The Syrian opposition said Sunday it was prepared to attend a proposed Geneva peace conference on the condition that it was aimed at establishing a transitional government with full powers. In a letter seen by Reuters from the head of the Syrian Coalition, Ahmad Jarba, to the UN Security Council, Jarba for the first time committed his group to attending the yet-unscheduled Geneva II conference. The coalition had resisted pressure to go to Geneva, especially after the chemical weapons attack outside of Damascus in late August. Some outlets, however, report that the coalition has become increasingly detached from the suffering in Syria. [Reuters/Daily StarNYT/NOW, 9/23/2013]


Syria’s Assad criticizes US threat of strikes; Russia opposes resolution threatening force
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad criticized the United States for threatening to attack Syria over its chemical weapons program, saying it was finding “excuses for war,” China’s state television said on Monday. US President Barack Obama has said he is prepared to attack Syria, even without a UN mandate, if Assad reneges on a US-Russian deal to put Syria’s chemical arms stockpiles under international control. Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Moallem will head the country’s delegation to the annual UN General Assembly and will address the United Nations on September 30. Russia on Sunday also criticized what it said were Western attempts to use a Syrian chemical arms disarmament deal to seek a UN resolution threatening force against President Bashar al-Assad’s government. [Reuters, Daily Star, AP, 9/23/2013]

Damascus says $250 million needed for reconstruction
The Syrian government has earmarked fifty billion Syrian pounds ($250 million) for reconstruction next year in the war-torn country, a pro-regime daily on Monday quoted the prime minister as saying. “The government has increased its budget spending for emergency aid and reconstruction for 2014 to 50 billion Syrian pounds,” Wael al-Halqi said in remarks published by Al-Watan newspaper. In 2013, the government budget for aid and reconstruction was 30 billion pounds, he said. [AFP/Daily Star, Naharnet, 9/23/2013]

Syria opposition agrees to Geneva talks
The Syrian opposition said Sunday it was prepared to attend a proposed Geneva peace conference on the condition that it was aimed at establishing a transitional government with full powers. In a letter seen by Reuters from the head of the Syrian Coalition, Ahmad Jarba, to the UN Security Council, Jarba for the first time committed his group to attending the yet-unscheduled Geneva II conference. The coalition had resisted pressure to go to Geneva, especially after the chemical weapons attack outside of Damascus in late August. Some outlets, however, report that the coalition has become increasingly detached from the suffering in Syria. [Reuters/Daily Star, NYT/NOW, 9/23/2013]

The heroes inside Syria
Aleppo truly is a horrible place to be. Once a vibrant, cosmopolitan city, it has become an apocalyptic landscape scarred by destruction. Snipers shoot people waiting in bread lines, and airstrikes crush families in their sleep. There are still good people in Aleppo—innocent, noncombatant civilians. Some are too poor or sick to flee; some refuse on principle to leave their homes. [Washington Post, 9/20/2013]


Army will not nominate candidate for Egypt’s presidency, says spokesman
Many popular campaigns appeared, recently, to call General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to run for the presidency. However, the army refused such calls asserting that al-Sisi will not run for the presidency.  Military spokesman Ahmed Ali said these calls are a ‘popular sentiment’. Ali reiterated that the Armed Forces does not intend to field or endorse a candidate for the presidential elections. Meanwhile rare photos of Egyptian defense minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi wearing non-military outfits were published in a couple of private newspapers on Tuesday. The photos evoked memories of the hoopla that surrounded his predecessor, former military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, when he visited the iconic Tahrir Square wearing a suit in 2011. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, SIS, 9/22/2013]

Egypt constitution ready by end November, says panel
A new Egyptian constitution replacing the one suspended on president Mohamed Morsi’s ouster will be put to a referendum by November’s end, a spokesman for the panel drafting the charter said Sunday. The new charter would lead to parliamentary and then presidential elections by mid-2014 according to a timetable set by interim president Adly Mansour after Morsi’s overthrow in July. “According to the presidential decree… the new document… will be subject to referendum… expected within two weeks after finishing our task,” spokesperson for the fifty-member committee Mohamed Salmawi said at a press conference. [AFP/Ahram Online, 9/22/2013]

Egypt court bans Muslim Brotherhood group
A court in Cairo has banned “all activities” by the Muslim Brotherhood. The ruling on Monday applies to the group, its NGO and “any organization derived from it,” presiding judge, Mohamed al-Sayed said. The judge at the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters also ordered the “confiscation of all the group’s money, assets, and buildings” and said that an independent committee should be formed by the cabinet to manage the money until final court orders are issued. A Brotherhood source told Ahram Online the verdict would be appealed within ten days. The lawsuit was filed by the leftist Tagammu Party. [Ahram Online, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, AP, 9/23/2013]

Egyptian finance minister says Returning deposit to Qatar won’t affect cash reserves  
Ahmed Galal, the Egyptian Finance Minister, said returning EGP 2 billion by the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) to Qatar will not affect on the cash reserves, pointing out that the reserves are sufficient and still ranging between $17 to 18 billion. Galal has added that the conditions related to Qatar’s deposit were not suitable for the Egyptian economy. Fakhry has noted that there are many reasons to be optimistic for the Egyptian economy, including the political transformation that we are witnessing now. [Amwal al-Ghad, 9/23/2013]


Nominations for constitutional commission to open
The High National Election Commission (HNEC) announced that nominations will open shortly for individuals wishing to stand for election to the constitutional commission. The commission, which will be comprised of twenty members each from Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fezzan will draw up Libya’s new constitution. HNEC says it cannot set a timetable for when exactly elections will be held, as it is waiting on the civil registry authorities to provide citizens’ necessary data for the electoral process. [Libya Herald, 9/22/13]

Tripoli military commander murdered
Commander of a Tripoli unit of the Supreme Security Committee (SSC), Adnan al-Shibani, was murdered over the weekend. It remains unclear whether the assassination was linked to a personal dispute or an act of political terrorism. There is speculation that organized crime may have been involved. A prominent Sufi cleric, Sheikh Mustafa Rajab al-Mahjoubi, was killed by unknown assailants in Derna. A supposedly Islamist group has claimed responsibility; there has been an ongoing struggle between Sufis and Salafists the last couple of years with Salafi supporters destroying dozens of Sufi shrines and mausoleums. [Libya Herald, 9/22/13]

EU to work with Libya to stem illegal migrant tide
EU member states have agreed to join forces with Libya as part of the Seahorse Mediterraneo program to stem illegal immigration to Europe. The project, slated for the next three years, will involve the training of Libyan coast and border guards and the establishment of sophisticated satellite-based monitoring and communication. In a phone call, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Libyan Defense Minister Abdullah al-Thini agreed to continue efforts to strengthen the military cooperation between the two countries. [Libya Herald, 9/22/13]

Libyan leader warns of Benghazi probe obstacles
Prime Minister Ali Zidan said Libya continues to cooperate with the United States to investigate the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi last year but that conditions on the ground are not favorable for a successful probe. Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, will travel to Libya this week as part of his investigation. [AP, 9/22/13]


Mediators deem Ennahda response to transitional government roadmap insufficient
Mediators in Tunisia’s protracted political crisis urged the ruling Islamist party on Saturday to fully accept their transitional roadmap, saying its response so far had been “ambiguous”. The Ennahda party had issued a statement on Friday saying it accepted the blueprint for the formation of a government and a national dialogue to finalize a new constitution. But the mediators, who include the powerful UGTT trade union confederation as well as the employers’ organization Utica, said the party’s response contained “ambiguities” and failed to clearly endorse all elements of the plan. The Ennahda Party said it was “astonished” at Saturday’s statement. [Tunisia Live, AP, Ahram Online, 9/23/2013]

Tunisia’s powerful union calls for protests to topple the government
Tunisia’s trade union body announced mass protests on Sunday to force out the government, accusing the Islamist-led coalition of delaying crisis talks on the country’s political future. The powerful UGTT union had been acting as mediator between the government and the secularist opposition, but said talks stalled on Saturday due to the ruling Ennahda party’s refusal to announce its immediate resignation. [Reuters, 9/23/2013]

Assassination cases to be referred to an international court
The investigation into the assassinations of Mohamed Brahmi and Choukri Belaid will be referred to a Paris court for consideration, according to Tayeb Oqaili, a member of the Tunisian national initiative working on these issues. Oqaili explained that the decision comes as a result of the recent statement by Interior Minister Lotfi ben Jeddou to the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) that the ministry failed to protect Brahmi. [Assabah (Arabic), 9/23/2013]

Tunisia to fight ‘sex jihad’ trips to Syria
Tunisia’s women’s ministry said Saturday it would come up with a plan to counter the growing number of women travelling to Syria to wage so-called “sex jihad” by having sexual relations with dozens of militants. “The ministry intends to boost its cooperation with both government and non-government bodies on this issue to come up with appropriate ways to thwart the plans of those who encourage such practices,” a ministry statement said. [Ahram Online, 9/23/2013]


Yemen tribes fight al-Qaeda, seven killed; officer killed Monday
Seven people were killed in clashes between Yemeni tribal gunmen and suspected al-Qaeda fighters on Sunday in Marib province, east of the capital Sanaa, tribal sources said. Al-Qaeda guerrillas killed one tribesman, the sources in the province said, and a later clash between the two sides killed another two tribesmen and four militants. Additionally, a Yemeni security official says suspected al-Qaeda militants have assassinated a military officer in a drive-by shooting in Sanaa on Monday. [Reuters, AP, 9/23/2013]

Former Yemen president slams south over federalist push
Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has criticized the southerners’ push for federalism and greater autonomy after his ruling party walked out of key reconciliation talks earlier this week. Saleh, who still wields considerable influence in Yemen, says the southerners’ demands for a federal union between the country’s north and south amounts to “treason” and is aimed at tearing Yemen apart. [Ahram Online, Yemen Post, 9/23/2013]

Yemen boosts gas port security after foiled bomb plot
Yemeni authorities sent more soldiers to the coastal town of Balhaf Saturday, a day after an alleged al-Qaeda plot to attack a key gas terminal was foiled, a security official said. The thwarted attack came after three other simultaneous assaults killed scores of security personnel in the lawless southern al-Qaeda stronghold of Shabwa province, where Balhaf is located. [Naharnet, 9/23/2013]

Hadi issues a presidential commission to end tensions between Salafists and Houthis
On Sunday, President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi ordered the formation of a presidential commission to end the tension in the Dhamar province in light of the success of negotiations between Salafists and Houthis in the north. Hadi said that Yemen will only emerge from its crisis through cooperation and achieving stability and security. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 9/23/2013]


Bahrain activists protest Formula One race
Bahraini police have fired tear gas and arrested demonstrators in two Shia villages during protests against the Formula One race to be held in the Gulf kingdom, activists said. Dozens of young protesters gathered on Sunday in the village of Abu Saiba according to postings by the Coalition of the Youth of the February 14th Revolution on Facebook. “We [object to] holding a sports race that belittles the sacrifices of our children and ignores our suffering and wounds,” said a statement read by a youth dressed in a white death shroud and a black hood, according to a video posted on the internet.  [Al Jazeera, 9/23/2013]

Moroccans protest against cost of living, government
Up to five thousand people protested in the Moroccan capital Sunday against the Islamist government and the high cost of living after price rises of staple goods, an AFP journalist said. The demonstration came alongside reports of a threatened 72-hour general strike in the transport sector on Monday. [Ahram Online, 9/23/2013]

Lebanese army to deploy in Hezbollah Beirut bastion
Lebanese troops are to take over security at checkpoints set up by the Hezbollah movement in their southern Beirut stronghold after two bombings, the interior minister told AFP on Sunday. “A joint force of 800 men composed of soldiers from the army and security services will begin their deployment on Monday afternoon in the southern suburbs,” Marwan Charbel said. [Ahram Online, Asharq al-Awsat, 9/23/2013]

Jordan’s court convicts five Jordanians of trying to sneak into Syria
Jordan’s military court has convicted five Jordanians of trying to sneak into neighboring Syria to join rebels seeking to unseat President Bashar al-Assad. The court sentenced the men in a brief hearing Monday to five years in jail with hard labor on charges of attempting to illegally cross the border to join a banned group. Presiding judge Ahmed Qatarneh said the five had confessed to planning to join the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, or Nusra Front. [AP, 9/23/2013]