Top News: Libya’s GNC Relocates After Attack

The General National Congress (GNC) moved into a five-star Tripoli hotel Monday, a day after rioters armed with knives and guns stormed the legislature building, torching furniture, killing a guard, and wounding six lawmakers in the latest episode of turmoil in the country. Protesters demanded that the GNC be disbanded immediately after its mandate ran out in February 7. When asked why the protesters had not been stopped from entering by GNC security, GNC spokesman Hemidan hesitated and appeared not to know what to say. Later in the evening, protesters set ablaze cars left behind by GNC members. [APLibya Herald, 3/2/2014]


Appeals could delay Egypt presidential poll result
A new law aimed at regulating Egypt’s upcoming presidential polls, which is expected to be issued on Saturday or Sunday, will allow initial election results to be appealed by candidates. The secretary-general of the Presidential Election Commission has questioned the wisdom of allowing appeals against its decisions. “If one decision is appealed it could cause delays to later decisions,” he added. Such appeals could be deemed unconstitutional, Fahmy noted, because the constitution states the commission has full control over the poll. According to Article 7 of the draft election law, the right to file appeals will be confined to “those directly concerned with the election process, especially candidates.” Fahmy added that holding presidential and parliamentary polls simultaneously could be necessary to ensure both elections are held within six months of the constitution’s ratification, as required by Article 230. [Ahram Online, 3/2/2014]

Khaled Said’s killers sentenced to ten years in jail
Alexandria criminal court has sentenced two policemen to ten years in jail for killing Khaled Said. Awad Saleh and Mahmoud Ghazala were found guilty of torturing Said to death in June 2010. Defense lawyers said they would appeal the verdict. Scuffles broke out in the courtroom between security guards and the defendants’ relatives after the presiding judge said only lawyers and media personnel could attend the session. “We wanted the death penalty… ten years is too little,” Said’s sister Zahra told Reuters. “Still this is a victory for the January 25 revolution because the symbol that they tried to tarnish turned out to be innocent,” she added referring to the revolt against Mubarak. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Reuters, Egypt Independent, AP, Mada Masr, 3/3/2014]

Ministry prioritizes social justice; trade deficit falls as imports and exports decline
Minister of Finance Hany Qadry said in a statement on Saturday that his priority would be to seek social justice through programs to support marginalized groups, with a continued reliance on free-market mechanisms. Qadry added during a phone-in with the CBC Channel Saturday evening that the state needed to heed the use of stimulus and economic take-off to achieve stability in the medium and long terms. Egypt’s trade balance deficit reached LE23.5 billion ($3.3 billion) in November 2013, state-run statistical body CAPMAS reported on Monday. The figure represented a 12 percent drop compared to the same month in 2012, when the deficit stood at LE26.7 billion ($3.8 billion). The value of Egypt’s exports in November 2013 also declined two percent from the previous year, recording LE15.1 billion ($2.1 billion). Among the main products to suffer a drop in exports, according to CAPMAS, were petroleum products, fresh fruits and liquefied propane. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 3/3/2014]

Egypt says US reports on human rights is not objective
Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesman denounced Saturday the US “appointing itself a lawyer and an advocate for human rights issues in the world without a legitimate base,” Al-Ahram Arabic website reported. Badr Abdel-Ati, in a press conference, commented on the US’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013, saying the report is “unbalanced and non-objective.” The report, issued in late February, said the most significant human rights problems were the “removal of an elected civilian government,” referring to the removal of Mohamed Morsi from office on 3 July following mass protests on 30 June. He further accused the US of double standard as it highlights human rights violations in Egypt and the world, while the US has its own violations, such as bugging phones and the continued operation of Guantanamo Bay detention camp. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 3/3/2014]


February Committee votes for early congressional and presidential elections
The February Committee has voted in favor of direct presidential elections as well as legislative elections if a draft constitution cannot be completed by July. The committee voted to hold separate elections for a president and a legislature to replace the government and the General National Congress (GNC). The vote was passed by a majority of ten, with four voting against and one abstention. The February Committee, set up three weeks ago, is charged with amending the 2011 Constitutional Declaration to set up procedures for elections to replace the government and the GNC. [Libya Herald, 3/2/2014]

HNEC head Nuri Elabbar resigns
The head of the High National Elections Commission (HNEC), Nuri Elabbar, resigned Sunday afternoon in the aftermath of the Constitutional Committee elections, dogged by boycotts and security breaches. Only forty-seven of the sixty seats could be filled. Elabbar confirmed that he had officially submitted his resignation to the General National Congress (GNC) but declined to give further details. An HNEC official, however, said Elabbar had been unhappy with the lack of security provided by the GNC and the government during the elections. [Libya Herald, 3/2/2014]

General National Congress relocates after attack
The General National Congress (GNC) moved into a five-star Tripoli hotel Monday, a day after rioters armed with knives and guns stormed the legislature building, torching furniture, killing a guard, and wounding six lawmakers in the latest episode of turmoil in the country. Protesters demanded that the GNC be disbanded immediately after its mandate ran out in February 7. When asked why the protesters had not been stopped from entering by GNC security, GNC spokesman Hemidan hesitated and appeared not to know what to say. Later in the evening, protesters set ablaze cars left behind by GNC members. [AP, Libya Herald, 3/2/2014]

Gunmen kill French national in Libya’s Benghazi
Gunmen killed a Frenchman and wounded an Egyptian in separate attacks in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi on Sunday, security sources said, as security continues to deteriorate. A security official named the Frenchman killed in Benghazi as Patrice Real, who worked for a company upgrading a large hospital. The French foreign ministry condemned the killing as “odious and cowardly” and called for its perpetrators to be identified. In other attacks in Benghazi, gunmen wounded an Egyptian grocery worker and a Libyan police officer, a security source said. Separately, the bodies of six men were discovered by Benghazi security forces. Internet claims that four of them were Ansar al-Sharia members who had fought in Syria and were on their way to Derna remain unverified. [Reuters, 3/2/2014]


Lavrov to meet Ban, Brahimi in Geneva; United States names new envoy
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi in Geneva on Monday at a human rights council session. They gave no further details, but since the last round of talks on Syria, Brahimi has been trying to bridge the gap between the main negotiators. A UN spokesman said Monday that Brahimi’s top deputy in Syria has asked to quit his post. Mokhtar Lamani, who heads Brahimi’s Damascus office, “has submitted a request to the United Nations to be relieved of his duties, but he has not officially resigned.” The US State Department announced Friday that Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Larry Silverman will temporarily become the US point man on Syria, replacing Amb. Robert Ford. “We will soon announce a permanent replacement.” Also on Friday Ford delivered his first public remarks on Syria since leaving his post. [Reuters, 3/03/2014]

Israel ‘buying’ information on extremists from rebel groups
As fighting intensifies on Syria’s southern front, details have emerged that Israel may be paying large sums of money to rebels for information on Islamist fighters near its border. At least three rebel factions in southern Syria have been in regular contact with Israeli intelligence officials, and have each received more than one tranche of funding worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a well-connected rebel commander who is familiar with operations in the zone bordering Jordan and Israel. [The National, 3/02/2014]

Clashes Shatter Truce in Yarmuk Camp
Firefights and shelling on Sunday shattered a weeks-old truce at the Yarmuk Palestinian camp in Damascus. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front and the pro-regime Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command had resumed hostilities in Yarmuk. The ceasefire had taken hold on February 10 when al-Nusra withdrew its fighters from Yarmuk after months of fierce battles between rebels and forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar Assad. The army laid siege to the camp, trapping tens of thousands of people inside, including Palestinian refugees and Syrians who had fled violence from other parts of the country. The camp’s population shrunk to 40,000 from more than 150,000 and conditions deteriorated to the extent that residents were forced to eat grass to survive, with some dying of starvation, activists have said. [AFP, 3/02/2014]

Fighting continues in Yabroud and Aleppo
The Syrian opposition said on Sunday that government forces had scaled down their attacks around the town of Yabroud, north of Damascus, but were continuing to bombard the town with artillery after failing to take the town. The clashes coincided with battles in Aleppo and Deir Ezzor, while fighting continued between the Kurdish-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in Tel Abyad, in northeastern Syria. [Asharq al-Awsat, 3/03/2014]


Jomaa meets with political party leaders
On Saturday, interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa met with leaders of the twenty-six political parties represented in the National Constituent Assembly (NCA). This was the first meeting between Jomaa and the party leaders since he took office earlier this year. The meeting focused on the economic and security situations in the country. While the economy was the focus of the meeting, Jomaa emphasized that security is improving in Tunisia, despite recent terrorist violence. The meeting also discussed the importance of the electoral process leading to elections later this year and the need for these elections to be transparent and violence-free. [TAP, 3/3/2014]

Tunisians optimistic about economic recovery
Following the completion of the constitution and the formation of a new interim government, Tunisia’s economy has begun to recover. The stock market rebounded in early February and the dinar exchange rate also improved. If political stability continues, Tunisia’s central bank expects growth to reach 3.5 percent in 2014. The breakthrough in the political crisis has also enabled Tunisia to receive a number of loans. The European parliament will provide a 300 million euro loan, the IMF released 507 million of a 1.25 billion dollar loan, and the World Bank has approved a 500 million dollar loan, half of which will be released next month. [TAP, 2/28/2014]

Marzouki attends 25th session of UN Human Rights Council
President Marzouki arrived in Geneva on Sunday to attend the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council which will run until March 28, 2014. Marzouki is expected to deliver a speech during the inaugural session. He will hold talks with UN leaders and leaders from other African countries. Issues to be discussed during the course of the session include the death penalty, sexual violence, genocide, freedom of religion, freedom of beliefs, and rights for people with disabilities. [TAP, 3/2/2014]


Hadi forms committee to address Sa’ada violence
President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi has formed a committee of ministers, political party delegates, and other leaders from across Yemen to confront issues in Sa’ada province and negotiate with Houthis there to pursue political participation rather than armed conflict. One key issue is the government’s desire to see the Houthis disarmed of heavy weaponry, which until now Houthis have refused to consider, charging that their tribal rivals—affiliated with Islah—are armed with tanks and armored vehicles left over from the 1994 civil war. However, a Kuwaiti newspaper reports that for the first time, the Houthis have announced their willingness to hand over their heavy weapons. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 3/3/2014]

US drone strike kills at least one al-Qaeda suspect in Mareb
Three men are dead in Mareb province after their vehicle was allegedly attacked by a drone. Local residents report that one of the men was suspected of being linked to al-Qaeda. The two others’ affiliations are not known. [World Bulletin, Hindu Times; 3/3/2014]

UN investigators head to al-Dali’ to investigate abuse claims
Alarmed by reports of rising civilian casualties in al-Dali’, United Nations aid officials are preparing a mission this week to assess the plight of residents caught in the crossfire between government troops and rebels fighting for the south’s secession from the north. Until now, the government in Sana’a has insisted that the situation is too insecure to allow investigators to travel there. Clashes are ongoing, with reports of six civilians injured due to the military’s indiscriminate shelling. [New York Times, 3/2/2014]


Kuwait’s parliament stalls GCC security deal
Kuwaiti MPs have vowed to fight the Gulf Cooperation Council collective security deal “by any means” due to concerns that the agreement will infringe on the freedom of expression. Every other GCC country has ratified the deal. Kuwaiti MPs have said that they have no problem with agreements to help fight terrorism or prohibit money laundering, but have reservations on the sharing of personal information about private citizens and the implications on freedom of expression. [Gulf News, 3/1/2014]

Iraq oil exports hit record 2.8 million bpd in February
Oil exports from Iraq rose to a record 2.8 million barrels per day (bpd) on average in February, Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussain Al-Shahristani told reporters on Saturday. The increase is likely to restore some confidence in Iraq’s oil revival, which slowed last year due to technical and security problems, as well as an ongoing resource row between Baghdad and the country’s autonomous Kurdish north. A sustainable rise could weigh on global oil prices. [Asharq al-Awsat, 3/2/2014]

Gaza public workers: Hamas not paying salaries
Palestinian civil servants in the Gaza Strip are calling on the Hamas government to pay them their full salaries, a rare expression of discontent in the territory. The labor union of government employees said in a press conference on Monday that Hamas has been paying partial salaries to its 46,000 workers over the past four months. Hamas has suffered financial woes following Egypt’s closure of smuggling tunnels along the Egypt-Gaza border in recent months. Hamas used to collect taxes from tunnel operators. Israel and Egypt have restricted Gaza’s economy and borders since the Islamic militant group took over the territory in 2007. [AP, 3/3/2014]

Protests in Algeria over Bouteflika’s bid for reelection
On Saturday, in Algeria’s capital, protesters demonstrated against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s recent announcement that he will seek reelection this April. Police arrested protesters and journalists present at the demonstrations. It is almost certain that he will be reelected. If reelected, Bouteflika will serve for his fourth term as president. Until recently, it was unclear whether Bouteflika would actually seek reelection due to his declining health given his stroke last April. A number of opposition parties, including all of the Islamist parties, have decided to boycott the elections. [Al Jazeera, 3/1/2014]

Image: The General National Congress hall in Tripoli. (Photo: Libya Herald)