Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned Washington on Monday to brace for retaliation if US forces attacked his war-torn country, as he denied using chemical weapons against his people.

“You’re going to pay the price if you’re not wise. There are going to be repercussions,” Assad told CBS television’s “This Morning.” He also warned of the risks of possible chemical attacks by rebels or “terrorists” if there was outside intervention in Syria. [ReutersAl Jazeera, 9/9/2013]


National Coordination Committee chief rejects US intervention
Unlike the Syrian National Coalition, the political opposition inside Syria rejects a US strike, is determined to find a political solution and insists on convening the Geneva II conference, according to lawyer Hassan Abdel Azim, the general coordinator of the Syrian opposition’s National Coordination Committee (NCC). In an interview with As-Safir, Abdel Azim added that any intervention in Syria will lead to a regional war, pointing out that “the NCC rejects outside interference and considers the external opposition’s welcoming of military action to be patriotically questionable.” [Al Monitor, 9/6/2013]

Gulf ministers to weigh measures against Syria
Foreign ministers of the Gulf monarchies will meet Tuesday in Saudi Arabia to discuss measures against Syria, as Washington drums up support for its plan to strike Damascus, a diplomat said. Countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council “support taking international measures to deter the Syrian regime,” one diplomat said on Monday. On Saturday, GCC chief Abdullatif al-Zayani urged the international community to intervene immediately to “rescue” the Syrian people from their government’s “oppression.” [AFP, 9/9/2013]

Regime forces put down Homs prison uprising
Syrian regime forces stormed a prison in central Homs province overnight to put down a riot by inmates, injuring several, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday. Homs-based activist Yazan said that the clashes came when prisoners rioted after authorities tried to move them. Syrian authorities have reportedly been transferring prisoners to facilities inside airports and military barracks that could be targeted in any US-led strikes. [AFP, 9/9/2013]

Historic Christian town falls into ‘jihadi’ hands
Syrian rebels, including jihadists linked to al-Qaeda, have taken control of the historic Christian town of Maalula, north of Damascus, a watchdog and a resident said on Sunday. Maalula is home to around 5,000 residents and is of strategic importance for the rebels, who are trying to tighten their grip around the capital Damascus, adding a northern post to existing bases in the south and west of the city, and keen to threaten the nearby highway between Damascus and Homs used by the regime as a supply route. [Middle East Online, 9/8/2013]


Egypt’s Shafiq says won’t run for presidency if al-Sisi does
Ahmed Shafiq, runner-up in Egypt’s 2012 presidential election and the former prime minister under Mubarak, said on Sunday that he would not rule out running for the presidency again if people “insist and commission” him for the post. However, Shafiq said he would not run for the presidency if Army Chief Abdel Fatah al-Sisi decides to stand as a candidate in the elections. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 9/9/2013]

Amr Moussa elected head of Egypt’s constitution-drafting body
Former liberal-leaning presidential candidate Amr Moussa has been elected as head of Egypt’s fifty-strong constitution-drafting committee, defeating the chairman of the lawyers syndicate and Arab Nasserist Party leader Sameh Ashour. Work by this constitutional-drafting board represents the second stage in writing Egypt’s new constitution, which is to replace the suspended 2012 version. [Ahram Online, DNE, Mada Masr, Aswat Masriya, 9/8/2013]

Controversial constitution articles to be settled by 75 percent vote
The fifty-member constitution committee agreed on Monday that controversial articles will be settled by a 75 percent vote if their initial referral to a specialised ‘consensus committee’ fails to garner the agreement of all members, reported the Ahram Arabic website. The decision came after much disagreement within the committee, with some members insisting all articles gain full consensus, and others proposing controversial articles failing to gain full consensus be passed by an 80 percent vote. [Ahram Online, SIS, EGYNews (Arabic), 9/9/2013]

Crackdown on journalists continues
Award-winning Sinai journalist, Ahmed Abu Deraa, was detained for fifteen days, claimed Al-Masry Al-Youm, the newspaper Abu Deraa works for. The newspaper said that Abu Deraa is accused of publishing false news concerning the armed forces. The office of the military spokesperson refused to disclose the Abu Deraa’s charges. It said that Abu Deraa’s arrest happened near an army camp in Arish, Sinai. [DNE, 9/7/2013]


Anoud Senussi given noisy welcome in Sebha
Celebrations with gunfire and fireworks in Sebha welcomed Anoud Senussi who was freed by the Supreme Security Council militia that had taken her out of concern for her safety, according to reports. Anoud Senussi is daughter of Libya’s former intelligence chief and Qaddafi-era official, Abdallah al-Senussi. One local said residents were happy to welcome the daughter of the tribe and that the celebrations were not a demonstration of pro-Qaddafi sentiments. Videos on YouTube, however, show vehicles sporting a large green Qaddafi-era flag. [Libya Herald, 9/8/13]  

Libyan PM defends visit to Egypt saying Libyan Muslim Brotherhood were at odds from start
Prime Minister Ali Zidan defended his two-day official visit to Egypt, saying it was to serve Libya’s national interest. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction Party (JCP) attacked him for leading the trip, attended by eighteen official delegates, saying the visit was meant to congratulate and recognize the new leaders of Egypt. Despite its continued criticism of Zidan’s administration, the JCP has not yet announced that it will withdraw its four ministers from the government. [Tripoli Post, 8/9/13]  

More Zawia and Warshefana fighting but no reports of casualties
The withdrawal of Libya Shield peacekeepers prompted renewed fighting between Zawia and Warshefana over the weekend. A defense ministry source said due to “security reasons” it was “quite difficult” to say why the peacekeepers had withdrawn. The rupture of the week-long truce brokered by elders on both sides has not caused any casualties. [Libya Herald, 9/8/13]

Same Benghazi gunmen kill two special forces in drive-by shootings
Four gunmen, reportedly wearing military uniforms, shot dead two special forces soldiers in separate Benghazi attacks. It is unclear whether the same vehicle and gunmen were involved in a third attack, the target of which survived. According to the Benghazi Joint Control Room, the vehicle had no registration plate and had sustained damage. [Libya Herald, 9/8/13]


Tensions high as anti-government protesters march on Tunis
Tens of thousands of Tunisians have taken to the streets to renew their demands that the Islamist-led government step down and end a political deadlock threatening the North African country’s fledgling democracy. Saturday’s rally was the largest protest since Tunisia’s crisis erupted over the killing of an opposition leader in July. The National Salvation Front, an umbrella group of opposition parties, is leading the campaign against the government. [Al Jazeera, 9/7/2013, AFP, 9/8/2013]

Union pushes government concessions to end political deadlock
Tunisia’s powerful labor movement on Friday urged the country’s Islamist-led government to make “painful” concessions to end a stalemate over its rule after talks with secular opposition failed to break the deadlock. The Tunisian General Labor Union, a nation-wide federation using its heft to push parties to a compromise, has proposed the government step aside for a caretaker cabinet to hold new polls.” [Reuters, 9/6/2013]

New coalition commits to dialogue as labor initiative fails to reach political consensus
In a press conference held on Friday twelve political parties launched an initiative called “National Coalition for the success of the democratic transition,” after a labor union initiative failed to find a solution to the current political crisis. Composed of Ennahda and a series of other Islamist and centrist parties, the coalition invites all parties to a national dialogue for the sake of realizing Tunisia’s democratic transition. [Tunis Times, 9/7/2013]

Security forces kill two ‘jihadists’
Two members of the extremist group Ansar al-Sharia were killed on Monday by Tunisian security forces, an interior ministry source said. Tunisia has recently declared Ansar al-Sharia a terrorist organization after obtaining proof it killed two secular politicians and several soldiers, according to Reuters. [Al Arabiya, Reuters, 9/9/2013]


Southern Issue Working Group resumes conference activity
On Monday, after almost a three-week-long absence, members of the Southern Issue Working Group resumed their activities at the main site of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), Sanaa’s Movenpick Hotel. Group Chairman Mohammed Ali Ahmed was in attendance and all members were welcomed by the NDC’s secretary general and the UN Special Advisor on Yemen Jamal Benomar. [NDC, 9/9/2013]

Al-Hamdi begins to choose his team in preparation for the presidential election
Abdul Rahman Al-Hamdi has begun to choose his campaign team in preparation for the next presidential elections, which are set to take place in late February 2014 after the end of the current transitional period, when President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi is expected to step down. [Al Tagheer, (Arabic) 9/9/2013]

Drone strikes in Lahj kill terror militants
Officials confirmed on Sunday that President Hadi had authorized yet another US-led drone strike within Yemen on Saturday as intelligence reports locked in on alleged terror militants in the southern province of Lahj. This attack was the ninth of its kind in two weeks. [Yemen Times, 9/8/2013]

Arbitration team with twenty guns convince fighting parties in Radmah to cease fighting for a year
A local source reported that a tribal arbitration team with twenty automatic rifles succeeded in persuading the fighting parties in al-Radmah directorate in the governorate of Ibb to stop fighting for a whole year. Violent clashes erupted in the district between residents of two neighboring villages in late July. [Al Masdar, (Arabic) 9/7/2013]


Kurdish rebels stop withdrawing forces from Turkey
Kurdish rebels have halted their pullout of Turkey, accusing Ankara of breaking its part of a ceasefire deal, but vowed to respect a truce, a pro-Kurdish news agency reported on Monday. Under a roadmap to end the three-decade-old insurgency, the Kurdistan Workers Party began in May withdrawing its fighters from Turkey to safe havens in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region. No deadline was set for the withdrawal, but a ceasefire agreement reached in March said that the peace process cannot proceed further until it is completed. [AFP, Hurriyet, 9/9/2013]

Jordan PM: Foreign humanitarian aid “has stopped”
All foreign aid intended to help Jordan continue providing humanitarian assistance to thousands of Syrian refugees in the Kingdom has stopped, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said on Sunday.
In an interview with Qatari newspaper Al Watan, Ensour said the foreign assistance extended to Jordan at the beginning of the Syrian crisis was “not enough” in the face of the extraordinary numbers of Syrian refugees who have sought a safe haven in the Kingdom. [Ammon News, 9/8/2013]