Top News: Egypt’s Sisi Gives First TV Interview of Presidential Campaign

The privately owned TV stations CBC and ONTV aired the first half of a pre-recorded interview with presidential hopeful Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on Monday evening. When asked whether he was the armed forces candidate, Sisi interrupted, saying: “I will not tolerate your usage of the word a’askar [military] again.” He added that he was not the presidential candidate of the military, since “the armed forces have never ruled Egypt.” He also said that voting for him means that “there will be no place for the Muslim Brotherhood during his presidency. Asked whether the Brotherhood would cease to exist during his presidency, Sisi answered: “Yes. That’s right.” Sisi accused the Brotherhood of links to violent militant groups, adding that two plots to assassinate him had been uncovered. During the interview, Sisi expressed support for the protest law and skirted a question on whether he would heed calls by some for pardoning January 25 activists jailed for breaking the law. He also said that he decided to run for president when he detected an effort to “destroy the state” forcing him to heed the calls of the people. Watch the full interview here. [Ahram OnlineDNEReutersMada Masr, 5/5/2014]



Cairo court bans former NDP members from running in elections
An Egyptian court on Tuesday banned the leaders of former president Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party from running in any coming elections, the court judge said. Judge Karim Hazem did not specify the number, names or titles of the politicians who would be prevented from running in coming elections. Mubarak’s party was dissolved three years ago following an uprising that ended his rule. The case was brought to court a few months ago by an Egyptian lawyer. Judicial sources said the judge was unable to name the officials that the ruling would be applied to and left that to the elections committee to do that. Liberal politicians fear many Mubarak-era politicians could return due to the weakness of the current political parties, most of which were formed in the three years since Mubarak was removed from office. [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, AP, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, 5/6/2014]

Egypt investigates world leaders for espionage
Egypt’s Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat has ordered an investigation into US President Barack Obama and other world leaders over spying allegations. The complaint was made by lawyer Ahmed Abdel-Salam against Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Abdel-Salam referred to reports from several Egyptian media outlets stating that Egypt’s General Intelligence apparatus had arrested two spy rings accused of sending reports about Egypt to foreign intelligence agencies during the country’s 2012 presidential elections. Abdel-Salam also called on Egypt to cut its relations with these countries and put on trial any Egyptian citizen who cooperates with them or provides them with information, in accordance with article 82 of the Egyptian penal code. He also called for an end to all cooperation between the Egyptian army and these countries, as well as a ban on their ships passing through the Suez Canal. [Ahram Online, 5/5/2014]

Egypt government justifies import of coal to fend off 2018 gas production crisis
The interim government agreed cement companies could import coal in order to avoid a gas production crisis in 2018. The Ministry of Petroleum expects the natural gas deficit to become worse, hitting 2.4 billion cubic feet per day during the 2017/2018 fiscal year, not including the needs of new power plants, which are estimated at 1.2 billion cubic feet. [DNE, 5/6/2014]


Salam Jadhran triumphs in Ajdabiya municipal elections, report says
Reports from Ajdabiya indicate that Salem Jadhran, brother of self-styled federalist leader Ibrahim Jadhran, has polled very well in Saturday’s elections for the new municipal council. Unofficial provisional results indicate that he has come in second, providing him with a strong chance of becoming mayor of the city. Provisional results are expected to be published by the Central Committee for Municipal Elections soon. Salem shot to national prominence last September when it was disclosed that then chairman of the legislature’s energy committee had given him a number of checks, including one for 2.5 million Libyan dinars, in an alleged attempt to bribe his brother into ending the eastern oil terminals blockade. His high showing in the polls counter accounts that Ajdabiya residents are distancing themselves from the Jadhrans. [Libya Herald, 5/5/2014]  

Police and army office bombed in Derna
An explosion hit the interior ministry’s local financial control offices in Derna Monday morning, causing significant damage but no casualties. According to one official, personnel had received threats, being warned not to pay any local members of the army or police. There is currently no police or army presence in Derna, according to the official, but salaries continue to be paid to them even though they live away from the town. No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing. In a separate security incident in Benghazi, a Libya Ahrar TV reporter, who had been covering the recent fighting between Ansar al-Sharia and Saiqa Special Forces, escaped an attempt on his life. [Libya Herald, 5/5/2014]

Brent rises on Libya uncertainty, Ukraine clashes
Brent crude rose above $108 per barrel on Tuesday, supported by clashes across Ukraine and lingering uncertainty over Libya’s supply recovery. In the North African country, the vital southern al-Sharara oilfield remains closed while new protests shut the Zultun and Raquba oilfields in the central eastern region. Oil output totals just 250,000 barrels per day. [Reuters, 5/6/2014]


United States grants diplomatic status to Syrian National Coalition
The Syrian opposition’s offices in the United States are to be recognized as diplomatic missions, US officials said Monday. As a delegation of opposition leaders arrived in Washington to plead for more US support, the Obama administration has granted the group diplomatic status and pledged an additional $27 million in nonlethal assistance. The moves, announced by the State Department, are calculated to bolster the opposition’s prestige, though the changes do not reverse the White House’s longstanding reluctance to get more deeply involved in the conflict. As a practical matter, the decision confers foreign mission status on the Syrian opposition’s offices in Washington and New York—a step short of full diplomatic status. That will make it easier for the United States to provide security and to expedite banking transfers. Symbolically, the administration said, the new status underlines US support for the moderate opposition. [NYT, AFP, WSJ, The National, 5/5/2014]

Huge bomb in newly dug tunnel kills thirty troops in Idlib province
At least thirty Syrian soldiers were killed on Monday by the explosion of a powerful bomb in a long tunnel that scores of rebels spent weeks digging under a checkpoint. A rebel in Idlib province told reporters that sixty rebels had spent fifty days digging the tunnel, finally depositing several tons of explosives. After the explosion, the fighters raided the checkpoint, which was composed of three buildings. The checkpoint was one of the lines of defense for the Wadi Deif military base, one of the last regime strongholds in Idlib. Rebels have been trying for more than a year to capture Wadi Deif and the nearby Hamadiyeh military base, but the regime has thus far repulsed their attacks. [AFP, Reuters, 5/6/2014]

Bomb kills local Nusra leader in Daraa
Syrian activists say a roadside bomb has killed a local al-Qaeda leader and his wife, an attack that may ignite new infighting between rebel groups. Ali al-Nuaimi of the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, and his wife were killed Monday night near the town of Busra al-Sham in southern Daraa province. The killing, which observers labeled an assassination, came just days after Nusra fighters seized a controversial Western-backed military commander, Ahmad al-Nuaimi. It’s unclear if the two men are related, nor is it clear if the two incidents are connected. [AP, 5/6/2014]


Elections to take place this year, Jomaa and Sarsar assert
“Preparations for the upcoming elections are well underway. Elections will take place this year,” Interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa and President of the Independent Higher Authority for the Elections (ISIE) Chafik Sarsar stated. Last March, the government paid an initial amount of 10 million dinars to the ISIE to begin preparations for the presidential and parliamentary elections. Sarsar estimates that the elections will cost 100 million dinars. Jomaa reiterated that members of the current government will not run in the next elections. [TAP, 5/5/2014]

National dialogue discussed presidential and parliamentary elections
The national dialogue session held on Monday did not produce a decision regarding whether presidential and legislative elections will be held simultaneously later this year. The political parties are still divergent on this point. Ennahdha movement with its relative majority of seats in the National Constituent Assembly still sticks to its initial position in favor of the holding the two elections at the same time. The other parties represented in the national dialogue argue for separate elections. In addition, they want presidential elections to take place before legislative elections. [TAP, 5/5/2014]

ANHRI condemns assault on journalists
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) today condemned the physical and verbal assault on Tunisian journalists, after they were prevented from covering a march organized by the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT). On Thursday May 1, the UGTT’s committee in charge of organizing the march for International Workers’ Day prevented a number of Tunisian journalists from obtaining a permit to cover the march. On the day of the march, the organizing committee’s members physically and verbally attacked the journalists. ANHRI calls upon Tunisian authorities to provide the necessary protection for journalists while practicing their work. [All Africa, 5/4/2014]


Military offensive in Shabwa and Abyan continues to rage
Fierce fighting that began early last week between security forces and suspected al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in Abyan and Shabwa provinces has continued to rage, displacing thousands and leaving scores dead. The offensive includes warplanes joined by Popular Committee fighters. Security forces acknowledge that civilians could be among the victims. According to local sources in Shabwa, about 10,000 residents of Azan and Haban areas have been displaced. Civilians fled Shabwa, but have not been given aid, due to the ongoing conflict. AQAP also is suspected to be behind several assassinations, including two in Sana’a killing a security official and a French private security specialist. [The Yemen Times, 5/6/2014]

Total faces protests in Hadramawt
Dozens of Total trainees held a protest in front of the French oil company’s branch office in Hadramawt province. Protesters say the French energy giant has not followed through on its promise to provide them with jobs after the completion of their training. The training ended in February. Security forces and riot police surrounded the demonstrators. Security forces told the demonstrators that they had received reports that the protesters were planning to riot and attack Total’s facilities. [The Yemen Times, 5/6/2014]

United States donates wheat shipment to address Yemen’s food insecurity
The United States has dispatched more than 21,800 metric tons of wheat to help offset the chronic food insecurity in the country. More than two million Yemenis are considered food insecure, and the problem is likely to get worse. According to recent projections by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, the conflict in the north and lower than expected rainfall in the western agricultural lands will likely exacerbate food insecurity for the coming summer. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 5/6/2014]

Unrest in Marib as pipeline destroyed and tribes resume clashes
Tribal militants in Marib province blew up an oil pipeline on Tuesday. The army reportedly shelled areas where militants were believed to be hiding. Elsewhere, a truce brokered by tribal elders from Marib and al-Bayda provinces has deteriorated as tribesmen have clashed with small arms, raising fears that a return to conflict may be on the horizon. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 5/6/2014]


Hezbollah warns of power vacuum
On Tuesday, Hezbollah called for political consensus on a new president and warned that Lebanon might slip into a power vacuum if no head of state is elected by May 25. Political leaders must “agree on a president,” Hezbollah’s deputy head Sheikh Naim Qassem said. A third round of voting is scheduled for Wednesday. The session is unlikely to elect a president amid an expected boycott by most MPs from the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition. [The Daily Star, 5/6/2014]

HRW slams Lebanon for returning Palestinians to Syria
Human Rights Watch (HRW) slammed Lebanon Tuesday for deporting about forty Palestinians back to Syria who according to Lebanon’s security agencies were attempting to flee the country using forged documents. Over the weekend Lebanese authorities detained forty-nine Syrian and Palestinian refugees from Syria at the Beirut airport for allegedly trying to depart the country illegally, a General Security statement said. The agency said the men and women were trying to travel with forged documents to an unidentified Arab country. Most were deported back to Syria the next day. The watchdog also criticized strict restrictions placed by Lebanese authorities on Palestinians crossing over the land borders from Syria. [The Daily Star, 5/6/2014]

Bouteflika names Algeria’s new cabinet
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Monday named the first cabinet of his fourth term in office, without managing to win over opposition figures as his reappointed prime minister, Abdelmalek Sellal, had hoped. The thirty-four member cabinet, dominated by technocrats, sees most key senior ministers holding onto their posts. Bouteflika pledged to promote the rights of the opposition, which plays a very minor role in Algerian politics. But the opposition parties spurned an offer to take part in a coalition government. Political observers said the move was largely expected. [The Daily Star, 5/5/2014]

Iraq’s Al-Maliki calls for ‘partnership government’ instead of ‘majority government’
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is reportedly negotiating to form a “partnership government” instead of the “majority government” he has been campaigning for to ensure a third term. Maliki advisor Ali al-Moussawi said that the State of Law Coalition led by Maliki will try to form a “majority government,” but if it fails it will consider a “partnership government” as a last resort. This is the first time Maliki has hinted at forming a government between winning forces, after campaigning for a majority government, claiming that partnerships and quotas do not build a country. Some Sunni politicians have voiced concern over the fairness of elections given the low voter turnout in Anbar province, currently beset by conflict between anti-government militias–who have partnered with transnational jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria–and security forces. [Middle East Monitor, 5/52014]