Top News: Libyan Autonomy Group Forms Oil Firm, Challenges Government

In a blow to efforts by the Libyan government to reopen oil ports and fields, an autonomy movement in the east announced on Sunday that it had formed a regional oil firm to start selling crude. Abdrabbo al-Barassi, prime minister of the self-declared Cyrenaica government, said the oil firm would be based in Tobruk, where protesters earlier had prevented a government-chartered tanker from loading barrels of crude bound for Italy. The movement also announced its plan to set up an eastern central bank. [ReutersLibya Herald, 11/10/2013]


Court ends state of emergency; Presidential source says protest law to be issued shortly
The administrative court ruled today to end the state of emergency in Egypt by force of law, according to a press statement released on Tuesday afternoon. Meanwhile, hours before the court ruling was announced, Shorouk reported that interim president Adly Mansour received the final draft of the protest law on Tuesday, after it was further amended by the ministry of justice. Presidential sources told Shorouk that the law set to be ratified by the president before the state of emergency is lifted. [Cairo Post, Shorouk (Arabic), 11/12/2013]

Announcement of election dates an appeal to foreign governments, says Brotherhood
The planned spring parliamentary elections announced by Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy last Friday is a publicity stunt to garner support from abroad, according to senior Anti-Coup Alliance leader Amr Darrag. Speaking with satellite news channel Al Arabiya, Darrag expressed dismay that the elections were announced by the foreign minister to the foreign press, an “unprecedented maneuver,” rather than being announced to the Egyptian people by the president, prime minister, or minister of interior. “The statements made by the coup’s foreign minister have nothing to do with the situation on the ground. The minister speaks as if constitutional amendments have been completed and approved by the people, all of which are yet to materialize,” said Darrag. [DNE, 11/10/2013]

Egypt plans extra stimulus by year-end, Suez Canal project
The Egyptian government will launch a new economic stimulus package by the end of the year, the finance minister said on Monday, bringing forward spending plans that will help revive the economy but put even more strain on state coffers. Pointing to efforts to attract new investment, the military-backed government also said it would launch a tender to draw up plans to develop a corridor around the Suez Canal, reviving a mega-project tabled by deposed president Mohamed Morsi. Finance Minister Ahmed Galal said the second stimulus package, previously estimated at EGP 24 billion ($3.5 billion), would be launched “before January.” The government had previously indicated it might only be brought in early next year. The first stimulus package was initially set at EGP 22.3 billion, but the government announced on October 21 it had increased it to EGP 29.6 billion. [Reuters, 11/11/2013]

Egypt worst country in Arab world for women: Thomson Reuters Foundation survey
Egypt is the worst country for women in the Arab world, closely followed by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen, according to gender experts surveyed in a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll released on Tuesday. Sexual harassment, high rates of female genital mutilation, a surge in violence and the growth of Islamism after the January 2011 uprising have made Egypt the worst country in the Arab world to be a woman, a poll of gender experts showed. Discriminatory laws and a spike in trafficking of women also contributed to Egypt finishing bottom of twenty-two Arab states, the Thomson Reuters Foundation survey found. [Ahram Online, Reuters, Egypt Independent, Masrawy, 11/12/2013]


Libya PM warns of foreign intervention
In an appeal aimed at rallying the public against militia groups, Prime Minister Ali Zidan warned on Sunday of the possibility of foreign powers intervening unless the chaos gripping the country ends. He called on Libyans to rebel against the armed militias, saying the country is still subject to a resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter that allows the international community to intervene to protect civilians. Zidan also stressed that time is needed to build the state, adding that measures are being taken to accelerate the training of professional security forces. Zidan also made an unannounced trip to Benghazi to discuss the security crisis there with members of the security forces there, but also with a number of elders and civil society organizations. [Al Jazeera, 11/10/2013]

Statement by France, Italy, United Kingdom, and United States on Libya
In response to the violence that gripped Tripoli last week, the US, UK, French, and Italian governments issued a joint statement expressing concern about instability threatening Libya’s democratic transition, voicing support for the elected political institutions, and calling on Libyans to work together in the national interest. They also iterated their shared belief that a national dialogue could make “a positive, paramount contribution” to securing the democratic transition. Meanwhile, a European delegation visited the town of Ghadames to discuss border security, and Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdulaziz said after a visit by US Acting Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Jones that the parties discussed strengthening bilateral relations, including in the field of investment and training of Libyan army and police. [AllAfrica, Libya Herald, 11/8/2013]

Registration closes for constitution committee candidates
The registration for candidates for the committee of sixty to draft the constitution has closed, the HIgh National Elections Commission (HNEC) announced. 681 candidates have registered, among them sixty women, fourteen Tebu, and seven Tuareg. There are no Amazigh candidates as the community has boycotted the election. The HNEC said that attention is now focused on securing the electoral process, for which the ministries of defense and interior are responsible. [Libya Herald, 11/12/2013]


Leading opposition group votes to join peace talks
Following fractious debates, and under intense American, British, and European pressure, the opposition coalition voted early Monday to drop its refusal to meet with regime officials and to attend peace talks in Geneva if certain other conditions were met, including full access for delivery of humanitarian aid and the release of prisoners. (Full text of the statement by the Syrian Coalition’s General Assembly.) While US officials hailed the step as significant, it risks becoming the latest of many tentative moves toward talks that have proved illusory, since the coalition retained its demand that Mr. Assad play no role in any future political transition, a condition the Syrian government rejects. Despite US misgivings, the opposition named on Tuesday a provisional government for rebel-held areas, which will most likely operate out of Gaziantep, Turkey. In reaction to these announcements, the Jaysh al-Islam faction of the Syrian opposition, which includes sixty of the groups fighting against Bashar al-Assad’s government, has reaffirmed its objection to the international peace conference in Geneva. [NYT, Reuters, Washington Post, Guardian, 11/12/2013]

Battle for strategic Syrian town shows why war has displaced millions
In a case study of Syria’s hidden war, a new report has uncovered a massive battle in the strategic town of Ariha in August in which a regime assault destroyed the rebel-friendly city and displaced 70,000 civilians. To “cleanse” the town, government helicopters dumped dozens of “barrel bombs” on houses and shops, while tanks and howitzers fired into the town, and the army lobbed mortars, gravity bombs, vacuum bombs, and cluster bombs. Remarkably, few outside Syria were aware of it. Neither the United Nations nor most international nongovernmental organizations, nor even the most widely quoted Syrian monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported on the battle. [McClatchy, 11/11/2013]

Nine children killed in shelling of Damascus school
Nine children were killed and twenty-seven people wounded when mortar rounds hit St. John of Damascus school and a school bus in Damascus on Monday. On Tuesday, rebel mortar fire on several government-held districts of the Syrian capital wounded at least sixteen people. A hardline Palestinian militant group allied to President Bashar al-Assad’s government said five of its members were among those wounded. Elsewhere in the capital, mortar fire wounded six people near a Red Crescent hospital and a market. [AFP, 11/11/2013]

Greece intercepts arms shipment from Ukraine
Greece said Monday it would hold as unsafe a Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship that was seized last week laden with arms and ammunition possibly bound for war-ravaged Syria. The vessel, intercepted near the Greek island of Symi with some 20,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles on board, had set sail from Ukraine and was bound for the Turkish port of Iskenderun, according to its captain. The Syrian port of Tartus and Tripoli in Libya were also declared as destination ports to maritime traffic systems. [AFP, 11/10/2013]


Administrative court rejects candidates for key election body
Tunisia’s judiciary has rejected a list of candidates chosen to form a body tasked with organizing elections, an administrative court said on Monday, following last week’s failure by the ruling Islamists and opposition to agree on an independent caretaker prime minister as part of a process to end months of deadlock and prepare for new elections. A court spokesman said thirty-six candidates chosen by the parliamentary commission for the Independent Higher Authority for Elections Council (ISIE), did not meet legal criteria. [Tunisia Live, 11/11/2013]

Mediators to meet Tuesday to set national dialogue negotiation schedule
Amid expectations that the Tunisian national dialogue would resume this week after being suspended last Monday, the attention of the country’s political leaders once again focuses on the list of candidates for prime minister. Mouldi Jendoubi, deputy secretary-general for the labor union mediating the talks said that the mediating quartet will hold a second meeting Tuesday afternoon to set a negotiations schedule for the next three days. Jendoubi said negotiations will focus on three items: the choice of the future premier, recent amendments to the constituent assembly process, and the decision of an administrative court to reject thirty-six candidates for the independent elections body. [TAP, Asharq al Awsat, 11/12/2013]

Tunisian party protests to rejects political talks, demand caliphate
After the breakdown of Tunisia’s political talks, a party advocating the establishment of an Islamic state protested in downtown Tunis Friday, calling for the rejection of Tunisia’s current political system. Party spokesperson Ridha Bel Hajj said that this demonstration was organized to protest the national dialogue process that was suspended Monday after major parties failed to agree on a candidate to be caretaker prime minister. [Tunisia Live, 11/8/2013]

Tunisian sets self ablaze outside government building
A thirty-two year old man from a poor neighborhood of the Tunisian capital set himself on fire outside a government building on Monday, the emergency services said. Suffering third-degree burns to his face, chest and hands, the man was rushed to a specialist medical clinic in a suburb of Tunis for treatment. The number of people committing suicide or trying to take their own lives has multiplied since a young Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, in a drastic act of protest against police harassment. [Al Arabiya, 11/11/2013]


Yemen ceasefire deal violated; NDC Saada working group presents its report
A government-brokered ceasefire intended to halt days of clashes in northern Yemen between Houthi and Salafi fighters has been violated a day after it came into force, an official said on Monday. After nearly two weeks of fighting and many dead or wounded, the rival groups agreed on a ceasefire on Sunday. A Yemeni government official reported that the Houthis were responsible for the violation of the ceasefire. Over the weekend, the fighting parties reportedly fired at members of a presidential commission sent to the northern Saada province to try to end the violence. At the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), the Saada Working Group agreed on its report on Saturday to be discussed in the plenary session. The report includes fifty-nine articles to address issues in the Saada province; critics claim that the working group’s solutions reflect the NDC delegates’ disconnect from the violence in the province. Yemeni spokesperson in Washington, DC, Mohammed Albasha, reported that the NDC presented its objections to the working group’s report on Monday. [NDC (Arabic), 11/9/2013; Gulf News, 11/12/2013]

Hirak announces return to the NDC; President Hadi ratifies committee recommendations
On Sunday, the Hirak announced its return to the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), ending its month-long boycott “in recognition of efforts made by the UN special envoy to Yemen, the Gulf Cooperation Council’s representative, and ambassadors of ten countries, the peaceful organization of the Hirak has decided to resume participation in all works of the NDC,” Hirak said in a written statement. On Monday, President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi adopted the recommendations of the Southern Land Dispute Committee, which was established to address land issues and the grievances of dismissed civil, military, and security personnel in the South. The committee’s decree provides for the redistribution of land in the South. [SABA, 11/11/2013, Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/10/2013]

World Bank gives Yemen $1 million to enhance government-CSO partnership
The World Bank on Monday granted $1 million to Yemen to enhance the partnership between the government and civil society organizations (CSOs). The grant’s agreement was signed in Sana’a by Deputy Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Mutahr al-Abassi and World Bank Vice President of the Middle East and North Africa Inger Andersen. Al-Abassi praised the World Bank’s continuous support and contributions to boost stability and development in Yemen.  [SABA, 11/11/2013]

Al-Qaeda suspects on trial for plot to kill Yemeni leader
The trial of nine al-Qaeda suspects accused of plotting to assassinate Yemeni President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi by placing a roadside bomb on his motorcade route in Sanaa began Sunday. The defendants are charged with “being part of an armed group belonging to al-Qaeda to carry out criminal acts targeting members of the public authorities and foreigners.” Six of the defendants had placed an “explosive device on the Sittin road through which the president’s convoy regularly passes…aiming to kill the president and his companions,” according to charges published by the official Saba news agency. [Al Arabiya, 11/10/2013]


Algeria says Morocco responsible for diplomatic impasse
Algeria’s foreign minister said Sunday that Morocco had caused a diplomatic impasse over the way it responded after his country’s flag was torn down from its consulate in Casablanca. “The Moroccan authorities know exactly what they need to do to get out of this impasse because they got [themselves] into the impasse,” said Ramtane Lamamra at a news conference in Algiers. The incident sparked anger in Algiers, and Moroccan authorities said they had been “firm” with the perpetrator, but denied they had apologized. The protester was arrested, and is due to be tried for the incident on November 21. [Al Arabiya, 11/10/2013]

Third Kuwaiti minister faces questioning
A Kuwaiti lawmaker demanded on Sunday to question State Minister for Planning and Development Rula Dashti over alleged mismanagement, the third such request in less than two weeks. Parliament member Khalil Abdullah accused the minister of failing to perform her duties, blamed her for delayed development plans, and accused her of “undermining Kuwait’s national economic security and risking the country’s future.” [Al Arabiya, 11/10/2013]

Jordan dailies strike in protest at state ‘interference’
Jordan’s largest daily, the government-owned Al-Rai, and its sister newspaper suspended publication on Tuesday after staff held a one-day strike in protest at state interference. According to its website, “Al-Rai and Jordan Times did not publish today after employees at the Jordan Press Foundation, which publishes the two dailies, observed a one-day strike on Monday.” The unprecedented strike “came in protest at government interference and procrastination in implementing a 2011 labor agreement” on salaries, it said. [AFP/Ahram Online, 11/12/2013]

Image: El Saharara oil field, in Libya, operated by Repsol. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)