<![CDATA[rss-Politics]]> All Rights Reserved for The Cairo post <![CDATA[Politics]]>]]> 100 29 <![CDATA[UN chief to highlight world's 'forgotten crisis' in C. Africa]]>
"The Central African Republic is very far from the attention of the international community," Guterres told AFP and Radio France Internationale in an interview on Wednesday.

"The level of suffering of the people but also the trauma suffered by aid workers and peacekeepers are deserving of our solidarity and heightened attention," he said.

Guterres will be in Bangui on Tuesday for United Nations Day, which marks the entry into force of the UN charter, and will also travel to Bangassou in the south, where heavy fighting broke out in May.

"This is a gesture of solidarity with the peacekeepers working in one of the most dangerous environments," he said.

Renewed clashes in the Central African Republic have pitted armed groups who are competing for control of natural resources and areas of influence while claiming to protect communities.

The fighting has involved mostly Christian militias and groups linked to the mainly Muslim Seleka coalition.

Since the beginning of the year, 12 aid workers and 12 peacekeepers have been killed in CAR, which shows "just how much the situation has deteriorated," said Guterres.

While some UN officials have raised alarm over "early warning signs of genocide" in CAR, Guterres said there was "ethnic cleansing" in many parts of the country.

To quell the violence, Guterres singled out religious leaders as having an "absolutely indispensable role" to play by drawing Christian and Muslim communities away from the fighting.

- Beefing up UN mission -

The worsening violence stems from "armed groups who received external support," he said, without elaborating. "Hate speech has surfaced in the statements of many community leaders."

Guterres will also meet with victims of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers as part of his effort to address damaging allegations that have hit the blue helmets in several missions.

MINUSCA faces one of the highest number of rape allegations of all UN missions, prompting Guterres earlier this year to agree to the withdrawal of a contingent from Congo Republic which had faced several accusations.

Now, faced with the upsurge of violence, the UN chief is asking the Security Council to beef up the mission with 900 extra troops, even though the United States is pushing for cost-cutting measures in peacekeeping.

"There is a need to increase the capacity of our troops in Central African Republic to protect civilians," Guterres told reporters.

"I am convinced there will be a positive understanding by all the members of the Security Council including the United States in relation to this."

The council will decide next month whether to approve the additional troops for MINUSCA, which currently has some 12,000 peacekeepers.

The Central African Republic descended into violence after the 2013 overthrow of longtime leader Francois Bozize by the Seleka alliance.

France intervened militarily to push out the Seleka and the United Nations launched its peacekeeping mission in 2014, but the country remains plagued by violence.

The conflict has driven more than 600,00 people from their homes internally while an additional 500,000 have crossed borders to become refugees. Half of the population, or 2.4 million Central Africans, are in need of aid.]]>
10/19/2017 3:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt key partner to Italy: FM Angelino Alfano]]>
Cairo is a pivotal partner to Rome, the top diplomat asserted, adding that the political dialogue was a necessary to maintain strong ties binding the two sides.

During the meeting, Badr asserted Cairo's keenness on bolstering ties and finding new ways to exchange views on important files such as security and stability in the Middle East.

They also discussed negotiations regarding a number of agreements that are expected to open new windows for a stronger partnership. ]]>
10/19/2017 1:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[EU states stance on Trump’s new approach towards Iran]]>
Trump struck a blow against the nuclear agreement with Iran on Friday, choosing not to certify that Tehran is complying with the deal and warning he might ultimately terminate it. His Iran strategy angered Tehran and put Washington at odds with other signatories of the accord - Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union - some of which have benefited economically from renewed trade with Iran, Reuters reported.

While Trump did not pull the United States out of the agreement, he gave the U.S. Congress 60 days to decide whether to re-impose economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the pact. Even without such sanctions, the fate of the aircraft deals depends on the U.S. administration’s approval, Reuters reported.

European Union pledges to “maintain” the nuclear deal
In the same context, the EU pledged on Monday to defend the nuclear deal with Iran conducted on July 14, 2015, and urged U.S. congressmen not to sanction Iran again after Trump chose not to certify Tehran's commitment to the nuclear deal.
Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday reaffirmed their support for the nuclear pact and said failure to uphold it could have serious consequences for regional peace and undermine efforts to check North Korea's nuclear ambitions, Reuters reported.

Britain works to enforce Iran nuclear deal, France strongly condemns it
Britain and France are firmly committed to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal and will work to ensure it is enforced, British Prime Minister Theresa May's office said on Monday after she spoke with French President Macron.

However, France had a much clearer stance towards Trump’s new strategy, which could be viewed in two moves: the announcement of a possible visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Tehran following an invitation by his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, a visit considered to be the first by a European leader to Iran in the wake of the Islamic Revolution’s success in 1979. Also, Macron spoke on Sunday in a TV interview with TV1, criticizing Trump's attitude towards Iran, stressing that his approach to Iran would create a new North Korea.

Russia denounces Trump’s policy, urging all parties to continue commitment with the nuclear deal
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Washington's stance on the agreement of Iran's nuclear program shows a problem in the United States' ability to follow through on negotiations.

Before Trump announced his strategy towards Iran, Russia confirmed its solid stance in support of Iran against the U.S. Lavrov expressed his country's hope that the final decision of Trump on the nuclear deal with Iran would be met.

"We hope that the final decision by the U.S. president will be balanced and that the current facts will be as follows: This program is very, very urgent," Lavrov said. Shortly before the speech, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the acting U.S.

ambassador to Moscow and informed him of his complete denunciation to an agreement breach.

In general, President Trump's strategy appears to be facing full international rejection, with Washington likely to lose its allies, which seems unlikely to succeed under the international "protection" of Iran and the international community "saving" the nuclear deal. Trump's desire to rally countries against Iran will not work.]]>
10/18/2017 11:23:34 PM
<![CDATA[The struggle for safety and refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan]]>
The previous few days have seen the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Iran-backed PMF militants take control of key disputed territories between the Kurds and Iraqis, as well as important strategic locations, such as Kirkuk Airport and the K1 military base.

As the forces from the south rolled into Kirkuk and its surrounding areas, many thousands of people fled the expected bloodshed as troops lined up on either side expecting a fierce fight. As the ISF and PMF pushed forward, it became apparent that some PUK elements of the Peshmerga had agreed to abandon their posts, and the Peshmerga resistance collapsed almost instantly with little direct combat.

Many people returned to Kirkuk following this quick campaign, as they feared the destruction and theft of their property, as was seen in Tuz Khurmatu. However, today has seen this situation reverse once more. Reports circulated that a second major operation would be conducted by the Iraqi Security Forces and its allied PMF forces, and allegedly people were advised to leave the city.

Regardless, high levels of violence, theft and sectarian actions have led to major population movements as Kirkuk’s residents fled the city. Photos of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei hang in government buildings, while militiamen roam the streets looting houses and robbing civilians. A source close to Egypt Today spoke of how militiamen robbed civilians under the premise of conducting investigations to disarm residents.

He now lives in “terror and agony” with nowhere to turn.

This is the story of those who are unable to flee Kirkuk and other disputed areas to Erbil and other places of safety. Those without family in the heart of Iraqi Kurdistan are stuck between a rock and a hard place, as they weigh the choice between remaining where they are or taking their chances on the road.

At the border crossing in Altun Kompri, the final border crossing between Erbil and Kirkuk, the pressures of internal displacement can be felt. Thousands of people fleeing the conflict in Kirkuk, Tuz Khurmatu, Taza Khurmatu and other areas are making their way to the supposed relative safety of Erbil, Sherwan Wasman told Egypt Today.

Within 10 days after the bridge crossing over the Peshkhabour River was reopened on August 15, nearly 50,000 refugees, mostly Syrian Kurds, had flooded into Iraqi Kurdistan. AFP

Those with a place to go are able to pass though the border, after complying with the necessary security measures, with relative ease. It is those seeking refuge who face the hardest struggle.

Iraqi Kurdistan shelters around 2 million refugees from the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and the conflict in Syria, and a high number of displaced peoples from the recent Battle of Mosul and Hawija have pushed resources to the limit.

“The camps are located southwest of Erbil and also east of Erbil, but the problem is that there are few plots available, as still there’s people in the camps who fled from Mosul.” These were the words of Sherwan Wasman, who is currently at the border crossing and working alongside U.N. agencies to help provide a rapid response and necessary items to displaced people from the disputed areas.

“It’s getting bad,” he continued. “The capacity to absorb is limited, and the camps are already occupied by IDPs and refugees.”

Iraqi Kurdistan was one of the first actors in the war against the Islamic State and one of the first to support the refugees who spilt out of conflict zones in Iraq and neighboring Syria. Now they are on the brink of suffering a refugee crisis of their own, as they struggle to meet the demands being asked of them.

As long as the material support is provided, the Iraqi Kurds have always proven capable. But this necessary support must be provided to reduce the weight on the shoulders of the people who have been fundamental to reducing instability in Iraq and supporting those in desperation from Syria but are now finding themselves isolated from every corner.


Joseph Colonna

10/18/2017 8:45:30 PM
<![CDATA[Iraqi Kurdistan faces first major oil outage since referendum]]>
Kurdish oil exports from the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan have dropped to just 225,000 barrels per day on Wednesday compared to normal flows of 600,000 bpd with both Kurdish and Iraqi sources citing technical glitches in the Kirkuk area.

The area came under the control of Iraqi military on Tuesday for the first time since 2015, effectively halving the amount of production under Erbil's direct control.

Two Iraqi oil officials said operations were halted at six pumping stations at the Avana and Bai Hassan oilfields, taking out about 350,000 bpd of production.

One official said normal operations were due to resume in the next 24 hours.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the advance on the two fields in the wake of the independence referendum by the semi-autonomous Kurdish region last month.

Turkey has several times threatened to halt flows through the Kurdish pipeline because of the referendum. Baghdad also depends on the pipeline for some exports as its own pipeline has been down for several years.

The crude flows to the international market via the Mediterranean Turkish port of Ceyhan. The main lifters of the oil are trading houses Vitol, Petraco, Glencore and most recently Russia's Rosneft via prefinancing deals.

The head of trading house Vitol said on Wednesday he hoped infrastructure would be protected in the latest spike in tensions although exports could still drop in the weeks to come.]]>
10/18/2017 8:34:20 PM
<![CDATA[No Brexit breakthrough coming at summit: EU's Tusk]]>
Leaders of the other 27 EU members meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday are set to postpone until at least December a decision on whether enough progress has been made in talks to move on to discussing Britain and the EU's future relationship.

Fears are growing that Britain may fail to strike a withdrawal agreement before its formal departure on March 29, 2019 and London had hoped the summit -- where Prime Minister Theresa May will plead her case at a working dinner -- might clear the logjam.

"I don't expect any kind of breakthrough tomorrow -- we have to work really hard in between October and December to finalise this so-called first phase and to start our negotiations on our future relations with the UK," Tusk said.

Five rounds of talks have made some progress but major differences remain on the key issues of citizens' rights, the future of the Irish border after Brexit and in particular how much Britain will pay in to EU budgets as it leaves the bloc.

Britain wants Brussels to acknowledge the progress made in talks, particularly since May's speech in Florence last month in which she pledged that no other country would have to pay more into the EU or receive less from it as a result of Brexit.

But EU leaders and officials insist that London needs to translate the goodwill into detailed commitments.

"I am absolutely sure that it's still possible to achieve this final of first phase in December but for this we need more concrete proposals from the British side to be honest," Tusk said.

Underlining the increasingly tense atmosphere around the talks, European Parliament president Antonio Tajani ignited a fresh row late on Tuesday when derided Britain's 20 billion euro offer on the financial settlement as "peanuts".

"I have never seen 20 billion peanuts in my life," Tusk joked when asked about Tajani's comment.

His comments came on the same day that the British and EU chief negotiators clashed over a claim by London that Brussels is deliberately stalling the divorce haggling to extract more cash.]]>
10/18/2017 8:19:07 PM
<![CDATA[Venezuela opposition governors refuse to be sworn in]]>
The Democratic Union Roundtable (MUD) said it would not allow its five governors to be subjected to "the blackmail of the fraudulent Constituent Assembly" after President Nicolas Maduro threatened to remove them from office if they refused.

"We will only be sworn in before God and the respective legislative councils and not before the fraudulent Constituent Assembly," the MUD said in a statement shortly before a special swearing-in session convened at the legislative palace.

The opposition had previously said it would not participate but doubts remained until shortly before the ceremony because of internal divisions.

It was unclear early Wednesday whether the refusal would mean the governors are dismissed as Maduro has threatened, and if so, who would replace them.

However, constitutional specialist Jose Vincent Haro said there was no obligation to go before the assembly. "According to the constitution of each state they must be sworn in before the legislative council of their state."

The results of Sunday's closely-watched regional elections were a crushing blow for the opposition coaliton, which had characterized the elections as a referendum on Maduro after months of deadly street protests earlier this year failed to unseat him.

Maduro created the Constituent Assembly in July to bypass the opposition-dominated parliament, packing it with his allies.

International powers have condemned the creation of the assembly, and accuse Maduro of dismantling democracy by taking over state institutions in the wake of an economic collapse caused by the fall in the price of oil, its main source of revenue.

The government took 18 states in Sunday's elections and the MUD only five, despite opinion polls putting it ahead in as many as 18 states.

The oppostion coalition, which accuses the National Electoral Council of being a vehicle of the government, rejected the result and called for a full audit of the electoral process, saying it was riddled with "irregularities."

An immediate consequence of the poll is the opposition's refusal to hold talks with the government on ending the country's political and economic crisis without a full recount of the vote.

"We will not take part in exploratory talks or negotiations unless (the authorities) agree to a recount," said Angel Oropeza, one of the MUD coalition's leaders.]]>
10/18/2017 6:47:20 PM
<![CDATA[Analysis: World Youth Forum in Egypt: Why Now?]]>
Some said that it will not have a major impact, since Egyptian youth are not as empowered as youth around the world. Others rejected the idea for not seeing the point of holding forums exclusively for youth without including other segments of society.

A third and more realistic opinion says that this forum denotes to the international community that Egypt is a country for youth; a country that respects youth and opens channels for communication with them.

Egyptian Youth’s Place in the World

According to the official 2017 census, the number of youth in Egypt aged 15-34 years old is 34.6 million people, that is, 34.6 percent of the population.

Considering 34 year olds as “youth” is based on the World Bank’s definition, when in fact the African Union raises the range of the youth up to 35; rendering a higher number of the population as youth.

Egypt is not the only country with a large number of youth. Worldwide, there are 1.8 billion people aged 15-29 years old—the number would be larger if the World Bank’s definition was used. Around 87 percent of them live in developing countries, and 7 percent of them live in the Middle East.

Compared to other world countries, Egypt has a large percentage of youth, based on the Youth Development Index issued by the Commonwealth in 2016.

The percentage of youth in Egypt in 2017 is larger than the percentage of youth in 10 countries combined, says the report; these 10 countries being Switzerland, Lesotho, Oman, Qatar, Laos, Yemen, Honduras, the Maldives, Zimbabwe and Tajikistan.

Egyptian youth development indicators may not be the best in the world, due to a number of reasons like overpopulation and limited financial resources.

The previous report indicates that Egypt is outranked by many Arab countries in terms of the youth’s share of available job opportunities, educational opportunities, health, wealth, and participation in the public sphere.

However, it is noteworthy that in this report, the status of Egyptian youth is average when looking at the larger picture of the development indicators. Egypt outranks other countries in terms of access to educational opportunities, wealth and standard of living.

Attention to Youth is a Global Trend

Due to the large number of youth around the world, the United Nations was keen on addressing them when stipulating the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, especially when it comes to poverty, health, gender equality, partnership, and peaceful and just societies. The UN indicated that youth, males and females are partners in achieving these goals, and will benefit from them too. In line with this, many initiatives were launched like forming youth groups to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

This year, many youth forums will be held around the world in line with the UN approach that aims to give youth the room to think of solutions to their problems in different walks of life. The UNESCO’s 10th Youth Forum will be held at the end of the month with the goal of setting the organization’s priorities when it comes to youth in the coming two years.

The forum brings together “young change-makers” from around the world. Usually, at the end of the forum, a number of recommendations are issued and proposed to UNESCO member states.

The UNESCO has been holding this forum since 1999, and in partnership with the UN they nominate young people to participate in it. The criterion for selection requires the nominated youth to have started an initiative that led to a change in their society.

There is also the G200 Youth Forum which will be held in the UAE by the end of the year; bringing together 300 participants from 200 countries around the world. It will hold a special session to discuss startups led by young entrepreneurs, another to discuss youth parliaments, and a third for representatives of top universities in the world. This is the 12th forum since its inception in 2005.

In addition, there is the World Youth Forum on human rights and millennium goals, which will be held in the last quarter this year in Kathmandu, Nepal. The aim of this forum is to raise youth’s awareness about human rights as stipulated in international laws, as well as how to deal with human rights violations.

The International Youth Forum on Innovation will be held in Singapore, and it seeks to bring together 125 young people to exchange innovative ideas in order to solve different problems in their countries, as they relate to the goals of the millennium. The forum is particularly interested in information technology.

The Special Nature of the Sharm El-Sheikh Forum

The World Youth Forum in Sharm El-Sheikh is the first of its kind, especially in terms of the issues it will discuss.

The agenda of the forum that will be held next month indicates that it does not only seek to motivate young people to participate in achieving the goals of the millennium, like other forums. Rather, a great part of the agenda focuses on the Security Council Resolution number 2250, issued in December 2015, which considers youth a medium of settling conflicts and building peace.

This is demonstrated in the third-day sessions, which will focus on the role of young people in peace-building in countries formerly plagued by conflict.

The success of this forum in delivering the message that young Egyptian people could bring together other youth from around the world to share their visions of a more peaceful and prosperous future will not be measured by its concluding statement. Rather, it will be measured by the depth of the interactions, which will take place in the forum’s different sessions.

Therefore, it might be important to consider the following suggestions:
allowing young people from around the world to speak about their experiences in conflict resolution in their respective countries, especially participants from African countries that are currently plagued by armed conflicts, is necessary for bringing up conducive citizens.

it is important to provide English translations of the different sessions, and to coordinate with the different relevant authorities in this respect. Brochures and detailed booklets need to be published about the forum’s sessions, and they need to be made available on the forum’s website and in Egyptian embassies around the world.

This is especially important, since national youth forums held last year were not properly covered by foreign media, and there was no sufficient content about them in English.

a working sub-group needs should be formed in order to report on the forum to the UN Envoy on Youth and their team.

a representative of the forum’s participants should be nominated as one of the 17 Young Leaders the UN is seeking to appoint to become responsible for motivating young people around the world to achieve the goals of the millennium.

a representative of the forum’s participants should be nominated as one of the Young Peacebuilders in the Middle East and North Africa. The UN is seeking to find 20 young people to promote peace in their communities and the Middle East, and this is one way to contribute to that search.

These five suggestions aim at delivering the voices of the young participants in this forum across the globe properly and effectively; especially since holding this forum is an important step in emphasizing Egypt’s attention to world issues, and more importantly, Egyptian youth’s attention and interaction with these issues. ]]>
10/18/2017 6:23:01 PM
<![CDATA[Germany upbeat on Brexit negotiations, official says]]>
EU leaders will discuss Brexit at a summit on Thursday and Friday, when they will deliver a verdict on progress made in the talks so far. EU negotiators want "sufficient progress" to justify opening trade negotiations with Britain.

"At the moment, the assessment is it is not 'sufficient'," the German official said, but stressed that not all issues affecting the withdrawal of Britain in March 2019 needed to be fully resolved before discussing the future relationship.

"It is not the case that nothing has happened since the beginning of the negotiations," the official added. "We think a lot has happened. On what is important to us, citizens rights, we've made a lot of progress. We are all in good spirits."

Britain is keen to start discussions about a 2-year transition period after it leaves the EU at the end of March 2019 and a trade relationship afterwards.

But EU leaders have adopted what they call a "phased approach". First the EU and Britain must reach agreement on the terms of their divorce -- a financial settlement, the rights of citizens and on Northern Ireland -- and talk about the transition and the future relationship only afterwards.

"We expect that the government leaders will give a strong signal for us to prepare internally for the second phase - the future relationship," the German official said, adding:

"The big questions for the future between Britain and the European Union are much larger than these current arguments about finances. I think everyone is aware of that, and so I am confident we will come to a solution there."

May said earlier on Wednesday Britain was working to win the best possible deal for when it leaves the EU but that government had to plan for every eventuality, including exiting without a deal.]]>
10/18/2017 5:46:03 PM
<![CDATA[Kuwait's PM expels Israel delegation from Inter-Parliamentary Union]]>
During his speech in the last session, Ghanim shouted at the Israeli delegation calling them “occupiers and child killers” as a reply to their claims concerning the Palestinian prisoners detained in Israeli prisons.

He addressed the head of the Israeli delegation: "You occupier, you must carry your bags and get out of the hall after seeing the reactions of the parliaments of the world. Get out of the hall if you have an atom of dignity.”

10/18/2017 5:31:25 PM
<![CDATA[The Perils of Instability ]]>
This reality was highlighted by Andrew Parker, the director general of MI5, on Tuesday during a rare public speech. MI5, the British domestic intelligence agency, operates alongside the internationally focused MI6 and the communications agency, GCHQ.

The UK has seen “a dramatic up-shift in the threat” from Islamic terrorism this year the sky chief said. “That threat is multi-dimensional, evolving rapidly and operating at a scale and pace we’ve not seen before.”

“It’s at the highest tempo I have seen in my 34-year career. Today there is more terrorist activity, coming at us more quickly, and it can be harder to detect.”

This declaration came as a shock to many; not because of the content of the message, but the delivery of the message itself. The MI5 is a highly secretive intelligence agency, and any public appearances are few and far between.

Europe has experienced a significant rise in Islamic terrorism in the past several years. The Global Terrorism Index report for 2015 indicated a 650 percent increase in deaths due to terrorism in OECD countries, which marked an important rise in transnational terrorist attacks.

The UK alone has experienced four Islamic terrorist attacks in 2017; denoting a huge shift from the past.

What is most unique about the recent surge in Islamic terrorism in Europe is the multifaceted attacks. Vehicles have proven to be the chosen weapon of destruction adopted; however, guns, knives and explosive devices have also made an appearance. The UK has experienced every kind of attack since New Year’s.

Europe certainly isn’t the only region forced to endure this however, as many Middle Eastern and African states have also experienced a major incline in terrorism. Obvious examples include Syria and Iraq, where the Islamic State established an expansive stronghold and exuded significant influence across vast swathes of both countries through fear and psychological warfare.

Somali government forces and civilians gather at the scene of an explosion in KM4 street in the Hodan district of Mogadishu, Somalia October 15, 2017. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Several other territories across the Middle East failed to make headlines in western media, yet have an extensive experience with the crippling effects of Islamic terrorism.

The foremost example being the war in Yemen, where the predominantly Houthi rebel movement faces a superior foe in the Saudi Armed Forces, which have leveled villages and created a breeding ground for religious extremism. Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Libya are also experiencing a long-fought battle against religious terrorism.

Islamic terrorism has spread from its origins in the Middle East and taken hold of several African states such as the Central African Republic, Nigeria and Somalia among other examples; where extremist Islamic ideologists have seized the opportunity to capitalize upon chronic dissatisfaction in the many failed states across the continent.

The recent conflict in Kirkuk shares many similarities with the circumstances which have led to the rise of Islamic terrorist organizations across the region. The presence of an aggressive and sectarian overseer who initiates a rule through fear and abuse, which leads to the discontent of the population breeding a fire of hatred with both their oppressor, and the international community who fails to intervene, thus giving their blessings to the oppressor.

The lack of action on the international community’s behalf, and most significantly the U.S. who has chosen to stay neutral in the dispute of two of its major allies in the region, will lead to a growing distaste for the U.S., who has already seen its influence in the region reduced.

The international community must learn from the past and adopt the unbiased position of mediator; avoiding using force and imposing foreign and unviable ideas. However, the silence of the international community is far more worrying.


Joseph Colonna

10/18/2017 3:39:11 PM
<![CDATA[Jazeera fabricates reports about Arab nations: Gargash]]>
“Al-Jazeera and Qatari media are still fabricating negative reports about the UAE; repudiating such policies that support terrorism and extremism is the only way to resolve the current deadlock,” Gargash tweeted on Monday.

Shutting down Al-Jazeera was included in the list of Arab demands that was handed over to Doha for reconciliation. The demands came following the complete boycott placed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain over alleged support for terrorism.
10/18/2017 2:49:50 PM
<![CDATA[Spain to seek Catalonia autonomy suspension unless leader relents]]>
If separatist leader Carles Puigdemont does not provide a satisfactory response by 0800 GMT Thursday, "Mr Puigdemont will provoke the application of article 155 of the constitution," Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told parliament.

This provision of the constitution -- which has never been used before -- would open the way for Madrid to impose direct rule over the semi-autonomous region.

Triggering it could represent a drastic escalation of Spain's worst political crisis in decades which was sparked when Catalonia held a banned independence referendum on October 1.

Puigdemont declared independence following the poll which he says resulted in a 90 percent "yes" vote, though turnout was only 43 percent as many supporters of Spanish unity stayed away in a region that is deeply divided on the issue.

But the Catalan leader said he was "suspending" independence to allow time for talks with the government -- a prospect Madrid has rejected, leaving the country in limbo.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has given Puigdemont until Thursday to come up with a definitive answer on the independence question, or face the consequences.

"All I ask of Mr Puigdemont is that he acts with good sense," Rajoy told parliament on Wednesday.

The premier would need Senate approval to trigger article 155, but his conservative Popular Party has a majority there.

The move could ultimately allow Madrid to suspend the regional government and eventually trigger new elections for Catalonia, but such a move risks inflaming tensions in the region even further.
10/18/2017 12:54:51 PM
<![CDATA[Palace housekeeper: Qatari authorities threatened to kill me]]> “A group of security members stormed the place and forced me to go with them. I was beaten, humiliated and abused,” Sheikh said.

She added that she was taken later to Hamad International Airport in Doha where she was deported to Sudan, her homeland. “They did not allow me to take anything with me, [not] even my money,” Sheikh added.

Furthermore, Sheikh said that Qatari authorities threatened to kill her in her country.

“First, Sheikh Sultan called at home and talked with his kids, shortly after, a woman came and said that she has to give me something to deliver to Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim; that was when the security came and stormed the house,” Sheikh explained.

In her statements, Sheikh affirmed that most foreign workers in Qatar live in fear all the time because of the "enforced disappearances" taking place in the country. She also added that all phone calls are monitored by the authorities.

On Thursday, October 12, the Qatari authorities stormed Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al-Thani’s palace in Doha; the step came after the very same authorities froze the bank accounts of the young Sheikh.

The authorities confiscated more than 137 personal suitcases and several files belonging to the late Qatari Foreign Minister Suhaim Al-Thani, Sheikh Sultan’s father. These files document the history of the tiny Emirate from the 1960s until Suhaim’s death in 1985.

Qatari authorities also arrested all the palace’s domestic servants, including the Sudanese housekeeper Sahar al- Sheikh. The authorities also seized during the raid all the personal photos of Suhaim’s late wife, Mona al-Dousari.
10/18/2017 10:51:50 AM
<![CDATA[China's Xi set to enhance powers at Communist congress]]>
Xi will address nearly 2,300 delegates at Beijing's imposing Great Hall of the People to roll out the party's vision for the next five years as he prepares to secure a second term as general secretary.

Authorities stepped up policing for the week-long congress, with red armband-wearing "security volunteers" fanning out across the capital, karaoke bars closing and online kitchenware firms even suspending knife sales.

The 64-year-old leader is expected to use the congress to stack the leadership with loyalists.

The party will amend the constitution to add his "new vision and thinking" on governance, congress spokesman Tuo Zhen said, without indicating whether Xi's name would also be added.

Adding Xi's name would signal his rise to the pantheon of Chinese leadership. Such an honour has only been bestowed upon modern China's founder, Mao Zedong, and the father of economic reforms, Deng Xiaoping.

Xi, considered China's most powerful leader since Deng or even Mao, could use the congress to lay the foundation to stay atop the 89-million-strong party even longer than the normal 10 years, according to analysts.

This would break the unwritten two-term limit accepted by his immediate predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, and end the era of "collective leadership" aimed at preventing the emergence of another Mao.

"Xi has consolidated power, that's obvious," said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, China specialist at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Potential rivals have been swept aside under Xi's vast anti-corruption campaign, which punished 1.3 million Communist Party officials over five years, and Tuo warned that strengthening self-governance was a "never-ending journey".

Xi's rise has also been marked by a relentless crackdown on dissent, with authorities even refusing to free Nobel peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo before he died of cancer in July.

On the global stage, he has restructured the military, asserted China's claims to disputed seas and used the country's economic prowess to increase its influence in Asia and beyond.

He has taken up the mantle of globalisation in the face of US President Donald Trump's "America First" policy.

But foreign companies will look for signs at the congress that Xi will live up to his promises to further open up China's economy in the next five years.

- Legitimacy at risk -

The conclave, which ends next Tuesday, will select new top party members, including in the Politburo Standing Committee, the all-powerful ruling body.

Xi and Premier Li Keqiang are expected to remain on the committee while the five other current members are supposed to step down under an informal retirement age set at 68.

But Xi may lobby to retain his 69-year-old right-hand man Wang Qishan, who heads the anti-graft campaign. This would create a precedent for Xi himself to remain in charge beyond retirement age in 2022.

"If Xi expresses intent to lead beyond his 10-year limit, this would be reminiscent of the Mao era, which would be damaging to Xi's legacy and call his legitimacy into question," said Simone van Nieuwenhuizen, a Sydney-based researcher and co-author of "China and the New Maoists".

- Bigger than Mao? -

But a Xi heir apparent could emerge from the congress.

One former potential successor who was outside Xi's circle, Sun Zhengcai, was ousted from the party last month due to graft allegations.

Chen Miner, a former Xi aide who succeeded Sun as political chief in the city of Chongqing, is now well positioned for promotion.

"The question is what is Xi going to do after he secures absolute power after the 19th party congress," said Hu Xingdou, a Chinese governance expert at the Beijing Institute of Technology.

"If he can lead China's modernisation, establish a modern state system, avoid the cycle of peace and upheaval of China's 2,000-year history, then we can say his influence may be bigger than Mao's."]]>
10/18/2017 4:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Catalans rally against separatist leaders' detention]]>
The demonstrators, many carrying red or white candles, chanted "Independence" as they marched through the city centre after observing a moment of silence.

Around 200,000 people took part in the rally, a spokesman for Barcelona municipal police said.

Candle-lit demonstrations were also held in Girona, Reus and other Catalan cities in protest of the Madrid-based National Court's Monday ruling to keep Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez behind bars pending investigations into sedition charges.

"They want us to be afraid so we stop thinking of independence, but the opposite will happen, we are more everyday and I think we will achieve it in the end," Elias Houariz, a 22-year-old baker, told AFP at the Barcelona rally.

The demonstrations came as the clock ticks down to Thursday, the deadline Madrid has set for Catalonia's separatist leader Carles Puigdemont to spell out whether or not he intends to declare independence outright following the banned October 1 referendum.

Puigdemont has so far declined to give a definitive response, calling instead for Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to come to the negotiating table.

But Rajoy rejects mediation as a non-starter and unless Puigdemont backs down, appears likely to start imposing direct control over the semi-autonomous region.

Doing so could further escalate Spain's worst political crisis since it emerged from military dictatorship in 1977.

- Economic jitters -

The referendum, marred by a police crackdown on voters, resulted in a 90-percent "Yes" vote. But turnout was only 43 percent as many supporters of Spanish unity stayed away after the Constitutional Court ruled the vote illegal.

The court on Tuesday struck down the Catalan law that paved the way for the referendum, ruling unanimously that the region does not have a "right to self-determination".

With the two sides stuck in a stalemate, Madrid announced late Monday that it was cutting its economic growth forecast for next year from 2.6 to 2.3 percent.

The prolonged uncertainty has rattled stock markets, while nearly 700 companies have moved their legal headquarters out of Catalonia, according to official figures released Tuesday.

The Spanish league have delayed putting out to tender their international television rights amid uncertainty over what the Catalonia crisis could mean for Barcelona, La Liga president Javier Tebas said on Tuesday.

"This is a problem that could greatly affect the value of our competitions," he said.

- 'New phase' -

Thousands of workers in Barcelona and other cities staged a brief walkout at noon in protest at the detention of Cuixart and Sanchez.

The pair nicknamed the "two Jordis" are the leaders of pro-independence citizens' groups Omnium Cultural and the Catalan National Assembly (ANC).

The groups count tens of thousands of members each and have emerged as influential players in the crisis.

"We are entering in a new phase of mobilisations, and they will be peaceful as always," said Omnium spokesman Marcel Mauri.

"We will have direct action, using the strength of the people, he added without giving further details.

The men are accused of encouraging a major protest last month as Spanish police raided the Catalan administration's offices in the run-up to the referendum.

Police officers were trapped for hours and their vehicles vandalised as protesters ringed the building, with Cuixart and Sanchez standing on a police car calling for "permanent mobilisation" against the Spanish state.

The crime of sedition can carry up to 15 years in prison.

Though she opposes the current drive for independence, Barcelona's leftist Mayor Ada Colau blasted the move to detain Sanchez and Cuixart, who she said were being held as "political prisoners".

"The existence of political prisoners has no place in the current EU," she said, announcing the city council would halt meetings for two days in protest.

Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero has also been charged with sedition for allegedly failing to stop the referendum. He has been allowed to walk free, but is banned from leaving Spain.

- Catalans split -

With its own language and culture, Catalonia is proud of its autonomy but its 7.5 million people are split over whether to break away completely from the rest of Spain.

Supporters of independence say the region pays more into Spanish coffers than it gets back and could prosper by going it alone, but their opponents say secession would spell political and economic disaster.

Ratings agency Moody's warned Tuesday that the "impasse" over Catalonia -- which makes up about a fifth of Spain's economic output -- "leaves Spain's future credit trajectory unclear".]]>
10/18/2017 2:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[May to pitch on Brexit at EU summit dinner]]>
But EU officials expect no movement in negotiating positions from either side before the other 27 leaders deliver a verdict on progress on Friday that will say Britain must up its offer on divorce terms before they will even talk about trade.

"We do not expect at this stage any new initiatives between now and the European Council," said an EU official, who said May had asked to address the summit.

The others will not negotiate with her but will discuss Brexit after May leaves on Friday.

They plan to reject her call for an immediate start to talks on a future trade relationship but make a "gesture" recognising the concessions May offered in a speech at Florence last month by telling EU staff to prepare for talks on a transition period.

Stepping personally into the breach after Brexit Secretary David Davis's four months of discussions struck deadlock last week, May had dinner in Brussels on Monday with EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and his negotiator Michel Barnier.

But she came away with just a joint pledge to "accelerate" the process.

There is a catch: the EU will not discuss relations in the future until London agrees to pay tens of billions of euros (dollars) in a divorce settlement for obligations incurred in the past. May, beset by demands from hardline Brexit supporters to simply walk away without any deal, says the bill can be worked out only when the future relationship is clearer.

"It takes two to accelerate," Barnier told reporters as he arrived to brief EU ministers in Luxembourg. "One step after another... We are not finished with the first step."

May's spokesman said she was pleased with a dinner that ended with an embrace at the door from Juncker. But he added: "We can only resolve the financial implications of the UK's withdrawal ... as part of the settlement of all the issues."


May came away similarly empty-handed from telephone calls to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, leaders of the Union's leading powers whose diplomats have taken a hard line this month in limiting the scope of the gesture on transition preparations which Barnier had proposed.

People familiar with those calls on Sunday and Monday said May echoed emotional complaints from British negotiators last week that her Florence speech, offering to "honor commitments" made by Britain, deserved a more generous response from the EU.

Macron and Merkel, who are coordinating closely, were clear that they will negotiate at the stage only through Barnier, a former French foreign minister, officials said.

And they insisted Britain settled outstanding issues first, despite increasingly vocal calls from business on both sides of the English Channel for clarity by early next year at the latest in order to plan investments for after Brexit in March 2019.

BusinessEurope, which represents employers federations across the continent including Britain's CBI, was the latest, saying it was "extremely concerned with the slow pace of negotiations" and telling EU summit chair Donald Tusk in a letter that "business wants to avoid a cliff edge".

EU leaders plan to issue a statement after May leaves on Friday saying that they hope a deal can be struck at their next summit in December and that things can move swiftly then.

But after losing her majority in June, May has little room for manoeuvre at home: "It's all about the money and if she ups the bid now, that is a really hard sell politically," a senior source in her Conservative Party told Reuters.

British efforts to remind continental neighbours of how much they also have to lose if trade is disrupted are showing little return, even among close trading partners with most at stake.

"Sometimes it's very difficult to see and understand what Britain really wants from these negotiations," Finnish minister Samuli Virtanen said.

Brexit minister Davis, who long campaigned to take Britain out of the EU, said London had no plan to walk away from talks but should maintain the option in negotiations. Yet interior minister Amber Rudd, who opposed Brexit in the referendum, said shortly afterward that it was "unthinkable" that the two sides would fail to strike a deal as it was in their own interests. ]]>
10/17/2017 8:29:33 PM
<![CDATA[Raqqa: ISIS, Refugees and the Kurds ]]>
“Everything is finished in Raqqa, our forces have taken full control of Raqqa,” the alliance’s spokesman Talal Sello told AFP. The Kurdish-dominated SDF forces have been fighting inside the city since June 6 under the cover of coalition airstrikes; the previous days have seen the SDF forces flush the remaining Islamic State militants from their final strongholds; principally from the city’s main hospital and the national stadium.

Raqqa once housed thousands of militants and was the source for many repulsive and atrocious Islamic State propaganda movies. Militants, euphoric in their surge of international recognition, roamed the streets enforcing their strict ideology over the helpless population.

A black curtain was draped over the city and information was hard to come by. The capture of the city is a symbolic and significant moment in both the battle against the Islamic State and the Syrian civil war at large.

It has come at a cost however. The U.S.-led coalition failed to learn its lessons from the Battle of Mosul and has bombed Raqqa into an unrecognizable mess of bricks and darkness.

The number of civilians killed by the U.S.-led campaign of airstrikes is expected to be in the thousands, with precision-missiles leveling most of the city.

It has become increasingly apparent that regular warfare on the ground is simply not being supplemented by airstrikes, but overtaken by them. With little ability of distinguishing between civilian and militant, family-house or training compound; the refugee community fear what they will return to in Raqqa.

A teenager holds a cooker at a camp for people displaced from fighting in the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, in Ain Issa, Syria June 14, 2017.
Save The Children has warned that the humanitarian crisis in northeast Syria is "rapidly escalating" and "bursting at the seams." Around 270,000 people, the majority of which have fled the fighting in Raqqa, are running out of support, and have little to no hope of returning to their once affluent city.

As the final major city under the control of the Islamic State to come under the control of the U.S.-backed SDF forces, it is evident that its territory shrank drastically. The battle against IS in Deir Ezzor province, where the Syrian regime’s forces along with SDF forces are fighting an uncoordinated battle against IS, has dried its resources and squeezed supply links. IS is slowly collapsing under the pressure of fighting on multiple fronts.

This is not to say that we are about to see the end of IS; far from it. The Islamic State rose to prominence in Iraq as an insurgency group, and this is what it will revert to. Although the utopian image of the “Islamic State” is no longer a reality, the organization will still be able to strike fear into the hearts of the population and conduct covert attacks aimed at inflaming tensions and creating instability.

Like the scavengers they are, the IS hierarchy will keep its eyes wide for any signs of instability that may intensify and allow them to fill a power vacuum. Signs of this have emerged recently as the Iraqi Security Forces and the PMF have “forced” the Peshmerga to retreat from its positions in the disputed areas on the border of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq, however this is hard to confirm.

Tuesday signifies a confusing and conflicting time for the Kurdish population and Kurdish nationalism. On the same day the Syrian Kurds are celebrating their monumental victory over ISIS in Raqqa, Iraqi Kurds are still trying to work out why their treasured Peshmerga collapsed, and are continuing to collapse in the face of the Iraqi Security Forces and PMF units from the south.


Joseph Colonna

10/17/2017 8:05:49 PM
<![CDATA[Venezuela defends vote, opposition divided over fraud claim]]>
Despite anger over a crushing economic crisis, the ruling socialists confounded opinion polls to take 17 of 23 governorships in Sunday's gubernatorial elections.

Stunned by a crushing defeat that undermines their aim to win the presidency in 2018, the opposition Democratic Unity coalition refused to acknowledge the results and various leaders called the election rigged, as did the United States.

Though the coalition has complained of an unfair playing field - from abuse of state resources to last-minute moving of vote centers away from opposition strongholds - it has not given detailed evidence of ballot-tampering.

Some opposition figures have acknowledged that abstention by their supporters, disillusioned by the failure of street protests to dislodge Maduro earlier this year, was a big factor.

One losing opposition candidate even conceded defeat, breaking with the official coalition position as he acknowledged a flawed re-election campaign.

"We lost, I say it responsibly," said Henri Falcon, outgoing governor of Lara. "We need courage to recognize truth in adversity."

Government leaders have smarted at fraud accusations.

"Our electoral process is recognized globally as one of the most secure," Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told foreign diplomats in a meeting on Tuesday.

The strongest foreign reaction came from Washington, which slammed Maduro's "authoritarian dictatorship," while other major nations from France to Colombia also expressed concern about the adherence to democratic process in the South American OPEC nation.

Heaping further humiliation on Venezuela's opposition, the governors were due to be sworn in on Tuesday by a new legislative superbody elected controversially in July.

The opposition boycotted that vote and has refused to recognize the entirely pro-government Constituent Assembly, which supersedes all institutions including the opposition-controlled congress.

The opposition's five governors-elect looked set to boycott the swearing-in ceremony, defying Maduro's threat to bar them from taking office for failing to accept the assembly as a higher authority.

"We will not kneel to anyone," said Juan Pablo Guanipa, who was elected opposition governor of oil-rich western Zulia state.

Despite widespread food shortages, runaway inflation and a tanking currency, Venezuela's government retains significant bastions of support, especially in poorer, rural parts of the country.

With the opposition coalition's dozens of parties arguing over whether there was fraud, what went wrong, and where to go next, it will need to regroup and map strategy quickly heading into the 2018 presidential campaign.

Its very future may even be in doubt, since many young activists who took to the streets for four straight months of protests and pitched battles with security forces earlier this year feel disillusioned and betrayed by their leaders.

The unrest killed at least 125 people, left thousands injured and arrested and prompted a growing number of Venezuelans to seek refuge abroad. ]]>
10/17/2017 7:20:32 PM
<![CDATA[U.S. commander must 'imagine the unimaginable' on NKorea]]>
Admiral Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Command, made clear that while diplomacy remains the preferred option in pressing Pyongyang to abandon its atomic weapons program, that approach is backed by "credible" military power.

"Many people have talked about military options being unimaginable regarding North Korea," Harris said at an annual forum in Singapore.

"Folks, I must imagine the unimaginable. And what is unimaginable to me are North Korean nuclear-tipped missiles delivered in Los Angeles, in Honolulu, in Seoul, in Tokyo, in Sydney, in Singapore," he said.

US President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis "do not come to me and ask for diplomatic or economic solutions," he added, speaking at an event organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

"They come to me and ask for hard power options and that's what I provide them."

Tensions over North Korea's weapons program have soared in recent months, with Pyongyang launching a flurry of missiles and conducting its sixth and most powerful nuclear test.

Trump has engaged in an escalating war of words with the North's leader Kim Jong-Un, trading personal insults and threatening to "totally destroy" the country if it threatens the United States.

But US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that Trump wanted to avoid war, even though the president said on Twitter that Tillerson was "wasting his time" with diplomacy.

Harris declined to comment when asked if the US military options included a preemptive strike.

But he called Kim a "reckless dictator" and warned that "combining nuclear warheads with ballistic missiles in the hands of a volatile leader ... is a recipe for disaster."

North Korea on Monday told the United Nations that it will never negotiate the dismantling of its nuclear weapons unless the United States reverses its "hostile" policy.

The US and South Korea on Monday began a 10-day joint naval exercise in a fresh show of force against the North, with a US aircraft carrier and two US destroyers taking part.]]>
10/17/2017 7:18:36 PM
<![CDATA[Kremlin foe Navalny can run for president 'after 2028']]>
In a separate announcement, Europe's top rights court ruled Navalny's 2014 conviction for fraud was "arbitrary and unreasonable" and ordered Russia to pay him and his jailed brother 83,000 euros ($98,000) in damages and costs.

Russians are scheduled to go to polls to elect a president next March and Navalny, 41, has declared his intention to stand against Putin.

Navalny has long said the multiple court cases against him were politically motivated and designed to sabotage his presidential ambitions.

In the 2014 trial, Navalny received a suspended three-and-a-half-year sentence while his brother Oleg was sent to prison in a case related to their work for French cosmetics company Yves Rocher.

In February 2017, a court found Navalny guilty of embezzlement in connection with a timber firm and handed him a five-year suspended sentence. Officials say the ruling makes him ineligible to stand for president.

The case dates back to 2013 and a retrial came after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said the first trial was unfair.

Ella Pamfilova, the head of the Central Election Commission, said Navalny would be able to put his name on the ballot once his criminal record has been expunged -- "after 2028."

Speaking at a forum in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Pamfilova said Navalny would be able to run in just over 10 years.

"He's got his whole life ahead of him," she was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

"So he should proceed from that. And good luck to him!" she added, calling him a "young, promising politician."

On the same day, the ECHR ruled that the Russian courts had inappropriately applied commercial law in order to convict Navalny and his younger brother in the Yves Rocher case.

Last year, the European court declared his 2013 conviction for alleged embezzlement of funds from the regional Kirov government was also unfair.

- 'Not a criminal offence' -

Navalny's lawyer said she would lodge a demand with Russia's top court to close the case against him following the European ruling.

"The most important thing for us is that the ECHR acknowledged that article seven of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms had been broken which happens extremely rarely," Olga Mikhailova told the Interfax news agency.

"According to the decision, the Navalny brothers were convicted illegally, in that the act for which they were tried was not a criminal offence."

His defence team would "ask the Russian Supreme Court not just to review but to terminate the case," she said.

Russia's justice ministry said it disagreed with the ECHR ruling and would consider appealing.

Putin, 65, was first elected president in 2000 and is widely expected to seek another six-year Kremlin term in the March election.

In early October, a court sentenced Navalny to 20 days in jail for repeatedly violating a law on organising public meetings, the third such sentence he has served this year.

He is due to be released on Sunday and has said he will appear at a pre-election rally the same evening.

In 2013, the charismatic Yale-educated lawyer stood for Moscow mayor with a Western-style campaign and a message of snuffing out corruption, coming second against a Kremlin-backed incumbent.]]>
10/17/2017 7:15:21 PM
<![CDATA[Analysis: Why Kirkuk is important to Kurdistan, Baghdad]]>
On Sunday, the Iraqi government accused Kurdish authorities of accepting PKK fighters into the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk, and said it considered the move a “declaration of war.” Although Barzani’s government in Erbil categorically denied the presence of PKK fighters in Kirkuk, this statement helped provide legitimacy and authority to the mission of the Iraqi security forces.

A convoy of elite Iraqi military forces took control of the governorate building in central Kirkuk on Monday, meeting no opposition from Kurdish forces deployed in the city, security sources and residents told Reuters.

A dozen Humvees from the U.S.-trained Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) arrived at the governorate building and took position in the vicinity alongside the local city police, they said. They drove to the centre of the city from the airport which they had captured earlier in the day from Kurdish forces.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi gave instructions that the Iraqi flag be hoisted on Kirkuk and other territories claimed by both the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government [KRG].

After IS captured large parts of northern Iraq in 2014, the KRG sent the Peshmerga into disputed areas claimed by the Kurds and the central government, and then asked the Kurdish Parliament to plan a referendum on independence.

Iranian support to Baghdad

Iranian major general Qassem Soleimani arrived in Iraq's Kurdistan region on Monday for talks about the escalating crisis between the Kurdish authorities and the Iraqi government following the Kurdish independence referendum, a Kurdish official revealed to media outlets.

Observers said Baghdad’s forces controlled Kirkuk and its vital sites in coordination with Soleimani, and the Kurdish Taliban wing whose loyalty lies in Tehran.

Iraqi forces backed by tribal militias during battle to retake a village from the Islamic State on the eastern bank of the river Tigris, Iraq December 7, 2016-REUTERS
In other words, declaring an independent state at Kurdistan region seems impossible without securing the oil wells which Kirkuk is possessing. The financial independence from Turkey and Iran is a must to be free in making decisions, but the Kurds are not enjoying that privilege till this moment. They are in need of the Iranian and Turkish oil deals.

Turkish concerns over Kurds’ independence
Turkish relationship with the Kurds has casted dozens of concerns to President Erdogan. Declaring an independent Kurdish state will provoke the Turkish leadership.

In 1978, Abdullah Ocalan established the PKK, which called for an independent state within Turkey. Six years later, the group began an armed struggle.

Since then, more than 40,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.

In the 1990s the PKK rolled back on its demand for independence, calling instead for greater cultural and political autonomy, but continued to fight. In 2012, the government and PKK began peace talks and the following year a ceasefire was agreed, although clashes continued.

The Turkish authorities also blamed the YPG for the suicide bomb attack in Ankara in February 2016 that left dozens of people dead, and Turkish troops shelled YPG positions in north-western Syria to prevent it from capturing the rebel-held town of Azaz.
Turkey's government says the YPG and the PYD are affiliates of the PKK, share its goal of secession through armed struggle, and are all terrorist organizations.

In February 2016, Massoud Barzani - who became president of Kurdistan in 2005 - reiterated the call for a referendum. However, he stressed that it would be non-binding and would simply allow Kurdish leaders to "execute the will of the people at the appropriate time and conditions."

Turkey has threatened of potentially crippling restrictions on oil trading with Iraqi Kurds after they backed independence from Baghdad in a referendum, that has alarmed Ankara as it faced a separatist insurgency from its Kurdish minority.

Turkish and Iraqi troops on joint ops near Silopi, 26 Sept 2017- Reuters

Recep Tayyip Erdogan ramped up the pressure on northern Iraq's Kurdish administration late September following a referendum on future independence, warning of the risk of starvation for Iraqi Kurds if Turkey stopped allowing foodstuff to cross its borders.

Israeli support…Not enough?
Vows made to Kurdistan from Tel Aviv are not sufficient to declare a brave war against Baghdad. It was in 1966 that the Iraqi Defense Minister Abdel Aziz al-Uqayli made the proclamation that the Kurds of Iraq are seeking to establish "a second Israel" in the Middle East.
Iraqi Kurds fly an Israeli flag and Kurdish flags during an event to urge people to vote in the upcoming independence referendum- AFP
Some 51 years later, Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki has emphatically declared the same, saying, “We will not allow the creation of a second Israel in the north of Iraq.”

While relations between Iraqi Kurdistan and Israel have become more transparent in recent years, the history between the two dates back many decades.

Indeed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “the Kurds have been and will continue to be reliable and long-term allies of Israel since they are, like us, a minority group in the region.”

He added that the referendum is “the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own.”

The late Israeli President Shimon Peres had also supported Iraqi Kurds and their quest for statehood, with hundreds in the Kurdistan region paying their respects to the former Israeli president when he died in 2016.

But this vocal support is fairly new, and precedes a much quieter policy of support that began shortly after Palestine was expunged to make room for the state of Israel in 1948.

U.S. against independence of Kurdistan
The American foreign stance is obviously against the Kurds’ independence from Iraq. The American stance did not oppose the Iraqi army’s military action which kicked off on Sunday to restore the control over Kirkuk from the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. ]]>
10/17/2017 5:49:08 PM
<![CDATA[Brexit divisions resurface as min. says no deal is 'unthinkable']]>LONDON– 17 October 2017: British interior minister Amber Rudd said on Tuesday it was "unthinkable" that Britain and the European Union would fail to get a Brexit deal, distancing herself from other ministers who say London should be ready to walk away without an agreement.

Rudd, who campaigned for Britain to stay in the EU, told a parliamentary committee that securing a deal should be simple because it is in the interest of both sides.

"It is unthinkable there would be no deal. It is so much in their interest as well as ours," Rudd said.

Brexit minister David Davis earlier told parliament that Britain should maintain the option of walking away without any deal for negotiating reasons.]]>
10/17/2017 5:48:01 PM
<![CDATA[Gulf crisis undermines Qatar’s attempts to win UNESCO post ]]>
France’s former culture minister Audrey Azoulay was elected to become UNESCO's new director general, beating Qatari candidate Hamad bin Abdul Aziz al-Kawari with 30 votes to 20 due to the crisis between Qatar and Saudi-led Gulf countries, according to France 24.

The Saudi Arabian newspaper Okaz claimed Qatar offered bribes to 29 countries, including the United States, to win their support in the five rounds of the UNESCO election. But, Qatar’s inability to garner the support of its Gulf neighbors was a stinging blow to Doha's efforts.

Out of the nine countries vying for the UNESCO election, there were four Arab candidates including those from Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq.

However, the victory of France’s candidate highly depended on the collapse of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, hampering the Arab countries from reaching a consensus around a single Arab candidate to lead the Paris-headquartered international organization.

“Internal divisions in the Arab world, especially between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and the failure of the Arab world to form a consensus around a single candidate are emblematic of divisions in the region,” Leslie Vinjamuri, associate fellow at London-based thinktank Chatham House, told France 24.

American foreign policy also attributed the loss of the Qatari candidate in the UNESCO elections to the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its Arab neighbors.

The Qatari candidate received 19 votes in the first round and 20 votes in the second round, 18 votes in the third and 22 votes in the fourth round, casting suspicions about the power of money used by the Qatari regime to buy support. On October 13, UNESCO's executive board chose Azoulay as the UN agency's new chief.

Qatar’s relations with several Arab states have been strained since May 24 over a leaked statement attributed to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, criticizing Gulf foreign policy with Iran, describing it as “unwise.”
10/17/2017 4:45:25 PM
<![CDATA[Analysis: Will Hamas be able to restore border security with Sinai?]]>
Following the election of a new Hamas Political Bureau Chief and the movement’s presentation of its new charter, it began to seek building bridges of trust with Cairo.

The relationship between the movement and countries in the region, especially Egypt, have witnessed a setback due to infiltrations and smuggling operations from Gaza to Sinai and vice versa.

Palestinian sources confirmed the death of two Gazans in Sinai after Egyptian military operations targeted terrorist outposts, in response to the death of a number of Egyptian soldiers in separate checkpoints. Since then, observers of Palestinian affairs started posing some legit questions about the nature of security negotiations with Hamas.

Is the movement capable of fully regulating borders? How could personnel from Gaza sneak into Sinai in spite of Hamas’ procedures?

Certainly, Hamas is already working on ground to pursue terrorists and takfiris (Muslims who brand others as ‘apostates’) in Gaza. The movement has been struggling against extremists in the Strip. Lately, a security services officer was killed in Gaza, and others were injured as they thwarted a Takfiri infiltration attempt from Gaza into Sinai.

There is no doubt that the security buffer zone that Hamas built across the border will decrease the number of infiltration operations from Gaza to Sinai and vice versa.

However, it is not enough to defeat Takfiris who work along the borders between the Strip and Egypt.

This calls for further security coordination and cooperation between Cairo and Gaza, as well as developing a strategy against those holding extremist ideas, as they pose a more serious threat to Gaza’s security; even more serious than the threat they pose to Sinai.

The Gaza Strip’s major problem is that internal security forces are not provided with modern scientific anti-terrorism training. In addition, Hamas is not dealing strictly enough with extremists in the Strip, who recruit frustrated and brainwashed youth to fight in Sinai. What adds salt to injury is the difficult economic situation in the Strip, which compels many young people to either immigrate or join Takfiris in Sinai.

The fact that two Palestinians infiltrated Sinai from Gaza shows the dangers both Gaza and Sinai are facing. Extremists in the Strip are active through tens of mosques and zawaya (small mosques) in the Strip. Salafist extremists are in control of them, and they manipulate Palestinian youth who are desperate and frustrated.

A number of procedures on the ground need to be implemented. First, these young people’s suffering, which is one of the main factors that leads them to extremism, needs to be alleviated. In addition, a strategy needs to be developed to confront extremist thought in Gaza, in order to combat young extremists.

Available information about Palestinian terrorists indicates that they visit mosques controlled by Salafists in Gaza. They instill their takfiri thought in Palestinian teenagers who are hopeless with the dire conditions that were prevailing due to the Palestinian division.

Egypt may have calculated the issue of the reconciliation from this perspective; believing that accomplishing Palestinian reconciliation to alleviate the suffering and the humanitarian crisis in the Strip would curb extremism. One of the main reasons why Gazan youth adopt extremist ideas can be strongly attributed to the Palestinian division; which in turn threatens Egyptian national security.

A number of questions need to be posed to Hamas and clear-cut answers are required. Can Hamas fully secure borders between Gaza and Sinai? Is the movement adopting a successful strategy to face extremism? How is Hamas dealing with extremist Salafist groups, whose members infiltrate Sinai and implicate Hamas with Israel by firing missiles randomly?

Statements by prominent internal security personnel in Gaza indicate that Hamas has a real and sincere intention to regulate borders and prevent infiltrations into Sinai.

Does the movement, then, have a count of the youth who left Gaza to fight in Syria, Iraq or Sinai? Has the movement reached a possible number of terrorists from Gaza who are fighting in Sinai? Is the movement willing to further cooperate with Egypt on a security level to combat extremism, which threatens the security and stability of Sinai and Gaza?
Hamas knows that the latest negotiations in Cairo are based on mutual interest and benefits.

This means that the security and stability in Sinai and the movement’s cooperation with Cairo in fighting hardliners and extremists will have a positive impact on the Gaza Strip, as Cairo is working to alleviate the humanitarian suffering there and lift the Israeli siege on it. ]]>
10/17/2017 4:36:31 PM
<![CDATA[Iraqi military and militia push into Kurdistan ]]>
Rumors and evidence that the PUK reached some accommodation with Baghdad are swelling, and it was this accommodation which facilitated the swift movements of the Iraqi forces and the PMF in Kirkuk.

Without a strong and united Kurdish resistance to the military movements from the south, the Kurdish forces stationed in Kirkuk were unlikely to prevail. This came as a massive surprise to many, as the expectation was that if Iraqi and PMF forces were to launch a campaign against Kirkuk, the resistance would have been fierce.

There was a great deal of contention between the two dominant parties in Iraqi Kurdistan over the timing of the referendum. The PUK feared that the timing of the interdependence referendum, which took place on September 25, was timed as such to bolster Masoud Barzani’s role as President of Iraqi Kurdistan.

In conjunction with historical rivalries and leadership aspirations, this appears to have led to the downfall of the Kurdish resistance in Kirkuk as PUK elements honored newfound commitments to Baghdad over those to their ethnic allies.

What territory and strategic locations have been taken thus far?

- The city of Kirkuk, all administrative buildings and strategic locations.

- K-1 military base and Kirkuk airport.

- Tuz Khurmatu, Daquq, Jalawla, Shingal, Sinjar, Snune, Gwer, Makhmour, Khanaqinm, Snune, Kirkuk (Bai Hassan, Avana, Babagur Gur) oil fields

Map of northern Iraq showing the 3 provinces that make up Iraqi Kurdistan and the neighboring province of Kirkuk. AFP / Gillian HANDYSIDE

It took the Iraqi army 9 months to capture Mosul, yet it only took 9 hours to take Kirkuk. The rapid and unprecedented fall of Kirkuk will be remembered in the history books as a significant turning point in Kurdish and Iraqi history.

The Iraqi flag now flies over vast swathes of territory which only days ago were occupied by Kurdish forces. It is too early now to predict the scope of the Iraqi/PMF operation into Iraqi Kurdistan. Thus far it is anticipated that the “disputed areas” will be the focus of the operation, but statements made by Abadi that the Peshmerga must fall under the authority of Baghdad may threaten the relative peace so far between Erbil and Baghdad. It is likely this peace will remain as long as the operation remains in the disputed areas only, however the loss of Kirkuk is a symbolic blow to the Iraqi Kurds, and may have cut their only lifeline to independence from the Iraqi state.


Joseph Colonna

10/17/2017 3:53:12 PM
<![CDATA[Britain hopes EU summit will build on Brexit momentum]]>
"At the European Union council later this week, I hope the leaders of the 27 will recognise the progress made and provide (EU negotiator) Michel Barnier with a mandate to build on the momentum and spirit of cooperation we now have," Davis told parliament. "Doing so will allow us to ... achieve our best objectives and move towards a deal."

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10/17/2017 2:48:39 PM
<![CDATA[Spain's Constitutional Court declares Catalan referendum law void]]>
The court had originally suspended the referendum law as it studied its legality, though the Catalan government went ahead with the ballot regardless.

10/17/2017 2:32:20 PM
<![CDATA[Widespread criticism of Qatar’s UNHCR reelection ]]>
The Liberal Democracy Institute of Egypt (LDI) said in a Tuesday statement that the United Nations General Assembly turned a blind eye to human rights' violations carried out by the Qatari government, adding that instead of launching investigations, the UN is rewarding Qatar by re-electing it to the UNHRC for a fourth round of a three-year term from 2018-2020, during its 72nd session held on Monday.

Head of the LDI Dalia Ziada accused Tom Lantos, Human Rights Commission in the US Congress, of depending on testimonies only from representatives from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, Ziada says receive bribes from Qatar. She alleged that the commission neglected to address the Qatari opposition who are suffering crackdown.

Qatar’s suppression techniques against the opposition ranges from revoking citizenships to freezing bank accounts, in an attempt to contain the opposition’s impact internally and prevent more from coming forth.

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley called the election "yet another example of why the Human Rights Council lacks credibility and must be reformed in order to be saved."

For her part, Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based rights group, singled out three of the winners — Congo, Qatar and Pakistan — for criticism, saying for the U.N. to elect them "as a world judge on human rights is like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief."

Qatar’s human rights violations are reported as: supporting terrorism, quelling opposition and repressing calls for policy changes, imposing constrains on freedom of expression and journalism and being unfair towards foreign workers.

Qatar has reportedly frozen all assets belonging to two of the most prominent ruling family members, Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al-Thani and Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani, as punishment for their opposition to the Qatari Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, on the background of the ongoing Gulf crisis involving Doha.

Another opposition figure, Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al-Thani slammed the Qatari regime in a speech he gave in September from the French capital of Paris over the current diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its Arab neighbors. As a result, Qatari authorities stormed on Thursday Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al-Thani’s palace in Doha and seized all his assets in the emirate.
10/17/2017 2:24:16 PM
<![CDATA[French authorities say beIN refusing to collaborate]]>
On Thursday, Swiss federal prosecutors announced a bribery inquiry against Khelaifi, the Qatari president of Paris Saint-Germain.

As part of the international judicial cooperation, French investigators had inspected the beIN Paris office on Monday, confirming that Qatari officials in charge did not facilitate the investigators' work and refused them access to data they had requested, which currently exists in the head office in Qatar.

The office of Switzerland's attorney general said that the alleged bribery was received by former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke to enable beIN to have the exclusive rights to broadcast the 2026 and 2030 World Cups. The legal action was primarily triggered in March 2016 as part of criminal investigations launched on FIFA’s business practices.
10/17/2017 1:46:23 PM
<![CDATA[Kuwaiti Emir to tour Gulf ahead of summit ]]>
The Kuwait and Saudi Arabia talks will focus on the rift between Qatar and the Arab quartet and ways to address the differences during negotiations, as to radically resolve it, according to a Saudi source quoted by Germany’s official news agency.

The source refused to comment on the reports suggesting that the crisis will be resolved soon through a meeting held between the six Gulf states including Egypt in the Gulf Summit.

“Wisdom and experience of Sheikh Sabah will facilitate reaching practical solutions that ensure Qatar’s abidance to the basic principles required by the Arab quartet and the adoption of procedures to converge views based on the six principles adopted in 2013 for which Qatar’s Emir has made a written commitment,” noted the Saudi source.

The Gulf Summit faces many obstacles threatening its convention due to the boycott, especially as three Gulf States accuse Qatar of adopting a policy that destabilizes the Arab region.

Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah declared that Kuwait has not yet sent any invitation to Gulf states regarding the summit. “Ahead of any Gulf Summit, Kuwait usually invites the states at an appropriate time, but it is still early to speak about these invitations.”

Jarallah said that he was optimistic about reaching a solution to the crisis. He also expressed hope that the dispute between the Gulf brothers would be addressed ahead of the upcoming summit.

“Kuwait’s mediation regarding the crisis will not fail and will continue with the help of the United States,” Jarallah stated late last month.

GCC member Kuwait has launched mediation efforts to find a common ground to end the crisis; however, Doha rejected the 13 demands made by the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ), foiling the mediation attempt.

Last week, Kuwait announced its readiness to host the summit in December, amid hopes that the dispute would be mostly resolved by then.
10/17/2017 12:13:52 PM
<![CDATA[Human rights org. calls for Qatari opposition protection]]>
Describing Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani as a dictatorial tyrant, Abdel-Moniem condemned storming the palace of Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al-Thani in Doha on Thursday by the Qatari authorities, describing the step as a serious abuse of authority.

Abdel-Moniem stated he will submit a memorandum to the United Nations Human Rights Council, demanding advocacy for the peaceful activits in Qatar and launching investigations on abuses committed against Qatari people calling for political reform.

Qatar’s suppression techniques against the opposition ranges from revoking citizenships to freezing bank accounts, in an attempt to contain the opposition’s impact internally and prevent more from coming forth.

On Thursday, an armed force of the Qatari security forces raided the palace of Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al-Thani in Doha and confiscated documents and possessions belonging to his father, former Foreign Minister Sheikh Suhaim bin Hamad.

The security forces confiscated about 137 cases and a number of iron cabinets containing all of Sheikh Sultan's documents and possessions, in addition to a vast archive that accurately documents the history of Qatar.

There was an escalation from the Qatari ruling family against Tamim. The Qatari regime had frozen all assets belonging to Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani, one of the most prominent Qatari figures to speak out against the government in the ongoing crisis involving Doha.

Amid unstable circumstances in Qatar following the recent Qatari crisis, there are anticipations on the possible candidates to rule Qatar after Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani, son of the late Emir of Qatar, Ali bin Abdullah Al-Thani, is the forerunner candidate to succeed Tamim, according to Egypt Today’s previous interviews with political professors.
10/17/2017 11:57:03 AM
<![CDATA[Qatari opposition to launch its 2nd conference: Hail]]>
Hail, an exiled Qatari opposition figure, organized the first Qatari opposition conference in London last month in which he accused the ruling family of corruption, especially regarding the millions of dollars that Qatar was splurged on the World Cup venues.

Hail did not mention an exact time or place for the upcoming conference,

According to "Qatar leaks" Hail added that Qatari regime was expected to have the assets of Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani frozen, as it is the regime’s primary weapon against dissent.

Qatari authorities stormed on Thursday Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al Thani’s palace in Doha, a step taken after authorities froze the bank accounts of the young Sheikh.

Doha has faced a severe rebuke since June 5 when the Arab quartet comprised of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic ties with the emirate on accusations of sponsoring and harboring terrorism, which Doha consistently denies.
10/17/2017 11:53:25 AM
<![CDATA[Somali newspaper reveals Doha recruiting African mercenaries]]>
Garowe revealed that the Qatari regime hired 6,000 Somalis to confront the Qatari people, in addition to hiring Sudanese mercenaries in order to defend and protect Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad in Doha.

Opposition twitter account named Qatari Leaks published a document that “exposes Doha’s recruitment of 360 Sudanese to join the Qatari army via its embassy in Khartoum.”

Qatari Leaks reveals Doha's recuitment of Sudanese soldiers

According to the document published by Qatari Leaks account on Twitter, the Sudanese soldiers are required to submit their resume, education certificate and other documents in order to join the Qatari army.

The document said high-ranking officials at Villa Somalia, the country's Presidential Palace are facilitating the recruitment program which is currently underway in several Somali semi-autonomous regions.

In Mogadishu, at least ten people said to be employees working for the ministries of Somalia's federal government were dispatched to Qatar, becoming the first batch of cadets, according to sources to Qatari Leaks.

It is unclear whether the Somali federal government and federal member states are aware of the plan to recruit unemployed youths as they are 'being lured' by Qatari agents, Qatari Leaks added.

Another leaked document issued by the Embassy of Qatar in South Africa, bearing no. "wx/219/216/209-3" dated 8/6/2017, revealed that the head of Qatar's state security apparatus contracted South African mercenaries to carry out missions against the security of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Although the document did not elaborate on the details of these tasks, it indicates the malicious intentions of Qatar’s regime.

A leaked document issued by the Embassy of Qatar in South Africa revealed that the head of Qatar's state security apparatus contracted with mercenaries.

The document details the plan to send two African mercenary units. The first consisted of 719 members headed by a retired officer from the Preventive Security Service in South Africa and planned to be sent to the Saudi Arabia by passing as pilgrims through 514 separate flights.

The second group of mercenaries was headed by a retired general intelligence officer in South Africa who were planning to infiltrate the UAE through 90 tourist resorts.

Egyptian parliamentarian Tarek al-Kholy told Egypt Today that that these documents reflected Doha’s confusion and fears and exposed how many mercenaries are among the Qatari army.

Qatari Leaks Twitter Account.png

“Qatar envies the Egyptian army which embraces only Egyptian nationals, unlike the Qatari army which is composed of several nationalities,” Al-Kholy added.

On June 5, 2017 Egypt and Saudi, along with several Arab allies, cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in a move that sent shockwaves throughout the Middle East and beyond, including Somalia.

Doha is working on plans to increase its army and eyeing the unemployed youths in poor countries, including Somalia, where it is recruiting low paid soldiers to strengthen its military capability.]]>
10/17/2017 11:51:27 AM
<![CDATA[Qatar orbits Iran stalling to solve Gulf crisis]]>
“We are not losers,” Sheikh Khaled said as Asharq Al-Awsat reported. “We are concerned about the stability and prosperity of our countries, the security and progress of our peoples before anything else, and it is up to them – the Qataris – if they want to resolve their crisis or not.”

“Arab countries now have a clearer picture of the source of danger in the region; it is quite clear that Iran represents the greatest threat to the region's security and stability,” he added.

Sheikh Khaled also stated that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain strongly support U.S President Donald Trump's strategy regarding the possibility of terminating the nuclear deal with Iran.

“Bahrain welcomed this strategy because it is one of the countries that have suffered the most from Iranian terrorism and Iranian interventions, and we are waiting for this strategy to progress and achieve its objectives and not be withdrawn,” he explained.

Kuwait will send delegates in the coming period to other member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to deliver letters to the Gulf leaders about the upcoming GCC summit in Kuwait in December.

“The summit [will be held] on time, upon an invitation by the host country,” the Bahraini minister said about the summit.

On June 5, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed their diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting extremism, funding terrorism and having close ties with the regional foe Iran.

GCC member Kuwait has launched mediation efforts to find a common ground to end the crisis; however, Doha rejected the 13 demands made by the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ), foiling the mediation attempt.
10/17/2017 11:33:04 AM
<![CDATA[Qatar re-elected to UNHRC despite crackdown on opposition]]>
Qatar has reportedly frozen all assets belonging to two of the most prominent ruling family members, Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al-Thani and Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani, as punishment for their opposition to the Qatari Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, on the background of the ongoing Gulf crisis involving Doha.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali is the second son of the late Emir Ali bin Abdullah Al-Thani, the grandson of the Emir of Qatar, Abdullah bin Jassim Al-Thani, and the brother of Sheikh Ahmed bin Ali Al-Thani, who was overthrown by his cousin Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al-Thani, grandfather of Prince Tamim bin Hamad on February 22, 1972.

In August, Sheikh Abdullah met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to mediate on reopening a land border to allow Qatari pilgrims to perform the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. A move that made Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim feels his reign is in danger. It was the first public high-level encounter between the two nations since the diplomatic crisis erupted.

The other opposition figure is Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al-Thani who slammed Tamim bin Hamad’s regime in a speech he gave in September from the French capital of Paris, over the current diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its Arab neighbors. As a result, Qatari authorities stormed on Thursday Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al-Thani’s palace in Doha and seized all his assets in the emirate.

Qatar’s relations with several Arab states have been strained since May 24 over a leaked statement attributed to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, criticizing Gulf foreign policy with Iran, describing it as “unwise.”

On 5 June, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed economic sanctions, accusing it of funding terrorism, a claim Qatar rejects. They also closed their airspace and seaports for Qatari transportation.

The Arab quartet issued 13 demands to Doha, then shortened to six principles, including closing Al Jazeera television, curbing relations with Iran and shutting a Turkish military base.
10/17/2017 9:18:47 AM
<![CDATA[Shinzō Abe sends ritual offering to Yasukuni shrine for war dead]]>
Abe was expected to refrain from visiting the shrine during the festival, which will last until Friday, the Nikkei business daily and Kyodo news agency reported.

Past visits to Yasukuni by Japanese leaders have outraged Beijing and Seoul because it honours 14 Japanese leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals, along with Japan's war dead.

Abe has only visited the shrine in person once, in December 2013, since becoming premier the previous year.]]>
10/17/2017 8:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Key U.S. Republican says Trump must work with Europe on Iran]]>
"This is something that can only work if the administration exercises tremendous diplomacy with our European allies," Corker told reporters as the Senate returned to the Capitol for the first time since Trump announced his Iran policy.

Trump defied both allies and adversaries on Friday by refusing to certify that Iran is complying with an international agreement on its nuclear program, and threatened that he might ultimately terminate the accord.

Corker is leading an effort in Congress to write legislation setting new conditions for the U.S. role in the pact, such as automatically reimposing sanctions if Iran is deemed to be within one year of developing a nuclear weapon.

Details have not been finalized, but the plan's outline raised concerns that it might cause Washington - not Tehran - to violate the deal reached with Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, Iran and the European Union.

Corker said Democratic senators told him that Washington must work with Europe.

Trump's fellow Republicans control the Senate and House of Representatives, but their Senate majority is so narrow that most legislation needs Democratic votes to pass.

European Union foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday reaffirmed their support for the nuclear pact and said failure to uphold it could have serious consequences for regional peace, and undermine efforts to check North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Corker said he had tried to convince European officials that the news on Iran was not all bad.

"I ... shared with them that, look, if I were them, I'd look at this as 'the glass is half full,' he didn't withdraw from the JCPOA (the nuclear deal), and that's step one," Corker said.

He described efforts under way in Washington as a chance to address "deficiencies" in the nuclear pact, in which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief.

Every Republican in Congress, as well as some Democrats, opposed the accord when it was reached by former Democratic Barack Obama's administration in 2015.

Corker and Republican Senator Tom Cotton, who worked with him on the legislation, met later on Monday on Iran with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.]]>
10/17/2017 7:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. Senate confirms Gingrich as ambassador to the Vatican]]>
Gingrich, 51, an author, documentary filmmaker and former congressional aide, is the wife of former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, a vocal Trump ally.

Her nomination was approved on a 70-23 vote.]]>
10/17/2017 1:26:40 AM
<![CDATA[Baghdad strain on Kurds to curb independence attempts]]>
Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani has arrived in Iraq's Kurdistan region for talks about the escalating crisis between the Kurdish authorities and the Iraqi government following the Kurdish independence referendum, a Kurdish official said.

Kurdish leaders who met to discuss the crisis in the Kurdish town of Dokan renewed their offer to "resolve peacefully" the crisis with Baghdad, Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani's aide, Hemin Hawrami, said on Twitter.

Iraq's Kurdish leadership rejected the Iraqi government demand that it cancels the outcome of an independence referendum as a precondition for talks to resolve the dispute.

The Iraqi government accused Kurdish authorities of bringing fighters from Turkey's separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk, and said it considered the move a "declaration of war."

"At the request of the Iraqi government, the Islamic Republic of Iran closed the border crossings with the Kurdistan region of Iraq,'' the Iraqi foreign ministry said in a statement in Baghdad.

Iran shut its border crossings with Iraq's Kurdistan in support of measures taken by the Iraqi government to isolate the Kurdish region, the Iraqi foreign ministry said.

Iraqi forces began moving at midnight towards oil fields and an important air base held by Kurdish forces near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Iraqi and Kurdish officials said.
The object of the advance was taking control of the K1 airbase, west of Kirkuk, Lieutenant Colonel Salah el-Kinani of the Iraqi army's 9th armoured division told Reuters.

"Iraqi forces and Popular Mobilisation are now advancing from Taza, south of Kirkuk, in a major operation; their intention is to enter the city and take over (the) K1 base and oil fields,'' said the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Security Council.

A convoy of elite Iraqi military forces took control of the governorate building in central Kirkuk, meeting no opposition from Kurdish forces deployed in the city, security sources and residents said.

Iraqi forces removed the Kurdish flag that was hoisted on the governorate building in April next to an Iraqi flag, said residents, adding that only the Iraqi flag was flying.
Oil and natural gas production from the Kirkuk region is proceeding normally on Monday despite an Iraqi military operation to seize the region form Kurdish forces, an Iraqi Oil Ministry official told Reuters.

U.S. Senator John McCain, the influential chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned Iraq's government of "severe consequences" over any further misuse U.S.-provided weaponry against Kurdish forces.

"The United States provided equipment and training to the government of Iraq to fight (Islamic State) and secure itself from external threats — not to attack elements of one of its own regional governments, which is a longstanding and valuable partner of the United States," McCain said.

The United States sought to avoid openly taking sides in an Iraqi-Kurdish dispute, as Iraq's capture of the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk raised the risk of an open conflict between U.S. allies in the fight against Islamic State.

U.S. President Donald Trump expressed disappointment the two sides were fighting.
"We don't like the fact that they're clashing. We're not taking sides," Trump told reporters at the White House.

The Head of Iraqi Counterterrorism Service in Kurdistan Lahore Sheikh Zinki attacked the region’s leader Masoud Barzani saying, “While we were busy protecting the Kurdish people, Masoud Barzani was busy robbing oil and strengthening his power.”

Zinki added in statements to El Hurra channel, “We will not send our children to their death to preserve Barzani’s seat of power.”

The Pentagon urged Iraqi and Kurdish forces to "avoid escalatory actions" and to turn to dialogue to defuse tensions and resolve their differences. ]]>
10/16/2017 10:55:47 PM
<![CDATA[Four nations meet to resume stalled Afghan peace talks in Oman]]>
It was not clear whether any Afghan Taliban had joined the talks, which have so far failed to restart a tentative process that collapsed in 2015.

Taliban sources had previously said they would stay away from the discussions in Muscat, casting doubt on prospects for reviving the long-stalled negotiations.

The Pakistani officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information, said the talks had resumed on Pakistan's initiative. The Pakistani team was led by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua.

In Washington, a State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the meeting took place, but declined to provide any details. There was no immediate comment from China or Afghanistan about the talks resuming.

The four-nation Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QGC), which last met in Islamabad early last year, has been trying to ease the path to direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, with little success.

Amin Waqad, a close aide to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and a senior member of the High Peace Council (HPC), said last week his country would participate in the Muscat meeting, and that the Taliban representatives would also be there.

The Taliban denied that they had received any invitation.

Efforts to kick-start negotiations have failed due to the Taliban's refusal to attend after their last leader Mullah Akhtar Mansur was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan last year.

The United States wants Pakistan, which it accuses of harboring Afghan Taliban commanders, to exert more influence on the group to bring them to the negotiating table.

Pakistani officials deny sheltering Taliban militants and say their influence on the group has waned.]]>
10/16/2017 10:15:27 PM
<![CDATA[Spanish Court remands in custody two Catalan separatist leaders]]>
Prosecutors have alleged that Jordi Sanchez, the head of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), and Jordi Cuixart, head of Omnium Cultural, were key to planning an Oct. 1 referendum on independence that the Spanish government considered illegal.]]>
10/16/2017 10:02:30 PM
<![CDATA[How Arab attitudes vary toward Trump’s new Iran strategy]]>
Egypt and Kuwait follow with “concern”
Egypt and Kuwait did not explicitly support Trump's strategy toward Iran, as the two countries insisted they were "interested” about the new strategy’s details.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said in a statement that "Egypt is following with concern the details of Trump's new strategy, and we are deeply concerned about Iran's policies, which lead to regional instability and which affect Arab national and regional security, both of which are an integral part of Egypt's national security."

Egypt's firm stance calls for the necessity of freeing the Middle East region from nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction and of respecting the principles of good neighborhood, as well as non-interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries that would consequently enhance the stability of the Middle East, Abu Zeid added.

In a similar vein, the Kuwait News Agency quoted an official source at the Foreign Ministry as saying that "Kuwait has followed with great concern what has come in U.S. President Donald Trump’s last speech about the new strategy to deal with Iran." The source added that Kuwait has already welcomed the Iranian Nuclear Agreement because of its "concern for regional security and stability and for the necessity of achieving commitment to reach a free zone from weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East."

The official called on Iran to work to "build confidence in the region by adopting policies based on the principles of the U.N. Charter and the rules of international law, particularly respecting the sovereignty of states, not interfering in their internal affairs, and maintaining good neighborly relations."

Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain bolster and welcome Trump’s new strategy toward Iran
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain announced their support of the Trump administration’s new strategy toward Tehran. Saudi Arabia stressed its full support of the announced strategy, pledging to work with U.S. and its allies in the region to confront shared challenges, particularly “Iran’s aggressive policies and maneuvers,” the official Saudi News Agency quoted the Saudi Foreign Ministry’s statement as saying.

"Iran took advantage of the lifting of sanctions and used it to continue to destabilize the region, especially through its ballistic missile development program and its support of terrorism in the region, including Hezbollah and Houthi militias," the Saudi statement said.

“Iran had transferred these capabilities and expertise to its affiliated militias, including the Houthi militia, which used those missiles to target the Kingdom,” it added.

The UAE's Foreign Ministry said in a statement, “the Iranian regime seeks to spread turmoil and destabilization in the region,” as the UAE announced its “strong support for the new U.S. strategy toward Iran” and stressed on the commitment by the UAE to work with U.S. allies in the region to curb Iranian policies that bolster terrorism in the region and the world.

In the same course, Bahrain has supported Trump’s new stance toward Iran, which it described as “an appropriate policy to curb the prevalence of turmoil and face attempts to spread terrorism by Iran.”

Syrian regime denounces Trump’s recent attitude toward Iran
The Syrian Foreign Ministry defended its Iranian ally and condemned what it described as "aggressive policies of the American administration against the interests of the world’s peoples, which would increase the atmosphere of tensions in the region and the world," the official Syrian news agency reported.

An official source in the Syrian Foreign Ministry said that "the U.S. administration's coup on the Iranian Nuclear Agreement and its use of threatening language is unacceptable and breaks international norms and conventions, though Iran has strictly complied with the agreement."

He added that "the threat of the U.S. administration to cancel the Nuclear Agreement with Iran and imposition of new coercive sanctions on Iran clearly shows lack of respect by the department for the Charters and their obligations under international treaties and conventions, as well as a lack of confidence in the stance of this administration toward international security and stability."]]>
10/16/2017 8:47:17 PM
<![CDATA[Critic of Rwanda's president asks for freedom in court]]>
Diane Shima Rwigara, who was barred from running against Kagame in August elections, moved to comfort her mother Adeline and sister Anne as they cried during the hearing.

"I request the president release me and my family,” she said. She told court she was "being victimized ... because I have political ambitions".

The 35-year-old accountant is accused of faking the registration papers she filed to stand in the election that Kagame went on to win with 98.8 percent of the vote.

Rwigara has regularly said Kagame stifles dissent and has criticized the Rwandan Patriotic Front's (RPF) tight grip on power since it fought its way to power to end a genocide in 1994.

In court, Rwigara said the government had threatened and attempted to silence her family and supporters since she announced her plan to contest the presidency in May.

"Some of the supporters were told that they would be accused of working with terror groups. Some were tortured," Rwigara said. Prosecutor Michel Nshimiyimana told the court that he had 70 witnesses who would prove that Rwigara faked their signatures. He said some of the signatures belonged to dead people.

"Diane said she was being prosecuted because of her political ambitions but we have 70 witnesses. They said they didn't sign for her nor did they know her," he told the court.

Rwigara's mother and sister are also charged with inciting insurrection. The prosecution on Monday played audio clips and videos that it said recorded the mother talking to relatives abroad and accusing the Rwandan government of killing its people.

The family's defense attorney said the conversations were private and did not constitute crimes.

Last week Rwigara's mother and sister told the court all three of them had been tortured and deprived of food as they were held in jail awaiting trial. They said they were "handcuffed day and night" and kept in solitary confinement.

Their lawyer Buhuru Pierre Celestin told the court then that their confinement violated international conventions, while prosecutors said that the defendants' rights were respected.

The trial will resume on Wednesday.]]>
10/16/2017 8:07:03 PM
<![CDATA[No KRG, only the KDP and the PUK]]>
There has been many debates over whether there was a presence of Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) forces in Kirkuk. Although also ethnically Kurdish, the PKK are categorized as terrorists by the U.S. and Europe as a result of their actions during the fight for autonomy against the Turkish government.

Yesterday, the Iraqi government accused Kurdish authorities accepting PKK fighters to the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk, and said it considered the move a “declaration of war.” Although Barzani’s government in Erbil categorically denied the presence of PKK fighters in Kirkuk, this statement helped provide legitimacy and authority to the mission of the Iraqi Security Forces.

It is the Patriot Union of Kurdustan (PUK) who has grabbed the greatest attention.

Existing alongside the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) as the second major party in Iraqi Kurdistan, they have long been an opponent to the KDP in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

One prevalent theory blames the PUK for the collapse of the Peshmerga in Kirkuk and the yielding of the city with hardly a round fired.

Signs of internal conflict arose with the death of Jalal Talabani, who served as Iraq's president in Baghdad from 2003-2014, and passed away just two weeks ago. Pockets of the PUK-allied Peshmerga forces are not favourbale to Kurdish independence, and instead favour ties with Iran.

Peshmerga fighters hold a position on a river bank across from Iraqi forces on October 14, 2017, on the southern outskirts of Kirkuk. Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP
“Sadly, some PUK officials were supportive of the conspiracy against the Kurdistan nation [in Kirkuk], they intended [a] big and historical betrayal against Kurdistan and martyrs who sacrificed their lives for Kurdistan under the flag of PUK,” a Peshmerga statement read today.

Kurdish sources repeatedly claimed that Peshmerga forces had fortified their positions, however would not fight unless provoked and attacked first by forces from the south. The Peshmerga were attacked, but did not fight.

One thing is certain; this will go down as a dire day in Kurdish history. Not only have they lost Kirkuk, a financially strategic city and a symbol of Iraqi Kurdish strength; no, it has also shown that other factors behind the scenes have dictated the play.

It appears everyone was played. Worst of all however, is the citizens on the ground. The independence referendum was a moment of Kurdish jubilation, yet the past 24 hours have shown the average citizen that the Peshmerga were unable to protect the land they fought so vehemently to maintain in the battle of word against Baghdad.

It has shown how the Kurdish hierarchy was unable to unite in the face of Baghdad and Iranian-backed Shiite militia.

Now I appreciate that the Kurds do not make up the majority of the population in Kirkuk, but this is beside the point. The city of Kirkuk voted to separate from Iraq in the recent referendum, and thus put their faith, their trust and their support in the forces who had promised to defend them.

If Kurdistan fell because of a coordinated retreat, as part of a deal with Baghdad, there is a chance this might be understood by the population. However, if Kirkuk fell as a result of a military incapability then the Kurds have a big problem, and the entire campaign for independence may be at risk.

Members of the Iraqi forces stand next to a convoy heading to Kurdish positions on the southern outskirts of Kirkuk on Oct. 15. Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP/Getty Images
Regardless, we cannot begin to understand the full situation yet; it is still ongoing. However, what has become apparent is that the KDP and PUK accuse each other of not fighting. We have to hope that this lack of coordination and respect has not ripped an irreparable hole between the Kurds. Rarely in history has such an important, symbolic city fallen with such ease and little to no resistance.

Cleary there is no KRG, only the KDP and the PUK. Both have different agendas and different loyalties, and both failed the people of Kirkuk. I’m not advocating war or bloodshed of any kind, but when you fail to put words into action you lose respect, trust and love.

The people of Kirkuk went to sleep with faith in their security forces, yet they woke up to Shiite militias roaming deserted streets.


Joseph Colonna

10/16/2017 7:52:07 PM
<![CDATA[Exclusive: “To Build It” members reveal goals, plans]]>
Amid that ambiguity, a number of parliamentarians and politicians launched a campaign titled “To Build It”, demanding the re-election of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The main reasons behind supporting President Sisi for another term boils down to continuation of the mega projects, development of the country’s infrastructure, preservation of the national security, enhancement of education systems and counterterrorism, businessman and parliamentarian Mohamed Shaaban told Egypt Today.

Parliamentarian Karim Salem, Ph.D, who serves as the campaign spokesperson, stated that the campaign got very positive responses and that it targets all social sectors, saying “our main focus is developing a good team and mechanisms to gather the signatures.”

The campaign's spokesperson MP Karim Salem - Hussein Talal
Shaaban said that the campaign leaders do not instruct volunteers to not go to “certain areas”, but they merely warn them against pressuring anyone who rejects signing the application. That is because some niche areas are dominated by supporters of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Campaign member Hazem Tawfik, Ph.D, said that negative responses stem only from the hike in prices of goods and services due to the ongoing economic reform measures and that volunteers can only remind and explain such citizens that “we all have to pay the price to achieve development through mega and infrastructure projects.”

Shaaban said that some citizens may not be able to identify the reasons behind the current economic situation, so the campaign has been a good channel to explain.

What’s more, Karim perceived the president’s tendency to take hard decisions that may have affected his popularity as an ultimate patriot from his part.

“People talk about subsidized goods, but talk less about free housing provided for people, who used to dwell in slum areas, like the social housing project of Asmarat,” Shaaban added.

“We dreamt of only 27 headquarters in each governorate. We got 67. People allocated some places to the campaign for free,” Shaaban said. Karim added that they have not set a target number of signatures. “Our current timeline extends till the candidacy door opens. By that time, the president may take the decision to run for office,” he added.

“We will print out and distribute pamphlets containing statistics and achievements. These pamphlets do not have to include all projects all over the country. The residents of each governorate are interested in the projects in their respective areas,” Salem added.

The campaign succeeded in collecting a big number of signatures from public figures, politicians and parliamentarians, who constitute a big portion of the campaign members, totaling up to hundreds.

Campaign member MP Mohamed Shaaban - Hussein Talal
These are facilitating the promotion of the campaign as they have knowledge to address the people, Shaaban added. Some parliamentarians have started to contact Egyptian expat groups who already knew about the campaign through the Facebook page, where they can print out a pro-Sisi petition, he said.

Shaaban added that the organizers are also trying to make an e-application solely for expats. “We also have young volunteers who put on certain T-shirts to collect signatures from people in the streets,” he continued, adding, “We don't speak in the name of the president. We are essentially members of parliament, so we are a political backup of the people. Political parties are not the only political backup in the country.”

The campaign will not collect cash donations, but people can later on help with devices to print out the pamphlets, Shaaban commented.

The Hob al Watan coalition (Homeland Love) joined the campaign, as well as many political parties and hundreds of parliamentarians, said academic Hazem Tawfiq, one of the campaign organizers. ]]>
10/16/2017 5:53:43 PM
<![CDATA[North Korea rejects direct talks with South Korea in Russia]]>
Moscow had called on the two countries, who are both represented at a parliamentary forum in Russia, to use the opportunity to hold direct talks to try to narrow their differences over Pyongyang's missile programme.

But, RIA, citing the head of the North Korean delegation, said Pyongyang had rejected the idea.

10/16/2017 4:17:50 PM
<![CDATA[Israel’s reaction to Palestinian reconciliation raises doubts of their intentions]]>
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu preferred to follow the “wait and see” strategy since the beginning of the reconciliation, which was strongly condemned by several ministers of his government including Minister of Education Naftali Bennett.

Bennett demanded that the PM cut all diplomatic relations with the Palestinian authorities once a deal between Fatah and Hamas was announced. He also called on the Israeli government to refrain from giving the Palestinian authorities the taxes that Israel collects on their behalf, Sputnik reported on October 3. Bennett added that his call was not basically because of the reconciliation itself, but was because “the Palestinian president is cooperating now with an organization labeled as ‘terrorist’.”

Moreover, in a statement released October 3, Netanyahu broke his silence and put three conditions for accepting and recognizing the reconciliation between the Palestinian parties.

These conditions include, the “dissolution of the military wing of Hamas, cutting all diplomatic relations with Iran, and recognizing Israel as a state.” “We will not accept any false reconciliation based over our interests,” Netanyahu said in his statement.

On the other hand, the Palestinian authorities blocked all attempts from Israel's side in interfering in the reconciliation. “Palestinians will not accept any Israeli attempts to interfere in their internal affairs,” Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki said in statements Sunday.

He added that the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas will continue as agreed. “We heard about the Israeli conditions [that were put as prerequisites] to recognize our reconciliation; however, we will continue with our plan as it is,” Malki added.

Who welcomed the reconciliation?

Most foreign governments widely welcomed the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, including France, the United States, China and Oman.

In an official statement, the French Foreign Ministry has lauded the role of the Egyptian authorities to conclude that the deal will "enable the Palestinian Authority to practice full powers in the Gaza Strip."

The U.S. State Department also hailed efforts exerted by the Palestinian Authority to assume its full responsibilities in the Gaza Strip after the Palestinian rivals (Fatah and Hamas) signed the reconciliation accord in Cairo.

"We see that as a potentially important step into getting humanitarian aid in to the people who live there," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said according to Al-Hurra channel.

Nauert added that the U.S. is going to watch those developments very closely.
China also welcomed the reconciliation deal signed, expressing appreciation for Egypt's efforts in promoting Palestinian unity.

The Chinese officially voiced confidence that ending the division and accomplishing the Egypt-brokered reconciliation will lead to resuming the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, achieving Palestine's independence, and reaching peaceful coexistence between the two countries.
The Omani Foreign Ministry also said in an official statement that Muscat welcomed the final reconciliation agreement between the Palestinian factions which would unify the Palestinian ranks, end the division, and support national unity in obtaining all its legitimate rights. The reconciliation will aid the establishment of the Palestinian State on the borders of June 4, 1967 with Al-Quds as its capital.

Thursday, October 12, Hamas and Fatah, announced signing the final deal in Cairo regarding the reconciliation, officially ending the decade-long national split.

Last week, Palestinian Prime Minister of the National Consensus Government formed in 2014, Rami Hamdallah, held his first cabinet meeting in Gaza after Hamas announced handing over the administration of the Gaza Strip to the unity government; a major step towards Palestinian reconciliation.

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip remained politically and administratively divided since June 2007, when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip following days of street fighting.
10/16/2017 3:51:24 PM
<![CDATA[British PM heads to Brussels to unblock Brexit talks]]>
They will be joined by British Brexit minister David Davis and his EU counterpart, chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, May's spokesman told reporters.

Juncker declined to answer questions about the content of the meeting ahead of time, telling reporters in Brussels: "I will meet Mrs May this evening, we will talk and you will see the autopsy."

With criticism of her Brexit strategy building up at home from both moderates and hardliners within her own Conservative party, May is hoping for a breakthrough that will bolster her position and ease some of the uncertainty around Britain's withdrawal.

EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday are due to decide whether or not negotiators can move on to discussing post-Brexit trade ties with Britain if "sufficient progress" has been made in divorce talks.

The indication from the EU side is that they will postpone their decision to a summit in December as the break-up negotiations are currently deadlocked.

But Britain is still hoping for a positive signal that will ease growing concern, including from business leaders who say they will have start shifting some operations to the EU by the end of the year unless there is more certainty on Brexit.

"We've always said we want Britain leaving the EU to be a smooth process and this is part of achieving that," May's spokesman said of the 90-minute dinner which is to start at around 6:30 pm (1630 GMT).

He said the meeting was put in the diary "a number of weeks ago" even though it has not previously been mentioned either by British or EU officials.

The trip takes place as economic storm clouds gather for Britain, with companies reining in spending and foreign direct investment plunging as a result of last year's Brexit vote.

Even the Daily Telegraph newspaper, normally a staunch supporter of the government, on Monday warned it was "a grim time for Brexit optimists" and cited analysts predicting a further devaluation of the pound.

- 'Time to get on' -

On Sunday, May spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the two agreed "on the importance of continued constructive progress in the UK's exit negotiations", according to a statement from her Downing Street office.

She is also due to speak to French President Emmanuel Macron and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar later on Monday, ahead of the dinner in Brussels, her spokesman said.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also sought to drum up some goodwill on Sunday by hosting a group of East European foreign ministers for talks on security and light-hearted country walks at his official residence in Kent, southeast England.

"It is time to get on with these negotiations," Johnson said as he arrived for a meeting with his EU counterparts in Luxembourg on Monday.

"Let's put a tiger in the tank, let's get these conversations going and stop letting the grass grow under our feet."

- Suspend negotiations? -

Ahead of their meeting, commentators pointed to the bad taste left by May's last dinner with Juncker in April.

Details were leaked to German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in which Juncker reportedly said May was in a "different galaxy".

The British leader responded angrily to the leaks, accusing EU officials of trying to influence the outcome of the June general election with "threats against Britain".

Asked whether she was concerned about leaks this time around, May's spokesman said: "I expect a constructive dinner."

Some Brexit hardliners are meanwhile calling for a tougher approach from the government that could include walking out of the negotiations with no deal.

Former Brexit minister David Jones said Britain should suspend negotiations until the EU was prepared to talk "sensibly about money" and future trade terms.

The fifth round of discussions ended last week with Barnier warning the two sides were at an "extremely disturbing" deadlock over Britain's Brexit bill.

Brussels has insisted on reaching progress on its three priorities -- the exit bill, citizens' rights, and the border with Ireland -- before moving on to talks of a future relationship with London.

10/16/2017 3:41:16 PM
<![CDATA[Kirkuk: Iraqi loyalties change quicker than a British summer]]>
The Iraqi government has threatened the Kurdish region since the Kurdish independence referendum on September 25. The threats finally materialized into a demonstration of military strength as Iraqi media showed a procession of armored vehicles and security forces flooding north in the past week. People began to predict a major confrontation between the Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi security forces.

The Middle East is often likened to a puzzle; the pieces are mismatched and overlapping. However, the current situation in Kirkuk goes beyond this; it feels like someone has rolled a dice in a game of chess, and then a third player slapped down a straight flush.

Wrap your head around this. Iran, the U.S.’s foremost adversary, is indirectly engaged in violent conflict alongside Iraq, a major U.S. regional ally, against the Kurds. The Kurds being the U.S.’s most significant non-state ally in the fight against the Islamic State, the U.S.’s biggest non-state opponent.

You think that is confusing? What complicates the situation even further for the U.S. is that they provided the vast deal of military hardware and training that are being used in this conflict, to both Iraq and the Kurds. The U.S.-led state-building project in Iraq required the U.S. to bolster Iraqi security services; the same rang true as the Kurds showed their strength and ability in combating the Islamic State’s advances.

To see the most striking evidence of this, one only has to look at the transport being used by all parties. Humvees are a symbol of U.S. military around the world, and their presence on the ‘battlefield’ in and around Kirkuk makes it difficult for the mind to remove the U.S. from the equation.

The enveloping conflict in and around Kirkuk comes as another slap in the face to U.S. foreign policy in Iraq, which welcomes short-term success only and fails to appreciate the intricacies of the country.

More money does not equate to more success.

Iraqi forces drive towards Kurdish Peshmerga positions on Sunday on southern outskirts of Kirkuk. AFP

Many of the PMF militia involved in the Kirkuk campaign pledge allegiance to the Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and thus we would not expect to see them using American military hardware. But this is the Middle East, so obviously this is not the case. American weaponry is being used by every actor in this conflict as loyalties in Iraq change quicker than the weather in a British summer.

This is the largest conflict between the Iraqi state and the Kurds in the post-Saddam era. One can only wish, pray, lobby – do whatever is necessary – to make the advantages of diplomacy trump those of conflict.

With vast sources of funding and support, it is unlikely that the Iraqi government will adopt this stance. Abadi has frequently been criticized as being a weak leader in the face of adversities, and with elections upcoming in 2018 this could be his one chance to bolster his position in order to remain the head of government and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
10/16/2017 2:31:18 PM
<![CDATA[Malaysian Judiciary calls Qatar to pay its QAR 1.181 billion dues]]>
The Malaysian Judiciary is looking at some of the complaints that some Malaysian companies filed against Qatar for not paying their dues.

Sime Darby Company has accused Qatar Petroleum Company of delaying due payments, despite project delivery, according to the judiciary.

Sime Darby stated, “Qatar Petroleum Company refuses to pay its QAR 1 billion after the Malaysian company had implemented the contract between them.”

In addition, three Malaysian Real Estate Companies complained about Qatari companies after constructing QAR 181 million worth of projects in Doha; expressing their frustration regarding their experiences with Qatar.

The companies are forcing Qatar to pay their dues besides carrying all legal costs, fees and damages.

Tamim visited Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, late Sunday and was welcomed by Malaysia's king, cabinet ministers, and Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Qatar is Malaysia's 40th largest trading partner, with total trade amassing $566 million in 2016, according to New York Times.

This visit comes four months after a diplomatic crisis erupted between Qatar and the Arab countries. The crisis has led to an economic boycott, stopping Qatar Airways flights from using their airspace, closing off the small country's sole land border with Saudi Arabia and blocking its ships from using their ports.

The emir’s visit, which will come to an end on Monday, is his second trip abroad since the boycott. He travelled to Turkey, Germany, France, and the United States in September to garner some foreign support.

The visit to Malaysia will provide Tamim with an opportunity to discuss bilateral issues and exchange views on issues of common interest with the leaders.
10/16/2017 1:28:44 PM
<![CDATA[Catalonia seeks independence talks with Spain within two months]]>
Spain had set a Monday deadline for Carles Puigdemont to explicitly say whether or not he proclaimed that Catalonia was breaking away from Spain.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had demanded that Puigdemont answer the question, "Have you declared independence in Catalonia?" with a simple "Yes" or "No", and that any ambiguous response would be considered a confirmation that a declaration of independence had been made.

Puigdemont held a banned independence referendum on October 1 and then made an ambiguous declaration of independence last week. He then immediately suspended the declaration to allow more time for talks and mediation.

In Monday's letter, Puigdemont called for two more months of dialogue and requested that Spanish authorities halt "all repression" in Catalonia.

Puigdemont also called for a meeting with Rajoy "as soon as possible".

"Let's not let the situation deteriorate further. With good will, recognising the problem and facing it head on, I am sure we can find the path to a solution," he wrote in the letter to Rajoy.

Spanish news agency Efe cited Spain's Justice Minister Rafael Catala as saying that Puigdemont's response was "not valid".

10/16/2017 12:57:34 PM
<![CDATA[More ruling family members to join Qatar’s opposition suppression list]]>
Qatar’s suppression techniques against the opposition ranges between revoking citizenships or freezing bank accounts; believing that this approach will contain the opposition’s impact internally and prevent more from coming forth.

Tarek Fahmi, a political science professor, assumed that freezing the oppositions’ bank accounts came within the framework of Qatar’s sanctions against those who participated in the opposition conference held in London in September.

He further explained that Qatar is obviously preparing a list of activists’ and oppositions’ names, in order to burke their views of rejecting the ruling family policies. Despite the fact that Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani is a Qatari prince, sanctions were imposed on him nevertheless.

Fahmi referred that the Qatari crisis is not a priority on the U.S. agenda. Fahmi also indicated that the Qatari-Gulf crisis may possess some advantages for parties like France and Germany.

Parliamentarian Yiehya Kedwani highlighted splits that occurred in the Qatari ruling family; a matter that may emphasize that a major member of the family disagrees with Hamad’s policies.

An advisor at the Political and Strategic Studies Center in the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram, Hasan Abou-Taleb, suggested that the latest suppression approach adopted by Qatar against the opposition indicates that a new wave of rejections is about to take place in Qatar. He clarified that suppression is expected by Qatar, especially after oppositions caused international impacts.

On Saturday, Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani revealed that the Qatari regime froze all his accounts in Qatari banks.

“It is an honor that the Qatari regime froze my bank accounts in Qatar, and I would like thank them for this reward. I dedicate this to my country,” Al-Thani tweeted.

Amid unstable circumstances in Qatar following the recent Qatari crisis, there are anticipations on the possible candidates to rule Qatar after Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani.
Following the Arab boycott of Doha, a list of 13 demands was handed to Doha’s government by the boycotting quartet for reconciliation, which includes the closing of Al Jazeera broadcasting and the suspension of its relationship with the extremist government of Iran.

Since then, Qatar has resisted conciliation attempts and has not shown any efforts in disassociating itself from the terrorist groups that the Gulf and its allies accuse Doha of harboring and sponsoring.
10/16/2017 12:46:19 PM
<![CDATA[Maduro claims landslide win in disputed Venezuela elections]]>
Maduro's socialist party won governorships of 17 of the 23 states with the opposition Democratic Union Roundtable (MUD) coalition taking only five, with one state still undecided, according to the results announced by the National Elections Council.

"We do not recognize any of the results at this time. We are facing a very serious moment for the country," warned the MUD's campaign director Gerardo Blyde, who demanded a full audit of the vote.

Maduro said his government had scored an "emphatic victory" over its rivals by leaving the opposition with only five states, with his socialists still in line to take one further state where the results were still in dispute early Monday. Maduro and his allies held 20 outgoing governorships.

The results amounted to a crushing blow to the opposition which had characterized the elections as a referendum on Maduro, after months of deadly street protests earlier this year had failed to unseat him.

"We have serious suspicions, doubts, about the results that are going to be announced in a few minutes," Blyde told reporters at a hastily-arranged press conference even before the official results were announced.

International powers accuse Maduro of dismantling democracy by taking over state institutions in the wake of an economic collapse caused by a fall in the price of oil, its main source of revenue.

Last week, an International Monetary Fund report said there was no end in sight to the suffering of the Venezuelan people with food and medicine shortages intensifying a "humanitarian crisis."

An ebullient Maduro told supporters that "Chavismo" -- the brand of socialism he inherited from late president Hugo Chavez 2013 -- had won the popular vote across the country.

"We have 17 governorships, 54 percent of the votes, 61 percent participation, 75 percent of the governorates, and the country has strengthened," he said.

"I ask that we celebrate with joy, music, dance, but in peace, with respect to the adversary."

Public opinion surveys had predicted that the opposition would win between 11 and 18 state governorships despite alleged government dirty tricks, which included relocating hundreds of polling stations away from areas where it had high support.

"All the pre-trial opinion studies, all our counts, are very different from the results that are going to be announced. We have already alerted the international community and we are alerting the country," Blyde had warned earlier.

Sunday's polls were the first contested by the opposition since the legislative elections in 2015 that gave it a majority in the National Assembly.

Turnout was over 61 percent, with many polling stations remaining open past the official 6:00 pm (2200 GMT) closing time to cope with lines of voters after a day of peaceful voting.

The MUD have seen Maduro's tighten his grip on power after facing down four months of protests that killed 125 people between April and July, forming a Constituent Assembly packed with his own allies and wresting legislative power from the opposition-dominated National Assembly.

Maduro said he had sent a message to opposition leader Julio Borges: "For the love of God, abide by the transparent results."

Maduro said that it is up to the all-powerful Constituent Assembly to swear-in the incoming governors. The opposition has insisted that its governors will not be sworn in before the Constituent Assembly, which it considers illegitimate.

For Maduro, the polls were an opportunity to counter allegations of dictatorship leveled at him at home and abroad after forming the Constituent Assembly.

10/16/2017 12:32:57 PM
<![CDATA[U.S. Congress is responsible for aid cuts to Egypt: FM Shoukry]]>
He added in an interview with ONTV that Egypt is in constant contact with the U.S. administration regarding the aid program; stressing "It is not a grant or gift from the United States to Egypt," and that Washington understands the importance of supporting Egypt’s stability.

The U.S. announced a decision in August to deny $95.7 million in grants and aid to Egypt, and to delay the disbursement of $195 million in military aid because of alleged human rights violations.

The Washington Post published a report earlier this month claiming that Egypt secretly imported more than 24,000 North Korean rocket-propelled grenades in violation of UN Security Council sanctions. Shoukry denied that the shipment was destined for Egyptian military.

Shoukry stressed that Egypt is a non-permanent member of the Security Council, and is committed to the council's resolutions. He noted that the Security Council delegates and investigators had participated in all the measures taken against the North Korean shipment until the sanctions committee issued its report on the case, denying that the shipment was destined for Egypt.

Regarding Egypt's relations with Turkey, the minister said that the two countries have commercial relations together and they should continue as long as there is no harm to Egyptian national security. He added that President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi always insists that Egypt's foreign policies are based on mutual respect.
Speaking about Russian tourism, Shoukry pointed out that he is optimistic about the return of normal tourism rates thanks to the Egyptian people's sense of responsibility.

Finally, Shoukry revealed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ headquarters will be among the first government institutions transferred to the New Administrative Capital scheduled to be completed by 2019.
10/16/2017 9:40:16 AM
<![CDATA[U.S., South Korea conduct joint Navy drills to counter N.Korea threat]]>
About 40 Navy ships from both countries, including the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, are taking part in the exercises on the east and west coasts of the peninsula from Oct. 16 to Oct. 20, a spokesman for the South's defence ministry said on Monday.

North Korea has called joint military exercises by the United States and South Korea as a "rehearsal for war".

On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that President Donald Trump had instructed him to continue diplomatic efforts to calm rising tensions with North Korea, saying "those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops".

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have risen sharply in recent weeks following a series of weapons tests by Pyongyang, including its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3 and two missile launches over Japan, and a war of words between the United States and North Korea.

North Korea is preparing to test a long-range missile which it believes can reach the west coast of the United States, said a Russian lawmaker who returned from a visit to Pyongyang earlier this month.

South Korean intelligence officials and analysts have said that North Korea might time its next provocation to coincide with China's all-important Communist Party Congress which begins on Wednesday.

Speaking at a military conference in Seoul on Monday, General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Pacific Air Force, said North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile development programme was "truly a threat to us all" and the United States remains poised to defend allies.

"Although countries like North Korea threaten regional peace and security, our allied air power must be ready to respond with rapid, lethal and overwhelming force to respond to preserve our interests," O’Shaughnessy said.]]>
10/16/2017 8:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Cambodia's parliament votes for party law changes ]]>
Lawyers from the interior ministry filed a lawsuit on Oct. 6 to demand the dissolution of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), in a move that would help Prime Minister Hun Sen to extend his 32-year rule when the nation votes in an election next year.

The latest move comes amid growing concern from the United Nations and rights groups over what they say is Cambodia's deteriorating human rights and political situation ahead of the key election.

It follows an exodus by several opposition figures - nearly half of Cambodia's opposition parliamentarians fled abroad in September and early October - as Hun Sen moves to tighten his grip on power by silencing critics in the lead-up to the polls.

The attempt to disband the CNRP comes after its leader, Kem Sokha, was charged with treason following his arrest on Sept.3.

The government said the CNRP had conspired with foreign advisors to topple the government, citing a 2013 video clip that shows Kem Sokha talking about a plan to take power with the help of Americans.

Monday's parliamentary vote on the new amendments was supported by all 67 parliamentarians present from Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), while the CNRP boycotted the morning session.

Under the new laws, "if a political party abandons its seats, is delisted, is disbanded or dissolved, a list of candidates or members of parliament of that party are no longer valid and beneficial."

The laws require that National Election Committee re distribute seats to other parties participating in elections within seven days.

Cheam Yeap, a lawmaker from the ruling CPP party, said the amendments were aimed at "guaranteeing long lasting political stability" in Cambodia.

"Seeing the actions of betraying the nation and people by the CNRP leader Kem Sokha, with the obvious evidence, the signatory lawyers asked for the amendments on these four laws," Cheam Yeap told the parliament on Monday.

There was no debate on the amendments on Monday and the government has not provided new evidence against Kem Sokha, besides the 2013 video.

Mu Sochua, deputy president of the opposition CNRP, who fled Cambodia earlier this month in fear of arrest, said that parliament's move was unconstitutional.

"It's a total violation of the constitution and the will of the people. The highest national institution - the National Assembly will not be legitimate," Mu Sochua, who has called for targeted sanctions against Cambodia, told Reuters by e-mail.

"Authors and anyone adopting the proposed amendments will take part in putting an end to democracy in Cambodia."]]>
10/16/2017 7:10:04 AM
<![CDATA[Arabia, UAE condemn bombings in Mogadishu]]>
An official source at the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs offered the Kingdom's condolences to the families of the victims, the Somali government and people, wishing a speedy recovery to the wounded.

The source reaffirmed the Kingdom's solidarity with the Republic of Somalia against terrorism and extremism.

Meanwhile, the UAE condemned the terrorist attacks.

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the international community to confront this serious scourge that threatened the security and stability of the world, expressing deep condolences to the families of the victims, wishing a speedy recovery for the injured people.]]>
10/16/2017 6:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[May heads for Brussels after Brexit talks deadlock]]>
May's office said the meeting was long planned but gave no details. The dinner was not on Juncker's agenda published on Friday, however, and EU officials said it had also not been on the schedule for Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who will be at the dinner along with his British counterpart, David Davis.

After talks with Davis last week, Barnier said negotiations were deadlocked, notably over London's refusal to detail what it was offering to pay Brussels after May tried to revive the talks last month by promising Britain would honour its EU commitments.

As a result, Barnier told EU leaders not to launch the talks on a future relationship that May has demanded. As time ticks down to withdrawal in March 2019, concern is rising across Europe that the process may collapse.

In response to suggestions from Barnier, EU governments have agreed, however, that the summit on Thursday and Friday should give him a green light to explore a possible post-Brexit transition period - although only in internal discussions within the EU, not with the British negotiators themselves.

Even that has run into resistance, notably from heavyweights Germany and France. They insist further progress in the British divorce package is required for any such gesture to be made to May, who is struggling to unite her own government behind her plan to reach a deal on a two-year transition during which Britain could stay in the single market and customs union.


A statement by the 27 other EU states, planned for Friday when their leaders will meet after May has left, is being redrafted to harden the conditions under which Barnier will be allowed to explore the options for the transition.

Aside from the money, where Juncker has said Britain may owe something like 60 billion euros ($70 billion), the EU says there has not been "sufficient progress" on two other critical divorce issues - the rights of expatriate citizens and how to avoid a new EU-UK border disrupting a fragile peace in Northern Ireland.

Without meeting those three tests, the Union says there can be no opening of talks on what happens after March 29, 2019. The leaders have been expected to say they hope that they can launch that second phase of talks after their next summit in December.

With time running short, and hardline pro-Brexit ministers urging May to be prepared to walk out without reaching a deal to limit the legal uncertainties of withdrawal, continental governments have stepped up planning for a collapse in talks.

Business leaders on both sides of the English Channel have said that without clarity by the new year, they will increasingly have to take investment decisions to reflect uncertainty over British access to EU markets.

On Friday, May's spokeswoman said there would be "more to say" on Britain's financial offer at the summit on Thursday.

The dinner will involve only May, Juncker, Davis, Barnier and one other official from either side. After a similar meeting at 10 Downing Street in late April, leaked accounts of Juncker's "shock" at unrealistic British expectations irritated May.

Her office also said she spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday and the two agreed the need for continued constructive progress in the exit talks.]]>
10/16/2017 5:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[US exit from UNESCO took Israel by surprise, was uncoordinated]]>
Four senior Israeli and American officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was no coordination with Israel in the days before the decision was announced and that the Trump administration did not tell Israel beforehand.

The senior Israeli officials said that in recent months the possibility of the United States leaving the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization had come up in talks between Israeli and US diplomats in New York and Paris.

They said the issue was also brought up during the June visit to Israel of US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. But the Israeli sources said that at no point did the Americans tell Israel a decision had been made to withdraw.

Despite the generally close relations between Israel and the administration of President Donald Trump, the affair exposed a grave lack of coordination between the two countries.]]>
10/16/2017 2:35:04 AM
<![CDATA[Qatar's UNESCO candidate was not representing Arabs -- FM]]>
In a televised interview with ON satellite channel, the minister added that Qatar contributes to fueling conflicts in the Arab world, supports terrorist groups in the Arab world, and plays a role in the killing of innocents in Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Libya.

Qatar was seeking self-assertion and not to serve the Arab countries, Shoukry said.

Egypt is capable of being a sponsor of the common Arab interests, which made it compete on the post, he added.

The minister said that Egypt was supported by the Arab countries in UNESCO election.

He added that the country chose Moushira Khattab as she met all standards set by a committee formed to choose the Egyptian candidate.]]>
10/16/2017 1:10:10 AM
<![CDATA[Wary of hackers, states move to upgrade voting systems - report]]>
Reacting in large part to Russian efforts to hack the presidential election last year, a growing number of states are upgrading electoral databases and voting machines, and even adding cybersecurity experts to their election teams.

The efforts — from both Democrats and Republicans — amount to the largest overhaul of the nation’s voting infrastructure since the contested presidential election in 2000 spelled an end to punch-card ballots and voting machines with mechanical levers.

One aim is to prepare for the 2018 and 2020 elections by upgrading and securing electoral databases and voting machines that were cutting-edge before Facebook and Twitter even existed. Another is to spot and defuse attempts to depress turnout and sway election results by targeting voters with false news reports and social media posts.]]>
10/15/2017 10:49:01 PM
<![CDATA[Abdel Aal attended 137th meetings of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Russia]]>
In a press release, the parliament said Abdel Aal met with the Mexican delegation, led by Gabriela Cuevas, who is nominated to head the IPU.

During the meeting, they discussed means of boosting bilateral relations in all fields. Cuevas also urged Abdel Aal to support her in running for the post.

Meanwhile, Abdel Aal met with Burundi parliament speaker Pascal Nyabenda in which they discussed ways of fostering mutual ties.

Also, Abdel Aal met with Saudi Shura Council speaker Abdullah ibn Muhammad Al ash-Sheikh to tackle boosting parliamentary ties.]]>
10/15/2017 6:06:56 PM
<![CDATA[World Youth Forum: what you need to know]]>
The forum will bring together 3,000 youths represented by 60 delegations from across the world to explore key issues facing their generation, and determine their role in implementing the global development goals and in facing terrorism.

In July, the president announced organizing the WYF in Sharm el-Sheikh during the fourth National Youth Conference in Alexandria.

The seven-day gathering will witness the participation of official youth representatives over 18 years of age, leaders of various youth networks, head of states, media figures and around 250 young Egyptian expats. It will be held under the theme "We Need to Talk."

The WYF agenda
The full agenda for the World Youth Forum has been published on its official website.

The first two days of the forum will witness the arrival of the participants from all over the world and the opening session.

The actual discussion sessions are planned to start on November 6, where participants will discuss a number of issues, including differences among cultures and civilizations, discussion of the “AU Theme of the Year: Harnessing the Demographic Dividend Through Investments in Youth” as well as the youth vision to achieving sustainable development at a global level.

World Youth Forum Agenda- Photo credit WYF official website.
The sessions will also involve international experiences in implementing strategies of sustainable development, a panel discussion on the adverse impacts of irregular migration on youth around the world, reviewing means of cooperation in the field of irregular migration in the Mediterranean region.

The sessions will also answer questions on how literature and arts can mend what conflicts and wars destroy as well as on how the world creates its leaders.

On November 7, the sessions will tackle challenges and issues facing world youth, entrepreneurship and innovation, the Egyptian experience in hosting refugees as well as innovative youth experiences in entrepreneurship.

The sessions are also set to cover capitalizing on the potentials of young people to achieve development, dialogue among generations, the cultural dimension of globalization and its impact on youth’s cultural identity in addition to humanitarian issues and world peace.

Sessions on the second day will also tackle promoting youth participation in decision-making and inspiring experiences from young people around the world.

On November 8, the sessions will highlight the role of civil society organizations in achieving sustainable development goals, the future of global climate change, the impact of technology on education in addition to women’s role in decision-making circles.

The sessions will also tackle means to enhance women’s political, social and economic participation, youth and the age of technology, rebuilding state institutions in conflict zones, youth contribution to building and keeping peace in conflict and post-conflict zones as well as youth social responsibility and volunteering.

Sessions on the third day will also address the role of cinema in combating extremism, the cultural identity as a tool to combat violence and religious extremism, the impact of war and conflict in eroding the identity of young people as well as leadership in the age of technology.

The fourth and last day, November 9, will have the forum's closing session and voting on a draft resolution.

The idea of holding an international youth conference in Egypt came during the third National Conference of Youth (NYC) in Ismailya, and was approved by the president.

The WYF message

The WYF sends to the world messages of peace, creativity and development.

All for Peace message - Photo credit WYF Facebook page
The WYF also seeks to provide recent information about vital global issues of concern for further discussion by participants in the forum.

The WYF preparations

Believing that young people are not only future leaders but also present leaders, the forum will be fully organized by young people.

It will be sponsored by national businesses including banks, as part of their social responsibility. Furthermore, the office of the president will follow closely the details pertaining to forum preparations.

A dedicated team was formed to prepare for the forum. In addition, several committees were established to follow up on certain issues like logistics, content, public relations, media, budget and coordination.

The committees are formed of representatives of all ministries and governmental organizations in addition to the youth team.

The registration process for the forum was launched in August; applicants were requested to propose ideas to be discussed during the forum.

Egypt has organized four national youth conferences under the auspices and participation of Sisi and other high-level officials.

The conferences discussed issues of concern and priority for Egyptian youth. The conferences were organized in Sharm el-Sheikh, Aswan, Ismailia and Alexandria respectively. ]]>
10/15/2017 6:05:05 PM
<![CDATA[Ex-PM Jeenbekov leads Kyrgyz presidential election]]>
According to data published by the central election commission, Jeenbekov secured about 868,000 votes, or more than 50 percent of the total, with voter turnout reported at about 1.557 million.

10/15/2017 5:10:22 PM
<![CDATA[The Islamic State withdraws from Raqqa after 3 years]]>
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, continued to battle Islamic State jihadists who remain in the city, SDF spokesman Mostafa Bali said. Foreign fighters did not leave under the withdrawal deal, he added.

"The operation has finished and the battle continues," Bali said. "Last night, the final batch of fighters [who agreed to leave] left the city."

Earlier, the U.S.-led coalition backing the assault on the city said a convoy would leave Raqqa but specifically ruled out the exit of foreign IS fighters.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, has been battling since June to capture Raqqa.

They hold around 90 percent of the city, but have struggled to take the remaining IS- held areas over fears of large numbers of civilians being held as human shields.

Its loss would be the latest in a string of blows to the group, which has ceded large swathes of territory including Iraq's second city Mosul.

Raqqa was the first major Syrian city to fall to the Islamic State, as it declared a "caliphate" and rampaged through Syria and Iraq in 2014. Raqqa became an operations centre for attacks abroad and the stage for some of IS’s darkest atrocities.

Civilians and Civil Defence members work at a site hit by what activists said were airstrikes – Reuters
The United Nations estimates that 8,000 people are trapped in Raqqa and called on all parties of the conflict to take all measures needed to protect civilians.

A senior United Nations aid official urged the international committee to do whatever is needed to allow Syrian citizens to escape from Raqqa; adding that there is no worse place on earth than Raqqa, according to UN report.

The International Syria Support Group (ISSG) established the respective taskforces on humanitarian aid delivery and a wider ceasefire. They have been meeting separately since early 2016 on a way forward in the crisis.

Activists say more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in Raqqa since the battle to retake the city began in June. Nearly 270,000 people have fled Raqqa since April.]]>
10/15/2017 4:27:46 PM
<![CDATA[U.S. policy towards Iraqi Kurds: The time is nigh]]>
In the face of extensive international pressure, Iraq’s Kurds opted to stand tall in a move which embodied the nationalistic pride of the Kurds across Iraq, as well as Iran, Turkey and Syria.

Unsurprisingly, Iraq’s Kurds voted in favor of independence with a convincing 93 percent ‘yes’ vote. Unsurprisingly again, the two-week period following the vote saw a threatening back and forth discourse as Baghdad, Iran and Turkey attempted to force the Kurds to revoke the referendum result.

The previous days have seen these tensions reach a boiling point. As Kurdish pride and determination grow ever more resilient, Turkish and Iranian pressure has forced Baghdad’s hand. Reports from inside Iraq from Thursday night identified a massive culmination of Iraqi and Iraqi-allied troops on the edge of Kirkuk, the valuable oil-rich region which is heavily disputed by both Erbil and Baghdad.

I say “Iraqi and Iraqi-allied” forces, but reports have shown the extensive presence of Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said he was "not going ... to make war on our Kurdish citizens," yet once again Iranian pressure presided in Iraq and thousands of heavily armed Khamenei-allied Shi’ite militias have massed around Kirkuk.

For argument’s sake I will call them the “Iranian-backed” movements in Kirkuk, as in reality Iran is the foremost agent behind the mobilization of troops in Iraq.

The U.S. government has strongly opposed the Kurdish referendum during the buildup to the vote, hailing the unity of Iraq as a greater source of peace and stability than the creation of an independent Kurdish state in the north.

Kurdish peshmerga fighters hold a position on a river bank across from Iraqi forces on the southern outskirts of Kirkuk city on October 14. AFP

The mobilization of Iranian-backed militias in Kirkuk put the U.S. in a very difficult position. While the U.S. has continually opposed Kurdish calls for independence, the involvement of Iranian-backed militias complicate the longevity of this policy for three fundamental reasons:

1. The Kurds in Iraq and Syria are significant allies of the United States. The Peshmerga in 2003 were fundamental in ousting Saddam Hussein from Iraq and helping maintain control in the country. The Peshmerga have also been crucial in the battle against the Islamic State, helping to rescue thousands of Yazidi’s as well as helping maintain state-security in the face of the total collapse of the Islamic State (IS). In Syria, the Kurdish YPG has aced as the foremost ally of the U.S., and has helped recapture significant territory from IS. Consequently, the reputation of the U.S. in supporting its allies is now at stake.

2. Donald Trump proclaimed on Saturday that the U.S. would withdraw from the groundbreaking 2015 Iran nuclear deal, as well as formally adding Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to the U.S. antiterrorism sanctions list. Trump’s motives are clear; he wants to implement any strategy possible, regardless of the global shockwaves it might produce, in order to combat Iranian influence.

3. The Iraqi army is a major recipient of U.S. military aid and funding. Billions of dollars worth of weaponry have flowed into the country in previous years in order to bolster the military forces. Furthermore, the previous days have shown Iran-allied militia flags flying over U.S provided humvees.

Where does the U.S. turn now? Trump is adamantly against Iranian aspirations for regional power; however they are indirectly providing military hardware in an anticipated battle against the U.S’s biggest ally in Syria and Iraq.

Has Washington’s firm stance against Kurdish independence emboldened Iraq? I would say yes. The mobilization of a U.S.-funded Iraqi army and their allied PMF has put the U.S. in a difficult position where they are forced to decide whether to designate the PMF as a threat or not; at a time of a stark shift in U.S. policy towards rolling back the influence of Iran. In addition, the U.S. may have to re-think its policy towards the Iraqi Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief, Abadi.

Now is the time Trump needs to stand strong and support the Kurds who have been shining a light in the darkness of Iraq and Syria for the previous few years, and who have also been a reliable ally to the West. This is not to say military intervention is needed; far from it. Diplomacy can swing Iraq’s hand, and an immediate plan to negotiate the future of Iraqi Kurdistan, and more immediately the future of Kirkuk and its resources, is essential to avoid conflict.


Joseph Colonna

10/15/2017 3:46:52 PM
<![CDATA[$5 million spent by Qatar on ads to lift boycott]]>
Since the boycott in June, Qatar tried to gather foreign support from Trump's administration to end the isolation imposed on it for funding terrorism.

The Qatari regime contracted the lobbying firm BlueFront Strategies to prepare a media campaign denouncing the Arab boycott, and to target the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly held in September. The firm’s compensation for the campaign amounted to $100,000 from September 12 to October 1.

Qatar's campaign aimed to inform the UN General Assembly about the need to lift the boycott imposed on it; targeting powerful decision-makers attending the General Assembly including Trump, according to the contract with BlueFront.

The meeting held between U.S. President Trump and Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani coincided with the campaign.

After the campaign, the U.S. military halted some exercises in several Gulf countries, according to CBS News.

In addition, BlueFront planned the release of ads across multiple social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat, with the username @LiftTheBlockade. These ads are targeting the United Nations Headquarters, the Intercontinental Barclay and St. Regis hotels, the Financial District and the Times Square/Midtown areas, and John F. Kennedy Airport, referred the report.

The ads are also produced for print and online display in The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Post, and Politico.

Qatar turned to advertising firms in Washington D.C. such as Ashcroft Law Firm, McDermott, Will and Emor, Stonington Strategies, and Nelson Mullins.

The tiny Gulf emirate of Qatar, and its officials still call the Arab boycott over its support to terrorism a blockade, but it contradicts the status quo.

The difference between the blockade and the boycott is huge. Boycott means a withdrawal of diplomatic and economic relations by a state or a group of states with another state, but blockade is completely besieged by sea, air and land and the prevention of any commercial or external contact with them.

Since June, Qatar spent around $4.7 million on new contracts for campaigns to
influence U.S. politicians. Between 2012 and June 2017, the country spent around $6.5 million on new contracts, as stated in the report.

“The above information comes from the Center for Responsive Politics’ Foreign Lobby Watch database, which curates the public forms companies representing foreign powers [as they] must file with the Department of Justice under the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).”

Qatar suffers an economic crisis, as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain closed the only land route into Qatar and refused to allow the use of their sea ports or airspace, affecting Qatar's exports and imports.

In this regard, the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a document revealing that Qatar has called on it to form a dispute panel to push back against its neighbors, as mentioned in Stratford Center for Research.
10/15/2017 1:35:12 PM
<![CDATA[N.Korea not ready to hold talks with S.Korea in Russia]]>
Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of the Senate upper house of parliament, is due to discuss the issue in separate talks with a deputy head of North Korea's legislature and the head of South Korea's parliament on the sidelines of a congress of parliamentarians in St Petersburg on Monday, TASS quoted a senior Russian lawmaker as saying on Saturday.

TASS cited a Russian parliamentarian at the time as saying Moscow would call on the two countries to use the opportunity to have direct talks to try to narrow their differences.

But the RIA news agency on Sunday cited Piotr Tolstoi, the deputy speaker of the Russian lower house of parliament, and an unnamed member of North Korea's delegation as saying there would not be any direct talks.

The unnamed North Korean delegate was quoted as saying that U.S. pressure on Pyongyang and U.S. and South Korean military exercises meant preconditions for such talks had not been met.

North Korea's nuclear tests and missile launches have stirred global tensions and prompted several rounds of international sanctions at the U.N. Security Council.

A de-escalation plan, backed by Russia and China, would see North Korea suspend its ballistic missile programme and the United States and South Korea simultaneously call a moratorium on large-scale missile exercises, both moves aimed at paving the way for multilateral talks.]]>
10/15/2017 12:39:49 PM
<![CDATA[Kyrgyzstan votes in unpredictable presidential poll]]>
Voting in the toughly fought election began at 0200 GMT and will conclude at 1400 GMT with a split electorate making a second round of voting a strong possibility, according to analysts.

As pressure grows on the leading opposition candidate in the race, security services said Sunday said they had arrested a former MP accused of plotting unrest after results are announced, but offered few details.

Many voters were unsure how to respond to the news in a country accustomed to political tumult and intrigue.

"I won't vote today," Valeri Kirlilenko, a taxi driver in Bishkek, told AFP on Sunday. "I have heard there will be unrest if one or other candidates lose."

The journey from uprisings in 2005 and 2010 to a vote that could secure an unprecedented peaceful transfer of power between two elected presidents has not been easy for the landlocked nation of six million.

President Almazbek Atambayev's six years at the helm of the country, which is dependent on Russia for political support and looks to next-door China for loans and much-needed investment, have been dogged by upheavals and crackdowns.

His own election in 2011 came on the back of political and ethnic violence the year before that left hundreds dead.

Now Atambayev, 61, is stepping down with two main candidates vying to succeed him for a single-term constitutional limit that contrasts sharply with the rule-for-life political culture that exists in neighbouring Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.

But he has made it very clear which of the names on the ballot he would like to replace him.

Sooronbai Jeenbekov, 58, a member of the Social Democratic Party Atambayev is most closely associated with, has benefited from favourable coverage in the pro-government media according to monitors.

Atambayev has described him as a friend, while regularly criticising Jeenbekov's chief rival, oligarch Omurbek Babanov, 47, who authorities say may have incited ethnic hatred with comments made during a speech on the campaign trail.

The country's state prosecutor said on Friday it was reviewing comments made by Babanov at a rally in an Uzbek-inhabited region for evidence of inciting racial hatred, accusations his campaign has strongly denied.

The accusations came soon after a political ally of Babanov was arrested on coup-plotting charges and amid a media smear campaign depicting the wealthy candidate as corrupt and beholden to businessmen in neighbouring Kazakhstan.

But Babanov said he had "a beautiful mood" after his vote on Sunday and said he was "absolutely confident" he would become the country's next president.

"I live in a country where every citizen genuinely has the right to choose," he told journalists.

Regional divisions, enhanced by the country's mountainous geography, are also destined to play a role in the election with Babanov hailing from the north and Jeenbekov from the south.

"If mishandled, this election could shatter Kyrgyzstan's facade of democracy. A fragile stability is at stake," said Deirdre Tynan, Central Asia project director for the International Crisis Group.

"Despite technical progress in how votes are cast on the day, the system remains based on smear campaigns, vote buying, coercion and the use of administrative resources," Tynan told AFP.

Several voters leaving the busy Bishkek polling station where Babanov cast his vote said they had voted for the oligarch.

"Yes, I cast my vote for him," said Zamira Mameeva, a 57-year-old woman. "He can create jobs. We need jobs and we need stability," she told AFP.]]>
10/15/2017 12:24:37 PM
<![CDATA[Once promised paradise, IS fighters end up in mass graves]]>
Flies buzz around human remains poking through the dusty earth in the Iraqi town of Dhuluiyah, 90 kilometres (55 miles) north of Baghdad, at a hastily dug pit containing the bodies of dozens of IS fighters killed in 2015.

"They should have ended up in the stomachs of stray dogs," local police officer Mohammed al-Juburi told AFP.

"We buried them here not out of love but because we wanted to avoid diseases."

At one stage, IS ruthlessly wielded power over a vast swathe of territory straddling Iraq and Syria, but a military onslaught on multiple fronts has seen its fiefdom shrink to a last few pockets.

Since the launch in 2014 of air strikes in Iraq and Syria against the group, a US-led coalition says around 80,000 jihadists have been killed.

The overall number of dead is higher if you include those targeted by Russian and Syrian strikes.

Buried with bulldozers -
In agricultural Dhuluiyah on the banks of the Tigris river, residents faced a common dilemma over what to do with the corpses of IS fighters after local Sunni militiamen beat back the jihadists in fierce clashes.

"We could have thrown them into the water, but we love the river too much to pollute it," said the local policeman, who lost his own brother in the violence.

"The people here as well as their animals drink from the Tigris."

Local finally decided to dig a mass grave for the fighters -- but they said they refused to honour them with Islamic rites.

"We buried them with bulldozers. Even in the ground they are still mired in their own filth," said farmer Shalan al-Juburi.

"They said that they would go to paradise to enjoy the gardens of delights, but this is how they ended up."

The desolate site is in stark contrast to a nearby graveyard surrounded by a red-brick wall a few hundred metres (yards) away.

There the "martyrs" who died helping to stop the jihadist advance lie in well-tended tombs adorned with their portraits and shaded by trees.

Elsewhere, in western Iraq's Anbar province, the luckiest among the IS dead appear to be those killed during its offensives against the army in 2015.

In the centre of Fallujah, the first major city captured by the group in 2014, hundreds of memorials in a makeshift cemetery bear the noms de guerre of foreign fighters buried by their comrades.

But as Iraqi forces in Anbar now look to oust the jihadists from their final footholds, operation commander Mahmoud al-Fellahi insisted any jihadists killed will end up in mass graves.

A similar fate befell IS members in the city of Mosul, the group's largest urban stronghold in Iraq that it lost in July.

There, a senior Iraqi commander told AFP, authorities used earthmoving equipment "to bury the jihadists after we collected information on their identities and nationalities".

'Desert dogs are waiting' -
Across the border in Syria -- where competing Russian and US-backed offensives are squeezing IS -- the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates some 50,000 IS members have been killed.

As clashes rage with the jihadists, one Syrian commander said that what happens to dead fighters is not a priority.

"At the moment, we are more interested in what happens above the ground than under it," he told AFP.

Another military source said the identities of the fighters can provide useful intelligence.

"The terrorists try to collect their dead. If we find them, we try to identify the foreigners for a possible information swap with their home countries," the source said.

In the desert plains that the jihadists once dominated, the bodies of dead fighters are left abandoned, a pro-regime militia head told AFP.

"The desert dogs are waiting for them," he said. "When the fighting ends, the dogs come out from hiding to look for bodies."

A spokesman for the US-backed force close to ousting IS from the city of Raqa said the bodies of the group's members were "generally buried" whenever possible.

"But sometimes due to snipers or because they are under rubble, some of the bodies end up rotting," said Syrian Defence Forces representative Mustefa Bali.

While the rank-and-file are often left forgotten, IS appears to have taken care to hide the final resting places of prominent Western jihadists.

"Figures who were well-known and wanted by the international community are buried at secret locations," said Syrian Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Those include notorious British executioner Mohamed Emwazi, known as "Jihadi John", propaganda chief Abu Muhammad al-Adnani and military leader Omar al-Shishani.

There has been no record of bodies of foreign jihadists being repatriated, said Abdel Rahman.]]>
10/15/2017 11:45:29 AM
<![CDATA[State vote unlikely to give Merkel boost in German coalition talks]]>
Voters disgruntled with Merkel's liberal migrant policy abandoned her party in droves in September's national election; having recorded the worst conservative result since 1949, she must now try to piece together an awkward alliance with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and environmentalist Greens.

Those parties will this week begin discussions that could drag into 2018 about entering a marriage of convenience untested at the federal level.

The latest opinion poll put the SPD on 34.5 percent in Lower Saxony, giving it a 1.5 point lead over Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) - who had been 12 points ahead at the start of the campaign in August.

Simon Fink, political scientist at the University of Goettingen, said no one had dared to start coalition negotiations in Berlin ahead of the election in Lower Saxony, which is slightly bigger than the Netherlands and hosts major companies such as carmaker Volkswagen.

"Everyone was scared that if they did something at the national level or committed themselves to something, then their colleagues in Lower Saxony could end up suffering - so they've been waiting to see what happens here before things can proceed."


Merkel's reverse in September left her with no viable option other than a "Jamaica" coalition, so named because the three parties' colours correspond with the black, yellow and green of Jamaica's flag.

It means the prospective partners will need to overcome yawning differences on issues ranging from immigration to European Union reform, tax and environmental protection.

A deal brokered last weekend between Merkel's CDU and its conservative Bavarian sister party, the CSU, to cap the number of immigrants is likely to be hard for the Greens to swallow.

Merkel has acknowledged the difficulties ahead but added that "unusual combinations can of course bring the opportunity to find some solutions to things that had seemed unsolvable until now".

"So now we need to put our noses to the grindstone," she said on the campaign trail in Lower Saxony on Thursday.

An SPD-Green coalition has ruled the state for almost four years, but lost its majority when a Greens lawmaker defected to the CDU, triggering a snap election.

The SPD's incumbent state premier, Stephan Weil, a 58-year-old former judge, fares better in the personal popularity stakes than his CDU rival Bernd Althusmann, a 50-year-old former army officer.

Althusmann had not given up hope on Saturday though, saying voters were making their decisions later and later. "It's a question of mobilising voters," he said.]]>
10/15/2017 3:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Sisi, Saudi CP discuss fostering mutual ties over phone]]>
In statements, presidential spokesman Alaa Yousef said they asserted their keenness on enhancing relations between the two countries and peoples.

They also took up coordinating efforts and boosting the joint Arab action.

Meanwhile, the president thanked and appreciated Saudi Arabia for its support for Egypt’s candidate Moushira Khattab in the UNESCO election to select a director general of the Paris-based organization. ]]>
10/15/2017 12:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[GCC summit could be postponed due to Qatari crisis]]>Elaph newspaper quoted sources as saying.

“There will be no summit in December as the mediation efforts to settle the crisis have not made a breakthrough or thinned the tension yet,” the sources added.

“Even if it is held, it will be in Riyadh and no invitation will be sent to Qatar to participate despite the pressure being built up by Doha that no GCC summit could be held without its attendance.”

Moreover, the sources, based in Washington, claimed a new GCC would be formed of only three countries, which will unify their policies to work together for the benefit and interests of the region.”

Reports also claimed that the next GCC summits could be held in Riyadh and not in Kuwait.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on June 5 severed their diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting extremism, funding terrorism and having close ties with the regional foe Iran.

GCC member Kuwait has launched mediation efforts to find a common ground to end the crisis, however, Doha rejected the 13 demands made by the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ), foiling the mediation attempt.

Last week, Kuwait announced its readiness to host the summit in December, amid hopes that the dispute would be over to a minimum by then.]]>
10/14/2017 11:57:00 PM
<![CDATA[World should ponder over Syria’s post-war reconstruction]]>
"I suppose that the global community should begin mulling over the state's post-war reconstruction, over how, what sort of aid and how much of aid should be provided for to that and other regional countries, how to assist more effectively in their social and economic growth and the strengthening of government institutions, including the legislative branch," Putin added in a speech to the opening session of the the Assembly of Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) meetings in St. Petersburg.

Russia does its utmost to stabilize the military and political situation in Syria, Putin said.

"Over the past two years, the area controlled by terrorists have shrunk, lots of large populated localities have been liberated and the terrorists' infrastructure have been considerable damaged," he added. "I would underline that in Syria we operate at request of the country’s government and strictly in compliance with international law."]]>
10/14/2017 11:40:29 PM
<![CDATA[World Youth Forum, a message of love from Egypt to the world]]>
The forum will bring together 3,000 youth represented by 60 delegations from across the world to explore key issues facing their generation, and determine their role in implementing the global development goals and in facing terrorism.

The idea of holding an international youth conference in Egypt came during the third National Conference of Youth (NYC) in Ismailya, and sisi approved it.

In July, the president announced organizing the WYF in Sharm el-Sheikh during the fourth National Youth Conference in Alexandria.

The seven-day gathering will witness the participation of official youth representatives over 18 years old, leaders of various youth networks, head of states, media figures and around 250 young Egyptian expats. It will be held under the theme "We Need to Talk."
The WYF sends a message of peace, prosperity, harmony and love to the entire world.

The official hashtag of the World Youth Forum - Photo credit WYF official Facebook page
Once again Egypt translates its commitment, as a champion for young people, to youth empowerment by providing a platform for young people to genuinely voice their needs and aspirations and to participate in the decision-making processes.

Young people are the ones who will be living with the decisions made today, and they should be contributors to shaping them.

Furthermore, the WYF would serve as a stage for youth to share their diverse experiences leading to changing the mainstreamed stereotypes of certain regions, races, and religions.

The deliberations and discussions among peers of different cultures will raise the youth’s sense of responsibility and may lead to a more peaceful and prosperous world.

On the economic and political levels, the WYF creates a great opportunity for youth to promote the role of entrepreneurship in enhancing economic growth and to discuss challenges that hinder the development of youth entrepreneurship.

During the WYF, young people from around the world will have the chance to engage with top policy makers to demonstrate their strong leadership and dedication to drive positive change within their communities.

It therefore reaffirms that they have the skills and abilities to be equal partners in making decisions about their future.

This gathering matters as it involves and recognizes the capabilities of youth to address issues of international concern like terrorism and climate change with concrete action.

Egypt will also benefit from this international gathering, as it provides an opportunity to present the Egyptian rich culture, heritage and history.

It will also promote tourism in Egypt, and illustrate the fact that Egypt is safe and secure.

World Youth Forum promotional material - Photo credit WYF official Facebook page
This is not the first initiative by Egypt that has young people in its heart, previously sisi announced the year 2016 as the youth year.

Later in September, during the United Nations General Assembly's (UNGA) 72nd session, the president announced the “Hope and Work” initiative in collaboration with the UN to counter tourism with efforts lead by the Egyptian youth.

The WYF messages:
The WYF sends to the world from Egypt messages of peace, creativity and development.

All for Peace message - Photo credit WYF Facebook page

The WYF also seeks to provide recent information about vital global issues of concern for further discussion by participants in the forum.

The WYF program:
The actual discussion sessions are planned to start on November 6 where participants will discuss substantive issues of terrorism, climate change, irregular migration, refugees, sustainable development, technology and entrepreneurship.

Participants will also discuss challenges facing youth and women in decision-making and means to increase the political, social and economic participation of youth and women.

Furthermore, the gathering will tackle the role of cinema in facing terrorism and extremism.

The agenda of the WYF will feature various pillars addressing various themes and issues related to youth including:
Global Youth Issues: participants will discuss issues of terrorism, climate change, illegal migration and issues related to refugees, the impact of conflicts on youth and their role in building sustainable peace and the issue of sustainable development.

Sustainable development, technology and entrepreneurship: participants will discuss international experiences in achieving sustainable development goals.

Youth will also present their innovative experiences in entrepreneurship and discuss the impact of technology on their lives.

Civilizations and Culture: includes subjects related to arts and literature, cultural identity, how to integrate civilizations and cultures, and to benefit from their diversity and the role of literature and arts in fixing the damages of conflicts and wars.

Creating Future Leaders: the session reviews major international experiences related to the rehabilitation and training of young people and the role of countries and societies in preparing future leaders.

Model United Nations (MUN): a three-day simulation of the UN Security Council (UN-SC), where more than 60 young people from around the world will participate.

Through this experience these young people will be able to live the experience of being representatives of the UN Security Council, helping them identify and work on various points of view and solutions during the discussion of different topics that include; the threats to global peace and security, and the challenges facing countries as a result of waves of irregular migration, and cyber wars and its threat to state security.

Modul United Nations (MUN) - Photo credit WYF official facebook page

The closing session of the WYF will witness voting on relevant recommendations resulting from the discussions.

The WYF preparations: Believing that young people are not only future leaders but also present leaders, the forum will be fully organized by youth.

It will be sponsored by national businesses including banks, as part of their social responsibility. Furthermore, the office of the president will follow closely the details pertaining to the forum preparations.

A dedicated team was formed to prepare for the forum. In addition, several committees were established to follow up on certain issues like logistics, content, public relations, media, budget and coordination.

The committees are formed of representatives of all ministries and governmental organizations in addition to the youth team.

The registration process for the forum was launched in August; applicants were requested to propose ideas to be discussed during the forum.

Reactions to the WYF: Egyptian youth utilized this opportunity to welcome youth from across the world to Egypt. They utilized social media platforms to invite youth to come to the WYF and to visit Egypt.

More than 1,000 young females and males from all the governorates volunteered to assist in the preparation process of the forum.

Until this moment, Egypt organized four National Youth Conferences under the auspices and participation of sisi and high level officials.

The conferences discussed issues of concern and priority for Egyptian youth. The conferences were organized in Sharm el-Sheikh, Aswan, Ismailia and Alexandria respectively.

10/14/2017 11:04:02 PM
<![CDATA[Qatari regime freezes bank accounts of Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani]]>
“It is an honor the the Qatari regime froze my bank accounts in Qatar, and I would like thank them for this rewar. I dedicate this to my country,” Al Thani tweetted.

He added in another post “I hope that Qatar can expell those exploiting the country for money and other benefits, and to return to the embrace of our sister countries that we cherish, because only they can help us. May God save Qatar and its people.”

This came after the threatening statements by Mohammed Al-Mosfer, a professor at Qatar University, during an interview with the official Qatari Television on Monday.

Earlier, there was an escalation from the Qatari ruling family against Tamim. A prominent member of Qatar’s ruling family and the former Qatari foreign minister, Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim, repeated calls for a national meeting of the ruling family’s elders to put an end to the current rift. He stated that “[we] can no longer remain quiescent towards it.”

Amid unstable circumstances in Qatar following the recent Qatari crisis, there are anticipations on the possible candidates to rule Qatar after Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani.

Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani, son of the late Emir of Qatar, Ali bin Abdullah Al-Thani, is the forerunner candidate to succeed Tamim, according to Egypt Today’s previous interviews of political professors.

Since June 5, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have cut their relation with Qatar and announced a complete boycott of the emirate for its support and sponsorship of terrorism.

Following the Arab boycott of Doha, a list of 13 demands was handed to Doha’s government by the boycotting quartet for reconciliation, which includes the closing of Al Jazeera broadcasting and the suspension of its relationship with the extremist government of Iran.

Since then, Qatar has resisted conciliation attempts and has not shown any efforts in disassociating itself from the terrorist groups that the Gulf and its allies accuse Doha of harboring and sponsoring. ]]>
10/14/2017 10:22:05 PM
<![CDATA[(LCDC), Need for amendment of Skhirat agreement this week]]>
These statements were made on the sidelines of new round of negotiations between the Libyan Dialogue Committee of the Libyan House of Representatives and the High Council of State under the UN supervision, which will be held in Tunisia.

Chairman of the Joint Dialogue Committee for the Supreme Council of State, Musa Faraj said that the negotiators will hold a joint meeting, in the presence of UN mission in Libya, presided by the UN's envoy for Libya Ghassan Salame.

The UN's envoy for Libya wished that the new round of negotiations is the last one, to implement the UN time plan, which will last for a year to achieve stability in Libya.]]>
10/14/2017 8:20:02 PM
<![CDATA[FA committee to honor Khattab in the Parliament]]>
The committee mentioned that Khattab was the best representative for Egypt in UNESCO; she was very professional and experienced during the four election rounds, acting with confidence in the face of all challenges of the battle, Ahram added.

According to the statement, FA committee will send a formal invitation to khattab when she returns from Paris, and to the members of her election campaign, to honor her great efforts during the UNESCO elections.

Khattab, who served as a top aide to former Egyptian First Lady Suzan Mubarak, participated in the electoral process of the UNESCO's Director-General post 2017.

Khattab came second in the race with 18 votes on Thursday, to be equaled with France’s candidate, Audrey Azoulay, while Qatar’s Hamad Abdul Aziz al-Kawari collected 22 votes and promoted for the fifth round which took place on Friday at 6p.m.

The UNESCO’s Executive Board casted a voting between the Egyptian and French candidates on Friday at 2 p.m. to determine who will run for the fifth round of elections with Kawari.

Khattab won only 25 votes, while Azoula, who became the Paris-based U.N. agency’s new chief, received 31 votes.

Azoulay beat Qatar’s Kawari in the final round with 30-28 votes.]]>
10/14/2017 6:45:07 PM
<![CDATA[Moushira Khattab thanks Egyptians fervently for support]]>
Khattab expressed her gratitude for those who prayed for her, saying that she won people’s admiration which compensates for a position she wished to attain out of her belief in noble goals aspired by peoples worldwide.

“I am grateful to the great Egyptian state and its historic institutions led by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. I represented the name of Egypt and we competed with honor, preserving the traditions of the ancient Egyptian state,” Khattab said.

The ambassador also thanked Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry for his sincere leadership of the campaign, investing the esteemed diplomatic traditions of Egypt, and its considerable diplomatic relations.

Khattab concluded by saying that she will continue accomplishing the mission and values of UNESCO on Egyptian soil to eliminate all kinds of discrimination, and preserve Egypt’s incomparable ancient civilization and cultural heritage.

Khattab garnered 25 votes Friday in the run-off, leaving the race after maintaining third rank over the past four rounds. UNESCO's Executive Board voted 30 to 28 in favour of Audrey Azoulay, a former French culture minister, against Qatar's Hamad bin Abdul Aziz al-Kawari. ]]>
10/14/2017 6:42:16 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt becomes member in African Union Panel of the wise]]>
According to the statement, the new formation of the panel of the wise will include Amr Moussa, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Gabon former Minister for Social Affairs Mrs.

Honorine Nzet Bitéghé, former President of the Republic of Namibia Hifikepunye Pohamba, and former Vice-President of Uganda Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe

The Panel of the Wise is a consultative body of the African Union, composed of five appointed members who serve for a three year terms. Its mandate is to provide opinions to the Peace and Security Council on issues relevant to conflict prevention, management, and resolution.

Since its establishment in December 2007, the Panel of the Wise has been concerned with the files of justice, national reconciliation, preserving the rights of women and children in armed conflicts; democracy and governance.

The Panel of the Wise is currently chaired by the Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi.]]>
10/14/2017 6:31:18 PM
<![CDATA[Analysis: Iran nuclear deal divides world’s powers]]>In a widely expected speech, Trump said he would not certify Iran is complying with its agreement with the six world powers and the European Union before which Tehran promised to rein in its nuclear program in return for the easing of economic sanctions, Reuters reported on Friday.

The Republican president, who has called the pact negotiated by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama "an embarrassment" and the "worst deal ever," threw the issue to the U.S. Congress, which has 60 days to decide whether or not to reinstate U.S. sanctions against Tehran.

Trump warned that "if we are not able to reach a solution working with the Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated."

Countries that endorse Trump’s new policy against Iran
The United Arab Emirates said on Friday it fully supported the new U.S. policy towards Iran and it renewed its commitment to work with Washington to counter Iran's support of extremism, the state news agency WAM reported.

"The UAE announces its full support to the new U.S. strategy to deal with the Iranian policies undermining security and stability," WAM said on its Twitter account.
Bahrain has also announced it welcomed the shift in U.S. policy on Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and its support for extremist groups in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia welcomed what it called Trump's "decisive strategy" towards Iran and said lifting sanctions had allowed Tehran to develop its ballistic missile program, level up its support for militant groups including Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen, and attack global shipping lanes.

The Riyadh government said in a statement it had supported the nuclear agreement, "but Iran took advantage of the economic gain of lifting sanctions and used it to continue destabilizing the region."

The Riyadh government also said it would continue to work with allies to achieve the goals announced by Trump and end Iran's "hostile activities".
"President Trump has just created an opportunity to fix this bad deal, to roll back Iran's aggression and to confront its criminal support of terrorism," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video statement.

Countries that oppose Trump’s new policy against Iran
On the other hand, Russia criticized U.S. President Trump's threat to end the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the European Union defended the pact with Tehran. British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron issued a joint statement saying they "stand committed" to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which infuriated Trump.

"We, the Leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom take note of President Trump's decision not to recertify Iran's compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to Congress and are concerned by the possible implications," the statement read.

"We stand committed to the JCPOA and its full implementation by all sides. Preserving the JCPOA is in our shared national security interest," it added.

"The nuclear deal was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and was a major step towards ensuring that Iran's nuclear program is not diverted for military purposes," the statement said.

"The JCPOA was unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council in Resolution 2231. The International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA through its long-term verification and monitoring program," it added.

"Therefore, we encourage the US Administration and Congress to consider the implications to the security of the US and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPOA, such as re-imposing sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement," the statement concluded.

According to a statement issued by the French Elysee, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will visit Tehran in the coming weeks to discuss those files with his Iranian counterpart, it added.

In Brussels, EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said Washington could not unilaterally cancel the agreement.

"We cannot afford, as the international community, to dismantle a nuclear agreement that is working," said Mogherini, who chaired the final stages of the landmark talks. "This deal is not a bilateral agreement."

"The international community, and the European Union with it, has clearly indicated that the deal is, and will continue to be, in place," Mogherini told reporters in Brussels.

Moscow doubts it would be possible to adjust or somehow improve the deal on Iran's nuclear program; Interfax quoted the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on Friday.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday there was no place in international diplomacy for threatening and aggressive rhetoric, and said such methods were doomed to fail, in a statement issued after Trump's speech.

The ministry said Trump's decision to de-certify the deal would not have a direct impact on the implementation of the agreement but that it can counter its spirit.

Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Iran was implementing the deal and was subject to "the world's most robust nuclear verification regime."

Why Trump seeks JCPOA changes?
Trump called for new sanctions on Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, which he called the "corrupt personal terror force of Iran's leader," in addition to restrictions on Iran's ballistic missile program, which is not covered by the deal.

Last month, Iran said it had successfully tested a new medium-range missile with a 2,000km (1,200-mile) range. The test was not internationally verified.

The U.S. president said that congressional leaders were already drafting amendments that would curb the ballistic missile development and eliminate expiry dates on restrictions to Iran's nuclear development.

What’s Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal?
Based on the agreement signed in 2015, which has been concluded with due regard for Iran’s red lines; the world powers recognize Iran’s civilian nuclear program, including the country’s right to the complete nuclear cycle.

The UNSC sanctions against the Islamic Republic, including all economic and financial bans, will be lifted at once under a mutually agreed framework and through a new UN resolution.

None of the Iranian nuclear facilities will be dismantled or decommissioned.
Furthermore, nuclear research and development activities on all types of centrifuges, including advanced IR-6 and IR-8 machines, will continue.

The nuclear-related economic and financial restrictions imposed by the United States and the European Union (EU) targeting the Iranian banking, finances, oil, gas, petrochemical, trade, insurance and transport sectors will at once be annulled with the beginning of the implementation of the agreement.

The arms embargo imposed against the Islamic Republic will be annulled and replaced with certain restrictions, which themselves will be entirely removed after a period of five years.

Additionally, tens of billions of dollars in Iranian revenue frozen in foreign banks will be unblocked.

A total of 800 persons and legal entities, including the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), will be taken off sanctions lists.

On October 6, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said the Islamic Republic’s missile program is for defensive purposes and is not open to any negotiations.

“Iran regards defensive missile programs as its absolute right and will definitely continue with them within the framework of its defensive, conventional and specified plans and strategies,” Qassemi added.]]>
10/14/2017 6:24:26 PM
<![CDATA[Reestablishing security is the key for development: Haftar]]>
That includes the area between Zawara, a port city in northwestern Libya, and the borders of the Zawia, a northwestern city situated on the Libyan coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.

Haftar stated that only 300,000 square kilometers are out of the army’s control, adding that the country is experiencing a fierce conflict between “life advocates and death advocates, the light and the dark, development and backwardness, humanity and its enemies.”

Haftar said that the current stage in Libya gives the highest priority to establishing security, and the role of security and military institutions surpasses the role of all other institutions within the framework of the law and human rights.

“We achieved victory over terrorism due to God's support, and the willpower of our combat forces,” Haftar said.

Haftar stressed that the most prominent phenomenon threatening Libya’s security and stability for now is the widespread use of firearms and the militant groups stating that the citizens’ security is part of the war on terror.

The Libyan commander-in-chief demanded a further understanding of the security threat challenging the country, saying that a lack of security would weaken the citizens’ willpower, propagate fragmentation, and incur the loss of all sacrifices made by the Libyan army and people.

Haftar said that the Libyan military institution is developing its security policy and renovating its mechanisms to achieve victory in the security battle. “Victory in the security battle is our only option. The reestablishment of various forms of security is the basis for the aspired development and restoration of certain sectors by the people,” Haftar stipulated.

Haftar pledged to not tolerate those who compromise Libya’s security saying, “No immunity for anyone who targets our people’s security. No escape for such people from our grip, justice, and law.”

Haftar concluded by emphasizing the importance of dialogue to resolve the ongoing political crisis, and to reach alternatives backed by the Libyan people.
10/14/2017 2:19:28 PM
<![CDATA[Cyprus president to seek second five-year term in Jan '18 vote]]>
Anastasiades, 71, a conservative, was widely credited with leading a renewed bid to reunite Cyprus, split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 after a brief Greek-inspired coup.

"Failure to reach a solution is not in the interests of either Greek or Turkish Cypriots, and naturally, not of Turkey either. I want to believe Turkey will see the benefits of a solution," Anastasiades, who represents Greek Cypriots in peace negotiations, told supporters in Nicosia.

Peace talks collapsed in July after the sides failed to agree on the status of Turkish forces on the island, as well as intervention rights of Turkey in Cyprus stemming from a 1960 independence treaty.

Anastasiades has faced criticism at home for either granting too many concessions in talks, or of tactical errors which hampered prospects of a deal.

The simmering conflict remains a source of tension between NATO allies Greece and Turkey and one of the obstacles Ankara has to face in its long-frustrated bid to join the European Union.

A 'historic opportunity' to end the decades-old conflict was missed, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote in a report to the Security Council on Sept. 28.

To date, there is no sign of the peace negotiations resuming.

Anastasiades is expected to run against at least three other contenders, including Nicolas Papadopoulos, son of late president Tassos Papadopoulos who rejected a United Nations reunification blueprint for Cyprus in 2004.

Elections will be held on Jan. 28, with a runoff a week later if a single candidate does not muster a majority in the first round.

The early days of Anastasiades's presidency in 2013 were marked by a financial meltdown triggered by the exposure of the island's banks to indebted Greece and fiscal slippage.

The island required a 10 billion euro ($11.8 billion) international bailout. contingent upon winding down one commercial bank and seizing deposits in a second.

Cyprus made a successful exit from the programme in 2016. ($1 = 0.8459 euros)]]>
10/14/2017 12:45:30 PM
<![CDATA[Advocates for Americans held in Iran worried by Trump's hard line]]>
In a major shift in U.S. policy, President Donald Trump announced he would not certify that Iran is complying with a 2015 nuclear deal and warned that he might ultimately terminate the agreement.

The administration also designated Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the dominant player in the country's security, economy and politics, as a terrorist group, a move one expert said would make the group less willing to negotiate over the prisoners.

Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter who was detained by Iran for 18 months, said on Twitter that Trump's Iran strategy "will only hurt American hostages being held in Iran."

"I hope I'm wrong, but it looks to me as though Americans being held hostage in #Iran were just abandoned by @realDonaldTrump," Rezaian wrote, using Trump's Twitter handle.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. A State Department official said the United States calls for the "immediate release" of U.S. citizens held "unjustly" in Iran.

The seven known American citizens and permanent residents who have been detained in the last two years in Iran are businessman Siamak Namazi and his 81-year-old father Baquer Namazi; Princeton doctoral student Xiyue Wang; art gallery owner Karan Vafadari and his wife Afarin Niasari; Robin Reza Shahini, an Iranian-American from California; and Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese national with U.S. permanent residency.

"My biggest frustration is still the U.S. government has no plan for how to resolve this, and my husband has been in prison for 15 months," Wang's wife, Hua Qu, told Reuters.

She said the new U.S. sanctions made her "afraid" for her husband's fate, because they show "that the relationship is deteriorating."

Wang was arrested in August 2016 while doing dissertation research and has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on espionage charges, allegations his family and university deny.

"I don't know when the U.S. government is going to engage Iran," Qu said. "He is living in this terror everyday. He is in despair."

Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, said on a conference call with reporters that designating the IRGC as a terrorist group would "make it far more difficult to have a direct line of communication with them."

"The IRGC is going to be in much less of a mood to engage in a serious negotiation with the United States after this," said Sadjadpour, a friend of Namazi.

In January 2016, the Obama administration secured the release of five Americans imprisoned in Iran by agreeing to a much-criticized prisoner swap after protracted direct talks with Iran.

In the months following the swap, the Iranian government arrested several more Americans. The IRGC is typically the entity that has detained and interrogated the Americans, according to their family members and human rights groups.

Jason Poblete, a U.S.-based attorney for Zakka, said the sanctions could be helpful "if it gets these parties talking to each other."

He criticized the Obama administration's approach to Iran as not being focused enough on "the unconditional release of hostages."

"Anything that moves us to speaking clearly with one another, which is what the president's doing, is much better than all this flimsy talk that had been taking place until now," Poblete said. ]]>
10/14/2017 6:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Russia probe special counsel interviews chief of staff Priebus]]>
"Mr. Priebus was voluntarily interviewed by Special Counsel Mueller's team today," said his lawyer, William Burck. "He was happy to answer all of their questions."

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators are interviewing a number of White House and other officials as part of the inquiry into any ties between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia.

Mueller's inquiry includes whether Trump might have obstructed justice by trying to persuade then-FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation of Michael Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser.

Flynn resigned in February after disclosures that he had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador to the United States before Trump took office and misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.

Priebus, who was Republican National Committee chairman during the campaign, became White House chief of staff upon Trump's taking office in January. He resigned in July after major pieces of legislation on Trump's agenda failed to pass Congress. ]]>
10/14/2017 6:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[Saudi-led coalition intervenes to save seriously ill Saleh’s life]]>
A Yemeni source has confirmed the intervention of the Saudi-led coalition to save the life of Saleh, after his health suddenly deteriorated.

The source revealed that the coalition allowed the transfer of a special Russian medical team to Sanaa airport to examine his state.

Six years ago, Saudi Arabia rescued the former president’s life after an assassination attempt on the presidential palace]]>
10/14/2017 4:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Foreign ministry eyes cooperation with election committee]]>
In a press release, the Foreign Ministry's spokesman Ahmed Abu-Zeid said that President Abdel Fatah Al Sisi is expected to issue a decree to form the board of directors of the National Electoral Commission led by deputy head of Court of Cassation Lasheen Ibrahim Mohamed Lasheen.

The ministry will present proposals to ease the voting process for Egyptians living abroad, said the statement, adding that it will consider ideas sent by Egyptian expatriates.]]>
10/14/2017 4:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Senior lawmaker mull humanitarian situation in Yemen]]>
The meeting discussed the latest humanitarian developments in Yemen, the Yemeni news agency said.

Shadadi reiterated that the deteriorating situation in Yemen continues as Houthi rebels, backed by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, refuse to implement an agreement reached by the Yemeni political powers to end the crisis.

He also urged the international community to press the Houthi militias to restore peace in the war-torn country.]]>
10/14/2017 4:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Possibility of adjusting Iran nuclear deal extremely problematic]]>
"As for proposals to 'improve' the agreement or to rectify that what does not suit the American side, personally I have big doubts regarding these proposals," Ryabkov said in commenting on US President Donald Trump's declared decision to decertify the Iran nuclear deal.

"We all remember, and some of us saw first-hand, so to speak, how hard it was to devise the existing document, how difficult it was to strike the subtle balance of interests and find compromises," Ryabkov said.

"So adding something to this document now, changing something in it, in my view, would be extremely problematic, speaking most mildly," Ryabkov said.

"It appears that Washington is taking the course toward the revision of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the whole," he said.

"This is the next step, the next far-reaching destructive impulse, which shows that our American counterparts in fact take quite a flippant approach toward matters that call for much more profound and serious analysis in terms of assessing what might happen if such methods are applied," he said.

"All of this causes our deep regret, but the reality is such that we should look for answers to new questions and redouble our efforts to keep the situation from changing further toward the collapse of this crucial agreement in the area of nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, which took so much effort to work out," he said.]]>
10/14/2017 2:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[UAE announces full support to US new strategy on Iran]]>
"For too long, the Iranian regime has spread destruction and chaos throughout the region and beyond. The nuclear deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – offered Iran an opportunity to engage responsibly with the international community. Instead, it only emboldened Iran to intensify its provocative and destabilizing behavior," the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said on a statement.

"Importantly, the new US strategy takes necessary steps to confront Iran’s malign behavior in all its forms – including its growing ballistic missile program, support for terrorist organisations like Hezbollah and the Houthis, cyber attacks, interference in its neighbors' domestic affairs, and threats to the freedom of navigation," it added.

"The Treasury Department's designation of the International Revolutionary Guard Corps is a strong measure that will help limit Iran’s dangerous activities as the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism," the statement read.

"The UAE welcomes and endorses the new US strategy. We reaffirm our commitment to working with the US and our allies to counter the full range of Iran’s destabilizing activities and its support for extremists," the ministry concluded. ]]>
10/14/2017 2:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[UK, France, Germany 'stand committed' to Iran nuclear deal]]>
British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have issued a joint statement saying they "stand committed" to a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran which has infuriated Trump.

The statement said they are "concerned by the possible implications" of the US President's refusal to back it.

The US commander-in-chief had earlier angrily accused Iran of violating the spirit of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal - but stopped short of ripping up the agreement.

Leaders said they shared concerns about Iran's ballistic missile program, but urged the US to hold back from imposing sanctions without support from the international community.

"We, the Leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom take note of President Trump's decision not to recertify Iran's compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to Congress and are concerned by the possible implications," the statement read.

"We stand committed to the JCPoA and its full implementation by all sides. Preserving the JCPoA is in our shared national security interest," it added.

"The nuclear deal was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and was a major step towards ensuring that Iran's nuclear program is not diverted for military purposes," the statement said.

"The JCPoA was unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council in Resolution 2231. The International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance with the JCPoA through its long-term verification and monitoring program," it added.

"Therefore, we encourage the US Administration and Congress to consider the implications to the security of the US and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPoA, such as re-imposing sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement," the statement concluded. ]]>
10/14/2017 1:39:35 AM
<![CDATA[Iraqi Ambassador To Egypt Today: I wish Egypt won UNESCO post]]>
"I wish Moushira Khattab won the UNESCO post today," Al Sadr told Egypt Today on Friday

Al Sadr told Egypt Today that "Iraq withdrew its candidate from the UNESCO race in favor of Khattab despite of the Iraqi candidate's potentials and great experience in politics in the way that stresses coordination and cooperation between Cairo and Baghdad."

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry expressed to reporters Egypt’s wishes for best luck in the final round to France after Egypt’s candidate Moushira Khattab won only 25 votes in the UNESCO fifth round, while France’s Audrey Azoulay received 31 votes.

The fifth and last round will see the French candidate Audrey Azoulay who previously got 31 votes, competing with the Qatari candidate Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari who amassed 22 votes Thursday.
10/13/2017 6:20:13 PM
<![CDATA[Exclusive document reveal agreement terms to reduce tensions in Damascus ]]>

WhatsApp Image 2017-10-13 at 1.43.08 PM (1)
An exclusive document on the new deal reached to reduce escalation in south of the Syrian Capital Damascus under Egyptian auspices obtained by Egypt Today

Syrian Jaysh Al Islam Political Leader Mohamed Alloush said Friday that an Egypt-brokered agreement to reduce tension in southern Damascus was reached.

The agreement was reached to reduce tension in Al Qadam neighborhood, as its residents are under threat of forced displacement.

In a video statement, Alloush thanked President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi for sponsoring the agreement, adding that Syrian nationals are receiving the best treatment in Egypt.

He added that Egypt would supervise the delivery of humanitarian aid to southern Damascus to ease the suffering of residents of the area.

In addition, he underlined that he visited Cairo to hold talks on the situation in southern Damascus and ways of reducing tension there following a high rate of violations in the past 10 days.

For his part, Alloush revealed an Egyptian intervention and commitment to a breakthrough in lifting the siege of Eastern Ghouta to allow aid in sufficient quantities in order to relieve the suffering in the region.

Alloush added that he received an invitation from the Egyptian leadership, confirming that an agreement was reached after the initial announcement of a cease-fire and an escalation reduction. He also referred to an upcoming visit to Cairo in the next few days to complete the terms of the agreement.

Alloush, who is one of the most prominent Syrian leaders in the opposition, has led the military faction delegation to the Astana negotiations for several rounds.

He further highlighted Egypt’s role in the region regarding Arab causes, citing success in ending a decade-long Palestinian division in Cairo, expressing hope that it extends to finding a just political solution to the Syrian crisis.

Ahmed Ali al-Gabawi, a Syrian opposition leader, thanked Egyptian leadership led by President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, citing Egypt’s commitment to continue supporting a political solution in accordance to international terms in Syria.

He further revealed details of the new Egyptian-sponsored deal on the reduction of escalation with the Russian side in Southern Damascus, referring to talks that were held in Cairo to discuss the matter.

Gabawi said that there are discussions to “combine new areas to reduce escalation, with agreement on the initial declaration of a cease-fire, the reduction of escalation and the introduction of assistance.”

He noted that the Egyptian officials stressed that the political solution is to guarantee unity and stability of Syria.

“Syria needs Egypt to intervene in solving the issue and reaching a political solution in accordance with the Geneva terms,” he added.

He stressed the existence of dignified care from Egyptian officials, praising their great efforts to make no demographic change in Syria.
10/13/2017 5:13:24 PM
<![CDATA[Kremlin raps U.S.A for not issuing visas to UN-bound officials]]>
A group of senior officers from the general staff of the Russian armed forces could not attend the joint briefing on Thursday with the Chinese military at the U.N. because they had no U.S. visas, said Alexander Emelianov, from the Russian Defense Ministry international cooperation committee.

"As a country hosting the United Nations headquarters and its structures, the U.S. authorities bear certain obligations. Certainly, in this case we are very worried by such a situation and consider it unacceptable," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a regular conference call with reporters. ]]>
10/13/2017 4:33:13 PM
<![CDATA[Friday’s protests raises concerns of the Qatari regime]]>
Qatar, boycotted by four Arab countries over funding terrorism, is witnessing internal political struggles.

The Qatari Opposition tweeted on Wednesday “we will continue calling for change and resistance against the Qatari tyrants who should face a fair trial in front of the Qatari people”

Accoring to Al Arabya, a professor at Qatar University Mohamed al Mossafer, said during an interview with the official Qatari television that if one thousand or twenty thousand protested, “a toxic bomb can kill them all.”

He added that the world has changed and tanks and bomb have replaced knives and tribes, and those who oppose the regime should distance themselves from tribal affiliations.

Qatari TV didn’t provide any apology for these statements, and the anchor is seen nodding affirmatively to his statement, Al Arabya claimed.]]>
10/13/2017 4:20:00 PM
<![CDATA[Czech election favorite Babis hard on Brussels, light on ideology]]>
Drawing comparisons with U.S. President Donald Trump for his anti-establishment message and former Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi for his media ownership, Babis is known for an aggressive negotiating style and a skeptical view on EU integration.

A loyal foreign trade official under communism, the 63-year-old Babis has since forged a business empire that includes food and chemical companies, the country's biggest broadsheet newspaper and the biggest private radio station.

He has distanced himself from right-wing conservatives such as Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Hungary's Viktor Orban by navigating a path lacking in hardened political views along the lines of Orban's vision of "illiberal state".

A business-friendly program and pledges to run the state efficiently and oust graft-tainted political operators has put his ANO party far ahead of its rivals in the run-up to the Oct. 20-21 election.

Babis is also unlikely to pursue the kind of socially conservative agenda successful in Poland, with Czechs being the most atheist nation in the EU. Instead he may seek to emulate neighboring Slovakia's three-time Prime Minister Robert Fico, a Social Democrat who has adjusted his policies depending on the national mood.

"He would be very similar to Fico in the manner he would formulate his policies, but given the higher skepticism towards the EU among the Czech public, the resulting position would be more critical," said Tomas Weiss, head of European studies in the Social Sciences Faculty at Charles University.

"A Prime Minister Babis would stand somewhere between Fico and Orban."

Like other political analysts, Weiss sees Babis as a populist following the electorate with no clear policy on the EU, which he has called a "great project" beset by deep problems such as the refugee crisis and Brexit.

While ANO is a member of the liberal pro-integration ALDE group in the European Parliament and the party's programme supports building relations with France and Germany, Babis himself rejects further integration and has harshly criticized Germany's refugee policy.

"I refuse to give more national powers to Brussels like I reject the euro and a common migration policy," he wrote in a blog post this month.

The Czechs, like Hungary and Slovakia, oppose any quota mechanism for redistributing the migrants who have flowed into Europe since 2015.

"While Babis lacks Orban and Kaczynski’s nationalist impulses, he will create headaches for core Europe and Brussels in more subtle ways," said Eurasia analyst James Sawyer. "He will continue to oppose Brussels' refugee policy to the end."

Babis has shown no intention of reforming the country's judiciary along the lines of Poland, even though he himself is in conflict with the authorities due to charges he faces of alleged fraud.

The case relates to an EU subsidy for building a conference and leisure center outside Prague.

Authorities have also been looking into strategies Babis used to buy tax-free bonds from his company several years ago. No charges have been brought in that case and he denies any wrongdoing in both cases.


As finance minister in the outgoing government until May, Babis played tough with the EU to win an exception to value-added tax collection that he said would prevent tax fraud in fuel trade. Under his stewardship, the Czechs have blocked other proposals including a French-backed plan for lower taxes on electronic books.

"Babis can be very pragmatic when he wants to, but also stubborn when he doesn't… willing to take the room as a prisoner, and we've seen that in Ecofin," said one European government source.

On many policies though, he has flip-flopped. In 2015, he said refugees could fill the country's job vacancies, but he now says the Czechs should not take in a single migrant. He has also moved from being neutral on the euro to opposing its adoption, in line with the views of voters.

Because he will need coalition partners to govern, Babis will be unable to push through on his own any radical policy or legal changes the way Orban or Kaczynski have been able to.

A coalition with the parties ANO has previously ruled with - the Social and Christian Democrats - would be unlikely to lead to any major international policy shifts, while partnering with the center-right Civic Democrats would bring a more Eurosceptic tone.

Perhaps the bleakest scenario for the EU and markets would be any Czech government propped up by the Communists and far-right SPD party.

This seems unlikely, but coalition building may be tough for Babis as other parties have objected to being in a cabinet with him due to the police charges he faces. He has said, however, that the charges do not disqualify him from becoming prime minister.]]>
10/13/2017 2:46:59 PM
<![CDATA["Time is running out" - Germany urges UK to move in Brexit talks]]>
A day after the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said the talks were deadlocked over money and could not progress to discussions about future trade ties, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert urged Britain to act before an EU summit in December.

EU leaders will discuss Brexit at that meeting, Seibert said. "This means Great Britain still has it in its own hands whether there will be enough progress so that the second phase of negotiations can be started."

British Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament on Monday it was up to the European Union to move talks to the next phase, saying: "the ball is in their court".

But her spokesman said on Friday that May would have "more to say" on the financial settlement at an EU summit next week.

Germany's biggest industry group has advised companies active in Britain to make provisions for a "very hard Brexit" as London lacked a clear strategy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says London should not expect a special deal, and that it is more important to keep the remaining 27 member states together.]]>
10/13/2017 2:29:37 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt files an official complaint to UNESCO over election’s violations ]]>
Egypt’s foreign ministry’s spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid revealed that Egypt’s mission at the UNESCO submitted the complaint.

Abu Zeid manifested that Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry had met with Irina Bakova Friday morning to express Egypt’s gratitiude for her efforts during her two four-year term.

“Shoukry told Bavoka about violations that the Egyptian mission could observe during the four rounds of the elections that kicked off on Monday,” Abu Zeid added.

Additional reporting by Nawal Sayed
10/13/2017 2:17:41 PM
<![CDATA[Qatari opposition reveals Doha links to European terrorism]]>
Doha’s alleged sponsorship of terrorism is backed by many supposed facts. The Qatari regime’s support of terrorist groups in the Arab region has expanded to reach Europe. Doha has opened new NGOs, charity organizations and diplomatic offices in Europe only to serve the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and similar violent groups.

According to a video released by Qatari Leaks, that Danish officecontributes to many Brotherhood activities, in addition to Hamad bin Khalifa Civilization Center and the Danish Islamic Council.

Gamal al-Menshawy, expert in Islamic movements affairs, told Egypt Today that Qatar plays a significant role in backing the Brotherhood via charity and religious entities in European countries.

“The Qatari engineering office aims at giving the Brotherhood activities legal and legitimate cloaks in Europe,” Gamal added.

Qatari opposition groups have exposed Doha’s investments in promoting extremism in Netherlands through the Qatari embassy in The Hague, which it called thee mines of terrorism.

According to documents uncovered by Qatari Leaks, Doha provided extremists with €20 million to infiltrate mosques and €107,000 to build the Qatari Islamic center in Rotterdam.

According to the information obtained by Qatari Leaks, the sources recorded the participation of Sufian Mohammed Al Maraghi, the legal advisor to the engineering office, in the Waqf meetings, on the instructions of the head of the Qatari office. He was also assigned to the secretariat of the Board of Trustees of the Greater Copenhagen, with other members of the office: the vice president Mohammed bin Mutlaq al-Qahtani, the projects officer Abdul MonemZaher, the general manager Nasser Rashid Al Nuaimi and the assistant director of technical affairs Abdulrahman Zayed Al Nuaimi.

Through follow-up and monitoring of communications to the Danish Islamic Council, the documents revealed by Qatari Leaks found an intensive presence of the Qatari engineering office on the European arena from 2009 to 2017, especially in Denmark, where it worked during that period on:

- Direct intervention and control of the structure of members, inside the Council and the Waqf.

- Continuous funding for the Brotherhood organization in Denmark.

- Cooperation with the Danish Islamic Council to establish Hamad bin Khalifa civilization center, with full funding from the engineering office.

- The name of the engineering office shouldn’t be mentioned in any activity or occasion.

- Sending a letter by the Danish Islamic Council confirming its commitment to the absence of any observations or surprises during the opening outside the approved program, and the absence of any guest from outside the list.

- The opening should be formal, limited to the official words, and a word explaining the details of the center.

In France, Doha financed 242 groups affiliated to the Brotherhood. The Qatari Administration uses its investments in Europe to penetrate the continent and cancerously spread and support extremist ideologies, as explained by a forum titled “Qatari Investments in France and the Equation of the Unknown Fate: Qatar between Politics and Terrorism,” organized by the International Center for Geopolitical and Prospective Analytics (CIGPA).

Qatar funds 242 associations loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood in France alone, which they claim helps French Muslims. These associations also seek to present the Muslim Brotherhood to the West as a democratic religious group.

Qatar controls the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF), as stated in a wikileaks report in August. The peninsular state has pumped millions of dollars to achieve the aforementioned goals.

Speakers at the forum agreed that Qatari investments in France, their revenues, and their expenses must be investigated.
10/13/2017 2:05:45 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt's voting block steady upward at UNESCO: FM]]>
He added that the Egyptian voting block is steadily increasing and was increasing everyday during the past four rounds, which reflects how Egypt is praised in UNESCO.

Khattab, who served as a top aide to former Egyptian First Lady Suzan Mubarak, came second in the race with 18 votes on Thursday, tying with France’s candidate Audrey Azoulay, while Qatar’s Hamad Abdul Aziz al-Kawari collected 22 votes and was promoted to the fifth round of voting which takes place on Friday at 6p.m..

UNESCO’s executive board will cast a vote between the Egyptian and French candidates on Friday at 2 p.m., to determine who will run for the fifth round of elections against Kawari.

Moreover, Abu Zaid mentioned that the 58 countries of UNESCO’s executive board will vote in the round between Egypt and France, adding that that the votes of the countries that supported the Qatari Candidate in past rounds are critical in deciding who will meet Kawary in the fifth round.

Additionally, Abu Zaid mentioned that some scenarios assume that the Qatari candidate does not want to face the Egyptian candidate in the final voting round, so Qatar will support Azoulay during the voting session with Egypt.

Abu Zaid tweeted on Friday “Egypt runs its diplomatic battles with dignity and professionalism, and will never change its method. That’s the Egyptian diplomatic school of thought, and will always be.”

The new director-general of UNESCO will be named on October 13. Then, 195 members in the General Conference will be appointed in view of recommendations from UNESCO’s executive board.
10/13/2017 2:01:38 PM
<![CDATA[Malaysia halts all imports from North Korea, data shows]]>
Malaysia did not buy any goods from North Korea in June and July, after buying 20.6 million ringgit ($4.89 million) worth of goods in the first five months of the year, according to data from the Department of Statistics.

Malaysia's ties with North Korea have deteriorated since the February assassination of Kim Jong Un's estranged half brother at Kuala Lumpur international airport, which the United States and South Korea say was ordered by the North Korean leader.

Kuala Lumpur last month banned its citizens from travelling to North Korea, two weeks after Prime Minister Najib Razak met with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House. The visit gave Najib a political boost at home, with his popularity suffering over a massive scandal at a state investment fund, which the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating.

Trump told reporters after meeting with Najib at the White House last month that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak "does not do business with North Korea any longer, and we find that to be very important."

Malaysia had been a key source of revenue for the North. Citizens from both countries enjoyed visa-free travel. Malaysia was host to hundreds of overseas workers. More importantly were operations that funneled money to the regime. Reuters reported earlier this year North Korea's spy agency, the Reconnaissance Bureau, was running an arms operation out of Kuala Lumpur.


Malaysia's halt to North Korean imports came ahead of drastic U.N. and U.S. sanctions last month that ramp up export bans and penalize companies and individuals doing business with North Korea.

The United Nations on Sept. 11 banned North Korea's lucrative textile exports as well as all joint ventures with North Koran individuals or entities.

Trump issued an executive order 10 days later penalizing any company or person doing business with North Korea by cutting off their access to the U.S. financial system, freezing their assets or both.

Other Southeast Asian nations have similarly reduced imports from North Korea. The Philippines said last month it has suspended trade with North Korea to comply with sanctions.

Thailand's imports from North Korea dropped to $400,000 between January and August, compared with $1.8 million in the same period last year, according to data from the commerce ministry.

Indonesia, on the other hand, increased its imports from North Korea to $1.8 million in January-July before the latest round of sanctions, versus $910,000 in the same period last year.

Secretary of state Rex Tillerson, on a swing through Southeast Asia in August, urged countries to do more to cut funding streams for North Korea.

For instance, North Korean front companies were using Bangkok as a regional hub, changing their names frequently, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton told reporters during Tillerson's visit to Bangkok in early August. [nL4N1KU2LA


Malaysia's past imports from North Korea ranged from big ticket items such as coal, medical devices and light emitting diodes to even crabs, noodles, cloth hangers and fire extinguishers.

A U.S. government official told Reuters Malaysia has assured the United States it does not import from Pyongyang anymore.

Malaysia's trade ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Malaysia had been one of the few countries increasing its imports from North Korea in recent years - from a mere 1,183 ringgit ($311) in 2012 to 8.2 million ringgit in 2016.

An unusual purchase this year was coal, which Malaysia bought right after China, the top buyer of the North's minerals banned imports of the commodity in February. A U.N. report in September said North Korea had diversified its coal exports to other countries after the China ban.

Malaysia bought $3.4 million worth of coal in March and $16.6 million worth of coal tar products, data showed. The March purchase was the first time Malaysia had bought coal from North Korea since at least 2012.

While imports have stopped, Malaysia has continued exports to North Korea. Exports included palm oil, food and medical supplies worth 4.4 million ringgit between January and July.]]>
10/13/2017 1:43:49 PM
<![CDATA[Germany to maintain unity if U.S. decertifies Iran nuclear deal]]>
"We have a great interest in the continuation of this international unity. If ... an important country like the United States comes to a different conclusion as appears to be the case, we will work even harder with other partners to maintain this cohesion," government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters.

Trump is to deliver a speech at 12:45 p.m. EDT (1645 GMT) to announce a confrontational new approach to U.S. policy toward Iran. In a big shift, he is expected to say he will not certify Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal.]]>
10/13/2017 1:36:56 PM
<![CDATA[Allies press Catalan leader to declare full independence]]>
Puigdemont made a symbolic declaration of independence on Tuesday night, only to suspend it seconds later and call for negotiations with Madrid.

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has given him until Monday to clarify his position - and then until Thursday to change his mind if he insists on a split - threatening to suspend Catalonia's autonomy if he chooses independence.

But far-left Catalan political group CUP called on Puigdemont to make an unequivocal declaration of independence in defiance of the deadlines.

"If (the central Madrid government) wants to continue to threaten and gag us, they should do it to the Republic that has already been claimed," the party said.

The CUP only holds 10 seats in the 135-seat Catalan parliament. But Puigdemont's minority government relies on its support to push through legislation and cannot win a majority vote in the regional parliament without its backing.

The wealthy region's intention to break away after a referendum has plunged Spain into its worst political crisis since an attempted military coup in 1981.

Sources close to the Catalan government said Puigdemont and his team were working on an answer to Rajoy though they declined to say what line he might take.

The CUP statement echoes the position expressed late on Thursday by influential pro-independence civic group Asamblea Nacional Catalana which said: "Given the negative position of Spain toward dialogue, we ask the regional parliament to raise the suspension (on the declaration of independence)."

But the leader of Puigdemont's party, Artur Mas, who served as the region's president until 2016 and is still believed to influence key decisions, said on Friday declaring independence was not the only way forward.

"If a state proclaims itself independent and cannot act as such, it's an independence that is merely aesthetic," he told Catalan television TV3.

"The external factor must be taken into account in the decisions that will be made from now on," he said.

The European Union, the United States and most other world powers have made it clear they wanted Catalonia to remain within Spain.

"If we allow Catalonia - and it is none of our business - to separate, others will do the same. I do not want that," Jean Claude Juncker said in a speech at Luxembourg University. ]]>
10/13/2017 12:57:51 PM
<![CDATA[Juncker says does not want Catalan independence]]>
"If we allow Catalonia -- and it is none of our business -- to separate, others will do the same. I do not want that," Jean Claude Juncker said in a speech at Luxembourg University.

He said he was "very worried" about separatist tendencies in Europe and had encouraged Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to ensure the situation was brought under control.

Referring to Catalan calls for EU mediation, he said the Commission could not mediate if only one side asked it to do so. The EU has said it has confidence in Rajoy to resolve what it sees as an internal issue.]]>
10/13/2017 11:31:44 AM
<![CDATA[Kenya police use teargas to disperse protesters in 3 cities]]>
On Thursday, the government banned demonstrations in the central business districts of the capital Nairobi, the coastal city of Mombasa and the western city of Kisumu. ]]>
10/13/2017 11:24:00 AM
<![CDATA[Parl't delegation leaves for Russia to participate in IPU meetings]]>
Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal arrived in Saint Petersburg on Wednesday to lead the Egyptian delegation that comprises eight MPs to take part in the meetings.

The IPU session is scheduled to tackle "promoting cultural pluralism and peace through inter-faith and inter-ethnic dialogue" in addition to other issues set on the agenda of the Assembly, topped by the election of the IPU president.]]>
10/13/2017 10:51:07 AM
<![CDATA[Mattis hopeful freeing of hostages in Pakistan to boost cooperation]]>
"This is a very positive moment and the Pakistan Army performed well," Mattis told reporters on board a military plane, adding he hoped this would be "a harbinger for the future."

"We intend to work with Pakistan in a collaborative way in the future to stop terrorism and that includes kidnapping," Mattis added. He declined to comment on any specifics on how the hostages were freed. ]]>
10/13/2017 6:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Oman welcomes reconciliation agreement between Fatah, Hamas]]>
In its statement, the Omani Foreign Ministry said that Muscat welcomed the final reconciliation agreement between the Palestinian factions which would unify the Palestinian ranks, end the division and support the efforts of national unity to obtain all its legitimate rights and establish the Palestinian State on the borders of June 4, 1967 with Al Quds as its capital.

The statement also praised the role of Egypt in securing this historic reconciliation deal between the Palestinian factions and its support of the efforts of the Palestinian Authority and the government of national unity.]]>
10/13/2017 1:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Abbas thanks Sisi for efforts in inter-Palestinian reconciliation]]>
In a phone call, Abbas stressed the importance of the Egyptian role in achieving this important step.

"What was agreed upon strengthens and accelerates the steps to end the division and restore the unity of the Palestinian people, land and institutions," said Abbas.]]>
10/12/2017 11:21:58 PM
<![CDATA[EXCLUSIVE: France correlates with Qatar against Egypt's candidate ahead of UNESCO's run-off]]>
Egyptian candidate Moushira Khattab obtained 18 votes in the fourth round on Thursday, to be equaled with the French candidate, while Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari received 22 votes, according to Egypt Today’s reporter in Paris.

Earlier on Thursday, Lebanese UNESCO director-general candidate, Vera El-Khoury, announced her withdrawal from the race in favor of the Egyptian candidate, granting her four votes in addition to five votes garnered by Chinese candidate Qian Tang after announcing his withdrawal in favor of Khattab as well.

Qian Tang has been the Assistant-Director General for Education at UNESCO since April 2010.

Khattab and France’s Audrey Azoulay will compete in the upcoming run-off election tomorrow; the winner will be the rival against Qatar’s Kawari.

Moreover, some behind-the-scene actions were


by sources in Paris about a secret meeting between Kawari and Azoulay in the Qatari candidate’s candidacy room no. S. 375.

According to observers and political experts, these backstage actions indicate suspicions roaming around the kind of deal that Qatar and France agreed upon; aims for such deal are seen as either to force Egypt to withdraw in the last round for France, or to limit the competition between Qatar and France; leading to France winning the post.

Additional reporting by Mohamed Zain]]>
10/12/2017 10:25:06 PM
<![CDATA[Tillerson consulted Britain, China, France, Russia on Iran]]>
"I would describe them as listening calls, consulting calls and having conversations about the overall rollout, if you will, of the plan ... which the president will announce tomorrow," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters, saying Tillerson spoke to the French and Russian foreign ministers and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi on Thursday and to British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson "in recent days."]]>
10/12/2017 10:22:14 PM
<![CDATA[Italy lower house passes new electoral law]]>
The bill, which is supported by the ruling Democratic Party (PD) and mainstream centre-right opposition parties, was approved in a secret ballot by 375 votes to 215, and will now move to the upper house Senate for further debate.

The so-called 'Rosatellum' law favours parties which group together ahead of the election. The 5-Star refuses to join any alliance and says the reform could cost it at least 50 seats in the next parliament, hobbling its chances of taking power.]]>
10/12/2017 9:29:57 PM
<![CDATA[America's shadow war in Africa lacks Trump admin's interest ]]>
The escalation is occurring with little public debate — and, some military experts say, too little attention from top decision-makers in Washington. The US military presence in the Sahel and sub-Saharan regions has grown to at least 1,500 troops, roughly triple the official number of American troops in Syria, according to Pentagon and White House figures.

As with Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, the dispatch of hundreds of additional US troops to countries like Niger, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Uganda and South Sudan is another instance where President Donald Trump’s “America First” rhetoric hasn’t kept his administration from being drawn deeper into far-flung war zones. And the US lacks a comprehensive strategy for pursuing its mission in Africa, military and intelligence experts told POLITICO.

"I don’t think there is any congressional oversight in this,” said Michael Shurkin, a former CIA analyst specializing in Africa who is now a researcher at the Rand Corp., a Pentagon-funded think tank.

He also pointed to vacancies in top policymaking posts in the State and Defense departments, saying they’ve left military operations such as Africa Command and its special operations component “pretty much doing their own thing."

"It is not that there is a good policy or bad policy," Shurkin said. "There is just no policy. It is inertia.”

Last week’s deadly attack has thrust into the limelight a series of dangerous military deployments that normally receive scant attention compared with the far larger military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A central focus of the mission is the vast desert nation of Niger, nearly twice the size of Texas, which has been a magnet for extremists of many stripes, including those recruited locally and so-called foreign fighters drawn from North Africa, the Middle East and beyond.

In June, the official number of US troops supporting Niger’s military as it fights the militant groups was 645, up from 575 in December 2016. But now it's at least 800, according to the Pentagon.

Many of the troops are Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Marine Raiders, but officials said the reinforcements have mostly been Air Force personnel who are there to manage a surge in surveillance flights by unmanned drones and manned spy planes.

That’s a significant jump from the 100 troops that then-US President Barack Obama deployed to Niger in 2013, notes a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the research arm of Congress. "This trend has coincided with sizable increases in US security assistance for African countries over the past decade, of which Niger has been a major beneficiary.”

Plans are also underway to accommodate more forces, including $50 million that the Air Force requested to construct an air strip in the northern city of Agadez, considered one of the most volatile areas of the country.

The US military presence has also been expanding elsewhere in the region.

As of June, another 300 US troops were operating in neighboring Cameroon, up from 285 in December, according to the White House notifications to Congress required under the War Powers Act.

At least 410 more US military personnel are nearby in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Uganda and South Sudan, targeting the Lord's Resistance Army. Those numbers, also from June, were the first public estimates of the U.S. military presence in that area.

A Pentagon spokeswoman, Maj. Audricia Harris, confirmed the increase in American troops in Niger but did not respond to inquiries about more up-to-date US troop levels elsewhere in the region.

US intelligence has warned in recent months about the growing Islamic militant threat in the region that stretches from Mali in the northwest to South Sudan and Uganda in East Africa — and a number of countries in between.

"In North and West Africa, al-Qa'ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) escalated its attacks on Westerners in 2016 with two high-profile attacks in Burkina Faso and Cote d'lvoire," Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, reported to Congress in May. "It merged with allies in 2017 to form a new group intended to promote unity among Mali-based jihadists, extend the jihad beyond the Sahara and Sahel region, increase military action, and speed up recruitment of fighters."

Current and former military officials say the distinction between advising and combat is blurring as US troops expand their footprint and increase the patrols they conduct in terrorist sanctuaries alongside local allies.

“You’re damn right they’re in harm’s way," said a former military officer with direct knowledge of the Africa operations who was not authorized to speak publicly, "because we are accompanying the indigenous forces and those forces are fighting an active, thinking enemy there."

The level of danger to US troops had been on display even before the deadly ambush in Niger last week.

Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Subcommittee, said after the attack that “this was the first attack on U.S. forces on the ground in Niger.”

But two military officers — one current and one former — with direct knowledge of the operations in Niger told POLITICO that troops had previously been injured by an improvised explosive device or mine, though it remains unclear whether Americans were deliberately targeted in that incident.

In the field, the American advisory mission in Niger relies on a mix of Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Marine Raiders. They go along on missions with several local forces, including a commando unit called the Expeditionary Forces of Niger.

The ill-fated patrol last week was an Expeditionary Forces mission, in a part of the country where troops are trying to hunt down and disrupt convoys of smugglers who travel through Niger’s open brush land from Mali and Chad to Libya carrying arms and terrorist funds. It is one of several areas in the broader Lake Chad Basin where advisers accompany the Expeditionary Forces and other local units.

While the Americans "stay back from actual raid," the former military officer related, sometimes advisers have been under fire.

“We would go to the last covered and concealed spot” when going along with partner forces on a combat mission and then stay back from the actual raid, the former military source said. “But of course there’s no concealment out there” in an arid landscape with little vegetation to hide behind.

But as the military effort ramps up, so have concerns that the Trump administration lacks a comprehensive strategy for the region. Such a strategy would also emphasize more non-military tools such as economic aid and cooperation with allies to strengthen democratic institutions in some of the world's poorest nations.

“There is a tendency to militarize things by deferring to the military," Shurkin said, adding that the military effort "should be part of a larger strategy that will include other types of assistance."

“You will end up with this piecemeal approach — focused on military stuff but in a very narrow way," he added, noting that the US military is only training a few elite units in these nations.

A senior State Department official on Wednesday told Congress that the administration is seeking to do more to assist countries hardest hit by the scourge of terrorist groups.

Donald Yamamoto, an acting assistant secretary of state, told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that the the administration's $5.2 billion foreign aid budget next year will give priority to Mali, Nigeria and other African nations where Islamic terrorist groups have gained strength.

He called promoting these fragile states "a critical priority for the United States in Africa."

But Congress received a warning last week that the larger US military presence, along with that of other allies like the French, may already be angering local populations prone to extremism message.

“The growing foreign military footprint in the country appears to have fed a local backlash against both the government and Western countries,” the Congressional Research Service report said.

“One risk is that it is ineffectual and we are wasting money," Shurkin said of the African counterterrorism mission. "We can also make things worse. Mucking around you bound to inflame things, exacerbate problems. We have no idea who these people are, which could be very, very dangerous.”

Army Lt. Gen. Kenneth Tovo, who oversees all Army special operations forces, pledged in an address Wednesday to the Association of the United States Army in Washington to get to the bottom of what happened to the troops killed in Niger last week.

“I think we owe that to the American people, we owe that to the mothers, fathers, and wives of the fallen, to look critically from every echelon to see if we can do our job better,” Tovo said. “I think it highlights the fact that really every mission around the world that we’re undertaking has got elements of risk.”

Both military sources with knowledge of the Niger operations questioned just how much the missions are accomplishing.

“I would be hesitant to say we and the Nigeriens are having significant effects in that part of Niger up near Mali," said the former officer.

“We’re having an effect,” he added. “Is it going to win the war? No, because the war will never end.” ]]>
10/12/2017 9:20:25 PM
<![CDATA[Untangling Turkey's Knot in Northern Syria]]>
Working in coordination with pro-Ankara Syrian rebels, Turkey will coordinate an offensive in Idlib, a populous region in the north-west of Syria, and provide essential support in the form of special forces, military hardware, and logistics.

“We are taking new steps to ensure security in Idlib,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Saturday. “We will absolutely not allow the creation of a terror corridor along our borders.”

Turkey’s re-entry into the Syrian conflict is supposed to uphold the terms of the “de-escalation zones” agreed upon in Astana, the last round of which was formulated in mid-September and agreed upon by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

The final borders for the de-escalation zone, encompassing Idlib, were concluded in this final round of talks, and Turkey began to move troops and military hardware to its border with Idlib in a significant show of force and a commitment to uphold its duties in observing the ceasefire.

“The war has now turned into one of defeating threats to Turkey’s security and integrity,” said Michael Stephens, Research Fellow for Middle East Studies at the Royal United Services Institute, to Egypt Today.

President Erdogan must be able to show Putin, Assad and the international community that Turkey is a major international actor and upholds the commitments it makes; the importance of the precedent in international politics cannot be understated.

Map of Syria locating Idlib province
Importantly, the “de-escalation zones” agreed upon include only the regime forces, its allies, and the ‘accepted’ opposition forces, thus excluding jihadist rebel groups. The north-western region of Syria encompassing Idlib contains a significant number of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) fighters.

An alliance of militias led by a former affiliate of al-Qaeda, Fateh al-Sham – commonly known as al-Nusra Front – HTS has generally operated under the radar of western media where the focus has been on the Islamic State.

Nevertheless, HTS is a fearsome and prevalent organization with an estimated 10,000 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Thus, the general consensus among scholars and journalists alike was that Turkey’s involvement would be focused on ensuring that all groups observe the ceasefire while simultaneously conducting a military operation against HTS militants.

Initial reports seemed to confirm this when the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported "heavy exchanges of fire" as HTS militants opened fire on Turkish forces at the border.

In the space of just two days the coin turned, however, and the situation changed dramatically as HTS went from being subject to an imminent military campaign to assisting the Turkish efforts, with reports showing how HTS militants had escorted Turkish forces as they pushed into rebel-held areas in order to establish observation posts.

“Meetings between Turkey and HTS representatives signaled that there is more to Turkey’s intentions in Idlib,” said Jesse Marks, Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow at the Stimson Center, to Egypt Today.

The lack of transparency begs the question of Turkey’s true motives in Idlib and greater Syria.

“The Turkish forces are moving in Idlib with the Free Syrian Army. Ankara supports the Syrians who defend themselves and their lands,” said Turkey’s Defense Minister, Nurettin Canikli, on Tuesday during a visit to Georgia. “The Turkish forces will stay in Idlib until the threats against Turkey from the Syrian side end.”

As the several days following Turkey’s declaration of intervention has showed, combating the threat HTS poses is clearly not the focus of Turkey’s operation. Two other self-perceived threats to Turkey take precedence over this: limiting the flow of Syrian refugees into Turkey and combating Kurdish aspirations of statehood.

Around 3.2 million Syrian refugees are registered in Turkey, according to the UN Refugee Agency, with the number of unregistered refugees taking it much higher. From the Turkish perspective, the presence of several million refugees in the country increases political, economic, social and cultural pressures.

Syrian refugees make for the Turkish border Bulent Kilic / AFP / Getty Images
Feeling the effects of civil war and extraordinary levels of internal displacement, the population of Idlib has risen to an estimated 2 million.

A military operation against HTS in Idlib would force a large percentage of the population from their houses to seek refuge and safety. Being the closet international border, it is predicted that the first port of call would be Turkey, to join those who have already made the perilous journey from their homes.

"Even if we turn our backs on developments in Syria, can we escape from the results of the crisis?" Erdogan said on Sunday, highlighting the reason for Turkey's latest intervention. "This is why when we don't go to Syria, Syria comes to us," he added.

An operation in Idlib would not help serve the Turkish government’s best interest.

“The outbreak of violence will result in widespread displacement and large-scale migrations to the Turkish border, resulting in significant pressure on Turkey to open its borders or face a significant security challenge,” said Marks.

An important point is highlighted here. Turkey faces two major difficulties in the situation of a major refugee flow from Idlib.

If the borders are opened, Turkey can expect thousands, if not millions of Syrian civilians who crave safety and stability to put pressure on the state; however if Turkey refuses to open its borders, this will only add to public discontent in the refugee population and increase the push factors to terror groups.

However, the greatest threat Turkey perceives in Syria is not refugees, but Kurdish aspirations for autonomy and statehood.

Being split between four separate states (Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iraq), the Kurdish nation has endured a long struggle for autonomy and statehood, which until now has only bore small fruits of success.

The Kurdish population in Turkey tops 15 million, and the drive for autonomy has led to a decades long war between the Kurdistan Workers Party – the PKK – and the Republic of Turkey. The PKK are classified as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and U.S.

Syrian Kurds exist as arguably the most ferocious fighting force in Syria. Under the umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have emerged as a significant power-broker on the ground; as they have made extensive headway in ridding areas of Islamic State forces, while the Kurdish Peshmerga forces were instrumental in ousting the Islamic State from Mosul.

Turkey has been an adamant opponent of U.S. support for the SDF and the Kurdish drive for independence from Iraq, which culminated in the independence referendum on September 25.

With 93 percent of Iraqi Kurds voting for independence, Turkey has threatened military and economic reprisals in the fear that the Iraqi Kurdish experience could be replicated in Turkey and thus fracture the Turkish state.

Syrian Kurdish YPG militia fighters walk carrying their weapons towards Tel Abyad of Raqqa governorate after they said they took control of the area from ISIS on June 15, 2015. REUTERS
Consequently, all efforts to support the YPG in Syria are challenged by Turkey, who view the YPG as closely affiliated to the PKK and hence a threat to their sovereignty.

“Turkey no longer has a strategic aim in the conflict other than to try and ensure that a Kurdish state does not emerge in Syria,” said Stephens. “The Idlib operation certainly builds options against the Kurdish canton of Afrin, and in the longer term provides Turkey the ability to pressure Afrin from both East and West.”

Operation Euphrates Shield was the Turkish military cross-border military operation, conducted with its Syrian pro-Ankara rebels from August 2016 to March 2017. The operation focused on both the Islamic State and SDF; the groups Turkey perceive as a threat to the state.

The Ankara-backed rebels fought under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), however comprised mainly of Syrian Turkmen, mostly in the Syrian Turkmen Brigades. A great deal of disagreement arose over the rebels Turkey allied itself with, with many possessing an ideological closeness with the Islamic State fighters they were supposed to be fighting.

In Syria, and Idlib in particular, the constant shifting of allegiances of groups fighting under the FSA banner has made it difficult to decipher between individual rebel groups and determine their loyalties.

Alexander Decina, an analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations identified that:

“If the United States, its partners, or other international actors intervene further in Idlib and try to wrest the province from al-Qaeda hands, how can they better separate moderates from extremists? … Basing groups’ moderation on their waving the FSA flag, memorizing talking points about pluralism, and objecting to al-Qaeda has proven insufficient.”

This situation is being replicated again now.

Pro-Ankara Syrian rebel fighters drive from northern Aleppo to Idlib on Oct. 6. AFP/Nazeer al-Khatib
Previous Kurdish hostilities towards Kurdish actors in northern Syria have shown where Turkish interests predominantly lie – in stifling Kurdish autonomy by engaging them in a military confrontation – and there is genuine concern that Turkey may be laying the groundwork for a second military operation against the Kurds in Syria.

“Euphrates Shield operation illuminated Turkey’s central priority - preventing a continuous Kurdish region in northern Syria and preventing autonomous Kurdish state,” said Marks. “Turkey is utilizing its role as a guarantor in Russia’s proposed de-escalation plan to achieve [this] goal.”

Only time will tell the true motive behind Turkey’s newfound intervention in northern Syria. Apparent deals struck with HTS makes it difficult to believe that Turkey’s primary concern lays in defeating the jihadist organization, while many of the rebels allied with Turkey share a disturbing ideological closeness with such jihadist organizations.

Yet, a military campaign against the Kurds in Syria would likely serve against Turkey’s interests. Destabilizing the extensive Kurdish region in northern Syria would only increase refugee flows across the border and lead to intensified conflict in neighboring areas.


Joseph Colonna

10/12/2017 6:52:01 PM
<![CDATA[EXCLUSVE: Fatah leader to Egypt Today: Egypt played pivotal role in reconciliation]]>
He emphasized that it was important to end divisions and reconcile in order to concentrate on the Palestinian cause, as it should be the primary focus now.

Members of Palestinian rival parties ahead of press conference in Cairo to announce reconciliation deal - Photo by Essam el-Shamy

Ahmad said that the government will take over crossings in the beginning of November, and that it will work to resolve all issues in Gaza and the West Bank. He further emphasized that there will be full coordination to get over any problems or issues faced by the national government, and that the government will take over its responsibilities fully in the beginning of December. The step will come after reviewing all details and solutions to be undertaken in case any problems happen.

Ahmad stated that Fatah worked to achieve Palestinian reconciliation through endorsing all solutions agreed upon with Egypt, and that Fatah will continue to work in the future to implement the agreement with Egypt.

Members of Palestinian rival parties ahead of press conference in Cairo to announce reconciliation deal - Photo by Essam el-Shamy

He emphasized that Palestinian factions are now united, saying that “this motivates all of us to put Palestine first and work to achieve reconciliation, while maintaining the current positive atmosphere.” He said that all parties have done their best for the sake of this reconciliation, and now is the time to work.

Members of Palestinian rival parties ahead of press conference in Cairo to announce reconciliation deal - Photo by Essam el-Shamy

He emphasized that Egypt was capable of promoting the reconciliation, thanks to its power in creating equilibrium in the Middle East. Without Egypt, matters would have been difficult. Egypt is a regional power, with a handle on the issue and it works for the sake of the Palestinian cause, he emphasized.

Azzam thanked the Egyptian political leadership for efforts exerted in the Palestinian cause and ending the divisions.

Palestinian Ambassador to Egypt Gamal El Shobky told Egypt Today that Egypt exerted monumental efforts in reestablishing peace in Palestine, and ending the rift. “Egypt has worked very hard to bring all factions’ perspectives together and to remove any obstacles obstructing peaceful dialogue and solutions.”

The ambassador also clarified that Mahmoud Abbas’s instructions were very clear in regards to the necessity of having a holistic agreement that effectively ends the dispute and the rift between the Palestinian factions. Any partial agreement will hinder the Palestinian Consensus Government from undertaking its tasks properly. ]]>
10/12/2017 6:40:31 PM
<![CDATA[The states Qatar bet on to garner more votes in UNESCO]]>
On Thursday, the Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamed bin Abdel Rahman Al-Thani appeared in UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris for the first time since the vote started. The reason might be that the Qatari candidate Hamad Abdul Aziz Al-Kawari had lost two votes in the third round on Wednesday.

Most probably, the Qatari minister was summoned to close more deals with some of the 58 member states of the UNESCO’s Executive Board, who are not still settled on which candidate to vote for.

According to confidential sources, Kawari received in his candidacy room, no. S375, in the organization’s headquarters the permanent delegate of Oman several times, as well as Sudan’s permanent delegate in a meeting that lasted for 30 minutes on Thursday.

What’s more, a diligent cooperation has been noted between the Qatari delegation and the Yemeni permanent delegate, although Yemen is not part of the Executive Board.
However, Yemen plays “hidden roles” in favor of Kawari in the organization, despite its earlier announcement of boycotting Qatar for supporting terrorism.

The United States announced on Thursday its withdrawal from the UNESCO, objecting to the politicization of the organization. The move’s timing is considered by sources in the UNESCO as a big maneuver by the U.S. to veer member states’ support to the Qatari candidate to fill the financial void left by the organization’s largest financer.

Sources revealed that there is an alternative scenario if the Qatari candidate could not amass the support of a big number of voters, which is lobbying to gain votes for the Lebanese candidate Vera Khouri, who is considered a conventional candidate among Arabs. This scenario explains why she refuses to withdraw, although she received only four votes in the third round.

The sources added that the United States and France have been attempting to force the withdrawal of Egypt and Africa’s candidate Ambassador Moushira Khattab before the fourth round on Thursday, so as to guarantee that the Qatari and French candidates would receive the highest number of votes and then compete on Friday.

Thereafter, the French candidate would win either through a deal with Doha or out of concerns by Executive Board member states on Kawari’s eligibility for the position as he is suspected to be anti-Semitic.

It is worthy to mention that Khattab would receive the support of all developing countries if she competes in the fifth round. Sources also said that France has been in contact with other European states to vote for its candidate.

On the third round held on Wednesday, each of the Qatari and French candidates got 18 votes, while Khattab got 13 votes, acquiring one additional vote.

Additional contribution by

Noha El Tawil

10/12/2017 5:52:01 PM
<![CDATA[In pics: Palestinian rivals end decade-long division in Cairo]]>
Egypt’s, which was hosting a series of reconciliation meetings, was praised after an announcement Thursday the two parties reached a deal, under which the Palestinian Concession Government will assume administration affairs of Rafah Border by Dec.1.

Egypt Today’s photographer Essam el-Shamy highlighted the parties’ remarkable meeting in Cairo with his camera.

Members of Palestinian rival parties ahead of press conference in Cairo to announce reconciliation deal - Photo by Essam el-Shamy

Members of Palestinian rival parties ahead of press conference in Cairo to announce reconciliation deal - Photo by Essam el-Shamy


Members of Palestinian rival parties ahead of press conference in Cairo to announce reconciliation deal - Photo by Essam el-Shamy

During a press conference, both delegations’ leaders expressed gratitude to Egypt’s mediation role and hosting of reconciliation talks.

Video of the Palestinian rivals signing the accord in Cairo

بالفيديو.. توقيع اتفاقية المصالحة بين فتح وحماس... من طرف youm7

Both delegations released a statement Thursday, saying that the Palestinian Concession government should assume the administration affairs of the border before Dec. 1, while working on removing all division suffered problems. It also added that the Presidential Guard of President Mahmoud Abbas will operate the border, under a reconciliation deal.

Egypt invited Palestinian factions who signed the 2011 Accord to hold their coming meeting on Nov. 21, 2017 in Cairo, said the statement.

Members of Palestinian rival parties ahead of press conference in Cairo to announce reconciliation deal - Photo by Essam el-Shamy

Members of Palestinian rival parties ahead of press conference in Cairo to announce reconciliation deal - Photo by Essam el-Shamy

9E8A9158 Members of Palestinian rival parties during press conference in Cairo - Photo by Essam el-Shamy / Egypt Today

In remarks on the reconciliation deal reached in Cairo, Saleh al-Arouri, deputy head of the Hamas political bureau said "The Hamas movement is serious and sincere in ending the Palestinian division and achieving national reconciliation.”

"There are no new agreements signed,” Arouri said, adding that what is currently happening is that the two parties, side by side, are ensuring that the agreement signed in 2011 in Cairo is taking effect.”

Hamas and Fatah leaders after signing a reconciliation deal in Cairo - Photo by Essam el-Shamy / Egypt Today

Hamas and Fatah leaders after signing a reconciliation deal in Cairo - Photo by Essam el-Shamy / Egypt Today

Hamas and Fatah leaders after signing a reconciliation deal in Cairo - Photo by Essam el-Shamy / Egypt Today

The Gaza employees’ problem will be completely resolved by the next meeting held between Palestinian parties in Cairo, according to a Fatah Central Committee member, Azzam Al-Ahmad.

Members of Palestinian rival parties during press conference in Cairo - Photo by Essam el-Shamy / Egypt Today

Members of Palestinian rival parties during press conference in Cairo - Photo by Essam el-Shamy / Egypt Today

A festive scene was glimpsed in Gaza strip. Palestinians in the strip celebrated the reconciliation agreement that was signed between the Palestinian rival factions, Hamas and Fatah, under Egyptian auspices, by raising both the Palestinian and Egyptian flags.

Members of Fatah, Hamas delegations in Cairo after ahead of press conference to announce reconciliation deal - Essam el-Shamy/Egypt Today

Members of Palestinian rival parties during press conference in Cairo - Photo by Essam el-Shamy / Egypt Today

Fatah and Hamas leaders after signing a reconciliation agreement in Cairo - Photo by Essam el-Shamy/Egypt Today

Fatah and Hamas delegations during reconciliation talks in Cairo - Photo by Essam el-Shamy/ Egypt Today ]]>
10/12/2017 5:24:51 PM
<![CDATA[Karzai warns of growing US-Russia rivalry in Afghanistan]]>
Speaking to reporters during a press conference in Kabul, Karzai said the United States and Russia were engaged in rivalries against each other during the Jihad times against the Soviet forces, Khaama Press reported on Thursday.

However, he said the rivalries still exist and continue to grow in the country with the Afghan people suffering from the continued war and violence.

He also slammed the Taliban group for its so-called holy war and said he has sent a letter to them to stop violence.

According to Karzai, the Taliban-led insurgency continues to harm and destroy the Afghan people only.

The United States announced its new policy for Afghanistan and South Asia late in August and vowed to continue suppressing the militant and terrorist groups, a move which was widely welcomed by the Afghan officials.

However, Karzai says the new US strategy of the United States does not accompany a message for peace and stability.]]>
10/12/2017 4:48:49 PM
<![CDATA[Kenya gov't bans protests from city centres amid election standoff]]>
Internal Security Minister Fred Matiang'i said the ban applied to the central business districts of the capital, the western city of Kisumu and the coastal city of Mombasa.

The organisers of protests would be held personally liable for any damage, he said.

Mombasa and Kisumu are strongholds of opposition support, and Odinga also has strong backing in parts of Nairobi. All three have seen repeated clashes between riot police and opposition supporters in recent weeks.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga were due to go to the polls in a repeat presidential election on Oct. 26, after the Supreme Court nullified Kenyatta's win in Aug. 8 polls over procedural irregularities.

But this week Odinga announced he was withdrawing from the race, throwing the East African nation into political turmoil. Kenya is the region's richest economy, a transport and trade gateway and a Western ally in a region roiled by conflict.

Odinga's opposition alliance says the new elections are invalid. They have called for demonstrations demanding electoral reforms, including the replacement of some staff at the election board, and new elections. The promise of more protests has raised fears of further clashes between Odinga's supporters and police.

On Wednesday, the election board said the polls would be held anyway. All eight of the original presidential candidates will be on the ballot, after a court decision forced the board to reverse of their previous position that only Odinga and Kenyatta would be on the ballot.

In August, only Odinga and Kenyatta polled more than one percent. Of the six other candidates, one has since been declared bankrupt, disqualifying him form office under Kenyan law. Three others told Reuters they intended to run -- Abduba Dida, Japheth Kavinga and Ekuru Aukot.

"The political battle in this country has been between the Odingas and the Kenyattas for the longest time," said Aukot. "Voters will be looking for a neutral person who can pacify the country."

A Kenya rights group said this week that at least 37 people were killed in protests immediately following the Aug. 8 poll. Most were killed by police.]]>
10/12/2017 3:42:13 PM
<![CDATA[Ismail directs ministers to attend sessions on activating monitoring tools in parl't]]>
In press statements on Thursday, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Omar Marwan said that Transport Minister Hisham Arafat attended on Tuesday a five-hour parliamentary session to reply to interpellations submitted by the MPs.

Ismail's directives came during a cabinet meeting on Thursday.

Earlier, the cabinet started its weekly meeting to discuss a number of political, economic, social and security files, in addition to reports related to the quality of services presented to the citizens.]]>
10/12/2017 3:03:38 PM
<![CDATA[France's Macron launches second round of reforms]]>
Fresh from pushing through major changes to French labour law, the 39-year-old centrist has now turned to the next stage of the "transformation" of the French social model which he has promised.

This includes major changes to France's generous unemployment benefits system, as well as large increases in state-funded training aimed at helping the unemployed back into the workplace.

Any change to social security is controversial in France and Macron is hoping to avoid an escalation in street protests against him which began in early September at the call of trade unions.

"It was polite but firm," the head of the Communist-backed CGT trade union, Philippe Martinez, told reporters after talks with Macron at the presidential palace on Thursday.

Martinez has been one of the most vocal critics of Macron since his election in May and the CGT has spearheaded what has so far been a mostly ineffective round of strikes and demonstrations to demand the government change tack.

Macron intends to deploy the same playbook used to push through the labour law reform: negotiations over the next few months culminating in a set of government's proposals.

"Objective: to invent new protections," Macron tweeted.

But whereas his opponents were previously divided -- with the more moderate CFDT and FO unions backing talks, not protests -- there are growing signs that the labour movement is preparing to push back together.

- Protection or precarity ? -

Macron vowed during campaigning to overhaul the unemployment benefits system to extend it to self-employed people and farmers who are currently not covered, as well as opening it up -- under certain conditions -- to people who quit their jobs.

But controversially he also proposed that benefits claimants could only refuse one job locally for which they were qualified. If they refused twice, they would lose their payouts or have to accept a government-approved re-training programme.

Funds set aside by the government for training are set to total 15 billion euros (18 billion dollars) over the next five years for adult education aimed at helping increase the skills of the jobless.

"The aim is to open up the unemployment benefits system to everyone and also to reform it to help fight against job precariousness," said Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud, who will pilot talks in the months ahead.

Macron's popularity ratings have fallen sharply since his election in May, with only 40 percent of respondents in a recent survey saying they had a favourable view of the former investment banker.

Attempts to cut public spending and the public sector payroll led to a strike this week by civil servants, while local mayors and regional chiefs are also angry over plans to reduce their funding.

Macron also provoked leftist opponents with a proposed tax reform that will scrap wealth taxes on financial investments, leading him to be dubbed the "president of the rich".]]>
10/12/2017 2:35:54 PM
<![CDATA[U.S. seen withdrawing from U.N.'s cultural agency - diplomats]]>
Paris-based UNESCO, which began work in 1946, is known for designating World Heritage sites such as the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and the Grand Canyon National Park. It will pick a new chief this week to try to revive its fortunes.

Three diplomats said the United States -- which cancelled its substantial budget contribution to UNESCO in 2011 in protest at a decision to grant the Palestinians full membership -- would announce its decision in the coming days.

"It's not formal yet, but it's true," said a Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A representative of the U.S. delegation to UNESCO referred Reuters to the State Department. UNESCO declined to comment.

Foreign Policy magazine reported earlier on Thursday that Washington would formally withdraw after the 58-member UNESCO Executive Board selects its new director general on Friday.

The magazine said the decision was aimed at saving money and to protest what the U.S believes is UNESCO's anti-Israel stance.

The United States, which has contributed around $80 million a year to UNESCO, accounting for around a fifth of its budget, still has a vote on the board and is expected to keep an observer status at the organisation.

President Donald Trump has in general been critical of the United Nations and complained about the cost and value to the United States of some of its affiliate institutions.

"The absence of the United States or any large country with a lot of power is a loss. It's not just about money, it's promoting ideals that are vital to countries like the United States, such as education and culture," a UNESCO-based diplomat said.

For differing reasons, Britain, Japan and Brazil are among states that have yet to pay their dues for 2017.

After three days of secret balloting that could run until Friday, Qatar's Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari and France's Audrey Azoulay are tied to win the top post at the organisation, with Egyptian hopeful Moushira Khattab in third. Two other candidates trail.

Voting lasts over a maximum five rounds. If the two finalists end level, they draw lots.]]>
10/12/2017 2:29:03 PM
<![CDATA[Palestinian unity gov’t to operate Rafah border by Dec.1]]>
The statement said that the Palestinian Concession government should assume the administration affairs of the border before Dec. 1, while working on removing all division suffered problems. It also added that the Presidential Guard of President Mahmoud Abbas will operate the border, under a reconciliation deal.

Egypt, which hosted a series of meetings between both parties over the past two days, invited Palestinian factions who signed the 2011 Accord to hold their coming meeting on Nov. 21, 2017 in Cairo, said the statement.

The statement added that Egypt expressed its appreciation to both parties on positive spirit during delegation meetings in Cairo. Cairo also thanked Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over his real willing to end the decade-long division.

Both parties arrived in Cairo two days ago to resume reconciliation talks after announcing the Palestinian Concession Government assuming Gaza Strip affairs.

Hamas and Fatah movements announced earlier Thursday they reached a reconciliation deal in Cairo, expressing gratitude to Egyptian efforts for mediation role and hosting talks.

2017-10-12T115617Z_1093858795_RC15029E9BC0_RTRMADP_3_PALESTINIANS-TALKS (1)
Hamas and Fatah delegations in Cairo announcing their agreement deal as part of reconciliation talks held under the auspices of Egypt Thursday, Oct.12, 2017 - Reuters

10/12/2017 2:06:41 PM
<![CDATA[Italian government wins latest confidence vote on electoral law]]>
The centre-left coalition, supported by most mainstream opposition centre-right parties, says the reform is needed to harmonise disparate voting systems in the upper and lower houses of parliament.

The so-called 'Rosatellum' favours parties which group together ahead of the election. The 5-Star refuses to join any alliance and says the reform could cost it at least 50 seats in the next parliament, hobbling its chances of taking power.

The bill now faces a secret ballot by the same parliamentarians in the lower house, giving dissident parliamentarians of all colours a chance to shoot it down, as happened in June to a previous electoral proposal.

It is expected to be held by Friday.

A renewed defeat would be a serious setback for Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and could trigger his resignation.

If it overcomes this hurdle, the package will still need the approval of the upper house Senate, where Gentiloni's government does not have a stable majority.

An election is due by May 2018. Analysts say that the new system looks highly unlikely to throw up a clear parliamentary majority, with opinion polls showing the center-left, center-right and 5-Star splitting the vote three ways. ]]>
10/12/2017 12:56:49 PM
<![CDATA[Qatari boycott: Crucial pillar for Fatah/Hamas reconciliation]]>
Abdellatif El-Mennawy, the former news sector head at Egypt’s state TV, suggests in an op-ed published in The Independent that the embargo imposed on Qatar came in parallel to the defeat and retreat of Islamist militias and guerilla groups in the region due Qatar’s inability to provide them with funds and military aids.

Among these is Hamas, which has also been negatively affected by the weakening of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood - its parent organization - in Egypt as its members have been subject to prosecution for planning and executing different terror attacks on civilians, police and army forces. The Brotherhood has been backed by Qatar as well.
As CNN reported, “In the fall of 2012, the head of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, visited the Gaza Strip becoming the first world leader to do so under Hamas' control. The emir inaugurated projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In the vacuum left by other countries, Qatar saw its influence over the Strip rising quickly.”

In 2010, WikiLeaks published 251,287 leaked diplomatic cables, mostly from 2003 to 2010. Of them, 536 reference both Qatar and Hamas, and 70 relate to Qatar and terrorism financing. In 2009, a cable from then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton inquired about Qatar’s relations with Iran, and Iran’s interest in Gaza, according to Jerusalem Post.

Throughout its years of support to Hamas, Qatar has been encouraging the rift between Fatah and Hamas instead of uniting under the umbrella of the Palestinian Authority, and pushing Hamas to refute the two-state-solution, which could bring peace between Israel and Palestine.]]>
10/12/2017 12:49:31 PM
<![CDATA[China raps Britain after activist barred from Hong Kong]]>
Immigration agents stopped Benedict Rogers, deputy chairman of the Conservative Party's human rights commission, from entering the former British colony on Wednesday morning.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson voiced concern and said his government would be "seeking an urgent explanation".

China "launched stern representations" over the comments, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said during a regular press briefing.

"The central government is responsible for Hong Kong-related diplomatic affairs," she said, adding: "who can get in and who cannot is within our sovereignty."

"Hong Kong affairs are China's domestic affairs. We oppose the interference in China's domestic affairs in any way by any foreign government, institution or person."

Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 under a "One country, two systems" formula intended to protect its freedoms and way of life. The semi-autonomous city is supposed to handle its own immigration affairs.

Hong Kong's immigration department said it did not comment on individual cases.

But Hua said that Rogers "meant to interfere in China's domestic affairs and the judicial independence of Hong Kong".

The barring of Rogers, who has spoken out against the jailing of Hong Kong democracy activists, came a week before a major congress in Beijing of the ruling Communist Party.

The activist said he believed the embassy had somehow become aware of private discussions he had had about possibly visiting the campaigners in prison, which he later realized would not be possible.]]>
10/12/2017 12:43:46 PM
<![CDATA[Palestinian president welcomes signing reconciliation agreement ]]>
Palestinian rival factions, Hamas and Fatah, have reached a consensus on reconciliation to end a decade-long national split during the second session of their national reconciliation dialogue held in Cairo from October 10 till Thursday, Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh announced Thursday morning.

Fatah spokesperson, Osama al-Qawasmi, also confirmed that the two parties had reached a comprehensive agreement under Egyptian auspices.

Last week, Palestinian Prime Minister of the National Consensus Government formed in 2014, Rami al-Hamdallah, held his first cabinet meeting in Gaza after Hamas announced handing over the administration of the Gaza Strip to the unity government; a major step towards Palestinian reconciliation.]]>
10/12/2017 12:43:27 PM
<![CDATA[Kurds offer talks with Baghdad over airport, banks ban]]>
Baghdad took the measures in an attempt to isolate the KRG after last month's referendum.

The government in Baghdad, which declared the vote illegal, imposed a ban on direct international flights to the northern region. It also demanded that the KRG hand over control of its border posts, and stopped selling dollars to four Kurdish-owned banks.

"To avoid this collective punishment, we invite (Iraqi Prime Minister) Haider al-Abadi, again, that we ready to any from of dialogue and negotiations in conformity with the Iraqi Constitution," the KRG said a statement published overnight.

It offered discussions "regarding the crossings, internal trade, providing services to the citizens, the banks and the airports."

The statement marked a change of tack by Kurdish authorities, which on Wednesday accused Iraqi forces and Iranian-trained Iraqi paramilitaries of "preparing a major attack" on the oil-rich region of Kirkuk and near Mosul in northern Iraq.

An Iraqi military spokesman denied any attack on Kurdish forces was planned, saying government troops were preparing to oust Islamic State militants from an area near the Syrian border.

Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council issued arrest warrants on Wednesday for the chairman of the Kurdish referendum commission and two aides for "violating a valid (Iraqi) court ruling" banning the independence vote as against the Constitution.

Neighboring Iran and Turkey back Iraq's uncompromising stance, fearing the spread of separatism to their own Kurdish populations.

Kirkuk, a Kurdish-held multi-ethnic region, has emerged as a flashpoint in the crisis between Baghdad and Erbil as it is claimed by both sides.

Iraqi forces and Shi'ite paramilitaries, known as Popular Mobilisation, are deployed south and west of Kirkuk, in areas previously under the control of Islamic State.

The area around the border post of al-Qaim, in western Iraq, is the last Iraqi region still under the control of the militants who overran a third of the country in 2014.]]>
10/12/2017 10:51:24 AM
<![CDATA[Greenpeace activists protest at EDF nuclear power site]]>
Greenpeace issued video footage on Thursday which showed several of their members arriving at the Cattenom site in northeast France and setting off firecrackers.

Local police said eight people had been quickly spotted and detained. EDF added there had been no impact on the safety of the Cattenom site and condemned the incursion by Greenpeace.

Police said they entered the site but EDF added that they had remained outside the main buildings and nuclear zone,

France depends on atomic power for 75 percent of its electricity needs.

Greenpeace this week published a report which stated that the spent-fuel pools of EDF's nuclear reactors were highly vulnerable to attacks. The report was written by nuclear experts and delivered to French authorities.

State-controlled EDF, which operates 58 reactors, denied its spent-fuel pools were at risk and said they have been designed to withstand earthquakes and flooding as well as terror attacks.

EDF also said this week it was repairing pumping station pipes at 20 nuclear reactors after discovering they might not be strong enough to withstand earthquakes.]]>
10/12/2017 10:41:43 AM
<![CDATA[Qatari leaks releases a video for UNESCO Qatari candidate]]>
The Qatari leaks tweeted “The Qatari UNESCO candidate and the Qatari ambassador in Paris, meet on lunch with some UNESCO African ambassadors, to buy supportive voices.”

In an interview with Egypt Today and retweeted by the foreign ministry, Egypt's top diplomat Sameh Shoukry suggested Qatar was using its financial power to influence UNESCO's 58 member executive council.
10/12/2017 1:16:37 AM
<![CDATA[Qatar says neighbors "jealous", facts say otherwise ]]>
A statement from the Director of the Qatari Government Communication Office, Sheikh Saif Bin Ahmed Al-Thani described the demand as “pure jealousy”.

“The tournament is not up for discussion or negotiation… this demand is a clear attempt to undermine our independence” the statement added.

Four Arab nations, namely Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, have been boycotting the tiny emirate of Qatar since May, accusing it of sponsoring hard-line Islamist groups and supporting terrorism.

Efforts to mediate the crisis by Kuwait and the United States went in vain as Doha kept on altering facts and falsely denying the charges against it.

Oddly enough, the existence of numerous international documents and leaks that prove Doha’s connection with renowned terror organizations and events, however, did not stop the statement from saying, “There has never been a legitimate reason for the blockade of the State of Qatar.”

The demand of Qatar waiving to host the controversial 2022 World Cup grew in the wake of criticism of Qatar’s human rights record, not to mention how Qatar won the right to host the tournament in the first place.

Observers and social media users, on the other hand, see that using the word “jealousy” by the Qatari government is rather ridiculous, as even if Doha has its own plan to project the emirate onto the global stage via sport, Egypt – for example – has the top-ranked soccer team in Africa, while Saudi Arabia and the UAE are both listed in Asia’s top eight.

One Twitter user @StuartGrindle tweeted,

Another tweet by @ArayDanish said,

@HSajwanization also finds the word “jealousy” a bit strange to use when talking about the United Arab Emirates being jealous of Qatar.

@Kashifian also tweeted,

Amnesty International stated that despite shedding the light the major human rights abuses among workers building the infrastructure for Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup, Doha did little to improve the situation.

The London-based non-governmental human rights organization was concerned in its report with the hard conditions suffered by laborers who worked on the stadium under the Kafala system; it said “systematic human rights abuses were still prevalent among laborers”.

In 2016, the organization produced a video report that highlighted the systematic abuses, in some cases forced labor, suffered by migrant workers building the international stadium.

The report was titled “The ugly side of the beautiful game: Labour exploitation on a Qatar 2022 World Cup venue”.

A year earlier, Journeyman Pictures also produced their own report “Slaves to the Beautiful Game: Following the corruption scandal and in light of the horrific conditions of its preparation, is it time to strip Qatar of the football world cup?”; it focused on migrant workers who have died building stadiums for the 2022 World Cup.

Another report was produced under the title “The Hidden Brutality of Qatar's FIFA World Cup Preparations”, all as attempts to reveal the real truth behind hosting the tournament.

The report added, “In Qatar, 4000 workers will die to put on the 2022 Football World Cup. This staggering figure indicates the slave-like conditions workers of football's most expensive construction are enduring.”

According to the Telegraph, a row broke out on Friday over whether Qatar’s staging of the 2022 World Cup was under threat after a report warning of “an increasing political risk” to the tournament was leaked.

The study, reported the Telegraph, carried out by management consultants Cornerstone Global, was passed to the BBC amid the ongoing diplomatic crisis which has engulfed the tiny, gas-rich emirate and its neighbors. The report warns construction companies working on Qatar’s £153 billion infrastructure program that it is a “high-risk project”.]]>
10/12/2017 12:48:11 AM
<![CDATA[Exclusive: Qatari-French coalition to force Egypt’s withdrawal amid UNESCO elections ]]>
Both candidates launched a coalition, which its consequences appeared in the third round of UNESCO elections on Wednesday, as the sources told Egypt Today.

During this round, the Egyptian candidate, Ambassador Moushira Khattab, managed to increase her votes to 13, as she received 12 votes in the second round and 11 votes in the first round.

The Egyptian candidate succeeded to keep her voting bloc, without using any political or financial incentives.

The French Candidate, Audrey Azoulay’s votes raised to 18, to be equal to those received by Kawari, while Chinese Qian Tang sustained his five votes from the previous round, and Vera El Khoury Lacoeuilhe from Lebanon received four votes.

The Qatari - French coalition, which seems to have a plan, whether to force the Egyptian candidate to withdraw for France, or to have both Qatari and French candidates in the final elections, where France can use the European concerns about the Qatari candidate, and win the post.

Behind the scenes of the UNESCO elections, there are claims that Qatar is ready to give up the post for France, in order to exclude the Egyptian candidate Moushira Khattab from the race. Moreover, Qatar will win a new ally, at a time where the Middle East and Arab countries are against the Qatari practices that supports terrorist groups.

Furthermore, the United States could be a sponsor for that French - Qatari alliance, to raise pressures on the quartet fighting terrorism (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain).

The Chinese decision is critical in the fourth round on Thursday, as its candidate got 5 votes in the three rounds, so it is expected that Qian Tang will withdraw, leaving these votes to another candidate. The question is who is that candidate?

Egypt is a developing country, which has a strong strategic relation with China, so It is expected that China’s candidate will withdraw in favor of the Egyptian Candidate. It is also expected that Qian Tang will announce the call early in order to sum up support to Khattab before the next round starts. As the late announcement may not be effective as the fourth-round shows changes in situations of the member countries who have the right to vote.

There is also a possibility that the Lebanese candidate will phase out for Khattab, especially that Lebanese candidate is fully aware of the positive Egyptian role to in Lebanon, unlike Qatar’s destructive policies in the same country.

Five candidates are running for the office, including Ambassador Moushira Khattab, the candidate from Egypt.

The winning candidate must obtain 30 votes, which did not occur in the first round but possible by a potential fifth round, which is to be held on Friday. The candidates who amassed the highest number of votes in the fourth round will compete in the fifth.

The new director-general of UNESCO will be named on October 13. Then, 195 members in the General Conference will be appointed in view of recommendations from UNESCO’s Executive Board.
10/12/2017 12:06:56 AM
<![CDATA[EXCLUSIVE: Sources reveal Qatari-French alliance in UNESCO's S. 375 room]]>
Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari and France’s Audrey Azoulay both received 18 votes each in the voting to replace UNESCO’s director-general Irina Bokova by the start of 2018.

Egyptian diplomat Moushira Khattab received 13 votes, according to results posted on UNESCO’s website.

According to the sources, Kawari was seen warmly receiving France’s Azoulay in his UNESCO’s candidacy room no. S. 375; apparently, what was agreed upon inside that room is what affected the voting process in its 3rd round that took place Wednesday.

The suspicious meeting came after Vietnam withdrew its candidate Pham Sanh Chau, a decision that Azoulay knew about, especially after some inside talks that France agreed with Vietnam to withdraw its candidate to strengthen the French candidate’s ground after receiving only 13 votes in the second round, which meant that France needed Vietnam’s five votes.

Controversy has been roaming around Kawari’s candidacy as he has been accused of being anti-Semitic, moreover, Qatar is highly believed that it will buy its way into the post, using its “money weapon”.

An interview by Egypt Today with Egypt’s top diplomat Sameh Shoukry suggested Qatar was using its financial power to influence UNESCO’s 58-member executive council.

Soon after

Egypt Today

exposed the meeting, Kawari tried to move the lights away from the deal he struck with the French candidate, as he tweeted a photo of him and Azoulay with the following words:

According to observers and political experts, these backstage actions indicate suspicions roaming around the kind of deal that Qatar and France agreed upon; aims for such deal are seen as either to force Egypt to withdrew in the last round for France, or to limit the competition between Qatar and France; leading to France winning the post.

The row between Qatar and Egypt has its roots back to the crisis engulfing Qatar and its Gulf Arab neighbors.

Four Arab nations, namely Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, have been boycotting the tiny emirate of Qatar since May, accusing it of sponsoring hard-line Islamist groups and supporting terrorism.

Qatar is apparently ready to waive the position for France in order to cut off Egypt’s way to the post and to ensure France as an ally against its opponents who rejects the Qatari regime’s practices of supporting and financing terrorism; questions about whether the U.S. administration is aware of the conspiracy that is being plotted by Qatar and France remain unanswered.

Mohamed Zain contributed to this article.]]>
10/11/2017 11:14:39 PM
<![CDATA[Khattab: Egypt gain 1 vote, Qatar lost 2 in UNESCO 3rd voting round]]>
“Egypt has won one vote, while Qatar lost two,” Kattab told the state TV in a phone call from Paris on Wednesday, adding that Thursday’s round will determine the final candidates for the seat, and the final round will be on Friday.

“The Egyptian delegation will decisively carry on the current elections,” Khattab said, affirming that Egypt has the qualities for the post, like improving education, counter-terrorism, preserving cultural heritage, and the real desire to reform the UNESCO.

Wednesday marks the third of four rounds of the UNESCO voting for a new director-general; it resulted in 13 votes for Egypt's Khattab, 18 votes for Qatar and 18 votes for France, while Lebanese candidate Vera El Khoury amassed 4 votes, and Chinese candidate Qian Tang received 5 votes.

Pham Sanh Chau of Vietnam withdrew before the third round. The first round was held Monday, and the second was held on Wednesday where Azerbaijan's nominee had withdrawn.

Five candidates are running for office, including Ambassador Khattab, the candidate from Egypt and Africa.

The winning candidate must obtain 30 votes, which did not occur in the first round but possible by a potential fifth round, which is to be held on Friday. The candidates who amassed the highest number of votes in the fourth round will compete in the fifth.

The new director-general of UNESCO will be named on October 13. Then, 195 members in the General Conference will be appointed in view of recommendations from UNESCO’s Executive Board.]]>
10/11/2017 11:01:49 PM
<![CDATA[Q&A on Hamas, Fatah dialogue sessions in Cairo]]>
Below is everything you need to know on the history of the division and Egypt’s initiatives to bridge the gap between the two parties.

Q -When did the split between the two main Palestinian political parties Fatah and Hamas happen?
In 2007, a conflict happened between Hamas and Fatah when Hamas’ control over the Gaza Strip freezed works of the Palestinian government of Ismail Haniyeh as well as the Parliament. Hundreds of people among the Fatah movement died and were wounded.

Q-Which countries fueled the split in recent years?
Turkey and Qatar supported the Hamas movement in order to deepen the split that serves Israeli plans, targeting to separate the West Bank from Gaza Strip politically and geographically.

Q- When did Egypt start its mediator role to bridg the gap between the two movments?
Egypt started its initiative in 2007 when it hosted leaders of Fatah and Hamas, aiming to encourage Palestinian parties to end the division and achieve partnership and national unity.

Q- Did Egyptian efforts exerted to end division succeed in realizing reconciliation?
Egypt succeeded in achieving national reconciliation between the two parties and the 2011 Fatah and Hamas agreement was signed in Cairo.

Q-When was the Government of National Accord (GNA) formed between Fatah and Hamas? Who chaired it?
GNA was formed between the two movments in June 15, 2014 and Rami Hamdallah was the Prime Minister.

Q-Why did the GNA withdraw from Gaza in 2015?
The cabinet members left Gaza in April 15, 2015 suddenly because of disagreements that happened with Hamas, which refrained from paying salaries for cabinet employees.

Q- Why did Hamas form the administrative committee in Gaza?
In March, Hamas resorted to form an administrative committee to do the works of the GNA of Hamdallah, who had left Gaza suddenly. Hamas emphasized that the administrative committee worked to tie between Gaza and the West Bank administratively, financially and politically.

Q- When did Hamas dissolve its administrative committee in Gaza? Why?
Hamas dissolved it in September 15, 2017 upon a request from Egypt in order to end the division and achieve national reconciliation with Fatah.

Q- When did the GNA visit Gaza? Why?
GNA chaired by Hamdallah visited Gaza to resume its work there upon a request from Egypt.

Q- When did the Palestinian dialogue sessions launch between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo? What is the point behind it?
The sessions launched on Tuesday to discuss ending the division between the two parties and finalize the national reconciliation.
The sessions aim to activate the 2011 Fatah-Hamas Cairo agreement, find a way to solve the cabinet employee salaries problem and to form a national government that includes all Palestinian factions.

Q- What is the next move after holding the Palestinian national dialogue between Fatah and Hamas?
During the sessions, participants agreed upon activating the 2011 Fatah-Hamas agreement. Cairo’s authorities will send invitations for other Palestinian factions to hold a comprehensive conference to discuss establishing a new national government.

Q-Why did Cairo start to discuss the reconciliation means, especially now? What is the point behind bridging the gap between Fatah and Hamas?
Egypt aims to wake and resume negotiation in the current period as it was marginalized after all interests were directed to conflicts waging in Syria, Libya and Iraq. Egypt aims to end rifts between the two movements to form a Palestinian unity before Israel at any negotiations.

Q- What are the basics that being discussed between Palestine and Israel?
The negotiation process is the basis of the Arab Peace initiative launched by the late Saudi King Abdullah in 2002. The initiative affirmed the tripartite coordination between Egypt, Jordan and Palestine as a basis and reference for any negotiation process with Israel. ]]>
10/11/2017 9:50:10 PM
<![CDATA[Moscow may demand U.S. cut diplomatic staff in Russia to 300 or below]]>
In July, Moscow told the United States to slash the number of its diplomatic and technical staff working in Russia by around 60 percent, to 455, in a further sign of souring relations.

The figure of 455 was meant to mirror the total number of Russian diplomats working in the United States, but also included Russian nationals working at the United Nations in New York, Borisenko, head of the Foreign Ministry's North America Department, told RIA.

"The fact that in the summer we took into account the people working for Russia's mission at the U.N., this was good will," Borisenko said.

"If they haven't appreciated this, we have the full right to reduce ... the number of U.S. diplomats," he said, adding that Moscow could stop taking Russian U.N. staff into account when calculating what parity between the two countries meant.

"In this case, the number of American personnel in Russia should decline to a level of 300 or below."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow said Washington hoped that complying with the Russian requirements would mean both countries could stop trading retaliatory measures, RIA later reported.

"The deterioration of relations does not serve the interests of either side. We hope that the downward trend in relations has come to an end," RIA quoted embassy spokeswoman Maria Olson as saying.]]>
10/11/2017 8:20:15 PM
<![CDATA[N.Korea says Trump has "lit the wick of war" - Russia's TASS agency]]>
"With his bellicose and insane statement at the United Nations, Trump, you can say, has lit the wick of a war against us," TASS quoted Ri as saying. "We need to settle the final score, only with a hail of fire, not words."]]>
10/11/2017 8:00:45 PM
<![CDATA[Sudan Foreign Minister hails relations with Egypt]]>
Ghandour underlined the importance of the popular dimension of the relations between Khartoum and Cairo, lauding efforts exerted to promote the bilateral ties.

He called for removing any problem that could hinder programs and projects of cooperation in the economic and commercial and other fields.

The Egyptian delegation congratulated Sudan on a recent US decision to lift sanctions imposed on Khartoum.

The meeting tackled ways to boost the bilateral relations with all their political, economic, cultural and popular aspects]]>
10/11/2017 7:37:47 PM
<![CDATA[Kenya: all 8 candidates will be on ballot in repeat poll]]>
The board also noted that opposition leader Raila Odinga, the main challenger to incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, had not yet submitted the official form to withdraw from the elections. Odinga had only sent them a letter after he announced he was withdrawing on Tuesday amid concerns over fairness.]]>
10/11/2017 7:34:25 PM
<![CDATA[Reuters quotes Egypt Today on Qatari candidate's sketchy activities]]>
"In an interview with Egypt Today and retweeted by the foreign ministry, Egypt's top diplomat Sameh Shoukry suggested Qatar was using its financial power to influence UNESCO's 58-member executive council," Reuters reported.

They further elaborated: "'It is an organisation that is owned by international society and cannot be sold to a particular state or individual,' he was quoted as saying when asked about the Qatari candidate's campaign logo 'I'm not coming empty handed.'"

A diplomat at Qatar's embassy in Paris declined to comment to Reuters' reporter. A Qatari official at UNESCO's headquarters also declined immediate comment.

Egyptian candidate Khattab's first message on Twitter in three months was a re-tweet of an article in the Israeli press entitled "Israel bemoans emerging Qatari victory in UNESCO leadership vote."
Screenshot of Reuters' story quoting Egypt Today's interview with Egyptian Foreign Minister

A campaign was launched on social media opposing the Qatari candidate.

Observers have been nervous about Kawari’s candidacy, as he is highly believed to be anti-Semitic.

Kawari, who served as Qatar’s culture minister from 2008 to 2016, headed a set of programs that used to promote anti-Semitic ideas.

According to Shimon Samuels, international relations director for the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), Kawari allowed his country to display a stand at the Frankfurt Book Fair with texts that “fomented conspiracy theories against Jews.”

Samuels told Algemeiner that the Qatari Ministry of Culture published a book in 2013 entitled "Jerusalem in the Eyes of the Poets," which included a preface written by Kawari himself; the book is loaded with anti-Semitic statements.

In his interview with Egypt Today, Shoukry described the Qatari candidate as "inexperienced".

"I imagine he is a candidate that lacks the cultural background, and I imagine that if there is a genuine desire for Arab solidarity, there would be an appreciation for the Afro-Arab candidacy because it is represented by a quarter of the international community’s component, seeing that the 54 African states represent one fourth of the United Nations," he said.

He added that Qatar has to understand that UNESCO is an international organization and not for "sale".

"There is a saying in the UNESCO that the organization is not for sale. It is an organization that is owned by the international society and cannot be sold to a particular state or individual who controls its ability and policy and those who support it. There is another saying that the UNESCO is not FIFA, and it is a prestigious and state-owned organization represented by permanent representatives, who must stand firmly to maintain the organization’s status," he said.

10/11/2017 7:27:19 PM
<![CDATA[French, Qatari candidates convene "suspiciously" at UNESCO HQ ]]>
Sources present at the UNESCO headquarters have relayed that there is an arrangement between the Qatari and French candidates to exclude the Egyptian candidate Moushira Khattab from the race.

Al-Kawari posted a photo of him and the French candidate as a means of deterring said suspicions of their alignment.

The Qatari candidate Hamad bin Abdul Aziz Al-Kawari received 19 votes in the first round and 20 votes in the second round, causing suspicions that the Qatari regime is buying supportive voices.

As Egypt still ranks third in the first and second rounds, Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry is conducting consultations with foreign ministers of the countries at the Executive Board, trying to get more votes.

The winning candidate must obtain 30 votes, which did not occur in the first round but possible by a potential fifth round, to be held on Friday. ]]>
10/11/2017 7:10:12 PM
<![CDATA[Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un, and the Rise of Lunacy ]]>
Trump’s rise to the presidency came as people grew disenfranchised and detached with the corrupt political norm, with many Trump supporters seeing him as a breath of fresh air. This gasp for air in the U.S. political system is alone; the jaws of civil-society have been wide open as he continually rants and raves like he’s in the diary room on “Big Brother.”

As David Chapelle stated, “Donald Trump is the first U.S. troll president.” Instead of using traditional channels of diplomacy, he uses Twitter as his mouth piece with words such as “covfefe” leaving the world scratching its head and wondering what could possibly come next.

The regularity of Trump’s bizarre outbursts make you question whether you should pity this man or mock him. A man who looks like the love child of Lucius Malfoy and Spike from ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, with the gentle use of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, has ended up in the world’s most powerful office with the mental capacity and common sense of a Cane Toad. That’s not the only similarity they share though, Trump also is involved in a constant flurry of sex scandals.

Domestically Donald Trump’s political career has followed those of many U.S. presidents before him, characterized by flip-flopping and reneging on promises which, made during the campaign trail, would obviously never be kept. A lot of the world could see right through this mockery of democracy, but never challenge the ignorance of vast swathes of the American population. Donald Trump is not actually similar to any President before him. If Rick Sanchez could extract every unpleasant attribute from the previous U.S. presidents and inject them into a Boris Johnson cross Alan Sugar-looking robot, we would have our man.

Frankie Boyle, a highly-controversial British comedian and writer aptly likened the Trump family to “a teen movie about Wall Street vampires directed by Uday Hussein.” The photo below could be taken from a “Desperate House Wives of …” episode. I’m certainly not one to judge looks, but the Trump family certainly fills their role as evil villains.

CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images
International relations are where Trump truly excels at proving to the world that he was never lying, and that he truly is a lunatic. Threatening North Korea, the world’s most unpredictable state, with “fire and fury” doesn’t bode well as the North still harbors a hatred for the U.S. from the 1950s which continues to fuel its nuclear ambitions.

Internationally, Trump has tried his utmost to insult his allies and conduct a disheveled foreign policy. Handing Angela Merkel a fictitious NATO bill whilst tearing up international agreements doesn’t help improve his public image and the already dampened image of the country he runs. Supporting Saudi Arabia’s bombing of innocent civilians while supporting pro-life abortion policies also shows his distorted moral compass.

When Trump engages in an indirect dialogue with the world’s token-lunatic, Chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea and supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, we get something special.

The two men are unbelievably similar in their lack of international understanding, and both relish seeing their image in the media. Be it good or bad, Trump blurts out whatever will give him the most public exposure. It feels like he’s running out of people to attack: the Republican Party, the media, revered athletes, the population. Defend Nazis? Yeah, why not. Combine this will a nuclear charged argument with the international moron of mystery, and it feels like Trump has imposed the "Truman Show" over all of us as his reality TV career continues.

But it is this lunacy which may keep us all safe; Mutually Assured Destruction has kept the world from total annihilation since the beginning of the Cold War, and Mutually Assured Lunacy is arguably, so far, keeping the reigns in between Trump and Jong-un. Although North Korea had a 60-year head start, the two leaders are now equally as unpredictable and equally as peculiar, and the more the aggressive back-and-forth increases, the more clueless the world is of the truth. As the threats of reprisal increase, the more one fears the other and thus the benefits of initiating a conflict decrease.

ISIS’s members have continually proclaimed that they will raise the Black Flag over the White House, but I anticipate the building being painted gold with streaks of orange or being in the midst of a nuclear wasteland before this ever happens. It’s hard to see how the next U.S. President could trump Donald Trump in providing a terrifying yet somehow disturbingly amusing image of what could happen to our world. But I wouldn’t worry, I don’t see foresee Charlie Sheen making it into office.


Joseph Colonna

10/11/2017 5:32:25 PM
<![CDATA[Zambia emergency decree to end at midnight on Wednesday]]>
Lungu on July 5 invoked emergency powers to deal with "acts of sabotage" by his political opponents.

"The declaration will duly expire at midnight tonight. I wish to state, however, that the expiration should not be misconstrued as an invitation to break the law, as other laws stay in place," Justice Minister Given Lubinda told parliament.

Lubinda said the police were still investigating some cases of suspected sabotage but did not give further details.

Under state of emergency laws, police can prohibit public meetings, detain suspects longer than usual, search without a warrant, close roads, impose curfews and restrict movements.

Zambia's main opposition party, the United Party for National Development (UPND), said the decision to invoke emergency powers had dented Zambia's image.

UPND spokesman Charles Kakoma said the government only used the decree to intimidate opposition supporters who were detained and later released without any charges.

"There was no need to for the state of emergency and that is why the government has not given us any serious update on people arrested for sabotage," Kakoma told Reuters. ]]>
10/11/2017 5:08:53 PM
<![CDATA[Key U.S. House Republican backs enforcing, not ditching Iran pact]]>
"As flawed as the deal is, I believe we must now enforce the hell out of it," Representative Ed Royce said at a hearing on Iran.]]>
10/11/2017 4:58:45 PM
<![CDATA[Malki: Settlement construction is declaration of war on two-state solution]]>
These remarks were made during his meeting with Swedish State Secretary Annika Söder to discuss the Palestinian issue.

Malki noted that the Israeli right government's stances are the most dangerous obstacles to the peace process.

He appreciated the Swedish stance, which supported Palestine in joining the Interpol, describing it as a 'brave stance'. He detailed the internal and political conditions regarding the Palestinian issue.
The Palestinian FM tackled the Egyptian efforts to achieve Palestinian reconciliation, pointing out that the meetings between Fatah and Hamas movements kicked off Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Söder lauded Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speech in the General Assembly of the United Nations, noting that the EU has]]>
10/11/2017 4:47:25 PM
<![CDATA[After "bloody mess" jab, Macron eyes training, job insurance reform]]>
The government proposes spending an additional 15 billion euros on training over five years, with employers saying they cannot fill vacancies despite a jobless rate of close to 10 percent, higher than in many European countries.

President Emmanuel Macron also wants to bring the national unemployment insurance fund, currently jointly run by unions and employers, under the state's control.

Macron, a former banker whose other labor market reform plans have been condemned by some trade union leaders as a deathknell for high French standards of labor protection, wants to make a professional training program less bureaucratic.

He also wants the state to have more say over how much the unemployed get in benefits and for how long, which is currently largely set by unions and employers,

On Thursday the government is due to open talks with union leaders before deciding how to overhaul training and unemployment insurance.

Training is already funded to the tune of some 30 billion euros annually, financed in part by a levy on wage-earners, but is widely criticized for not benefiting workers that need it most.

Meanwhile, unions and employers are protective of their decades-old grip over the unemployment insurance benefits system worth billions of euros.

Macron angered unionists last week with comments he made during a visit to a car parts factory, where scuffles erupted between police and workers protesting over job losses.

"Instead of kicking up a bloody mess, some of them would be better off going to see if they can get a job over there," he said, alluding to vacancies that a nearby aluminium factory was battling to fill.

Opponents accused Macron of showing contempt towards the workforce.

Nonetheless, business owners say the skills gap is a problem.

"We just can't get people into factories," Pierre Tisseau, whose company makes house terraces in Cholet in western France, told Reuters.

Tisseau said he hoped reforms to professional training would help him fill vacancies he has struggled to plug since 2008.

The local branch of the Medef business federation in Cholet said 9,000 people were looking for work but that firms were finding it hard to fill 1,500 vacancies in sectors such as construction, transport and the agri-foods.

Macron defied street protests led by the Communist Party-rooted CGT union to drive through employment law reforms that critics say will weaken collective bargaining and give more power to companies to set out work conditions.]]>
10/11/2017 4:40:15 PM
<![CDATA[Spain vows 'all options' open in Catalonia crisis talks]]>
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has vowed to do everything in his power to prevent the region's independence in a dispute that has hurled Spain into its deepest political crisis in decades.

He has refused to rule out imposing direct rule over the semi-autonomous region -- a move many fear could lead to unrest.

Rajoy called an emergency meeting after Catalonia's president Carles Puigdemont announced on Tuesday that he had accepted the mandate for "Catalonia to become an independent state" following a banned referendum earlier this month.

But in a parliamentary speech that left many confused, Puigdemont immediately called for Catalonia's independence to be suspended to allow for negotiations with the central government.

On Wednesday, a government source who refused to be named said "all options" were on the table as the crisis talks were under way.

'Doesn't know where he's going' -
At stake is the future of a region of 7.5 million people deeply divided over independence, one of Spain's economic powerhouses, whose drive to break away has raised concern for stability in the European Union.

Crowds of thousands gathered outside the parliament building in Barcelona on Tuesday evening, waving Catalan flags and banners screaming "democracy" in the hope of witnessing a historic night in a region that remains deeply divided over independence.

But Spain's political establishment rounded on Puigdemont following his declaration, and support among separatists in Catalonia was mixed.

The government stuck to its stance that it would not accept mediation or any talks until Catalan leaders drop their independence bid.

"Mr Puigdemont -- no one -- can expect to impose mediation without returning to legality or democracy," Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told reporters.

She said Puigdemont was "a person who doesn't know where he is, where he's going or with whom he wants to go".

Barcelona resident Maria Rosa Bertran said she was against a delayed secession.

"I find it even worse because it is suffering a longer agony. Indecision and uncertainty is the worst thing that can happen to us," she told AFP.

Unknown consequences -
Following his declaration to parliament, Puigdemont and his allies signed an independence declaration outside the chamber, but its legal validity was unclear.

Spain and Catalonia now enter into the unknown, as Madrid has repeatedly said independence is not up for discussion.

Catalonia pressed ahead with an independence referendum on October 1 that the central government said breached Spain's constitution.

Spanish police cracked down on the polls, beating some voters as they closed down polling stations.

"I did not expect independence to be declared today because of all the processes that the government of Spain has begun, both with police actions and with threats," Marc Cazes, a student in Barcelona, said on Tuesday.

Around 90 percent of those who cast ballots voted for independence but the poll was poorly monitored and many Catalans opposed to secession boycotted it.

The crisis has caused deep uncertainty for businesses in one of the wealthiest regions in the eurozone's fourth-largest economy.

A string of companies have already moved their legal headquarters -- but not their employees -- from Catalonia to other parts of the country.

But on Wednesday morning, the Spanish stockmarket was up 1.16 percent on hopes for a breakthrough in the crisis.

The stand-off has also put strain on the euro.

The single currency was up after Puigdemont's announcement and held onto gains in Asian trade on Wednesday, buying $1.1815.

But it was still down two cents from its recent highs seen last month, due to the political uncertainty.

Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA, said that while the euro rose it "gained little traction as this is little more than kicking the can down the road. It's unlikely we've heard the last of this debate despite cooler heads prevailing".

Demands for independence in Catalonia, which has its own language and cultural traditions, date back centuries.

But a 2010 move by Spain's Constitutional Court to water down a statute that gave Catalonia additional powers, combined with a deep economic meltdown in Spain, sparked a surge in support for independence.]]>
10/11/2017 12:45:43 PM
<![CDATA[Kenya opposition protests as poll body mulls next step]]>
Opinions are split on what the veteran opposition leader's decision implies for what has already been a dramatic election saga, with President Uhuru Kenyatta insisting the October 26 vote must go ahead.

Thousands of Odinga's supporters poured into the streets of his western strongholds of Kisumu and Homa Bay, carrying sticks and placards and chanting: "no reforms, no elections".

Crowds also began gathering in Nairobi under the watchful eye of anti-riot police.

Kenya's Supreme Court last month annulled Kenyatta's victory in an August 8 election due to widespread irregularities in the counting process and mismanagement by election officials, and called for a re-run within 60 days.

However the process quickly hit a deadlock, with Odinga demanding deep reforms that the election commission (IEBC) said were impossible to deliver in the constitutionally mandated period.

It was this failure to make the required changes to procedure that Odinga said pushed him to withdraw Tuesday from the race.

"All indications are that the election scheduled for 26 October will be worse than the previous one," he said.

Odinga is betting on a 2013 Supreme Court judgement which sought to clarify current laws by saying that if a candidate dies or withdraws from an election, the IEBC must begin presidential nominations from scratch.

He hopes this will allow more time for reforms.

Odinga's decision is likely to set the stage for more court battles, while deepening the political crisis which has also led to an economic slowdown.

His National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition has called for a protest campaign.

'The path to the unknown'-
"By the look of things, they are gearing up for some long drawn-out street battles," the Daily Nation said in an editorial.

While protest violence immediately after the August election left 37 people dead -- mostly at the hands of police -- according to a Kenyan rights group, demonstrations have since remained largely peaceful.

However the country still has grim memories of the perils of post-election violence, with a disputed 2007 poll sparking politically-motivated tribal clashes that left some 1,100 dead.

"The big question now is what next for Kenya? Will Mr Uhuru Kenyatta be declared the president and sworn in? And what would that mean for his legitimacy, given the fact the Supreme court invalidated his election?" the Daily Nation asked in an editorial.

"One thing is for sure, the country is entering uncharted waters and walking the path to the unknown."

In another plot twist, Kenya's High Court on Wednesday ruled that a third presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot of the Thirdway Alliance, who scored less than one percent of the vote in the annulled election, should be allowed on the ballot.

However the Supreme Court has previously ruled that only the petitioner and respondent in the case challenging the election outcome should stand in a re-run, and this decision is likely to stand.]]>
10/11/2017 12:24:33 PM
<![CDATA[Malala: From being shot by Taliban to a student at Oxford ]]>
The little girl who was shot by militants in the head, neck, and shoulder while in her school bus has now started her first semester at Oxford University; after a miracle saved her life, and opened wider doors for her to inspire millions of girls around the world to fight for their education.

The 20-year-old girl identifies herself as an advocate for girls’ education and women's equality. She travels to different parts of the world to visit girls who struggle for their education, listens to their stories and tries to show support. Malala has one million followers on her Twitter account.

She also co-founded the ‘Malala Fund’ with her father Ziauddin in 2013. “We believe girls are the best investment in the future peace and prosperity of our world,” their mission read.

Malala is concerned about all the obstacles that face girls such as violence, discrimination, displacement, poverty and early marriage; and she tries her best to aid them in overcoming these obstacles and pursuing a life.

Malala discusses issues to do with women’s education and rights with top world leaders. She also plans to bring about a change in communities; she attempts to create a safer and healthier community that allows more girls to enroll in schools and continue their education.

Till now, Malala is keen on wearing traditional Pakistani attires. With their colorful styles and conservative designs; Malala always keeps her roots close.

Malala was born in Mingora 1997, Pakistan. She grew up in Swat Valley, and was raised to love education and discover the world through her books.

Malala Yousafzai first came to public attention through that heartfelt diary, published on BBC Urdu, which chronicled her desire to remain in education and for girls to have the chance to be educated; BBC reported on August.

After reading Malala’s blog for the BBC, The New York Times featured Malala and Ziauddin in a short documentary about their life and fight to protect girls’ education in Swat.
10/11/2017 12:15:14 PM
<![CDATA[Spanish government holds crisis meeting on Catalan independence]]>
The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, is chairing an emergency cabinet meeting in response to an address to parliament by the Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, on Tuesday evening.

In his address, Puigdemont said that, while the referendum earlier this month had given his government a mandate to create a sovereign republic, he would not immediately push ahead with independence from Spain.

Rajoy has vowed to use everything in his power to prevent independence and has refused to rule out imposing direct rule over the semi-autonomous region – an unprecedented move many fear could lead to civil unrest.]]>
10/11/2017 11:39:21 AM
<![CDATA[Saudi cabinet welcomes Palestinian reconciliation development ]]>
The cabinet made the remarks during a meeting that was chaired by King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

The meeting voiced hope the efforts of the government of reconciliation would contribute to the consolidation of national unity and the unity of Palestinian ranks to meet the ambitions of the brotherly Palestinian people.]]>
10/11/2017 7:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt’s most prominent figures in U.N., international organizations]]>
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the U.N. Secretary General from 1992-1996, may be the most famous Arab diplomat in the U.N., as he the only Arab figure to hold the office of U.N. secretary general. Ghali was an academic and former vice foreign minister of Egypt, who oversaw the U.N. at a time when it dealt with several world crises, including the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Rwandan genocide. He was then the first secretary-general of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie from November 16, 1997 to December 31, 2002.

Mahmoud Mohieldin, a business academic pioneer, is the World Bank Group’s Senior Vice President for the 2030 Development Agenda, U.N. Relations, and Partnerships. He previously served as Corporate Secretary, President’s Special Envoy and Managing Director.
Mahmoud Mohieldin the World Bank Group’s Senior Vice President for the 2030 Development Agenda,

Mohieldin was the Egyptian minister of investment from 2004 until 2010. Dr. Mohieldin also served on several boards of directors in the Central Bank of Egypt and the corporate sector. He was a member of the Commission on Growth and Development and selected as a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum in 2005.

Ibrahim Samak, a solar energy genius and the African Heritage “Man of the Year 2008”, came as one on the most leading African and Arab engineers in solar energy. Since July 2007, Samak has been a vice president of the European Coaching Association (ECA), an organisation of professional coaches, for the Arab countries and Africa.
Ibrahim Samak, a vice president of the European Coaching Association (ECA), an organisation of professional coaches, for the ,Arab countries and Africa.

Samak is the chairman and CEO of the Stuttgart-based advanced technology firm Engcotec. An Egyptian-trained engineer with more than 35 years of experience in engineering, Samak has distinguished himself in the solar energy sector, where some of his pioneering work has been patented, earning him worldwide recognition.

His company designs, develops, produces and markets photovoltaic cells, which are required to transform solar energy from the sun into electricity. Under Samak’s leadership, Engcotec has become a global power in the area of alternative energy.

Mostafa A. El-Sayed, one of the world’s leading chemical physicists, is an Egyptian nanoscience researcher who was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a US National Medal of Science laureate. He is also known for the spectroscopy rule named after him – the El-Sayed rule.
Mostafa A. El-Sayed, an Egyptian nanoscience researcher who was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a US National Medal of Science laureat, stands with two of his students Wikipedia.
El-Sayed was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1980, and, in 2002, he won the Irving Langmuir Award in Chemical Physics. He was the recipient of the 1990 King Faisal International Prize ("Arabian Nobel Prize") in Sciences, Georgia Tech's highest award, "The Class of 1943 Distinguished Professor", an honorary doctorate of philosophy from Hebrew University, and several other awards, including some from the different American Chemical Society local sections.

Back to the Egyptian leading economic pioneers, Mohamed A. El-Erian comes at the top of Arab and African business experts. He is chief economic adviser at Allianz, the corporate parent of PIMCO, where he served as CEO and co-chief investment officer (2007-2014).
Mohamed A. El-Erian ,a chief economic adviser at Allianz, the corporate parent of PIMCO, where he served as CEO and co-chief investment officer, gives a speech during an international economic Forum - WIKIPEDIA
He served as chair of President Obama's Global Development Council (2012-17),[1] and is a columnist for Bloomberg View,[2] as well as a contributing editor to the Financial Times. Since 2014, he has served on the panel of experts that judged and selected the Financial Times/McKinsey Business Book of the Year.

Moushira Khattab, the leading Egyptian politician currently running for the UNESCO Director-General post, has maintained the third rank with 12 votes out of 58, following the withdrawal of Polad Bülbüloğlu of Azerbaijan on Tuesday a few hours before the beginning of the second round. This marks a slight change from the first round, when Khattab received 11 votes.

Egypt's candidate to UNESCO Director-General Moushira
10/11/2017 1:19:05 AM
<![CDATA[Hammond won't budget now for a 'no-deal' Brexit -Times]]>
Hammond will not commit billions of pounds in next month's budget to plan for a hard Brexit, the newspaper said.

He supports contingency planning in case talks collapse. However, with the government trying to secure a negotiated EU exit and with money tight, he is reluctant to approve spending unless the danger is imminent, Times said.

Responding to claims that he is pessimistic in his outlook, the chancellor said he has a duty to be "realistic".

Hammond said in the Times that he needs "to ensure that we are prepared for all outcomes, including a no-deal scenario".

"The government and the Treasury are prepared. We are planning for every outcome and we will find any necessary funding and we will only spend it when it's responsible to do so", he added. ]]>
10/11/2017 1:00:16 AM
<![CDATA[Catalonia: Spanish gov't rejects 'tacit' independence declaration]]>
In his address the Catalan leader maintained the legality of the October 1 referendum, and said Catalans had “won their right to become an independent country” but said he will first seek to open a dialogue with Madrid, The Guardian reported.]]>
10/11/2017 12:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[OPINION: States are shrinking and borders are receding ]]>
This was a question put forward by Andrew Mark in a famous article back in 1975. Mark attempted to answer it by listing multiple historical examples of major conflicts ending with the victory of the financially weaker and less militarized side. But strategists have been baffled ever since; how does the United States handle such a dilemma?

Seeing as it is always the strongest – militarily and economically – it is difficult to imagine the U.S. as the defeated party. There are several factors that Mark mentioned as the basis for what is called "non-stereotypical warfare;" where the decisive criterion for winning has nothing to do with who has the biggest guns. Instead, the decisive criterion dictates that victory favors those who are willing to suffer more and bear higher costs.

Often, the weaker are more willing to bear the loss of life than the stronger side, which is usually more open and democratic. For democratic states, human and material losses present a pressure point internally.

Weaker sides in conflicts also usually have strong links with foreign contacts, whose interests lie in the continuation of the conflict. Besides, the combat creed adopted by the weaker side in the battle usually determines the extent of their perseverance.

How do major powers act in such cases? How do they deter a weaker force that does not fear defeat and has genocidal tendencies? How do you save your son from the claws of a hungry fox, when he is indifferent to your warnings?

The answer is to render the enemy in continual internal strife; one that is self-weakening and causes its society to divide, thusly incapacitating the enemy from even thinking of entering into external battles. Even if they were to find domestic support at this point; they would still be discouraged because they would have become domestically weak and useless.

The president's statements on the fourth generation wars referred to this dilemma. Egypt continually faces enemies who tamper with Egyptian national security, and exploit its political conditions to render the fate of its army the same as that of the other armies in the region; impotent. Those other armies have been in effect extracted from the equation of total Arab strength by the enemies’ techniques.

Foreign occupation, that of the Iraqi situation, or internal division and civil strife such as those raging within the borders of Somalia, Sudan and Syria; are all techniques used by the stronger enemy to defuse war tendencies. How can you fight an external war when you’re homeland is tearing itself apart?

Fear of strife, paralysis, and social division set in during Mohamed Morsi’s presidency when the military leadership’s warnings to the Muslim Brotherhood were ignored; and their attempts to ensure national consensus were to no avail. This fear was especially heightened when the public took to the streets.

The Brotherhood's political leadership remained unaware of the dangers surrounding it and, more importantly, those surrounding Egypt. Matters became worse after the Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders refused to learn the lesson they were being taught. They had wasted a great opportunity to prove to Egyptians that they could lead the country.

As I said – months before the June revolution - the Brotherhood leaders were playing with fire and they were not skilled and would engage the country in a hell where no one may survive. Yet, the followers of the group continued to threaten and bluster menaces to the Egyptians indicating that: Either accept the status quo, or enter into violence that would not stop, which are very dangerous terms.

Instead of being a cause of retreat or fear, Egyptians have become angrier because they thought they were mistaken when they trusted people who were threatening their lives and stability; A thing only fitting for people who see themselves at a great distance that makes them a different entity, distinct and contradictory with the rest of society. The community exchanged the same feelings.

The unbalanced statements continue to link Dr. Morsi's return to power and the calm in the Sinai, the call for international intervention, and threatening Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as "the creator of the Taliban in Egypt,”. This means that these leaders see themselves as a dagger in the back of society, where it is supposed to respond to their demands, or to face internal violence and foreign intervention. This is exactly what the Fourth Generation wars contain. Egypt is not an open arena, and these statements move its owners and those who support it from the category of "political competition" to the "political crime" category.
10/11/2017 12:06:53 AM
<![CDATA[Moushira Khattab runs for UNESCO’s 3rd round on Wednesday]]>

Egyptian candidate Khattab received 12 votes, while Hamad bin Abdul Aziz Al-Kawari of Qatar ended up with 20 votes, Audrey Azoulay from France with 13 votes, Pham Sanh Chau of Vietnam with five votes, Qian Tang from China with five votes, and Vera El Khoury Lacoeuilhe from Lebanon with three votes.

The Qatari candidate received 20 votes in the second round, causing questions about financial bribes, which the Qatari regime allegedly utilizes to buy supportive voices.

There is conviction that the votes obtained by the Qatari candidate in the first and second rounds represent the final ceiling of the votes that can be indirectly obtained via financing during the voting process.

Some voices inside UNESCO have called on China to withdraw Qian Tang before the third round, which is due to kick off at 18:30 (Cairo local time) on Wednesday.

The votes for Egypt’s Khattab and Qatar’s Al-Kawari increased by only one vote in the second round compared to their results in the first round. Lebanon’s El Khoury lost three votes in the second round after succeeding in getting six in the first round. France and China kept the same votes in the second round as the first, with 13 and five votes respectively.

Neither the first nor the second round are a precise indicator of the expected results, but reveal the form of political interrelationship among the members of the Executive Council.

“The Egyptian delegation is assessing what happened in the first round, especially regarding the position of the 17 African countries in the Executive Council that are from the African consensus on the candidate of the continent,” said Ahmed Abu Zeid, spokesman of the Foreign Ministry on Monday.

On Tuesday, Abu Zeid stressed that the Egyptian delegation in Paris will maintain continued efforts to win more votes cast in favor of Khattab in the third round due to take place on Wednesday.

On Monday, the African group in UNESCO held a coordination meeting to announce their support for Egypt’s Moushira Khattab for the top post at the U.N. cultural organization.

A few hours before the second round, the President of the Pan-African Parliament, Nkodo Dang from Cameroon, voiced support for Moushira Khattab’s candidacy for the Director-General post in an official statement issued during the parliament’s session Tuesday.

Nkodo’s statement declared unified African support for the Egyptian candidate.

“In the name of all African peoples, we announce our support for Ambassador Moushira Khattab in the UNESCO elections. We call on all African institutions and permanent representatives at UNESCO to support Khattab as the candidate of Africa,” the statement read.

Unfortunately, the 17 African member states of UNESCO did not unite behind only one African candidate despite repetitive pledges that their votes would go to the Egyptian candidate.

Sources within UNESCO aware of the political bonds between member states at the moment have disclosed, on the condition of anonymity, that “the process of elections currently taking place for UNESCO’s Director-General will reveal political nets and goals that far outreach the elections for this post.”

Those sources added that “those who have voted for the Qatari candidate have forgotten that bringing him to the forefront of the candidates will, in effect, bring shame to an organization meant to be a safeguard for culture, heritage, civilization, history and sciences. It will, in effect, be a stigma attached to the entire international community’s forehead, especially the major states that have always called for the prevention of politicizing the organization’s endeavors, and respect to human rights.”

“Maybe it would do good if the elections come to favor the Qatari candidate, to show everyone how opportunist some states are, and to allow some member states to re-evaluate their values and the values of UNESCO in all its endeavors and missions,” the sources speculated.

They also clarified that the politicization of UNESCO will become a fact and a reality if the Qatari candidate, or another candidate from the major member states that have prepared this scenario, wins the position. “It will be beyond repair, and its missions of bettering human rights – the sole reason that the UNESCO was created – will become null and useless,” they added.

The new director-general of UNESCO will be named on October 13. Then, 195 members in the General Conference will make the appointment in view of recommendations from UNESCO’s Executive Board.
10/10/2017 11:18:18 PM
<![CDATA[Hamas, Fatah appreciate Egyptian efforts amid reconciliation talks]]>
Both factions expressed their appreciation and gratitude to the Egyptian efforts to end the 10-year dispute inside the Palestinian political theatre, according to statements issued by Hamas and Fatah today.

The statements said that steps were taken to enhance the national Palestinian dialogue, such as dissolving the administration running Gaza strip to be replaced by Palestinian National Authority under the leadership of Rami Hamadallah.

The first session’s talks touched deeply several files linked to the Palestinian reconciliation in order to ease the burdens imposed on the Palestinian citizens, according to Hamas and Fatah’s statements, which pledged to resume the discussions on Wednesday adorned by same optimistic spirit.
10/10/2017 10:40:13 PM
<![CDATA[U.S. steps up pressure on Hezbollah, offers reward for two operatives]]>
The U.S. State Department said the government was offering up to $7 million for information leading to the arrest of Talal Hamiyah, head of Hezbollah's external security organization, and up to $5 million for Fuad Shukr, a top Hezbollah military operative.

U.S. counterterrorism officials told a State Department briefing they believe Hezbollah wants to develop the capacity to strike inside the United States and they continue to see activity on behalf of the group in America. ]]>
10/10/2017 10:23:55 PM
<![CDATA[Catalan leader proclaims independence, delays effects pending talks]]>
"I assume the mandate that Catalonia should become an independent state in the form of a republic ... I propose suspending the effects of the declaration of independence to undertake talks to reach an agreed solution," Puigdemont told the regional parliament.

He however stopped short of seeking the explicit support of the chamber for the declaration of independence in a vote.]]>
10/10/2017 9:10:12 PM
<![CDATA[US charted course towards 'demolition' of Iran nuclear deal ]]>
"The US side has definitely decided to cancel the current agreements on the Iranian nuclear program," Zamir Kabulov said.

"However, in case the US does not lift economic sanctions of Iran, the progress will be harder to achieve," he added.

Meanwhile, last week, The Washington Post reported that the US president was expected to announce within a week that he would "decertify" the international nuclear deal with Iran because it was not in the US national interest. ]]>
10/10/2017 8:24:28 PM
<![CDATA[Qatar's UNESCO candidate accused of anti-Semitism]]>
Egyptian human rights advocate Moushira Khattab received 12 votes, while Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari garnered 20 votes.

Observers have been nervous about Kawari’s candidacy, as he is highly believed to be anti-Semitic.

Kawari, who served as Qatar’s culture minister from 2008 to 2016, headed a set of programs that used to promote anti-Semistic ideas.

According to Shimon Samuels, international relations director for the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), Kawari allowed his country to display a stand at the Frankfurt Book Fair with texts that “fomented conspiracy theories against Jews.”

Samuels told


that the Qatari Ministry of Culture published a book in 2013 entitled ‘Jerusalem in the Eyes of the Poets’, which included a preface written by Kawari himself; the book is loaded with anti-Semitic statements.

‘Jerusalem in the Eyes of the Poets’ - book cover

Moreover, the book quotes late French Holocaust denier, Roger Garaudy, in terms of dismissing the historical connection between the Jewish and Israel.

Under Kawari’s tenure, the Qatari Ministry of Culture permitted the prominent display of anti-Semitic literature at the Doha Annual Book Fair for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Samuels added that SWC has been keeping track of Kawari’s anti-Semitic statements and activities for several years now.

Samuels also said Qatar’s energetic lobbying for the post had involved financial incentives to other countries to win their support. “They’ve been handing out cash all over the place, throughout Africa especially,” Samuels said.

10/10/2017 8:23:42 PM
<![CDATA[Russia accuses U.S. of pretending to fight IS in Syria, Iraq]]>
The Pentagon strongly denied the accusations, saying that the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State posts data every day on the number and result of strikes for the public to see.

In the latest sign of rising tensions between Moscow and Washington, the Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement that the U.S.-led coalition had sharply reduced its air strikes in Iraq in September when Syrian forces, backed by Russian air power, had started to retake Deir al-Zor Province.

"Everyone sees that the U.S.-led coalition is pretending to fight Islamic State, above all in Iraq, but continuing to allegedly fight Islamic State in Syria actively for some reason," said Major-General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for Russia's defence ministry.

The result, he said, had been that militants had moved in large numbers from Iraqi border areas to Deir al-Zor where they were trying to dig in on the left bank of the River Euphrates.

"The actions of the Pentagon and the coalition demand an explanation. Is their change of tack a desire to complicate as much as they can the Syrian army's operation, backed by the Russian air force, to take back Syrian territory to the east of the Euphrates?," asked Konashenkov.

"Or is it an artful move to drive Islamic State terrorists out of Iraq by forcing them into Syria and into the path of the Russian air force's pinpoint bombing?"

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning described the Russian accusations as "absolutely false".

"We remain committed to killing ISIS and denying them safe havens and the ability to carry out strikes in the region or globally," Manning said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

Konashenkov added that Syrian troops were in the midst of trying to push Islamic State out of the city of al-Mayadin, southeast of Deir al-Zor, but that IS tried daily to reinforce its ranks there with "foreign mercenaries" pouring in from Iraq.]]>
10/10/2017 7:53:11 PM
<![CDATA[Striking French workers disrupt flights, schools]]>
Civil servants, teachers and nurses marched through cities across France, from Toulouse in the south to Strasbourg in the east, before the day's biggest rally in Paris.

It is the first time in a decade that all unions representing more than 5 million public workers have rallied behind a protest call.

Turnout is an important indicator of public appetite for protest against Macron's social and economic reforms, which the former investment banker says are needed to unlock economic growth and put public finances on a more sustainable footing.

As in other recent demonstrations, the number of protesters appeared low. While unions said some 400,000 people turned out across the country, police estimates across cities appeared substantially lower than the unions.

The interior ministry has yet to communicate a figure, but the economy ministry said some just 14 percent of state civil servants had been on strike and just 9.5 percent in local administration.

Protests last month against labour law reform that were led by private sector unions failed to persuade Macron to change policy course, but the French labour movement has traditionally been more muscular in the public sector.

"We want to make our voices heard after months and months of attacks against the public sector and its workers," said Mylene Jacquot, head of the civil servants' federation at the moderate CFDT, France's biggest trade union.

"In particular, we want to force the government to make good on its promise regarding our spending power."

Strike notices were lodged in schools, hospitals, airports and government ministries over plans to axe 120,000 jobs, freeze pay and reduce sick leave compensation.

The civil aviation authority said 30 percent of flights at airports nationwide had been cancelled but there was no disruption on the rail network. The Ministry of Education said fewer than one in five teachers were on strike.


Macron, 39, has come under fire in recent days from political opponents and the unions for treating workers with contempt after he was recorded describing a group of workers at a struggling factory as "kicking up a bloody mess".

That misstep came weeks after he called those who resisted reform "slackers".

As crowds gathered near Paris's Place de la Republique, protesters held aloft a placard with portraits of Macron, his prime minister and finance minister reading: "The ones kicking up the bloody mess."

Minor scuffles broke out between protesters and security services. Eight people were arrested, the police said in a statement.

Unions have been divided over Macron's reforms so far, with only the Communist Party-rooted CGT spearheading street demonstrations against the loosening of employment laws.

In Lyon, Force Ouvriere union boss Jean-Claude Mailly said he would not support the CGT's call for the labour law decrees to be scrapped after weeks of negotiations between government and unions. But he said there would be other battles to fight with a united front.

"There are other issues ahead: unemployment insurance, pension reform, the matter of public services," Mailly said.]]>
10/10/2017 7:38:04 PM
<![CDATA[Iraq looks to reopen oil pipeline in bid to rival Kurds]]>
Energy Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi asked three state-owned firms "to come up urgently with a mechanism to repair and renovate" the pipeline from the Kirkuk region claimed by both Baghdad and Kurdistan to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, officials said in a statement.

The move could help restore a strategic alternative route for the central authorities to rival a parallel Kurdish pipeline that also runs from the region's oilfields to Ceyhan.

The Iraqi pipeline was cut off after the Islamic State group seized swathes of the country in 2014, halting a flow of oil to Turkey of up to 400,000 barrels a day.

Both Baghdad and Iraq's Kurdistan region lay claim to Kirkuk province, with each side controlling three of the area's lucrative oilfields.

The Kurdish pipeline -- opened in 2013 -- has a capacity of 600,000 barrels per day and accounts for some half of the autonomous region's overall oil exports.

Oil ministry spokesman Assem Jihad told AFP the plan to revive the pipeline was made possible after government forces recaptured areas it crosses from IS.

Iraqi energy expert Ruba Husari said the move showed Iraq's "determination" to "reverse the situation created by the Kurds over the past few years".

Baghdad and Arbil have been locked in a stand-off since voters in Kurdistan overwhelmingly opted two weeks ago for independence in a referendum that the central government slammed as illegal.

Iraq has cut Kurdistan off from the outside world by severing air links to the region, while neighboring Turkey and Iran have threatened to close their borders and block oil exports.]]>
10/10/2017 7:14:04 PM
<![CDATA[EU to review Brexit approach if no deal by December -Tusk]]>
Effectively ruling out that EU leaders will agree to British demands to open talks on a future free trade pact when Tusk chairs a summit with Prime Minister Theresa May in Brussels next week, he said he still hoped for such a move in December.

Responding to renewed suggestions from May's government that Britain could simply leave the EU in March 2019 without a negotiated settlement, Tusk said the EU was not working on a "no deal" scenario.

But he warned that if, by the end of this year, progress was still slow then it would be time to think again.

EU negotiators have stepped up contingency planning for a breakdown in talks and warn that time is short to agree even a basic divorce treaty. The more time passes, the less likely they can negotiate the kind of "bespoke" transition and future close trading relationship that May says she wants.

"We hear from London that the UK government is preparing for a 'no deal' scenario," Tusk told EU regional leaders in Brussels. "The EU is not working on such a scenario. We are negotiating in good faith, and we still hope that the so-called 'sufficient progress' will be possible by December.

"However, if it turns out that the talks continue at a slow pace, and that 'sufficient progress' hasn't been reached, then – together with our UK friends – we will have to think about where we are heading."

Though Tusk did not specify what that might mean, EU officials say that without agreement to move into a second phase of talks on the future early next year, there will be insufficient time to negotiate much more than a very limited exit treaty.

May lent new impetus to negotiations by making concessions in a speech at Florence last month, but a new round of talks in Brussels this week ahead of the summit is not expected to even touch on how much London may pay on Brexit -- the biggest of three key areas on which the EU demands "sufficient progress".

The other 27 national leaders could offer May some hope of opening trade and transition talks in December, which could help in her struggle with party rivals pushing for a clean break "hard Brexit", diplomats say. But Tusk's warning is an indication that May should not expect the EU to ease up much.

This week has seen some sign of public tension. May said on Monday that the "ball" was in the EU's court to make concessions and the European Commission retorted that it was in Britain's.

Pressed further on the sporting metaphor on Tuesday, EU negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters after what he called a "constructive" lunch with British Brexit Secretary David Davis: "Brexit is not a game."

Further "technical talks" among officials were scheduled for Wednesday, as British officials rejected suggestions that they had not been available to negotiate. The day had originally been left blank on the schedule agreed by the two sides.]]>
10/10/2017 7:01:02 PM
<![CDATA[UK PM says agreement with EU on citizens' rights is "very close"]]>10/10/2017 6:59:11 PM<![CDATA[More political parties join ‘To Build It’ Campaign]]>
The party said that the decision came due to their “belief in national participation that unites the nations’ people around one goal…which is preserving nation… and to complement the path led by the leader Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.”

In the statement, the party said that its 58 headquarters will be opened to receive all those who want to fill the campaign forms across the governorates. It also allocated phone numbers available for inquiries about the campaign, in addition to allocating a central operation room to coordinate with volunteers.

According to its official Facebook page, the political part “Nation’s Future Party” launched in November 2014 and includes 120,000 youth members in 27 governorates.
“Alashan Tbneeha” (To Build It) is a public campaign that kicked off on September to demand a second inauguration of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi as President of Egypt went viral on Twitter as its #حملة_علشان_تبنيهاhashtag counted at least 60 thousand tweets.
Launching last month, the campaign was affirmed that it does not follow any political party or governmental entity.

Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is the sixth president of Egypt. He came to office on June 2014 after the revolution of June 30, which toppled former President Mohamed Morsi who is affiliated with the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood.
10/10/2017 5:52:35 PM
<![CDATA[Fatah: We talk with Hamas to empower gov’t in Gaza, hold elections]]>
“We also seek to empower the consensus government with all the security and economic aspects to hold presidential and legislative elections as agreed,” added Qawasmi.

"We want to extend the rule of law in Gaza and West Bank, as one geographic unit and one people, to reach one authority with one law and one weapon, on a clear national basis," Qawasmi said in a press statement.

The Fatah spokesman said that Fatah is acting on the instructions of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the leaders of the movement who are exerting all efforts to have a successful dialogue, adding that it is not permissible to fail or retreat.
Qawasmi appreciated Egypt’s role and its distinguished efforts to end the Palestinian division.

The Social Reconciliation Accord in Cairo aimed to restore unity among Palestinian political factions in 2011, following four years of conflict that erupted in 2007. It was inked by the Egyptian authority in 2009, and was accepted by Fatah and Hamas in May 2011 following Palestinian demonstrations.
10/10/2017 5:28:21 PM
<![CDATA[Kenya opposition leader withdraws from presidential election re-run]]>
"In the interest of the people of Kenya, the region and world at large, we believe that all will be best served by (opposition grouping) NASA vacating the presidential candidature of elections slated for 26th of October, 2017," Odinga told a news conference.
10/10/2017 4:19:50 PM
<![CDATA[Court holds MB member for 45 days pending investigation]]>
The prosecution had decided to hold Bishr over charges of espionage with foreign countries in a bid to harm Egypt's political, economic and social status.

He is also facing charges of attempt to topple the ruling regime in Egypt and joining an outlawed group that seeks to hamper applying the law and hinder the State institutions from undertaking their job. The group also seeks attacking personal freedoms of Egyptians and harming the national unity and social peace along with resorting to terrorism to implement its goals.
10/10/2017 4:18:06 PM
<![CDATA[A decisive day in Palestinian history was shaped in Cairo]]>
At the reconciliation table, the delegations will discuss vital administrative topics including the terms of the Cairo 2011 reconciliation accord, and the preparations for the implementation meeting which is to be held within 20 days. The implementation meeting is said to bring together all parties that have signed the agreement.

The delegations will also discuss the general elections, including the presidential and legislative elections, the judiciary system, status of public servants that were hired during the period from 2007-2017; including their salaries, security issues and administration of the Strip.

Furthermore, control over the borders and crossings with Egypt and Israel, as well as steps to reverse cuts made by the Palestinian Authority on Gaza’s budget will be looked into.

On the political level, the delegations will discuss the political vision they have of serving the Palestinian cause, despite any ideological differences, and they will also discuss the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the steps required for Hamas to join the organization.

In a statement to Palestine Voice radio station, Azzam al-Ahmad, member of the Central Committee of Fatah movement said, “The first key point on the agenda is to enable the government to assume its responsibilities in Gaza and to review and evaluate what has been achieved over the past week since the government’s visit to Gaza.”

Ahmad commented on the topic of controlling the crossings and borders with Egypt and Israel, saying, “Controlling the crossings and borders is an integral part of the Palestinian government's work.”

He added that the PA is present on Biet Hanoun and Karm Abu Salem crossings, but Hamas also established its own checkpoints on these crossings which needs to be sorted out.

The official spokesperson for Fatah, Osama al-Qawasmi, said on Tuesday that “Fatah is determined to overcome all obstacles to achieve national unity, and to end the chapter of division, without accepting half solutions.”

Musa Abu Marzouk, member of Hamas’ political bureau and member of Hamas’ delegation to Cairo, commented on the reconciliation talks; “The meetings in Cairo are extremely important, especially in light of the popular expectations from both parties.”

He added that “the success of these meetings [remains in the hands] of the Palestinian President.” Abu Marzouk called on Mahmoud Abbas to provide what is required and necessary to end the Palestinian rift.

Member of the Hamas political bureau, Hossam Badran, also said on Tuesday that “Hamas' current priority is the concerns and demands of the Palestinian people. We are keen to resolve the negative repercussions of the internal division in the Gaza Strip, as well as in the West Bank.” Badran also thanked Egypt for its auspice of the Palestinian dialogue.

Last week, Palestinian Prime Minister of the National Consensus Government formed in 2014, Rami al-Hamdallah, held his first cabinet meeting in Gaza after Hamas announced handing over the administration of the Gaza Strip to the unity government; a major step towards Palestinian reconciliation, and ending the Palestinian split.

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip remained politically and administratively divided since June 2007, when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip following days of street fighting.

On Monday, a high-profile delegation from Hamas, led by Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya al-Sinwar, left the Gaza Strip to Egypt through the Rafah border ahead of talks aimed at finalizing the reconciliation with rival Fatah movement. Another delegation from Hamas in the West Bank was supposed to be represented in the meetings, but the Israeli authorities banned its members from crossing through Al-Karama border with Jordan.

Fatah’s delegation to Cairo is led by Azzam al-Ahmad, and includes members of the central committee of Fatah; Rawhi Fattouh, Hussein al-Sheikh, Ahmad Hilles and the Director of the Palestinian Intelligence Service Majid Faraj, and Deputy Secretary of Fatah's Revolutionary Council, Fayez Abu Eita. ]]>
10/10/2017 3:15:33 PM
<![CDATA[MPs to request releasing Football Ultras members ]]>
“While their main problems revolve around their passion for football and the anger they deeply harbored for not knowing who the actual killers of their friends and loved ones are, they have to be embraced and not punished,” Ibrahim said.

Ibrahim added that the request comes amid the festive atmosphere prevailing in the country nowadays, as the Egyptian National Team managed to qualify to the FIFA 2018 World Cup in Russia.

He also added those who have sabotaged or committed violence-related charges with solid evidence proving thus, have to be legally held accountable.

In September, Cairo Criminal Court sentenced three Zamalek Ultras members to 10 years in prison, five others to seven years, and Ultras leader Sayed Moshaghib to a life imprisonment. The Ultras were sentenced over charges related to violent clashes that took place prior to Zamalek’s and Enppi’s Premier League match in February 2015, which led to the death of 22 Zamalek fans.

The Parliament’s Presidential Committee previously announced that a presidential amnesty will be granted to young inmates who are to be found eligible of the pardon. The pardon will be effective on the occasion of the seventh anniversary of the January 25 Revolution.]]>
10/10/2017 2:46:40 PM
<![CDATA[Kenya opposition say to boycott parliament over proposed election law amendments]]>
The poll pitting President Uhuru Kenyatta against opposition leader Raila Odinga must be held by the end of October, according to a Supreme Court ruling. Judges ordered the re-run after nullifying Kenyatta's win in Aug. 8 polls due to procedural irregularities.
10/10/2017 2:36:16 PM
<![CDATA[Presidential pardon to release young inmates on Jan 25 anniversary]]>
Article 155 of the Egyptian constitution stipulates that the president may issue a pardon or mitigate a sentence after consulting with the cabinet.

According to said sources, the ministry has already embarked on enlisting the prisoners who are highly recommended to be set free on account of good conduct.

Ahmed Ibrahim, member of the Parliament’s Human Rights committee told Egypt Today on Tuesday that the pardon is particularly aimed at the young-aged “prisoners of conscious” and those who are serving running-on tenures over protests. Those eligible for the pardon must be proven tobe in no way complicit in committing violence-related charges, as well.

Ibrahim added that the move comes as a follow up on the recommendations from the first youth conferences regularly held under the patronage of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

The committee had already addressed a large number of prison-release requests by families of young inmates; most of them currently university or school students who require more solid chances of being embraced.Said inmates also need to be prepped to enable them to reintegrate into society, Ibrahim stated.

In September, the presidential committee announced that it examinedwhichprisoners meet the terms, regulations and provisions stated in the pardon decision to determine those eligible to be pardoned.The prisoners will be released after the examination results have been studied and approved, according to Tarek ElKhouli.

The committee includes prominent politicians, a journalist, and a member of Egypt's National Council for Human Rights, but not any who belong to terrorist organizations or have committed violent acts, said Kholi.
10/10/2017 1:57:52 PM
<![CDATA[Qatari tribes threatened with toxic gas bombing]]>
The statement was said during an interview with the official Qatari Television on Monday.

He continued attacking Qatari tribes, posing threats of using lethal weapons against them if they protest against the Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

These statements came in the aftermath of calls launched on social media for staging protests against Doha’s ruler on Friday under the name of the “October 13 Movement.”

The initiative achieved broad consensus from Qatari opposition and activists who welcomed the idea and desired to retrieve Qatar from Tamim, who is collaborating with enemies, according to activists.

The footage of Mosfersaying this statement went viral on social media, followed by condemnation fromusers who launched the hashtag #TamimThreatensQatariPeopleOfEradication.

Meanwhile, Egyptian parliamentarian, Mohammed al-Ghoul,lamentedHuman Rights Watch’signorance ofthese statements, which incite the use of “toxic gas” against Qatari tribes.

So far, the October 13 Movement initiative,slated to be kicked off on Friday against Tamim’s policies, is not supported by a specific person; yet participants intend to support calls by Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani to re-establish a new Qatar.

Earlier, Tamim took revenge onmain oppositionpoles by freezing the bank accounts of two ruling family members; Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani and Sultan bin Suhaim Al-Thani, for having shown huge criticism to Tamim’s policies lately.

Qatari opposition members have taken further steps to voice their concerns and show their refusal of the Qatari regime’s policies with its neighboring Arab countries. Opposing voices to the Qatari regime have even grown in large numbers at home.

Trying to confront the state of popular rejection overwhelmed publically in Qatar after the Gulf-Qatari crisis broken out in June, Qatari regime is still posing many suppressive approaches as “weapons” against whoever criticizes it or sympathizes with the boycotting countries. This could be obviously noted in threatens of revoking Qatar citizenship of opposition activists and Arab tribe chieftains.]]>
10/10/2017 1:12:14 PM
<![CDATA[EU again urges dialogue to end Catalan crisis]]>
"We called on all those concerned to get of this confrontation as quickly as possible and to start dialogue," a spokesman for the EU executive said in answer to a question on how the Commission might respond to such a declaration.

"Violence, as we said, can never be a political tool," he told reporters, recalling a statement made last week. "And we expressed our confidence in the capacity of Prime Minister (Mariano) Rajoy to manage this delicate process in full respect of the Spanish constitution and the basic fundamental rights of the citizens."

10/10/2017 1:00:22 PM
<![CDATA[Abe, Koike trade blows as Japan election campaign kicks off]]>
Conservative premier Abe, 63, is facing an unexpected and fierce challenge from the media-savvy Koike, who has upended the sleepy world of Japanese politics with her upstart "Party of Hope."

Addressing hundreds of commuters at a busy Tokyo station via loudspeaker, Koike called on supporters to "end the politics of Abe," lashing out at the long-serving premier over recent scandals that have weighed on his popularity.

"The political status quo has continued while politics itself has lost the public's confidence," charged the former TV anchorwoman, 65.

Abe cut a contrasting figure by kicking off his offensive in the bucolic farming country of Fukushima, signalling his commitment to rebuilding the region hard hit by the 2011 nuclear power plant meltdown.

He pledged a major expansion of social programmes, including offering free early-childhood education in a bid to get more women into work, while also talking tough on North Korea.

In an obvious dig at Koike, he urged voters to consider his policies, rather than catchy soundbites.

"Slogans do not open the way to the future. Policies unlock the future. We must not lose," he said.

The 12-day campaign will be fought around reviving Japan's once world-beating economy and the ever-present threat of North Korea which has threatened to "sink" the country into the sea.

Koike's "Party of Hope" has swallowed up and replaced most of the main opposition party in the space of a week, transforming Japan's staid political landscape.

But surveys suggest her bandwagon is grinding to a halt as she refuses to run herself for PM in the election, focusing on stewarding the world's most populous city with three years until Tokyo hosts the Olympic Games.

A poll in the top-selling Yomiuri daily suggested that 32 percent of voters plan to vote for Abe's conservative LDP with 13 percent for the Party of Hope -- down six percentage points from the previous poll in late September.

On the streets of Tokyo, Abe's message that the election is about the coming generations appeared to resonate.

"At my age, what interests me is the future of my children and my grandchildren. We need to prepare a better world for them," said 76-year-old pensioner Sumiko Sakai.

Referendum on Abe -
Abe is seeking a fresh term at the helm of the Asian economic powerhouse and key US regional ally and unexpectedly called a snap election to capitalise on a weak and fractured opposition.

But Koike stole his limelight by launching her party, attacking Abe's government for being too slow to reform the country, weighed down by an ageing population, deflation and a huge debt mountain.

Abe's trademark "Abenomics" policy -- a vow to kick deflation and achieve two-percent inflation with stable growth -- has largely fallen flat.

Critics argue that Abe called the early election to divert attention from a string of scandals, including allegations of favouritism to a friend in a business deal -- which the premier strongly denies.

And analysts say the October 22 vote is effectively a referendum on Abe, who has enjoyed unrivalled political strength for the past five years in part because of a lack of credible opposition, while his key policies remained controversial or unpopular.

For her part, Koike says her new group promotes "compassionate conservatism" and hopes to distinguish herself from Abe by pledging a phase-out of nuclear power by 2030 and a freeze on a planned sales tax hike.

Koike sceptics charge that she repeats vague, catchy phrases and lacks details including how to pay for her ambitious projects.

Rival conservative blocs -
More than 1,000 candidates were expected to run for 465 seats in the all-powerful lower house -- a reduction of 10 seats from the previous election.

The outcome could create two rival conservative blocs with broadly similar diplomatic and defence policies, with fragmented leftist forces filling the gap, pundits say.

Before the campaign kicked off, Abe's ruling bloc held a two-thirds majority, with his long-ruling LDP holding 287 seats while its junior partner Komeito has 35.

Abe has said he would step down if his coalition fails to win a simple majority but few analysts see that as a likely scenario, especially as Koike's party is only putting up 235 candidates.]]>
10/10/2017 12:28:20 PM
<![CDATA[How does the UNESCO elect its chief?]]>
The UNESCO Executive Board can vote over a maximum of five rounds, until a majority of votes is met. The elected candidate will then be presented to the agency’s General Assembly for final approval. The next secret ballot will be held on Tuesday evening following the plenary session of the Executive Board.

None of the candidates received an absolute majority of votes necessary for the victory. Egypt and Africa’s candidate, Ambassador Moushira Khattab, came in third place with 11 votes, while Qatar’s candidate Hamad Abdul Aziz al-Kawari received 19 votes, and France’s Audrey Azoulay received 13 votes in the first round of votes. The remaining four candidates received the following votes; Lebanese candidate Vera al-Khoury had six votes, Chinese candidate Qian Tang received five votes, while Pham Sanh Chau of Vietnam and Polad Bülbüloglu of Azerbaijan gained two votes each.

Moushira Khattab, Egypt – Photo credit UNESCO/Christelle ALIX

Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, Qatar - Photo credit UNESCO/ Nora Houguenade






In these elections, Arab countries make up almost half of the shortlisted candidates to the UNESCO’s director-general position. In UNESCO’s history, no Arab country has ever been leading the organization.

Procedure for the nomination of the director-general of UNESCO

The UNESCO director-general, who serves as the organization’s chief administrative officer, is nominated by the Executive Board and appointed by its General Conference. The organization’s chief may be appointed initially for a period of four years, and may be appointed for a further term of four years, but shall not be eligible for reappointment for a subsequent third term.

In its Executive Board's 202nd session from October 4 to October 18, a candidate for the chief post will be proposed for election to all of the Organization’s 195 member states on November 10, during the forthcoming 39th session of the General Conference of UNESCO. The new director-general will take office on November 15.

The voting process, which started on October 9, will be conducted by secret ballot in private meetings. A majority is required to win the nomination. If the majority is not met, the chair person announces the need to proceed to a second round of voting in the following day. The winner is expected to be announced no later than Friday, October 13.

The number of recorded votes during the ballot represents the total number of board members left after deducting the number of members absent, the number of blank ballot papers, and the number of invalid ballot papers. The majority required will be more than half that number. Those receiving a number of votes in favor, equal or superior to the majority required shall be declared elected.

The ballots for the nomination of a candidate for the post of UNESCO Director-General:

Any candidate obtaining in the first ballot more than half of the valid votes, shall be declared elected. If no candidate obtains an absolute majority in the first ballot, further ballots shall be taken. If, after four ballots, no candidate has obtained an absolute majority, a final ballot shall be taken, restricted to the two candidates who obtained the most votes in the fourth ballot. The candidate obtaining a majority of the votes cast shall be declared elected.

The timeline of this round of elections is as follows:

The first ballot – Monday October 9, 2017: Majority not obtained.
The second ballot – Tuesday October 10, 2017: If the required majority is not obtained, a third ballot shall be taken.

The third ballot – Wednesday October 11, 2017: If the required majority is not obtained, a fourth ballot shall be taken.

The fourth ballot – Thursday October 12, 2017: If the required majority is not obtained, a final ballot shall be taken.

The fifth ballot – Friday October 13, 2017: During this round, a final ballot shall be taken, restricted to the two candidates who obtained the most votes in the fourth ballot.

The candidate obtaining a majority of the votes cast shall be declared elected. If, in the final ballot or an eliminating ballot, two or more candidates obtain the same number of votes, the Chairman shall decide between them by drawing lots.

Nomination of the director-general starts at least six months before the expiry of the term of office of the director-general, or, in case of vacancy, at any other time. The Executive Board invites member states to suggest the names of persons who might be considered for the post, requesting them at the same time to provide full biographical details regarding these persons.

On October 19, 2016 the chairperson of the Executive Board invited governments of all member states to communicate the names, full biographical details and vision statements of persons who could be considered as candidates for the post of director-general. Interviews of candidates for the office of director-general took place in public during the plenary meetings of the 201st session of the Executive Board on April 26 and 27, 2017.

Outgoing UNESCO Director-General Bulgarian, Irina Bokova, held the position for two successive four-year terms. The UNESCO is facing a plunge in funding after recognizing Palestine as a member state in 2011, which led to both the U.S. and Israel to halt their contributions. The new director-general will have a heavy task of securing back those funds.

In an interview with French Le Monde, Bovoka said that her successor should have “the ability to raise funds and unite [members]." She added that “the organization is a dream for the world, but it faces financial and political difficulties.”]]>
10/10/2017 12:23:21 PM
<![CDATA[Thailand to hold election in November 2018:PM]]>
Prayuth, head of the ruling junta or National Council for Peace and Order, said the exact election date would be announced in June 2018. The junta has repeatedly delayed elections, citing concerns such as changes to the constitution and security issues.

"Around June we will announce the date for the next election," Prayuth told reporters at Bangkok's Government House.

"In November we will have an election."
10/10/2017 11:26:39 AM
<![CDATA[All eyes on Cairo as Fatah, Hamas meet to end division]]>
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 last week a governmental meeting in Gaza — a move that recovered hope in ending the deepest rift Palestine ever experienced. However, the hard part begins now.

Tuesday’s meeting is expected to discuss a number of controversial issues, the most difficult of which would be the security authority in the Gaza Strip and its borders.

In an interview with Egypt’s CBC, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Hamas to surrender its weapons to the Palestinian Authority. “I will not accept reproducing the Hezbollah experience … We are one state, one system, one law and one weapon,” said Abbas.

Hamas proved its good intentions when it accepted the dissolution of its administrative committee and expressed willingness to hold parliamentary elections. Nonetheless, Abbas’ remarks clashed with a sharp rejection from Hamas’ leadership, which stressed that disarming its military wing is not up for discussion as long as Israel occupies Palestinian territories.

Hamas’ strong military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, is estimated to have 20,000-25,000 fighters in its ranks. These forces enabled the Islamic movement to take control of Gaza after it ousted Fatah representatives from the territory in 2007. Therefore, the Palestinian Authority made itself clear from the very beginning that it would not accept a scenario in the Gaza Strip in which Hamas’ armed wing would be able to hold onto its weapons.

All previous reconciliation attempts between the two sides have failed due to the intensive conflict over the control of borders and security in the Gaza Strip. The question now is, will Hamas accept to hand over its weapons to the Palestinian Authority, or will Cairo-sponsored talks face the same fate?

Other difficult issues would be the status of thousands of public service employees hired by Hamas without the Palestinian Authority’s approval, as well as economic sanctions imposed by Abbas in recent months on Gaza to pressure Hamas to compromise. The Palestinian Authority has slashed budgets allocated to purchase electricity from Israel to Gaza, which affected water and power supply to households — not to mention the negative impact on health services.

Hamas was partly responsible for the electricity problem because it took over collecting individual and commercial electricity bills that Gazans had to pay to the Fatah government; however, Hamas was not using this money to buy the needed fuel to keep the generators going.

The Palestinian Authority also cut employees’ salaries in Gaza and limited travel permits for residents seeking medical services outside the besieged strip. Fatah said it would be prepared to restore the various budgets once Hamas enables the legitimate government to exercise its authority over the strip.

Naturally, many of these problems could easily be resolved once the two parties unite under the umbrella of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO): the only Palestinian body recognized by Israel and the international community as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

“We (Fatah) disagree with them (Hamas) in ideology and politics … but we are part of the Palestinian people, and so are they,” said Abbas.
10/10/2017 10:28:23 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt denounces attack on UN base in DRC]]>
The Allied Democratic Forces, a rebel group with origins in neighboring Uganda, carried out the attack.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said that Egypt is offering its condolences to Congo’s government and people and wish the injured speedy recovery.

Egypt also hailed the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO) over implementing stability and security in the country, the statement concluded. ]]>
10/10/2017 6:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[US administration to rescind Obama-era carbon emissions rule]]>
At an event in eastern Kentucky, Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said that his predecessors had departed from regulatory norms in crafting the Clean Power Plan, which was finalized in 2015 and would have pushed states to move away from coal in favor of sources of electricity that produce fewer carbon emissions.

“The war on coal is over,” Pruitt said. “Tomorrow in Washington, D.C., I will be signing a proposed rule to roll back the Clean Power Plan. No better place to make that announcement than Hazard, Kentucky.”

The repeal proposal, which will be filed in the Federal Register on Tuesday, fulfills a promise President Donald Trump made to eradicate his predecessor’s environmental legacy. Eliminating the Clean Power Plan makes it less likely the United States can fulfill its promise as part of the Paris climate agreement to ratchet down emissions that are warming the planet and contributing to heat waves and sea-level rise. Mr. Trump has vowed to abandon that international accord.

In announcing the repeal, Pruitt made many of the same arguments that he had made for years to Congress and in lawsuits: that the Obama administration exceeded its legal authority in an effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. (Last year, the Supreme Court blocked the rule from taking effect while courts assessed those lawsuits.)

A leaked draft of the repeal proposal asserts that the country would save dlrs 33 billion by not complying with the regulation and rejects the health benefits the Obama administration had calculated from the original rule. ]]>
10/10/2017 5:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Trump likely to pull out of Iran nuclear deal next week]]>
Speaking at a state election campaign event, Gabriel noted that the security situation may get worse if Washington withdraws from the Iranian nuclear deal, adding that it causes concerns.

Gabriel affirmed that Berlin is ready to increase pressure on Tehran using diplomatic means, adding that "we do not want to see this agreement damaged."

Sinking the nuclear deal would mean the US “replacing the rule of law with the law of the strongest", Gabriel said adding that such decision is a great danger for us, because if the US took that course, then the world would change, Spiegel reported.

The P5+1 group comprising the US, Russia, China, Britain and France in addition to Germany had reached the Iranian nuclear deal in 2015. The deal ensured the peaceful nature of Iranian nuclear programme. ]]>
10/10/2017 5:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Australian High Court sits to resolve lawmakers' citizenship crisis]]>
Australia's parliament was rocked by revelations in August that the seven politicians, including the deputy prime minister and two other Cabinet members in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's coalition government, are dual citizens.

That means they are potentially ineligible to hold elected office under Australia's constitution.

Turnbull's unpopular centre-right government holds just a one-seat majority in parliament, meaning its future could rest on the outcome of the citizenship crisis.

The seven lawmakers accept they were dual nationals at the time of their election last year but the government argues that five of them, including all three Cabinet members, should be cleared because they were unaware that they had contravened the constitutional requirement at the time.

Turnbull can ill afford for the court to reject his government's argument because he holds just a one-seat majority in the lower house of parliament.

Should the High Court rule Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, the sole lower house lawmaker caught up in the crisis, is ineligible, Turnbull will then need to win the support of one of three independent lawmakers to keep his minority government.

A ruling could come as soon as Thursday.

Turnbull's government is already in the minority in the upper house Senate and, should the High Court disqualify all seven lawmakers, he will face a government reshuffle after losing two more Cabinet members who are senators.

Support for Turnbull continues to languish near a six-month low, but political analysts believe he might receive a boost if he is able to win passage of a same-sex marriage bill.

Turnbull's government won High Court approval last month to stage a non-binding postal survey on the issue, which is widely popular among Australians. Results of that poll will be announced on Nov. 15.]]>
10/10/2017 4:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Sudan’s president appreciates Saudi role in lifting US sanctions]]>
Meanwhile, King Salman congratulated the Sudanese people, expressing hope that the move would contribute to realizing development and stability in Sudan. ]]>
10/10/2017 4:40:00 AM
<![CDATA[EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Hamas Internal Security head says buffer zone completed ]]>
Major General Abu Naim expressed his gratitude to the Egyptian president, government and people for their sincere efforts in embracing the Palestinian family and uniting the different factions of Palestinians. He stressed that the meetings held by Fatah and Hamas in Cairo were the cornerstone of the reconciliation talks in the coming stages, stressing that Hamas’s dissolution of its administrative committee in Gaza was the first step towards reaching understandings, and that the promptness with which Hamas responded to the Palestinian people’s demands for unity indicates a genuine intention to reach agreements and an imminent closure of this deep wound in the Palestinian body.

He also addressed the Egyptian people, saying that the security forces in Gaza will not tolerate meddling with Egyptian national security, and he added that “we will not allow the slightest negative effect on Egyptian national security, and we will act upon this statement with all our might and endurance. Egypt has been protecting the Gaza Strip with the blood of its soldiers, and therefore we won’t allow that Gaza becomes a headache for Egypt. We will guard our borders and address whatever problems that are impacting this file.” Abu Naim concluded by saying that security apparatuses in Gaza will not allow anyone to sneak into Egyptian lands.

Below is the script of the interview.

Let’s start from the latest agreement announced in Cairo regarding the initiative Hamas made by dissolving its administrative committee. What do you think of the recent understandings between Hamas and Fatah in Cairo?

First I would like to express my gratitude to the Egyptian president, government and people for their sincere efforts in embracing the Palestinian family and uniting the different factions of Palestinians.

Today the arrangements for ending this painful phase of discord and sedition in the history of Palestinian people are progressing in leaps and bounds under the auspices of the Egyptian government.

The fact that the Egyptian delegation arrived in Gaza even before the Palestinian government did gives us a clear sign of the immense concern that the Egyptian state has for ending the suffering of the Palestinian people. Likewise, we are now making agreements with the Egyptian delegation about the manner with which meetings and arrangements should be approached, and this is a strong sign of the good intentions of Hamas and of the government of Rami Hamdallah, and is also an indication of Egypt’s concern with the situation and its dedication to fostering the agreements and overseeing their execution step by step.

Is the actual activation of the agreement between Hamas and Fatah possible?

The Palestinian optimism with this agreement is different from how it used to be in similar situations in the past. The Palestinian streets welcomed the Egyptian delegation and received it with chants. We tried to find a way to avoid the bustling crowd, but they followed the procession, and this shows how eager Palestinians and Gazan people are to end the division and to consider this phase as history. That is why we believe that hope is still there in the hearts of the Palestinian people, who are thirsty for freedom and national unity.

What are the most significant challenges that the Palestinian government faces?

Palestinians indeed agree that there are three issues that require immediate attention: the employee and salary issue, the electricity issue and the crossings issue. I believe that these three issues really are the most difficult and urgent of all. Resolving these issues will be the cure to the Gazan people, whose ambitions and hopes were denied for 10 years, causing a whole generation to live in deprivation, stress and struggle because of salary delays or suspensions, crossings being closed and electricity outages.

Have you been contacted to coordinate with the Palestinian Unity Government regarding the security in Gaza?

We are building on the work of previous officials on security, and I have only completed what they started. Security is one of the challenging issues, and it is the scale on which stability and proper orientation of the Palestinian people is measured. If it is agreed that everything should go back to normal and these issues should get resolved, there will be a compromise in the security issue, which, despite being one of the sensitive issues, is also one of easiest to resolve and reach an agreement about. Everyone agrees that security cannot be divided, because it is one of the issues that cannot be ignored. Security of the Gaza Strip is security for Egypt, and security of the Egyptian borders is security for Gaza; likewise, the safety of the Gazan citizen is no less important than the safety of a citizen in the West Bank, and this issue is agreed upon in the Palestinian street and inside every Palestinian house.

Is Hamas going to be part of the security system in Gaza? Or is the Palestinian government going to take over completely?

This issue is definitely going to be discussed extensively. The disagreement there is, however, is about the employee issue and not about security. Everyone agrees that security cannot be divided or broken down, and the issue has been thoroughly researched and many key points about it have been agreed on; nothing remains there but implementation.

Tell us about the details of the talks in Cairo.

The talks in Cairo included all of the Palestinian issues, either regarding the reconciliation, security or keeping the borders. What concerns me the most is the issue of security in Gaza and its links to the security of Egypt as seen in the issue of Egyptian-Palestinian borders. In this respect, a number of measures were agreed upon, and they were implemented immediately after our return to Gaza. These were leveling the borderline, building a barricade and barbed wire fence, installing surveillance cameras and lights, removing trees, and building a control room. The steps for these measures were taken shortly after our return and were finalized a few days ago. A press conference announcing and expounded these changes is to be held soon on the Egyptian-Palestinian borderline.

In the first of your moves after returning to Gaza from Cairo you visited the Egyptian-Palestinian border. What is the message you wanted to impart by this visit? And have you taken any new measures to keep the borderline between Gaza and Sinai well-kept?

I can safely say that the security of Egypt and Gaza is one and the same thing. We will not tolerate any harm to Egypt’s national security, as much as we will not tolerate any to the security of the Gaza Strip. We must firmly act upon this statement with all our might and endurance, because Egypt has been protecting Gaza with the blood of its soldiers, and therefore we must not allow that Gaza becomes a headache for Egypt. We will guard our borders and address whatever problems that are impacting this issue.

I hereby assure my brothers in Egypt that we are resolved on keeping relations with Egypt as strong as with a tender mother. Egypt has been and will always be the beacon of freedom and the refuge for Palestinian people in all their struggles with occupation and persecution.

Security in the Gaza Strip and Egypt cannot be divided, and this belief is firmly rooted in the security conception of the Palestinian street; no one can change that or say otherwise.

Have you made an agreement with Cairo regarding security collaboration on the issue of extremists who infiltrate Sinai?

Here in Gaza we will not allow anyone to meddle with the Egyptian national security, and whoever attempts such a breach is going to be trialed according to Palestinian law.

Is Hamas ready to turn in or to take in any of its members should they attempt to sneak into Sinai?

Any skulk will be dealt with by law according to an agreement on both sides. Egypt did not raise a demand regarding turning in wanted members. In case anyone sneak into Egypt from Gaza, or the other way around, we will be the first ones to act according to the law, and we will not tolerate the national security of Egypt or Gaza to be meddled or trifled with.

Did Hamas feel uneasy about the latest incident in Palestinian Rafah, in which a member of the Gaza security forces was killed? And what is your strategy for fighting terrorist thought in Gaza?

This incident is evident of the unwavering intent of the Palestinian security forces to inhibit any attempts of infiltration into the Egyptian lands by delinquent individuals. We are addressing such tendencies both legally and with enlightened thought. The Gaza Strip throughout history has been a cradle of moderate thought, which was spread in the region by the Azhari scholars who graduated from Al-Azhar University and taught many Palestinians across many generations – one of which was myself. The seed of extremism that grew in some Arab countries cannot grow in Gaza, and nothing can permeate Gaza except moderate thought and belief, which is born by the young people and the scholars of Gaza, who are still influenced by the scholars of Al-Azhar. We have moderate scholars who propagate tolerance in their teachings and preaching and who try to save the young people taken by delinquent and extremist thought.

Do you think that young fanatics in Gaza need moderate religious discourse from moderate figures from Al-Azhar?

Al-Azhar graduates in Gaza are still the leaders of the campaign against extremists, who are nothing but a minority because the Gaza atmosphere does not encourage the growth of such thinking, especially that we are preoccupied with the resistance of an enemy who occupies our land. We are different from other Arab countries whose young people have fallen into the trap of extremism, because Gaza is not a suitable environment for it. However, we are exerting efforts on this front using the support of many and according to a clear plan from Al-Azhar and other Islamic scholars to steer the young to moderation and away from “takfiri” (excommunication) thought and bloodshed.

After announcing the Egyptian success in reconciling Fatah and Hamas, is Hamas still going forth with the negotiations with Dahlan, or is it withdrawing?

We are opening our arms welcomingly to all Palestinians and extending our hands to whoever wishes to steer the ship to its right destination – be it the Reform Trend or the Authority in Ramallah. We do not make agreements against the interests of the Palestinian people with anyone, and we collaborate and cooperate with whoever has credibility and an honest vision for the resolution of Palestinian people’s issues.

You spent more than 20 years in the prisons of the Israeli occupation, and you know the pain of captivity quite well. Has Egypt proposed any new prisoner exchange agreements between Hamas and Israel? If yes, what are the details of such an agreement?

I was one of those who were lucky to have been freed because of Egyptian efforts and to smell the sweet scent of freedom in Egypt before entering Palestine after being released. We never forget the years of captivity or our fellow-captives, and we have high trust in Egypt and its capability in handling the negotiations with Israel on this matter. I think Cairo has a profound experience in negotiations with Israel.

Negotiations about Palestinian prisoners and missing soldiers stay behind closed doors, and speaking about it remains confined to small circles. We cannot disclose Egyptian intentions concerning this issue, and we prefer that this card remains in Egyptian hands – not anybody else’s – so that Egypt records one more achievement for the Palestinian people in particular and for the Arab peoples in general.

What message would you send to the Egyptian citizen who fears the possibility of extremists infiltrating the borders from Gaza into Sinai or the other way round?

I tell the Egyptian citizen that the watchful eyes of the security apparatuses in Gaza never blink, and that we have used the aid of surveillance cameras, lights, barbed wire and advanced lines to thwart any damage that could be made by a skulk. I believe that, according to statistics and recent measures, the future is going to be better, and we are apt to exert all the effort we can to inhibit any movement from Gaza to Sinai and vice versa. Besides, security measures on the borders are extreme, and we conduct constant surveillance and make surprise visits to the borders to record our observations so that we can make the right decisions about ending this situation.

One last question: Is Hamas actually serious about ending the division?

Serious and genuine, and soon our delegation will be in Cairo to carry on with the process.]]>
10/10/2017 2:35:16 AM
<![CDATA[Turkey summons another US consulate employee as crisis deepens]]>
Turkish authorities provided few details about the latest warrant, and a spokesman for the US Embassy in Ankara declined to comment on the case, the Washington Post said.

But with its timing, the summons amounted to another provocation in an accelerating crisis between Turkey and the United States that has raised concerns about the future of their alliance and has stunned officials and observers in both countries.

The latest episode escalated Sunday, when the US Embassy announced that it was immediately suspending the issuing of non-immigrant visas at its missions in Turkey.

The embassy statement cited security concerns, but the surprise move was widely seen as a response to Turkey’s arrest last week of Metin Topuz, a Turkish employee of the US consulate in Istanbul, on espionage charges.

Turkey’s embassy in Washington responded hours later with identical restrictions — suddenly upending the plans of countless Turkish and American tourists, students, business people and others who did not already possess the necessary visas for travel.

The spiraling argument has exposed deep divides between Erdogan’s government and the Trump administration and undermined months of effort by both sides to paper over their differences with public expressions of solidarity.]]>
10/10/2017 2:10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt continues fighting corruption by adopting ACA law]]>
The approved amendments included transferring the subordination of the ACA to the president, appointing the head of the ACA by the president following the parliament’s approval and recognizing the authority as a state body with technical, financial and administrative independence.

The law serves as a comprehensive anti-corruption law. It defines the concept of, and factors leading to corruption from the Egyptian perspective as “the behavior or attitude exercised by any official, by which the official may violate the ethical measures and codes of conduct, resulting organizational, behavioral, and financial contravention. The penalties for such contravention may vary from disciplinary punishment to criminal penalties.”

Moreover, the amendments introduced the creation of several bodies to fight and prevent corruption including creating a specialized national academy. The academy aims to build the capacity of the ACA staff in the area of preventing corruption in cooperation with specialized international anti-corruption bodies.

The ACA law also serves as a vital mean to enhance the implementation of existing legislations and to ensure proper coordination among relevant institutions playing a role in fighting corruption without confusion and overlapping responsibilities.

The ACA is a supreme control authority in Egypt that fights various forms of corruption among the state’s institutions and public servants through internal control elements.

It comprises of several units that are responsible for; studying the causes of negligence in work, following-up on regulations and systems, revealing the defects in the administrative, technical, and financial systems, preventing crimes on duties and tendencies to abuse authority, examining media coverage of issues revealing misconduct in public services, seizing public funds crimes committed by public employees, examining complaints received from citizens or concerned authorities, investigating illegal gain cases, conducting investigations on candidates for top management posts, providing reports to relevant authorities and conduct any required studies.

Egypt’s efforts to fight corruption
The Egyptian leadership realizes that corruption can cause deviation of authority, provide an opportunity for organized crimes to occur, and would lead to inequity among citizens and mistrust of government. Thus, the country is committed to take positive steps to promote transparency and to establish a sound anticorruption framework.
These positive steps include ratifying the U.N. convention against Corruption (UNDAC) in 2005 and the U.N. convention against Transitional Organized Crime (UNTOC). In addition, since 2014 Egypt became a state party in the Arab League pan-Arab anti-corruption instruments, the Arab Convention to Fight Corruption.

Egypt has also implemented institutional reforms and deepened its partnerships with the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) on anti-corruption and anti-money laundering. Cooperation efforts with the EU and UN include providing technical and institutional support, training prosecutors to fight corruption, research, data analysis and enhancing global and regional cooperation in this area.

Overview of the anti-corruption legal framework in Egypt
Egypt has a strong legal framework to prevent and to fight corruption, this will is translated through:
In 2014, Egypt launched a national anti-corruption strategy. It was developed by the National Coordinating Committee for Combating Corruption while its implementation is coordinated by a technical committee headed by the Administrative Control Authority (ACA). The national strategy aims to fight corruption through setting specific objectives, policies, programs and mechanisms to control corruption and create a culture opposed to corruption. It adopts the objectives of raising the level of performance in the government, developing and updating the anti-corruption legislation, strengthening the judicial procedures to achieve prompt justice, strengthening civil society participation in combating corruption, raising living standards and achieving social justice and building trust between citizens and state institutions.

Furthermore, the Egyptian criminal code criminalizes active and passive abuse of power including facilitating payments and bribes. The law includes private employees and criminalizes private-to-private bribery.

The regulatory framework obligates public officials to declare their assets, upon taking their position and at the end of their term and every 2-5 years during their mandate. However, these declarations are not available for the public. All public officials, with the exception of judges, are required to declare loans, bank deposits, real estate assets and valuable movables.

In 2002, Egypt produced the Anti Money Laundering Law that prohibits laundering funds generated from crimes related to drugs, terrorism and exploitation.

Later in 2013, Egypt adopted a Conflict of Interest Law regulating what activities and assets senior public officials may and may not enjoy in line with the 2014 Code of Conduct of Public Employees which contains integrity provisions.

In Egypt, donations from corporate and foreign interests to political parties are forbidden. Financial transparency is a requirement to register political parties and all parties are required to disclose any donations they receive. Furthermore, the Central Audit Organization (CAO) monitors the activities of internal party auditors.

Overview of the anti-corruption institutional framework in Egypt
The Central Audit Organization (CAO) A legally, technically and physically independent entity that was established in 1964 and falls under the auspices of the president. It serves as an external auditor of national administration, local governments, public bodies, political parties, trade unions and federations.

The head of the CAO is nominated directly by presidential decree upon approval of the majority of the parliament. As required by the law, the organization has an independent budget. It issues nearly 30,000 reports each year for the president’s office, the prime minister office and the parliament.

The Supreme Election Committee (SEC) Composed of seven judges and assisted by a secretariat made up of representatives from the judicial power and various ministries. It serves as Egypt’s electoral management body and is responsible for the establishment of local election committees composed of five judges each.

The SEC has an independent budget and financial management. The board of the SEC is appointed by presidential decree, based on the position they hold in the judicial hierarchy. SEC board members cannot be removed from their positions. They are bound by the code of judicial conduct but are not accountable as members of the SEC.

The Ombudsman’s office The function of the ombudsman’s office is divided between the National Council for Women (NCW) and the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) that have an ombudsman’s office for citizens to file complaints in an easy process. Both councils are independent by law. Both councils present reports to the president’s and the prime minister’s offices, and publish their reports and information on their websites, even though they are not required to do so by law.

The National Coordinating Committee for Combating Corruption (NCCCC)An inter-ministerial entity established in 2010 to enforce the provision of conventions, and to fulfill the tasks of supervision and coordination of the 28 agencies that compose Egypt’s public sector monitoring framework. It does not have any investigation right.

The NCCCC is composed of representatives of various ministries and public bodies. It receives financial support from the UN Development Program (UNDP) and the U.S. Ford Foundation, in addition to the budget allocated by the Ministry of Justice.
In 2014, the NCCCC was suspended and replaced by the Supreme National Committee against Corruption.

The Administrative Control Authority (ACA) Established in 1964 as an independent entity under the auspices of the prime minister. ACA is responsible for the detecting and fighting corruption. The ACA also follows up on the implementation of related legislation, plays an advisory role for the prevention of corruption, and detects negligence and violations. The ACA has investigative powers, and it can hand over suspects to the Illicit Gains Authority. However, it requires permission from the president to arrest public officials suspected of corruption cases.

Administrative Prosecution Authority (APA) The APA was founded in 1958 as an agency to monitor and investigate civil servants in ministries and agencies at all levels. The APA is supported by professional staff to investigate administrative and financial corruption. It can hand over perpetrators to criminal courts.

Illicit Gains Authority (IGA) Established in 1975 under the Ministry of Justice, to investigate cases of suspected illegal revenue. The IGA collects the asset declarations that public officials are required to disclose upon joining the sector. It does not enjoy investigative power, but receives reports concerning corruption from private and public employees and passes the relevant cases on to investigate authorities.

Money Laundering Combating Unit (MLCU) An Egyptian financial intelligence unit established by the Anti-Money Laundering Law of 2002. The MLCU is an independent unit functioning within the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE). It receives all reports concerning money laundering activities and offences.

The unit reports to the public prosecution body. It maintains a database gathering all received reports and information concerning money laundering and terrorism financing activities. The MLCU exchanges information related to its activities with other organizations, such as supervisory and competent authorities within the country but also abroad.

In addition to the formal legal and institutional frameworks in Egypt; media, civil society and private sector play an important role as a watchdog and an asset to fight corruption. ]]>
10/9/2017 9:33:09 PM
<![CDATA[Women key in preserving peace, security: Arab Women Org]]>
The Arab Women Organization (AWO), in collaboration with U.N. Women and the government of Japan, is inaugurating a training course on security and peace, entitled "Women's Participation in Security Arrangements and Political Interdependence in the Arab World". The course will be held in Cairo from October 9-12.

The training course’s opening ceremony began with a speech by Ambassador Mervat Al-Tallawy, director-general of the AWO, in which she stressed on the importance of women as key partners in maintaining stability and security, as well as development and nation-building, in the Arab world. She added that women are the mothers responsible for nurturing the future generations who will participate in the development of their nations without racism and disputes.

According to Al-Tallawy, the Security Council resolution is number 1325, which deals with the role of women in peace. The council made Iraq and Palestine, despite their harsh conditions, a program to activate all the points contained in the resolution. Al-Tallawy summoned all Arab countries to activate this decision and ensure that women participate in making crucial decisions concerning their peoples. “Women are a key partner in the security and stability of the Arab world, whereas war decisions are taken by men," argued Al-Tallawy.

AWO issued a press release stating that the course aims to increase women's knowledge of all possible means that women can use in peaceful negotiations. This is in addition to identifying the key factors that facilitate or hinder women's integration in negotiations. Moreover, the course, according to the press release, will work on enhancing skills and knowledge of advocacy, networking and negotiation techniques so as to better serve women's welfare, as well as the society.

According to a report issued by U.N. Women on peace and security, there is growing recognition of women's roles in peace and security, and it highlights an increasing number of innovative measures and good practices. Progress continues to be uneven, however. For example, the levels of women's participation in peace negotiations, preventative efforts and other key decision-making processes related to peace and security remain unacceptably low. Weaknesses in security, legal and justice institutions continue to present serious challenges to the safety and security of women and girls in many armed conflict and post-conflict settings.

Twelve Arab countries are participating in the training course. They are Jordan, Tunisia, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Libya, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania and Yemen. These countries are participating in the course by female representatives from ministries of defense, interior, and foreign affairs, as well as the civil society.
10/9/2017 9:06:30 PM
<![CDATA[Brazil revives African ties, eyes expanding market]]>
Brazil's presence in Africa surged during the government of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who opened embassies in 35 of 54 African nations and led a flurry of trade and investment missions. His successor Dilma Rousseff showed little interest in foreign affairs and practically ignored Africa.

"We want to take up relations with Africa again and reaffirm its importance for Brazil," Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes said in an interview on Friday before he set off to visit Morocco, Ghana, Nigeria, Botswana, Ivory Coast and South Africa this week.

The African population of 1.2 billion people is expected to double by 2050, adding to a reliance on food imports. Nunes noted that the continent's middle class is expanding, while its conflicts are diminishing and institutions are gaining strength.

Two-way trade between Brazil and Africa peaked in 2013 at $28.3 billion before plummeting to $12.4 billion last year, mainly due to the drop in prices for the oil that Brazil imports from Nigeria, Angola and Algeria.

Brazil sells cars, tractors and other manufactured goods to Africa, along with food such as beef and chicken. Trade is picking up after economic crises on both sides of the Atlantic, with chicken exports rising 27 percent in the first eight months of this year, mostly going to South Africa, Egypt and Angola.

"The potential for trade is great. Africa is not self-sufficient and needs to import food such as poultry," said Any Freitas, an expert on Brazilian foreign policy and visiting fellow at King's College, London.

Nunes also highlighted demand for Brazilian planemaker Embraer SA's E-Jet commercial planes and Super Tucano light attack aircraft in countries such as Nigeria, Mozambique and Kenya.

Brazil has also helped Namibia build up its Navy with patrol ships and training for its Marine Corps.

Nunes said Brazil cannot compete in Africa with China, whose raw materials projects come with plenty of state financing and Chinese personnel.

Brazil's cooperation is well received because of its Afro-Brazilian cultural roots and the Portuguese language it shares with several African nations, he said.

His trip ends in Durban on Oct. 17 with a meeting of the IBSA group of large emerging democracies: India, Brazil and South Africa.]]>
10/9/2017 8:10:00 PM
<![CDATA[Qassam, Dahlan two obstacles before Palestinian reconciliation]]>
Palestinian sources revealed to pan-Arab Asharq Al Awsat newspaper that there are obstacles facing the two factions, such as weapons possessed by the Ezz Eddin Qassam Brigade (Hamas' military wing), and assigning a role to former Fatah leader Mohammad Dahlan.

According to statements by Fatah and Hamas before the inauguration of the Egypt-sponsored negotiations, Fatah insisted that the Palestinian National Authority (PNA/PA) should have the say on using weapons and avoiding a repetition of the "Lebanese Hezbullah model in Palestine," while Hamas has a "red line" regarding the "weapons of the resistance.”

Prominent leader in Hamas Fawzy Barhoum told Asharq Al Awsat that "the issue of Qassam Brigade weapons was not proposed for discussion by any Palestinian party at any round of the dialogue." He added, "Weapons of the resistance have a role that complements the weapons of the PA and the government. Weapons of the resistance are to protect the Palestinian people against aggression, and weapons of the PA are to protect the internal front."

The same stance is expressed by Hamas spokesman Abdul-Latif al-Qanou’, as he stated to many Arab media outlets that Qassam Brigade weapons are a "red line" that is not for discussion. He added, "In Hamas, we are keen on making the reconciliation work, and for the peace-and-war decision to be made in coordination with the rest of factions."

On the other hand, Hamas' delegate in Cairo, Samih Barzaq, believes all issues are up for discussion to complete the reconciliation. He recognizes that Hamas has taken a "giant" step, but "reconciliation cannot be accomplished by a mere clock. There are a lot of files to be settled, such as societal reconciliation, and they will be gradually worked out.”

He added, "We will not allow a repetition of the Hezbullah model in Gaza. Therefore, the political decision controls the war decision." He pointed out that the proposals to be discussed at the reconciliation table include "sending three thousand security elements under President Abu Mazen's instructions to administrate internal affairs under a united command."

Assigning a role to former Fatah leader Mohamad Dahlan is the second obstacle in the way of reconciliation talks. Barzaq says Dahlan "is officially wanted before the Palestinian judiciary, and no one can interfere with the affairs of the independent authority."

On the other hand, al-Qanou' considers that Hamas' relationship with Dahlan is normal within a humanitarian, social and political framework. He stressed that "Hamas builds relations with everyone, and it does not have any reservation on his (Dahlan) regard.”]]>
10/9/2017 7:07:41 PM
<![CDATA[UK PM May: We will not revoke Article 50 EU exit process]]>
"The government made clear that we have no intention of revoking that, we will be delivering on the vote of the British people," May told parliament.

Asked if the government had taken legal advice on whether it was possible to reverse the process of Britain's departure from the European Union by revoking Article 50, May said it was government policy not to comment on the legal advice it receives.]]>
10/9/2017 7:00:00 PM
<![CDATA[Lebanon parliament passes amended tax law]]>
Lebanon's parliament approved a $917 million rise in public sector salaries and a series of tax increases to fund it in July. But in September Lebanon's constitutional council annulled the tax law after a political party brought a legal challenge and referred it back to parliament for amendments. ]]>
10/9/2017 6:30:00 PM
<![CDATA[Parliament approves bill re-regulating ACA]]>
The committee said the bill represents a qualitative leap to effectively eliminate corruption and protect public money.

It added that the bill conforms to the constitutional articles.]]>
10/9/2017 6:20:00 PM
<![CDATA[Any Brexit deal will come at end of two-year negotiations-May]]>
"We are negotiating a deal. We will not have negotiated that deal until, I suspect, close to the end of the period (which has been set aside)," May told parliament. ]]>
10/9/2017 6:10:00 PM
<![CDATA[‘A thousand congratulations:’ on Egypt’s World Cup participation]]>
Already noticed and widely-liked for

his sense of humor

, British Ambassador John Casson has tweeted congratulating Egypt in Arabic.

Casson followed up with another Arabic tweet congratulating both Egypt and the UK for qualifying; “England and Egypt qualified to the World Cup in one week. Congratulations,” following with a hashtag that translates to “the 90-millions’ dream.”

But Casson wasn’t the only British taking to Twitter to express his enthusiasm. BBC’s John Bennett also expressed his tension and eagerness for Salah’s last minute penalty goal.

Hailing Salah for his “nerves of steel,” Bennett also amusingly called Egypt a “football mad nation.”

Similarly, the Russian embassy has congratulated Egyptians on its Twitter account by posting in Arabic, saying “a thousand, thousand, thousand, thousand, thousand congratulations! We’re waiting for you in Russia!”

Congratulating in “thousands” is an Egyptian and Arab style of greeting, as evident, used to emphasize the former’s zeal for the Egyptians’ victory.

Another tweet by the Russian embassy promoted Egyptians’ ability to enter Russia without a visa. The tweet said, “Egyptians! The embassy sends its greetings for the national team’s qualification to the World Cup.” A link also followed in the same tweet “for information on entering Russia without a visa.”

The German embassy in Cairo issued a Facebook post praising Salah as the “rocket.”

The post reads, “The ‘Rocket’ Mohamed Salah did it, and brought joy to 90 million Egyptians. He’s threatening to dethrone Magdy Abdel Ghani. A thousand congratulations to all Egyptians for qualifying to the 2018 World Cup.”

In a follow-up post, the German Embassy commemorated the 28-year wait, with another magical number; 60.

The post commemorates the friendly relations between Egypt and Germany, and hopes for a “steamy” match between the two national teams.

It reads:

“Congratulations for qualifying, Pharaohs! We hope to meet in a steamy match in next year’s #World_Cup_2018. Just like 28 was a challenging number for Egyptians yesterday, 60 also represents a special number for us. Do you know the secret behind the number 60?

Sixty is the number of years that Germany has not played a football match against Egypt. If Egypt plays against Germany in the World Cup, it will be the second time the two countries play a football match against each other in 60 years. The first time was in 1958 against West Germany in Mohamed Aly Stadium in Cairo. Egypt won the first match 2-1, with lead players Mohamed El Gendy, and Hanafy Bastan; Al Ahly and Zamalek clubs’ icons at the time.

Will history repeat itself again and have the two national teams meet at the World Cup 60 years after their first match?”

On the other hand, the U.S. embassy was also intently engaged in Sunday’s match. During the match, the embassy’s official Twitter account tweeted in Arabic: “Pull it together, Pharaohs!”

When the match was over and won, the embassy tweeted:

“A thousand congratulations to the Pharaohs! #Russia2018.”

This is not the first time that embassies and ambassadors in Egypt take to social media to engage with Egyptians, whether over football or any other matter. Most notably perhaps of all foreign ambassadors in Egypt, John Casson has been known to show his admiration of Mohamed Salah on Twitter many times.

The tweet reads, “Isn’t it the loveliest picture?”

The tweet was written in a colloquial Egyptian style that many native Egyptians use to converse with each other in a relaxed, funny manner. Casson’s adoption of the relaxed Egyptian manner has won him widespread favor with many Egyptians. ]]>
10/9/2017 3:46:33 PM
<![CDATA[Exclusive: Khattab vows UNESCO to be active tool in fighting terrorism]]>Khattab said that in an exclusive interview with Egypt Today hours before choosing the new director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

She aims to develop the education not only in the classroom but also of media, mosque sheikhs and church priests that teach people how to accept the others regardless of their religions.

“Religion should never play a discriminating role, and here comes the importance of education. This is the mission by which we can fight extremism.”

In addition, if she occupies the post, she will call for a meeting with all the members of the Secretariat, either those in Paris or those in various UNESCO offices around the world. Through this meeting, the offices could reveal their hopes, struggles and their suggestions to overcome the problems in the organization especially for member countries that do not pay their annual quorums.

“The new manager’s vision should rest on the intent to make the UNESCO a powerful, active and transparent organization that encourages donors to contribute to it and member countries to pay their annual quorums,” added Khattab.

Khattab during the interview praised the roles of Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain besides several European and Asian countries in supporting her.
“I am proud that Africa stand beside me and the huge role that the Chairmen of the African Union Chadian president Idriss Deby and Guinean president Alpha Conde and Egypt did not apply for the position until it had already requested support from the African Union.”

As for her stance toward the French candidate, she said that Egypt did not expect that from France whom Egypt has strong ties with and particularly that France has a very high percentage of seats in the Secretariat.

She revealed that through her meetings with members of the Executive Council, she found that there are attempts of some candidates to buy votes, but when the members react contrary to their expectations

The first round of UNESCO’s director-general nomination will start on Monday at 5:00 p.m. in the French capital Paris where seven candidates are running for office. Among these is Ambassador Moshira Khatab, the candidate from Egypt and Africa.

Khattab has a Ph.D. in children rights from Cairo University; in addition to an M.A. in international relations from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA and a B.A. in Political Science from Cairo University's Faculty of Economics and Political Science.

She was ranked third out of the five leading female human rights activists in the Middle East and North Africa in 2013.
10/9/2017 3:26:39 PM
<![CDATA[Factors that caused anti-Tamim protests to stage on Oct. 13]]>
Through their media mouthpiece on social networks, the Qatari opposition called for protests across the country. Qatar, boycotted by four Arab countries over funding terrorism, is witnessing internal political struggles not far from what can be called economic depression, cited by international business organizations.

Recently, Qatar moved on to adopt oppressive steps against the opposition. This is among a number of factors that raised public outrage against Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, calling for the end of his ruling.

Egypt Today is highlighting some factors that led to Oct.13 protests calls:

Foreign Investments withdrawal

The withdrawal of investments of a number of foreign companies operating in Qatar, which were affected by the boycott, has an impact on the decision to incite opposition against the current Qatari regime.

On his official Twitter account, Qatari opposition activist Gaber bin Kohlah al-Murry alleged Qatar to be in a floundering status, especially with the approach of October 13 and the calls for staging protests.

Earlier, Saudi media reports revealed that 388 Saudi companies operating in Qatar have quit from the peninsular country and ended their economic activities there.

A Twitter account codenamed “The Official Account of Qatari Opposition,” highlighted the point that a number of foreign companies investing in Qatar are assumed to withdraw their investments in the aftermath of the boycott exercised by the Arab countries.

Call for protests reveals ugly face of Qatar

In the same context, former leader at the Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, Hisham al-Naggar, claimed that calls for holding protests in Qatar on October 13 carry some clues; including the idea that the Qatari people have the right to change and to choose their ruler, particularly when the current ruler, Tamim, “is harming his people with his decisions.”

“Calls for democracy, change and freedom by Qatari people are embarrassing the current Qatari regime that used to claim support for democracy and change for Arab countries through its media,” Naggar noted; adding that “now the Qatari people are calling for the change.”

Tamim freezes bank accounts of opposition
Qatari opposition said on social media that Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani froze the bank accounts of two ruling family members; Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani and Sultan bin Suhaim Al-Thani, who have shown huge criticism to Tamim’s policies lately.
Opposition against Tamim intensifies at home and abroad

Earlier, there was an escalation from the Qatari ruling family against Tamim. A prominent member of Qatar’s ruling family, and former Qatari foreign minister, Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim repeated calls for a national meeting of the ruling family’s elders to put an end to the current rift. He stated that “[we] can no longer remain quiescent towards it.”

Who would rule Qatar after Tamim?

Amid unstable circumstances in Qatar following the recent Qatari crisis, there are anticipations on the possible candidates to rule Qatar after Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani, son of the late Emir of Qatar Ali bin Abdullah Al-Thani, is the forerunner candidate to succeed Tamim, according to Egypt Today’s previous interviews of political professors.
10/9/2017 2:11:29 PM
<![CDATA[Gen. Abu Naim: Hamas finished building buffer zone on border]]>
A press conference will be held on the Egyptian-Palestinian border regarding Gaza’s security measures and cooperation with Egyptian authorities, Abu Naim revealed in an exclusive interview with Egypt Today on Monday.

Abu Naim expressed his gratitude to the Egyptian president, government, and people for their sincere efforts in embracing the Palestinian family composed of all factions. He stressed that the meetings held by Fatah and Hamas in Cairo were the cornerstone of the reconciliation talks in the coming stages.

He asserted that Gaza would never harm Egyptian national security, adding that “Egypt protected the Gaza Strip so Gaza will never be a ‘headache’ to the Egyptian side; rather Gaza will protect the border to prevent illegal infiltration into Egyptian territory."
10/9/2017 1:59:09 PM