Syria’s foreign reserves crashed by more than a third in 2011, figures published by the central bank showed, giving a rare glimpse into the war-stricken country’s finances. An undated report on Syria’s central bank website showed foreign reserves fell to about 158 billion Syrian pounds at the end of 2011 from around 242 billion a year earlier, the most up-to-date figures published since the crisis started. While the numbers are too old to indicate Syria’s current reserve levels, they suggest reserves were dropping at a rapid pace even during the conflict’s early days when fighting was relatively limited. Economists estimated foreign reserves at about $16-18 billion before the crisis, when Syria was earning some $2.5 billion a year from oil exports. Traders said the pound, which traded at 47 to the dollar before protests against President Bashar al-Assad erupted in March 2011, was trading at 167 to the dollar on Tuesday, its strongest level since June, partly due to the return of some refugees with dollars to change. [Business Recorder, 10/2/13]


Countries agree to special quotas for Syrian refugees
At least fifteen countries have agreed to set up special quotas for fugitives fleeing Syria’s civil war, marking a shift in international thinking about how to deal with the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis. The countries, including the United States and many in Europe, agreed to help resettle civilians fleeing the thirty month old conflict, said António Guterres, the UN’s high commissioner for refugees, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting attended by senior officials from the four countries that have absorbed most of Syria’s refugees—Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq—and other aid-giving countries. Mr. Guterres said that the refugee agency had received offers to resettle 10,000 people, but that some of the countries, including the United States, needed more time to consult with government departments before making a firm commitment on the number of Syrians they would accept. [NYT, 10/2/13]

United Nations asks Kuwait to host second donors meet for Syria
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has called on the emir of Kuwait to host a second donors conference to raise aid for Syrian refugees. Kuwait hosted the first donors conference in January, when participating nations pledged $1.5 billion for Syrian refugees. The United Nations launched a record $5.2 billion aid appeal in June to fund operations in Syria and neighbouring countries, warning the number of Syrians needing help could rise to over ten million by the end of 2013. The aid is for food (accounting for one-fifth of the sum), clean water, medical care, schooling, and building refugee camps. The UN appeal aims to raise $3.8 billion for refugees and $1.4 billion for operations in Syria. [AFP, 10/2/13]

Latest casualty figures place war’s toll upwards of 115,000
At least 115,206 people have been killed in Syria’s conflict, according to documentation by the British-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Among the dead were 47,206 fighters loyal to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and 23,707 rebels seeking his ouster. On the government side, 28,804 were regular troops, another 18,228 were pro-regime militiamen and “informants”, and 174 were members of the pro-Damascus Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah. On the rebel side, 17,071 were civilians who picked up weapons to join the insurgency, 2,176 were army defectors, and 4,460 were either foreign or unidentified fighters killed in battle. Another 41,533 civilians lost their lives in the war, among them 6,087 children and 4,079 women. [10/2/13, Al Arabiya]


Sisi urges transition to elections; NSF undecided on presidential candidate
Egypt’s army chief called on Tuesday for a quick transition to elections in order to restore stability to the country, while supporters of the Islamist president he ousted, Mohamed Mursi, staged daring protests urging an end to “military government.” A leftist faction in the National Salvation Front (NSF) has proposed supporting a presidential bid by Hamdeen Sabbahi, but the front as a whole has not yet decided on a candidate. At a meeting on Tuesday, NSF members prioritized discussing constitutional amendments and parliamentary elections, which are scheduled to take place before presidential polls. Initially, members agreed the front would file two parliamentary election lists, one for the national leftist camp and one for liberals, but is now studying how a unified list may improve their chances in the polls. [Reuters, Ahram Online, 10/1/2013]

Egypt’s ex-information minister to be arrested
A Cairo prosecution office on Wednesday ordered the arrest of former information minister Salah Abdel-Maqsoud. He is accused of involvement in the theft of two TV broadcast vehicles during the pro-Morsi Rabaa Al-Adawiya sit-in in Cairo’s Nasr City that took place between June 28 and August 14. Abdel-Maqsoud is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood from which former president Mohamed Morsi hails. He was appointed information minister in prime minister Hisham Qandil’s cabinet in August 2012. [Ahram Online, EGYNews (Arabic), 10/2/2013]

Egypt’s economy to miss government growth forecasts
Egypt’s economy will only grow 2.6 percent in the fiscal year ending June 2014, well below the 3.5 percent the government expects to achieve, according to a Reuters poll that saw economists cutting forecasts again. It was the second lowering of expectations in five months and portends growth much slower than needed to generate jobs for Egypt’s disaffected youth. [Reuters, 10/1/2013]

Fahmy and EU’s Ashton discuss bilateral relations
Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy on Wednesday discussed a range of issues facing Egypt with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, her third visit to the country since the army-sponsored overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Morsy in July. According to a statement distributed by the Foreign Ministry after the meeting, Fahmy and Ashton discussed bilateral relations between Egypt and the EU, particularly the EU’s assistance to Egypt, trade, ways to attract investments, and recommendations proposed by the joint Egypt-EU Task Force which took place in November 2012. [Egypt Independent, 10/2/2013]


United Nation finds widespread torture in Libya jails
Torture and brutality are widespread in Libyan prisons that are run by various militias, according to a UN report. An estimated 8,000 prisoners are being held without trial in government jails on suspicion of having fought for Muammar Qaddafi, and countless others are detained by militias in primitive conditions. The report praised the Libyan government’s passage of a law making torture a criminal offense but expressed concern that ,unless action is taken to address the abuse, “torture will become institutionalized within the new Libya.” [Al Jazeera/AP, 10/1/2013]

Libyan oil back in days politics permitting, says minister
Oil exports could return to full capacity within days once strikes in the eastern region end, said Libyan Oil Minister Abdelbari Arusi, adding however that demands for more local power from some protesters are tied to the political transition and may take time to resolve. To keep international oil companies on board through the turmoil, Arusi said the country is working to improve terms for existing investors and to ease terms in new license rounds. [Reuters, 10/2/2013]

Jordanian hoteliers deny government has settled all outstanding hotel bills
The Libyan government has outstanding debt owed to Jordanian hotels, according to Yasar Majali, director of the Jordan Hotels Association. In the aftermath of the 2011 Libyan revolution, around 80,000 Libyan wounded were transferred to Jordan to receive medical treatment, paid for by Libya. The support, extended to the families of the injured too, resulted in multi-million dollar bills. Majali explained that the unsettled accounts are further straining Jordan’s hotel sector, which is suffering due to the crises in Syria and Egypt. Suppliers are apparently suing some Jordanian hotel managements for unpaid bills – a result of the cash-flow problem. [Libya Herald, 10/1/2013]

Canada adjusts law to supply Libya “nonlethal” weapons
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird announced that Canada is amending its laws so that it can supply “nonlethal military equipment” to Libya. Under the amended regulations, suppliers of non lethal military equipment will no longer have to obtain prior approval from or provide notice to the UN Security Council for certain exports to Libya. [Libya Herald, 10/1/2013]


Trial of Saber Mraihi postponed
More than one year after his initial arrest, the controversial case of a man awaiting trial for his activities during the 2011 revolution has been further delayed. Saber Mraihi is accused of assaulting a police officer and setting fire to his car shortly after the 2011 revolution, but supporters believe he is being unfairly targeted for his participation in the uprising that overthrew the government of former President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. The trial was postponed Tuesday because the plaintiff and his lawyers did not appear at a scheduled court date. [Tunisia Live, 10/1/2013]

‘Threats’ to lead mediator in Tunisia political crisis
Tunisia’s main trade union said Wednesday that the government had notified it of “serious threats” to its leaders aimed at undermining its efforts to broker an end to a lingering political crisis. The powerful trade union has been leading mediation efforts to end two months of political deadlock sparked by the assassination in July of opposition parliamentarian Mohamed Brahmi, an attack blamed on radical Islamists. [The Daily Star, 10/2/2013]

In debate on economic situation, deputies downplay risks
National Constituent Assembly (NCA) members said on Tuesday that the economic situation is not as “disastrous” as reported by experts and some organizations and opposition parties. Speaking at a debate with the government, Ameur Larayedh, deputy from Ennahda said the “alarmist” statements that have increased over the last few days are targeting Tunisian citizens and foreign and local investors. [TAP, 10/1/2013]

Tayeb Oqaili says Ansar al-Sharia linked to Ennahda officials
In a press conference on Wednesday, Tayeb Oqaili, a representative of the national initiative to uncover the the truth about the assassinations of opposition parliamentarians Mohamed Brahmi and Choukri Belaid, revealed official documents and recordings that confirm a connection between Abdel Hakim Belhadj, a leader of the outlawed group Ansar al-Sharia, and leaders of Tunisia’s Ennahda party. The Tunisian government had previously declared Ansar al-Sharia a terrorist group, accusing its members of killing Brahmi and Belaid. [Mosaique FM (Arabic), 10/2/2013]


Yemen jails five al-Qaeda militants for deadly army suicide blast
A Yemeni court on Wednesday jailed five al-Qaeda militants for up to ten years for plotting a suicide bombing that killed eight-six soldiers and wounded 171 others last year. The court also sentenced two defendants to ten years in prison and a third to seven years. Two more were imprisoned for three and two years respectively. The judge also ordered the release of three other defendants based on the time already served, and acquitted three more, an AFP correspondent reported. The eleven suspects were on trial for their alleged role in planning the suicide attack on a rehearsal for a military parade on May 21, 2012. [AFP/Al Arabiya, 10/2/2013]

Sana’a University classes suspended
The president of Sana’a University announced the suspension of classes on Monday until further notice in response to the escalating intensity of student demonstrations that have continued for a week. The student protesters demand an end to corruption within the university leadership and lower tuition fees. [Yemen Observer, Al Masdar (Arabic), 10/2/2013]

United States lifts ban on air cargo from Yemen
The United States has lifted its ban on air freight from Yemen, Transport Minister Waed Bathaib said Tuesday. The minister said that the move was prompted by the findings of a US technical team that visited Yemen recently to observe the security and safety measures undertaken at the Sanaa International Airport to ensure conformity with international standards. [Saba Net, 10/1/2013]

State-Building Working Group discusses executive power under new constitution
The State-Building Working Group discussed possible frameworks for executive power in the new government, detailing the structure of the executive branch and its powers and responsibilities. The committee drafted outlines of the powers of the president under both a parliamentary system and a presidential system. The draft suggested that the government should be formed by the party which has the majority in the House and recommends that the government be the supreme executive power, controlling all civil and military institutions. [Saba Net, 10/1/2013]


Bahrain jails four Shiites fifteen years over a bomb
A Bahraini court jailed on Wednesday four Shiites fifteen years each after convicting them of detonating a bomb that wounded an Asian worker in Manama, a judicial source said. The ruling is the third tough sentence since Sunday and brings the number of Shiites jailed in four days over violence ot ninety-one, amid criticism from rights watchdog Amnesty International. The four were accused of “forming a terrorist group, attempted murder, and (carrying out) bombings,” according to the charge sheet. [AFP/Ahram Online, 10/2/2013]

Six police wounded during violence in Algerian desert
Six policemen were injured in clashes between rival Arab and Berber communities in the Algerian oasis town of Ghardaia, a security source and a human rights activist said on Tuesday. A source with the national security service (DGSN) said the six policemen were hit by stones thrown during a protest against water shortages in Ghardaia. But according to Kameleddine Fekhar, a local human rights activist, some fifty Arabs armed with stones and knives attacked Berber residents “with the full knowledge of the police.” [AFP/Ahram Online, 10/2/2013]

Iraqi Kurdistan opposition party beats PUK in elections
An opposition group has come second in the parliamentary elections in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region, beating one of the two ruling parties. The Change Movement, led by Nawshirwan Mustafa, won twenty-four seats, pushing Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) into third. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of regional President Massoud Barzani remains the largest bloc with 38 seats. [BBC, 10/2/2013]