The head of Russia’s state-controlled industrial holding company says Moscow has signed a deal to provide Egypt with air defense missile systems. Monday’s statement by Russian Technologies chief Sergei Chemezov followed last week’s trip to Egypt by Russia’s foreign and defense ministries. Chemezov wouldn’t elaborate on details of the missile deal. [AP/Ahram Online, 11/18/2013]




Minor clashes in Cairo on Mohamed Mahmoud anniversary
Minor scuffles have broken out near Cairo’s Tahrir Square between pro- and anti-military protesters on the second anniversary of the Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes. Security forces fired tear gas outside the nearby Egyptian Museum, and formed barricades between the rival groups. Tens of pro-military protesters gathered early Tuesday morning around the base of a memorial being erected by the interim authorities to commemorate those killed during Egypt’s revolution, prompting clashes with anti-military protesters. [Ahram Online, 11/19/2013]

Two withdraw from assembly as draft constitution scraps worker, farmer quota
The fifty-member committee responsible for amending Egypt’s constitution has removed an article mandating that 50 percent of members of parliament should be either workers or farmers. Ahmed Eid, a member of the drafting committee, told reporters on Monday that the committee voted to cancel the article, although some had argued for keeping it. The Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), the union representing laborers across the country, said it will withdraw from the assembly in response to the decision, while Talal Shokr, the farmer representative did the same, adding that he would join a lawsuit being filed against the committee. [Ahram Online, Ahram Gate (Arabic), SIS, DNE, Cairo Post, 11/19/2013]

Egypt aims to increase tax revenue by introducing VAT
According to the head of Egypt’s Customs Authority, Mamdouh Omar, tax revenue reached EGP 80 billion in the last fiscal year. The government is targeting EGP 130 billion in tax revenues for the current fiscal year, said Omar, if it manages to implement a new Value Added Tax (VAT) system. Omar added that a law is being drafted for the introduction of a VAT and the tax base will be split into three segments so that VAT will not exceed 3 percent for lower-rate taxpayers, to encourage them to use bills in their future dealings, and contribute to a just taxation system. [Ahram Online, 11/18/2013]


Libya deploys troops in Tripoli as Misratans begin to pull out
On the first day of the three-day withdrawal of Misratan forces from the capital, Tripoli residents watched from bridges as Libya’s military swept into the capital Monday with dozens of pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns in an operation to drive out militiamen. The operation was met by a warm welcome from Libyans seething with anger against the numerous armed groups running rampant in the country. [AP/Al Arabiya, Libya Herald 11/18/2013]

Zidan and ministers in Misrata, meeting cut short by protesters
Prime Minister Ali Zidan cut short a high-level meeting in Misrata Monday evening after angry revolutionary fighters arrived yelling for him to go. He had flown into the city accompanied by seven of his senior ministers, including Ali  Muhairiq, head of the commission that has been given the job of enforcing Law 27, which obliges all armed militias to leave Libyan cities. The government party had come to meet local elders and members of the Shura, as well as Misrata councilors in an apparent effort to ensure that the three-day withdrawal of the city’s brigades from Tripoli continues successfully. [Libya Herald, 11/18/2013]

Women protest against armed presence in Tripoli
Hundreds of women turned out in Algeria Square in Tripoli on Monday to protest against the presence of armed militias in Tripoli streets and across the country. They called for a complete end to the country’s militias and demanded that the security of the country be placed solely in control of the national Armed Forces and the police. [Libya Herald, 11/19/2013]

Media silence after spokesman resigns from Benghazi Joint Security Room
A temporary media silence has been placed on the Benghazi Joint Security Room which is currently between spokespersons. Abdullah Zaidi, spokesperson since August this year, resigned from the post yesterday afternoon claiming he lacked access to information required to do his job. Zaidi had taken over from previous spokesman Mohamed Hejazi who was fired for reasons that were never made public. [Libya Herald, 11/19/2013]


Regime seizes strategic Qara village; 192 killed across Syria on Sunday
Syria’s army has pushed rebels out of the southern town of Qara, strengthening its hold on a critical north-south highway linking the capital to government strongholds along the coast. Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad launched an offensive on Friday against the town, which sits on the strategic route fifty miles north of Damascus in the Qalamoun mountains, an area that also serves as a key smuggling route for rebels. Damascus is particularly keen to secure the highway as it wants to use it to transport chemical agents as part of a US and Russian-backed program to eliminate its chemical weapons arsenal. In fighting across the country, 192 people were killed Sunday. [Reuters, AFP, The National, 11/19/2013]

Syrian patriarch urges Christians to stay in Syria
The Syrian patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic church has called on his fellow Christians to stay in Syria, despite the brutal conflict raging in the country. The patriarch, who is headed to the Vatican for meetings with Pope Francis, also urged European countries not to “encourage Syrian Christians to emigrate.” According to the patriarch, 450,000 Syrian Christians have been displaced by the conflict, around 40,000 of whom have fled to Lebanon. He said between 1,000 and 1,200 Christians had been killed, both members of the military and civilians. The cleric condemned damage to “at least fifty-seven Christian sites” since the beginning of the conflict and accused Western countries of prolonging the fighting by arming rebel fighters. Christians make up around ten percent of Syria’s population, and many have rallied to President Bashar al-Assad’s side, fearing the harsh Islamist ideology of some rebel fighters. [AFP, 11/19/2013]

General Dempsey warns Syria options growing more complex
The nation’s top military general warned Monday that America’s options for resolving the conflict in Syria are becoming more complex, narrowing the country’s ability to influence the outcome in the Middle East. Speaking at a private conference, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reinforcing his reputation as a non-interventionist on Syria, said that the United States has few good options for dealing with a conflict that has claimed more than 120,000 lives. “Are the options getting better? No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I think they are becoming more complex.” [WSJ, 11/18/2013]

United Nations says mid-December is new target date for Geneva II; Russia urging participation
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed hope on Monday that the Geneva II peace conference on the Syrian conflict will be held in mid-December. The secretary-general said UN Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi will try to set the exact date during a meeting between US and Russian diplomats in Geneva on November 25. Also on Monday, Russia hosted Syrian and Iranian delegations for separate rounds of talks in a renewed diplomatic push for a Syrian peace conference in which Moscow says Tehran must play a role. [Asharq Al-Awsat, 11/19/2013]


No agreement on future prime minister
Ennahda Party President Rached Ghannouchi said that there has not yet been an agreement on that name of the future prime minister at the end of a meeting with Tunisian General Labor Union Secretary-General Hassine Abbasi and Ennahdha executive officer Amer Larayedh on Monday.  He added that he has proposed several potential candidates and that the issue will be resolved over the next few days, allowing the dialogue to resume. [TAP, Assabah (Arabic), 11/19/2013]

Cabinet meeting adopts final version of draft Finance Law for 2014
Interim Prime Minister Ali Larayedh’s cabinet in a meeting on Monday adopted the final version of the draft Finance Law for 2014 and the supplementary draft budget for 2013. No amendments were made to the different provisions of the finance bill for 2014, said Minister of Finance Elyes Fakhfakh. The bill will be submitted Tuesday to the National Constituent Assembly, said Fakhfakh, adding that the Cabinet has modified some phrasing and formulations without altering the content of the bill. [TAP, 11/18/2013]

Egypt returns envoy to Tunisia
Egypt said Monday its ambassador to Tunisia will return after being recalled in September following the Tunisian president’s call for the release of Egypt’s deposed president Mohamed Morsi. Ayman Musharafa was recalled “because of Tunisian officials’ unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of Egypt,” Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty said in a statement. He said Cairo “has decided to return its ambassador and hopes that the situation will be stable in the interest of both the countries and their people.” Abdelatty did not say when Musharafa would return to his post. [AFP, Mosaique FM (Arabic), 11/18/2013]

EU reiterates readiness to strengthen support to Tunisia’s transition
The European Union Foreign Affairs Council Monday reiterated its support for the transition process in Tunisia and encouraged all stakeholders to continue the national dialogue for the benefit of the country. [TAP, 11/18/2013]


UN envoy to Yemen says country’s president will stay on for longer than two years
The UN envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar said Monday the country’s President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi is likely to stay in office beyond the envisioned two-year transition period because he is facing obstruction from political opponents that is delaying progress. Hadi’s term in office “ends with the election of a new president. It will not end in February 2014,” Benomar said. He added that the start the National Dialogue was delayed for technical reasons, but has since been obstructed by members loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who did not attend a meeting on Monday in an effort to delay its convening. [AP, 11/18/2013]

Yemen prepares plan to deal with deported workers returning from Saudi Arabia
On Sunday, the General Union of Yemeni Workers Syndicate and the Yemeni Communities Center announced they have prepared a plan to train and assist laborers deported from Saudi Arabia because of a recent change in labor restrictions. The plan will be enacted once the influx of workers returning from Yemen slows down. As a part of the groups’ plan, deportees will receive a monthly salary of YR30,000 ($140) for six months to assist with their transition. Since the Kingdom’s labor law went into effect on November 5, nearly seventy thousand Yemenis have been forced to leave their jobs and return to Yemen. [Yemen Times, Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/19/2013]

Eight policemen killed in south Yemen ambush
Gunmen ambushed and killed eight policemen Monday near a gas terminal in southern Yemen, a security official reported. The attack took place as the police were driving to a security checkpoint near the Belhaf terminal, in the southern Shabwa province, the official said. “Armed men in two cars opened fire on the policemen, killing them on the spot,” he said. He was unable to identify the assailants or explain their motives. [Gulf News, 11/18/2013]

White House reaffirms support for Yemen’s transition
President Barack Obama’s top counterterrorism aide, Lisa Monaco, spoke with Yemeni President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi on Monday to discuss the country’s political transition and process towards greater democracy, the White House said. “Ms. Monaco commended the National Dialogue Conference for its efforts to develop a shared vision for a more just and democratic Yemen,” the White House said in a statement. “Ms. Monaco also reaffirmed the US government’s commitment to stand with the Yemeni government and people as they implement the National Dialogue’s outcomes, foster economic development, and combat the security threat from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.” [Reuters, SABA, 11/18/2013]


Suicide bombings kill twenty-three near Iran embassy in Beirut
Twin suicide bombings struck outside the Iranian Embassy in the Lebanese capital on Tuesday, killing twenty-three people, including the Iranian cultural attaché, and wounding dozens more in one of the worst bombings to target the predominantly Shiite area in southern Beirut. The Abdullah Azzam brigades, a Lebanon-based al-Qaeda affiliate, said it was behind the bombings on Tuesday, according to the Twitter page of a cleric linked to the group. “The Abdullah Azzam brigades – the Hussein bin Ali cells – may they please God – are behind the attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut,” Sheikh Sirajeddine Zuraiqat, the group’s religious guide, posted on Twitter. However, Iran’s foreign ministry accused Israel of carrying out the attack. The bombings were “an inhuman crime and spiteful act done by Zionists and their mercenaries,” ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said in remarks carried by the official IRNA news agency. [Ahram Online, AP, AFP, 11/19/2013]

Palestinians vote for first time at UN Assembly
The Palestinians voted for the first time at the UN General Assembly Monday and claimed the moment as a new step in its quest for full recognition by the global body. The Palestinians became observer members of the United Nations on November 29 last year. It cannot vote on UN resolutions, but under UN rules, it and other observers such as the Vatican can vote in elections for judges on international courts. “This is an important step in our march for freedom and independence and full membership of the United Nations,” Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour told the assembly. [Ahram Online, 11/18/2013]

Bahrain court upholds jail terms for seventeen activists
A Bahrain appeals court has upheld jail terms of up to fifteen years for seventeen opposition activists convicted over attacks on police in the country, a judicial source said Tuesday. The Manama court, which delivered the verdicts on Monday, also reduced by seven years sentences for three other defendants in the same case, the source said. The group of activists were tried on charges of attempting to murder police, carrying out arson attacks on their vehicles, causing public disturbance, and possessing Molotov cocktails. [Gulf News, 11/19/2013]