The United States and Russia agreed on Thursday on a UN Security Council draft resolution that would demand Syria give up its chemical arms, but does not threaten military force if it fails to comply. (Full text of the draft available here.) The US ambassador to the United Nations said a deal was struck with Russia “legally obligating” Syria to give up its chemical stockpile and the measure went to the full Security Council in a closed-door meeting on Thursday night. UN diplomats said a vote could come within twenty-four hours. [Reuters, 9/27/13]


Syria’s toxins may be destroyed more easily than officials initially thought
US and Russian officials now believe that the vast majority of Syria’s nerve agent stockpile consists of “unweaponized” liquid precursors that could be neutralized relatively quickly, lowering the risk that the toxins could be hidden away by the regime or stolen by terrorists. A confidential assessment by the United States and Russia also concludes that Syria’s entire arsenal could be destroyed in about nine months, assuming that Syrian officials abide promises to cede control of the chemical assets to international inspectors. The assessment, thought to be the most authoritative to date, reflects the consensus view of Russian and US analysts who compared their governments’ intelligence on Syria during meetings in Geneva this month. [Washington Post, 9/27/13]

Syrian rebel leader returns to reconcile fractured alliance
The head of the opposition Syrian Supreme Military Council cut short a visit to France on Thursday and said he would head to Syria for talks with rebel brigades that broke with the Western-backed coalition. General Salim Idris, who commands the coalition’s military wing known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA), said he would travel to Syria on Friday to meet fighters from the thirteen groups which rejected on Tuesday the authority of the Turkey-based coalition. The rebel groups, including at least three considered to be under the FSA umbrella, called on Tuesday for the rebel forces to be reorganized under an Islamic framework and to be run only by groups fighting inside Syria. “We should deal wisely with their statement. I returned from France so as to follow up with the field commanders and work toward unifying all the ranks,” Idriss said. [Reuters, 9/26/13]

Syrian rebels make advances along Jordanian border; cooperation among fractured rebel groups
Field commanders of the FSA in southern Syria have stated that they now control sensitive and strategic locations parallel to the highway that connects Damascus with Amman following violent overnight clashes on September 24-25. A FSA field commander, who acknowledged cooperation among the troubled rebel alliance, stated that “We now control approximately 70 percent of the crossing that separates Syria from Jordan, and we expect to be in complete control of it within the coming hours.” Considered the second most important crossing between Jordan and Syria, the Ramtha-Daraa crossing used to facilitate hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of trade between Gulf states, Turkey and Europe before the Syrian revolution began more than two years ago. [Al Monitor, 9/26/13]


Egyptian presidential adviser says Brotherhood reconciliation still possible
Egyptian presidential adviser Mostafa Hegazy called on the Muslim Brotherhood to join in “an Egypt for all Egyptians,” urging the group to abandon the attitude of “collision” they have adopted. Speaking in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday, Hegazy said despite the Brotherhood’s “discrimination” against Egyptians, they still have a chance to “seize the moment” and join in the political process started after their ejection from power. [Ahram Online, CNN Video, 9/27/2013]

Salmawy says addendum to issue new constitution possible; Nour Party opposed
Mohamed Salmawy, the spokesman for the fifty member constitutional committee, said that a legal team is looking into issuing a constitutional addendum that will allow for the writing of an entirely new constitution, rather than simply amending the country’s 2012 constitution. While the majority of the committee is in favour of the addendum, the ultra-conservative Salafi Nour Party is opposed, saying that it violates the roadmap. Salmawy also revealed that the majority of participants in a meeting of the governance panel are agreed on the idea of establishing an anti-corruption commission. He left the question of political isolation of members of the Mubarak and Morsi regimes to the yet-to-be elected parliament. [Ahram Online, Shorouk (Arabic), SIS, Gulf News, 9/26/2013]

Finance Minister says Cabinet to pump EGP 22 billion into developing infrastructure
Finance Minister Ahmed Galal said that the Cabinet would pump EGP 22 billion into developing infrastructure and public health services, as well as covering the government’s debts to contractors and improving living conditions in impoverished areas, reported the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm. The Cabinet was regulating the state budget, thus decreasing pressure on the Egyptian pound and hence phasing out black market activities, Galal added. The minister also claimed that Egypt does not need aid from the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, as less expensive resources are now available, reported the state-run news site Egynews. [Mada Masr, 9/26/2013]

Foreign Ministry rejects Tunisian president’s statement on Egypt
The Foreign Ministry expressed resentment over the remarks made by Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki on which he called on Egypt to release what he called “political prisoners”. The ministry affirmed in a statement that the remarks of the Tunisian president contradicts with the reality and represents a challenge to the will of the Egyptian people. [SIS, Anadolu Agency, Shorouk (Arabic), DNE, Ahram Gate (Arabic), 9/27/2013]


Five of the G8 renew help pledges to Zidan in New York
At a meeting with five of the G8 foreign ministers in New York, Prime Minister Ali Zidan repeated his calls for international help to grapple with Libya’s security challenges and reiterated the Libyan government’s commitment to create accountable and effective security institutions and to preserve the Libyan people’s freedoms. The officials, including Deputy Secretary of State William Burns from the United States, said they would continue to provide necessary training and assistance to Libya’s armed forces, support border control efforts, and help the government and the General National Congress improve their performance. In an interview with CNN, Zidan stressed that Libya is not a failing state. [Libya Herald, 9/26/13]

Libya’s southern Fezzan region declares autonomy
Libya’s southwestern region of Fezzan has declared itself an autonomous federal province, naming Nouri Mohammad al-Qouizi as president of the province, according to Libyan media reports. Tribal leaders said they made the decision to declare autonomy because of the “weak performance of the General National Congress and the lack of response to the demands” of the people of Fezzan. The move follows a similar step taken earlier by the eastern province of Cyrenaica. [Al Arabiya, 9/26/13]

Tripoli jail stormed, illegally detained prisoners found
A number of illegally detained prisoners, including several women, were found in a detention facility in the outskirts of Tripoli after it was stormed by security forces operating under the ministry of defense. The detainees, some of whom had marks on their bodies suggesting torture, had reportedly been arrested over personal disputes and had never been brought before a court. Security forces took action after locals repeatedly voiced concerns that kidnapped individuals were being held at the prison. The raid comes in the wake of the latest UN report that cites slow progress in transferring detainees from the militias to state authorities. [Libya Herald, 9/26/13]

Libya’s Zawiya oil port exports first crude cargo in September
The Zawiya port exported its first crude cargo this month after flows were restored from oil fields that supply the terminal. The shipment is destined for Spain, and a second vessel is loading 800,000 barrels, according to the refinery’s oil movement coordinator. Libya has canceled deliveries from several other ports because of protests by oil facility guards, which have severely disrupted oil production. The country’s two most important ports, Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, remain closed. [Bloomberg, 9/25/13]


Tunisia orders investigation of photo of youth trampling Quran
Tunisia’s Islamist-led government said Thursday it had ordered a probe and contacted Interpol after a young Tunisian living abroad posted a photo of himself on the Internet trampling on the Quran. Tunisia has no laws criminalising blasphemy or sacrilege as such, but the judiciary has previously resorted to charges such as disturbing public order to prosecute people accused of attacking Islamic values. [Ahram Online, 9/26/2013]

Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights condemns deterioration of freedoms
Following a meeting of the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights on Thursday, its national council issued a statement condemning the deteriorating situation of public and individual freedoms and the government’s increasingly serious human rights violations. The statement denounced the government’s imposition of religion on the lives of citizens and the appointment of state officials on the basis of loyalty rather than merit. [Assabah (Arabic), 9/26/2013]

UN: Marzouki calls for Morsi’s release, Egyptian foreign ministry rejects the statement
During his comments on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki called on the Egyptian authorities to quickly release former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and all other detained politicians. He also called on the Egyptian authorities to open the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza strip. In response to the remarks, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing its “rejection and resentment of the Tunisian president’s speech.” [Assabah (Arabic), 9/26/2013]

Tunisia ranks eight-first in an international report on economic freedom
Tunisia ranks eighty-first out of 152 countries in matters of economic freedom, according to “Economic Freedom of the World,” a report published by Canada’s Fraser Institute. The report assesses the degree of economic freedom on the basis of five indicators related to the performance of the government and the judicial system, monetary and property rights, and freedom of trade. Tunisia was highest on the list of all Maghreb countries. [TAP, Assabah (Arabic), 9/27/2013]


Twin blasts in Yemeni capital wound twenty
Two roadside bombs exploded one after the other on a busy road in the Yemeni capital on Thursday wounding twenty people, the interior ministry said. The bombings are the latest in a series of attacks that usually target military personnel, not civilians. They come after President Abdrabbo Mansur Hadi vowed on Wednesday to eradicate terrorism in Yemen, plagued by Al-Qaeda and domestic unrest. [Ahram Online, 9/26/2013]

Yemen gunmen kill suspected homosexual
Gunmen have shot dead a Yemeni man in the south of the country because they suspected he was homosexual, police said on Friday. One of two men on a motorbike opened fire at the man in his twenties late on Thursday outside his house in Huta, the capital of Lahij province, killing him on the spot. Police said the attackers, presumed Islamist militants, escaped after the killing, the sixth such murder since the start of the year. [Ahram Online, 9/27/2013]

Yemen parties warn of secession of south
Two of the biggest political parties in Yemen have deplored any move to give southern Yemenis more autonomy that could lead to separation of the country. The General People’s Congress, the party of the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the Islamist Islah party said that they deem secession as a “red line” and any solution to the southern issue should be in “the framework of unity.” The announcement comes as leaders within the Southern Issue Working Group of the National Dialogue Conference consider federalist arrangements for the future of Yemen, discussing the possibility of a two- or five-region state. [Gulf News, 9/26/2013]

Benomar leaves Sanaa before the southern issue is resolved
The Southern Issue Working Group has not decided on how many regions will make up the federal state, as United Nations envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, left the country on Wednesday. Benomar will present to the General Assembly a periodic report on the situation and political process in Yemen on Friday. He will request that the Security Council postpone its debate on the situation in Yemen until after the National Dialogue Conference completes its work. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 9/26/2013]


Protesters clash with police in Bahrain
Protesters and police clashed in a Bahraini village ahead of a demonstration called to demand the release of a prominent Shiite former member of parliament, the interior ministry and witnesses said Friday. Witnesses said protesters on Thursday night took to the streets of Manama and nearby Shiite villages, chanting slogans demanding the release of political prisoners and the fall of the ruling Sunni monarchy. Police fired teargas to disperse the demonstrators who hurled stones and petrol bombs, they said. [Ahram Online, 9/27/2013]

Supporters protest jailing of Morocco journalist
Hundreds of people protested Thursday in support of a Moroccan journalist who was jailed after publishing a story about an al-Qaeda video. The protesters in the capital, Rabat, alleged he has been jailed for his independent views and criticism of authorities. [AP, 9/26/2013]

Israel easing some restrictions on Palestinians
Israel has announced that it is easing some restrictions on the impoverished Gaza Strip and West Bank as it negotiates a final peace deal with the Palestinians. Israeli minister of international relations, Yuval Steinitz, said Wednesday that 5,000 new work permits were being issued for Palestinians to work in Israel, the opening hours of the key Allenby Bridge crossing would be extended, and new imports of some building materials would be allowed into Gaza. [The Jordan Times, 9/26/2013]