Top News: In Yemen, Islah Leader Killed in Clashes Between Tribes and Houthis

Fighting in the northern al-Jawf province between Houthi and Bani Nawaf tribal fighters have resulted in the death of an Islah leader and two of his bodyguards. Clashes are ongoing and these are the only casualties confirmed thus far, but reports suggest that many members of the Bani Nawaf tribe have arrived in the area, signaling a potential escalation in conflict. There is no word yet on how this may affect the tentative agreement between Houthi fighters and Islah-linked tribes in Amran province reached on Wednesday. [Shbab Press (Arabic), 3/6/2014]


Cabinet approves draft presidential elections law
During its first meeting, the new cabinet approved the draft law regulating presidential elections after review of the legislation by the State Council. The cabinet also agreed to amend certain provisions of the Political Rights Law No. 73 of 1956, and refer the amendment to the State Council’s legislative committee to take action in preparation for adoption and approval by interim-President Adly Mansour. The cabinet also approved the use of a computerized mechanism to read national ID cards for potential use in registration and voting in upcoming elections to streamline the process. [EGYNews (Arabic), Aswat Masriya (Arabic), Shorouk (Arabic), 3/6/2014]

Prime minister pledges little to calm labor unrest
Seeking to quell months of labor protests over pay and corruption allegations, newly appointed Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb visited the country’s largest textile company in the city of Mahalla on Wednesday, promising workers they would receive their overdue bonuses within the week. Mehleb also said the state would provide the 22,000 workers employed at Misr Spinning and Weaving Company with the new minimum wage. However, he also denounced their strikes and called for “a minimum level of productivity.” Aside from reiterating plans to link productivity to pay, Mehleb promised no drastic changes. Filled with nationalistic rhetoric, his speech promised there would be “no room for privatization.” [Mada Masr, 3/5/2014]

Police leader critical of NCHR Raba’a report
Major General Abdel Fattah Othman, Assistant Minister of Interior for Public Relations denied that the ministry had specified twenty-five minutes to break up the sit-in of supporters of toppled President Mohamed Morsi at Raba’a al-Adaweya Square on August 14 last year. Othman added in a phone-in with a program on CBC Channel Wednesday: “The sit-in dispersal plan was clear and we discussed the breakup measures with rights activists in accordance with legal measures.” Salah Salem, a member of Raba’a al-Adaweya fact-finding committee, said the report which was announced by the National Council for Human Rights, on Wednesday, was prepared by a credible and impartial party. [Egypt Independent, 3/6/2014]

Gaza-bound activists denied entry to Cairo
Dozens of Gaza-bound female activists have protested at Cairo airport after they were barred from entering the country. Among the participants from the US-based anti-war group Code Pink’s delegation are US, French and Belgian citizens. “Only fifteen of the fifty-eight women have been barred from leaving the airport. Six have left and the others refused to enter the country in solidarity with their banned colleagues,” an airport security official said. At least eleven women later left on flights to Paris, Brussels, and Frankfurt after the French consul asked the French nationals to leave, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported. Al-Ahram also later reported that at least seven women, from Italy and France, have been deported. Hamas condemned Egypt’s stance, saying that it “harms Egypt’s reputation and its people.” Egypt has deported thirteen international activists this week, including Northern Irish Nobel Laureate and peace activist Mairead Maguire, and held up others who had been planning to visit Gaza. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, AP, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, Shorouk (Arabic), 3/6/2014]


World diplomats seek to stabilize Libya
World diplomats are working to help Libya create a stable government amid violence and growing political tensions that have festered since Qaddafi’s ouster in 2011. Thursday’s Friends of Libya meeting in Rome focused largely on easing disagreements among Libya’s diverse tribal, religious, and ethnic populations, looking toward writing a new constitution. US Secretary of State John Kerry shared a warm handshake with Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan at the start of the meeting at Italy’s foreign ministry. He also met with Nouri Abu Sahmain, the Islamist-leaning president of Libya’s parliament. UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya Tarek Mitri are also attending and will hold a joint press conference this afternoon with Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini. [AP, 3/6/2014]

February Committee wants new legislature to be based in Benghazi
An interim successor to the General National Congress (GNC) should be renamed the House of Representatives and be based in Benghazi, the February Committee has proposed. The committee was commissioned last month by the GNC to draft an amendment to the 2011 constitutional declaration as well as a new elections law. Under the proposed amendment, the GNC would be dissolved once the House of Representatives was elected. At that point the House would then call for and organize direct elections for a president of Libya. The amendment, which has yet to be approved by the GNC, lists the president’s thirteen powers, including to serve as commander-in-chief and to appoint the prime minister. [Libya Herald, 3/5/2014]

Sharara protesters reject government promises; blockade continues
Fresh overtures by Defense Minister Abdullah al-Thinni to protesters blockading the Sharara oilfield in south west Libya have been rebuffed as demonstrators continue their embargo of  the country’s second largest oil facility. Thinni travelled to the Sharara field to negotiate with Tuaregs who resumed the blockade of the oilfield nearly two weeks ago. He had been pivotal in bringing an end to the last sit-in at Sharara in January. A member of the demonstrators’ committee said that this time the blockade would not end until promises were fulfilled. Demonstrators from the ethnic minority group insist on the removal of Obari’s unelected local council, which they say does not represent them. A number of Tuareg protesters are also demanding Libyan national identity numbers that would allow them access to government services. [Libya Herald, 3/5/2014]

Niger extradites Qaddafi’s son Saadi to Tripoli, Libya says
Niger has extradited Qaddafi’s son, Saadi, who just arrived in Tripoli and was brought to a prison, the Libyan government said on Thursday. The North African country had been seeking the extradition of Saadi, who had fled to Niger after the 2011 uprising. Saadi was being held by judiciary police forces, the government said. It thanked Niger for its cooperation and said Saadi would be treated according to international justice standards for prisoners. Saadi, who had a career as a businessman and professional footballer, is not wanted by the International Criminal Court, as is Qaddafi’s most prominent son Saif al-Islam. But Libya wants to try him for allegedly misappropriating property by force and for alleged armed intimidation when he headed the Libyan Football Federation. [Reuters, Libya Herald, 3/6/2014]


Opposition rejects proposal to negotiate with Hezbollah
The Syrian opposition rejected a proposal by former US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford for the rebels to negotiate with Hezbollah and other factions fighting alongside President Bashar Assad’s troops as part of a political solution to the civil war. In remarks published Thursday, the spokesman of the Syrian National Coalition, Louay Safi, said: “We only negotiate with the Syrians and we won’t accept the participation of foreign militias that kill the Syrian people in the political solution.” The opposition won’t surrender to the status-quo after three years of struggle, he said. Ford, who stepped down on Friday, has recently said that the negotiations to resolve the civil war should include armed groups, including Hezbollah, which has sent its fighters to Syria in support of Assad. [Naharnet, 3/6/2014]

Assad says he supports Putin’s “rational, peace-loving approach” on Ukraine
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has expressed his “solidarity” with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s position on the crisis in Ukraine, state media reported on Thursday. In a telegram, Assad “expressed… Syria’s solidarity with Putin’s efforts to restore security and stability to Ukraine in the face of attempted coups against legitimacy and democracy in favor of radical terrorists,” state news agency SANA said. Assad praised Putin for “wise political leadership and commitment to international legitimacy based on the law that governs ties between nations and peoples.” He said Syria was committed to “President Putin’s rational, peace-loving approach that seeks to establish a global system supporting stability and fighting extremism and terrorism.” [AFP, 3/6/2014]

Amid carnage of war, Assad readies for re-election
After three years of grinding conflict, the destruction of whole city districts, and an exodus of refugees all triggered by an uprising against his rule, Bashar al-Assad is quietly preparing to be re-elected. The Syrian president has not yet announced whether he will stand for a third term, but in state-controlled parts of Damascus preparations for his candidacy are unmistakable. Public gatherings have become platforms to urge the president to nominate himself, despite a continuing civil war that has destroyed any chance of a credible vote being held. At a gathering in southern Damascus last month to honor victims of Syria’s conflict, local officials and clerics turned the solemn memorial into a political rally. After handing out awards to widows and grieving mothers in Sayida Zeinab, a suburb of the capital which has been at the heart of Assad’s counter-attack against rebels, they made their case for a third term of Assad rule. [Reuters, 3/6/2014]

United States restricts movements of Syria’s UN Ambassador
The United States is restricting the movement of Syria’s UN ambassador, limiting him to a twenty-five-mile radius around New York City, the State Department said Wednesday. Officials gave no explanation for the move against Bashar Jaafari. The diplomatic note was delivered at the end of February. [AFP, 3/6/2014]


State of emergency is lifted
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki has lifted the state of emergency that has been in effect in the country for thirty-seven months. The state of emergency was declared on January 15, 2011, the day after former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled the country. The state of emergency provided the government and security forces a number of special powers. The conditions of the state of emergency included restrictions on the movement of persons and vehicles. The government could ban any strike or lockout, and the activities of foreign tourists could also be regulated. The state of emergency was renewed several times after its enactment, as incidents of violence including the assassination of two politicians and the deaths of soldiers, police, and national guard officers shook the country through 2013. [Tunisia Live, 3/6/2014]

Government approves ‘South Gas’ project
A cabinet meeting held Wednesday in Kasbah under the chairmanship of Interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, approved the “South Gas” project, despite the country’s economic and financial difficulties. The project provides for the creation of two natural gas units in Gabes and Tataouine and a gas pipeline between Kamou and Tataouine. The project is intended to boost development in the region. [All Africa, 3/5/2014]

Provisional authority to examine constitutionality of laws is established
During Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, a draft law creating a provisional authority to review the constitutionality of laws, in line with the provisions of the new constitution. Two other draft laws were approved at the meeting. The first provides for the creation of a mutual association of staff of the interior ministry, the local communities, and public administrative institutions not part of the interior security forces. The second draft law concerns the creation of a joint association of the national defense ministry and relevant public institutions for non-military staff. [All Africa, 3/5/2014]


Central government reaches arbitration agreement with Hadramawt tribal alliance
After two months of tension following the killing of a tribal leader and two of his body guards in the southern province of Hadramawt, the central government has made a substantial offer to the tribal alliance in order to end the conflict. A member of the mediation committee told al-Masdar Online that the government has offered a billion Yemeni riyals (US$4.6 million), twenty cars, and over two-hundred rifles for arbitration. The Hadramawt tribal alliance has agreed to close its roadblocks and cease the sieges and attacks on oil facilities. The government and tribes have also exchanged detainees. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), Yemen Saeed (Arabic); 3/6/2014]

Islah leader killed in clashes between tribes and Houthis
Fighting in the northern al-Jawf province between Houthi and Bani Nawaf tribal fighters have resulted in the death of an Islah leader and two of his bodyguards. Clashes are ongoing and these are the only casualties confirmed thus far, but reports suggest that many members of the Bani Nawaf tribe have arrived in the area, signaling a potential escalation in conflict. There is no word yet on how this may affect the tentative agreement between Houthi fighters and Islah-linked tribes in Amran province reached on Wednesday. [Shbab Press (Arabic), 3/6/2014]

World Bank CSO grant
The World Bank has approved an eight million dollar grant to help Yemeni civil society organizations and non government organizations (NGOs) implement development projects, it announced on Tuesday. There are about 13,000 civil society organizations and NGOs in the country, according to the Bank’s Yemen country manager. The announcement came during a conference organized by the ministry of planning and international cooperation and the ministry of social affairs and labor, in cooperation with the World Bank’s Yemen office. A Supreme Council of Partnership was created between the government NGOs and civil society organizations during the conference. The council consists of sixty NGO and civil society organization members and forty members from the government. [Yemen Times, 3/5/2014]

Al-Qaeda executes alleged US informer
Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen executed one of their own Thursday after accusing him of spying for the United States, a security official said. The man was executed by firing squad and his body was displayed at a football stadium near Shehr in the southeastern Hadramawt province, an al-Qaeda stronghold, the source said. A statement was also found in which AQAP threatened to execute “any intruder who infiltrates among Muslims, places chips in their vehicles and their wedding convoys and gets them killed in return for a few dirhams,” according to the source. [The Daily Star, 3/6/2014]


Lebanon seeks financial and military aid
On Wednesday, the International Support Group for Lebanon held a meeting in Paris. Lebanese President Michel Sulaiman met with the foreign ministers of ten countries, including Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, Germany, and Saudi Arabia. Sulaiman sought financial and military aid to help his country tackle the spillover from the Syrian conflict. Lebanese sources say its army needs some $4.6 billion over the next five years to modernize and re-equip. The International Support Group for Lebanon was set up six months ago to deal with the spillover from the conflict in Syria. [Gulf News, 3/5/3014]

Qatar refuses to alter its foreign policy
Qatar will not bow to demands from three Gulf states to alter its foreign policy, officials said after partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council recalled their ambassadors, suggesting Doha is unlikely to abandon support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Syrian Islamists. The source also suggested Qatar would not stop its practice of playing host to members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Youssef al-Qaradawi, an influential Sunni cleric and a vocal critic of authorities in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. [Reuters, 3/6/2014]

Nine bombings in Baghdad
On Wednesday, nine bombings, seven car bombs and two roadside bombs, went off in Baghdad, killing fourteen and wounding more than seventy. The bombing mainly targeted Shiite areas of the city. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack thus far. The Baghdad blasts came a day after suicide bombers attacked the city council headquarters in Samarra, north of Baghdad, and took employees hostage. [The Jordan Times, 3/6/2014]

Saudi airs “confessions” of jihadist on return from Syria
Saudi state television has for the first time broadcast the “confessions” of a jihadist who returned from Syria, as the Muslim kingdom distances itself from Islamist radicals in that country’s conflict. Sulaiman al-Subaie, who grew popular in his homeland for his posts on video-sharing app Keek, reportedly joined the most radical group fighting in Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) last August. Subaie said in a rare interview aired on Saudi television late Wednesday, “What is amazing is that Saudis are killing fellow Saudis in the fighting between ISIS and al-Nusra Front.” There are no official figures on the numbers of Saudis who have joined jihadist ranks in Syria, but they are estimated at several hundred. King Abdullah last month decreed jail terms of up to twenty years for citizens who travel to fight abroad, as the country struggles to deter young Saudis from becoming jihadists. [Naharnet, Al Arabiya, 3/06/2014]

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