Speaking before the Russian parliament on the eve of the UN General Assembly, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov asserted that there is no talk of adopting a Security Council resolution under Chapter VII, which can authorize the use of force, but Chapter VII could be cited in the resolution as a possible means to counter future violations. Ryabkov also told members of parliament he hopes to achieve a resolution this week, however, talks with the United States are not going smoothly. “Unfortunately it’s necessary to note that in contacts with the Americans, things are not going so smoothly… they are not quite going in the direction they should.” [ReutersAFP, 9/24/13]


Chemical inspectors expected to return to Damascus Wednesday
UN chemical weapons investigators are expected to return to Syria on Wednesday to continue investigating allegations of chemical weapons use, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Tuesday. “We are pleased that our persistent calls for the return of UN experts to Syria for the investigation of other episodes have born fruit,” Ryabkov said in parliament, referring to alleged incidents of chemical weapons use other than an Aug. 21 attack. [Reuters, 9/24/13]

Syrian opposition fights to break blockade of Damascus suburbs
Syrian insurgents pressed a new assault in the strategic, heavily-defended southwestern suburbs of Damascus on Tuesday, saying they aimed to break an army blockade of rebel-held areas. Rebels fired mortars at government forces while army shelling hit the contested suburb of Derayya. Insurgents have dug in around a crescent of suburbs outside the capital for about a year and a half, but government forces have halted or reversed their advances in several strategic districts that are now effectively blockaded. The rebels’ new offensive, which they named “If You Return, We Return,” united several factions operating in the area, including the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. Ahrar al-Sham, another big Islamist faction, also said it was playing a major role, along with the Sahaba Battalions, a powerful Damascus-based rebel unit. [Al-Arabiya, 9/24/13]

Aid group: More than two million Syrian children at risk of malnutrition
In a report released Monday, the international NGO Save the Children said four million Syrians–more than half of them children–are unable to produce or buy enough food. Thousands are trapped in battle zones in and around Syria’s major cities, such as Aleppo in the north and in the central city of Homs, cut off from access to all but the bare minimum foodstuffs needed to survive, the US-based group said. Food shortages are compounded by an explosion in prices of basic staples, adding that one in twenty children in areas around the capital of Damascus is severely malnourished. [The Daily Star, 9/24/13]


Campaign to issue new Egypt constitution gathers different momentum
Representatives of liberal and leftist forces serving on the fifty-member constitutional committee said on Monday that they will launch a “public opinion” campaign to ask that interim President Adly Mansour change his July 8 constitutional declaration so that the committee could write an entirely new constitution, rather than simply amending the 2012 version drafted by an Islamist-dominated constituent assembly. Amr Moussa, chief of the fifty-member constitution amendment committee, denied news on withdrawal of the Salafi-oriented Nour Party from the committee. Moussa expressed hope to accomplish a constitution that ‘deals with Egyptians and handles their issues without discrimination. He denied fears of political rallies against constitution. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 9/24/2013]

New anti-military, anti-Brotherhood front to be launched Tuesday
A new group called the Revolution Path Front will be launched Tuesday in Cairo by a group of political activists who say they aim to work towards the revolution’s goals of “bread, freedom and social justice.” On its Facebook page, the front announced its aim fight for the “redistribution of wealth among poor and low-income Egyptians.” Among the expected participants at the Tuesday press conference where the group will be announced are prominent journalists Wael Gamal and Khaled El-Balshi, political activist Alaa Abdel-Fatah, leftist labour lawyer Haytham Mohamadein, renowned writer Ahdaf Soueif, and April 6 Youth Movement co-founder Ahmed Maher. [Ahram Online, 9/23/2013]

Dissolving Brotherhood illegitimate but will not hinder reconciliation, says FJP leader
Muslim Brotherhood and FJP leader Mohamed Ali Bishr said Monday that the court ruling issued dissolving the Muslim Brotherhood was illegitimate, but would not hinder national reconciliation or a political solution for the current crisis in Egypt. Bishr said that the ruling was null. “The ruling confirms that we are not [living] under a state that [applies] the constitution or law as the ruling was political par excellence and lacked legitimacy,” he said. The Muslim Brotherhood decided to move its media center to London, after the Cairo court decision to ban its activities. [Egypt Independent, 9/24/2013]

UN General Assembly delegation will focus on Egypt’s future
Egyptian representatives, headed by Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, will join other global delegations this afternoon in New York to attend the inauguration of the UN General Assembly, with a clear message: ‘Things are moving forward in Egypt.’ Also during his time in New York, Fahmy spoke to several leaders in the US House of Representatives. Fahmy reportedly confirmed Egypt’s commitment to implement the roadmap. [Ahram Online, EGYNews (Arabic), Shorouk (Arabic), 9/24/2013]


Defense ministry about to order advanced border security equipment
The Libyan defense ministry announced that contracts are being drawn up with a number of foreign companies from which Libya will buy sophisticated static and mobile equipment to protect the country’s borders. Defense Minister Abdullah al-Thini met this week with a number of British firms specializing in border protection, according to the ministry spokesman Abdul Razak Ali Shahabi, who also said Libya has agreements with its neighbors, particularly Egypt and Sudan, to form joint border protection forces. Shahabi denied that any foreign aircraft are patrolling Libyan airspace. [Libya Herald, 9/23/13]

Lawmakers at risk of defamation charges, says HRW
Libyan authorities should not act on a criminal defamation complaint brought by one parliamentary faction against three members who criticized that party. Earlier this month, the General National Congress stripped three members of their immunity, leaving them open to potential criminal charges after lawmakers from the Justice and Construction Party accused them of “defaming and slandering” them. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the move would restrict free speech and urges authorities to eliminate laws that criminalize defamation. [HRW/Tripoli Post, 9/24/13]

Marghani pledges gender equality legislation
The Libyan government intends to clamp down on violence against women, according to Justice Minister Salah Bashir al-Marghani. Speaking at this week’s press conference, the minister said a law will be presented to the General National Congress to support the drive to guarantee gender equality. Marghani also reiterated a commitment to provide reparations to victims of the former regime, particularly political prisoners. [Libya Herald, 9/23/13]  

Zidan announces more military to train abroad
An estimated 1,600 more military personnel will be sent overseas for training, announced Prime Minister Ali Zidan. The first groups will leave for training in Turkey, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Following earlier announcements that the United States intended to train up to 8,000 Libyan troops based in Bulgaria, Zidan added that another batch will be trained under US supervision. Zidan and Defense Minister Abdullah al-Thini have spoken about boosting the army, including granting military rank to two hundred former revolutionaries who have been recruited. [Libya Herald, 9/23/13]


Tunisia’s Islamists resist proposal to step down
Tunisia’s ruling Islamists on Monday rejected a plan under which they would step down pending elections, a decision likely to deepen confrontation with secular opponents demanding their immediate resignation. “We have said that this government would not step down concretely before the completion of the constitution,” Rafik Abd Essalem, a senior Ennahda official, told reporters. [Reuters/Ahram Online, 9/24/2013]

Tunisian president laments violence
Tunisia’s president lamented last year’s attack on the US Embassy in his country and the July killing of an opposition lawmaker, who was slain after the CIA warned Tunisian officials he was a potential target. In an interview with the Associated Press, President Moncef Marzouki warned about the return of dictatorships to the Mideast and said political unrest and a rise in extremism in Tunisia has cost his country a year’s worth of progress.  [AP, 9/24/2013]

Alleged smear campaign against Ennahda party leader Ghannouchi
The office of Rashid Ghannouchi, a leading member of the Ennahda ruling party, released a statement on its Facebook page today about an alleged smear campaign targeting Ghannouchi and the consequent disruption of the course of the national dialogue. Ghannouchi’s office attributed the campaign to “suspicious parties” and condemned the media for “repeating these lies and rumors” rather than searching to expose the slanderers. [Assabah (Arabic), 9/24/2013]

Tunisia court frees egg-throwing film director
A Tunisian court on Tuesday freed on bail a film director detained last month for throwing an egg at the culture minister, one of his lawyers said. The Tunis Court of First Instance decided early Tuesday morning to free the film director Nasreddine Shili, who has been in custody since August 21, attorney Abeda Kefi said. The case sparked a scandal earlier this month when a journalist, Zied al-Heni, was detained for accusing the public prosecutor of fabricating evidence implicating the cameraman in the attack. [AFP/Fox, 9/24/2013]


Gunmen kill second Yemeni air force colonel
A Yemeni military official says a suspected al-Qaeda militant has killed an officer, the second drive-by shooting targeting senior officers in as many days in the capital, Sanaa. The official says a lone attacker on a motorcycle gunned down Col. Ali al-Deilami, head of finance at the city’s military hospital, while he was on his way to work Tuesday morning. [Ahram Online, AP, 9/24/2013]

8+8 sub-committee proposes five-region republic to solve Southern Issue
The 8+8 sub-committee established to solve the Southern Issue discussed a five-region republic as a possible solution on Monday evening. A two-region federal state had been discussed in prior 8+8 sub-committee meetings. Sub-committee members agreed to table the two-region solution and spent the meeting discussing the five-region republic. [NDC, Al Masdar (Arabic), 9/24/2013]

Members of the NDC reject proposals presented by HRW that affect Islamic law
Members of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) in Yemen signed a petition to officially reject Human Rights Watch’s proposals to the working group on rights and freedoms on the rights of women, claiming that the proposals affect Islamic law. The human rights organization called for Yemen’s abolition of articles related to personal status laws, which may “undermine the equality of women,” according to a statement by Human Rights Watch. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 9/24/2013]

Soldier injured in a military attack on Monday dies
A security source in the Lahij province said that one of the soldiers injured in an attack on a military vehicle on Monday died today. A brigade of military vehicles suffered an attack by unidentified gunmen yesterday resulting in the injury of four soldiers. Yemeni authorities accuse al-Qaeda for this and a number of attacks against army and security officials throughout Yemen. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 9/24/2013]


Jordan Islamists slam Egypt’s Brotherhood ban
Jordan’s opposition Islamists on Tuesday denounced an Egyptian court’s decision to ban all Muslim Brotherhood activities, saying the ruling sought to “reestablish oppression and tyranny.” “Egypt’s military coupists took this decision against people’s will after they failed to win their confidence,” Zaki Bani Rsheid, deputy leader of Jordan’s Brotherhood, said on Facebook.  [Ahram Online, 9/24/2013]

Rift within Fatah in Lebanon threatens movement’s unity
An internal rift in the Palestinian Fatah movement broke out into the open in Lebanon this week, threatening the party’s unity. Fatah’s security chief in Lebanon denounced Monday an apparent call by a rival faction for an internal coup that sought to reform Fatah’s leadership and remove the Palestinian ambassador. [Daily Star, 9/24/2013]