliver remarks about his final decision within the coming hours.]]>
12/6/2017 12:40:41 PM
<![CDATA[Abolishing nuclear arms could go 'really quickly': Nobel winner]]>
In an interview ahead of the December 10 award ceremony, Beatrice Fihn, head of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), said that attitudes to other weapons and harmful behaviours had changed overnight after bans were introduced.

Even with the current standoff between the United States and North Korea creating the world's most acute nuclear threat in decades, Fihn told AFP that the rapid abolishment of the weapons was "very realistic".

ICAN, which for the past decade has been sounding the alarm over the dangers posed by nuclear weapons, secured a significant victory in July when the United Nations adopted a new treaty outlawing them.

That treaty, which was signed by 122 countries despite stark opposition from the nuclear powers, could take years to take effect, but Fihn said it was already having an impact on opinions towards the weapons.

Sitting in ICAN's cramped office in Geneva, Fihn, a Swedish national, pointed to the rapid shift in attitudes towards smoking indoors as an example.

"We didn't sit around and wait for the smokers to quit. We banned it inside, and they had to go outside if they wanted to keep smoking," she said.

"Now, it seems laughable to think that we used to sit in offices and smoke. That was so crazy," Fihn said, adding: "I think it could be like that with nuclear weapons as well."

"Suddenly, it just goes really, really quickly. Ten years later, we can't imagine we ever (accepted) that."

- 'Window of opportunity' -

Fihn said the nuclear ban treaty and ICAN's Nobel award, coupled with a sense of urgency created by the growing nuclear threat, had created "a window of opportunity" to shift attitudes toward nuclear weapons.

Her comments came amid mounting tensions over Pyongyang's weapons programme and fear that US President Donald Trump is considering military action against North Korea which could unleash a nuclear war.

The situation is "obviously extremely concerning," Fihn said, warning that the conflict was pushing militaries to prepare for action, thus raising "the risk of an accident or a miscalculation".

"There is going to be an end, but we can choose if we want to end nuclear weapons or if we want nuclear weapons to end us," she said.

Trump's inflammatory rhetoric and impulsive behaviour have sparked debate about how safe it is to give a US president the exclusive power to decide if and when nuclear weapons should be deployed.

Fihn, who has not shied away from denouncing Trump's nuclear bravado, emphasised that it was the weapons, not the man, which were the main problem.

"I think if you are worried about Donald Trump having access to nuclear weapons and having the ability to... pretty much end the world, you are probably worried about nuclear weapons," she said.

She laughed off the assertion by the world's nine nuclear-armed states that the weapons help deter conflicts and promote peace.

"The big problem with deterrence theory is this idea that if we just threaten with more murder, more slaughtering of people, with more indiscriminate killing, somehow peace will prevail," Fihn said.

It is about time, she said, to stop treating nuclear weapons like a "magic power tool that some countries have to feel more important".

Instead, they should be treated with the abhorrence worthy of the weapons of mass destruction they are, capable of killing hundreds of thousands of civilians.

- Naive? -

Fihn voiced frustration that nuclear-armed states frequently label efforts to ban the weapons as "naive".

"I think it is rather the opposite. It is naive to think that nine states can have (nuclear weapons) while the rest of the world doesn't," she said.

"The naive position is to think that we can have 15,000 nuclear weapons and that they will never, ever be used."

Fihn said she felt her organisation and the hundreds of anti-nuclear groups it helps coordinate around the world had already achieved an incredible feat.

"The most amazing things about this campaign is that we're just a bunch of random people who got together and wanted to do something," she said.

"The biggest countries in the world, the most militarily powerful countries, the richest countries, have been trying to stop this and actively worked against us, and we did it anyway."

"We hope this will serve as inspiration for others to get active and mobilise, against nuclear weapons and other issues."

"Change is possible."]]>
12/6/2017 11:51:02 AM
<![CDATA[Analysts: Food shortage, sanctions behind N.Korean rescues in Japan]]>
Exacerbating the phenomenon is the fact that North Korea has sold fishing rights to China in a bid to raise hard currency, forcing fishermen -- often sailing rickety vessels -- further out towards Japan in search of a catch.

Dozens of North Korean fishing vessels wash up on Japan's coast ever year, but last month Japanese coastguards registered 28 cases, the highest monthly number since records began in 2014.

There has been a record number of North Korean fishermen rescued alive -- 42 this year compared to zero in 2016 -- but there are still cases of "ghost ships" packed full of bodies, with 18 corpses recovered so far this year.

Japanese authorities say it is often hard to determine exactly how they died as the boats often drift for months before washing up in Japan.

"Fishermen are desperate to meet annual catch goals, which are elevated to higher levels every year," Toshimitsu Shigemura, professor emeritus of Waseda University and North Korea expert, told AFP.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un ordered an increase in fishing when he took power in 2013, analysts noted.

"Since then, fishermen have been frantically trying to meet (annual) catch goals, but what's different this year is that they are travelling to distant waters in their fragile boats," said Pyon Jinil, a leading North Korea watcher and writer based in Japan.

"North Korea last year sold part of its fishing rights in the Yellow Sea to China to get foreign currency, so their fishermen have been kicked out of the western part of their waters," he said.

"So this year, Kim Jong-Un ordered his people in a New Year address to 'establish a fishing base in the Sea of Japan'," Pyon said.

Yang Moo-Jin, professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, concurred, adding: "Because they can't fish in their own waters, they have to go farther out."

"North Korea's fishing boats are quite old and they don't have much fuel... so they naturally end up adrift and float into Japan," said Yang.

There is also the backdrop of a severe food shortage, partly linked to international sanctions, analysts said.

Food rationing has been stepped up with "every North Korean person now receiving only 300 grams of food per day," noted Pyon.

"In order to plug the shortages of staple food like rice and corn, they want to buy from China, but they don't have hard currency to buy food, either," he said.

North Korea's foreign reserves have shrunk to one third of what it held last year because of new rounds of sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council -- two this year and nine in total, he noted.

- Spies, with shabby boats? -

Japanese media have provided blanket coverage of boats landing coming from the North, with some speculation they may be spy ships.

Transport Minister Keiichi Ishii has said he is "boosting efforts to investigate Japan's coastal areas" following a surge in suspicious boats drifting or washing ashore.

And top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters Tuesday the government was "investigating cautiously including whether they are fishermen or not," amid media reports that one of boats carried a sign reading "(North) Korean People's Army."

But Shigemura played down the possibility they are spies from Pyongyang.

"Japan is very easy to sneak into and spies can enter the country any time if they wish," he said.

"North Korean agents don't come in such clapped-out boats. They come in vessels with proper equipment for sailing," he said.

One of the latest groups of North Korean fishermen spotted off Japanese waters is suspected of stealing a variety of items -- including fridges, TV sets and a door knob -- before reportedly dumping some of them into the sea before Japanese coastguard investigated them.

"They wanted to sell them back home," Shigemura said.

"But if they go home -- after thorough investigation by Japanese police -- they would be executed as authorities fear they must have been turned into Japanese spies," the professor said.

by Kyoko Hasegawa with Hwang Sunghee in Seoul]]>
12/6/2017 11:30:06 AM
<![CDATA[Timeline: Habib Al-Adly’s long-running streak of charges]]>
Adly has had a long-running streak in courts after facing multiple charges ranging from corruption to the deliberate murder of demonstrators.

Egypt Today lays out a brief timeline of the charges he has been facing and those that led to his being hauled off in handcuffs.

February 2014: The Court of Cassation upheld a three- year term against Adly in the case known publicly as the "forced labor case”. He served his term while at the remand.

June 2014: Adly was vindicated of the illicit gain charges and abusing his power during his tenure.

November 2014: Along with six top aides, Adly was cleared of charges related to killing demonstrators during the 2011 revolution.

February 2015: Adly acquitted of charges relating to embezzling public funds.
March 2015: Adly was cleared of illegal gain charges and the court annulled the earlier decision of having his funds confiscated.

December 2016: The Agouza Court of Misdemeanors acquitted Adly after accepting an appeal filed against an earlier verdict that sentenced him to a one-month imprisonment for not carrying out a court order to return a police officer to work.

April 2017: A seven-year prison term was given to Adly, along with his top aides, over charges relating to corruption. He was also fined LE 195,936 million ($11,030 million). The court rejected the appeal later filed.]]>
12/6/2017 11:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt Today conducts interview with Yemen’s Qabati]]>
On December 2, 2017, Saleh announced the dissolution of his partnership with the Houthi rebels, a move that the Houthis labeled as a “coup,” accusing him of treason. Two days later, the Houthi rebels announced they killed Saleh.

Egypt Today conducted an interview with Mohamed Abdel Majeed Qabati, Yemen’s minister of tourism and former minister of information and mass media, who survived an assassination attempt on September 11, 2012.

How do you view the situation in Yemen?

It is horrible. The Houthis wanted Yemen to be chaotic in order to allow Iranians to access the country and overrun it.

The Houthis are a part of a conspiracy that aims to divide Yemen. They work for the interest of some countries and everyone knows they are funded. They robbed the country.

So you think Iran is involved?

Sure it is. Iran is always involved in the incidents in Yemen. There are elements of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) inside Yemen, running Houthis’ battles. In addition, Iran is totally involved in providing Houthis with arms and missiles.

Why would Iran target Yemen in particular?

Iran’s ambitions are beyond Yemen. Iran wants the chaos to reach the Gulf countries and aims to destabilize the Arab world.

Iran’s logistic support to Houthis is proven. There are types of missiles that are made in Iran.

How would you comment on the death of Saleh?

Saleh did not only harm himself. He harmed Yemen and the Yemenis. His bloody end was a result of cooperating with Houthis who never keep their promises. They want to deliver a message that whoever obstructs their path would suffer the same fate.

How do you think Saleh harmed Yemen>/b>?

Before the Houthis allied with Saleh, they did not have anything; now they have arms and missiles, in addition to logistic support.

Saleh did not keep the unity of the Yemeni army. He made use of his loyal forces in handing over power to the Houthis. In the end, they killed him.

How would the Yemenis respond to Houthis?

The Yemeni people would revolt against the Houthis who have targeted women, elderly and children. Yemenis would expel them.

Yemeni people now revolt against those who should be described as militants, who were deviated from the path of patriotism; they have to be deterred.

These militants seize food and medicine and keep it for themselves. They totally ruined hospitals in the capital Sana’a, and caused diseases to spread.

When do you think the War would end?

What the Houthis are doing nowadays is causing everyone to unite in order to eliminate these militants and to work only for Yemen. The war will end soon and the Yemenis will regain Yemen.]]>
12/6/2017 10:52:57 AM
<![CDATA[Palestinian envoy says U.S. recognition of Jerusalem is "declaring war"]]>
"If he says what he is intending to say about Jerusalem being the capital of Israel, it means a kiss of death to the two state solution," Manuel Hassassian said in a BBC radio interview.

"He is declaring war in the Middle East, he is declaring war against 1.5 billion Muslims (and) hundreds of millions of Christians that are not going to accept the holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel," Hassassian added.

Senior U.S. officials said on Tuesday that Trump will recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital on Wednesday and set in motion the relocation of the U.S. embassy to the city.]]>
12/6/2017 10:42:43 AM
<![CDATA[British FS "concerned" about planned U.S. recognition of Jerusalem]]>
"Lets wait and see what the president says exactly. But, you know, we view the reports that we have heard with concern because we think that Jerusalem obviously should be part of the final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians," he told reporters in Brussels.

Senior U.S. officials said on Tuesday that Trump will recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital on Wednesday and set in motion the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to the city.]]>
12/6/2017 10:36:15 AM
<![CDATA[Russian lawmakers vote to bar entry to reporters of U.S. media]]>
On Tuesday, these two media outlets were officially designated as "foreign agents" by Russia's justice ministry, a move aimed at complicating their work in retaliation for what Moscow says is unacceptable U.S. pressure on Russian media.]]>
12/6/2017 10:13:40 AM
<![CDATA[Yemen: As Saleh falls, Iran will push forward ]]>
In a conflict as complex and underreported as Yemen’s, nothing is this simple. It was confirmed on Monday that Saleh had been killed in fighting that rocked the capital, Sanaa, in the past week.

Saleh's death comes as fighting erupted between the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Saleh on Wednesday, intensifying over the weekend. In light of Saleh’s shift away from the Houthi rebels, the Saudi-led coalition stepped up its bombing of Houthi positions in Sanaa once again, adding to the bloodshed in the already ravaged country.

There was intense fighting, with families taking futile shelter in their homes as explosions rocked the city, residents told Reuters. The Saudi-led coalition pounded Houthi positions with air strikes in an apparent attempt to assist forces loyal to Saleh.

At least 125 were killed in the fighting on Monday, residents and medics told Reuters.

"No one is safe in Sanaa at the moment. I can hear heavy shelling outside now and know it is too imprecise and too pervasive to guarantee that any of us are safe," Suze van Meegen, Sanaa-based protection and advocacy advisor for the Norwegian Refugee Council, told AP.

Forces loyal to Saleh lost significant territory in Sanaa on Monday, the sixth day of heavy fighting against the Houthi rebels.




The Saudi-led air campaign has killed hundreds, if not thousands of civilians in Yemen since its campaign began in 2015 when the then-allied Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Saleh took control of the capital.

Photo_2
A Saudi soldier fires a mortar towards Houthi movement position, at the Saudi border with Yemen April 21, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

The Saudi-led campaign is focused on raining hell from the air; however, it has expanded into ground operations. Nevertheless, the campaign has failed to make any major gains or consolidate significant territory in the struggle to restore power with Yemen's internationally recognized president, Abdrabbu Mansur Hadi.

The killing of Saleh has removed the best-connected players in Yemeni politics from the fray, and if anything, it will push a resolution to the conflict even further out of sight.

Although a discourse of saddened shock prevailed in the media with Saleh’s death, he was still a violent man who held a dictatorial grip over Yemen for over three decades, and undoubtedly committed war crimes during his alliance with the Houthi rebels.

Despite this, Saleh arguably died a popular man – a man who stood in-between Houthi aggressive arrogance and the immoral Saudi bombardment. Many people saw him as the only hope to defeat the Houthi rebels and end the capitulation of the country.

It is unnerving that no one knows what the conflict will look like without Saleh. A powerful ally of Iran’s Houthi rebels in Yemen, Saleh gave hope to the anti-government effort and Iran, while digging his nails into the side of the Saudi-led coalition.

Typical of conflict in the region, the civil war in Yemen is part of a broader struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who have been at loggerheads since 1979. Saleh’s death is likely to escalate tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who have clashed indirectly in Yemen.

His death has likely kicked up dust between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Who the situation favors will only become apparent with time.

Iran’s friends in Yemen

Iran’s position in Yemen is looking as stable as it is unstable.

The Houthi’s have extended their control into the south of Sanaa in recent days, with reports indicating that they have taken de facto control of the capital. While the Saudi-led coalition steps up its attacks of Houthi positions in Sanaa, the Houthi rebels still have the upper hand.

By all accounts, the proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia inside Yemen is set to intensify in the coming days, weeks and months. Iran is committed to the Houthis in Yemen, and Saleh’s death could prove to be a turning point in the war.

Photo_3
The Saudi-Yemen border has in some places become a front line between the kingdom and Iran-allied Houthi rebel group. AFP

In recent weeks, the Houthis have claimed responsibility for rocket attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE, of which the evidence allegedly pointed towards Iran as the source. This only intensified the aerial bombardment as a Saudi-led blockade was enforced over Yemeni territory, furthering instability in all its forms.

Never forget that the Islamic Republic of Iran thrives on instability. The modern state of Iran was founded on instability as millions of people forced the old to make way for the new; for the Pahlavi dynasty to make way for Ayatollah Khomeini and political Islam.

“Iran works best in chaotic environments where sectarian passions are inflamed; stoking or maintaining such environments is far easier – and cheaper,” wrote Kyle Orton for the Henry Jackson Society in 2017.

The Quds Force is the branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) specialized in international missions, providing training, funding and weapons to extremist groups throughout the region and the world.

Photo_4
Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani (C) attends Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's (not seen) meeting with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in Tehran, Iran on Sept. 18, 2016. AFP

The IRGC and Quds Force have supplied weapons, money and training to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, as Tehran creates new hotspots in its regional power struggle with Saudi Arabia, and to export its political Islamic ideology to Yemen.

Observers point to the “Jihan 1” ship as evidence of Iran’s support as far back as 2013. The ship was seized in 2013, allegedly containing weapons sent from Iran to local Houthi rebels.

The cargo included “Katyusha rockets M-122, heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles, RPG-7s, Iranian-made night vision goggles and ‘artillery systems that track land and navy targets 40km away’,” Reuters reported in December 2014.

“There were also silencers, 2.66 tonnes of RDX explosives, C-4 explosives, ammunition, bullets and electrical transistors.”

The IRGC has also been accused of providing Houthi rebels with the long-range missiles they have used against Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“Islamic Republic’s military aid to the group is readily apparent, and … [the Houthi’s] display and deployment of rockets that feature the same name and number as Iranian rockets further serves to strengthen those ties,” wrote Behnam Ben Taleblu and Amir Toumaj for the Long War Journal in 2016.

Photo_5
Houthi supporters perform the traditional Baraa dance during a gathering ahead of the birth anniversary of the Prophet Mohammed in Sanaa, Yemen November 28, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

It is evident that Iran has entrenched its position in Yemen under the guise of the Houthi rebels, but how will this translate to the post-Saleh era?

They say that to look forward, you must first look backward. Luckily in the case of Iran, there have been several occasions in recent history where the loss of a leader has made way for the green, white and red of the Iranian flag.

Lebanon

The assassination of Rafik Hariri, then-Lebanese Prime Minister, in Beirut in 2005 proved to be a turning point in Lebanese politics.

“The murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri… caused a political earthquake in Lebanon and ignited several years of violence and government deadlock,” wrote Nicholas Blanford for Foreign Policy in 2010.

An international tribunal investigating the assassination indicted five Hezbollah members over his killing.

Hezbollah, a Shi'a Islamist political party, terrorist and militant group based in Lebanon that wields vast power throughout the region, sits under the thumb of its masters in Iran. It remains the most significant example of an Iranian proxy in the region, and the source of terrorism and tensions since its formation in the early 1980s.

Photo_6
A man shouts for help after the Beirut car bombing that killed Rafik al-Hariri in 2005. Reuters/Mohamed Azakir

With his assassination, Hariri’s voice of moderation was removed; his assassination distorted and transformed Lebanon’s internal dynamics. In a country where conflict and assassination have become commonplace, the hope that Hariri’s assassination could be forgotten about quickly did not prevail, and over a decade later, the country is still feeling the effects.

His death paved the way for Hezbollah to increase its influence in Lebanon through both political and physical mechanisms, as it emerged as the most powerful political and military force in the country.

In the 11 years since the July 2006 war – a successful war by Hezbollah’s account – the group has expanded its domestic influence while becoming entangled in regional conflicts.

After Hezbollah initiated clashes in Beirut in 2008 against government supporters, negotiations with the government led to Hezbollah acquiring a significant veto power in the cabinet, which it has used to great extent – most significantly to prevent the election of a Lebanese president it does not favor.

The current Lebanese president is Michael Aoun, a veteran of the civil war and, in adherence with Lebanon’s confessional political system, a Maronite Christian. Yet, his cooperation with Hezbollah exemplifies its influence in all spheres of government.

As one strong leader fell from the mantel, another rose from the ashes. Hezbollah has long been a powerful force in Lebanon and the region at large, but the removal of Hariri provided the removal of the figurehead, the unifying force that kept the system in place.

Photo_7
Hezbollah fighters put Lebanese and Hezbollah flags at Juroud Arsal, Syria-Lebanon border, July 25, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

“Hezbollah today is a very, very cogent mix of different facets of power. It’s a very skilled terrorist group, it’s a very formidable guerilla organization, it’s the most powerful single political movement in Lebanon, and it’s a large social provider,” counterterrorism expert Daniel L. Byman, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, said during an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations in 2008.

Iraq

With the fall of Nouri al-Maliki in 2014 from the premiership in Iraq, Iranian influence cemented itself in the country. However, this transpired for different reasons than in Lebanon.

Iran has long held influence in Iraq owing to the large Shi’a population, and especially since 2003, when it established loyal and powerful militias in the country to advance Tehran’s interests. This influence was consolidated with the formation of Hashd al-Shaabi – the Popular Mobilization Forces – in 2014.

With the collapse of the Iraqi army in 2014, then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was forced to seek out and legitimize a new source of security for the country. In June 2014, he signed an official decree that consolidated a plethora of paramilitaries under one distinguishable body.

This move directly violated the Iraqi constitution. “The formation of military militia outside the framework of the armed forces is prohibited,” Article 9, paragraph B of the Iraqi Constitution reads.

As Maliki’s leadership became increasingly authoritarian, systemic polarization of existing groups within society, along with the marginalization of the Sunni minority, fueled discontent with the ruling elite in the Sunni community.

U.S. security officials warned Maliki in 2014 that his government was causing worrying levels of animosity, which would only fuel discontent and empower violent militant groups. Yet, as an ally of Iran, Maliki’s fueling of sectarian tensions has only advanced his and Tehran’s goals.

Photo_8
Asaib Ahl al-Haq Shi'ite militia fighters from the south of Iraq and Kurdish peshmerga forces walk with their weapons as they take control of Sulaiman Pek from the Islamist State militants, in the northwest of Tikrit city September 1, 2014. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

Militia groups such as Kata'ib Hezbollah and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq served Tehran as Iranian proxies during the U.S.–led occupation and continue to do so now under the guise of Hashd al Shaabi.

Hadi Al-Amiri is the commander of the Badr Organization and a close friend of Qassem Soleimani.

Amiri, alongside the administrator of the PMF, Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis, wield the greatest power in Hashd al-Shaabi. Their relationship with Tehran is closer than that with Haider Al-Abadi and Baghdad, and they channel the state finances to their chosen Iranian-allied groups.

The Iranian-allied militias gain military resources from Iran, while Baghdad provides political legitimacy and financial support.

In contrast to Maliki, the current Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, opposes the influence of Iran in Iraq, especially within the official security apparatus. Thus, the militias allied with Iran will likely attempt to operate autonomously, much like Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“One of the greatest risks that Abadi faces is the steps that he might take to hinder the influence of the militias,” said Dr. Ches Thurber, professor in the Department of Political Science at Northern Illinois University, to Egypt Today.

Although Iran doesn’t have an ally in Abadi like they did in Maliki, they have something better. The changing leadership in Iraq made way for a leader who stands in stark contrast to Maliki in terms of his attitude toward the militias and Iran.

While Hashd al-Shaabi has continued to grow in strength as the Iraqi army completes its recovery after 2014, the militia stands for something different to the national leadership and represents an alternate pillar for Iraq’s majority Shi’a population to support.

Photo_9
Iraqi Shi'ite militia fighters demonstrate their skills during a graduation parade in Kerbala, southwest of Baghdad, October 2, 2014. REUTERS/Mushtaq Muhammed

While Hezbollah gained greater influence with the assassination of Hariri in 2005 as a result of political turmoil, Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq have gained greater influence because they offer a different solution to Iraq’s political woes than the current political establishment.

The militia in Iraq played a significant role in defeating ISIS in Iraq, as well as taking control of important cities and towns in the disputed territories on the border with Iraqi Kurdistan after the Kurdish independence referendum on September 30.

Thus, it has already gained popularity and esteem among Iraqis.

With the upcoming national and provincial elections in Iraq in April 2018, it will be a major challenge to prevent the Tehran-allied militias gaining political influence.

“Now, a plethora of newborn parties have entered the electoral scene, since Iraqi law bans armed militias’ participation in elections,” wrote Mustafa Gurbuz with the Arab Center Washington D.C. in 2017. “Dozens of small parties have registered for municipal elections, most of them associated with certain PMF militias.”

This move will only help Maliki, who has long been supportive of Hashd al-Shaabi, is an ally of Amiri and Tehran, and is ambitious to return to the premiership.

“Given that the United States has strong concerns about the future of the PMF as an independent body in the mold of Hezbollah in Lebanese politics, Washington and Tehran are on opposing sides in Iraqi elections – a historic first since the American invasion in 2003,” Gurbuz continued.

Yemen

Although Saleh has not been the leader of Yemen since early 2012, Hadi has failed to act in a position of strong leadership since his ascension to the presidency.

As Saleh once said, running Yemen is like “dancing on the heads of snakes.” Since Saleh and his Houthi allies – at the time – took control of Sanaa in 2015, Saleh continued to charm in a pit of snakes. Saleh has played a far more influential role than Hadi in the snake pit, until he was bitten on Monday.

Photo_10
Smoke billows behind a building in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on December 3, 2017, during clashes between Huthi rebels and supporters of Yemeni ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh. AFP/Mohammed Huwais

As history has shown us, when a powerful leader has fallen, Iran has proven successful in manipulating the situation to its advantage. Yemen will likely prove no different.

Although the Houthi rebels are finding themselves increasing politically and militarily alienated, the space has been opened for the Houthis to act as the dominant force opposing the Saudi-led coalition – that is if the forces loyal to Saleh continue down the road he opened on Saturday.

Whatever potential there was for the Houthis to establish total control of a legitimate state in Yemen in the immediate future, this has been kicked to the dirt. But the immediate future is not where Iran looks to. In a country as volatile as Yemen currently, no-one can predict tomorrow.

What is certain is that Iran is obliged to take a significant step forward in Yemen.

Twitter:

Joseph Colonna

]]>
12/6/2017 9:47:24 AM
<![CDATA[Combatting corruption: State tightens measures against taint personnel]]>

Adly, who was a major character in the Mubarak era, had escaped before fulfilling his previous seven-year sentence, issued April 15 in the case known as the “Interior Ministry Corruption” case.


Adly’s criminal record at the moment holds nine prominent cases as follows:


1. “Interior Ministry Corruption” Case:


In addition to his sentence, Adly, along with two other former interior ministry officials, were also sentenced to refund a total of LE 1.95 billion ($109.83 million) and pay a fine of the same amount, Al Arabiya reported.


2. “Severing Communications” Case:


After severing communications during the height of the January 25 Revolution as a means of curbing it; Adly along with ousted President Hosni Mubarak are still awaiting a verdict on this case from the Supreme Administrative Court.


3. “Subjugating Army Soldiers” Case:


Giza Criminal Court has sentenced Adly to three years in prison for exploiting soldiers and forcing them to carry out construction labor on lands illegally owned by the government. Adly was additionally fined LE 2 million. The Court of Cassation upheld the jurisdiction on February 4, 2014.


4. “Killing Protestors” Case:


Originally, Adly was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of killing protestors during the January 25 Revolution; however, Cairo Criminal Court acquitted him.


5. “Abusing Power” Case:


This is another case where Adly was sentenced to 12 years in addition to paying a fine for abusing his position and power, yet again the court acquitted Adly from the sentence on November 29, 2014.


6. “Metal Plates” Case:

Adly was sentenced to five years for squandering LE 92 million from the state’s budget; having used them to manufacture metal plates for a German car company. However, he was also acquitted from this case.


7. “Illegal Profiting” Case:

Another case where Adly was sentenced to 12 years in prison for illegally profiting from his position in the government and money laundering. He was additionally fined for LE 4.853 million specifically over illegal profiting and sentenced to an addition five years and fined for LE 9 million over charges of money laundering. Adly was acquitted later on.


8. “All Saints’ Church” Case:

On February 7, 2011 he was investigated after someone reported his involvement in the explosion of the All Saints’ Church in Alexandria. On August 3, 2011, he was acquitted from the charges during his first court trial.

9. “Evading Court Sentence” Case:

Adly was previously charged with prolonging a police officer’s suspension even though a court had ordered otherwise. He had also halted a decision to allow the officer to retire early.

Adly was subsequently sentenced to a month in prison, however, the Court of Cassation accepted his appeal and decided to grant him a retrial.

On December 18, 2016 Adly was acquitted from charges that entailed that he had not fulfilled his court sentences, and he was acquitted from charges that he had disobeyed a court order in prolonging a police officer’s suspension.


Adly’s cases are certainly many. The man is definitely an exemplar model of corruption. But so is former Officer Aly Mazen Khater who was arrested Tuesday for killing a student in Rod El Farag. Khater had opened random fire as a method of settling a fight that was taking place in Rod El Farag, which led to the killing of Saad El Sayed and the injury of his classmate.


Khater has been sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of LE 1 million.


Such is the fight that the government is now undertaking in Egypt. “Corruption ‘breaks people's morale, and gives them a feeling that there is no hope,’” Sisi has said, according to AFP. AFP further pointed out that corruption, has nevertheless, been one of the main reasons that led to the January 25 Revolution and the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak.


“Since 2015, the Administrative Control Authority (ACA) has prosecuted several high-profile cases, including an agriculture minister forced to resign and later sentenced to 10 years for taking bribes. In January [2017], a senior judge hanged himself in custody a day after his arrest for alleged corruption,” AFP reported.


But corruption has always been a massive power-vacuum-creating menace in Egypt. The matter during Mubarak’s era caused the murder of protestors during the January 25 Revolution. Corruption is not only costing the country juridical integrity, at times it is costing the country’s economy and population dearly.


“Losses to state coffers from selling state land at below-market prices translate into losses in state services,” Gad al-Karim, an analyst, stated to AFP.

]]>
12/6/2017 2:46:50 AM
<![CDATA[Chronology of Yemen’s conflict turning into chaos]]>
Egypt Today looks at the chronology of Yemen’s internal conflict that turned into chaos.
January 2011: Yemeni people took to the streets, protesting against the ruling regime, inspired by Tunisian demonstrations. President Saleh pledges not to extend his presidency in 2013.

June 2011: President Saleh was badly injured in a rocket attack and flown to Saudi Arabia amid mounting protests across Yemen.

September 2011: President Saleh returned home after receiving treatment.
November 2011: President Saleh agrees to hand over power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. A unity government including a Prime Minister from an opposition party was formed.

February 2012: Hadi inaugurated as president of Yemen after uncontested elections.

November 2012: A Saudi diplomat was shot dead in Sanaa. Security officials say the assailants, who opened fire on the diplomat's convoy, were dressed in police uniforms.

January 2014: The National Dialogue Conference – a transitional dialogue process held in Sana'a as part of the Yemeni crisis reconciliation efforts – reached a document on which the new constitution will be based.

February 2014: The Yemeni President gave approval for Yemen to become a federation of six regions as part of its political transition.

July 2014: Tribesmen blow up the country's largest oil pipeline, disrupting supplies from the interior to a Red Sea export terminal.

August 2014: President Hadi sacks his cabinet following two weeks of anti-government protests, in which Houthi rebels were heavily involved.

September 2014: Houthi rebels take control of Sana'a.

January 2015: Houthis reject draft constitution proposed by government.

February 2015: Houthis appoint presidential council to replace President Hadi, who flees to Aden southern stronghold.

2015 March - President Hadi sent the United Nations Security Council a letter asking for a Chapter VII resolution inviting all willing countries to provide support to deter the Houthi advance in the south. He also informed the Council about his request to the GCC and other Arab countries to intervene militarily against the Houthis.

Houthi rebels start to advance towards Southern Yemen. President Hadi flees Aden.
Saudi-led coalition of Gulf Arab states launches air strikes against Houthi targets and imposes naval blockade.

May 2015: The Security Council issued a press statement welcoming the Secretary-General’s announcement of consultations among all Yemeni stakeholders in Geneva on 28 May, calling on all Yemeni parties to attend these talks and engage without preconditions.

June 2015: Geneva talks were postponed. The Security Council urged Yemeni stakeholders to engage in talks without preconditions and in good faith, and endorsed the Secretary-General’s call for humanitarian pauses. Leader of Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula, Nasser Al-Wuhayshi, killed in US drone strike in Yemen.

September 2015: President Hadi returns to Aden after Saudi-backed government forces recapture of the port city from Houthi forces and launches advance on Aden.

February 2016: The Security Council issued a press statement expressing serious concern over Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, urging all parties to the conflict in Yemen to take urgent steps towards a ceasefire.

The Council adopted resolution 2266, renewing Yemen sanctions measures until February 2017.

April 2016: Start of UN-sponsored talks between the government on one side, with Houthis and former President Saleh's General People's Congress on the other. The UN Security Council adopted a Yemeni presidential statement to support peace talks that had started in Kuwait earlier that month. The presidential statement called for Yemeni parties to develop a roadmap for the implementation of interim security arrangements, withdrawals, handover of heavy weapons and the restoration of state institutions and resumption of political dialogue.

June 2016: The UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed, reported to the Council that he had presented the parties in Kuwait with a roadmap that provides for the implementation of resolution 2216 and the establishment of a national unity government.

October 2016: After three months of UN-brokered talks in Kuwait, the negotiations did not yield any significant results. Houthi forces attacked a UAE vessel operating near Bab Al-Mandeb strait.

The US conducted missile strikes on radar facilities affiliated to Houthis following a Houthi cruise missile launches at US Navy warships around Bab Al-Mandeb.
Airstrike by Saudi-led coalition hits a crowded funeral in Sanaa, killing 140 mourners and injuring 500.

January 2017: A US raid kills several suspected Al-Qaeda militants and civilians in America's first military action in Yemen under President Donald Trump.

The UN Security Council issued a statement expressing serious concern at the devastating humanitarian impact of the conflict and calling on all parties to allow unhindered access for humanitarian supplies and to facilitate access for essential imports of food, fuel, and medical supplies. It also called on all parties in the conflict to renew their commitment to a cessation of hostilities.

February 2017: The Security Council adopted resolution 2342, extending the Yemen sanctions measures for an additional year.

March 2017: The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs' (OCHA) head, Stephen O’Brien, who had travelled to Yemen, announced that Yemen became the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with 18 million people in need of assistance, and was at risk of famine.

May 2017: Houthis continue firing missiles into Saudi Arabia, claiming to have fired one at the capital, Riyadh.

June 2017: Outbreak of cholera kills 2,100 and affects almost 900,000 others, medical agencies say.

December 2017: Former president Saleh reportedly switched war sides and his forces clashed with Houthis in the capital Sanaa. A Houthi-affiliated TV station announced the murder of Saleh after fierce fighting in the capital.]]>
12/5/2017 10:21:32 PM
<![CDATA[Key players in Yemen's slide into chaos]]>
More than 8,750 people have been killed as armed groups have sought to exploit a power vacuum left behind after protests in 2011 forced out the now late president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The Huthi rebels

The Huthi militiamen, also known as Ansarullah (Supporters of God), have long complained of marginalisation.

They hail from the Zaidi sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam that accounts for about one third of Yemen's population.

Their strongholds lie in northern provinces bordering Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia, which leads the Arab coalition against them.

Badreddin al-Huthi, who formed the "Faithful Youth" political movement in 1992 to fight discrimination, is regarded as their spiritual leader.

They fought six wars with the central government between 2004 and 2010 that killed thousands. Badreddin's 38-year-old son Abdulmalik now leads Ansarullah.

The Huthis seized Sanaa on September 21, 2014 with the help of former president Saleh and army units loyal to him after months of clashes.

In March 2015, they advanced on second city Aden, where internationally backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi took refuge after escaping house arrest in the capital.

But the Saudi-led coalition helped pro-Hadi forces push the rebels out of Aden in July that year, as well as four other provinces.

The Huthis are accused of receiving support from Shiite Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Tensions ratcheted up between the Saudis and Tehran after the Huthis fired a ballistic missile at Riyadh in November 2017.

Saleh's forces

Once foes, the Huthis and former leader Saleh formed an uneasy alliance that lasted some three years but it cracked up last week as violent clashes broke out between the two camps in Sanaa.

The Huthis accused Saleh of "great treason" after he made overtures to the Saudi-led coalition.

Saleh, who dominated Yemen for three decades, was shot dead by Huthi fighters on December 4 as he tried to flee Sanaa. Despite his demise, the strongman's General People's Congress party remains a power with which to be reckoned.

President and foreign allies

Yemen's military was severely weakened due to mass defections of elite troops joining pro-Saleh forces and showed little or no resistance as the rebels seized Sanaa and expanded across the country.

But in March 2015, the Saudi-led coalition launched a military campaign in support of leader Hadi, deploying troops and beginning a bombing campaign that helped the loyalists regain some ground.

The United Arab Emirates also plays a key role in the coalition, which includes Bahrain, Egypt, Qatar and Sudan.

Pro-government forces last January began a major assault to recapture areas on the Red Sea coast and press on to Sanaa. However, the offensive has stalled and the frontlines remain relatively static.

Hadi loyalists have been boosted by the Popular Resistance alliance of southern separatists and tribesmen who took up arms after the rebels advanced on their regions.

The separatists have long called for the secession of the formerly independent South Yemen and their support for Hadi is not unconditional.

Al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been regarded by the United States as the extremist network's deadliest branch.

It was formed in 2009 when Al-Qaeda in Yemen -- behind the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden harbour that killed 17 American sailors -- merged with its Saudi counterpart.

AQAP has attacked security forces and the Huthis, and been targeted by scores of US drone strikes.

The United States has intensified its air attacks on AQAP since President Donald Trump took office in January.

The group has abducted foreigners and claimed responsibility for the deadly January 7, 2015 attack in Paris on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, targeted for its cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Islamic State group

The Islamic State group has claimed deadly attacks against Huthis but has also targeted loyalist militia and government officials.

The group first surfaced in Yemen in March 2015, claiming multiple suicide bombings that targeted two mosques in Sanaa attended by Huthis, killing 142 people and wounding more than 350.

It has since expanded its operations in the south, launching more deadly suicide bombings.

]]>
12/5/2017 8:41:55 PM
<![CDATA[Qatar, Iran behind Ali Abdullah Saleh’s assassination ]]>
The head of the British Middle East Center for Studies and Research (BMCSR) tweeted on Monday that Qatar has cooperated with the Muslim Brotherhood in Sanaa, Yemen, revealing to them Saleh’s location.




At the same time, Sam al-Ghabari, advisor to the Yemeni prime minister, accused Qatar of aiding the murder of Saleh, confirming that he has recordings sent by one of the Saleh’s relatives that prove Qatar’s involvement. The proposition is that Qatar’s decision came as a consequence of Saleh rejecting the mediation between his forces and the Houthis.

He noted that according to recordings, Saleh was killed on his way to Sinhan village, after his agreement with Qatar to head to there. Saleh was killed at the hands of Houthis in coordination with ex-Yemeni Defense Minister Abdul Malik Al-Sayani.




On the other hand, there are factors confirming that Iran is behind Saleh’s
assassination. Yemeni authorities issued a statement in 2012 about the arrest of an “Iranian espionage cell” comprised of Iranians, Syrians and Yemenis who operated in Sanaa and Aden under the cover of businessmen and investors, run by a commander of Iranian revolutionary guards.

Iranian and Syrian spies entered Yemen as investors and received a license to build a factory in Aden. They were arrested while transferring equipment to the factory, and while inspecting the equipment at the Aden port, authorities discovered that the equipment, supposedly brought in for the civil project, were for military purposes.

The spies planned to assemble the equipment to produce missiles and other weapons, with the aim of destabilizing the country and promoting Iranian policies in Yemen, according to Yemeni authorities.

At the same time, in 2016, revolutionary guards could manufacture unmanned aerial vehicles, explained the Iranian state media.

In this regard, the Arab Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen declared in August that it could destroy unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, in Taaz, Yemen, accusing Iran of sending such planes to Houthis.

Consequently, some observers believe that Iran has depended on such airplanes for surveillance and information collection to provide Houthis with Saleh’s location.

Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed in a shooting on Monday after switching sides in Yemen's civil war, abandoning his Iran-aligned Houthi allies in favor of the Saudi-led coalition, foes and supporters said.

Sources in the Houthi militia said its fighters stopped Saleh's armored vehicle with an RPG rocket outside the embattled capital Sanaa, and then shot him dead. Sources in Saleh's party confirmed he died in an attack on his convoy.]]>
12/5/2017 4:50:55 PM
<![CDATA[In pics: Egyptian expats sign “To Build It” petition]]>
Parliament Member Mahmoud Hussien, head of the campaign's foreign sector, is currently on a tour in Europe. His first destination was France, where he met with Egyptian community members in Paris on Monday.

The tour includes France, Switzerland, Denmark and Sweden, aiming mainly to demonstrate the campaign's goal and the Egyptian president’s achievements despite the numerous challenges that have been facing the country.

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A man holds a paper of the "To Build It" campaign to support President Sisi for another term – Egypt Today/Hassan Mohamed

Hussein listened to the Egyptian expats’ demands, aspirations and ideas that they could implement, such as the medical insurance proposal, the problem of transferring corpses and the difficulty of carrying out money transactions via Bank Misr.

After the three-hour discussion, they signed the supportive petition, revealing their absolute support for President Sisi for a second term.

President Sisi is the sixth president of Egypt. He came to office in June 2014 after the June 30 Revolution that toppled former President Mohamed Morsi, who is affiliated with the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood (MB).

During Sisi’s sixth visit to France last October, hundreds of Egyptian expats from Sweden, Belgium, Germany and other European countries gathered at Invalides Square, Paris to welcome Sisi while he was entering the Military Museum, showing their support for the regime that stands against terrorism and economic challenges.

The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) announced that 9.5 million Egyptians live outside the country, only 1.2 million of which live in Europe.

According to a CAPMAS statement released last October, Italy ranks as the top European destination for Egyptian expat labor at 560,000, while 365,000 Egyptians work in France, 77,000 in Germany, 62,000 in England, 45,000 in the Netherlands, 2,000 in Poland, 80 in Azerbaijan and 15 in Uzbekistan.

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A man holds a paper of the "To Build It" campaign to support President Sisi for another term – Egypt Today/Hassan Mohamed

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A man holds a paper of the "To Build It" campaign to support President Sisi for another term – Egypt Today/Hassan Mohamed

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A man holds a paper of the "To Build It" campaign to support President Sisi for another term – Egypt Today/Hassan Mohamed

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A man holds a paper of the "To Build It" campaign to support President Sisi for another term – Egypt Today/Hassan Mohamed

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A man holds a paper of the "To Build It" campaign to support President Sisi for another term – Egypt Today/Hassan Mohamed

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A man holds a paper of the "To Build It" campaign to support President Sisi for another term – Egypt Today/Hassan Mohamed

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A man holds a paper of the "To Build It" campaign to support President Sisi for another term – Egypt Today/Hassan Mohamed

WhatsApp_Image_2017-12-05_at_11.54.01_AM A man holds a paper of the "To Build It" campaign to support President Sisi for another term – Egypt Today/Hassan Mohamed

WhatsApp_Image_2017-12-05_at_11.54.12_AM A man holds a paper of the "To Build It" campaign to support President Sisi for another term – Egypt Today/Hassan Mohamed

WhatsApp_Image_2017-12-05_at_11.54.15_AM A man holds a paper of the "To Build It" campaign to support President Sisi for another term – Egypt Today/Hassan Mohamed

WhatsApp_Image_2017-12-05_at_11.54.17_AM A man holds a paper of the "To Build It" campaign to support President Sisi for another term – Egypt Today/Hassan Mohamed
]]>
12/5/2017 4:11:22 PM
<![CDATA[UN rights team warns Mexico of 'crisis' in journalists' safety]]>
Mexican federal prosecutors have yet to secure any convictions for crimes against reporters due to ineffective probes and scant resources, said the U.N.'s special rapporteur for freedom of expression, David Kaye, and his counterpart from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Edison Lanza.

They released a preliminary report describing a "profound crisis of safety" after a week-long tour of Mexico City and the violent states of Veracruz, Guerrero, Tamaulipas and Sinaloa, and plan to release detailed recommendations in the spring.

"Past prosecutors didn't have the same political will to actually get the job done," said Kaye, expressing cautious hope that current prosecutors will do more to address the problem.

"There's a bit more attention to getting this done right. I hope what we heard wasn't just words because we are here," he added after the two met with 250 reporters on their trip.

A news photographer in the state of San Luis Potosi last October was the 11th journalist murdered so far this year, according to advocacy group Article 19, equaling the death toll in 2016, which was the bloodiest year for journalists on record in Mexico.

Murders are on track to reach a record high this year, as Mexico continues grappling with turf wars between violent drug gangs that have convulsed the country for more than a decade.

In the past 17 years, 111 journalists have been killed in Mexico, 38 of them under the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Kaye said the prosecutor's office tasked with investigating attacks on reporters, formed in 2006, needs to deter such crimes by committing substantial resources to solving a single high-profile case, or a handful of them.

"Until that happens, there will be very little prevention, and very little ending of this cycle of violence," Kaye said.

He and Lanza also said Mexico's government must devote more funding and staff to a journalist protection program launched in 2012, taking measures such as daily monitoring of the situation in states where reporters are most at risk, and helping them to continue to work if they are forced to leave their homes.

"It has an amount of money that's absurdly insufficient for the emergency that it's facing," Lanza said.]]>
12/5/2017 3:57:52 PM
<![CDATA[Aboul Gheit: Moving U.S. embassy to Jerusalem to destroy U.S. role in peace process]]>
Delivering a speech to Permanent Representatives during a discussion session on developments affecting the status of Jerusalem and its legal and historical status on Tuesday, Aboul Gheit said that the decision will have negative consequences not only on Palestine, but also on the whole region.

He added that LAS has long praised the U.S. administration’s efforts to reach a political settlement between Palestinians and Israelis.

He further explained that Palestinian Authorities have been responsive to these efforts and have taken several steps to end the division but Israel has escalated in building the settlements, further aggravating the issue.

Aboul Gheit added that there will not be an impetus for the Palestinian Authorities to continue their policy and attempts to reach a solution if the U.S. transfers its embassy to Jerusalem or declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

"Moving any embassy especially the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem will contribute in changing the legal and political status of the city as it hinders the anticipated settlement and questions Washington’s commitment for the two-State solution," stated Aboul Gheit.
He noted that LAS has called upon the U.S. administration not to take any initiative that would change the legal and political status of Jerusalem or affect the final peace settlement.

“We wait for the U.S. administration to make the right decision that goes along with its role to host the peace process. I confirm that the league will follow up closely on the recent developments of the U.S. stance,” he concluded.

This meeting came on the sidelines of the conference "Extremism and its Negative Impact on the Arabic Cultural Heritage Future" organized by Al-Azhar and the League of the Arab States on Monday, during which they declared their rejection of transferring the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

During the conference’s opening session, Deputy of Al-Azhar Abbas Shouman criticized attempts to transfer the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem describing it as a useless step, stressing that Jerusalem will remain Arab and Palestinian due to its Islamic and religious heritage.

In addition, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voted overwhelmingly on Monday in favor of two Egyptian draft resolutions submitted to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), declaring Israel’s actions in the Syrian Golan and East Jerusalem "null and void."

The United Nations (UN) adopted on December 1, 2017, the draft resolution “Jerusalem” (UNSCR A/72/L.11), that banned any actions by Israel to impose its laws, jurisdiction or administration on Jerusalem, the UN website reported.

With 151 votes in favor, the GA issued UNSCR A/72/L.11; and six Member States rejected, namely Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, the United States and Israel.
"President Donald Trump will not announce a decision on Monday on whether he will again delay moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem," a White House Spokesman said, despite Monday being the previously stated deadline.

An announcement on the decision will be made "in [the] coming days," White House Spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters aboard Air Force One, as Trump was returning from a trip to Utah. ]]>
12/5/2017 2:53:14 PM
<![CDATA[Analysis: Gulf heads absence from GCC summit not good sign]]>
The Qatari emir has arrived in Kuwait to attend the 38th Gulf summit, while Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini majesties have not.

Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani arrived in Kuwait on Tuesday in order to attend the 38th summit for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) scheduled to take place on December 5-6, according to Kuwaiti news agency KUNA.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdel Aziz will not take part in the summit, instead he sent his foreign minister to lead the Saudi delegation, Kuwaiti state television reported as Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah received Saudi Arabia’s FM Adel al-Jubeir and other Saudi top diplomats.

Saudi_Foreign_Minister_Adel_al-Jubeir_(L),_who_arrived_in_Kuwait_to_attend_the_38th_GCC_summit_and_Kuwaiti_Emir_Sheikh__Sabah_al-Ahmad_al-Sabah,_December_5,_2017-_Press_Photo
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir (L), who arrived in Kuwait to attend the 38th GCC summit and Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, December 5, 2017- Press Photo

On June 5, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain decided to cut all diplomatic ties with Qatar, hurling allegations that the state destabilizes the region by supporting terrorism and allying with the regional foe Iran.

Host nation Kuwait, which is leading mediation efforts to resolve the Gulf crisis, and Qatar are the only members of the six-nation alliance (GCC) to send top-level representation_ their respective emirs_ to attend the summit.

News reports speculated the two-day summit may be concluded on Tuesday evening, without resuming the summit for a second day.

Earlier, well-informed Arab diplomats, asked to remain anonymous, expected that Qatar’s Tamim would apologize to Saudi King Salman bin Abdel Aziz during the Gulf summit.

In October, Bahrain openly called for Qatar's membership of the GCC to be suspended until it accepts the Arab Quartet's demands.

Bahrain sent its deputy prime minister to the summit, and Emirati media said its state minister for foreign affairs would represent Abu Dhabi.

Bahraini_Assistant_Foreign_Minister_Abdulla_bin_Faisal_bin_Jabur_Al_Doseri-_Press_Photo
Bahraini Assistant Foreign Minister Abdulla bin Faisal bin Jabur Al Doseri- Press Photo

"On behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, the Assistant Foreign Minister, Abdulla bin Faisal bin Jabur al-Doseri, took part in the GCC Ministers of Foreign Affairs preparatory meeting for the 38th GCC Summit, held (Monday) in Kuwait,” according to the Bahraini Foreign Ministry.

Oman has said it will be sending a senior official to represent its ruler Sultan Qaboos, who traditionally stays away from summits.

Emirati Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash heads the Emirati delegation to the GCC summit as he arrived in Kuwait on December 4.




On Tuesday morning, hours before the summit was scheduled to begin, the United Arab Emirates announced it has formed a new economic and partnership group with Saudi Arabia, separate from the GCC— a move that could undermine the council amid a diplomatic crisis with member state Qatar.

The Emirati Foreign Ministry announcement said the new "joint cooperation committee" was approved by the UAE’s ruler and President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nayhan.
The Emirati ministry said the new "committee is assigned to cooperate and coordinate between the UAE and Saudi Arabia in all military, political, economic, trade and cultural fields, as well as other fields, in the interest of the two countries."

The GCC was founded in 1981 representing a Gulf political and economic union grouping Qatar with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well as Oman and Kuwait.]]>
12/5/2017 2:50:38 PM
<![CDATA[Qatar says 2018 budget will focus on resisting economic boycott]]>
In a speech to an international business conference, delivered exactly six months after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar, Emadi said the economy had escaped serious damage.

But he added that Qatar was determined never again to leave itself as vulnerable as it was in the initial weeks of the boycott, when the closing of its border with Saudi Arabia slashed imports of fresh food and other Gulf states pulled billions of dollars of deposits from its banks.

“It will take years and years for people to forget, and I don’t think they will forget,” he said, describing recent months as a “stress test” for Qatar financially, militarily and socially.

The four Arab states accused Qatar of backing terrorism, which Doha denies. At Tuesday’s conference, Emadi and other senior Qatari financial figures sought to convince hundreds of local and foreign businessmen that Doha could withstand the boycott indefinitely if necessary.

Emadi said the government would use subsidies to develop some sectors of the economy and boost growth. Doha is also studying how it can make the business environment more competitive and attract foreign capital, he added.

One area on which Qatar is focusing is the dairy industry, where a local company is using sophisticated technology to raise cattle in the desert; Emadi predicted the country would be wholly self-sufficient in some dairy products by the first anniversary of the boycott.

He also said Doha was looking at poultry farming, and that work on the project had started last week.

The government and the central bank have deposited billions of dollars in local banks to insulate them from withdrawals during the boycott, and Emadi made clear that the world’s top liquefied natural gas exporter was prepared to deposit billions more if necessary.

“If we see a systematic risk in the state of Qatar, we will make sure the government will intervene. There is no mistake about it.”

But Rory Fyfe, head of economics at Qatar National Bank QNBK.QA, the country’s largest bank, said net outflows from Qatar’s banking system had halted in November. Outflows have decreased as Gulf depositors have run out of remaining funds to withdraw, and as banks have found new sources of foreign money.

Fyfe also estimated the non-hydrocarbon part of the economy would grow 4.5 percent this year - a figure that would make Qatar one of the region’s best-performing economies.

Government spending to resist the boycott has raised speculation that its sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority, with assets estimated at $300 billion, may sell some of its holdings to raise cash.

Emadi sought to cool that speculation by saying the QIA had been mandated to invest surplus money in long-term assets and would stay engaged in international markets.

Prominent foreign assets held by the QIA, such as a stake in Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), London’s Shard skyscraper and the Harrods department store, are providing great returns, he said.

Fyfe said financing Qatar’s public-sector growth would be a challenge next year, and that the government and some banks were likely to turn to the international bond market.

The government will comfortably be able to raise $9 billion through international bond issuance in 2018, said Yousef al-Jaida, chief executive of the Qatar Financial Centre, citing increased interest in Qatari debt among Asian funds.]]>
12/5/2017 1:21:16 PM
<![CDATA[Italy's former PM attacks Cambridge over Regini investigation ]]>
“All parties [involved], including Egypt and Cambridge Universities, should show Commitment and cooperation so as to probe the truth behind the killing of Giulio Regeni,” said Silvio Berlusconi, as reported by Italian Aska news Agency.


]]>
12/5/2017 10:57:00 AM
<![CDATA['Strong resolution' needed on Myanmar at UN meet: Amnesty]]>
Myanmar's military denies accusations by the UN and US that it has committed ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine state.

An army-led crackdown has forced some 620,000 people to flee over the border into squalid camps in Bangladesh in recent months, leaving hundreds of villages burned to the ground.

Ahead of the council's session in Geneva, Amnesty urged members to keep the pressure on and said authorities in Buddhist-majority Myanmar are committing crimes against humanity that are continuing on a "daily basis".

"The Council must now step up and pass a strong resolution that sends a clear message to Myanmar's government and military that their abhorrent treatment of the Rohingya must end immediately, and that perpetrators will not enjoy impunity," said James Gomez, Amnesty's regional director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Rights groups say people are still fleeing Myanmar, joining refugees who give consistent accounts of rape, murder and arson.

The army has justified the crackdown as a proportionate response to deadly attacks by Rohingya militants on border police on August 25.

Myanmar's state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar on Tuesday claimed there had been a "gradual return to normalcy in the region".

The rights council rarely holds special sessions, which can only be convened at the request of at least a third of its 47 member states, or 16 countries.

The session comes amid mounting scrutiny from UN member states. In March the rights council approved a mission to Myanmar to investigate alleged crimes by security forces, particularly in Rakhine.

Myanmar refused to cooperate and blocked access to the team of investigators, who have begun their work outside the country.

After months of wrangling, Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a deal on November 23 to start repatriating refugees within two months. But rights groups say the conditions are not in place to ensure safe, voluntary and dignified returns.

The council meeting comes a week after an emotional visit to both countries by Pope Francis.

The pontiff met a group of Rohingya in Dhaka in a symbolic gesture of solidarity after publicly avoiding addressing the sensitive issue in Myanmar, where he held private talks with the powerful army chief and civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi has been the target of global vitriol for a perceived failure to stand up for the stateless minority. But she remains a heroine for most of her compatriots, who largely consider the Rohingya as unwanted illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Amnesty is also urging the rights council to discuss "wide-ranging human rights violations" it says are being committed by Myanmar's security forces against other ethnic minorities.

Many of the country's borderlands are embroiled in long-running conflicts, in which allegations of extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture and forced labour are common.

"The Council's resolution must reflect this and call on Myanmar to immediately end human rights violations against minorities in all parts of the country," said Amnesty's Gomez in a statement.]]>
12/5/2017 10:41:40 AM
<![CDATA[France's Macron tells Trump concerned over Jerusalem plans]]>
"The French President expressed his concern over the possibility that the United States would unilaterally recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," the statement said, after Macron and Trump spoke over the phone.

"Mr Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed that the question of Jerusalem's status had to be dealt with in the framework of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, with the aim in particular to establish two countries, Israel and Palestine, living in peace and security side by side with Jerusalem as capital."

Trump has not yet made a decision on whether to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, his adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said on Sunday, a move that would break with decades of U.S. policy and could fuel violence in the Middle East. ]]>
12/5/2017 1:21:05 AM
<![CDATA[Ali Abdullah Saleh no longer dancing on heads of snakes]]>
The 69-year-oldd was bitten by the snakes when the Houthi militia killed him and the assistant secretary-general of Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress Party (GPC), Yasser al-Awadi, by RPG and sniper bullets near the capital, Sanaa.

After the assassination, Houthis distributed a video on social media showing what appeared to Saleh’s body wearing clothes and being carried out on a red blanket, while his head bore a deep wound.

“Ruling Yemen is like dancing on the heads of snakes,” Saleh said when millions of Yemeni people revolted against him during the Arab Spring. After the uprising in Yemen was sparked on February 11, 2011, Saleh promised he would not run for re-election in 2013 and dismissed the idea of his son succeeding. He also offered a referendum on a new constitution and a shift to a truly democratic system.

But after using violence against protests, which led to the death of 52 protesters, a string of generals, tribal leaders, diplomats and ministers demanded that Saleh resign or they would declare their allegiance with the protesters in 2012 to end his 33-year-old regime, leading the country to suffer from poverty, civil war, militias and terrorism.

Then the conflict forced thousands of residents to flee Sanaa and raised the prospect of chaos. Hundreds of people have been killed in Yemen since the protests began.

In June 2011, the assassinated president survived from an attack that targeted a mosque inside his presidential palace, causing several burns and bruises, and driving him abroad to recover in his previous ally, Saudi Arabia.

Following the 2011 assassination attempt, he accepted the Gulf initiative on Yemen to end his rule peacefully and mandated his vice president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, the current Yemeni president, to conduct a dialogue with the opposition for a peaceful transition of power.

In 2012, When Saleh stepped down, Hadi was the only candidate for the post-uprising election and won. However, Yemen indulged into chaos again when Saleh allied with his traditional enemies, the Houthis, in January 2015 when the Saudi-led coalition forces targeted his house. His approaching the Houthis was described by many critics as a “false alliance,” which did not last for a long time and ended with his death by Houthi militants.

There have been constant skirmishes between the country's government and Houthis since 2004, when the Houthis took control of Yemen's capital, Sanaa, pushing southwards towards the second-largest city, Aden. In response to the Houthis' advances, a coalition of Arab states launched a military campaign in 2015 to defeat the Houthis and restore Yemen's government.

Saleh’s early life:

Saleh was born in 1942 into a tribe in the town of Bayt al-Ahmar near Sanaa. The father of 16 sons and daughters received only limited education before taking up a military career, beginning in 1958 as a non-commissioned officer.

He remained in the army until 1978, when he transferred to politics. He took over Yemen after former President Ahmad al-Ghashmi was assassinated on June 24, 1978, and since then, he had not relinquished the post.

In 1990, he became president of the whole republic of Yemen after its two halves were united. Saleh often portrayed himself as the only man who could hold Yemen together. In the early days of the popular campaign to drive him from office, he portrayed the opposition as a conspiracy to destroy the country, a slogan he had often used during his decades in power.]]>
12/4/2017 11:06:27 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt-sponsored UN resolutions deny Israeli ties to Jerusalem]]>
The United Nations adopted on December 1 the draft resolution “Jerusalem” (document A/72/L.11), that banned any actions by Israel to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on Jerusalem, the UN’s website reported.

The Assembly issued the resolution with 151 votes in favor, while six members, including Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, United States, and Israel itself rejected it.

Nine member states abstained, including Australia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Honduras, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, South Sudan and Togo.
The UN’s report following the voting session mentioned that the American representative expressed his opposition, saying “the biased and one-sided resolutions undermined efforts to achieve peace between the parties.”
On the other hand, the second resolution, also introduced by Egypt, “The Syrian Golan” (document A/71/L.17), was adopted by a vote of 105 in favor to six against (Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, United Kingdom, United States) with 58 abstentions.

The assembly declared that Israel had failed to comply with Security Council resolution No. 497 (1981) and demanded its withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan, the UN website reported.

Amr Abdel Latif Abul Atta, Egypt's ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations, said that the draft referred to Israel’s insistence to violate all relevant UN resolutions and the Geneva Conventions applied to the lands occupied by Israel. He added that “L.17” called on Israel to fully withdraw from the Syrian Golan, and urged the international community to settle this issue, being related to broader challenges in the Middle East.

Israel has occupied the Golan Heights from Syria in the six days war of 1967. Israel built a number of settlements in the Golan soon after the war. Merom Golan was founded in July 1967 and by 1970, 12 settlements had been constructed. In 1981, Israel passed the Golan Heights Law extending Israeli law and administration throughout the territory.

The United States considered the application of Israeli law to the Golan Heights to be a violation of international law, including both the Fourth Geneva Convention's prohibition on the acquisition of territory by force and United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 242.

Regarding the Palestinian Cause, Abul Atta called for the realization of the Palestinian people’s right to freedom of belief and called for an end to all of Israel’s excavation and destruction of holy sites.

He pointed out that Egypt had recently sponsored the signing of a reconciliation agreement between the rival Palestinian factions on October 12 in Cairo. He called on the international community to take advantage of the historic opportunity and push the peace process based on the two‑State solution.

“Both the Israelis and Palestinians would continue to have a claim to the Holy Land,” he added, emphasizing the importance of finding a rational solution.

Representatives of Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas met in Cairo in October in the second round of reconciliation negotiations between the two parties in the Egypt-brokered initiative.

After many failed attempts, a significant breakthrough was achieved in the reconciliation talks between the two Palestinian factions. For the first time since 2014, internationally recognized Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah held a governmental meeting in Gaza — a move that recovered hopes in ending the deepest rift Palestine has ever experienced.
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Palestinian delegations of both Fatah and Hamas rival parties after reaching a reconciliation deal in Cairo, ending a decade-long division - Photo by Essam el-Shamy/Egypt Today
]]>
12/4/2017 9:14:13 PM
<![CDATA[Schulz says EU allies urged him to join Merkel government]]>
If his centre-left SPD joins another governing alliance with Merkel's conservatives or allows her to run a minority government, "it won't be business as usual" in Berlin, vowed Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament.

Schulz said he had been encouraged by European "sister parties" and some leaders, including Macron, to join Merkel's fourth government and help promote European reforms.

"The phone conversations I've had so far ... and the exchange of mails and text messages have been unanimous," he told a Berlin press conference.

The core message, he said, was that Germany should adopt "a progressive, a more social, a more dynamic policy on Europe".

"We take their message very seriously," said Schulz, a vocal critic of Berlin's tough austerity stance during the eurozone crisis when creditors demanded tough reforms from crisis-hit economies in return for international bailouts.

Macron has pushed for sweeping reforms, including a common eurozone finance minister and budget -- an idea that has received a lukewarm response from Merkel's conservatives who fear it could cost the top EU economy dearly.

Schulz lost to Merkel in September 24 elections and initially vowed to take his party into opposition but has now emerged as the man who could hold her political fate in his hands.

After Merkel's exploratory talks to form an alliance with two smaller parties collapsed, her conservatives are hoping for a continuation of their previous "grand coalition" with the SPD for the next four years.

Schulz has asked his divided party to back him in open-ended discussions on whether the two parties should team up again, and on what terms, to avoid new elections.

Sunday's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper reported that Macron and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had encouraged Schulz to extend the four-year-old alliance, currently a caretaker government, and shift Berlin's policy on Europe.

Schulz said that left-leaning European parties and Macron's government, looking to Germany, "have a great interest in seeing an end of the blockade of necessary eurozone reforms, seen especially in the finance ministry".]]>
12/4/2017 9:01:23 PM
<![CDATA[What to expect from the Ethiopian PM’s visit to Egypt?]]>
Desaline gave a speech to the Egyptian parliament on November 28, during his short visit to Cairo. The visit which includes holding several meetings and giving speeches, expected to push the discussions into more serious steps according to Parliamentarian Hatem Bashat's statement to Egypt Today, on Monday.

“Egypt has several solutions and seniors can be used during the coming period, especially if the negations at this level didn’t work,” Bashat said. He added, “We can ask other African friendly countries to interfere in trying to solve the crises, we can go to the African union or even to the pan-African parliament.”

Bashat added that Desaline demanded the presence of the African Affairs Committee Members during his visit to Parliament. He also ruled out resorting to a military solution to solve the dispute.

Parliamentarian Mai Mahmud said that Desaline’s visit comes as a reassuring step to Egyptians. “We are waiting to listen to him and to know his country’s explanation for the failure of the latest talks,” she added.

Meanwhile, Mahmud affirmed that Egypt is determined to preserve its right to its share of Nile waters, referring to several international agreements guaranteeing those rights.

On November 12, the last meeting of the TNCRD, hosted in Cairo, concluded without reaching an agreement regarding the guidelines suggested by a study on the dam’s potential effects on the Nile Basin States, according to Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel-Aati.

He issued a statement shortly after the meeting explaining that although Egypt agrees with the study’s guidelines, the other two parties of the TNCRD did not express consensus and called for amendments.

A report based on the study presents these guidelines by which Ethiopia can fill its reservoir without harming the water flow into Egypt and Sudan. The $4 billion dam is being constructed on the Blue Nile, in Ethiopia with a capacity of 74 billion cubic meters and is expected to generate up to 6,000 megawatts of power.

Since May 2011, Cairo has voiced its concern over how the dam could reduce the country’s annual share of more than 56 billion cubic meters of Nile water. Egypt’s average water per-capita is expected to drop from 663 cubic meters per year to 582 cubic meters by 2025 because of the construction of the dam, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS). Addis Ababa, however, claimed that the dam is necessary for Ethiopia’s development and will not harm downstream countries.

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi signed a Tripartite National Committee joint cooperation agreement in Khartoum on March 23, 2015, between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. In December 2015, Sisi addressed the public, saying that there is no reason to worry about the dam and that the matter would be resolved. The three countries held 14 rounds of consultation to resolve the disputes over the Renaissance Dam but have not reached a solution yet. ]]>
12/4/2017 8:44:42 PM
<![CDATA[ Algeria's future uncertain, Macron unlikely to dwell on past during visit]]>
The trauma of the 1954-1962 independence war, in which hundreds of thousands of Algerians were killed and tortured was used on both sides, has left deep scars.

Former French leader Francois Hollande sought a more conciliatory tone describing his country's colonization of Algeria as "brutal and unfair" and Macron is unlikely to go further.

With President Abdelaziz Bouteflika rarely seen in public since a 2013 stroke, Macron will focus on the generational shift and importance of enhanced economic and security within that context.

On a visit to Algeria in February as a candidate, Macron, 39, already shocked many at home when he said France's 132-year colonial rule was a "crime against humanity."

"The president had strong words. It was appreciated by Algerians, but today the idea is to turn the page and build a new relationship with Algeria," a French presidential source said, adding that youth was his key message.

During a three-day tour in Africa last week Macron again addressed the colonial past. While recognising the crimes of the European colonisers, he also pointed to the positives of the era and made clear that his generation should not be blamed.

Facing high unemployment, low oil prices, austerity and political uncertainty, Algeria's youth is likely to warm to Macron's call to look to the future more than the war veterans.

"It's very difficult to have a relationship between one partner (Macron) that is young, vibrant and wants renewal and the other partner (Bouteflika) who represents such a severe contrast," said Pierre Vermeren, a North Africa specialist at the Paris Sorbonne university.

Economic ties between the two countries have marginally progressed since 2012 and France is now behind China as the main partner. Annual trade stands at about 8 billion euros compared with 6.36 billion five years ago.

More than 400,000 Algerians are given visas for France annually, almost twice as many as in 2012.

"If Macron makes it easier to get a visa, that will be great for me. As for the history stuff I really don't care," said Slimane Khalifa, 25 who is an engineer at a state firm.

POST-BOUTEFLIKA TEST

Political jostling around Bouteflika has intensified as his health has waned, fuelling questions about the transition if he steps down before his term ends in 2019.

With more than 4 million people of Algerian origin in France, all with ties to the North African state, any upheaval across the Mediterranean would have a serious impact on Paris.

"Macron's biggest foreign policy test could be Algeria because the state of Bouteflika's health is a worry and potentially what happens after could have huge ramifications on us," said a French diplomat.

Macron's "friendship" visit, downgraded from an official visit, is also an opportunity to appease some anger in Algiers after he travelled first to arch-rival Morocco earlier this year, a taboo for previous French leaders. Many hope Macron will go one step further when it comes to the past.

"France should not only apologise, but also pay for its crimes during occupation," Lakhdar Brahimi, retired diplomat and close friend of the 80-year-old Bouteflika said last week.

Brahimi, like Bouteflika, belongs to the war veterans who fought against French occupation and among that generation Macron is seen as his last chance for history to remember Bouteflika as the man who obtained an official apology.

However, it remains a sensitive issue across France and Macron's comments in February led to a drop in poll ratings and uproar across various strands of society forcing him to clarify his stance.

With the generational change yet to take place, Macron for now needs Algeria to help resolve the crisis in neighbouring Libya and to prevent Islamist militants from stoking problems in the Sahel region, where some 4,000 French troops, roam close to the Algerian border.

"All the Algerians want is for France and the Barkhane force to get out of Mali and away from its border," said a senior French diplomat.]]>
12/4/2017 5:45:38 PM
<![CDATA[Bonds, back-tracking and bombs: Yemen’s new era]]>
First the Houthi-controlled radio station said it, then photos circulated on social media supported it, and finally his office confirmed it, Yemen’s ex-president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has been killed by Houthi rebels in the capital Sanaa.

Initial reports by Saleh's party denied that their leader had been killed, confirming that he is still leading his forces in their clashes against Houthi rebels in Sanaa. This was unsurprising, as often formal confirmations of death are postponed until all details are clear. However, in this case, confirmation f his death could not be postponed for much longer due to the overwhelming number of gruesome images of his body that circulated online.

The images of Saleh’s body on social media were eerily similar to those of Ghaddafi after he was killed in Sirte in 2011. Videos of a frail, lifeless body being dragged around the streets are symbolic of exuberance, and symbolic of disrespect. They convey power and signal in a new era.

It has also been reported

that Saleh’s son, Khaled, has been taken captive, another similarity to the Ghaddafi downfall.

After being ousted from the presidency early 2012, Saleh and his loyal forces allied with Iranian-backed Houthi forces against Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognised government in 2014.

He turned against the Houthis

three days ago, and was killed by them today.




Reports have emerged throughout Monday of fierce clashes between Saleh’s forces and Houthi rebels, with many of Saleh’s known residences being targeted and attacked.




Recent reports say that Saleh was stopped in his car, dragged out by militiamen and summarily executed alongside four others.

Houthi rebels labelled his defection a “coup” on Saturday, accusing him of treason.

Since Saleh voiced his desire to end the needless killing and break his bond with the Houthi’s, the Saudi-led coalition tried to take advantage of the schism by stepping up airstrikes against Houthi forces.

It is expected that the news of Saleh’s death will not be welcomed by his party, the Saudi-led alliance, and the world at large. More significantly, this news comes as a final blow to the people of Yemen

Saleh hoped his step-back would help towards the Saudi-led coalition easing its bombing campaign of anti-government forces; however, this twist does not leave the future looking bright for the people of Yemen, who are suffering one of the worst humanitarian crises since the Second World War (WWII).

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Houthi rebels in Sana'a – REUTERS

More than 8,000 people have been killed and 50,000 have been injured since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in the conflict in 2015, according to the United Nations (UN).

The fighting and the Saudi-imposed blockade have also left 20.7 million people in need of humanitarian aid, creating the world's largest food security emergency.

Reports coming from Sanaa say that the Houthi rebels have taken control of most the city. With Saleh taken out of the picture, the fate of his allied forces is uncertain. A unifying figurehead who ruled Yemen for 33 years, he asserted control over his loyal forces in a country broken down by sectarianism and conflict.

While Saudi Arabia was happy about the changing dynamics in the country in the hope that it would be the first step towards a conclusion, now the situation is uncertain. What IS certain, is that retaliation is imminent.

Although Saleh’s death makes the Houthi rebels appear militarily tough and resilient after condemning Saleh’s defecation on Saturday, this only makes them more exposed. Not only are they without their major ally on the ground, the political schism with Saudi Arabia has increased immeasurably, leaving the Houthi rebels in the shadows.

The Saudi-led coalition has made it clear from the beginning that it WILL control the situation in Yemen through firepower. With the situation now firmly out of its hands, they are likely to attack from all fronts, and the people of Yemen will be the ones who suffer the response, however disproportionate it is.

Twitter:

Joseph Colonna

]]>
12/4/2017 4:57:25 PM
<![CDATA[DR Congo govt recruited rebels for deadly crackdown on protests: HRW]]>
Human Rights Watch said President Joseph Kabila's regime had drafted in fighters previously active in the M23 rebel group from Uganda and Rwanda to suppress the December 2016 demonstrations, which erupted when he refused to step down at the end of his term in power.

The right group's allegations came as the country faces a new flare-up of violence after Kabila pushed back a much-delayed new vote until December 2018, with the opposition demanding that the veteran leader resign sooner.

"Senior security force officers in the Democratic Republic of Congo mobilized over 200 former M23 rebel fighters from neighboring countries to quash protests against President Joseph Kabila in December 2016," HRW said in a report.

It said Congolese security forces acting with M23 fighters killed at least 62 people and arrested hundreds more as the protests swept through the vast African country between 19 and 22 December 2016.

M23, a mostly ethnic Tutsi rebel group, was defeated in November 2013 at the hands of Congolese and UN forces. Hundreds of fighters fled the country but officials and residents in the eastern region of Kivu have said they had seen militants return.

Congo's resource-rich eastern provinces have suffered years of brutal conflict, with neighbouring states backing rebel groups in a civil war against Kinshasa's authority, and roaming armed militia triggering the mass flight of terrorised civilians.

HRW said its research was based on more than 120 interviews and that during the protests, "M23 fighters patrolled the streets of Congo's main cities, firing on or arresting protesters or anyone else deemed to be a threat to the president".

"Covert operations to recruit fighters from an abusive armed group to suppress any resistance show how far President Kabila and his coterie are willing to go to stay in power," said Ida Sawyer, the organisation's Central Africa director.

"Congolese officials should end all unlawful use of force against protesters and allow peaceful political activities by activists and the political opposition."

Opposition forces are demanding Kabila -- who took office after his father Laurent was assassinated in 2001 -- step down on December 31, but authorities made several arrests ahead of an opposition march earlier this month.]]>
12/4/2017 1:07:12 PM
<![CDATA[Sources: Qatar to apologize to Arab heads during GCC summit]]>
The Arab diplomatic sources revealed to Egypt Today that Tamim will shake hands with the Gulf emirs and kings before launching the summit, following meditation efforts exerted by the Kuwaiti emir to contain the intra-Gulf diplomatic crisis that erupted last June.

High-level sources disclosed to Kuwait-based Al-Siyassah newspaper that Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Bahrain have not yet sent an official response to the Kuwaiti emir regarding their participation.

The sources stressed that the Kuwaiti mediation endeavors may result in forcing Qatar to make some concessions in favor of lifting boycott measures imposed on Doha by the Arab quartet states led by Saudi Arabia, and returning to the Gulf and Arab side.

“The ministerial meeting will be attended Monday, and (for) the summit, God willing, the Emir(will attend),” Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani said in a speech on Sunday, according to Reuters.

Qatar_s_Emir_Sheikh_Tamim_bin_Hamad_al-Thani_is_seen_as_he_speaks_to_members_of_Qatar_s_Shoura_Council_in_Doha,_Qatar,_November_14,_2017-REUTERS
Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani speaks to members of Qatar's Shoura Council in Doha, Qatar, November 14, 2017-REUTERS

On November 26, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman inaugurated the session titled "United against Terrorism." Doha was excluded from attending the Riyadh forum of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition's Ministers of Defense Council.

On June 5, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain decided to cut all diplomatic ties with Qatar, hurling allegations that the state destabilizes the region by supporting terrorism and allying with the regional foe Iran.

The boycotting countries halted all land, air and sea traffic with Qatar, ejected its diplomats and ordered Qatari citizens to leave their states within 14 days.

The Arab countries listed 13 demands to be met by Qatar, including severing ties with terrorist groups, closing down the pan-Arab Al-Jazeera satellite channel, downgrading ties with arch-rival Iran and the closure of a Turkish air base in Qatar.]]>
12/4/2017 12:38:38 PM
<![CDATA[Catalan separatists divided ahead of knife-edge vote]]>
The vote on December 21 comes amid Spain's worst political crisis in a generation after Catalan lawmakers declared independence following a banned referendum.

Madrid's response -- to sack Catalonia's parliament and government, suspend its autonomy and organise new elections -- has prompted a string of demonstrations in the region of 7.5 million people.

But Catalans remain deeply split on independence, and several polls suggest pro-secession parties might struggle to win enough seats to form a new regional government.

"From now until December 21, the dispute in the pro-independence camp is going to get worse and they will exchange blows," said Oriol Bartomeus, a political science professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

"They could open up a rift that prevents them returning an overall majority."

In 2015 pro-independence parties won 47.8 percent of the vote, allowing them to ally with the far-left CUP to form the largest bloc in the region's parliament.

But the latest polls show support for secessionists hovering around 45 percent -- potentially putting another majority out of reach.

- Divisions -

Lawmakers in Catalonia -- a wealthy but indebted region which generates a fifth of Spain's GDP -- sent shock waves through Europe on October 27 by voting to split from Spain.

Their decision followed a banned referendum on the subject which separatists say provided a mandate for independence but which Spanish courts ruled to be illegal.

The conservative government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy invoked an unprecedented constitutional power to suspend Catalan autonomy and dismiss its leaders.

Several former lawmakers have been detained on charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds over their role in preparing the secession bid over the last two years.

And Catalonia's ousted president, Carles Puigdemont, is in self-imposed exile in Belgium, fighting an extradition request from Spain.

His former deputy Oriol Junqueras, one of those detained following the independence declaration, and who could be released on bail as early as Monday, hopes to see his ERC party, which is leading polls, to victory on December 21.

Its candidates are running on separate lists to Puigdemont's as the two parties compete for hegemony of the separatist bloc.

The ERC says it will not set a fixed date for independence, citing the popular divide on the matter, while the CUP has been criticising Puigdemont for not doing enough to push ahead with secession.

- Too close to call -

Puigdemont, who is running as a candidate despite his absence, launched his campaign last month from Brussels with a flurry of high-profile media appearances and a demand that he be returned as the "legitimate" president of Catalonia.

"Since then we've seen around 200,000 would-be voters switch from ERC to Puigdemont," Bartomeus said.

Rajoy and fellow opponents of Catalan independence have hitched their hopes on a record turnout on December 21 to return a legislature in favour of unity with Spain.

But opponents of independence are themselves divided, with Rajoy's Popular Party and its liberal ally Ciudadanos -- as well as the main opposition socialists -- failing to form a unified candidate list.

"I don't see a repetition of the alliance of three independence parties," said Jose Pablo Ferrandiz of the polling firm Metroscopia. "But neither do I see a government formed from three anti-independence parties."

With the result too close to call, the role of kingmaker could fall to Ada Colau, the popular mayor of Barcelona and head of the Catalonia in Common party, which opposes independence but would like to see a properly organised referendum for voters to decide.]]>
12/4/2017 12:12:41 PM
<![CDATA[Hezbollah: What’s the Fuss? ]]>
Under the guise of proxies across the region, Iran is making it clear that territorial sovereignty is not absolute, and that anything is open to re-interpretation if Iran so wishes. Iran is in the process – successfully I should add – of re-interpreting the essential power dynamics of the Middle East. While Saddam Hussein provided an effective buffer between Iran and the rest of the Arab world, with his removal in 2003, Iranian eyes were once again set on the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Aden, and beyond.

The conflict in Yemen provided Iran with the opportunity to challenge Saudi Arabia’s southern border while conflict in Syria and Iraq allowed Iran to cement influence in the Levant, and directly on the Kingdom’s northern border.

Although the conflict in Syria does not directly challenge the Kingdoms territorial integrity to the north, the Iranian threat to Saudi interests remains significant.

Photo_2
Houthi fighters in Yemen chant slogans as they take part in a gathering in the capital, Sana’a. AFP/Mohammed Huwais

In Yemen the rebel Houthi movement have continued to trouble the Kingdom, and only recently fired a ballistic missile towards Riyadh. Although intercepted, this was taken by Saudi Arabia as a “declaration of war” by Iran.

In Iraq, directly on the northern Saudi border, Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militias have played a substantive role in holding back ISIS in the country. In September, following the widely condemned Kurdish vote for independence, Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militia supported Iraqi security forces as they pushed into disputed areas taken over by the Kurdish Peshmerga since they held back ISIS advances in 2014.

Regardless of Iran’s “covert” military action and political pressure in the aforementioned countries, Hezbollah remain undoubtedly Iran’s largest puppet-threat to peace in the region. Saudi Arabia has already declared Hezbollah’s aggression a “declaration of war”, and has taken drastic steps in recent weeks to curb this threat.

Who, or what, is Hezbollah?

Hezbollah is a Shi’a Islamist political, military and social group based in Lebanon currently led by Hassan Nasrallah after the death of Abbas al-Musawi in 1992. The group has transformed from its fractured origins during the Lebanese Civil War in the 1980s, and now wields considerable political and military power in the country and throughout the region.

The group operates predominantly in southern Lebanon, headquartered in the notorious Bekaa Valley, however has the capacity to conduct transnational operations.

Photo_3
Lebanese army soldiers patrol a street in Labwe, at the entrance of the border town of Arsal, in eastern Bekaa Valley, Lebanon July 21, 2017. REUTERS

In an exceptional move, Hezbollah’s political wing has risen up the ladder to achieve top status in Lebanon’s formal political structure. It currently holds 12 seats in parliament and two in the cabinet; a condition thought impossible just 30 years ago.

The military wing represents the biggest threat to peace perceived by Saudi Arabia and her allies. With an estimated annual income of around $1 billion and a fighting force upward of 25,000 men, Hezbollah’s military is arguably the most powerful non-state actor not just in the region, but in the world.

Importantly, Hezbollah possesses a vast amount of military hardware, including armored vehicles and missiles all provided by Iran. Not just funded by Iran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRCG) and its Quds Forces provide essential training and non-military support to the group.

What are its motives?

Hezbollah’s constitution of 1985 outlined several fundamental goals of the group: to destroy Israel, to expel Western influences from Lebanon and the wider region, and to combat their enemies within Lebanon – in the context of the Lebanese Civil War this fell primarily on the Phalanges Party. The 1985 manifesto had a strong Islamic rhetoric, and listed the Ayatollah Khomeini as the leader whose "orders we obey".

The simple presence of a manifesto showed that the newfound group had political aspirations which looked to legitimize the group far beyond the war.

Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s current leader, described the group at a basic level and identified "two main axis”: “firstly, a belief in the rule by the just jurisconsult and adherence to Khomeini's leadership; and secondly, the continued need to struggle against the Israeli enemy."

The simple presence of a manifesto showed that the newfound group had political aspirations beyond the war.

Photo_4
Secretary General of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah. AFP/Haitham Mussawi

For the first time since Hezbollah formally joined the Lebanese political process in 1992, the group published a new manifesto in 2009. The new manifesto shifted its direction slightly in order to appear consistent with the changed climate.

In contrast to the 1985 manifesto, the new political vision contains a dialed down Islamist rhetoric. The new manifesto omits reference to establishing an Islamic order in Lebanon, and focuses more on community integration and acceptance of Lebanon’s diversity.


Nevertheless, the tough line against Israel and the United States is maintained.

“Israel represents a constant threat and an impending danger to Lebanon,” the document reads. "We categorically reject any compromise with Israel or recognizing its legitimacy."

“The American administration’s unlimited support to Israel... places the American administration in the position of the enemy of our nation and our peoples,” the document continues.

“The U.S. terror is the root of all terror in the world."

Photo_5
American soldiers stand near armoured fighting vehicles contributed by the U.S. government to the Lebanese army at Beirut's port, Lebanon, August 14, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

It’s easy to view Hezbollah as simply a political party, yet this doesn’t scratch the surface of the group’s exploits. Hezbollah is a designated terrorist group by the United States, European Union, Arab League, and Israel to name a few.

- United States (designated October 8, 1997)
- European Union (designated July 22, 2013)
- Gulf Cooperation Council (designated March 2, 2016)
- Arab League (designated March 11, 2016)
- Organization of Islamic Cooperation (designated April 14, 2016)



The founding of Hezbollah must be viewed in the context of the Lebanese Civil War; a 15-year-long war from 1975-1990 which ravaged the country as foreign armies and sub-state actors endured the road to domination.

Shiite Muslims in Lebanon were mostly left out of the state formation process when Lebanon gained its independence in 1943. A confessional political system was introduced in the 1943 National Pact, in the belief that it was appeasing the diverse range of identifiable groups in Lebanon, whether being Maronite, Sunni, etc.

The National Pact was founded on an outdated 1932 census, which was misguided in representing the demographics of the country and failed to provide fair political representation in the executive and legislative branches, leaving the growing Muslim majority vastly under-represented.

It was established that parliamentary seats would be divided on a 6-to-5 ratio of Christians to Muslims, in addition to a Maronite President; a Sunni Prime Minister; and a Shi’a Speaker.

Deeply rooted within society was a hierarchical social structure, in which certain groups were gifted more social and economic privileges than others. To this extent, the Shiite community was often economically and politically marginalized.

Distributing political and institutional power proportionally among confessional communities is a risky road to walk down; time only skews proportions. Following the so-called Black September in 1970, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was expelled to Lebanon and joined the 200,000 or so Palestinian refugees in south Lebanon and around Beirut. They proceeded to establish a recognizable state-within-a-state in Lebanon, militarizing refugee camps and areas under its control.

Here the foundation of the conflict was shaped, which pitted Muslims against Christians initially in the form of the Lebanese National Movement/PLO and the Phalange respectively. Many groups and foreign armies joined the conflict in the coming weeks, months and years.

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Palestinian fighters unfurl a Lebanese flag at the Holiday Inn after they dislodged Lebanese Christian forces on March 26, 1976. The hotel was a battleground throughout the 1975-'90 Lebanese war, with its upper floors used as snipers' nests. AFP/Xavier Baron

Israel joined the conflict in 1978 and 1982 after repeated attacks and counter-attacks between the PLO operating in southern Lebanon and the Israeli Defense Forces, which had caused civilian casualties on both sides of the border. Israel remained as an occupying force in certain areas after both invasions.

A plethora of groups emerged during this conflict in the quest for supremacy; of these, Hezbollah emerged in the early 1980s. While some people point to 1982 as Hezbollah’s founding date, its official manifesto was not released until 1985.

Funding

Although Hezbollah has fundraising networks across the region and the globe, as well as vast sources of legitimate financing domestically, its primary sponsor is undoubtedly Iran. Since Hezbollah’s foundation in the civil war period, Iran and the IRGC – specifically the Quds force – have played a significant role in training, funding, and equipping the group.

Advanced by the Quds Force, the Special Forces unit of the IRGC responsible for Iran’s extraterritorial operations, Iran is growing increasingly skilled at entrenching support links beyond Tehran’s legitimate reach.

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Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani (C) attends Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's (not seen) meeting with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in Tehran, Iran on Sept. 18, 2016. AFP

Headed by the infamous Qasem Soleimani, the Quds Force appeals to Shiite sympathies throughout the Middle East, inflating sectarian tensions in the already unstable region.

Hezbollah is the greatest military threat Iran has control over beyond its border, with a vast arsenal of relatively sophisticated weapons and a strong, loyal army. Israeli intelligence suggests that Hezbollah has stockpiled over 100,000 rockets and missiles of various capabilities, however some estimates put this number at 150,000.

“Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, Israel’s deputy chief of staff, told foreign journalists that Hezbollah has developed capabilities that present ‘unprecedented’ threats to Israel. Israel estimates the group has over 100,000 rockets and missiles in its arsenal,” reported the Associated Press in April 2016.

“In any future crisis, they are not going to see a small war in Lebanon. It’s going to be decisive. It’s going to be a full-scale war,” Golan said.

Post War

In a process often referred to as the “Lebanonization of Hezbollah,” after the 1975-1990 war Hezbollah transformed from a revolutionary force, to a political group.

The premise of this notion is that during the 1990s Hezbollah began a process of integrating into Lebanese society, and formally into the parliamentary democracy and political process.

Hezbollah’s political wing, the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc, ran in national elections for the first time in 1992, winning eight seats in the parliamentary elections. The last general election was held in 2009, where the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc won 13 seats.

Along with the Free Patriotic Movement and Amal, the party dominates the March 8 Alliance, the largest alliance in the Lebanese Parliament, and since 2012 has held two seats in the Lebanese cabinet.

While entrenching its influence domestically, Hezbollah has been engaged in almost constant cross-border conflict, whether covert or overt.

From 1982-2000, Lebanese Muslim guerrillas groups, mostly led by Hezbollah, have been engaged in also constant conflict with Israeli military forces. After Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 to oust the PLO to put a stop to these attacks, Hezbollah took charge.

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Israeli soldiers carry their belongings in an area near the Israel-Lebanon border January 29, 2015. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

This conflict was typified by surprise Hezbollah attacks on Israeli troops and rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, followed by a disproportionate Israeli response.

While it is argued that Iran sent several thousand IRCG troops to support Hezbollah in the campaign, what is certain is that they provided the essential military and financial backing.

In what would prove to be a turning point in Lebanese politics, in 2005 the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated. An international tribunal investigating the assassination indicted five Hezbollah members over his killing.

The voice of moderation was removed; his assassination distorted and transformed Lebanon’s internal dynamics. In a country where conflict and assassination have become commonplace, the hope that Hariri’s assassination could be forgotten about quickly did not prevail, and over a decade later the country is still feeling the effects.

His death paved the way for Hezbollah to increase its influence in Lebanon through both political and physical mechanisms as it emerged as the most powerful political and military force in the country.

Nevertheless, the relative peace of 2000 to 2006 was knocked back in July of 2006. Hezbollah fighters fired rockets into Israeli border towns as part of an attack on two armored Israeli Humvees patrolling the Israeli side of the border fence, killing eight Israeli soldiers and taking two hostages.

Israeli retaliation led to a month long war, which is believed to have killed around 1,125 Lebanese and 164 Israelis. However, Hezbollah faired surprisingly well, and claimed a victory since Israeli failed to overcome the group.

In the 11 years since the July 2006 war, Hezbollah has expanded its domestic influence while becoming entangled in Syria's civil war

Hezbollah’s political power has increased as a result. After Hezbollah initiated clashes in Beirut in 2008 with government supporters, negotiations with the government led to Hezbollah acquiring a significant veto power in the cabinet which it has used to great extent; most significantly, to prevent the election of a Lebanese president whom it does not favor.

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Hezbollah fighters put Lebanese and Hezbollah flags at Juroud Arsal, Syria-Lebanon border, July 25, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

The current Lebanese, war veteran President Michael Aoun, is a Maronite Christian in adherence with Lebanon’s confessional political system. Yet, his cooperation with Hezbollah exemplifies its influence in all spheres of government.

With the uprising against Hezbollah’s ally Bashar al-Assad in neighboring Syria, Hezbollah began sending military advisors across the border in 2011, and confirmed in June 2013 that it had deployed combat forces to support the regime. While at first these forces were concentrated on the Lebanese-Syrian border to counter the activities of extremist groups, by 2015 there were reports of Hezbollah units operating in widespread areas of Syria, including Idlib and Aleppo.

Hezbollah, a Shi'a Islamist political party, terrorist and militant group based in Lebanon that wields vast power throughout the region, sits under the thumb of its masters in Iran. It remains the most significant example of an Iranian proxy in the region, and has been the source of horrifying terrorism in the past and increasing tensions in recent months.

The group is sprinting towards the finish line in Lebanon, and while not there yet, it is finding regional events largely falling in its favor. It is to not surprise the region and the world is worried of Iran’s growing influence.

Twitter:

Joseph Colonna

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12/4/2017 12:06:36 PM
<![CDATA[New Australia laws to deal with foreign political meddling]]>
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ordered an inquiry in June after media revelations that the nation's spy agency had warned the country's political elite two years ago about taking donations from two billionaires with links to the Chinese Communist Party.

The probe, by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Fairfax Media, said that despite being cautioned both the Liberals and Labor continued accepting substantial sums of cash.

It said intelligence agencies had major concerns that China was interfering in Australian institutions and using the political donations system to gain access. Beijing denied the allegations as "totally groundless".

Since then concern over foreign interference has gathered momentum, heightened by ongoing revelations of Russian meddling in the American political system.

"The issue of foreign interference in our politics is an extremely serious problem," Attorney-General George Brandis told parliament on Monday.

"So I can tell the Senate that later this week, the government will introduce a milestone legislative package to reform Australia's espionage and foreign interference legislation."

He said the new laws would strengthen and modernise a range of offences "for the purposes of investigating, disrupting and prosecuting acts of espionage and covert interference in the Australian political process".

There would be a new transparency scheme, providing "visibility of the nature and extent of influence over Australia's government and political processes by foreign interests".

"It will introduce new offences targeting foreign interference and economic espionage, including offences that criminalise covert and deceptive activities that support the intelligence activities of foreign actors," he added.

Last week, a key Australian Labor MP, Sam Dastyari, was forced to resign as deputy opposition whip after reports that he told a Chinese businessman his phone was likely being tapped by intelligence agencies.

The man, Huang Xiangmo, is a prominent Chinese political donor.]]>
12/4/2017 11:37:36 AM
<![CDATA[Will the Qatari crisis last until 2022?]]>
On November 20, Qatar’s Secretary-General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, Hassan Al-Thawadi told reporters, “We separate politics from sports. We hope that the blockading nations see reason in this matter and allow their people to be able to participate in this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

In September, the Arab Federation for Human Rights called for pulling the 2022 World Cup from Qatar by providing two reports; one report claims that Qatar monetarily bribed officials in order to host the World Cup, Saudi News Channel reported.

Doha was excluded from attending the Riyadh forum of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition's Ministers of Defense Council in November. International and regional reports have exposed allegation for Qatar’s support to terror organizations and individuals.

The forum called for the cessation of terrorist financing from terrorist organizations and countries supporting terrorism. It also aimed to reject extremist religious discourse. On the other hand, Qatar has been alleged to embrace, support and incite extremists through its biased media arms.

On November 26, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman inaugurated the session under the title “United against Terrorism.” Top defense officials from some 40 Muslim-majority countries met for a summit aiming to counter "terrorism."

Qatar has relied on Turkey and Iran to provide it with food, commodities, and even arms since the boycott was initiated. Thawadi’s press statement raises the question concerning whether the Qatari regime believes the crisis will last until 2022, and how that could affect the Gulf region.

On June 5, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain decided to cut all diplomatic ties with Qatar under accusations that the state destabilizes the region by supporting terrorism and allying with the regional foe Iran.

The boycotting countries halted all land, air and sea traffic with Qatar, ejected its diplomats and ordered Qatari citizens to leave their states within 14 days.

The Arab countries listed 13 demands to be met by Qatar, including severing ties with terrorist groups, closing down the pan-Arab Al-Jazeera satellite channel, downgrading ties with arch-rival Iran and the closure of a Turkish air base in Qatar.]]>
12/4/2017 10:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Kenyan opposition says a strategist arrested, no reason given]]>
The Alliance said economist David Ndii had been taken away from the Diani area late on Sunday.

"The family was told that he had been taken to the Diani beach police station, but when they went there they were told he was not there nor did they know where he was. No reason was given for his arrest," Salim Lone, an adviser for Raila Odinga, the coalition's leader, said in a statement.

"NASA lawyers from Nairobi and the coast are trying to locate where he is being held," he said, referring to the coalition by its acronyms.

Charles Owino, a police spokesman, said he was unaware of Ndii's arrest, as were police in Kwale.

"Police have confirmed they have David Ndii at Diani Police Station. But they want to go back to his Leopard Beach Hotel in Kwale and pick the computer and laptop for the information they need," Dennis Onyango, Odinga's spokesman, said on Twitter.

President Uhuru Kenyatta defeated Odinga in August, but Odinga challenged the election and a court voided the results, citing procedural irregularities, and ordered a fresh vote. The court's decision was the first of its kind in Africa.

Odinga boycotted the October repeat poll, saying the country's election commission had failed to carry out sufficient reforms. Kenyatta won with 98 percent of the vote.

Last week, Odinga said he planned to have a people's assembly swear him in on Dec. 12 - the country's independence day - raising the prospect for confrontation with security forces.

Lone said that Ndii had been appointed chairman of a steering committee for the steering committee organising for Odinga's planned swearing in.

"Why has @DavidNdii been arrested and where is he being held? Is he being permitted to speak to his lawyer? Is the rule of law and due process being respected?" Isaac Okero, the president of Law Society of Kenya, said on Twitter.

Kenya is a regional hub for trade, diplomacy and security. The prolonged election season disrupted its economy as investors waited to see the outcome.]]>
12/4/2017 8:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Trump tweets about Russia probe spark warnings from lawmakers]]>
"I would just say this with the president: There's an ongoing criminal investigation," Graham said on the CBS program "Face the Nation."

"You tweet and comment regarding ongoing criminal investigations at your own peril," he added.

On Sunday morning, Trump wrote on Twitter that he never asked former FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating Michael Flynn, the president's former national security adviser - a statement at odds with an account Comey himself has given.

That tweet followed one on Saturday in which Trump said he had fired Flynn because the former national security adviser had lied to the FBI.

Trump's attorney, John Dowd, said in an interview with Reuters that he had drafted the tweet and said putting it together had been a "mistake."

"I’ll take responsibility," Dowd said.

The series of tweets came after a dramatic turn of events on Friday in which Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors delving into contacts between Trump's inner circle and Russia before he took office.

Legal experts and some Democratic lawmakers said if Trump knew Flynn lied to the FBI and then pressured Comey not to investigate him, that could bolster a charge of obstruction of justice.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she believed the indictments in the investigation so far and Trump's "continual tweets" point toward an obstruction of justice case.

"I see it most importantly in what happened with the firing of Director Comey. And it is my belief that that is directly because he did not agree to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation. That's obstruction of justice," Feinstein said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"The president knew he (Flynn) had lied to the FBI, which means that when he talked to the FBI director and asked him effectively drop this case, he knew that Flynn had committed a federal crime," Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told the ABC program "This Week."

The Russia matter has dogged Trump’s first year in office, and this weekend overshadowed his first big legislative win when the Senate approved a tax cuts bill.

Flynn was the first member of Trump’s administration to plead guilty to a crime uncovered by special counsel Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. election and potential collusion by Trump aides.

Russia has denied meddling in the election and Trump has said there was no collusion.

Comey, who had been investigating the Russia allegations, was fired by Trump in May. He told the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee in June he believed his dismissal was related to the Russia probe, and said Trump asked him to end the investigation of Flynn.

"I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!" Trump said on Twitter on Sunday.

On CBS, Graham criticized Comey, saying he believes the former FBI director made some "very, very wrong" decisions during his tenure as FBI director. But Graham also said Trump should be careful about his tweets.

"I'd be careful if I were you, Mr. President. I'd watch this," Graham said.]]>
12/4/2017 4:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt discusses bill supports people with disabilities]]>
The parliament’s discussion of the bill coincides with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). The UN Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities stipulates that persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The draft bill aims to better recognize the rights of people with disabilities, integrate them into society, provide them with proper living conditions and eliminate the disability-based discrimination. The majority of the lawmakers have approved an article that stipulates that academic universities shall allocate 10 percent of their on-campus houses for the students with special needs.

There was a debate among the lawmakers on the name of the law. During the Parliament’s Sunday session, the majority rejected the proposal submitted to change the name of the bill to “The Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Dwarfs” and maintained its old title, “Draft law on people with disabilities and special needs” which was put forward by the Ministry of Solidarity along with the parliamentary Solidarity Committee in 2016.

Per the bill, people with disabilities will also be granted identification cards with many privileges such as shorter working hours for themselves or their carers in all governmental and nongovernmental institutions.

The Disabled will also be provided with suitable housing and transportation services. Educational institutions shall give priority to the disabled, while governmental and financial institutions shall be better equipped to accommodate them and facilitate their access to services.

The state shall guarantee the health, economic, social, cultural, entertainment, sporting and education rights of dwarves and people with disabilities, as well as providing them job opportunities, according the draft bill. Article 80 of the constitution stipulates, “The state guarantees the rights of children who have disabilities and ensures their rehabilitation and incorporation into society."

The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed in 1992 by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 47/3. It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life, according to the United Nation.

The theme of the day in 2017 is “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all.”

Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, delivered a message on December 3, 2017, marking the International Day of the Persons in Disabilities. In his speech, he remarked that the 2030 Agenda embodies commitment to build capacities pf those who face marginalization and exclusion to reduce economic, social and environmental shocks.

He added that although the international community has exerted efforts to advance the rights of one billion people with disabilities, they are still excluded from the processes of design, planning and implementation of policies and programs that have an impact on their lives besides facing discrimination.

“To overcome this challenge, the path towards inclusive, accessible, usable facilities, technologies, infrastructure, services and products must be ensured by, for and with persons with disabilities. We must build on their agency, working together to design, develop and implement affordable and innovative solutions to realize equality for all,” Guterres concluded.]]>
12/3/2017 6:55:26 PM
<![CDATA[Al-Jazeera Arabic, English versions show Qatar’s ‘double-face’]]>
“Qatar also pretends to the U.S. that it is supportive of its values, but in fact [it] has close ties with all the enemies of the U.S.,” the reported stated. Qatar's Permanent Envoy to the Arab League, has called Iran an “honorable state,” a country which the U.S. officially designated a terrorist state in 1984.

While Qatar makes itself out to be tolerant and supportive of democratic Americans and Westerners, anyone who watches Al-Jazeera in Arabic will find nothing other than pure hatred of Western values and enormous support for armed militias, like Hezbollah, and terrorist groups, like Hamas.

The report also revealed that Qatar is double-faced which becomes evident when comparing between Al-Jazeera Arabic channel and its English Channel; both of which represent completely different views on policies.

Qatar has been hit by its biggest diplomatic crisis in years after multiple Arab nations, including Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, cut ties with the country, accusing it of destabilizing the region with its support of Islamist groups.

The Arab Quartet halted all land, air and sea traffic to and from Qatar and withdrew their diplomats and ambassadors from the country. Issuing a list of 13 demands to Doha – later shortened to six – including closing Al-Jazeera television, curbing relations with Iran and shutting down a Turkish military base.]]>
12/3/2017 5:02:38 PM
<![CDATA[1st Egyptian Medical Liability draft law to regulate abortion]]>
This law clarifies under what circumstances abortion procedures can be carried out. Abortions are considered legal in two circumstances – if the mother’s life is at risk because of the pregnancy or if the fetus has a disorder that makes it "incompatible with life." Abortion is illegal in all other circumstances and cannot be opted into.

Under this law, abortion surgery should only be performed by a specialist in gynecology and obstetric and the pregnant woman should receive the consent of the treating doctor that her case requires an abortion.

The treating doctor should also release a detailed report determining the reason for the abortion. The husband's consent is not required in emergency cases.

The new Medical Liability Law will provide a legal framework for permissible abortions that are compatible with the Islamic law.

Egyptian law states that women who choose to have an unsanctioned abortion could face a prison sentence ranging from six months to three years, according to article 262 of the Penal Code.

To put an end to medical negligence, the draft law states that the doctor shall be legally punished if he/she commits a medical error as a result of ignorance, negligence or lack of due care for the patient.

A doctor does not have the right to end the life of the patient even upon their request or their guardian's request.

The draft law also states that cloning is completely forbidden and there must be regulations of the processes of reproduction and implantation of embryos.

According to this law, a high committee will be established to receive complaints from patients and investigate them. It also obligates medical service providers to maintain compulsory insurance for their patients against medical errors in order to make sure that the patients will receive the financial compensation in case any error occurs.

Such law is intended to prevent any abuse that occurs, mostly in the private sector.]]>
12/3/2017 3:47:57 PM
<![CDATA[Qatari defense min. to meet IRGC and Houthis' commanders ]]>
The meeting aims to discuss ways to save Houthis and help them maintain their influences.

Qatar's Emir Tamim bin Hamad attempted to mediate to end the tension between the two conflicting forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh and Houthis in Sanaa. However, Saleh refused the offer.

On this regard, Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani said on Thursday, on the sidelines of the third edition of the Mediterranean Dialogues Forum, that Abdullah Saleh’s insult to Qatar is unjustified.

He added that, "Qatar offered former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh $10 billion on the condition that he must stop chasing the Houthis."

The mediation effort came as supporters of the 2012-ousted president battled the Houthi militias in Sanaa, until finally Saleh announced that Yemen's parliament, dominated by his party, was the only legitimate power in the country. Saleh then said he is ready for talks with the Saudi-led coalition, a move that the coalition welcomed.

More than 40 Houthi combatants were killed and dozens were injured in clashes that took place in Sanaa on Saturday, December 2, between the Houthis and the militias of ousted Yemeni President Saleh, according to MENA.

The forces of the former Yemeni president regained control over the cities and areas under the control of the Houthis. Consequently, Tamim offered to mediate for a truce between the two parties to save the Houthis from Saleh's supporters, but Saleh rejected the offer.
]]>
12/3/2017 2:38:08 PM
<![CDATA[Reza Zarrab, the star witness unnerving Ankara]]>
The Turkish-Iranian gold trader -- who was arrested in March 2016 en route to a family trip to Miami -- this week revealed in Manhattan federal court that he paid more than 50 million euros in bribes to former Turkish economy minister Zafer Caglayan between 2012 and 2013.

This allowed him to become a key intermediary of a complex but lucrative regional trade circuit that enabled Iran, via the Turkish public banking institution Halkbank, to inject billions of euros of hydrocarbon revenues into the international banking sector, all the while circumventing US sanctions prohibiting trade with Tehran.

The 34-year-old Zarrab -- who recently pleaded guilty to seven charges and is now being held at a secret FBI-guarded location -- then implicated Erdogan.

In front of dozens of engrossed Turkish journalists, the elegant prisoner donning a black jacket and white shirt affirmed that Erdogan, then prime minister, had given "instructions" that two other public banks would participate in the multibillion-dollar gold-for-oil scheme.

Speaking in Turkish via an interpreter, he implied Erdogan was fully aware of the circumvented sanctions, though the president insists he is not at fault.

Just 28 years old when he entered the scheme, the flashy gold trader nicknamed "Mr Riza" has given three days of testimony pinning himself as the ringleader of a vast network of Iranian, Turkish and Emirati companies, mounted thanks to his business savvy and ample Turkish and Iranian government contacts.

- Business acumen -

Born in Iran and brought to Turkey as a child, Zarrab testified that he began working in the tea trade at just 16, before working for two years for a foreign exchange company his father owned in Dubai.

He then launched his own business, with companies in construction, shipping and foreign exchange.

The idea of helping Tehran circumvent US sanctions came from a Turkish jeweler, who had begun converting Iranian money into gold and then trading it for foreign currency, thereby concealing the Iranian origin of the funds.

In his bid to enter that business, Zarrab, a regular on Turkey's celebrity circuit known for his lavish lifestyle and pop star wife, used his high society rank to pull some strings.

He wrote a letter to Iran's then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying he wanted to help his "beloved homeland" in its "economic jihad" to loosen the grip of sanctions then strangling Tehran, citing his family's "half a century of experience in exchange and moving of currency."

His sanctions-busting commerce really took off in 2012, when he did business with Halkbank and the Iranian bank Sarmayeh -- with aid from Caglayan, then economy minister, helped along by bribes.

His business -- conducted with gold-filled suitcases transported to Dubai when US sanctions specifically targeted gold sales -- thrived, via a fictitious trade of food and medicine.

- 'Top exporter' -

But the world Zarrab built came tumbling down in December 2013, when he became a key figure in a Turkish corruption scandal in which he allegedly bribed four ministers including Caglayan to facilitate sanctions-busting trade and other deals.

He was held for 70 days until prosecutors dropped all charges.

Later that year, Zarrab received a "top exporter" award in the presence of Turkish government officials.

But that did not take into account the parallel investigation stateside.

US authorities arrested Zarrab in March 2016 as he traveled with his superstar wife Ebru Gundes and their daughter to Miami for a Disney World holiday.

Caglayan and eight others were subsequently charged with carrying out hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions benefiting Iran and Iranian entities in violation of US sanctions.

Zarrab for some time and hoped for his release, hiring top-flight lawyers including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The case has angered Erdogan, who has urged Washington to free Zarrab and denounced the trial as a "political plot" hatched by his enemy Fethullah Gulen, the US-based Muslim cleric blamed by the Turkish government for last year's failed coup.

US media also said Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn was under investigation for alleged talks with Ankara on deporting Zarrab and Gulen in exchange for money -- negotiations both Turkey and Flynn's lawyers have denied.

After 20 months of incarceration -- during which Zarrab admitted bribing his guards for alcohol and other favors -- the father of a six-year-old girl ultimately decided to cooperate, hoping for a lighter punishment than the 95-year prison sentence he risked if convicted by a jury.

Turkish prosecutors have ordered the seizure of Zarrab's assets. His testimony is set to continue Monday.]]>
12/3/2017 11:58:27 AM
<![CDATA[Under Trump's shadow, Tillerson heads for Europe]]>
But as he prepares to set off Monday for Brussels, Vienna and Paris, his authority to speak for Washington has been called into question by a rift with President Donald Trump.

Anonymous leaks from the White House suggest the top diplomat could be replaced within weeks and -- even while denying this -- Trump reminded him: "I call the final shots."

Tillerson has dismissed as "laughable" reports that Trump's closest aides want him to resign, but rumors will inevitably dog him when he sits down with his European peers.

His trip is structured around ministerial conferences of the NATO allies in Brussels and the 57-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in Vienna.

But the most closely watched encounter will be a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, on the sidelines of the OSCE talks late in the week.

At NATO, alliance partners will want to hear how America can help defend them against the newly global threat of North Korea's long-range nuclear missiles.

Tillerson gave a major speech on European policy in Washington on Tuesday to preview his agenda ahead of the trip -- and he did not mince words about Russia.

He will tell his NATO Western allies that they must stand shoulder-to-shoulder to oppose "the enemies that threaten our security and oppose our way of life," while Russia must be brought to reverse its intervention in eastern Ukraine through relentless sanctions pressure.

- 'Best friend' -

"Any resolution to the war that does not entail a fully independent, sovereign, territorially-whole Ukraine is unacceptable," Tillerson declared.

"Our trans-Atlantic unity is meant to convey to the Russian government that we will not stand by this flagrant violation of international norms," he said.

But for this warning to be credible, Tillerson must be seen as speaking for the whole US government and the president, who has shown no enthusiasm for sanctions against Russia.

Trump -- who in 2013 suggested he become Russian leader Vladimir Putin's "best friend" -- opposed a law passed this year by Congress that could impose new sanctions from January, over Russia's Ukraine intervention and alleged interference in the US presidential election.

The White House has even attempted to play down the conclusion of US intelligence that Russia deployed hackers and propagandists to assist in Trump's election win.

But since that victory, the Trump administration's other major players -- Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis -- have taken a tougher line.

- Russian-backed rebels -

Relations with Russia are at a low after tit-for-tat closures of diplomatic missions, although both sides seem to want to cooperate to stabilize Syria.

Despite the enmity, progress may be made this week in agreeing terms for a United Nations mission in Ukraine.

Putin has suggested Blue Helmet troops deploy to protect the unarmed OSCE monitors struggling to oversee the shaky ceasefire between Kiev's forces and Russian-backed rebels.

Western powers would like to see the force have a broader mandate.

Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel met Tillerson in Washington on Thursday, and afterwards told reporters that they found themselves in agreement on the crisis.

"We believe that we absolutely need a robust mandate by the United Nations for a peacekeeping mission," Gabriel said, warning that tough negotiations lie ahead.

"There are -- not minor, but truly significant -- differences between Russia, the United States and us Europeans," he said.

The UN mission must have the authority to implement the truce and enforce the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the disputed and conflict-torn Donbass region, Gabriel said.

"We share this view with our American partners," the German minister added.

Despite overwhelming evidence of its involvement, Moscow continues to deny that it has played a role in the eastern Ukraine fighting.

- Missile shield -

On North Korea, Europe had a rude awakening on Wednesday when Kim Jong-Un's North Korean regime demonstrated that his banned missile program can, in theory, strike targets on the continent.

Any high-altitude shield to protect Europe from North Korean missiles flying over the pole could breach non-proliferation deals with Russia, promising a new diplomatic row.

Trump, meanwhile, has already made it clear that he thinks the United States already pays more than its fair share of the costs of NATO's collective defense.

Tillerson is due to arrive in Brussels late on Monday. He has talks with EU and NATO leaders on Tuesday and Wednesday before flying on to Vienna for the OSCE.

Heading home on Friday, he will stop in Paris for talks with senior French officials.]]>
12/3/2017 11:29:34 AM
<![CDATA[Australia deputy PM by-election win boosts embattled coalition]]>
Barnaby Joyce's emphatic re-election in the Saturday poll brought relief to a government which lost its slim parliamentary majority over the citizenship saga, and as it battled falling voter support and internal division.

"This has been a stunning victory," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told supporters late Saturday in Tamworth, a city in Joyce's largely rural seat in New South Wales state.

"Barnaby Joyce has been re-elected member for New England with what appears to be the largest swing to the government in the history of by-elections in Australia."

Counting was ongoing but Joyce had so far picked up 64.6 percent of the vote, with his closest rival Labor's David Ewings at 11.3 percent.

Several members of the ruling Liberal-National coalition were turfed out of their seats after the High Court in October reaffirmed a constitutional provision barring dual citizens from serving in federal parliament.

In the lower House of Representatives, where the coalition held a narrow one-seat majority, Joyce and former tennis star John Alexander had to recontest their seats in by-elections.

The loss of Joyce and Alexander pending the by-election outcomes cost the government its majority, although Turnbull said he could continue ruling with the support of independents.

Alexander, whose by-election is on December 16, could restore the coalition's majority with victory, but faces a tougher fight than Joyce for his Bennelong seat in Sydney where the main opposition Labor Party hopes to capitalise on Turnbull's problems.

Voter support for Turnbull has eroded in recent months, with the Liberal leader having to bat away calls for him to step down, even from within the coalition.

Joyce, leader of the National Party, reaffirmed his support for Turnbull as prime minister late Thursday, saying Australia needed "someone who has the skill set of this fella here".

"Running a country is a little bit harder than running sheep through a gate," Joyce said as he stood beside Turnbull.

"Some don't agree with him, put that aside, ask a clear question: Who do I want running the country? Malcolm Turnbull or (Labor leader) Bill Shorten?... I'm going with this one."

Turnbull's headaches are set to continue next week, with a self-imposed deadline of December 5 for all parliamentarians to disclose their citizenship status that could further destabilise his government.

The dual citizenship rule was originally inserted into the constitution to ensure parliamentarians were loyal solely to Australia.

However, critics say it is out of step with the modern reality of the country, where half the population are either foreign-born or the children of immigrants.]]>
12/3/2017 11:28:23 AM
<![CDATA['Advances' but no deal after Venezuela rivals talk]]>
But there was no agreement and negotiations will continue in Santo Domingo on December 15, the two sides said in a statement read by Dominican President Danilo Medina.

He hosted the talks with fellow mediator and former Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

"Government and opposition declare that there have been significant advances in the search for an agreement," their statement said.

It added that the meetings which began on Friday established "the firm will" to reach a deal.

Foreign ministers from Latin American nations acted as guarantors during the discussions.

Previous meetings hosted by Medina have failed to take the negotiations beyond preliminary discussions.

The main demand of the opposition coalition, Democratic Union Roundtable (MUD), is the opening of a "humanitarian corridor" to allow the import of desperately needed food and medicines to alleviate the worst of the economic crisis -- along with a guarantee of free and fair presidential elections next year.

The opposition is divided over the talks. Some in the coalition dismiss them as nothing more than an attempt by Maduro to buy time as he continues to consolidate power.

In addition to Mexico and Chile -- invited by the MUD -- Bolivia and Nicaragua joined the discussions as allies of Maduro.

The Venezuelan president is demanding the opposition work for the lifting of US sanctions which prohibit officials and entities of his government from negotiating new debt deals with US creditors.

He also wants the opposition-dominated parliament to get behind his plan to restructure Venezuela's foreign debt, estimated at $150 billion.

State oil giant PDVSA and Venezuela have been declared in selective default for failing to meet payments on certain bonds in time.]]>
12/3/2017 11:24:43 AM
<![CDATA[Obama takes on Trump and men in general at Paris event]]>
Obama also vouched for the superiority of female leadership as "men seem to be having some problems these days", alluding to the sexual assault and harassment scandals currently engulfing the United States.

Speaking to a group of communications and media leaders as well as financiers and academics known as Les Napoleons, Obama regretted what he called a "temporary absence of American leadership" on climate change.

He was referring to Trump's threat to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate accord, the day after making similar remarks during a visit to New Delhi.

Trump has said the accord is crippling US business and has called for the agreement to be renegotiated.

Asked to list leadership qualities for the future, Obama advocated "more focus on putting women in power, because men seem to be having some problems these days."

"Not to generalise, but women seem to have a better capacity than men do, partly because of their socialisation," said the 56-year-old Democrat who left office in January.

Obama also used the occasion to hone his post-presidential vision of hope and change as he seeks to build support for the foundation he launched in September.

"If we can adapt to change we can make extraordinary progress. Hope is not being blind to problems," Obama said. "Hope is facing problems and then still believing that we can work them out."

He insisted that the world is "healthier, wealthier and less violent than at any time in human history", with "only a few things that are irreversible".

- 'Deeply embedded inequality' -

But he also warned of the dangers of "deeply embedded inequality".

"Going forward we need to modernise our economies in a way that is inclusive," he said.

Obama lunched earlier Saturday with Emmanuel Macron, meeting him for the first time after backing the French leader's presidential campaign.

Macron, 39, emulated Obama's youth-oriented campaign, focusing on mobilising grassroots support for his upstart centrist movement En Marche.

Macron had rolled out the red carpet for Trump in July, hosting him as guest of honour for Bastille Day celebrations when he sought -- unsuccessfully -- to change the US leader's mind on pulling out of the Paris climate change agreement.

Obama also met Saturday with France's former president Francois Hollande and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

"We discussed the big challenges of the planet and especially the subject of the climate. We are confident the accord will be implemented," Hollande tweeted afterward.

Hidalgo said the C40, an international network of mayors that she heads, would build ties with the Obama Foundation focusing on climate change.

Obama was seen as a major catch for Les Napoleons, a relatively unknown networking group set up in 2014 and claiming a membership of some 3,000.

The former US president's fee has not been disclosed, but a rampant rumour mill suggested the figure of $400,000 (336,000 euros).

That was the paycheck Obama cashed after speaking to a Wall Street bank in September.]]>
12/3/2017 11:18:11 AM
<![CDATA[Puigdemont will remain in Belgium till Catalan elections over]]>
Puigdemont was sacked as Catalan president after holding a banned independence referendum and declaring, on October 27, that "Catalans have the capacity and the will to become an independent state. And on (December) 21, we must ratify this."

Madrid imposed direct rule on the formerly semi-autonomous region to stop the independence drive.

Puigdemont, who is awaiting possible extradition to Spain where he is wanted on charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, is running in the election at the head of the Junts per Catalunya ("All for Catalonia" in Catalan) grouping.

It comprises people from his conservative, separatist PDeCAT party as well as members of civil society.

"No matter what, they will be (in Brussels) till at least December 21 and according to my calculations this could go on till mid-January," lawyer Jaume Alonso Cuevillas told Catalan radio Rac1, referring to Puigdemont and four of his former ministers.

They all fled to Belgium in October, ignoring a summons to appear in court in Spain, claiming they would not get a fair trial.

"I am convinced that no matter what happens they will have recourse to an appeal," the lawyer said.

Puigdemont had hoped to form a united separatist front for the new elections, as was the case in the region's last elections in 2015, when the pro-independence camp secured a majority of 72 seats in the 135-seat parliament, even though it won just 47.8 percent of the vote.

But ERC -- the party of his former vice-president Oriol Junqueras, who stayed in Spain and was remanded in custody by a judge investigating him and other former regional ministers on the same charges as Puigdemont -- rejected a joint ticket.]]>
12/3/2017 11:17:18 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt still seeks consensus over GERD: irrigation min. ]]>
Abdel Ati pointed out that the recent tripartite meeting – Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia - on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) ended in Cairo without consensus over its filling and operation. He stressed that Egypt cannot dispense with the Nile, ruling out the desalination of sea water to fill the gap.

"The only solution is to continue negotiations, as the Nile water represents a national security issue for Egypt,” Abdel Ati said.

He added that the associated state institutions aim to find effective solutions and negotiation mechanisms with the other sides, noting that Ethiopia has not yet started filling the dam.

Last month, the 17th round of GERD Tripartite National Technical Committee dispersed from a meeting in Cairo without reaching agreement on the "inception report" prepared by two French firms, BRL and Arterlia, on their technical studies of the dam's potential impact on Egypt and Sudan.

Ever since this latest unsuccessful meeting, there has been strong word coming from the Egyptian side.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah Al-Sisi said that “Nile is a matter of life or death to Egypt.” A catchword that Sisi repeated at a recent inauguration of a fishery in Egypt.

In 2011, Ethiopia started the construction of the 6,000-megawatt Renaissance Dam over the Blue Nile River, one of the major sources of water that forms the Nile River downstream. Concerns have risen in Cairo and Khartoum over the negative impact the Ethiopian dam will have on their historic Nile water share, amounting to 55.5 billion cubic meters in Egypt only, in accordance with the historic 1959 agreement with Sudan.

However, Ethiopia stressed that the dam will not have any negative impact on Egypt or Sudan.Egypt and Sudan opposed the dam’s construction from the very beginning; however, Sudan changed its stance towards the dam in 2013, expressing support for its construction, and claiming that it is going to serve the interest of Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt.

President Omar al-Bashir claimed that his country’s approval for the construction of the Ethiopian dam was driven by economic not political reasons.

Addis Ababa was pleased by Sudan’s support to the new dam project and welcomed Bashir several times on its territory. The Sudanese president's remarks about the GERD seemed to be a bargaining chip to secure Addis Ababa's support before the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC has issued an arrest warrant against Bashir on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

In July 2017, Sudanese Media Minister Ahmed Bilal asserted that Egypt and Sudan share strong links and a long history of unending relationship, adding that Khartoum will not harm Egypt's national security. Bilal pointed out, in a press conference at the Sudanese Embassy in Cairo, that the filling of GERD’s reservoir should be applied in cooperation with downstream countries to minimize potential negative impacts.

The real average consumption of water in Egypt is 105 billion cubic meters, and we get only 55.5 billion cubic meters from the Nile. The remaining 80 billion cubic meters are covered by the reuse of wastewater.
]]>
12/3/2017 4:11:35 AM
<![CDATA[Introducing Egypt’s strategy to combat violence against women ]]>
The women empowering strategy aims to safeguard the dignity of women and protect them from acts of violence, as well as placing them on an equal footing to men in the domestic and public spheres, allowing women to thrive in their lives.

Dubbed the “Year of Egyptian Women,” 2017 has witnessed the implementation of some policies stated in the NSVAW, especially those focused on raising public awareness regarding domestic abuse and the way that girls and women should be treated. The 2015-2020 strategy aims to confront all forms of negative discrimination against women by ensuring social justice, equal opportunity, and gender equality between men and women.

The establishment of the National Strategy was supported first and foremost by Decree No. 1045 issued by the Prime Minister to establish a committee with direct authorization from Sisi to prepare a National Strategy. Also supporting the document's establishment was the recommendations made by the National Council for Women in their 2009 framework – published in 2010 – that suggested the near-immediate creation of a National Strategy. The strategy also relied on the Egyptian Constitution of 2014, and the Criminal Code of 1937 and its amendments.

The National Strategy, which aligns with Egypt’s 2030 Vision and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, takes into account the cultural background, specific needs of the Egyptian society, and the human and financial resources available; thereby, ensuring the strategy's suitability. A monitoring and evaluation mechanism was also developed as part of the strategy to measure its progress and success.

The women empowerment strategy focuses on four main pillars: prevention, protection, intervention, and legal procedures. By analysing the social, economic, and developmental aspects that have led to the phenomenon of violence against girls and women, the first pillar aims to uncover the roots of the issue. The first pillar also aims to raise public awareness, rectify religious discourse and overturn misperceived beliefs through information technologies and media outlets. Under prevention, a systematic review and revision of existing laws and policies is expected.

The second pillar – protection – builds on pillar one's systemic review of existing laws by developing legislation that combats violence against girls and women. It also establishes a coordination and referral system to ensure the rigid enforcement of laws, reducing the likelihood of the guilty being acquitted. Like prevention, protection also aims to raise awareness, however, unlike the former, the latter aims to educate people on relevant laws and legislation that offer them protection through simplifying legal procedures, increasing accessibility to legal services, and decreasing the time of enforcement. Psychological support and physical security services are developed under this pillar to ensure that women are given suitable conditions to report their assailant.


The third pillar – intervention – includes establishing hotlines to provide lifesaving help and support to empower survivors to find safety and lead an abuse-free life. To create a more accessible system, this pillar also provides shelters and safe-houses for women survivors who report crimes committed against them. This pillar also aims to provide counselling and psychological help for women victims, as well as rehabilitation programs for perpetrators.

The fourth pillar – legal procedures – focuses on reaching the international standards for the protection of women, and reducing the cases of violence against women, relative to other countries. Under this pillar, the government will exchange information with other countries, pooling together their expertise, and benefitting from their wide strides in the field of women empowerment. This phase will also see the establishment of Specialist Court Chambers to reduce the time of legal proceedings, reducing the burden of going to court on women and increasing women's likelihood of reporting attacks on them.

The ministries of endowment, education, higher education, social solidarity, culture, interior, tourism, youth and sports, health and population, justice, manpower, all have vital parts to play in the 2015-2020 National Strategy for Combating Violence Against Women. All mentioned ministries plan on rolling out changes to combat violence against girls and women, which is expected to improve girls and women’s living standards, in their respective departments and sectors.

In accordance with the National Strategy, during the “Year of Egyptian Women” multiple significant policies were implemented to better Egyptian women’s standards of living and protect them. In June 2017, the Women’s Complaint Office, originally established in 2000, formed Protection Units to secure and protect women during Eid, which is known to be a time when sexual harassment on the streets increase. The Unit’s purpose is to parole the streets, deter possible perpetrators, and receive help calls. The Unit deals with girls and women above the age of 18; cases under 18 fall under the responsibility of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood. Cases that require security protection are referred to one of the eight women’s shelters, and those who require psychological help are scheduled in for sessions and meetings; both of which occur after security screening.

In similar vein, 2016 saw several Egyptian Universities, including Ain Shams University and Assiut University, establish a “Unit for Combating Sexual Harassment,” the aim of which is to ensure that girls and women feel protected and to hold attackers accountable. The Units walk through campus, stop promiscuous acts in their tracks, and organize events to raise the students’ awareness of the issue of Violence Against Women (VAW).

The National Strategy also led to the development of a proper medical protocol and guide for dealing with violence survivors. The guide, developed by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), is currently being implemented. So far, fewer than 200 male and female doctors have been trained in public hospital, with the goal of training 200 more and then turning to educational and private hospitals.

Monitoring and evaluating the NSVAW at this stage may be too early, especially considering that most of its goals are long-term, meaning that they are expected to take a few years to precipitate. However, the preliminary policies that rolled-out have been promising, suggesting that we will soon see a further decline in the number of cases of violence against women. We can expect to see a lot more policies being implemented throughout the next few years, as well as a gradual change in the Egyptian society towards a more equal and fair one.

Through the complete implementation of the four pillars, the National Strategy is expected to increase public awareness of governmental and legal institutions to better address violence against women, increase the number of women who come forward to report abuse, decrease the number of women who face abusive situations, and strengthen national mechanisms for combating violence against women.

This article is part of Egypt Today’s campaign “Break the Silence ... Say No to Violence” marking the 16-Day campaign of activism against gender-based violence GBV from November 25 to December 10.

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12/3/2017 3:10:00 AM