According to statements by officials, Tunisia’s 2014 proposed budget calls for raising taxes and cutting subsidies to reduce the country’s budget deficit and has sparked controversy among politicians and the public. The draft budget law has not yet been approved and is expected to be discussed at the National Constituent Assembly next week, and media reports say that the budget has been passed by the assembly and will be adopted by the current government. In an interview with Mosaique FM, a politician from the opposition Popular Front, the leftist coalition to which assassinated leaders Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi both belonged, dramatically described the draft 2014 financial draft law as a symbolic “third assassination.” [Tunisia Live, 11/15/2013]




President Mansour issues anti-corruption law for government officials
Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour has issued a law banning activity that constitutes a conflict of interest for government officials. Presidential spokesman Ihab Badawy told MENA on Thursday that the new law tackles one of the legal loopholes that allowed officials to use their posts for personal benefits.The new law establishes integrated and detailed regulations of what officials may and may not do in terms of activities or possession of assets. Public officials include senior state posts such as the president, his deputies, the cabinet, local governors and the heads of public agencies and regulatory bodies. The Nour Party welcomed the law saying it is a positive step on the path to reforming the state. [Ahram Online, SIS, AMAY (Arabic), Ahram Gate (Arabic), Aswat Masriya, Cairo Post, 11/15/2013]

Parliament, president can remove government under new Egypt charter
Egypt’s new constitution will introduce a semi-presidential system in which the president and parliament can remove the cabinet, a member of the drafting committee has said. The panel has agreed that a two-thirds majority of MPs can withdraw confidence from the government, or one-third if the move is initiated by the president. The two-third proportion is meant to protect the government amid the current volatile political climate, said Diaa Rashwan, head of the Journalists’ Syndicate and a member of the fifty-member drafting committee. Meanwhile, spokesman Mohamed Salmawy for the drafting committee said on Thursday said that the new draft of Egypt’s constitution could be ready in as little as a week or ten days. Salmawy said that the articles of the new draft would be subject to a final vote by members of the fifty-member committee once completed.Once the vote is finalized, which is expected to be at the end of this month or by early December, the final draft constitution will be passed to interim president Adly Mansour to be put to referendum. [Ahram Online, 11/15/2013]

Egypt gets first sovereign credit rating upgrade
Egypt gets first sovereign credit rating upgrade since 2011 revolution International credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s raised its long- and short-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings for Egypt on Friday from “CCC+/C” to “B-/B” with a “stable” rating outlook. The upgrade reflects Standard & Poor’s view that the Egyptian authorities have secured sufficient foreign currency funding to manage Egypt’s short-term fiscal and external financing needs. “We expect support from bilateral lenders to continue over the medium term as the Egyptian authorities try to address the country’s political and economic challenges,” Standard & Poor said in a statement. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, SIS, EGYNews (Arabic), 11/15/2013]

US focused on its own relationship with Egypt, says US State Department
In response to a question regarding the high-level Russian delegation visit to Egypt, spokeswoman for the US State Department stressed that the United States is focused on its relationship with Egypt. A high-level Russian delegation concluded a two-day visit to Egypt on Thursday. The visit is significant in light of the recent US decision to suspend military aid to Egypt. [Ahram Online, Press Briefing, 11/15/2013]


Libya ‘seeks to make its laws more Islamic’
According to a justice ministry document obtained by AFP, Libya seeks to revise existing legislation to conform more to Islamic sharia law. The document says that a sixteen-member committee would be nominated by the supreme court and the mufti, charged with proposing amendments “that would not contradict the fundamental rules and regulations of Islamic law.” Amended legislation would then go to the General National Congress for adoption. The plan is an apparent attempt at satisfying the demands of Salafists. [Al Arabiya/AFP, 11/14/2013]

France studies giving more counterterrorism aid to Libya
As Libya’s government struggles to assert control over rival militias and extremist militants, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said that France is considering giving Libya more counterterrorism aid. France has already agreed to train 1,000 Libyan police and plans to train an additional 1,500, he said at a regional border security conference in Rabat, Morocco, citing increasing terrorism in the Maghreb and Sahel. Al Qaeda fighters driven out by the French intervention in Mali have found haven in southern Libya’s vast deserts. [Reuters, 11/14/2013]

Naming perpetrators will not help, says Zidan
Pressed by members of the media to name the perpetrators of violence in the eastern cities of Benghazi and Derna, Prime Minister Ali Zidan refused, rejecting the notion that it would put wild speculation to rest or that revealing identities “would help the situation.” At the same press conference, Zidan asked the Libyan public for “more patience,” as the government and legislature face growing criticism for lack of any progress, including in the area of restoring security. Meanwhile, another security officer and an imam, formerly a senior military official, were murdered in Benghazi. [Libya Herald, 11/14/2013]

Libyan women need to be empowered, says UNSMIL
A roundtable organized by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), with participation from the defense ministry and the UN Development Program, brought together men and women from a range of backgrounds, including civil society, politics, and academia, to discuss how to empower Libyan women so that they may actively participate in post-conflict political life. In one session, Yemeni officials and women activists shared their experiences of engaging women in national dialogue, drawing similarities between the two transitioning countries. [Libya Herald, 11/14/2013]


Air raid kills rebel commander in Aleppo; Jihadist in Aleppo erroneously beheads ally
A rebel commander in a main Islamist brigade was killed and two others were injured in an air strike by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces on Aleppo, in a setback to rebels defending the city against a loyalist attack. Aleppo has been witnessing heavy fighting since Assad’s forces, backed by Shia militia from Iraq and Hezbollah, launched an offensive two weeks ago to retake rebel-held areas in the city. The killed commander belonged to the Qatari-backed al-Tawhid Brigades, one of the biggest armed opposition groups. Amid heavy fighting in Aleppo, al-Qaeda-linked jihadists have admitted to beheading a fellow rebel by mistake after believing him to be a fighter allied with regime forces. The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria has arrested one of its members, a Tunisian, but not the other man seen in the gruesome video, from the Gulf. [Reuters, Al Arabiya, 10/14/2013

Plan to destroy Syrian chemical weapons awaits Albanian decision
Discussions to work out a detailed plan to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons were on hold Friday as Albania considered a politically loaded US request to host a facility that will process thousands of tons of toxic waste. A meeting by the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Nobel Peace Prize-winning body tasked with overseeing Syria’s destruction plan, was adjourned until an announcement was made in Albania’s capital, Tirana. Albania’s freshly installed prime minister, Edi Rama, was expected to tell the nation whether his government will go along with Washington’s request later on Friday. The decision comes on the November 15 deadline for a detailed plan to be agreed by the OPCW and Damascus, setting out how to get rid of 1,300 tons of chemical weapons. [Reuters, NYT, 11/15/2013]

Putin telephones Assad for first time in two years, offers Damascus praise
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday held his first telephone talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in two years, applauding Damascus for its willingness to attend a peace conference and destroy its chemical weapons, the Kremlin said. Putin “positively assessed” the readiness of the Assad government to send a delegation to planned peace talks in Geneva and “expressed satisfaction” with cooperation in the destruction of its chemical weapons arsenal. In the conversation “the hope was expressed that the main opposition groups will show a constructive approach and take part” in the Geneva conference. [AFP, 11/14/2013]

Syrian activists flee abuse in al-Qaeda-run Raqqa
A citizens’ protest movement has been challenging the jihadist group, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) after its fighters attacked churches in the city of Raqqa. But activists who have fled to Turkey said that many had been arrested, beaten or kidnapped by ISIS in retaliation. Raqqa, a city currently sheltering nearly a million people, is now under the full control of the group. Photographer Mezar Matar said, “I saw many people who had signs of lashes on their bodies after being released from an ISIS prison … They are the new dictators, just like Bashar al-Assad but dressed in black.” He said his brother, Muhammed Nour, had disappeared after filming a battle in Raqqa between ISIS and a brigade loyal to the Western-backed Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). [BBC, 11/13/2013]


Popular Front seeks to protest Friday in Tunis
Popular Front Spokesman Hamma Hammami said at a news conference held on Thursday that the interior ministry had revoked permission to the front to rally on Friday afternoon at Kasbah square, a claim the ministry later denied. The Popular Front intended to protest in support of the resignation of interim Prime Minister Ali Larayedh’s government, and against what it describes as “constituent coup.” Hammami also stated that the front will agree to resume negotiations only conditionally. [TAP, 11/14/2013]

Tunisia unveils human rights plan
Tunisia will soon activate special commissions to investigate and prevent torture, child abuse, discrimination and police violence, Human Rights and Transitional Justice Minister Samir Dilou announced on Monday. “Building democracy is harder than bringing down dictatorships,” he said in his opening address to a conference co-hosted by the European Union delegation to Tunisia. Nonetheless, he said, the country was “in the process of establishing a number of bodies and institutions that guarantee human rights, in accordance with the partnership agreement and political neighborly relations between Tunisia and the European Union.” [Magharebia, 11/14/2013]

Central bank denounces anti-Ennahda slogans on banknotes
The Central Bank of Tunisia on Friday called on Tunisians to stop inscribing political slogans against the ruling Islamist Ennahda party on banknotes. A social media campaign last week had sparked the trend in protest against the government. The bank emphasized that paper money “is a pillar of citizenship to preserve” and “an essential tool for the confidence and national unity.”  [Tunisia Daily (French), 11/15/2013]


Yemen, China sign $507 million agreement on expanding ACT
Yemen and China signed in Beijing an agreement to expand and deepen the Aden Container Terminal (ACT) at a cost of $507 million. The agreement was signed by the Gulf of Aden Ports Corporation and the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), as part of the agenda of the visit of President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi to China which began on Tuesday. The project includes constructing an additional berth and deepening and extending the shipping channels. [SABA, Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/14/2013]

Local dialogues important for success of the NDC
The participants in a panel discussion held in Sana’a on Thursday expressed the need to expand  dialogue efforts on the local and provincial level. This will allow a broader array of social and political actors and civil society organizations to express their visions for solutions to the problems they experience. Participants in the seminar discussed concerns of residents of the provinces Aden and Hadramout, as well as those of young people. These issues include unemployment, education, health, and security. They noted the importance of these local dialogues in achieving the goals of Yemenis in the larger National Dialogue Conference (NDC).  NDC (Arabic), Mareb Press (Arabic), 11/14/2013

Number of Yemenis deported from Saudi Arabia reaches sixty thousand
An official posted on the Yemeni border with Saudi Arabia said that the number of Yemenis deported from the Kingdom has reached more than 60,000 since the start of the Saudi crackdown on foreign laborers about two weeks ago. The source said that the number is steadily declining, but that around 800 Yemenis have returned from Saudi Arabia in the last two days. Saudi Arabia began enforcing new labor laws at the beginning of this month, forcing thousands of foreign laborers out of the country. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/14/2013]


UN envoy says Iraq forces need ‘massive’ rights retraining
Iraq’s security forces require “massive amounts of retraining” in human rights to better conduct operations and combat the country’s worst violence since 2008, Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nation’s (UN) new envoy to Baghdad, told a group of foreign journalists in Baghdad. The UN special representative also said he did not expect any long-term political problems to be addressed before elections due April 30, but voiced hope that authorities could make progress on key issues such as the delivery of basic services. [Ahram Online, 11/15/2013]

Rights group urges US rethink on Bahrain strategy
Human rights activists Friday called on the United States’ administration to withhold arms sales to Bahrain and draw up a new strategy towards the key Gulf ally to push it to implement long-delayed reforms. “Long-term simmering tension in Bahrain, increasingly violent protests, a rise in sectarianism, a relentless government crackdown on dissent, and the ruling family’s failure to deliver political reform all raise crucial questions for the US government’s role in the country,” a new report by Washington-based Human Rights First said Friday. [Ahram Online, 11/15/2013]

Women’s conditions improving in Morocco, says female minister
The situation of women in Morocco is improving, Delegate Minister for Higher Education Soumia Benkhaldoun said Friday. ”The condition of women in our country is improving step by step: since 2011, the number of female ministers rose from one to six on a total of thirty-nine, while the percentage of women in key positions rose from 5 percent to 16 percent,” Benkhaldoun said ahead of a meeting of the cultural commission of the Union for the Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly at Italy’s Lower House. [ANSAMed, 11/15/2013]