Tunisia’s National Salvation Front opposition parties have decided to suspend their participation in the national dialogue until the current government, led by interim Prime Minister Ali Larayedh, clarifies its commitment to step down, the leader of one party said on Wednesday. The opposition called Larayedh’s statement regarding his government’s resignation “ambiguous,” and said it was abnormal to delay the start of talks to end political deadlock based on security issues in other parts of the country. Supporters also began a sit-in at the Kasbah Square in downtown Tunis on Wednesday evening, which one party leader said would last until the current government officially resigns. [TAP, 10/24/2013]


New political movement to unite advocates of Egypt’s two revolts
A new political current was launched Wednesday, aiming to bring together January 25 and June 30 advocates. The country has become increasingly polarised following the ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi by the military after four days of mass protests calling for his removal. Oppositional groups, previously unified in their goal to oust Morsi from power, have experienced divisions since his removal. Factions have taken differing positions regarding the roadmap set forth by Egypt’s interim authorities with support from the armed forces, and whether January 25 and June 30 should be considered equally as popular revolts. In a press conference to launch the new movement, one of its leaders, Shady al-Ghazali Harb, a founding member of the January 25 Revolutionary Youth Coalition, said the interim authorities should listen to the peoples’ demands and stop the strategy of “shaken hands” (back room deals). [Ahram Online, 10/23/2013]

‘Harming national unity’ could become a terrorist crime
The new draft law on terrorism currently under works expands the definition of terrorism to include attempting to storm presidential headquarters and foreign embassies, murder in public and harming national unity, according to sources familiar with the legislative committee of the cabinet discussing the law. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the bill’s items have reached fifty-seven, due to amendments relating to the definitions of terrorism in addition to items on funding and incitement. Though harming national unity has been classified as a terrorist crime in the law, it remains unclear who has the authority to define “harm,” whether it is reserved for extreme cases such as promoting violence against minorities, or merely expressing a political view against the government. [Egypt Independent, 10/24/2013]

Disputes cast shadow on final stage of amending Egypt’s constitution
The writing of articles regulating the performance of the armed forces and judicial authorities have so far proved difficult for the fifty-member constituent assembly tasked with amending Egypt’s 2012 constitution as part of the country’s new political roadmap. Mohamed Salmawy, media spokesperson for the fifty-member constituent assembly, told a press conference on Tuesday that “189 articles have so far been drafted by the committee.” He indicated that it was decided that subcommittees drafting chapters related the army and judicial authorities hold a series of closed-door meetings in the coming three days (Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday) to reach a settlement on them. [Ahram Online, AMAY (Arabic), Ahram Gateway (Arabic), 10/24/2013]

Government’s mixed economic message comes under fire from analysts
The interim government has raised concerns over its ability to bring about economic reforms, through its adoption of costly populist projects while simultaneously attempting to bridge a widening budget deficit, experts say. A series of populist policy making decisions, seen most recently in an increase in pensions for government workers, has come at the expense of concrete steps to stimulate an ailing economy, analysts say. While the government recently announced a EGP 29.6bn stimulus plan, it failed to detail its sources of financing, prompting many analysts to question its viability. [DNE, 10/23/2013]


Libya indicts Qaddafi aides over protest deaths
A Libyan court indicted around thirty senior Muammar Qaddafi aides, including the dictator’s son Seif al-Islam, on Thursday for a raft of alleged offenses during the 2011 revolt, prosecutors said.
“The court ordered they stand trial on the main charges against them dealing with the repression of the 2011 revolt,” prosecutor’s office spokesman Seddik al-Sour said after the hearing. The charges pressed against the accused include murder, kidnapping, complicity in incitement to rape, plunder, sabotage, embezzlement of public funds and acts harmful to national unity. [The Daily Star, 10/24/2013]

Libya marks second anniversary of post-Qaddafi ‘liberation’
Two years after the death of Muammar Qaddafi, Libya did little to mark the anniversary of its “liberation” from the veteran dictator’s regime as it struggles to move on from the violent revolt that shook the country. Although Wednesday was declared a public holiday, according to news sources there was an almost total lack of festivities in Tripoli and Benghazi. Instead a group of some thirty protesters paraded outside the Tibesti Hotel with placards saying that Libya was still not liberated. [Al Arabiya 10/23/2013]

Libyan air force colonel gunned down in Benghazi
Libyan security officials say gunmen have shot dead an air force colonel as he left his home in the eastern city of Benghazi. The officials say Colonel Adel Khalil al-Tawahi from Benghazi’s Beninah air base died instantly when gunmen shot him in the chest and head on Thursday. [AP, 10/24/2013]

Deputy Education Minister: Grand Mufti’s veil fatwa “not compulsory”
The fatwa by the Grand Mufti stating that women teachers should veil their faces when there are male students in the classroom is not compulsory, Libya’s Deputy Education Minister Ali Erhouma said in a letter to education officials. Erhouma wrote that the fatwa by Sheikh Sadek al-Ghriani allowed for different answers and it was up to officials at schools and colleges to implement them as they saw fit. He suggested officials decide in line with their own religious convictions, while avoiding extremism or intolerance. [Libya Herald, 10/23/2013]


Much of Syria blacked out by attack on gas pipeline
Much of Syria, including the capital Damascus, was hit by a power cut late Wednesday after rebels attacks struck a gas pipeline that feeds a major power station, state media said. Residents in central Damascus reported widespread blackouts coinciding with a large fire and machine gun exchange near the international airport where the pipeline is located. Independent analysts said the explosion was caused by stray rebel artillery aimed at the town of Ghasula, a few miles from the airport. Residents of other areas of Syria, including coastal cities in the west and parts of Aleppo province in the north, were also experiencing power cuts. [Reuters, AFP, 10/24/13]

Kurds fight jihadists near Iraq border; Jihadists fight rebels near Aleppo; Rebels fight army in Homs
Fierce clashes erupted in Syria overnight between Kurdish fighters and jihadists near the Iraqi border, lasting over twelve hours and resulting in the Kurds advancing in the direction of al-Yaarubiya, an area controlled by jihadist groups. The Yaarubiya border crossing with Iraq is seen as a key supply route for arms and fighters. Kurds and jihadists have been fighting for control of northeastern Syria, an area rich in oil and wheat, as rebels ostensibly fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have increasingly turned their guns on each other in recent months. Outside Aleppo the transnational jihadi group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria clashed with nationalist opposition forces while the regime bombed nearby villages. Elsewhere, near ancient Palmyra, rebel groups engaged with regime tanks and ground forces. [AFP, 10/24/13]

Chemical watchdog says Syria deadline for chemical weapons destruction will be met
The world’s chemical weapons watchdog says it is confident that Syria will meet an important early milestone in its disarmament, the November 1 deadline for destroying all equipment used in the production and mixing of poison gases and nerve agents. A spokesman for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said the Syrian government had provided complete cooperation with the twenty-seven weapons inspectors in the country. The inspectors have visited eighteen of the twenty-three chemical weapons sites declared by Damascus, and a complete, official, inventory of all Syria’s chemical weapons, munitions, and production facilities, is expected to be delivered to OPCW headquarters in the Hague in the next twenty-four hours. [The Guardian, 10/23/13]

Tunisia sends highest number of foreign jihadis to Syria
The state that gave birth to the Arab Spring is now the nation that sends the most fighters to Syria. In the capital and in remote southern and central villages, there are thousands of families whose young men have traveled to Syria to participate in the fighting, and the issue is not limited to a specific social class. While Tunisian Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou said that authorities had prevented about 6,000 young Tunisians from traveling to Syria via Turkey in the last six months the new procedures have not been sufficient to halt the flow altogether. [Al Monitor, 10/23/13]


UGTT says national dialogue postponed
Originally scheduled to start Wednesday amid anti-government protests, Tunisia’s national dialogue and the end of months of political deadlock will now start on Friday, October 25, Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) Secretary-General Houcine Abbassi said on Wednesday. According to Abbassi, the dialogue, framed by a roadmap plan that included resignation of the current government, was postponed after “the terrorism attacks” in Sidi Bouzid and Bizerte which “unsettled the start of the national dialogue.” The delay will also allow UGTT, the main body governing the talks, time to “clarify” interim Prime Minister Ali Larayedh’s statement regarding his government’s commitment to step down. [TAP, 10/24/2013]

Larayedh says his government is committed to ‘principle’ of resigning
In a heavily delayed statement, interim Prime Minister Ali Larayedh said Wednesday that “we repeat today our commitment to the principle of relinquishing power in line with the different phases envisaged in the roadmap.” Larayedh also criticized opposition protests occurring the same day, calling them “a failure” and saying they “had no other purpose than to sabotage the dialogue.” On Wednesday evening caretaker President Moncef Marzouki said that Larayedh had assured him that “the principle of stepping down is irrevocable,” and will be effective as soon as the elections board, electoral law and constitution are adopted. [AFP/Ahram Online, 10/24/2013]

Seven national guardsmen killed in two separate clashes with Islamic militants
Six police officers and two gunmen were killed Wednesday in Tunisia’s central Sidi Bouzid region after members of the National Guard raided a house where militants were hiding, according to state television and TAP. On Wednesday night another police officer was killed during an exchange of fire with alleged terrorists in the northern town of Menzel Bourguiba, where eleven salafists were arrested after trying to attack a police station, an interior ministry spokesman said. Caretaker President Moncef Marzouki decreed three days of national mourning to honor the policemen killed in the attacks. [Tunisia Live 10/23/2013, AFP/Ahram Online 10/24/2013]


Yemen’s hunger statistics categorized as alarming
Yemen is one of sixteen countries classified as having “alarming” levels of hunger, according to the Global Hunger Index (GHI), published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). This year’s index identifies hunger levels across 120 developing countries and countries in transition. On the position of Yemen in the 2013 GHI report, Clemens Breisinger, IFPRI’s research fellow based in Washington, DC, told the Yemen Times that the country “remains one of the most food insecure countries in the world. Of particular concern is the continued high level of child malnutrition.” [Yemen Times, 10/24/2013]

Hadi demands that the interior and defense ministers put an end to loose security
Yemeni President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi called on the ministers of defense and the interior to strengthen their preparedness to confront the challenges of “terrorism.” This came during a special meeting of the cabinet held on Wednesday at the house of the president to discuss an array of issues related to the government’s performance. At the meeting, Hadi instructed the ministers to submit reports every three weeks showing points of weakness in any district or province and the necessary actions to be taken to achieve security and stability. [Al Masdar (Arabic), Saba News, 10/23/2013]

Jamal Benomar returns to Sana’a
UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, arrived on Thursday in Sana’a to complete his work in support of the success of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC). In a statement to Saba, Benomar explained that the visit is part of the framework of the United Nations’ continued support for the political process currently under way and Yemeni efforts to agree on the outcomes of the dialogue. He also returned to prepare for the next meeting of the UN Security Council, to be held on November 13, which will deal with developments in Yemen. [Al Masdar (Arabic), Al Tagheer (Arabic), Saba News, 10/24/2013]

NDC deputy chairman says dialogue cannot end until all issues are resolved
Deputy chairman of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), Dr. Yasin Said Naaman, said the dialogue cannot end until it resolves all outstanding issues, including the issues of the South and Saada. He explained that some in Yemen have expressed concern over the final session, interpreting it to mean the dialogue is coming to a close, even while some issues remain unresolved. However, Naaman clearly stated that this session is part of the program of action of the dialogue and does not signal the end of the dialogue; the NDC can only be completed when all issues are resolved.  [Al Masdar (Arabic), 10/23/2013]


Bahrain court releases al-Wefaq leader Khalil Marzouq
A Bahrain court on Thursday released Khalil Marzouq, the deputy secretary-general of al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, after adjourning his trial to November 18. Marzouq is facing charges of “inciting terrorism and promoting acts that constitute crimes of terrorism.” Marzouq told a court hearing on Thursday that he rejects violence but stands by his calls for peaceful anti-government protests to force reforms in the country. [Gulf News, 10/24/2013]

Saudi authorities issue warning ahead of women driving campaign
Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry has warned against “disturbing social peace” ahead of a planned campaign by women to challenge a de facto ban on them driving. “Regulations in Saudi Arabia prohibit any action that disturbs social peace and opens the door for sedition and responds to the illusions of prejudiced intruders with sick dreams,” the interior ministry said in a statement. The “October 26 Driving” campaign has asked Saudis to put its logo on their cars and called upon women with international driving licenses to get behind the wheel that day, while urging other women to learn to drive, according to Reuters. [Al Arabiya, 10/24/2013]

Morocco budget looks to tackle unemployment
Despite a difficult global economic situation, Morocco’s draft 2014 Finance Act is intended to address youth joblessness. Debate on the bill began Wednesday. “The overall aim of the draft 2014 budget is to promote employment and bolster social cohesion while pressing ahead with large-scale structural reforms,” Economy and Finance Minister Mohamed Boussaid said October 16. He added that for next year, the government expects GDP to grow by 4.2 percent and the budget deficit to fall by 4.9 percent. [Magharebia, 10/23/2013]