The United States and Russia failed on Tuesday to agree on a date for a Syrian peace conference, remaining divided over what role Iran might play in talks to end the civil war and over who would represent Syria’s opposition.

“We were hoping that we would be in a position to announce a date today; unfortunately we are not,” said UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who chaired the meeting at the United Nations in Geneva and partly blamed the opposition. “But we are still striving to see if we can have the conference before the end of the year.” On Wednesday, Russia’s representative in Geneva said that Russia is prepared to host informal talks between the regime and the opposition that “do not necessarily have to end in some sort of agreement.” It was most important to “create an atmosphere for [future] talks.” [ReutersAl Jazeera, 11/5/2013]




Cabinet preparing bill on abusive graffiti; Protest law up for review
Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawy said on Monday a controversial law regulating protests was referred to Egypt’s State Council–one of the nation’s top judicial authorities, to ensure its abidance by international standards. The draft law has sparked a chorus of condemnation from rights groups and political forces, who have said it could severely restrict the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and allow security forces to tighten their grip on dissent. El-Beblawy told reporters on Tuesday that the government was putting the final touches to the law, which he said would be passed shortly. The protest law is supposed to be finalized and approved before the state of emergency, imposed since the crackdown on two Islamist protest camps in Cairo since August, is lifted on November 14. Meanwhile, Local Development Minister Adel Labib has announced his ministry is preparing a draft law which would ban “abusive” graffiti on buildings in Egypt. Defendants found guilty of breaking this law could end up with four years in prison or EGP 100,000 fines. Labib said that committees have been formed in neighborhoods and cities to monitor abusive graffiti and littering in the streets. [Ahram Online, Ahram Gate (Arabic), Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, Aswat Masriya, 11/6/2013]

Egypt court upholds ruling to ban Brotherhood
A court in Egypt has upheld an earlier ruling that banned the Muslim Brotherhood and ordered its assets confiscated. The lawyers for the Islamist group had asked the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters to halt the implementation of the September 23 ruling. Osama al-Helw, a Brotherhood lawyer, says the group will appeal Wednesday’s ruling, which was reported by the state MENA news agency. Defense lawyer Faisal al-Sayyed, a Brotherhood member, said, “We will appeal again and again until we banish this law.” [AP, Reuters, Cairo Post, Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 11/6/2013]

NSA restores 575 officers after being excluded following dissolution of SSA
The ministry of interior intends to organize a system inside the National Security Agency (NSA) to benefit from previous experience in the agency, particularly with regard to political Islam and extremist groups, according to official sources. NSA will restore 575 officers soon after they were expelled following the dissolution of State Security Agency, as well as expelling heads of SSA from the NSA and appointing them on divisions of water, tourism, antiquities, railway inspection, and electricity police, source said. [Cairo Post, 11/6/2013]

Kerry and Faisal agree to help Egypt’s ‘economic transformation’
John Kerry and Saud al-Faisal expressed their support in assisting Egypt’s “economic transformation,” which Kerry believes is needed “desperately.” The United States Secretary of State and Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs were speaking after their meeting in Riyadh, during which they discussed regional and international issues including the Syrian conflict, the Middle East peace process, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon and Yemen. The pair also addressed media reports indicating deterioration in relations between their two countries. Kerry reiterated the US’ commitment to assisting Egypt “as it moves forward with its democratic transition.” Kerry said: “The Egyptian people desperately need economic transformation, and we have agreed, with our friends in Saudi Arabia and with others, to work as hard as we can to effect this economic transformation.” [DNE, 11/5/2013]


Seif Qaddafi appears on TV in Libya for the first time
Seif al-Islam, the son of Muammar Qaddafi, appeared briefly on television for the first time since his capture two years ago. In the interview he said he is in good health, is being visited by human rights organizations, and, in a new development, that he prefers to be tried in Zintan where he is currently being held. During the brief on-air exchange, he appeared nervous and pushed back when asked why he does not wish to be transferred to Tripoli for his trial, saying that it makes no difference as Zintan is in Libya. Seif al-Islam is still wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. [AFP/Ahram Online, Tripoli Post, Libya Herald, 11/6/2013]

Chaos in Libya brings trouble importing food
Payment problems, chaos, and corruption are hampering Libyan importers from making big deals to buy wheat. The largest wheat importer that supplies most of the bread to the capital says it may have to put off its next major wheat purchase unless the state begins to pay it the near $100 million owed for previous imports. The state feeds six million people with subsidized bread, but its main source of revenue has been impacted as militias disrupt the oil sector. For now there are no signs of food shortages; however, global grain traders say Libyan buyers are now having difficulty arranging import deals, and exporters abroad are concerned about on-time payments and the security risks of unloading ships in ports. [Reuters, 11/6/2013]

LROR head denies surrounding GNC to pressure them
Head of the Libya Revolutionary Operations Room (LROR), Shaban Hadia, denied that his forces surrounded the General National Congress (GNC) in order to put pressure on the legislature so as not to dissolve the group, insisting instead that they were protecting the GNC, although he would not specify against what threat. The LROR is the security entity that was empowered by GNC President Nuri Abu Sahmain to protect Tripoli but was implicated in the recent abduction of Prime Minister Ali Zidan. The LROR will no longer be assigned to securing the capital, per a recent GNC decision, but will continue other operations as normal. One GNC member said that the decision by Abu Sahmain to assign the LROR to protect Tripoli was illegal, arguing that there had not been enough GNC votes to authorize such a move. [Libya Herald, 11/5/2013]

Army major survives attempt on his life in Benghazi
A major in Benghazi’s General Intelligence unit survived an assassination attempt Wednesday morning in the eastern Libyan city when an explosive device was detonated under his vehicle. He sustained only minor injuries. The incident, only the latest in a string of targeted assassinations in Benghazi, took place near the Brega Oil Company headquarters. Elsewhere in Benghazi, a bomb was defused outside a hospital after staff discovered a suspicious-looking package. [Libya Herald, 11/6/2013]


United States skeptical of Syria chemical weapons deceleration
The United States has strong doubts about Syria’s declaration of its chemical arsenal to the international chemical weapons watchdog, a top US envoy to the United Nations said on Tuesday. But “more work of course remains to be done to ensure that the Syrian government’s list of declared sites is comprehensive and that the process remains on track, particularly as we enter the destruction phase.” Other US officials said Washington is concerned that the Assad government could try to retain some of its stockpiles. “There are some indications that certain elements of the Syrian regime want to preserve their chemical weapons stockpiles,” one such official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. [Reuters, AFP, 11/6/2013]

Less than one percent of Aleppo’s doctors still active
US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, spoke on the elimination of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal, emphasizing that halting the use of one type of weapon does not excuse the use of others. She expressed alarm at the growing humanitarian catastrophe, saying, “Out of 5000 doctors who worked in the city of Aleppo before the conflict now only 36 remain.” [Al Jazeera, US-UN Briefing, 11/5/2013]

Bomb blast kills eight in Damascus; More than 130 killed yesterday
Eight people were killed and fifty wounded in a bomb blast Wednesday that hit Hijaz square at the heart of the Syrian capital. Across Syria yesterday more than 130 people were killed. Meanwhile, the regime was looking to hire police musicians and Syria’s last KFC shut its doors. [Naharnet, 11/6/2013]


Opposition blames Ennahda for deadlock; Marzouki not backing a specific PM candidate
Following the suspension of the national dialogue, opposition parties released a joint statement blaming the ruling Ennahda-led coalition for the failure to agree on a new prime minister. The statement also mentions that they will begin consultations to look at possible options and measures to work through the political deadlock. Caretaker President Moncef Marzouki asserted via a statement made public Tuesday that he is not backing a specific candidate for prime minister. [TAP, 11/6/2013]

NCA amends internal rules
The National Constituent Assembly (NCA) approved amendments to some articles of its internal rules in the absence of opposition deputies in a plenary session on Monday. Among the approved are amendments to multiple articles of the internal rules aimed at speeding up the examination of the draft constitution, an amendment that any deputy failing to attend sessions three times will be subjected to sanctions, and a stipulation that amendments put forward be posted online for general public access. [TAP, 11/5/2013]

Marzouki will free jailed cartoonist when ‘political situation calms down’
Caretaker President Moncef Marzouki said Wednesday he would free a Tunisian man jailed last year for posting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed online once tensions in the country had eased. “I will have him freed. I am just waiting for the political situation to calm down,” Marzouki said in an interview with a French radio station. “There are currently huge tensions, there is the fight against terrorism,” he said, adding, “but I will free him, I am simply waiting for the right window of opportunity both for his security and for the security of the country.” [Al Arabiya, 11/6/2013]

Marzouki says Tunisia will establish a democratic state in answer to terrorism
Caretaker President Moncef Marzouki and French President François Hollande met in Paris Tuesday, and issued a joint declaration in which Marzouki affirmed Tunisia’s determination to promote the democratic process, “whatever the current difficulties.” Marzouki stated, “Tunisia will establish a democratic, non-corrupt and transparent state which could partly be an answer to terrorism.” Hollande reassured France’s support to the democratic transition in Tunisia, and stressed the importance for the process to be completed by elections as soon as possible. [TAP, 11/6/2013]


Yemen arrests four al-Qaeda suspects over officer killings
Yemeni authorities have arrested four suspected al-Qaeda militants in connection with a spate of assassinations of police and army officers in the restive southeast, a police official said on Tuesday. The arrests were made in the Hadramawt province town of Ghayl Bawazir on Monday and Tuesday, the official said. [AFP/France24, 11/5/2013]

NDC vice president says Hirak representatives will return soon
Yassin Noman, vice president of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), predicted the imminent return of members of the Southern Hirak to dialogue conference sessions, in particular of participants in the 8+8 subcommittee of the Southern Issue working group. Noman explained that the ongoing problems in the subcommittee are organizational, not based on Southern issue itself. Noman continued in a televised statement on Wednesday that the NDC still has challenges ahead in the working groups on Saada, transitional justice, and good governance. He urged NDC participants to work according to the rules to achieve consensus. [NDC (Arabic), 11/6/2013]

Immigration director says about 12 thousand Yemenis deported from Saudi Arabia
The immigration director in Yemen confirmed that the number of Yemeni workers returning from Saudi Arabia on Tuesday reached about 12 thousand following the deadline for foreign workers in the Kingdom to update or correct their expired visas on Monday. Security patrols in Saudi Arabia began arresting large numbers of foreign workers on Tuesday who were violating labor and residency laws in the country. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/6/2013

Yemeni president warns of sectarian fighting
Yemen’s president is warning of sectarian violence in his country after deadly clashes continued for a second week in the restive north between Houthis and Salafis. In remarks aired Tuesday by state TV, President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi denounced “sectarian fighting that does not serve the security or stability of the nation.” Hadi called for both sides to practice “self-restraint.”  [Al Masdar (Arabic), AP, 11/5/2013]


UAE begins trial of Egyptians, Emiratis over Brotherhood ties
Thirty Emiratis and Egyptians went on trial Tuesday, accused of setting up an illegal branch of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood in the United Arab Emirates. The Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi adjourned the case, which is viewed as an attempt to stamp out what the UAE says is a threat from political Islam, until November 12. The defendants denied all the charges, a family member of one of the detainees who attended the trial told Reuters, adding that some of the Egyptians had said they were physically abused in custody and their confessions were obtained under coercion. [Ahram Online, 11/5/2013]

Hamas puts ‘resistance’ on Gaza school curriculum
The Gaza Strip’s Hamas government said on Tuesday it had added studies to encourage “resistance to Israel” to the territory’s public schools curriculum. Courses to “strengthen Palestinian rights, update programs and add studies on human rights” would be introduced at three levels in secondary schools, Education Minister Muetassem al-Minaui said. They were intended to instill “faith in the role of the resistance to win rights and to raise awareness of the importance of effective preparations to face the enemy,” he said. [AFP/Al Arabiya, 11/5/2013]

Iraq’s Maliki hits back following Sadr criticism
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has threatened Sadrist Movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr with a “harsh response” if he continues to criticize the government. The latest clash between the two leaders comes after Sadr strongly criticized Maliki over his recent visit to Washington, saying he had failed to adequately notify Iraq’s parliament and that he was only going to the US to “beg” for arms. [Asharq Al-Awsat, 11/5/2013]