King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz told US President Barack Obama by phone on Thursday that he hoped a final settlement of the nuclear dispute would “strengthen the stability and security of the region and the world.” However, many Saudis were concerned about the wider implications of the framework deal that Iran reached with six world powers on Thursday, intended to open the way for negotiating a final settlement by midyear. Oman’s Foreign Ministry called the accord “a fundamental and important stage on the path to a final agreement by June 30.” A senior Gulf Arab official said any reaction would come in coming days not from individual countries but from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). [Reuters, 4/2/2015



Egypt political groups, officials ‘close to an agreement’ on elections laws says Prime Minister
Egypt’s Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said Thursday that the government and political forces are getting close to seeing eye to eye on proposed amendments to laws regulating parliamentary elections after the poll was shelved last month due to legal obstacles. Eleven political groups attended the Thursday meeting including the Wafd party, Conference party, Free Egyptians party and Egyptian Social Democratic party, with the absence of the sole Islamist player in the country’s politics –Nour Party. “There is a consensus amongst the political forces on the importance of the oversight of the Constitutional Court on laws governing the electoral process,” Mahlab said. He added that Egypt’s government did not have a say in postponing the parliamentary elections, saying his cabinet is “dedicated” to carrying them out soon. President of the Reform and Development Party Mohamed Esmat al-Sadat said he expects the government to respond to the proposals of political forces and will hold elections as soon as possible in line with the the Supreme Constitutional Court’s recommendations. [Ahram Online, SIS, 4/2/2015]

Egypt court sentences five to death for Kerdasa police killings
An Egyptian court on Thursday sentenced five supporters of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group to death on charges of killing policemen, a judicial source said, the latest in a string of death sentences against Islamists. The men were convicted of playing a role in the killing of fourteen policemen in the town of Kerdasa on the outskirts of Giza in August 2013, during the unrest following the ouster Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. The court is scheduled to issue its final verdict on May 4, after the Mufti provides his non-binding opinion. They were previously sentenced to death -in absentia- alongside 178 others last February. The retrial procedures of the defendants were repeated following their arrests, as per Egyptian laws. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 4/2/2015]

Egypt militant group claims responsibility for Sinai attack on soldiers
An Egyptian militant group allied with Islamic State, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility on Friday for attacks on military checkpoints. According to an updated death toll, the attacks left twenty-two dead, including eighteen soldiers and four civilians, a medical source in North Sinai said Thursday. The source said more than thirty others, including civilians and soldiers, were wounded.According to security sources, thirty-five suspected Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis militants were killed in military aerial raids on North Sinai late Thursday. [Reuters, 4/3/2015]

United States condemns Sinai terror attacks
A number of countries condemned Sinai terrorist attacks on Thursday that left scores dead. In a statement, the US State Department denounced the attacks saying, “The United States remains steadfast in its support of Egypt’s efforts to combat terrorism in the Sinai and throughout the country, and we will continue to work closely together to address shared threats to regional security.” The US Embassy in Cairo also issued a statement condemning Thursday terrorist attacks, stressing US support for Egypt as it combats terrorism in Sinai and throughout the country. [SIS, 4/3/2015]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


Libya’s overseas medical bills over $7 billion, according to official
The House of Representatives (House) member responsible for overseeing the foreign healthcare bill in the Tobruk-based parliament said that a total of LD 9 billion ($7.2 billion) has been sent to embassies to treat injured Libyans abroad since 2011. Thousands of Libyans are sent abroad for medical treatment to nearby countries such as Greece, Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt, but many of the bills remain unpaid due to corrupt officials. In order to fix this the House is shutting down Libya’s health attaches in many embassies abroad. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 4/2/2015]

Benghazi crisis committee grapples with flour shortage
Benghazi is running out of flour because key storage supplies are cut off due to the ongoing violence. Benghazi’s major grain storage, which supplies flour and other foods to the entire eastern region, is currently isolated by fighting. The Benghazi crisis committee is working with the mills to keep an open line of credit so that the mills can buy flour; so far, the mills have agreed to keep supplying the flour against future payments. The eastern region’s two largest mills have pledged to continue providing flour to make up for the loss of the warehouse despite the government’s fourteen-month delay in payment. [Libya Herald, 4/2/2015]

Tunisia cautions eastern Libyan government against using its airspace in fighting
Foreign Minister Taieb Baccouche said Tunisia cautioned the Tobruk-based government in eastern Libya not to use Tunisian airspace in fighting. His comments came after a plane belonging to General Khalifa Haftar crossed into Tunisia airspace earlier this week to carry out an air strike. The Tunisian Secretary of State for Arab and African Affairs summoned the Tobruk government’s chargé d’affaires to express Tunisia’s opposition to the use of its airspace in fighting. Baccouche explained that the jet was only in Tunisian airspace for a few seconds and was targeting a location on the Tunisia-Libya border. [TAP/All Africa, 4/2/2015]

Tunisia arrests more suspected militants for Bardo attack
Tunisian security forces have arrested twenty-three more suspected Islamist militants as part of a crackdown after last month’s Bardo museum attack. The new suspects belonged to two terrorist cells, bringing the number of suspects arrested since the attack to forty-six. The newest suspects will be charged as accomplices for providing weapons and logistics assistance to the attackers. [Reuters, 4/3/2015]

Tunisian parliament approves loans to renovate hundreds of schools
The Tunisian parliament ratified two loans worth $124 million aimed to build and renovate schools. These loans come as part of wider project to rehabilitate schools throughout the country and includes building fifty-nine new educational institutions, thirty-one primary schools, twenty-seven secondary schools and one dormitory. Additionally, the project includes the renovation of 310 middle schools, along with fifty-three dormitories, twenty-seven high schools, and eight primary schools. The European Investment Bank and the German Foundation for Loans of Reconstruction are the primary donors for this project. [Tunisia Live, 4/3/2015]


Syrian aircraft bomb area near captured Jordan crossing
Syrian military aircraft bombed areas close to Nassib border crossing into Jordan on Thursday, witnesses and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, hours after insurgents, including fighters from the Nusra Front and the Southern Front, had captured the border post. Rebels and the Observatory accused the Nusra Front of looting the crossing of weaponry after it fell into rebel hands. The Southern Front, an alliance of mainstream rebel groups in southern Syria, said on Thursday that Nusra Front fighters had been told to leave the area and that the crossing was under their control. Another Southern Front spokesperson said Friday that the Nusra Front did not participate in the fighting for Nassib border crossing. [Reuters, 4/2/2015]

Fighting between ISIS and rebel groups continues in Damascus’s Yarmouk refugee camp
Fighting between the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) and Bayt al-Maqdis, and other rebel factions continue Friday after ISIS took most of Yarmouk refugee camp Wednesday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS has executed sixty-nine people, including children under eighteen and women, over the past five days as it clashed with the army and other militia around the country. Several were killed because they were believed to work for the Syrian government, it said, providing a video of nine men who were shot dead. [Reuters, 4/3/2015]

UN Security Council members urge Syria chlorine probe
Members of the UN Security Council have called on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to investigate the latest allegations of the use of chlorine as a chemical weapon in Syria. The current council president, Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar says “most members” of the council expressed concern about the reports in recent weeks by opposition and activists that Syrian government helicopters dropped bombs containing chlorine gas in northwestern Idlib province. The council last month approved a resolution condemning the use of toxic chemicals in Syria and threatening militarily enforced action in the case of further violations. [AP, 4/3/2015]

The United States to resettle more Syrian refugees in the near future
Washington is planning to increase the number of Syrian refugees allowed to resettle in the United States, mostly for vulnerable cases Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard said Thursday. Richard said the numbers would still be very small compared with the nearly four million Syrians who have become refugees in neighboring countries, mostly Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. She said the United States has received 648 Syrian refugees since the crisis began in 2011. Adding that the United States is “moving to bring more refugees to the United States,” and that between 1,000 and 2,000 will be brought in by the end of September and several thousand others in 2016. Washington seeks to bring “those who have severe medial conditions, widows, and orphans” and traumatized people. [AP, 4/2/2015]

Erdogan wants private security guards replaced after Turkey unrest
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the government to replace private security guards with police forces in the wake of two deadly shootouts in a week that sent shockwaves through the country. Erdogan said that the ubiquitous use of private security firms to guard public buildings like courthouses but also hospitals and stadiums should be outlawed. On Tuesday, two Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) militants took a prosecutor hostage at an Istanbul court house and held him for hours before all three were killed in a shootout with the police.[AFP, 4/3/2015]


Saudi welcomes Iran nuclear deal but unease remains
King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz told US President Barack Obama by phone on Thursday that he hoped a final settlement of the nuclear dispute would “strengthen the stability and security of the region and the world.” However, many Saudis were concerned about the wider implications of the framework deal that Iran reached with six world powers on Thursday, intended to open the way for negotiating a final settlement by midyear. Oman’s Foreign Ministry called the accord “a fundamental and important stage on the path to a final agreement by June 30.” A senior Gulf Arab official said any reaction would come in coming days not from individual countries but from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). [Reuters, 4/2/2015]

Pentagon authorizes refueling help for Yemen campaign
The Pentagon has agreed to provide aerial refueling support for Saudi and allied pilots attacking Houthi rebels in Yemen, an expansion of the US military’s role in the conflict, a Defense Department official said Thursday. The official spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the information. The US tanker aircraft would not enter Yemen’s airspace. No missions have been flown yet and it was not clear if the Saudis had requested any. The Pentagon is not providing specific targeting information for the Saudi-led coalition, according to the Defense Department official. [USA Today, AP, 4/2/2015]

Saudis airdrop arms to Aden defenders, Houthis pull back
Early on Friday warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition dropped crates of weapons and medical supplies by parachute over Tawahi, a district on the far end of the Aden peninsula, which is still held by Hadi loyalists. The Houthi fighters and their allies withdrew from the Crater neighborhood and one of Aden’s presidential residences, which they seized a day earlier. Their withdrawal followed overnight clashes and an air strike on the presidential palace. At least one Houthi tank was destroyed and another taken over by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s loyalists. [Reuters, 4/3/2015]

Yemen chaos disrupts al Qaeda wing’s external plots: US official
Although Yemen’s unrest has diminished US counter terrorism capabilities, the advance by Houthi fighters has also disrupted external plotting by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a US military official said on Thursday. “The initial evidence is actually that the Houthi advance has caused their (AQAP) external plotting to be sidelined while they figure out how they are going to deal with the internal vestiges of what appears to be an emerging civil war,” the official told a small group of reporters. [Reuters, 4/3/2015]

Bahrain activist arrested after highlighting prison abuse
Bahraini authorities arrested prominent activist Nabeel Rajab Thursday after his allegations on social media of torture in a Bahraini prison. The interior ministry claimed his arrest was for spreading false news and defaming a state institution. Rajab, who has already been sentenced to prison for his remarks on Twitter in a separate case, is a member of Bahrain’s Shia majority, which has held protests against the Gulf kingdom’s Sunni rulers since 2011. The activist has served several prison sentences since setting up the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights in 2002. [AFP, Human Rights Watch, Reuters, BBC, 4/3/2015]


Egypt has repaid $9.4 billion to foreign energy partners
An Egyptian petroleum ministry spokesman announced that Egypt repaid foreign energy firms $9.37 billion in accumulated debt in the past nine months. The remaining outstanding debt Egypt owes to foreign oil and gas companies is estimated at $3.3 billion. Egypt is currently trying to tackle the country’s worst energy crisis, which predicts rolling power cuts in the summer, caused by fuel shortfalls at power plants and increasing demand. To procure energy for running power plants in the summer, Egypt recently contracted with five foreign companies to import 90 shipments of fuel. [The Cairo Post, 4/3/2015]

Baghdad makes scheduled budget payment to Kurds
As proof that the Iraqi national government honors a deal over the Kurds’ oil policies, the region received a March $455 million budget payment from Baghdad, announced the Iraqi finance minister. In an agreement reached in December, the semi-autonomous Kurdish region was promised 17 percent from this year’s $105 billion national budget and in exchange, the Kurds would export 550,000 barrels per day from their fields and from the national fields in Kirkuk for which they are responsible. So far, neither side has been able to reach their immediate targets. The central government suffers from severe cash flow problems, burdened by low oil prices and the war against Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). [Reuters, 4/3/2015]

Qatar’s growth to increase to 7 percent this year
According to the International Monetary Fund, lower oil prices will lead to a substantial deterioration of the fiscal and external balances of Qatar, while in 2015 the country’s economic growth is expected to increase to about 7 percent as the Barzan natural gas field starts production and authorities implement the public investment program. The government budget could fall into a deficit from 2016 onwards and external surpluses will shrink substantially. Economic growth is expected to slow over the medium term as public investment growth tapers. The main risks to the macroeconomic outlook are the possibility of lower-than-expected oil and natural gas prices and the possible side effects of public investments in the form of short-term overheating and medium-term excess capacity. [The Peninsula, 4/3/2015]

Algeria targets fraud to compensate the fall in oil revenues
Algeria intends to toughen the fight against corruption, informal trade, and the illegal transfer of foreign exchange to counterbalance the depletion of its external resources caused by the fall in oil prices. Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal announced that it would be necessary to reduce the import bill, which estimated $65 billion in imports for 2015 and has already led the government to draw $7 billion in foreign exchange reserves in the fourth quarter 2014. The Complementary Finance Act “will include decisions and measures to ensure better control of foreign trade through the fight against corruption and fraud in the financing of imports and to end the anarchy that characterizes this activity.” [Ennahar Online, 4/3/2015]