An Iraqi official from the Independent High Electoral Commission says there will be no balloting in the parts of Anbar province engulfed in clashes between security forces and al-Qaeda inspired militants. Families displaced by the fighting will be allowed to vote in areas deemed “safe” or in parts of the province where they found shelter. The exclusion of major Anbar cities such as Ramadi and Fallujah—where Iraqi forces are trying to wrest militants-controlled areas—from the voting could deepen Sunni fears of being marginalized by the country’s Shia majority. [AP, 4/8/2014]



Hamdeen Sabbahi demands release of ‘revolution activists’
Presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabahi has demanded the release from prison of activists who played key roles in the January 2011 uprising. Egypt cannot detain those who revolted, while the corrupt and murderers are free, Sabahi said via Twitter. Interim President Adly Mansour should grant them an immediate pardon, he added. The Constitution Party has also called on Mansour to pardon activists Ahmed Douma, Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel, as well as Loay Abdel Rahman, Omar Hussein, Islam Ahmed and Nasser Ibrahim, who were sentenced to prison in Alexandria for two years and fined EGP 50,000 for demonstrating to demand retribution for Khaled Said. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 4/7/2014]

Men sentenced to eight years prison for debauchery
Three men were sentenced to eight years in prison on Monday on charges related to homosexual practices, while a fourth was sentenced to three years. The Nasr City Misdemeanor Court issued the sentence only days after the four men were arrested in their Nasr City flat on Thursday after a police raid, the Associated Press reported. While Egypt has no laws banning homosexuality, the men were charged with debauchery, an accusation that is often levied against homosexuals in Egypt along with other vague indictments such as “indecent behavior.” [Mada Masr, AFP/Ahram Online, 4/8/2014]

Kuwait signs oil and diesel supply deals with Egypt
Kuwait will boost its supply of crude oil to Egypt by nearly a third and increase shipments of petroleum products in a deal the Gulf state’s oil minister said was an obligation to help Cairo through its problems. The contracts run for three years and were signed on Monday. [Reuters, 4/8/2014]

US government “troubled” court decision in activists’ case; Egypt rejects US comments
A spokesman for the US state department expressed concern over an Egyptian court’s decision to uphold a three year sentence for three Egyptian activists, Mohamed Adel, Ahmed Douma, and Ahmed Maher, prosecuted under Egypt’s new protest law. “Their continued imprisonment under a law that severely restricts the universal right to peaceful assembly and expression runs counter the Egyptian Government’s commitment to fostering an open electoral environment and a transition process that protects the universal rights of all Egyptians. We urge the Egyptian Government to exercise its constitutional authority to commute these excessive sentences…” said Jen Psaki during a press briefing Monday. According to Aswat Masriya, the Egyptian foreign ministry rejected these statements, saying that it was not right for the United States to “comment” on or “reject” an Egyptian judicial decision. [AMAY (Arabic), 4/8/2014]


After deal, Libya’s ports prepare to load oil tankers
Libya’s Zueitina oil port prepared on Monday to load crude into tankers after the government reached a deal with rebels to reopen four terminals that insurgents occupied since the summer. Seven former rebel fighters were seen next to their vehicle at the front gate – now protecting the port after being put back on the payroll under the government agreement. According to the agreement with Tripoli, Zueitina and Hariga ports were expected to open immediately. The larger ports, Ras Lanuf and Es Sider, are to be reopened in two to four weeks after more negotiations. However, the manager at Hariga in Tobruk in the far east said he had received no confirmation to reopen and would need at least ten days to prepare for tankers, suggesting that technical problems and ongoing negotiations over the two larger ports could delay a full reopening of the state’s oil supplies. [Reuters, 4/7/2014]

GNC group calls on Abu Sahmain to resign
Thirty members of the General National Congress (GNC) have demanded the resignation of GNC President Nuri Abu Sahmain over leaked video footage related to an incident earlier this year. The video shows Abu Sahmain being interrogated by an unknown person and admitting that two women visited his home one evening in January. In the televised statement aired yesterday, the group of legislators said that Abu Sahmain had lost the confidence of the Libyan people after lying about the events of that night. They insisted that, if he did not resign, the GNC would consider relieving him of his duties. The group also claimed that Abu Sahmain had overstepped his jurisdiction when he threatened federalists occupying eastern oil ports with a military offensive. [Libya Herald, 4/7/2014]

Libyan militant group leader found dead
A Libyan security official says the leader of an al-Qaeda inspired group believed to be behind a recent wave of assassinations of policemen and judges has been killed. The official said on Tuesday that the body of Ali bin Taher, who ran the Islamic State Army, was found on a farm near the Islamist stronghold of Derna, in eastern Libya. Speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, the official added that there are no indications as to who was behind the killing. Bin Taher was freed from prison after the 2011 uprising that ended Muammar al-Qaddafi’s rule. [AP, 4/8/2014]

Libyan 2013 exports to EU down and imports up
According to the European Union’s statistics office, Eurostat, Libya’s exports to the twenty-eight EU member states were down while its imports increased in 2013, compared to 2012. This decrease of Libyan exports to those countries is attributed to the embargo of Libya’s oil terminals by the militant and federalist militias in the eastern region. Eurostat reports that Libya was the fourth largest African exporter to the European Union in 2013 at 14 percent, with exports valued at €23 billion. In 2012, this was valued at €32.8 billion. Conversely, Libya’s imports from the European Union increased in 2013 to €7.9 billion compared to €6.37 billion in 2012. [Libya Herald, 4/7/2014]


Record low wheat crop expected amid drought; UN cuts food aid lacking donor funds
Syrian wheat production is estimated at 1.7 million to two million tons, which would be a record low, amid a “looming drought” in the country’s northwest breadbasket, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday. “WFP is concerned about the impact of a looming drought hitting the northwest of the country, mainly Aleppo, Idlib, and Hama, with rainfall less than half of the long term average [since September] and potentially major impacts on the next cereal harvest,” a WFP spokesperson said. “A drought could put the lives of millions more people at risk”, she said. At the same time, WFP has been forced to cut the size of food parcels for those left hungry by Syria’s civil war by a fifth because of a shortage of funds from donors, a senior official said on Monday. Nevertheless, the WFP managed to get food to a record 4.1 million people inside Syria last month. [Reuters, AFP, Syria Deeply, 4/8/2014]

State Department and Pentagon clash on approach to Syria
Frustrated by the stalemate in Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry has been pushing for the US military to be more aggressive in supporting the country’s rebel forces. Opposition has come from the Pentagon. Kerry and UN Ambassador Samantha Power have advocated options that range from US military intervention to weaken the regime of President Bashar al-Assad to using special operations forces to train and equip a large number of rebel fighters. In recent White House meetings, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have pushed back against military intervention. Current and former officials say Dempsey has been Kerry’s chief opponent in many of these debates. From Dempsey’s perspective, even a limited military operation could embroil the United States in a broader regional conflict than advocates realize. “If it weren’t for the chairman, you would be right back in Iraq or Afghanistan,” a senior defense official said. Searching for new options, Kerry has been huddling with retired generals David Petraeus and Jack Keane, architects of the 2007 troop surge in Iraq. The two generals have told Kerry they believe a military program to train and equip the Syrian rebels, and limited strikes to weaken Assad, could be effective. [WSJ, 4/8/2014]

Information minister says presidential election will not be delayed
The Syrian government made clear on Tuesday it had no intention of delaying an election that is likely to give President Assad a third term. Assad has not said whether he will stand in the election due by July, but allies in Russia and Lebanon’s Shia movement Hezbollah have predicted he will stand and win. International powers who back Syria’s opposition have described the plans to hold elections as a “parody of democracy” that would destroy peace talks. Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi said elections would not be delayed and that military operations would continue regardless of the poll. Assad’s forces have advanced around the capital Damascus and the Lebanese border in recent months, helping secure the country’s center under government control. [Reuters, AFP, 4/8/2014]


Polls split on Ennahdha, Nidaa Tounes support
Two polls released this week give conflicting insights into who Tunisians are planning to vote for in elections, which are expected later this year. A poll released by the 3C Etudes polling firm shows 31.6 percent of respondents saying they will support the Islamist Ennahda party and 27.2 percent saying they will support the competing Nidaa Tounes party, led by former prime minister Beji Caid Essebsi. A second poll, released by Sigma Conseil, however, shows Nidaa Tounes in the lead with 46.8 percent of respondents compared to Ennahda’s 35.4 percent. Ennahda and Nidaa Tounes are Tunisia’s most powerful political parties. [Tunisia Live, 4/8/2014]

Electoral law debate in the NCA began on Monday
The discussion of the draft electoral and referendum law started Monday afternoon in a plenary session of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA). There is a total of 483 proposals for the NCA to review and they will review each proposal individually. Issues covered by the proposals include women’s representation on the electoral lists, the voters’ register, application for candidacy and individuals deprived of the rights to stand for the elections. During the discussion, NCA members pointed out the need for consensus about the contentious issues in the draft electoral law and referenda. [All Africa, 4/7/2014]

Ras Jedir border crossing reopens
The Ras Jedir border crossing reopened Monday afternoon. This decision follows high-level talks on Sunday between Libya and Tunisia regarding the closing. Ras Jedir is the main border crossing between Libya and Tunisia and is a gateway for contraband Libyan petrol. It was closed nearly a month ago which resulted in protests and violence in the nearby town Ben Guerdane last week. Tripoli decided to close the Ras Jedir crossing, according to Tunisian officials, as a result of the large number of vehicles loaded with cheap fuel arriving in Tunisia. [TAP, 4/7/2014, Gulf News, 4/8/2014]


Government pledge not to lift fuel subsidies met with skepticism
Though an official recently denied rumors that the government intended to lift fuel subsidies, many Yemenis remains skeptical that they will remain in place. The head of the Economic Studies Media Center said that the government would not be able to live up to its pledges to maintain fuel subsidies, citing a recent claim by the finance minister that the budget deficit stands at an estimated $1.5 billion. He also emphasized that donor countries insist that Yemen lift its oil subsidies. Economic analysts expect that the abolition of fuel subsidies would result in the doubling of the cost of a liter of petrol. [Yemen Times, 4/8/2014]

Yemen, Saudi Arabia discuss cooperating in petroleum sector
Minister of Oil and Minerals Khalid Bahah discussed cooperation in the sector of oil and gas with the Saudi chargé d’affaires, Dr. Haza’a al-Metari. Al-Metari assured that the Kingdom would make efforts to develop the investment activities between the two countries in various fields, including the oil and gas industry and encouraging companies for joint investment between the two countries. [Saba News, 4/8/2014]

UN sanction panel members revealed
According to sources in the United Nations, four experts have been tapped as members on the sanctions panel charged with targeting spoilers in Yemen’s transition process including: Carmela Bühler, a Swiss international humanitarian law expert; Simon David Goddard, a British financial expert; Alma Abdulhadi Jadallah, a Jordanian regional expert; and Mohamed-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, an expert on armed groups and former minister of foreign affairs for Mauritania. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 4/8/2014]

New model for Yemen’s interior ministry
Yemen’s interior ministry, in an attempt to fill leadership roles, is experimenting with a new way of vetting and promoting officers to senior posts, one not prone to cronyism or other forms of corruption. An evaluation committee has been formed to assess applications. As part of the process, applicants are required to submit an autobiography and a vision for the division or organization that he wants to manage. The committee will evaluate the application, prioritizing the candidates’ effectiveness and competence. Candidates are also required to have fifteen years of experience in the security services, and must be at the rank of colonel. [Mareb Press (Arabic), Al-Masdar (Arabic); 4/8/2014]


Violence ‘threatening’ Algeria’s presidential election
Violence is threatening Algeria’s presidential election campaign, independent media outlets warned Monday, after unrest forced the ailing incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s campaign to cancel a weekend rally and bolster security. At a rally on Saturday in Bejaia in the restive Kabylie region a crowd of 250 demonstrators gathered outside the venue chanting “Bouteflika out,” before some stormed the building, attacking a television crew covering the event and torching portraits of the president, who is too frail to take the campaign trail himself. Elections are scheduled for April 17. Bouteflika is expected to win a fourth term in office. [Naharnet, 4/7/2014]

No vote in parts of Iraq due to clashes
An Iraqi official from the Independent High Electoral Commission says there will be no balloting in the parts of Anbar province engulfed in clashes between security forces and al-Qaeda inspired militants. Families displaced by the fighting will be allowed to vote in areas deemed “safe” or in parts of the province where they found shelter. The exclusion of major Anbar cities such as Ramadi and Fallujah—where Iraqi forces are trying to wrest militants-controlled areas—from the voting could deepen Sunni fears of being marginalized by the country’s Shia majority. [AP, 4/8/2014]

GCC security pact may be referred to Constitutional Court
A Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) security pact may be referred to in Kuwait’s Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country. The agreement endorsed by the other GCC members has caused friction in Kuwait after it was supported by the government and some lawmakers, but rejected by other MPs. Last week, the parliament’s foreign affairs committee turned down the pan-Gulf agreement by three votes to two after a panel of constitutional experts failed to present their views on it within a one-month time frame and asked for an extension. Kuwaiti officials insisted that the provisions of the agreement were in line with the constitution and that endorsing the pact would bolster the Gulf alliance’s collective security. [Gulf News, 4/8/2014]

Thousands of Jerusalem Arabs without water
Palestinians in Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem have been without running water for more than a month, victims of an overwhelmed infrastructure and caught in a legal void caused by the divisions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The camp is part of the Jerusalem municipality, but is outside the Israeli-built West Bank barrier. So Israeli services are sparse, while Palestinian authorities are barred from operating there or developing the water system. With the scorching summer season approaching, residents are growing increasingly desperate. Basic tasks like brushing teeth are a challenge. Last week, the Israeli Supreme Court gave local Israeli water authorities sixty days to find a solution. [AP, 4/7/2014]