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Archive for June, 2013

Albanians hand Socialists a landslide, wait on PM to concede

By Matt Robinson

TIRANA | Tue Jun 25, 2013

(Reuters) – With almost all votes counted, Albania’s Socialist opposition was on course for a landslide victory on Tuesday in a parliamentary election, but there was still no word from defeated Prime Minister Sali Berisha.

Berisha, the country’s dominant political figure since the end of Stalinist rule in 1991, has not been seen or heard in public since Sunday, when Albanians voted to deny him a third consecutive term as premier.

With votes counted from 86 percent of polling stations in the impoverished NATO country, a Socialist-led alliance headed by former Tirana mayor Edi Rama was on track to take 84 of parliament’s 140 seats. Berisha’s Democrats were on 56.

The West is anxious to see a smooth handover of power in a country that is deeply polarized between the Socialists and Democrats and no stranger to political violence.

A peaceful transition would help revive Albania’s stalled bid to join the European Union, which has yet to accept Tirana’s application to join due to misgivings over its democratic maturity and deep-rooted corruption.

At 68, defeat for Berisha could mean the end of his career.

“We continue to wait quietly, respecting our democratic and European ethics, for our opponent to accept his loss and accept and join Albania’s great victory,” said Rama, a 48-year-old artist who, as mayor, won international acclaim for revitalizing Albania’s drab capital with splashes of paint and avenues of trees.

EU ENCOURAGEMENT

The EU, which will make Croatia its 28th member on July 1, commended the “overall orderly” conduct of the election.

“Now it is important that the remaining stages of the election process are conducted in line with EU and international standards,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said in a joint statement.

“We call on all political parties to act in a constructive spirit for the good of the Albanian people,” they said.

The Socialists disputed Berisha’s last election win in 2009, and called supporters into the streets. Four were eventually shot dead by security forces.

Berisha was credited with taking Albania into NATO in 2009 and onto the first rung of EU membership, but his opponents accuse him of undermining democracy and allowing graft and organized crime to flourish.

Rama says he will reboot Albania’s EU bid and transplant his success in overhauling Tirana to the rest of the rundown country of 2.8 million people that hugs the Adriatic coast between Montenegro in the north and Greece to the south.

He will inherit an economy feeling the effects of the crisis in the euro zone, particularly in Greece and Italy where some 1 million Albanian migrants work and send money home.

Unlike its Balkan peers, Albania has avoided recession, but remittances are down and there is concern over rising public debt and the government’s budget deficit.

(Additional reporting by Benet Koleka; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

Source: Reuters.

Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/25/us-albania-election-idUSBRE95O10E20130625.

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Socialists heading for victory in Albania election

June 25, 2013

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania’s Socialist party appeared headed for a landslide election victory Tuesday, in what it says will act as a springboard for the country’s future membership of the European Union.

Socialist supporters on foot and in cars braved a heat wave to celebrate in the city center, waving purple party flags as the country’s election commission gave the party led by Edi Rama 52 percent of vote, with 80 percent of ballots counted.

“We continue to calmly wait for our opponent to accept defeat,” Rama told supporters who chanted, “victory, victory.” Conservative Prime Minister Sali Berisha, who had been seeking a third term, had yet to concede defeat in Sunday’s general election. Berisha’s Democrats had 36 percent of the vote counted — 12 percentage points less than four years ago.

Both Rama, 48, and Berisha, 68, had campaigned on the pledge of gaining EU candidate status for Albania, which was once one of the world’s most reclusive countries during its Communist years. Albania has already taken strides in joining international institutions — in 2009, it became a member of NATO.

“Let’s continue together as a country and as a nation our effort toward the place we deserve — the family of the united Europe,” said Rama in his victory speech late in the evening in front of hundreds of supporters at party headquarters.

But that would require swift and sweeping reforms in areas highlighted by the EU as the country’s enduring weak points, including the judiciary, organized crime, and widespread corruption. The Berlin-based corruption watchdog Transparency International ranks Albania 113 of 176 countries on its Corruption Perceptions Index, while the country’s annual economic output is only $12 billion.

Wedged between crisis-hit Greece and Italy, Albania is heavily reliant on remittances from its migrant workers and has suffered since recession swept across southern Europe. With growth muted, the new government will be tasked to slash budget deficits, modernize production and agriculture and breathe life into the emerging tourism industry.

Rama warned his supporters that the joy of the moment will not create “jobs, better education and health systems, or new roads.” “This victory is not the arrival but only the start. That change will not come overnight and easily. All together we should work and sacrifice to make it happen,” he said.

Sunday’s election was marred by a deadly shooting outside a polling station in northern Albania. International observers cited significant improvements from previous polls, but said the election process had suffered from intense party rivalry.

However, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule praised the “overall orderly manner” of the Albanian elections. But they added that once the results are certified, that a new government is formed quickly in order “to address the immediate challenges ahead to ensure that the country’s reform agenda is vigorously pursued.”

In an unusual gesture in the ever-squabbling Albanian politics, Rama also thanked his predecessor, Berisha, “for every good thing, which history tomorrow may evaluate with a higher objectivity than mine today.”

“I wish him all the best in his private life,” he said, though Berisha has not hinted he will withdraw from politics. A pre-election dispute over the country’s Central Election Commission could also complicate the final stages of the vote count.

The CEC is dominated by Berisha allies despite a damaging split in the conservative coalition in April. Because of Albania’s voting system, the popular vote does not directly translate into the number of seats each party will get in the 140-member Parliament.

‘Mass Grave Found in North Darfur’ Following Tribal Violence

27 June 2013

Al Sareif Beni Hussein — Reports from Al Sareif Beni Hussein in North Darfur say that the town is still besieged by Abbala tribesmen. Local sources claimed finding a mass grave in Al Sareif Beni Hussein city on Thursday containing “62 bodies of members of the Beni Hussein tribe”.

The sources said the Beni Hussein were killed “in an ambush by Abbala in an area four kilometers north of Al Sareif city.” They added the Abbala stole “between 3,000 and 4,000 head of cattle” On the same occasion.

Representatives of Unamid, who according to sources have documented the recent incidents in the area, said that 24 wounded arrived at the hospital of Al Sareif, while more than 20 people from the Beni Hussein tribe are still missing.

Speaking to Radio Dabanga from Al Sareif, a source said “all the roads leading to the town are completely closed while an atmosphere of sadness, wariness and anticipation of renewed clashes hangs over the region,” according to witnesses who spoke to Radio Dabanga.

“Chadian Arabs”

Beni Hussein leader Al Nour Sayer Mohamed told Radio Dabanga from Al Sareif that “the Abbala invited groups of Chadian Arabs on more than 75 vehicles and horses to attack the Beni Hussein north of Al Sareif, killing a large number, and looting of thousands of livestock”.

Sayer said that bodies of the dead are still on the battlefield and there are others who are wounded or missing following the clashes that broke out on Wednesday, but said that the estimate of the actual number of casualties is still ongoing.

The omda of Al Sareif, Omar Abdullah Al Nour, appealed to the government via Radio Dabanga to “immediately intervene, impose its authority and resolve the situation. The security of citizens is the responsibility of the state,” he said.

“The government is conspicuously absent at a time when Abbala soldiers affiliated to the government are using government weapons and vehicles in their attacks.”

In an interview with Radio Dabanga, the omda described the situation in Al Sareif Beni Hussein locality as tense. “Abbala are approaching from all directions to attack the city of Al Sareif,” he said. “It is the duty of the state to impost its presence before it’s too late.”

The omda appealed to all the people of Darfur who are fighting among themselves “to fear God and ask themselves who the beneficiary is and who is behind it? What is happening now in Darfur is very serious and requires all the sons of Darfur to act and use their brains”.

He suggested that villages and the country-side of Darfur are being torched and destroyed, and “maybe soon everyone will have moved to cities because there are no more villages.”

Afflicted citizens of Al Sareif appealed to the government to intervene and protect Sudanese civilians. The Beni Hussein leader told Radio Dabanga: “if the government consider us to be people of Sudan then we Sudanese are supposed to receive protection and security.”

He appealed to the United Nations and the Security Council to immediately intervene. “Al Sareif is in urgent and immediate need of aid,” he said.

Saraf Omra:

In the nearby town of Saraf Omra, the market was closed on Thursday after the arrival of “a large number of four-wheel-drive vehicles belonging to the Abbala,” witnesses said.

Due to “fear and tension that currently prevails in the region” because of the Abbala-Beni Hussein conflicts, citizens and traders are said to have “rushed to shut down the market the moment the Abbala entered the city.”

Witnesses said that the “Abbala militias did not want anything to do with the market and its shops”, saying that their “many vehicles were just parked around the market.”

The Abbala and Beni Hussein tribes fought violently earlier this year over control of the Jebel ‘Amer gold mine in Al Sareif Beni Hussein locality, leaving at least 500 people killed. The UN estimates that more than 100,000 people were displaced.

Source: allAfrica.

Link: http://allafrica.com/stories/201306280230.html?viewall=1.

Tickets go on sale for UAE’s FIFA U-17 World Cup

By Salma Awwad

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Tickets for the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013, which will be the biggest football event ever staged in the Middle East when it begins on October 17, went on sale on Thursday, officials said.

The fifteenth FIFA U-17 World Cup, which takes place from October 17 to November 8, is the largest football event ever held in the emirates and one of the world’s biggest international tournaments.

This is first year the UAE has won the bid to host the event, after the United States failed to qualify, despite appearing in all fourteen previous tournaments.

This biennial FIFA tournament has catapulted many of today’s football stars to fame, such as Ronaldinho from Brazil, Luis Figo from Portugal and Italy’s Del Piero.

“I am looking forward to seeing huge support for the tournament across the UAE. Fans around the world should secure their match tickets and get behind their team! This tournament has been the birthplace for many of the legends we see in the game today, so we can definitely expect to see some spectacular football,” said Emirati footballer Omar Abdulrahman, who was named ‘Player of the Year’ at the recent end of season awards and has been appointed the official tournament ambassador.

“This is a region that is crazy about football and with the best 24 U-17 teams in the world finally coming together to compete for the trophy, I am confident that tickets will sell fast,” said the 21-year old player.

Less than four months are left until the first day of 52 matches begins.

The tournament will be played across five of the Emirates of the UAE, over a three week period in six of the UAE’s top stadiums – Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Emirates Stadium in Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah Stadium in Fujairah, Sharjah Stadium in Sharjah, Rashid Stadium in Dubai and Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain.

FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 Qualified Nations are: Japan, Iran, Iraq, Uzbekistan, UAE, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Nigeria, Tunisia, Russia, Italy, Sweden, Slovakia, Austria, Croatia, Canada, Honduras, Panama, Mexico, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Uruguay.

Dubai has committed to hosting various youth events in the future including the fourth International Swimming Federation (FINA) world junior swimming competition in August this year and the 2014 men’s Under-17 Basketball World Championship (FIBA).

Tickets can be bought on FIFA’s official website and start from AED35 ($9.52). The FIFA U-17 world Cup UAE 2013 Official Draw will take place on August 26, when single match tickets will also go on sale.

Source: Arabian Business.

Link: http://www.arabianbusiness.com/tickets-go-on-sale-for-uae-s-fifa-u-17-world-cup-506646.html.

Iraq stunner at U-20 World Cup

27 June 2013-PA Sport

Iraq accounted for Egypt to go top of Group E at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey as England and Chile drew.

Iraq’s 2-1 win over Egypt left the Pharaohs on the brink of an early exit after successive defeats.

Mohanad Abdulraheem scored a 79th winner as Hakeem Shaker’s side came from behind at Antalya’s Akdeniz University Stadium to move ahead of Chile on goals scored.

Hassan Ahmed gave Egypt a 27th minute lead before Amar Abdulhussein equalised on 33 minutes.

England’s hopes are hanging by a thread after a second-half effort from Harry Kane salvaged a 1-1 draw against Chile.

Peter Taylor’s men appeared to be heading for a defeat that would have been fatal after Nicolas Castillo put the South American side ahead from the penalty spot.

But Kane replied midway through the second half to secure another draw after the 2-2 weekend result against Iraq.

It means England, which have not won in 17 Finals matches in this competition, will now almost certainly need to break that horrendous sequence in its final match against Egypt in Bursa to reach the last 16.

In Group F, Uzbekistan and Croatia shared the spoils in Bursa to move to four points.

Sardor Rakhmanov opened the scoring for Akhmadjan Musaev’s team, in what was the first ever meeting between these teams, but Marko Livaja found a second-half equalizer.

Uruguay got its campaign up and running with a 2-0 victory over New Zealand.

Giorgian De Arrascaeta (fourth) and Nicolas Lopez (75th) got Uruguay’s goals to secure its first points for the tournament after a first up loss to Croatia.

The defeat sees New Zealand goalless and pointless after two games.

Source: The World Game.

Link: http://theworldgame.sbs.com.au/FIFA-U-20-World-Cup/news/1157462/Iraq-stunner-at-U-20-World-Cup.

Egypt prepares for worst ahead of Sunday protest

June 29, 2013

CAIRO (AP) — As the streets once again fill with protesters eager to oust the president and Islamists determined to keep him in power, Egyptians are preparing for the worst: days or weeks of urban chaos that could turn their neighborhoods into battlegrounds.

Households already beset by power cuts, fuel shortages and rising prices are stocking up on goods in case the demonstrations drag on. Businesses near protest sites are closing until crowds subside. Fences, barricades and walls are going up near homes and key buildings. And local communities are organizing citizen patrols in case security breaks down.

For yet another time since President Mohammed Morsi took office last year, his palace in Cairo’s upscale Heliopolis neighborhood is set to become the focus for popular frustration with his rule. Some protests outside the capital have already turned deadly, and weapons — including firearms — have been circulating more openly than in the past.

“We’re worried like all Egyptians that a huge crowd will come, and it will get bloody,” said Magdy Ezz, owner of a menswear shop across from the walled complex, a blend of Middle Eastern and neoclassical architecture. Besides ordinary roll-down storm shutters, storefronts on the street are sealed off with steel panels.

“We just hope it will be peaceful. But it could be a second revolution,” he said. “If it lasts, we’ll have to keep the store closed. But it’s not like business has been booming here anyway, especially since the problems last year.”

Last winter, the area saw some of Cairo’s deadliest street violence since the 2011 uprising, with Islamists attacking a sit-in, anarchists throwing gasoline bombs, and police savagely beating protesters.

Morsi’s opponents aim to bring out massive crowds starting Sunday, saying the country is fed up with Islamist misrule that has left the economy floundering and security in shambles. They say they have collected 15 million signatures — around 2 million more than the number of voters who elected Morsi — calling for him to step down, and they hope the turnout will push him to do just that.

Morsi’s Islamist allies say they will defend the mandate of the country’s first freely elected president, some with their “souls and blood” if necessary, while hard-liners have vowed to “smash” the protests.

On Friday, thousands of Morsi supporters launched a counterdemonstration, which some plan to continue as an open-ended sit-in at a mosque near the presidential palace — the endpoint of the main protest march two days later.

Both camps say they intend to be peaceful, but demonstrations could rapidly descend into violence — especially if the two sides meet. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group has said five of its members were killed in clashes with protesters in Nile Delta provinces over the past days. On Friday, two people were killed in clashes in the port city of Alexandria and at least five Brotherhood offices were torched, while the nation’s highest religious authority, Al-Azhar, warned against “civil war.”

At the Brotherhood’s national headquarters in Cairo’s Muqattam district, workers added a final layer of mortar to a brick wall topped with grating to reinforce the main gate. A bank on the corner was completely boarded up. Some fear protesters could descend on the neighborhood to attack the headquarters, as happened last spring when supporters and opponents of the president fought street battles that left 200 wounded.

“The police have to get this place secured. It’s their job and I’m sure they will,” said Hadi Saad, a designer who lives around the corner from the headquarters. “The demonstrations will be very big across the country, no matter if (Morsi) stays or goes, so we should be prepared here as well.”

Other neighbors said they don’t expect a repeat of violence in the area, a hill overlooking the rest of the city. Only a handful of police patrolled the neighborhood ahead of the weekend protests, corralling a 100-car queue to the main avenue’s gas station.

Engineer Hasan Farag, also a neighbor, said residents were “hoping for the best.” Some have begun to resent the Brotherhood’s presence, however, and a petition to force the offices out has been circulating.

“The neighborhood is divided — some don’t mind the headquarters being here, others do,” Saad said. Security has been redoubled at the presidential palace in Heliopolis. Walls set up last year still block some traffic access, and curved concrete slabs designed to prevent climbing now protect the main gates. Shipping containers also line much of the perimeter, and nearby apartment buildings have blocked off their parking lots and side streets with barbed wire. On Friday, authorities built a new wall of concrete blocks to surround the complex.

Peter Soliman, a communications student who lives in the neighborhood, said most residents don’t know what to expect. “Of course, parents are worried about their children going out to demonstrate by the palace, especially if the Brotherhood shows up,” he said. “People fear things will turn bloody and divide the country.”

Other Heliopolis residents and protest organizers say neighborhood watch groups are already being formed. In the city center, concrete walls continue to block off the Interior Ministry and southern access routes to Tahrir Square, epicenter of the uprising that overthrew longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Protesters began gathering at the square ahead of the weekend, saying they plan to dig in for a protracted conflict.

The nearby Semiramis Hotel is taking no chances, even though Tahrir is expected to be a sideshow compared to Sunday’s march to the palace. The site of repeated clashes between stone-throwing youths and riot police this past year, the luxury hotel has just finished fortifying itself with a spiked metal fence topped with razor-sharp blades.

To the south, in the leafy Garden City neighborhood — an area that has sometimes seen spillover violence from Tahrir — some residents were securing their homes. Metalworker Sameh Haddad used an arc welder to put the final touches on an apartment building’s new wrought iron gate before hurrying to other appointments. “For once, business has been great,” he said.

Egypt Gears Up for Mass Protests

by Andre Colling

27 June 2013

Both pro- and anti-Morsi groups have organized countywide protests in Egypt over the next few days to coincide with the first anniversary of President’s Morsi’s rule.

Opposition political parties, activists and labor unions have called for countrywide anti-government demonstrations and protests against President Mohammed Morsi on 30 June, the one-year anniversary of Morsi assuming the presidency.

The planned protests are being organized under the collective banner of the Tamarod (rebellion) campaign. The opposition is demanding that Morsi resign and a new presidential election be held. The protest will focus on the Presidential Palace in the Heliopolis area of the capital, Cairo.

Political rallies in support of and against the 30 June opposition gatherings will also be held on 27 and 28 June. The opposition has stated that it will hold a rally in Cairo’s Sayeda Zeinab area on 27 June. On 28 June, another opposition rally will start in al-Azhar district and end at Tahrir Square.

A pro-government and pro-Morsi sit-in will also start in Cairo on 28 June, when supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya will gather in the vicinity of the Rabaa al-Adaweya Mosque in the Nasr City area of Cairo. Security will be increased ahead of and on 30 June.

Meanwhile, the military has reportedly placed its forces on alert near major cities while ferry and road crossings from the Sinai Peninsula will be closed. In addition, police will increase their presence in the vicinity of planned protest areas and airports will be placed on alert from 28 June to 1 July. Finally, the US and UK embassies in Cairo have announced that they will close on 30 June in anticipation of violence coinciding with the planned protests.

The upcoming protests are expected to gather tens of thousands of participants. Likely gathering points include public squares, city/town centers,  Muslim Brotherhood and FJP offices, mosques, universities and government facilities. There is a high threat of violence at all gatherings.

Clashes between rival political party supporters and between police or military personnel and protesters are possible. There are also likely to be road travel disruptions in the vicinity of all protest sites while closures of other foreign diplomatic representations are also anticipated in the coming days as a precaution. The largest demonstrations are anticipated in the country’s primary cities. Red Sea and southern Sinai coastal resort towns are likely to be less affected.

Source: allAfrica.

Link: http://allafrica.com/stories/201306280329.html.

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