The constituent assembly has opted to write a new constitution, announced assembly head Amr Moussa during the body’s Wednesday meeting. According to Moussa, the assembly’s legal committee discussed the validity of writing a new constitution, and found that it would not violate the constitutional decree that had formed the assembly. Moussa added that while the assembly is initially against retaining the Shura council, “every issue is still discussable for the moment.” [DNE, 10/2/2013]


Syrian regime chokes off food to town that was gassed
Government forces are tightening the noose around one of the suburbs gassed by chemical weapons in August, raising concerns of a fresh humanitarian crisis as residents forage for olives, grapevine leaves, and other basic foods. Pro-regime fighters have encircled about 12,000 people, mostly civilians but also including some rebel fighters, in the town of Moadhamiya, according to local and international aid workers, opposition activists, and people interviewed on Monday in a government-controlled section of the town. [WSJ, 10/3/2013]

Al-Qaeda fighters resume attack on US-backed rebels in northern Syria
Fighters loyal to al-Qaeda have opened up a new offensive against a US-backed rebel group that once escorted US Sen. John McCain into northern Syria, according to Internet postings and news accounts. The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, an al-Qaeda affiliate, launched attacks on the Northern Storm Brigade late Tuesday night, hitting Northern Storm positions in a string of villages along Syria’s border with Turkey. The Islamic State, whose leader has sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda head Ayman Zawahiri, claimed the attacks in statements posted on the Internet in which it accused Northern Storm of not keeping the terms of a cease-fire that halted fighting between the two groups last week in the Syrian city of Azaz. [McClatchy, 10/2/2013]

Weapons inspection team begins work in Syria
After weeks of threats and negotiations over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, an advance team of international weapons inspectors has begun to take the first steps toward dismantling the arsenal. Early indications suggest that they are in for a long, hard slog. There is no outward indication that the Syrian government intends to disrupt the process; indeed, Syrian officials are portraying the deal as a victory that will cement their hold on power. But rebel groups have given no such assurances, and logistics will be further complicated by shifting battle lines and the fact that a third of the weapons sites are in areas outside the government’s control. [NYT, 10/2/2013]

Tens of thousands of political prisoners in Syria
Human Rights Watch on Thursday accused the Syrian regime of detaining tens of thousands of people for protesting peacefully, torturing many or holding them for long periods. “Behind the awful brutality of the fighting in Syria is the unseen abuse of political detainees – arrested, tortured, and even killed for peacefully criticizing the government or helping people in need,” said Joe Stork, Middle East and North Africa head for the New York-based watchdog. [Nahrnet, HRW, 10/3/2013]


Al-Sisi affirms Armed Forces will not support any presidential candidate
Defense minister and Deputy Prime Minister Abdel Fatah al-Sisi affirmed that the Armed Forces will not support any presidential candidate in a speech at a seminar organized by the army in celebration of the 40th anniversary of October 6, 1973. Al-Sisi said, “You [the Egyptian people] are the ones who choose your leaders, and you are the ones who topple them.” Debate has recently emerged over the sequencing of the military backed roadmap. In a Tuesday meeting at al-Wafd party headquarters, National Salvation Front assembly chief Sayed Abdel Aal said that Egyptian presidential elections should come before election of a parliament. [DNE, 10/2/2013]

Egypt’s cabinet decides disrespecting national flag and anthem can lead to prison
Egypt’s interim government decided Wednesday that insulting the flag and refusing to stand for the national anthem is an offense punishable by law. The decree follows a media fracas sparked by reports that an ultraconservative Islamist sitting on a committee to amend the constitution refused to stand for a moment of silence honoring policemen killed on duty during a raid on a militant stronghold last month. [AP, Aswat Masriya, 10/2/2013]

Moody’s sees no improvement in Egypt bond rating
Credit rating agency Moody’s does not expect Egypt’s rating to rise in the near future, affirming Egypt’s negative outlook and Caa1 credit rating in a Thursday statement. Moody’s attributes the negative outlook to the “economic dislocations” and “uncertainty” dominating the political sphere since the 2011 Revolution. The implementation of economic and fiscal reforms would be credit positive; however, political tensions undermine those reforms, the statement added. “I disagree with Moody’s rating and find it politically derived. I also believe they are subjective and are attempting to interfere with Egypt’s political sovereignty,” said Hany Genena, chief economist at Pharos Holding. [Ahram Online, 10/3/2013]


Russian embassy in Libya attacked, one Libyan killed
An armed mob broke into the Russian embassy in Tripoli on Wednesday. One of the attackers was killed by gunfire and four others were wounded, according to Libyan officials. The Russian foreign ministry confirmed the attack and said no embassy staff were wounded. The attackers were apparently reacting to the murder of a Libyan air force pilot after Libyan authorities arrested a Russian woman and accused her of killing him. Authorities say they do not know what the woman’s motives could be. [AP/Al Arabiya, 10/2/2013]

Libya’s NOC interested in Marathon Oil stake
Libya’s National Oil Corp is interested in buying US oil firm Marathon stake in one of the country’s most important joint ventures, according to Oil Minister Abdelbari Arusi. Marathon Oil is considering selling its stake in Libya’s Waha Oil Company, which has a capacity of 350,000 barrels per day and produces Libya’s main light sweet crude grade. Industry sources said a sale would be difficult because the project required investment, terms in Libya are tough, and political unrest has caused repeated disruptions to oil production. [Reuters, 10/3/2013]

Jebel Nafusa towns unite over road attacks and closures
Local councils in the Jebel Nafusa region have decided to set up a joint committee to coordinate on the region’s affairs and problems in response to the closure of the main road linking towns in the Nafusa mountains to Tripoli and attacks on people who use it. Representatives from the towns said that if the government and General National Congress do not take action soon, they will do so themselves. They added that the Libya Shield Force should ensure safety on public roads by running mobile patrol units and permanent checkpoints. [Libya Herald, 10/2/2013]

GNC refers Sabha member Naji Mukhtar to attorney general over “bribes”
The General National Congress (GNC) has referred Naji Mukhtar, its energy committee chair, to the attorney general’s office over allegations that he tried to bribe a leader of the striking Petroleum Facilities Guard to call off the strikes. Last month GNC President Nuri Abu Sahmain set up an internal investigation into the allegations made by PFD commander Ibrahim Jadhran; those findings have been forwarded to the attorney-general. Mukhtar has denied the allegations, describing the written checks as “a guarantee.” [Libya Herald, 10/2/2013]


Poll shows dissatisfaction with major Tunisian political parties
A new poll released by Zogby Research Services shows that Tunisians are disappointed in the effects of the 2011 revolution and lack confidence in major political parties. The results also describe a sharply divided Tunisia, with those supportive of the ruling Ennahda party much more optimistic about the current state of affairs than those who lack confidence in the governing party. [Tunisia Live, 10/2/2013]

Imams contest government’s role in religious affairs
Tunisian imams are divided over whether to stage a general strike on the upcoming holiday, Eid al-Adha. The issue arose last Wednesday, when Fadhel Achour, the head of the imams’ union, declared a strike to protest ‘takfirist’ trends at some mosques and the inaction by the religious affairs ministry to stop the phenomenon. “We called for the strike before, to warn about the current crisis in the religion sector. The ministry’s officials have been here for two years now but all they did was fail,” he told Tunisia Live. [Magharebia, 10/1/2013; Tunisia Live, 10/2/2013]

Agreement on talks to resolve political crisis, but still no start date
Despite a recent agreement between Tunisia’s largest labor union and the ruling coalition to begin direct talks between government and opposition parties, an exact date for the first session is not yet set. The talks are intended to resolve a drawn-out political crisis in Tunisia that began with the assassination of opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi on July 25. UGTT leader Houcine Abbassi met with National Constituent Assembly Speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar Wednesday morning to discuss arrangements for the talks, according to a union press release. [Tunisia Live, 10/2/2013]

Tunisia police rape trial adjourned
The trial of three Tunisian policemen for raping a young woman last year, which sparked outrage when the prosecution tried to blame the victim, was adjourned Thursday until November 4. The prosecutor asked for postponement because the alleged victim’s medical report was still not ready, prompting condemnation from the defense lawyers. The defense had asked for a doctor to conduct a psychiatric examination of the woman. [Ahram Online, 10/3/2013]


Yemen talks could be delayed up to three months, says FM
Yemen’s reconciliation talks, which have stumbled over the future form of the state, could be delayed for up to three months, the foreign minister said in Al-Hayat newspaper on Wednesday. The national dialogue, which was due to end on 18 September, could be delayed by “one, two or three months, but not more,” the pan-Arab daily quoted Abubaker al-Qirbi as saying. [AFP/Ahram Online, 10/2/2013]

Yemen troops regain control of military base
Yemeni troops have stormed a military base overrun by suspected al-Qaeda militants, and a senior officer said that the government had regained control of the compound after a three-day standoff. All soldiers reportedly taken hostage by the militants at the beginning of the siege have survived. Maj. Gen. Mohsin Nasser said that all the militants were killed in the operation on Wednesday, which followed three hours of intense clashes. At least ten soldiers and security agents have been killed since the start of the standoff at the base in the eastern province of Hadramaut. [Gulf News, 10/3/2013]

Tribal militants attack Marib oil pipeline
On Thursday, tribal militants attacked and damaged oil pipelines in the Marib province in north east Yemen. Authorities do not yet know who is responsible for the attack, but similar attacks have plagued the region in recent weeks. The continued attacks have affected oil output, as authorities have not been able to identify and stop the attackers. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 10/3/2013]

NDC members condemn part of Benomar’s UN report referring to federalism
Several members of Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference (NDC) have denounced a paragraph contained in the report of UN Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations to Yemen, Jamal Benomar. Benomar submitted his report on the situation in Yemen to the UN Security Council on Friday, September 27. One paragraph of the report stated that a consensus was emerging on a federal system, and that continued debate was needed for a potential move to a federal state. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 10/3/2013]


Militants shoot down military helicopter in northern Iraq, says police
Unidentified militants shot down a military helicopter in northern Iraq on Wednesday, killing all four crew members, police sources said. The helicopter was carrying out a security mission between the city of Kirkuk and Salahuddin province in the early morning when it came under heavy fire and crashed in western Baiji, 180 km north of Baghdad, police said. [Reuters, 10/2/2013]

Kuwait police disperse stateless protest
Kuwaiti security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades Wednesday to disperse hundreds of stateless residents demanding citizenship and basic rights, activists and witnesses said. Known locally as bidoons, the demonstrators turned out to mark the international day of non-violence despite a stern warning by the interior ministry that it would deal firmly and harshly with any protest. [AFP/Ahram Online, 10/2/2013]

In rare case, Palestinians reclaim settlement land
After a long court battle, Palestinian farmers have reclaimed land they lost to an Israeli settlement in the 1970s. Israel dismantled Homesh and three other West Bank settlements in 2005, in connection with a wider withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, but refused to let the original Palestinian landowners return to the Homesh area. The Israeli group Yesh Din says it fought a successful legal battle to restore the land to the farmers. [Daily Star, 10/3/2013]