Tunisia’s Islamist-led government agreed on Saturday to resign after talks with secular foes to form a caretaker administration and prepare for elections to safeguard the democratic transition in the country where the Arab Spring uprisings began. The talks, which could begin next week, aim to end weeks of deadlock between the governing coalition and secular opposition that has endangered prospects for stable democracy almost three years after Tunisians toppled autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. [Tunisia LiveTunis TimesAPReuters, 9/28/2013]


UN inspectors prepare to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons cache
A twenty-strong international team of engineers, chemists, and paramedics leave the Netherlands for Syria on Monday to destroy an estimated 1,000 tons of nerve agents and other poisonous gases. Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad vowed to cooperate with the mission in an interview over the weekend. “Of course we have to comply. This is our history to comply with every treaty we sign,” he said. The inspectors, due to arrive in Damascus on Tuesday, will not say how many locations are involved, as the Syrian declaration was confidential, but it is believed there are about 25 on the list. [The Guardian, 9/29/13]

Syrian FM says no talks with main opposition group
Syria’s foreign minister says the main Western-backed opposition group should not take part in a future peace conference because it had overwhelmingly supported a US strike against Damascus last month. Al-Muallim said late Sunday that the group “is not popular in Syria and lost a lot among Syrians when it called on the US to attack Syria militarily, meaning that it called for attacking the Syrian people.” President Bashar Assad has previously said the government won’t talk to the armed rebels and militants, but al-Muallim’s remarks seem to have expanded the government’s list of the unacceptable talking partners. [Daily Star, 9/30/13]

Syria refugee crisis threatens economic development through entire region
The head of the United Nations development agency is warning that Syria’s refugee crisis is threatening economic development throughout the region because host countries cannot cope with the influx. Helen Clark told a meeting Monday in Geneva that the situation not only poses a humanitarian crisis but also threatens economies of neighboring countries including Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey due to its impact on trade, agriculture, tourism, employment and demands on water use. She said that by the end of the year, nearly 25 percent of Lebanon’s population will be made up of refugees. The figure has already reached 10 percent in Jordan. [AP, 9/30]

Air strike kills sixteen in Syria high school
An air strike on a high school killed sixteen people, most of them students and teachers, in a rebel-held city in northern Syria on Sunday. “The Syrian air force bombed a technical high school in the city of Raqa, killing sixteen people, among them ten students aged under eighteen, and wounding many others, some critically,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, updating an earlier toll. Raqa, situated in the Euphrates River valley one hundred miles east of the largest northern city of Aleppo, is the only provincial capital entirely in rebel hands. [Daily Star, 9/30/13]


Presidential advisor to meet with former Brotherhood youth; Army denies negotiations with Morsi’s adviser
Presidential media advisor Ahmed al-Muslimany said on Sunday that he will meet with young former members of the Muslim Brotherhood this week. “The aim of this meeting is to hear those youth, as we have earlier heard the point of views and opinions of many political forces,” said al-Muslimany. Meanwhile, army spokesman Colonel Ahmed Ali denied allegations made by the Freedom and Justice Party’s online portal that a military representative had met former president Mohamed Morsi’s bureau manager Ahmed Abdel Atty, in a statement issued on Friday. Ali described publishing these “false allegations” as a part of the “campaign of spreading rumors and lies against the Armed Forces, to put the Armed Forces’ position in question.” [Ahram Online, DNE, 9/29/2013]

Egypt’s constitution begins to take shape as power brokers negotiate
Military representatives Generals Mohamed al-Assar and Mamdouh Shahin met with an undisclosed number of constituent assembly members for four hours on Saturday night at the Shura Council headquarters. The closed meeting aimed to convince the assembly members to keep the army-related articles in the ten-judge-committee’s draft without amendment. Meanwhile, Egypt’s Islamist al-Nour party on Friday rejected proposed changes to the constitution that would outlaw parties founded on religious grounds, and called the move a “sword drawn” against Islamists. On Sunday, Egypt’s fifty-member committee approved the allocation of 25 percent of its municipalities’ seats to women and another 25 percent to youth. DNE, SIS, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, 9/29/2013]

Fact-finding committees formed to investigate post-Morsi violence
Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights (ENCHR) formed four fact-finding committees on Saturday to look into human rights violations that have occurred since the violent dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo last month. On September 16, Egypt’s interim cabinet commissioned the ENCHR to investigate violent events that have occurred since Morsi’s ouster on July 3, including several deadly clashes following the sit-in dispersals on August 14. [Ahram Online, 9/30/2013]

Egypt received $7 billion of promised $12 billion Gulf aid
Egypt has received $7 billion out of the $12 billion in aid pledged by Gulf countries, its central bank governor said on Sunday, adding that he expected further support from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. Gulf Arab oil producers showered Egypt with aid pledges after the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi in July. Egypt has struggled to pay for imports since the 2011 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak drove away tourists and foreign investors, two of its main sources of foreign currency. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 9/30/2013]


IMF raises the “red flag” on Libyan economy, says GNC member
A General National Congress (GNC) member who sits on the legislature’s security committee, Abdulmonem Alyaser, harshly criticized Prime Minister Ali Zidan’s government in a TV interview, saying the IMF had raised a “red flag” regarding Zidan’s policies. Alyaser expressed concern about the announcement to raise wages by 20 percent and questioned whether Libya can pay for all of its policies, especially in light of the oil strikes that have reduced revenues. Another GNC member confirmed that GNC President Nuri Abu Sahmain did not meet with the IMF team, which expressed concern that the Zidan government is using the development budget for wages, among other issues. [Libya Herald, 9/30/13]

Three Libyan army officers assassinated in Benghazi
In the latest spate of violence targeting security personnel, unknown assailants killed three army officers in the eastern city of Benghazi on Sunday. Two of the officers, one a lieutenant colonel, were killed by car bombs. The third, a colonel, was shot dead outside his home. Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Interior Minister Sidiq Abdelkarim announced last week that the government would soon install a surveillance system in Benghazi to help security services restore security there. [AP/Libya Herald, 9/29/13]

NATO to help Libya in security institution building
NATO remains open to helping the Libyan government rebuild its security sector, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Prime Minister Ali Zidan on the margins of the UN General Assembly last week. NATO is currently reviewing a request by Libya to assist in building up its security institutions. Libya and the United Kingdom recently agreed to a Security, Justice, and Defense Program, worth an estimated $101 million paid for by the British government, to ensure that Libya has the proper equipment, technology, and training to restore state security. One of the first projects will be the creation of a school to train Libyans in demining explosive devices. [Tripoli Post, 9/28/13]

Now Wafa gas field shut down by strikers; Italian trans-Med gas supply jeopardized
Coinciding with the oil and gas ministry’s announcement that oil output had been restored to forty-five percent capacity, reaching 700,000 barrels per day, industrial action halted production at the Wafa gas field, which supplies Italy through the Greenstream trans-Mediterranean pipeline. Sources say that workers at the field, situated near the Algerian border, went on strike demanding better benefits and conditions and the creation of more jobs. [Libya Herald, 9/29/13]


Marzouki pledges to pardon man jailed for insulting Islam
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki said in New York this week that he is “just waiting some months” before releasing Jabeur Mejri, who was sentenced in March 2012 to seven and a half years in prison for criticizing Islam. Marzouki said he was waiting for a “political good moment” to release Mejri, an English teacher who was convicted of “disturbing public order” and “attacking public morality” after uploading two cartoon images of the Prophet Mohamed. [Tunisia Live, 9/27/2013]

Egypt and UAE ambassadors withdrawn following Marzouki remarks
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates recalled their countries’ ambassadors from Tunisia for consultations following President Moncef Marzouki’s address to the United Nations General Assembly last week in which he called on Egypt to release deposed President Mohamed Morsi.  [Tunisia Live, 9/30/2013]


Yemen oil pipeline pumping again after bomb damage repaired
Yemen’s main oil export pipeline has started working again after damage caused by a bomb attack earlier this month was repaired, security and oil sources said on Saturday. Tribesmen attacked the pipeline in central Maarib province on September 14, their fourth assault on it in a month, halting flows to the Ras Isa terminal on the Red Sea. [Reuters, 9/28/2013]

Al-Qaeda gunmen take over military base in Yemen
Security officials say suspected al-Qaeda gunmen have overrun a key military base in Yemen’s largest province. A colonel who works at the base in Hadramawt province but who was not there when it came under attack on Monday says militants have taken control of the compound after a short gunbattle with soldiers. He says the attackers are holding captive an unknown number of high-ranking officers and soldiers inside the base. [AP, 9/30/2013]

‘8+8’ committee suspends its work until UN envoy returns to Yemen
The Southern Issue Working Group, or 8+8 committee, of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) will not hold its meetings until the return of Jamal Benomar, the UN envoy and adviser to the secretary general on Yemen. A committee member revealed on Sunday that  Benomar’s absence will impede progress in committee sessions. Benomar left Yemen late last week to deliver a report at the UN General Assembly in New York on the situation in Yemen. He reported at the UN on Friday that the 8+8 committee had reached an impasse due to the complexities of forming a new state to satisfy all factions.  [Al Masdar (Arabic), 9/29/2013]

UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights arrives in Sanaa
Flavia Pansieri, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, arrived in Sanaa on Sunday on a visit to Yemen lasting several days. The UN official explained that the visit aims to assess the human rights situation in the country. Pansieri will meet with a number of government officials, civil society organizations, and activists in the field of human rights to make her assessment. [Saba Net, 9/29/2013]


Activist: Bahrain sentences fifty for militant links
A Bahrain court sentenced fifty people Sunday to prison terms of between five and fifteen years after a mass trial for alleged links to a militant group blamed for bombings and other anti-government attacks in the Gulf nation, a rights activist said. The convictions mark the broadest blow yet to suspected backers of the February 14 faction, named after the date in 2011 that an uprising began by Bahrain’s Shiite majority seeking greater political rights from Sunni rulers. [AP, 9/29/2013]

Iraqi minister doubts new civil war on horizon
Iraq’s foreign minister said Saturday he doubts the escalating violence in the country will lead to “an all-out sectarian or civil war.” Zebari said the recent increase in terrorist or sectarian violence is partly a consequence of the spillover from the conflict in neighboring Syria. He blamed extreme Shiite militias and al-Qaeda’s local branch in Iraq, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, which is believed to be trying to build on the Sunni minority’s discontent toward what they consider to be second-class treatment by Iraq’s Shiite-led government. Meanwhile, several explosions, some of them from suicide bombers, struck the heart of Iraq’s northern Kurdish region on Sunday, setting off chaos and gunfights in the typically quiet streets of the capital, Erbil. [Al Arabiya, 9/29/2013]

Algeria leader attends his first cabinet meeting of 2013
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, unseen for months because of health problems, headed over a cabinet meeting on Sunday for the first time this year. The 76-year-old leader who has been in power for fourteen years presided over a cabinet he reshuffled earlier this month, which has already approved seven draft laws, including the 2014 budget, the Algerian state news agency reported. [Ahram Online, Al Arabiya, 9/30/2013]