Egyptian security forces arrested senior Muslim Brotherhood figure Essam El-Erian in the early hours of Wednesday, state television reported. Police received a tip off that El-Erian, the vice president of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the Brotherhood’s political wing, was hiding in an apartment in Cairo’s upscale Fifth Settlement district.

They cordoned off the area and arrested him. Pictures of the arrest, published on the interior ministry’s social networking pages, show El-Erian smiling to the cameras. According to reports on Egyptian media, the police responded to a call for help from the university chief of al-Azhar on Wednesday. The students’ assault came hours after security forces arrested Erian. [Reuters, Ahram Online, AP, 10/30/2013]



Egypt’s Nour Party agrees to omit article defining sharia, with conditions
The Salafist Nour Party’s representative on the constitution panel has laid out his conditions for accepting changes to the status of Sharia law in the amended charter. Salah Abdel-Maaboud told the privately-owned Al-Hayat channel on Tuesday that his party would agree to the removal of Article 219 if the word ‘principles’ is removed from Article 2. The article currently says Islam is the state religion, Arabic is its official language and the principles of Islamic sharia law form the main source of legislation. If ‘principles’ is removed it would allow for the stricter application of Sharia law. [Ahram Online, 10/30/2013]

Egyptian tourism minister does not expect booming revenues in 2014
Egypt aims to attract 13.5 million visitors next year, bringing in around $11 billion, as it launches an international campaign to lure back foreigners deterred by political turmoil, the tourism minister said. The tourism industry, once worth more than a tenth of economic output, had been improving since the uprising but suffered a fresh blow from political tension in the lead-up to the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July, following mass protests against his rule. “If nothing huge happens to affect tourist movement, and we go into 2014 positively, numbers will rise again .. next year we can work on the 13.5 million figure,” Minister Hisham Zaazou said during the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit. [Ahram Online, 10/30/2013]

US lawmakers urge resumption of Egypt military aid and USAID projects
US lawmakers Tuesday urged the White House to lift its suspension of military aid to Egypt, warning freezing funds and weapons deliveries might unravel decades of cooperation with a key regional ally. Democratic Representative Eliot Engel, ranking member of the House foreign affairs committee, said he had initially supported a temporary halt to deliveries of F-16 aircraft to the Egyptian military following its ouster of president Mohamed Morsi in July. “But today I do not believe that suspending the military aid will make the Egyptian government more democratic or make it easier for the United States to influence its behavior in the future,” he told the committee. In order to stay compliant with US law, USAID has suspended all activities that directly benefit the Egyptian government, including cash transfers and loan guarantees, as well as smaller services like providing technical expertise or working with public schools and universities. [AFP/Ahram Online, Reuters, Egypt Independent, 10/30/2013]


Libya oil crisis deepens as protesters shun talks
Libya’s oil crisis deepened on Tuesday after protesters blocking western oil fields shunned talks and locals denied that an eastern terminal would reopen, further hampering government efforts to end months of disruptions. The country’s oil exports have dropped to less 90,000 barrels per day (bpd), according to Reuters calculations, and Libyan Oil Minister Abdelbari Arusi said earlier this week that overall production had sunk below 300,000 bpd. The government had managed to bring exports up to around 450,000 bpd over the last month, but the latest shutdowns, which began over the weekend, reflect the elusiveness of any deal that might end the worst disruption to the country’s oil industry since the 2011 revolution. [Reuters, Al Ahram, 10/29/2013]

NOC chairman meets US ambassador
Chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation, Dr. Nouri Balrwin, met with US Ambassador Deborah Jones this week. The parties discussed the activities of US oil and gas companies in Libya, and Dr. Balrwin stressed that Libya is a promising country in the industry and has plans to develop refineries and establish a number of petrochemical plants. Ambassador Jones expressed US willingness to assist in the training of oil and gas personnel and to encourage US oil companies to invest in the North African country. Meanwhile, Italian oil company Eni cut its production outlook to reflect shrinking volumes from Libya and Nigeria as social unrest in Africa grows. [Libya Business News, 10/30/2013]

Congress to resume meetings after reaching a deal
A deal has been reached over the disputed agenda of the General National Congress (GNC), and boycotting congressmen have agreed to return to the chamber on Sunday. According to the deal, some elements of the original agenda will be tabled. Among the items on the original schedule were a request to cancel the establishment of the Libyan Revolutionaries Operation Room, set up by GNC President Nuri Abu Sahmain and implicated in the recent abduction of Prime Minister Ali Zidan, as well as a discussion on restricting presidential powers, including Abu Sahmain’s assumption of the post of commander-in-chief. Some, but not all, of the disputed agenda items will be restored. [Libya Herald, 10/29/2013]

Search for deserted Egyptian illegal migrants continues
One suspected Egyptian illegal migrant was rescued in Libyan desert between Ajdabia and Tobruk and two others found dead as the search continued for an estimated one hundred individuals who were apparently abandoned in the desert by their smugglers. The search is coordinated through the Egyptian consulate in Benghazi and the embassy in Tripoli. A wrecked fishing boat thought to have been carrying illegal migrants was found on a beach near Derna, but the whereabouts of those aboard are unknown. Meanwhile, Red Crescent and International Committee of the Red Cross volunteers checked on illegal migrants detained in Tripoli, providing them with medicine and food and helping them get in touch with their families. [Libya Herald, 10/29/2013]


Syrian Deputy Prime Minister fired after meeting with US official
The Syrian regime fired a senior official on Tuesday after disclosure that he met with a US envoy for talks to prepare a proposed peace conference. The meeting in Geneva between US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford and Qadri Jamil, deputy prime minister for economic affairs, was a rare face-to-face encounter between senior officials from the two countries. Jamil was one of the few members of government who wasn’t a member of Syria’s ruling Baath Party. He joined the government along with another politician in June 2012 as representatives of the so-called internal peaceful opposition. It was seen at the time as an attempt by Assad to show his readiness for some reforms to help end the civil war that has killed more than 115,000. [WSJ, NYT, Reuters, AFP, Daily Star, 10/29/2013]

Brahimi in talks with Assad; Assad makes conciliatory gestures amid general brutality
UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus Wednesday, the third day of a visit aimed at bringing Syria’s warring parties to the negotiating table. Just prior to their meeting, Assad made two conciliatory gestures toward the opposition. The president issued a decree pardoning all those who defected from the Syrian army or failed to perform mandatory military service on condition they “regularize their status” within thirty to ninety days. Syrian forces also allowed about 500 women, children, and elderly men to leave Moadamiya, a rebel-held community southwest of Damascus that has been besieged by regime forces since April with no access to food and medicine. Deprivation and starvation are widely considered to be central tactics of the regime’s war effort. [Naharnet, WSJ, 10/30/2013]

Assad links Geneva success with stopping foreign funding to fighters; Iran eager to join Geneva
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who met with United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on Wednesday, said the success of peace talks was tied to “stopping support for terrorist groups.”
He was quoted on state television as saying “the success of any political solution is tied to stopping support for terrorist groups and pressuring their patron states”. Mohamed Rida Shibani, the Iranian ambassador to Syria, says his country is willing to attend the Geneva talks. “For the presence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, we are ready to attend the Geneva II meeting. Everybody knows the efforts Iran is making in order to help in the political solution in Syria.” [Reuters, 10/30/2013]

Grand Mufti directs Saudi youths not to join fight in Syria; Hezbollah asserts Saudi Arabia is obstacle to Geneva II
Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti, the highest religious authority in the birthplace of Islam, has urged young Saudis to refrain from fighting in Syria. The kingdom has backed the rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad, publicly calling on the world powers to “enable” Syrians to protect themselves, but is wary that fighters could return home ready to wage war on their own dynastic rulers. The head of the Lebanese movement Hezbollah and key Damascus ally Hassan Nasrallah has accused Saudi Arabia of blocking a political solution to the conflict in Syria. Nasrallah’s message was delivered on a large screen set up in the southern suburbs of Beirut. “Today, political dialogue and the search for a political solution are enjoying international, regional and interior support… but there is a state in the region which is furious [about the proposed Geneva II peace conference], and its name is Saudi Arabia.” [Reuters, 10/28/2013]


After delay, NCA amends electoral commission law
Members of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) on Tuesday amended an organic law governing the creation of the Independent Board of Elections (ISIE) after an earlier delay due to disagreements on the law by different parliamentary groups. The NCA amended the law to comply with an earlier decision of the administrative court, which had declared null and void the results of an earlier ISIE candidate selection committee. The selection committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to look again at thirty-six candidatures in order to submit them next Friday to the NCA plenary session to elect the nine electoral board members. Also on Tuesday, US Ambassador in Tunis Jacob Walles visited NCA President Mustapha Ben Jaafar and renewed his country’s support to Tunisia’s democratic transition. [TAP, 10/30/2013]

Marzouki says anti-terrorism law must not serve as excuse for violation of human rights
Caretaker President Moncef Marzouki on Tuesday stressed the need to ensure that a recently introduced anti-terrorism law will not serve as an excuse for undermining human rights. Speaking at the opening of an international conference on the “new anti-terrorism law,” Marzouki highlighted the need to follow international standards and the values of the 2011 revolution, saying, “the state is required to remove injustices through laws and acts.” [TAP, 10/29/2013]

Suicide bombers target beach resort, ex-president’s grave in Tunisia
Tunisian police on Wednesday foiled a suicide bombing attempt targeting the grave of former President Habib Bourguiba in the town of Monastir and arrested the attempted suicide bomber, the interior ministry said. Earlier on Wednesday, a suicide bomber blew himself up on a beach near a tourist resort in the Tunisian city of Sousse. The interior ministry told AFP there were no immediate reports of casualties. [AFP/Ahram Online, Al Arabiya 10/30/2013]

Tunisia expects $750 million in World Bank, IMF loans
Tunisia expects $750 million in loans from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund by the end of 2013 to prop up its fragile public finances and plans an Islamic bond issue early next year, according to Tunisian Finance Minister Elyess Fakhfakh. Fakhfakh said the economy grew by three percent in the first nine months of this year from a year earlier and the government now expected a budget deficit of 6.8 percent of gross domestic product for 2013, smaller than its previous forecast of 7.4 percent. [AFP/Global Post, 10/29/2013]


Minister of state resigns; Ansar Allah spokesman in NDC resigns
The minister of state and member of the cabinet Hassan Sharaf al-Din announced on Tuesday he had resigned from his position due to the government’s failure to honor its responsibility toward the nation. In his resignation letter, al-Din wrote, “The government’s inabilities to fulfil its obligations, systematic political lagging, and procrastinating have led me to resign from my position. It is because I hoped my work would somehow benefit the nation that I stayed on as long as I did. After witnessing the sheer weakness and inefficiency of the state I am now convinced that I can no longer fulfil my duties.” Ansar Allah spokesperson for the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) Ali Bukhaini also submitted his resignation letter to the head of the party’s political council. He will continue to participate in the Saada issue subcommittee proceedings.  [Yemen Post, YNA (Arabic) 10/29/2013]

Al-Qaeda member involved in military official murder arrested
Military forces in Hadramout province captured one of al-Qaeda’s most dangerous members in Gail Bawazir area on Tuesday. “The arrested terrorist is Omar Salem, and he was involved in the assassination of the Military Academy’s deputy director Ali Omar ben Feraygan,” an official in the Second Military Command said. Salem’s arrest was made by a patrol of the 190 Brigade of Air Defense after a process of monitoring the terrorist based on information obtained by the leadership of the province and the Military Command, he added. [Saba News, 10/29/2013]

Clashes continue in Saada between Houthis and Salafis
Violence continues in the town of Dammaj in Saada province in northern Yemen between the Houthis and the Salafis, despite conciliation efforts. A local source reported that Houthi militants bombed Salafi-inhabited villages in Dammaj on Tuesday and took over the Salafi center for religious education. Another local source reported that Houthis launched continued the fierce attack on Dammaj at daybreak on Wednesday with Katyusha rockets and other heavy weapons. Media sources confirmed that over 4,000 Salafi fighters have gathered in the northern province of Saada ahead of a planned attack against the Houthis. Members of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) have criticized the Houthi blockade as a disruptive force for the political process. NDC members issued a statement calling on the government to send forces to Dammaj again to keep the peace. The Salafi Rashad party announced that it would suspend its participation in the NDC in response to the violence and called on other parties to do the same. [Al Masdar (Arabic), Al Tagheer (Arabic), Yemen Post, 10/30/2013]


Saudi court hands rights lawyer three-month jail sentence
Prominent rights lawyer Waleed Abulkhair said on Wednesday a Saudi court had sentenced him to three months in prison over a petition he signed two years ago criticizing the authorities. Abulkhair told AFP he would remain out of jail pending an appeal of the sentence. The court in the western city of Jeddah handed down the sentence late Tuesday, citing the lawyer’s signing of a petition criticizing harsh sentences given to sixteen Islamists arrested in 2011. The sentence was criticized by rights group Amnesty International, which described it as “yet another sign of the arbitrary nature of Saudi Arabia’s justice system.” [AFP/Ahram Online, 10/30/2013]

Algeria arrests twenty linked to militants near Tunisian border
Algerian security forces have arrested some twenty people who are said to support militants along the country’s border with Tunisia. The arrests were made on Monday near the town of Tlydjen, thirty miles south of the city of Tebessa. According to reports, those arrested were aged from twenty-five to eighty. [Press TV, 10/29/2013]