The United States and ten Arab and European nations expressed support on Tuesday for the convening of a peace conference next month in Geneva to begin negotiations on a political settlement to end the civil war in Syria. But US Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged that the moderate Syrian opposition had not yet decided whether it would attend. Ahmad Assi al-Jarba, the president of the Syrian opposition coalition, and other rebel opposition leaders are to assemble in a week or so to decide whether to participate. The communiqué issued by the London 11, as the group of nations is known, endorsed several points that are important to the Syrian opposition, including the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “and his close associates with blood on their hands,” but also lacked important details. [NYTWSJAFPGuardianAsharq al-Awsat, 10/23/2013]


Cabinet says emergency law to end mid-November
Cabinet spokesperson Sherif Shawqi has claimed Egypt’s emergency law will not continue past mid-November. Egypt’s Cabinet extended the law for three months following violence that broke out after the violent dispersals of sit-ins staged by supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi in Raba’a al-Adaweya and Giza’s al-Nahda Square on August 14. The state of emergency was then extended for two more months through a decree issued by Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour following a rise in violent incidents across the country. The state of emergency cannot be extended for more than three months, except with the people’s approval in a public referendum, according to the constitutional decree that currently regulates Egypt’s transitional phase. [Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, SIS, AMAY (Arabic), 10/23/2013]

First Constituent Assembly closed session held
The fifty-member Constituent Assembly held its first closed session on Tuesday. The session was followed by a press conference in which assembly spokesman Mohamed Salmawy announced that out of over 200 constitutional articles, the assembly’s drafting committee was done with 189, including eighteen new articles that did not appear in previous constitutions. Meanwhile, the committee of ten legal experts and judges who conducted a first round of amendments on the 2012 constitution walked out of a meeting with its successor committee on Tuesday. Al-Masry Al-Youm and Al-Shorouk newspapers reported that the fifty-member committee which is now doing a last round of amendments before a referendum is conducted in December, suggested that the members of the committee of ten should not vote over the final draft, which prompted them to pull out from the Tuesday meeting. [DNE, AMAY (Arabic), Mada Masr, Ahram Online, 10/23/2013]

Egypt’s central bank governor criticizes IMF
Egypt’s Central Bank Governor, Hisham Ramez, has criticized the IMF for acting in a “totally unacceptable way” during negotiations over a critical 4.8 billion dollar loan earlier this year, state newspaper Al-Ahram reported. Ramez, who was involved in the talks, said that “some figures” in the IMF had dealt inappropriately with Egypt, without giving details. Al-Ahram released Ramez’s comments in advance of an interview expected to air on Wednesday night on an Egyptian television station. [Reuters, 10/23/2013]

Warraq church official says police absent during attack
The administrative head of the Virgin Mary Church in Warraq told prosecutors on Tuesday that police conscripts supposed to be guarding the church were not present during an assault that left four dead and scores injured, Al-Ahram reported. Giza governor Ali Abdel Rahman said on Tuesday that his administration will offer financial compensation to the victims of the attack. The ministry of Social Solidarity pledged EGP 5,000 ($725) for the families of the four killed and EGP 1,000 ($145) for those who had been injured in the shooting, according to state-owned Al-Ahram. Meanwhile, Warraq Prosecution investigations into the Warraq church shooting revealed that the attack has been planned only a few hours ahead, as the attackers viewed a map of the road to the church right before the shooting that only lasted for three minutes. Warraq Prosecution will hear the statements of the pastor of the Church and the three police officers assigned to guard it on Wednesday. [Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, Cairo Post, 10/23/2013]


Libya output still at 600,000 bpd, protests drag on
Libya’s oil production is stable at around 600,000 barrels per day (bpd), and the government is working to end the protests that have cut shipments for months, according to the National Oil Corporation (NOC). Striking workers, militias, and political protests had slashed the country’s oil output to as low as 200,000 bpd, but production is bouncing back as the government reached agreement with some protesters in western oil fields in September. Armed protesters continue to control eastern ports. Despite the continued unrest, France’s Total and Spain’s Repsol are moving forward with development plans; however, Italian oil and gas group Eni, the largest foreign operator in Libya in terms of volume, has said the disruptions to oil production in the country are “very worrying,” as losses continue to weigh on its prospects for output and profit. [Reuters, 10/22/2013]

Benghazi Islamists reach out to local tribe and moderate federalists
Benghazi-based Islamist leader Ismail Salabi and Khaled Buleghrayeb, a prominent figure in the federalist movement, have met in an effort to reduce tension and reconcile since the backlash against Islamists after last week’s assassination of military police chief Ahmed Mustafa al-Barghathi. Al-Barghathi belonged to the Aguri tribe, the same as Buleghrayeb. According to one source, Salabi assured Buleghrayeb that he was not involved in Barghathi’s murder or any of the assassinations in the eastern city. Another source close to the federalists said that the Islamists are reaching out because they have few supporters in the city and know that they are unable to confront the tribes. [Libya Herald, 10/22/2013]

Miniscule anti-Zidan protest claims sabotage by prime minister
Protesters calling for Prime Minister Ali Zidan to be toppled claimed that Zidan had orchestrated another protest to sabotage their rally, when their demonstration outside the General National Congress (GNC) resulted in a low turnout. About ten wounded veterans broke into the GNC, demanding treatment abroad. The anti-Zidan protesters said that the prime minister himself was behind that incident in an effort to ruin their demonstration. Islamist Justice and Construction Party GNC member Amina Mahjoub, who joined the protest of about twenty-five participants, said that 133 GNC members were ready to give a vote of no confidence to Zidan before his recent abduction. [Libya Herald, 10/22/2013]

Years after Qaddafi death, Libya fears grow
Wednesday marks the second anniversary since Libya declared liberation from the former regime. Two years on, Libyans say, the atmosphere is tense and there is widespread insecurity. There is an overall sense that the country has become chaotic, but many express optimism that the situation will improve. One citizen interviewed said that Libya requires a national dialogue and reconciliation, as well as a national security apparatus to end the militias’ presence in the streets. [Magharebia, 10/22/2013]


US-UN-Russian meeting on Syria set for November 5
The UN Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, will meet US and Russian officials in Switzerland next month to try to prepare the way for a full Syria peace conference in Geneva. The trilateral meeting will be held in Geneva on November 5 with the US delegation expected to include Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford. [Reuters, 10/23/2013]

Israel vows to stop Syria arms transfers amid reports of airstrikes against Hezbollah convoy
Israel reiterated Wednesday it would act to prevent any transfer of advanced arms to militants during the conflict in Syria amid reports of an Israeli airstrike along the Syrian-Lebanese border. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel was closely monitoring the situation in Syria and the regime’s moves to dismantle its chemical arms. “So far the regime is upholding its commitment. We are following the issue, and continue to maintain our red lines on Syria: not to allow the transfer of advanced Syrian weapons to hostile hands, especially Hezbollah.” His comments came amid reports that Israeli warplanes had on Monday hit a convoy carrying advanced missiles along the Syria-Lebanon border bound for Hezbollah. [Daily Star, 10/23/2013]

Jihadists from Germany set up base in Syria
A growing number of German jihadists are heading to Syria to join the rebels in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad. According to German intelligence, some 200 Islamists from across the country have gathered in northern Syria in what’s been dubbed the “German Camp.” German intelligence has observed a sharp increase in the number of German Islamists traveling to Syria to aid the opposition in the civil war there. With some 200 Islamic fundamentalists from Germany either on their way to Syria or already there, the war-torn country is currently “by far the most attractive location for jihadists,” says a classified report by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. [Der Spiegel, 10/21/2013]


Tunisia begins National Dialogue talks amid protests; coalition government expected to resign
Tunisia’s ruling Islamists and opposition are to begin hard-won negotiations today to end months of political deadlock, with Prime Minister Ali Larayedh expected to announce his government’s resignation. Prior to the start of talks on Wednesday hundreds of opposition activists protested in central Tunis, demanding the resignation of Larayedh’s Islamist-led government. Mustapha Ben Jaafar, chairman of the National Constituent Assembly, the body governing the transition talks, said Tuesday that on Wednesday “the government will announce its commitment to the roadmap (negotiations) and a few weeks after [its] resignation.” [AFP/Ahram Online, 10/23/2013]

Interior Ministry steps up security measures ahead of October 23 protests
Tunisia’s Interior Ministry has “taken all the necessary security precautions on the occasion of October 23,” to prepare for massive opposition protests occurring on a date that marks the start of government transition talks and the second anniversary of the election of the National Constitution Assembly, a ministry spokesman said on Wednesday. The ministry deployed security reinforcements around Habib Bourguiba Avenue and the Kasbah square in downtown Tunis, and the army has made arrangements to protect government buildings. [TAP, 10/23/2013]

Deputies willing to return to NCA, partake in national dialogue
In a statement made public on Tuesday, several deputies who had pulled out from National Constituent Assembly (NCA) talks after the July assassination of opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi said they were willing honor their commitment to the NCA in accordance with the recently signed roadmap agreement, which includes provisions for the current government to resign. They expressed readiness to rejoin the NCA if interim Prime Minister Ali Larayedh presents a commitment of his government to resign within the deadlines set by the roadmap. [TAP, 10/22/2013]

Disruptions in air travel and decreased tourism alienate Tunisia’s south
According to civil society groups representing Tunisia’s south, air travel has been unpredictable as of late, damaging the area’s economy and leading residents of the popular oasis destination to feel that the national government has neglected their community and damaged its tourism-dependent economy. Many locals say the air travel problems are evidence of national politicians neglecting the South. “The people in the north want all the tourism for themselves,” said a vendor working in an empty souvenir shop in Tozeur. [Tunisia Live, 10/22/2013]


Yemen prison riot started by terror suspects
Yemeni police fired tear gas on Tuesday to quell a prison riot by inmates held on terrorism charges in the capital, leaving at least three in critical condition, a security official said.
The officials said dozens of inmates linked to al-Qaeda refused to return to their cells, chanting and scuffling with the prison guards. Police fired their weapons into the air and lobbed tear gas in response. The officials said at least nine inmates were wounded, including three critically. [Gulf News, 10/23/2013]

EU urges Yemen to fight corruption
The European Union (EU) called on the government of Yemen to quickly make the necessary reforms to reduce corruption in the public sector. In a statement issued by European foreign ministers following their meeting in Luxembourg, the EU urged the Yemeni government to “improve public administration (in particular by removing ghost workers from the civil and security services), taking steps towards a gradual subsidy reform in a spirit of social cohesion and implementing the Youth Employment Action Plan.” [Al Tagheer (Arabic), 10/23/2013]

Hirak demands that 8+8 committee meetings are held abroad
The Hirak representation in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) that has continued its work in Sana’a said its participation in the dialogue has become “complicated” because of “grave risks” of the south’s complete rejection of the conference and its participation in it and because of the dialogue mechanisms, which do not fairly address the southern issue. Hirak added that the political forces, elites, and the international community do not appreciate the seriousness of this risk. In a statement, the Hirak appealed to President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi and UN Envoy Jamal Benomar to move the next phase of the 8+8 committee’s work outside Sana’a due to the deteriorating security situation. [Al Tagheer (Arabic), 10/23/2013]

Sana’a University student union condemns continued suspension of classes
The Sana’a University student union denounced the university leadership’s continued cancellation of classes and educational operations and the lack of a concerted effort to end the suspension of classes put in place in response to student protests. The student union expressed in a statement its deep concern about the arbitrary decision to cancel classes in a manner contrary to academic norms. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 10/22/2013]


UN rights review urged to press Jordan on freedoms
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday called on rights officials meeting in Geneva for a UN review of Jordan’s record to press Amman to lift restrictions on freedom of expression. Country representatives gathering under the United Nations Human Rights Council for the review process on Thursday “should press Jordan to amend its penal code to remove vague charges that limit rights to free expression, assembly and association,” HRW said in a statement. [AFP, 10/23/2013]

Morocco editor’s trial sparks fear for press freedom
A Moroccan editor facing terrorism charges appeared in court for the first time on Tuesday as fears grew that his case was the opening salvo in a new assault on press freedom. Ali Anouzla was arrested and charged with advocating terrorism and aiding terrorists in September after his online news site wrote about an al-Qaeda video criticizing Morocco. He faces up to twenty years in prison. [News24, 10/22/2013]

Bahrain: King Hamad stresses national unity
King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa on Wednesday said that national unity and agreements were fundamental for Bahrain’s stability. “They are a fundamental pillar of stability that lead to further development and reforms,” King Hamad said in his address as he opened the fourth session of the National Council (parliament) in the capital Manama. As a result of the first part of Bahrain’s national dialogue, the elected chamber of the bicameral parliament was given more power. The second part of the dialogue, to resolve political issues, is still underway. [Gulf News, 10/23/2013]