Top News: Syria Opposition Says No Peace Talks Until Hezbollah, Iran Halt “Invasion”

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Syria’s main opposition group said Thursday it will not take part in proposed US-Russia peace talks while “the militias of Iran and Hezbollah continue their invasion of Syria," the opposition’s acting chief George Sabra told reporters in Istanbul.


Jama’a al-Islamiya: Diverting Blue Nile is a "declaration of war"
Jama’a al-Islamiya’s mufti Sheikh Abdel Akher Hammad has said that Ethiopia’s decision on Tuesday to divert the Blue Nile, a main tributary to the Nile River, was "a declaration of war." Meanwhile President Mohamed Morsi will discuss the Ethiopian dam crisis with key Egyptian ministers on Thursday. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya]

Judges declare sit-in protesting judiciary law
Judges have declared their intention to begin an open-ended sit-in at the High Court building to protest the Shura Council discussion of amendments to the judiciary law. [DNE, Shorouk (Arabic)]

Supply Ministry: Egypt on the brink of "famine"
A report by Egypt’s Ministry of Supply says that the country stands at the gates of "famine." Due to the lack of many commodities, notably wheat, sugar and cooking oil, and inadequate strategic stocks of such goods, the country is set to run out of food in five months. [ONA (Arabic)]


Zidan: Cabinet meeting forms committee on subsidies
At a press conference on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ali Zidan said that his cabinet had formed a committee to discuss subsidies and increasing wages. In his brief mention of the topic of subsidy reform, Zidan indirectly linked the idea of a substitution of subsidies with direct cash benefits. [Libya Herald]

PM confirms Agriculture minister’s resignation
The prime minister has confirmed rumours that that Agriculture Minister Ahmed Al-Urfi had submitted his resignation. At a press conference today Ali Zidan said that Urufi had announced his intention to resign two months ago, citing personal reasons. Urfi is the third minister to resign in recent weeks. [Libya Herald]

Libya PM moves state oil HQ to troubled Benghazi
Libya confirmed on Wednesday that the headquarters of the state energy firm would move to the volatile eastern city of Benghazi, in response to demands for more authority for the oil-rich region, which may prove a headache for international companies. The National Oil Corporation (NOC) has faced calls since the end of the 2011 war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi to move more of its operations to the eastern region, which accounts for around 80 percent of Libya’s oil wealth. [Reuters]

Three soldiers killed in Benghazi attack
Unknown assailants threw an explosive device at a military checkpoint in Benghazi early on Wednesday, killing three soldiers and injuring three others, security officials said. The attack was the latest in a wave of violence against security forces in the city, the cradle of the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi. [Reuters]


Syrian opposition admits liberals to widen anti-Assad coalition
Syria’s divided opposition, under heavy pressure to shake up its Islamist-dominated ranks, struck a deal on Thursday to admit a liberal bloc led by veteran figure Michel Kilo into the Syrian National Coalition. Meanwhile Syria’s Free Syrian Army demanded on Thursday they receive half the seats in the Coalition, warning that without strong representation of fighters on the ground the group would have no legitimacy. [Reuters, Al Arabiya]

Syria opposition says no peace talks until Hezbollah, Iran halt "invasion"
Syria’s main opposition group said Thursday it will not take part in proposed US-Russia peace talks while “the militias of Iran and Hezbollah continue their invasion of Syria," the opposition’s acting chief George Sabra told reporters in Istanbul. [Daily Star]

Iran "invited" to Syria peace conference, state media says
Iran has received "an oral invitation" to attend a planned Syria peace conference in Geneva next month, the official IRNA news agency quoted a deputy foreign minister as saying on Wednesday. However, no additional sources have confirmed this claim. [NOW]

How Libyan weapons and know-how reach anti-Assad fighters
Veterans from Libya’s recent civil war are currently meeting in Turkey with rebel leaders to share their expertise and to transfer badly needed weapons and ammunition to anti-regime forces. [TIME]


Moody’s cuts Tunisia rating to Ba2, cites political instability
Investors Service on Wednesday cut Tunisia’s sovereign credit rating to Ba2, citing political uncertainty, the risk of instability, weak finances at government-owned banks, and sizeable external pressures on its balance of payments. [Reuters]

Human Rights Watch: Amend counterterrorism law
Tunisian legislators should revise the 2003 counterterrorism law, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the National Constituent Assembly. The 2003 law uses an overly broad definition of terrorism and incitement to terrorism and undermines the right to an effective defense. [HRW]

Cabinet approves two draft laws and thirty-eight statutory decrees
A regular cabinet meeting held on Wednesday approved two draft laws and thirty-eight statutory decrees. According to Minister in the Prime Minister’s office Noureddine B’hiri, the decrees relate to the general amnesty; the financial, economic, social, cultural and legal fields; as well as the fields of infrastructure, State property, and land affairs. [allAfrica]

Moroccan salafist slams Ennahda
Prominent Moroccan salafist Sheikh Omar Haddouchi strongly condemned the head of Tunisia’s ruling Islamist party last week, accusing him of appeasing secularists and communists. Haddouchi’s message came a few days after a video of al-Qaeda’s Abdul-Elah Al-Jigli warned Tunisia’s interim government not to suppress Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia. [allAfrica]


Opinion: The myth of the “Yemen model”         
Responding to a recent article by Tom Friedman, Atiaf Zaid Alwazir writes that “while the National Dialogue Conference helped bring new political actors to the forefront…and while the threat of war has been delayed on the short term; nevertheless, it is too soon to make a grand statement about the success or failure of this process, and definitely too early to announce that..the overall transitional process is a model to emulate, as Friedman suggests.” [Huffington Post, 5/29/2013]

Yemen appeals for funds for Guantanamo prisoners rehab center
Yemen’s human rights minister appealed to the United States and Gulf Arab countries to help fund a $20 million rehabilitation center that Sanaa says will stop Yemenis formerly held at Guantanamo Bay prison from going back to militant activities. The Yemeni government has approved a plan to build a rehabilitation facility but needs help to fund it. [Chicago Tribune]

National Dialogue update
Participants from various working groups in Aden since Saturday say that they have not received a warm welcome. They were accosted by locals, they say, who surrounded them, shouting accusations. A survey by Percent Corporation polling 1,000 Yemenis indicated that around 60 percent of Yemenis are aware of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), with the highest level of interest in the NDC in Dhamar province and the lowest level of interest in al-Bayda. [Yemen Times, Al-Masdar (Arabic)]

John McCain: "Consequences of failure here will come home to America"
In an extensive interview with the Yemen Times, Senator John McCain says he has a newfound admiration for Yemen. McCain says he supports the closure of Guantanamo Bay and that the United States views Yemen with great importance from a strategic standpoint. [Yemen Times]


Bahrain explosion wounds seven policemen
Bahrain’s interior ministry says an explosion has wounded seven policemen in what is described as a "terrorist" attack in the capital city of the violence-wracked Gulf kingdom. Thursday’s statement says at least two policemen are in critical condition. [Daily Star]

Photo: James Gordon

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