Top News: UN Vote As Early As Friday on Yemen Arms Embargo

The UN Security Council could vote as early as Friday on a resolution to blacklist the son of Yemen’s former president and a Houthi leader and effectively impose an arms embargo on the rebels that rule most of the country, diplomats said. The draft UN resolution would impose a global asset freeze and travel ban on Ahmed Saleh, the former head of Yemen’s elite Republican Guard, and Abdul Malik al-Houthi, a top leader of the Houthi group. Council member Jordan and Gulf Arab states finalized their draft text on Thursday. Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the resolution might be put to a vote in the Security Council on Friday or Saturday. [ReutersAl-Masdar, 4/10/2015]



Egypt calls on anti-ISIS coalition to intervene in Libya
An aide to Egypt’s foreign minister has called on the US-led international coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) to intervene against the militant group in Libya, as it has previously done in Syria and Iraq. Ambassador Abdel-Rahman Salah said that “terrorism should be dealt with comprehensively wherever it exists,” according to a foreign ministry statement issued on Thursday. Salah, who took part in a meeting with the anti-IS alliance in Jordan on Wednesday, said that any military action against the militant group should aim to crush it, not merely force it to move its base of operations. [Ahram Online, 4/10/2015]

Religious leaders address jihad and reform of religious discourse
According to Al-Azhar’s Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the Islamic concept of jihad has been misused for the alleged goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate. “There are people who manipulated the concept of jihad and the minds of our youth with glamorous slogans of sharia and the Islamic caliphate,” al- Tayyeb said in his weekly message on Thursday. He said that applying the term to impose control over others would be “a jihad in the name of the devil and a satisfaction of personal whims.” Minister of Religious Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa said that the renewal of religious discourse conference slated for May will bring about a national memorandum to define the proper mechanisms for reform. The memorandum will be drafted in partnership with clergy, scholars, writers, intellectuals, statesmen, and media professionals. [MENA, Shorouk (Arabic), 4/10/2015]

Egypt militant group confirms chief’s killing
The Egyptian militant group behind a deadly Cairo bombing earlier this week has appointed a new leader after his predecessor was killed in a police shootout, while a separate group operating in the Sinai Peninsula claimed the killing of two police officers. The group known as Ajnad Misr, or “Egypt’s Soldiers,” said on its Twitter account late Thursday that Izzeddin al-Masri has succeeded Hammam Mohamed Attia, who was killed Sunday, just hours before a bomb on a bridge in central Cairo killed a policeman and wounded at least two passers-by. [AFP/Ahram Online, AP, 4/10/2015]

Egypt’s Prime Minister denies government interference in upcoming elections
Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab has rejected claims the state is promoting candidates or groups ahead of the upcoming parliamentary election. “The government swore an oath not to talk about the election and has not asked anyone to nominate themselves nor backed anyone, this is a definitive decision,” he said in comments to state news agency MENA. While Mahlab acknowledged disagreements among parties on certain issues, he insisted the dialogue has been successful in general. Meanwhile, government sources said that there is no time to amend all election laws and that focus will be on the two articles revoked by the Supreme Court in order to hold the parliamentary election this year. [Ahram Online, SIS, 4/10/2015]

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Libyan foreign minister in UAE for talks; Prime minister to visit Russia
The Tobruk-government’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Al-Dairi held talks in Abu Dhabi today with United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on relations between the two countries, as well as regional and international issues. The talks also focused on how the UAE can help Tobruk re-establish security and stability. Meanwhile, the Tobruk government Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni will go to Moscow for talks with the Russian government. Al-Thinni will seek Russian military equipment in his efforts to combat the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). Tobruk’s relations with Russia have vastly improved as Russia has strongly supported its efforts against the Tripoli government and ISIS. [Libya Herald, 4/9/2015]

Sudan summons Libyan ambassador over consul’s arrest
Sudan has summoned the Libyan Ambassador in Khartoum to protest against the arrest of a Sudanese Consul in Benghazi. Sudan’s Consul-General Abdel Hakim Omer was visiting Sudanese detainees at the prison when police detained him; he was released Thursday evening. Some members of the Tobruk government denied knowledge of the incident while a spokesman said that Omer was detained because he made unauthorized visits to the military prison without receiving permission. Relations between Tobruk and Sudan have been strained since 2014 when Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni accused Sudan of sending arms shipments to the rival Tripoli-based government. [Reuters, Libya Herald, 4/9/2015]

Tobruk government claims Central Bank governor sacked
The Tobruk government and its Beida Central Bank of Libya have issued a decision which fully implements the decision to sack Saddeq Elkaber as governor of the Tripoli Central Bank of Libya. The decision also claims to strip Elkaber of any privileges as Central Bank governor and says he can no longer represent the body at meetings. It is not clear whether the latest ruling will have any actual impact because the Tobruk government does not control the Tripoli Central Bank. Last September the Tobruk-based House of Representatives voted Elkaber out as Central Bank governor, however, he remained in the post. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 4/9/2015]

UNICEF and town of Beida join to help displaced families and children
UNICEF is continuing to expand its campaign to look after the children among families who have been forced to flee their homes within Libya. The town of Beida agreed to work with UNICEF to help with internally displaced families in Beida and its hinterland. Part of the problem that UNICEF will try to tackle is education because many refugees are sheltering in schools and other public buildings, which has disrupted education for both local children and for those from refugee families. [Libya Herald, 4/9/2015]

Islamic State issues new threat to Tunisia
A new message from the media wing of the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) branch in Tunisia threatens the army and police forces. The message reads, “In the heart of Tunis, in the mostly heavily guarded places in town, we are among you.” There is also a picture featuring the Clock Tower of the January 14 Square, which stands near the ministry of interior in central Tunis, insinuating the building is a potential target. [ANSAmed, 4/10/2015]

Tunisians condemn terrorism as they commemorate Martyrs’ Day
Tunisians flocked to Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis on Thursday to commemorate Martyrs’ Day and assert their condemnation of the terrorist acts that have claimed victims in recent years in Tunisia. Martyrs’ Day is celebrated in Tunisia each year on April 9, it honors and commemorates those who defied French rule and fought for freedom. Tunisians expressed their commitment to freedom and their determination to combat terrorism during the celebration. [TAP/All Africa, Tunisia Live, 4/9/2015]


PLO rejects Syrian military action in Yarmouk camp
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has ruled out asking the Syrian government to launch military action in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus. A statement issued late on Thursday contradicted comments made by a senior PLO official visiting Damascus. Ahmed Majdalani said fourteen Palestinian factions wanted a joint operation with the Syrian army to expel Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) terrorists from the camp. But the PLO statement said it refused to be drawn into the conflict in Syria. “We refuse to be drawn into any armed campaign, whatever its nature or cover, and we call for resorting to other means to spare the blood of our people and prevent more destruction and displacement for our people of the camp,” the PLO said in a statement. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has long insisted that Palestinians stay out of the Syrian conflict. [BBC, Reuters, AP, 4/10/2015]

Syria talks in Moscow yield no results
Talks in Moscow between the Syrian government and members of the domestic opposition tolerated by President Bashar al-Assad broke up on Friday with no progress made towards ending the war. Activists among the fractious opposition groups said they had made steps towards agreeing a common position among themselves but failed to make any headway in discussions with representatives of the Assad regime. “The chances were missed… By the end of the meeting the majority of the opposition from Damascus were disappointed that we didn’t achieve any results,” said opposition figure Samir Aita. Qadri Jamil, representative of the opposition Popular Front of Change and Liberation, said that further talks in Moscow should be held only after a third international conference in Geneva. [AFP, AP, 4/10/2015]

Syrian opposition figures seek to form alternative body
A group of Syrian opposition figures is seeking to form an alternative to the exiled National Coalition body and open negotiations with President Bashar al-Assad to end their country’s conflict. The “National Syrian Democratic Conference” is expected to take place in Cairo in early May and bring together some 150 opposition figures living in Syria and abroad. They want to adopt a “Syrian National Charter” and a roadmap to a resolution of the conflict, said organizer and dissident Haytham Manna. Unlike the exiled Syrian National Coalition, they appear flexible on Assad’s role and the nature of any transition to end the war. “The [National] Coalition has never been able to represent the whole of the Syrian opposition because it declared itself as representing all of the opposition and Syrian society even though it excludes key constituents… Our objective, by contrast, is to set up a delegation that is balanced, representative, democratically chosen and does not exclude anyone to face a government delegation in negotiations,” he said. [AFP, 4/10/2015]

ISIS holding fifty civilians after raid on village in Hama province
Terrorists from ISIS are holding hostage at least fifty civilians seized in a raid on a village in the central province of Hama. They were kidnapped from the village of Mabujah on March 31, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Ten of those taken, including six women, are Ismailis. The remaining forty are Sunni Muslims, including at least fifteen women. On March 31, ISIS executed at least thirty-seven civilians in Mabujah, including two children, by “burning, beheading, and firing on them,” the Observatory said. [AFP, 410/2015]


UN vote as early as Friday on Yemen arms embargo
The UN Security Council could vote as early as Friday on a resolution to blacklist the son of Yemen’s former president and a Houthi leader and effectively impose an arms embargo on the rebels that rule most of the country, diplomats said. The draft UN resolution would impose a global asset freeze and travel ban on Ahmed Saleh, the former head of Yemen’s elite Republican Guard, and Abdul Malik al-Houthi, a top leader of the Houthi group. Council member Jordan and Gulf Arab states finalized their draft text on Thursday. Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the resolution might be put to a vote in the Security Council on Friday or Saturday. [Reuters, Al-Masdar, 4/10/2015]

First medical aid plane arrives in Yemen
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced they finally landed two planes in Sana’a on Friday carrying more than thirty tons of medical equipment, after days of delay. Their arrival came two days after two boatloads of emergency medical aid and teams of surgeons from the ICRC and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) docked in Aden. UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Johannes van der Klauwe said much more aid was needed and called for a pause in hostilities – even on a daily basis – to allow for it to be delivered. [Reuters, Al-Masdar, 4/10/2015]

Pakistan votes not to join campaign in Yemen
Pakistan’s parliament voted on Friday not to join the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, dashing Riyadh’s hopes for powerful support from outside of the region in its fight to halt the advance of Iranian-allied Houthi rebels. The parliament adopted a draft resolution calling on all sides to resolve their differences peacefully in a “deteriorating security and humanitarian situation” which has “implications for peace and stability of the region.” Pakistan’s government has not yet commented publicly on the draft, but has said it would comply with parliament’s decision. [Reuters, Mareb Press, 4/10/2015]

Americans stuck in Yemen file suit against state, defense departments
Hundreds of US citizens trapped in Yemen’s roiling violence have a legal right to be evacuated by the US government, advocacy groups argued in a lawsuit filed Thursday that challenges the State and Defense Department’s perceived inaction on a constitutional basis. While other countries scramble to evacuate their nationals in Yemen by the thousands, the State Department has limited its efforts to sending out alerts about flights coordinated by the Indian government or the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that Americans are technically eligible to board. Apart from India, at least six more countries – China, Russia, Pakistan, Somalia, Jordan and Turkey – have all secured their citizens safe passage out of Yemen. [Al Jazeera, 4/10/2015]

US calls for the release of Bahraini human rights activist
The United States on Thursday called for authorities in Bahrain to release human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who was recently arrested for comments on social media about the alleged torture of political prisoners in the Gulf kingdom. State department Acting Deputy Spokesman Jeff Rathke said in a state department briefing, “We certainly are deeply concerned about the arrest on April 2nd of Nabeel Rajab on new charges related to posting information on social media. And so we’re actively monitoring this case… We urge the Government of Bahrain to drop these charges against Mr. Rajab and to release him immediately.” [State Department, 4/10/2015]


IFC plans up to $2 billion investment in Egyptian infrastructure, power
The World Bank’s development arm plans to invest between $1.2 billion and $2 billion in Egypt over the next four years, including around the Suez Canal, its regional director said. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is looking at ports and logistics projects, according to Mouayed Makhlouf, the IFC’s director of Middle East and North Africa. Besides infrastructure and energy projects, IFC is working with United Arab Emirates’ renewable energy company Masdar and Saudi Arabia-based power and water project developer ACWA Power, in which it invested $100 million in last year, on up to three or four renewable energy projects in Egypt, Makhlouf said. IFC plans to contribute between $300 million and $500 million per year over the next four years in different sectors, but mainly infrastructure and energy. Makhlouf said, “I have noticed a huge change in the way private investors are looking at Egypt and the government is on the right track to make it easier for investors to come in and add value by improving the investment climate.” [Ahram Online, Reuters, 4/10/2015]

Hampered by quality issues, Iraq backs crude split to drive exports
Iraq’s plan to split a heavier crude being produced in its southern oilfields from its flagship grade should reduce quality issues dogging its exports, though there will be challenges getting the price it wants and setting up infrastructure. OPEC’s No. 2 producer has little choice, since its drive to boost production – which hit a record 3.15 million barrels per day last year – has led to it drilling more heavier crude to mix with its Basra Light. But Iraqi officials have indicated they will move to price their heavier crude competitively and secure a port facility from May in a bid to make the split production approach work. [Reuters, 4/10/2015]

Shipping lines pull back from Yemen as conflict escalates
International shipping lines are being forced to scale back or suspend port calls to Yemen as the conflict gets worse, putting pressure on supplies of food as prices rise in local markets. Yemen imports more than 90 percent of its food, including most of its wheat and all its rice, to feed a population of 25 million. Much of its needs had been serviced by foreign ships. The coalition has deployed naval vessels to intercept ships carrying arms to the rebels, although merchant ships are meant to have free passage. Most ports appear to be under Houthi control or are disputed by combatants. Many shipping companies are now unwilling to risk their vessels, industry sources say. [Reuters, 4/9/2015]