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Archive for April, 2011

UN special envoy travels to Benghazi to meet with Libyan opposition officials: UN spokesperson

UNITED NATIONS, April 29 (Xinhua) — UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy to Libya has traveled to Benghazi, an opposition stronghold in the east of the country, to meet with representatives of the Libyan opposition, a UN spokesperson said here on Friday, without giving any further details.

“On Thursday, the special envoy (Abdul Ilah Al-Khatib) met in Ankara with the Turkish foreign minister and in Rome with the Italian foreign minister to discuss the ongoing crisis in Libya in the framework of the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973,” Martin Nesirky, the UN spokesperson, said at a daily press briefing.

UN Security Council Resolution 1970 imposed an arms embargo against Libya and slapped sanctions on members of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s inner circle. Resolution 1973 authorized a no- fly zone over Libya.

Next week, Al-Khatib will brief the Security Council about his activities in support of a peaceful solution for the Libyan conflict, Nesirky said.

Meanwhile, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has said it remains “very concerned” that people fleeing Libya could be caught in the crossfire, as government and opposition forces fight for control in the border area with Tunisia, Nesirky added.

Clashes have escalated at the Dehiba border crossing between Libya and Tunisia, stopping the outflow of refugees from Libya’s western mountains, UNHCR reported.

On Thursday, the World Food Program (WFP) warned that Libya is at risk of a full-blown food security crisis within the next 45 to 60 days.

Source: Xinhua.


Egypt to open Rafah border crossing with Gaza

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Egyptian FM: Rafah border blockage was shameful

DUBAI (AFP) – Egypt will permanently open the Rafah border crossing as part of its plans to ease the blockade on Gaza, Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi said in an interview with Al-Jazeera Friday.

Arabi said his country would take “important steps to help ease the blockade on Gaza in the few days to come,” according to the Arabic-language satellite channel.

He said Egypt would no longer accept that the Rafah border — Gaza’s only crossing that bypasses Israel — remain blocked, describing his country’s decision to seal it off as “shameful.”

Egypt has largely kept Rafah closed, opening it exceptionally for humanitarian cases from the besieged Gaza Strip.

Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza in 2006, further tightening it the following year when the Islamic resistance movement Hamas took power after winning Palestinian elections.

Since 2007, Gaza’s 1.5 million people have relied on a web of tunnels beneath the Rafah border for most of their needs.

Most of the tunnels are used to bring in basic goods such as food, household appliances, building materials and livestock.

A 2005 agreement brokered by the United States put the Acting Palestinian Authority and Israel in charge of Rafah, with observation from the European Union.

Source: Tehran Times.

Egyptians use train to spread the word

CAIRO, April 28 (UPI) — A “construction train” carrying political activists is traveling across Egypt in an effort to raise political awareness before elections, its organizers said.

Organizers said the train was to leave Cairo Thursday and make stops in several Egyptian governates to educate and encourage people to increase their political awareness and activities, Bikya Masr reported.

Organizers said they expect a large turnout wherever the train stops. The idea was conceived by a group of January 25 revolution youth interested in communicating with people across a wide range social structures, especially in poor villages and in slum-like areas.

A television program about the construction train will be released soon and organizers of the initiative have developed training programs for volunteers to educate them on how to communicate with the masses.

The construction train initiative is open to all Egyptian youth, organizers said. A number of political activists and popular artists will participate in the first leg of the initiative.

They include Amr Shubaki, political analyst at al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Moez Masoud, a religious scholar, and Ahmed Helmy, an actor.

The train’s first stop will be in the province of Beni Suef Thursday.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Unemployment, poverty top agendas of Amr Moussa’s presidential campaign

QENA, Egypt, April 28 (Xinhua) — Egypt’s presidential candidate Amr Moussa has vowed to fight unemployment and poverty in his campaign in southern Egypt.

Moussa, who is to end his post in May as chief of Cairo-based Arab League, said on Thursday his program will include an immediate and logical solution to the unemployment problem in the country.

Moussa said at a press conference held in Qena governorate that the government should provide an allowance for the unemployed for one year with an average of 1,500 Egyptian pounds (about 252 U.S. dollars).

The government should be responsible for creating jobs with 60 training centers, he added. Egypt’s unemployment rate is estimated at around 20 percent, although official figures showed it was about nine percent.

Moussa said poverty was another main problem and should be reduced by economic reforms and social justice. Efforts should be made to establish small businesses, projects and provide credit and direct loans like India and Brazil, he added.

He stressed Egypt needed to gain its pivotal role in the region.

Moussa was Egypt’s foreign minister from 1991 to 2001. He has been the Arab League’s secretary general since 2001.

He is one of presidential candidates for the upcoming election later this year, after President Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign on Feb. 11 due to anti-government protests against his 30- year rule.

“I am proud of the ten years I spent as an Egyptian foreign minister during Mubarak’s regime, I was loyal and honest in my political job and my decision was driven from the Egyptian people and the Arabs,” he said.

“I have never been a member in the corrupted regime,” he said.

He said he had no affiliation with the National Democratic Party, the former ruling party which has been dissolved by the court.

Source: Xinhua.

Brotherhood to decide party leadership on Friday

Hany ElWaziry
Ibtisam taalab
Thu, 28/04/2011

The Muslim Brotherhood Shura Council plans to choose the president of its Freedom and Justice Party and approve the final bylaws of the party on Friday.

Sources said the party has 10,000 founding members but will apply for registration with 7000 only.

They also said that group members Saad al-Katatny, Mohamed Morsi, Rashad al-Bayoumi and Essam al-Eryan are front-runners for the post.

Mohktar Nouh, a member of the group’s internal opposition, said the group’s General Assembly, not the Shura Council, should appoint the party president.

In related news, presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei’s statement that the military council should include an article in the new constitution protecting the secular state raised reservations within the group.

Source: al-Masry al-Youm.

Egypt backs Syrian regime, receives sharp criticism

Ahmed Zaki Osman
Thu, 28/04/2011

Egypt is backing Syrian diplomatic efforts to block a Western-supported UN resolution condemning Damascus’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, a human rights advocate said on Thursday.

“Egypt has introduced amendments to a proposed UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution, according to which the council should not condemn the bloody governmental crackdown on peaceful protesters in Syria,” said Radwan Ziadeh, a Syrian human rights activist, via telephone from Geneva.

The Syrian unrest began in the middle of March after a group of schoolchildren in the town of Deraa, bordering Jordan, were arrested for writing anti-government slogans. The people rushed to the streets demanding their release.

The regime of President Bashar al-Assad has launched a deadly campaign to quash the protests. The death toll is now more than 450, according to Ziadeh, who attended the special session of the Geneva-based UNHCR.

“I can’t believe that revolutionary Egypt is completely ignoring the massacres in Syria, [and even] supporting the regime. Egypt shouldn’t support Assad,” said the Washington-based advocate. Rather, it “should look to the Syrian lives that are being lost because of the bloody crackdown.”

The United States – along with Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Senegal, Zambia and ten European states – have managed to force a special session of the UNHRC on Friday to examine the crackdowns. It marks the first time that a special session has been held on the human rights situation in Syria, which has submitted a bid to become a UNHRC member.

A draft proposed by France, Britain, Germany and Portugal was opposed by members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), along with some African countries who opposed the idea of holding such a session.

On Thursday, two Egyptian rights watchdogs, along with two Syrian ones, issued a statement condemning the “shameful position” of the OIC toward the crackdown in Syria. According to the statement, the OIC’s proposed amendments “don’t only ignore the basic and recognized human rights,” but would also give “immunity to the crimes and massacres perpetrated by the Syrian authorities.”

The rights watchdog Amnesty International on Tuesday called on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

“The Syrian government is clearly trying to shatter the will of those peacefully expressing dissent by shelling them, firing on them and locking them up,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

The US is considering targeted sanctions against Syria and has underscored the point that it has evidence that Iran is supporting the crackdown on peaceful protesters.

President Obama condemned Syria for its “outrageous use of violence” and said the government’s moves to lift the state of emergency and allow peaceful demonstrations “were not serious given the continued violent repression against protesters.”

France announced that it has called in the Syrian ambassador to explain his government’s attacks on its citizens. Four other European governments – Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain – also called in their Syrian ambassadors.

“I do think that the regime of [former president] Mubarak is still in place. Egypt’s foreign policy hasn’t changed at all,” claimed Ziadeh.

“I expect tomorrow to be a fierce session, and we are working closely with the Latin American group in the UNHRC in order to ensure the required votes [of 24] for condemning the bloody crackdown on protesters,” concluded Ziadeh.

Source: al-Masry al-Youm.

Egypt releases 9 Palestinian detainees

Thu, 28/04/2011

Palestinian sources said Egyptian authorities on Wednesday released nine Palestinians who were being held in Egyptian prisons. Detainees entered the Gaza Strip via the Rafah border crossing late on Wednesday.

A committee of the families of Palestinian detainees in Egyptian prisons said all nine prisoners returned to Gaza after being released on Wednesday morning.

In a statement, the Hamas Foreign Affairs and Planning Ministry described the move as a “positive step that strengthens connections between Egypt and Palestine.”

Egypt released another 14 Palestinian prisoners earlier this month, 12 of whom arrived in Gaza while one stayed in Egypt and another went to the Emirates.

Other Palestinian detainees were able to escape Egyptian prisons and return to Gaza due to security breaches during the 25 January revolution.

Source: al-Masry al-Youm.

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