The British bank HSBC released late last week a study estimating the economic cost of the Arab Spring for the past three years. According to HSBC, the uprisings in the Arab spring countries have generated a bill of 800 billion dollars in economic loss between 2010 and 2012. HSBC forecasts are equally discouraging for the coming months. At the end of 2014, the GDP of the seven Arab countries considered most affected by the uprisings are predicted to be 35 percent below forecasts before the clashes in 2011. [Tunis Times, 10/16/2013]


Troubled Constitution Party hit with fifty-four resignations in Egypt’s Alexandria
Fifty-four members of Egypt’s liberal al-Dostour Party office in Alexandria submitted their resignations in protest at the troubled party’s internal policies, the state-owned daily Al-Ahram reported Wednesday. Those resigning include deputy secretary-general and head of the Alexandria office Mostafa Saeed, as well as the treasurer and heads of several committees in the Alexandria office. Resigning media head Hazem Arafa told Al-Ahram that the members’ action came in protest at the party’s concentration on its political project while lacking a “realistic economic programme” and also lacking a “large popular base” that could support the party in upcoming elections. [Ahram Online, 10/16/2013]

Egypt constitution not drafted with specific people in mind, says Amr Moussa
The head of Egypt’s Constituent Assembly, Amr Moussa, has said the charter will not protect specific individuals, but will define the status of the country’s institutions. Controversy was sparked when the pro-Muslim Brotherhood Rasd news outlet published a purported conversation between army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Yasser Rizk, editor-in-chief of Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper. During the recording a voice, allegedly belonging to Sisi, said he wanted his position as defense minister safeguarded in the constitution. [Ahram Online, SIS, 10/16/2013]

Egypt doesn’t need IMF loan at current times, says finance minister
Finance Minister Ahmed Galal has said Egypt does not need a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported on Wednesday. His comments came after IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said last week that the institution was strongly committed to working with the new Egyptian authorities and proposed to send a mission to Cairo if requested. Galal said Egypt appreciated Lagarde’s comments and would cooperate with the IMF to implement a value-added tax to replace the current sales tax.
[Ahram Online, Ahram Gate (Arabic), 10/16/2013]

Egypt to compensate Jordan for the cut of gas supplies
Egypt will recompense Jordan for the cut of gas supplies and will meet all the demands of the local market, said chairman of state-owned Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company Taher Abdel Rahim on Monday. “Egypt is determined to resume the natural gas supplies to Jordan as soon as possible,” Rahim said. The pipeline supplying Jordan with natural gas has been bombed sixteen times since the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, including once during the one-year rule of former President Mohamed Morsi. Since July, gas supplies have entirely stopped.[Cairo Post, 10/17/2013]


Foreign lobbying in Libya undermines security, says member of European Parliament
The European Parliament’s special rapporteur for Libya, Ana Gomes, called on European powers to abandon their lobbying in Libya, saying it puts the North African country’s security at risk. According to a report in The Scotsman, Gomes was reacting to news that the security operations room of the European Union’s Libya mission was captured by gunmen during the brief abduction of Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan last week. She accused major powers of sacrificing a common security policy for their commercial interests, saying Britain, France, and Italy have officials posted in key Libyan ministries to advocate for rival business contracts. UK Ambassador to Libya Michael Aron denied this but admitted that the diplomatic mission has someone designated for lobbying for UK defense contractors. [Tripoli Post, 10/17/2013]

Washington sees no threat to Libya links from Abu Anas seizure
US authorities in Washington say they have no fears about the future of US-Libya relations and the two countries’ close ties since the 2011 revolution, neither confirming nor denying a connection between the seizure of an al-Qaeda figure by US special forces and the brief abduction of Prime Minister Ali zidan. Official US statements have not yet referred to the latter incident as an attempted coup. The State Department has denied that the US would send a military task force to Libya, and reports of possible revenge attacks against Americans remain uncorroborated. [Libya Herald, 10/16/2013]

Libya’s Grand Mufti wants to veil female teachers
The Grand Mufti of Libya, Sheikh Sadik al-Ghariani, has issued a new fatwa saying that all women teachers must veil their faces when instructing male students who have reached puberty. This followed the education ministry’s request for advice on the issue as some schools have begun ordering women teachers to cover up. The mufti stopped short of calling for total gender segregation but advised that that would be the best solution. The fatwa has prompted anger among liberal activists, who are calling it a step backward and voicing their growing frustration with the religious leader’s foray into politics. [VOA, Libya Herald, 10/15/2013]


Chemical inspectors have completed half of their work, confident on deadline
The world’s chemical weapons watchdog said Thursday that it had completed nearly half its inspections of Syria’s arsenal, despite working against a background of car bombings and mortar attacks. The director general of the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which won the Nobel Peace Prize last week, is confident that the group will be able to completely destroy Syria’s chemical arsenal, estimated at more than 1,000 metric tons, by mid-2014. Under the US-Russia brokered deal, the weapons must be rendered unusable by November 1. [AFP, NYT, 10/17/13]

Syrian deputy PM says Geneva peace conference planned November 23-24
Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil said on Thursday a long-delayed international conference aimed at bringing the Syrian government and opposition together to seek an end to the civil war is scheduled for November 23-24. Jamil named the dates when asked at a news conference in Moscow whether plans for the Geneva II conference, which Russia and the United States have been trying to organize since May, had been pushed back from mid-November. Asked to confirm the dates, he said: “Yes, this is what [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon is saying, not me.” [Reuters, 10/17/13]

Turkey shells jihadist sites in Syria for first time
Turkey has shelled positions held by jihadist fighters in neighbouring Syria for the first time, the army said Wednesday, in retaliation for a mortar round that fell on Turkish territory. “Four artillery rounds were fired on October 15 against a position near the town of Azaz held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” an al-Qaeda affiliated group. The shelling came in response to a mortar round that was fired from Syrian territory and fell without detonating near a police post inside Turkey. Turkey has for more than a year responded when shells from Syria have landed on its territory, but this marked the first time that it has specifically targeted Islamist extremists. [The Daily Star, 10/17/13]


UN praises new Tunisian law creating torture prevention authority
The United Nations high commissioner for human rights issued a statement praising Tunisia for passing a bill that establishes a body to monitor human rights violations in Tunisian detention centers. The law, passed by the National Constituent Assembly on October 9, creates a new body, the National Authority to Prevent Torture, that will have the authority to visit any detention center in the country, including prisons, military holding facilities, hospitals, and psychiatric wards. [Tunisia Live, 10/17/2013]

Terrorists attack two national guard barracks
Two Tunisian national guard barracks on the border with Algeria were attacked by alleged terrorist groups entrenched in Mount Ouergha on Wednesday. The two paramilitary barracks are part of an advanced border monitoring system whose activities had been bolstered recently after armed Islamic groups carried out actions along the border. There have been no reports of casualties among the guards. [ANSAmed, TAP 10/17/2013]

Tunisia draft development plan for 2014 targets 4 percent growth
Tunisia’s draft development plan for 2014 expects a growth rate of 4 percent, with 3.6 percent planned in 2013, while an earlier International Monetary Fund (IMF) report had put the growth rate at only 3.7 percent in 2014 and 3 percent in 2013. The political and security situations are weighing on Tunisia’s financial prospects halting budget, economic, and structural reforms, the IMF report said. [TAP, ANSAmed 10/16/2013]

Tunisia frees Libyan prisoners on Eid
Tunisia has released seventeen Libyan prisoners held in Tunisian jails on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha, according to Libyan news agency LANA. Consul General of the Libyan embassy in Tunisia Mohammed Ferjani said that the amnesty granted by Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki followed efforts by Algeria’s department of consular affairs and the the ministry of foreign affairs to secure the release of the prisoners. [Saudi Gazette, 10/17/2013]


Clashes continue between Salafists and Houthis in Dammaj
Sources in the vicinity of Dammaj in the Saada province report ongoing clashes between the Houthis and the Salafists and say, “The Houthis continued to shell the center of the village and the surrounding area throughout Tuesday night and Wednesday, despite the governor of Saada’s request for a truce.” The same sources said that one person was killed and three wounded on Tuesday night in the attacks. [Mareb Press (Arabic), 10/16/2013]

Content of a message from Hadi to Saleh revealed
A leading figure in the General People’s Congress (GPC) revealed the content of a message sent by President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Yasser Awadi of the GPC reported on his Twitter that the message to Saleh was friendly. According to Awadi, Hadi told Saleh that he will draw out anything in the National Dialogue Conference contrary to the Gulf Initiative, including political isolation. Hadi reportedly continued saying that he and Saleh are comrades in the same trenches, and that he will not abandon the unity of Yemen. [Mareb Press (Arabic), 10/17/2013]

Manuscripts and antique swords stolen from National Museum in Sana’a
On Monday, three manuscripts and seven antique swords were stolen from the National Museum in Sana’a. The museum is closed for the week in observance of the Eid, but the theft was discovered when it was opened for a day to receive high level foreign officials. The secretary general of the museum, Ibrahim al-Hadi, said that he was surprised during his visit with the senior foreign officials to find a mess on the museum floor and that inspectors he summoned reported the missing pieces. [Al Tagheer (Arabic), 10/15/2013]

Investment in nutrition is key to unlocking a better future, says WFP
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) observed World Food Day on Wednesday by highlighting the power of nutrition to transform individuals, societies, and economies in development efforts. “In Yemen, nutrition is a key part of what we do, given that the country has the second highest rate of stunting in the world, as well as very high acute malnutrition, due to poor food security and health problems,” said WFP Yemen Country Director, Bishow Parajuli. [Saba Net, 10/16/2013]


Saudi Arabia among countries nominated for UN Security Council seat
The United Nations General Assembly is due to elect five new members to the security council on Thursday, and Saudi Arabia is one of the contenders. Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Chad, Lithuania, and Chile are hoping to win the highly coveted seats in this year’s election. Saudi Arabia, Chad, and Lithuania have never served on the UN’s body, while Nigeria and Chile have both been on the council four times previously. [Al Arabiya, 10/17/2013]