According to the rapporteur on the electoral law, Hanene Sassi, officials from the former regime will be allowed to stand for election with the exception of those who held a dual role as government officials and RCD members. These measures are to remain in place until the transitional justice law is passed.

The draft electoral law will presumably also stipulate that members of military and police forces will not be allowed to stand for election either. [L’Economiste Maghrebin (French), 3/25/2014 ]




Sisi says Egypt still on way to building modern democratic state
Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Tuesday that Egypt is still very much on its way to building a modern democratic country that satisfies all Egyptians and meets their demands and future aspirations. According to a statement made by the army’s official spokesman, Sisi said that Egypt’s security and peace lie in an army that is strong, able and prepared to exert its utmost effort with devotion, sincerity and honor. Amid speculation that Sisi will announce his campaign soon a military spokesman said that the army has discovered about 1500 persons unofficially campaigning on behalf of Sisi and collecting illegal donations. The military warned against misusing the identity of the defense minister or abusing the name of the military, stressing that such illegal acts would be prosecuted by law. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, 3/25/2014]

Badie and 682 Brotherhood members’ trial adjourned until April 28
The head of the Minya criminal court, Said Youssef, says he will issue a verdict on April 28 in a new mass trial of 683 suspected Islamist supporters of the ousted president Mohamed Morsi for murder and attempted murder after a single session boycotted by defense lawyers. In the absence of defense lawyers, the court heard testimony from police officials before adjourning the trial until next month. Youssef held trial in the city of Minya, south of Cairo, went ahead with the session on Tuesday, hearing witnesses in the case despite the lawyers’ absence. The same judge sentenced 529 defendants to death on Monday in a similar mass trial, which lasted only two sessions. Egyptian authorities are holding a series of mass trials as part of a months-long crackdown on Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood since the military’s July ouster of President Mohammed Morsi. [Mada Masr, Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, AP, AMAY (Arabic), 3/25/2014]

CAPMAS: 21.4 percent decline in trade balance deficit
Egypt’s trade balance deficit reached EGP18.04 billion ($2.5 billion) in December 2013, state-run statistical body CAPMAS reported on Monday. The figure represented a 21.2 percent drop compared to the same month in 2012, when the deficit stood at EGP22.9 billion ($3.2 billion). The value of Egypt’s exports in November 2013 declined three percent from the previous year, recording LE16.8 billion ($2.4 billion). [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, 3/24/2014]

Adly Mansour to focus on fighting terrorism at Arab Summit
Adly Mansour, Egypt’s interim president, will address the Arab Summit Tuesday evening. Mansour’s remarks are expected to focus on combating terrorism in the region. Mansour recently announced during a television interview that he planned to urge regional powers to commit to fighting terrorism. He is also expected to discuss Egypt’s current political process. On Tuesday’s Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hammad bin Khalifa al-Thani, called on Egypt to start a “political dialogue,” an implicit criticism of the crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group that Qatar backs and of which Islamist President Mohamed Morsi is a member. [Shorouk (Arabic), AMAY (Arabic), AP, 3/25/2014]


Libya oil production down to 150,000 bpd; protesters shut major oil field
Libyan oil production plunged Monday after rebels shut down the major Elephant oil field in southern Libya in protest against the General National Congress (GNC), whose mandate expired on February 7. The measure has brought down production from about 250,000 bpd (barrels per day) to about 150,000 bpd. There is concern that rebels could take further measures to bring the GNC and the country to its knees if new legislative elections are not held soon. The Elephant oil field is managed by the Italian Eni, whose Chief Executive Officer Paolo Scaroni visited Tripoli and met with Libya’s Acting Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni to discuss maintaining and increasing Eni’s current production levels in Libya to reduce Italy’s reliance on supply from Russia. [Tripoli Post, 3/24/2014]

Al-Thinni likely to be given another fortnight as prime minister by GNC
Abdullah al-Thinni is expected to be given another two weeks as interim prime minister by the General National Congress (GNC), Congress members have told the Libya Herald. The reason, they say, is that there is no consensus on anyone else. According to Kufra Congressman Hamed Hattah said. “It was difficult enough to get 120 votes for the members to sack Zeidan. It will be equally difficult for the Congress to find another 120 votes to appoint another prime minister especially in this tough time.” There is no a consensus on any of the fifteen candidates, Hattah said. None of the fifteen has not yet officially by named by the Congress. The lack of consensus on a new name for the premiership is thought likely to continue, which means that al-Thinni will probably remain acting prime minister until the GNC’s replacement, possibly in July. [Libya Herald, 3/25/2014]

Libya releases crew of tanker that loaded oil at rebel port
Libya will deport the crew of a tanker that loaded oil at a rebel-held port and was stopped by the US Navy, its state prosecutor said on Monday. Three Libyan rebel fighters who had boarded the tanker will stay in jail, said Abdelqadir Rawdan. The crew was made up of sailors from Pakistan, India, Syria, Sudan, and other countries. On Sunday, the Morning Glory arrived in the Libyan capital Tripoli after US special forces stormed it a week ago and handed it over to Libya’s nascent navy which had initially failed to stop it. The ship had docked two weeks ago at the Es Sider port, which is under control of rebels demanding autonomy and a greater share of oil for Libya’s east of the country. Rawdan said the crew was still being investigated, but it was clear that its members had acted at gunpoint. [Reuters, AP, 3/24/2014]

Protests outside military intelligence offices at appointment of Salah Badi
The headquarters of the Libyan military intelligence was blockaded by staff protesting the appointment of former General National Congress (GNC) member Salah Badi as its new head. It appears that Badi, a former Air Force officer, was appointed in November last year, following his promotion to colonel by GNC President Nuri Abu Sahmain. However, the decision was not made public until very recently. Badi was elected as an independent to the GNC in July 2012 and became a member of Wafa bloc. He resigned following the request by Misrata’s Local Council that all the city’s GNC representatives to do so following the Gharghour massacre in November 2013. Meanwhile, in Benghazi, two more security officials and a poet prominent during the revolution were killed in separate incidents. The head of the Central Bank of Libya’s media office was also kidnapped in front of his home in Tripoli. [Libya Herald, 3/24/2014]


Syria takes center stage at Arab summit
The Syrian conflict takes center stage at an Arab summit starting Tuesday in Kuwait, where a regional rift over Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has been kept off the agenda. Ahmed Jarba, head of the opposition National Coalition, is due to address Arab leaders at the opening session. However, the National Coalition will not fill Syria’s vacant seat—which it was allocated at the last Arab summit held in Doha in 2013—because it has yet to meet the legal requirements, said Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi. The UN-Arab League mediator on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, will also brief leaders of the twenty-two-member League on the dim prospects of a political settlement after the failure of two rounds of Geneva peace talks. On Tuesday at the opening session, Saudi Crown Prince Salman called for “changing the balance of forces” on the ground in Syria, saying the crisis there had reached catastrophic proportions. Ahmed Jarba echoed this sentiment, calling for “sophisticated” weaponry to defeat President Bashar al-Assad. [AFP, Reuters, 3/25/2014]

Rebels take coastal village in Assad heartland
Opposition fighters seized a Mediterranean coastal village Tuesday as they pushed to consolidate their presence in a key regime bastion near the Turkish border. The capture of Samra in Latakia province comes a day after rebels seized the area around Kasab, the last government-held crossing post with Turkey. In retaliation the army pounded rebel positions in the northwestern coastal province, heartland of Assad’s Alawite sect and scene of fierce fighting since Friday. Samra is located in a valley near the Turkish border, and gives the rebels access to the sea. “The area is so strategic to the regime, that whenever fighting does break out in Latakia, the army pulls back from other areas in order to redeploy here,” said Latakia activist Omar al-Jeblawi. A security source in Damascus denied that Samra fell saying “fierce fighting” was still underway. According to a monitoring group, 170 fighters on both sides have been killed in the Latakia fighting. [AFP, The Daily Star, 3/25/2014]

Barrel bombs ‘terrorizing’ civilian targets across Aleppo
When a barrel bomb strikes the ground in Aleppo one of the few certainties is that a military target will not be in the vicinity, according to a report issued Monday by Human Rights Watch. The New York-based watchdog used satellite imagery, interviews with witnesses, video footage, and the work of local organizations inside Syria to produce its findings. It alleges that the Syrian regime ignored a UN Security Council resolution last month to halt the indiscriminate use of weapons, including barrel bombs, in populated areas. The report documents the recurring use of barrel bombs and other unguided high explosive bombs on residential and commercial areas, with much of the devastating results apparent in Aleppo neighborhoods. [The Daily Star, Reuters, McClatchy, 3/25/2014]


Former government officials and RCD members barred from elections
According to the rapporteur on the electoral law, Hanene Sassi, officials from the former regime will be allowed to stand for election with the exception of those who held a dual role as government officials and RCD members. These measures are to remain in place until the transitional justice law is passed. The draft electoral law will presumably also stipulate that members of military and police forces will not be allowed to stand for election either. [L’Economiste Maghrebin (French), 3/25/2014 ]

Jomaa announces monitoring team to accelerate projects implementation in Jendouba
Interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa announced, Monday in Jendouba, the establishment of a monitoring team composed of representatives of several ministries in charge of development who will be asked to take necessary decisions to resolve outstanding problems of all public projects. Speakers at the meeting discussed a set of problems related to development, education, economy, and security, saying that one of the major causes of the slow rate of development rests in the inability in the region to make needed decisions concerning urgent and pending issues. [TAP, 3/24/2014]

World bank report on Ben Ali-era corruption
A new report by a team working through the World Bank has laid bare how Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and those close to him were able to change the rules of business in Tunisia to benefit themselves even as they won praise from the West for handling of the country’s economy. World Bank researchers analyzed previously private tax data provided by Tunisia’s ministry of finance and relating to more than 600,000 firms. They found that 220 companies owned by Ben Ali relatives earned 21 percent of all the country’s private-sector profits between 1996 and 2010, in large part benefiting from rules in their favor. Many of the same rules of business remain in force. [FT, 3/24/2014]


To allay drone concerns, US mulls joint manned crop duster strikes
Faced with growing questions about civilian deaths in its secret drone war in Yemen, the Obama administration has plans to equip the small and poorly trained Yemeni military to run its own “targeted killing” program, according to documents and three sources familiar with the effort. Instead of supplying the Yemenis with high-tech drones, though, the Pentagon would arm the Yemeni Air Force with a fleet of ten rugged, two-seater propeller planes of a type usually used as crop dusters. The specially modified versions for the Yemeni program would be armed with laser-guided missiles and high-tech electronic intelligence equipment. [Buzzfeed, 3/25/2014]

Herak pens letter to Arab League, former VP calls for southern issue inclusion
A leader of the Southern separatist Herak movement sent a letter to the Arab League Summit, currently being held in Kuwait calling on participants to support the South until its independence is restored. Abdul Rahman al-Jafari, former vice president of South Yemen in 1994, called upon the summit to prioritize the Southern issue on its agenda. [Aden al-Ghad (Arabic), 3/25/2014]

Tensions flare up in Amran as government sources claim four-day ceasefire
Military and tribal forces and Houthi rebels in Amran are bracing for renewed fighting after news of seven Houthi gunmen, a soldier, and three civilians—including two children—killed on Saturday was reported by a local security chief today. A ceasefire was previously inked in February but the latest tensions have led to renewed clashes. Government sources claimed that they have been able to secure a four-day ceasefire as a renewed push for calm ensues. They said that the Houthi-related unrest in the north is at the top of President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi’s agenda when he returns from the Arab League summit. [Yemen Times, 3/25/2014]

Hadi meets with Emir of Qatar
Along the sidelines of the Arab League Summit, President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi met with the Emir of Qatar to discuss bilateral relations. The Emir pledged to continue supporting Yemen’s development and transition and expressed condolences for the twenty soldiers killed in a Hadramawt attack on Monday. Qatar is currently at odds with its Gulf counterparts after the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors earlier this month citing interference in their affairs. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 3/25/2014]


Algeria presidential hopeful slams Bouteflika’s fifteen-year reign
Algerian presidential candidate Ali Benflis on Monday slammed the record of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, saying the ailing incumbent had failed to push through reforms. At a rally in Blida, the former prime minister criticized the state of the country’s health and education sectors, judiciary and civil freedoms. “He who is unable to rule should not blame others… Fifteen years were not enough for their reforms and today they demand another five,” he said of Bouteflika’s latest bid. The former judge and justice minister also criticized the lack of judicial independence. The human rights defender served as prime minister during Bouteflika’s first term in office, and is considered the biggest threat to the ailing president’s reelection chances. [The Daily Star, 3/25/2014]

Four thousand workers will die preparing for World Cup in Qatar
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is meeting with FIFA today to consider a recent report on workers conditions in Qatar. The report, The Case Against Qatar, has revealed that at the current rate 4000 workers will die before a ball has been kicked at the 2022 World Cup. Until now FIFA has refused to shoulder any liability. In a letter to the ITUC, the FIFA local organizing committee claimed the workers at al-Wakrah stadium “are not our responsibility.” “This feudal system existed [in Qatar] before the World Cup,” said one FIFA official. “What do you expect of a football organization? FIFA is not the lawmaker in Qatar.” [The Independent, 3/25/2014]

Quarter of Saudi jihadis have returned
Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry has said that 25 percent of the country’s fighters, including individuals wanted in security cases in Syria, have returned home. Mansour al-Turki, spokesperson for the country’s interior ministry, said the exact number of fighters who have returned is still unknown, adding that some of the fighters may not be aware of the amnesty offered to them by their government. [Gulf News, 3/25/2014]

Lebanon calls for support for army to counter Syria fallout
Lebanon’s foreign minister called on Arab countries to support the Lebanese army to counter fallout from the Syria that “threatened to tear the country apart.” Around one million Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon, a displacement that has strained public infrastructure and threatened to upset the sectarian balance. Communal tensions in Lebanon were stoked last week by the fall of the Syrian border town of Yabroud to Syrian government forces and their allies in the Lebanese Shia political and military movement Hezbollah. The fighting prompted a chain reaction of car bomb and rocket attacks, roadblocks and protests along sectarian lines that took days to calm and revived memories of Lebanon’s own 1975-90 civil war. [Asharq al-Awsat, 3/25/2014]