Archive for June 22, 2012


Construction will soon begin on Morocco’s first high-speed rail line, AFP reported on Thursday (September 8th). “I will be in Morocco at the end of the month with King Mohammed VI to lay the foundation stone for the Rabat-Casablanca-Tangier TGV that we will build,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Thursday. The joint Moroccan-French project for the TGV railway line’s design, construction and maintenance was initiated during Sarkozy’s visit to Morocco in October, 2007.

The first TGV train in Morocco, which will travel at 350 km/hour, is expected to shorten the travel time between Casablanca and Tangier from over five hours to two hours and ten minutes. It is expected to be fully operational by 2015.

Source: Magharebia.


The Mauritanian interior ministry on Thursday (September 8th) officially recognized new political party “Surge of Youth for the Nation”, ANI reported. The new party merges several youth movements. The 53-member provisional executive committee will be chaired by Lalla Cheriva, a former national executive board member of the ruling Union for the Republic (UPR).

Source: Magharebia.

SANAA (BNO NEWS) — Tens of thousands of protesters on Friday demonstrated across Yemen to demand the ousting of the country’s long-time ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh, eyewitnesses said.

Protesters took to the streets after Friday prayers in major Yemeni cities amid heavy security to call for the overthrow of the regime, according to Xinhua news agency. They held banners calling for “a rapid, decisive action to settle revolt and unseat President Saleh.”

Meanwhile, government supporters vowed to wait for Saleh’s “soon” return and chanted slogans demanding the president to stay in power until “his constitutional term expires in 2013.” The embattled president is still in Saudi Arabia receiving treatment after he was wounded along with other government officials in the rocket attack which hit the mosque of the presidential palace in Sanaa on June 3.

Saleh said last week that he is “willing now to sign a Saudi-led power-transfer deal initiated in April by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC),” and directed his government to begin a power-transfer dialogue with the opposition. The GCC initiative, which Saleh had backed out from signing three times, included guarantees that Saleh will not be prosecuted after his resignation within 30 days from the acceptance date.

The initiative also called for holding presidential elections within two months from the date of Saleh’s departure as well as the establishment of a new government within 90 days. On Wednesday, Saleh’s ruling party proposed an extended 90-day transitional period for him to resign, which was rejected by the opposition that called Saleh to sign the deal first, Xinhua reported.

Protesters have continually demanded the resignation of government leaders and President Saleh, who has ruled the country for 33 years. Tensions have soared as both the government forces and the pro- protests defected army have recently deployed heavily troops in central cities, including the capital Sanaa.

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Source: WireUpdate.


Friday 9 September 2011

BEIRUT: Muammar Qaddafi may be on the run, but he’s still talking — and his outlet is a curious one: clandestine, late-night phone calls to a private Syrian satellite TV station run by an Iraqi exile with a shady past.

Qaddafi, who once had multiple state-run Libyan stations at his beck and call, has made three calls from hiding to Al-Rai TV, trying to rally his dwindling supporters and insisting he will never give up. The messages add to the bizarre spectacle surrounding Qaddafi’s downfall and his attempts to stay a step ahead of the former rebels hunting for him.

Al-Rai’s owner, Mishan Al-Jabouri, refuses to divulge much about why Qaddafi chose his station to call into and whether he knows where Qaddafi and his sons are hiding.
“It’s my own secret that I won’t reveal,” Al-Jabouri told The Associated Press by telephone this week when pressed for details. “You shouldn’t ask such questions because I am contacting a person in the war field, how can I say how I contact him? It’s impossible to tell you.”

“We have our own means and methods to keep in contact with them,” he said.
Al-Jabouri, formerly a lawmaker from Iraq’s Sunni heartland, has long touted himself as an Arab nationalist opposed to US interventions in the Middle East and a supporter of Iraqi Sunni insurgents against American troops. He said he has good relations with Qaddafi and his family, and he made his support clear for the man who ruled Libya for more than 42 years.

“We deal with them as strugglers who defend their homeland,” he said.
Al-Jabouri knows what it’s like to be on the run. He fled to Syria in 2006, a year before an Iraqi court convicted him of embezzling millions of dollars. He and his son Yazan were accused of embezzling some $7 million a month intended for units of a special force created to protect oil pipelines from attacks by insurgents.

Al-Jabouri has denied the charges, but he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

A private TV station he once ran in Iraq — Al-Zawraa — was raided by Iraqi troops in 2006 trying to shut it down for “inciting hatred” by airing videos of Iraqi insurgents hitting US tanks and troops. The station managed to keep airing from Sunni parts of Iraq, but under US pressure the Egyptian-owned satellite provider that was airing the channel dropped it.

Al-Jabouri said his Al-Rai still follows a broad anti-American movement. “We also keep contact with the Iraqi resistance and take photos of US tanks when they explode.”

His affection for Qaddafi ensures the ousted leader a friendly venue to deliver his voice to his homeland and the world.

Qaddafi’s most recent call came at 3 a.m. Thursday, when he denied rumors he had fled Libya, vowed never to leave the land of his ancestors and exhorted followers to keep fighting.

“We are ready to start the fight in Tripoli and everywhere else, and rise up against them,” Qaddafi said in the recording.

“All of these germs, rats and scum … they are not Libyans, ask anyone. They have cooperated with NATO,” he said, referring to the former rebels who swept into the capital Tripoli on Aug. 21, toppling him.

Qaddafi disappeared underground and so far has eluded the country’s new rulers’ manhunt. Rumors have put him everywhere from deep in a bunker under Tripoli to any of three final strongholds of his supporters around the country.

Interpol said Friday it has issued red notices — its top most-wanted alert — for the arrest of Qaddafi, his son Seif Al-Islam and the former head of military intelligence, Abdullah Al-Senoussi. Qaddafi went underground after anti-regime fighters swept into Tripoli on Aug. 21.

Source: Arab News.

Friday 9 September 2011

BAGHDAD: Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Iraq’s capital and other cities on Friday, demanding that the government steps up reforms and provides more electricity and jobs.

Inspired by the Arab Spring, Iraqis have been demonstrating on Fridays for months but protests had petered out in recent weeks.

The rallies came days after a prominent anti-American Shiite cleric, Moqtada Al-Sadr, called on the government to create 50,000 jobs, give Iraqis a share of the nation’s oil wealth and make more reforms or face protests.

Sadr, whose political movement is a key faction in Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s fragile coalition government, earlier this year gave the government six months to improve services. The deadline expired at the end of August.

More than eight years after the US-led invasion, Iraqis still suffer from a lack of basic services and the government has been slow to rebuild the country’s battered infrastructure.

“It is so shameful. Our country is a wealthy oil-rich country and its people are poverty-stricken,” said Tareq Khalil, a protester in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square.

“We’re only demanding an improvement in basic services and an improvement in people’s living standards.”

Military vehicles and soldiers, as well as police, lined the streets. All roads leading to the square were closed to vehicles.

Demonstrations also took place in Diwaniya, Hilla, Najaf and the oil port city of Basra in the south, as well as Baquba in the north.

Dozens protested against the lack of services in Falluja and Ramadi, the two main cities of vast Anbar province in the west. Some demonstrators also called for US troops to leave Iraq and for the resignation of the local provincial council.

The United States is expected to fully withdraw from Iraq by the end of the year although Iraq’s government is currently debating whether to keep some US trainers.

Maliki’s government has taken a series of steps to ease public anger, boosting the national food ration program and pledging free power. But Iraqis say there has been little real improvement since February when the premier gave his ministers a 100-day ultimatum to meet the demands or face the sack.

“So far we haven’t noticed any change in government policy. Services are still missing, there are no reforms and corruption is widespread,” said 21-year-old university student Ahmed Rafaa, who was protesting in Baghdad.

“I will keep attending every Friday to protest against the government’s performance. I will not stop, even if I am alone, until my demands to be able to live a prosperous life are met.”

A separate small demonstration also took place in Baghdad to protest the killing of Hadi Al-Mehdi, a popular radio commentator critical of the government who was killed at his house in Baghdad’s central Karrada district on Thursday.

Source: Arab News.


By Andrew Beatty – TRIPOLI

Libya’s new de facto premier on Thursday used his first major address in Tripoli to warn that liberation was not yet complete and the hardest battles were yet to come.

Speaking in the capital for the first time since Moamer Gathafi’s ouster, Mahmud Jibril laid out the stark challenges ahead for a nation reborn in the fire of a seven-month-long civil war.

If Libyans were expecting a triumphalist address two weeks after Gathafi’s fall from power, they would have been chastened.

“The battle of liberation is not finished,” said the deputy head of the victorious National Transitional Council (NTC) in comments broadcast live across the country from the former offices of the ousted leader.

“What the Libyans have accomplished is an unprecedented achievement in modern and recent history, however our biggest challenge is still ahead of us.”

As thoughts turn to revenge and justice against allies of the 42-year dictatorship, Jibril called for order and reconciliation.

“The first challenge is to win against ourselves, and the second challenge is the ability to forgive.

“So the choice in front of Libyans is either to take action against those who shaped our past, or to build a new future for themselves and their future sons and generations.”

A key part of beginning that new chapter will undoubtedly be the capture of Gathafi himself. But Jibril gave few clues about how close the NTC was to tracking him down.

The battle for Libya’s liberation will end with the “capture or elimination of Kahdafi,” he said, because then his followers will truly know that the strongman is “out of the picture.”

When asked about the location of the fugitive leader, Jibril said it would be unwise for the NTC to announce his whereabouts. “We will not be divulging that information.”

But there was a message for those towns and villages which remain resolute in their support for the Gathafi regime ahead of a Saturday deadline to lay down their arms that looks increasingly redundant.

After rocket attacks on pro-NTC troops near Bani Walid on Thursday, Jibril said the window for a negotiated surrender was nearly closed.

“Unfortunately, this chance was violated and exploited by putting more soldiers and fomenting Libyans to kill each other. We don’t really see that the other side truly wants to take a chance and avoid bloodshed,” Jibril said.

“We have the right to defend ourselves even before the deadline,” he added.

As life returns to normal in the capital, Jibril also warned against rushing the political process before the battle for Libya has ended and reiterated his promise not to stand for office in the immediate future.

“Some have made preparations and attempts to start the political game, before reaching a common consensus on the rules of the game,” he said.

“Once the battle is truly finished, there is an interim government and a constitution is agreed upon, the political game can start. As I promised in the past, I will not take part in that.”

Jibril, who is unelected, also vowed to step down if his leadership proves contentious.

“If we discover that we are not in common ground, I will retreat so that I give others who may be more capable in participating in such experiments.

Source: Middle East Online.


ISTANBUL – As the only Muslim member of NATO and the first country in the wider Middle East to forge relations with Israel, Turkey had long been seen as having its diplomatic feet firmly planted in the West.

But under the Islamist-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it has come to increasingly rewrite the script, not only falling out with Israel and breaking ranks with the West over its response towards Iran’s nuclear ambitions but also showing a willingness to get tough with Syria.

According to Bertrand Badie, a Paris-based professor of international relations, Erdogan is filling the breach while Arab leaders are busy trying to cling onto their posts in the wake of popular uprisings.

“There is an empty space (in the region) due to the lack of Arab power. Turkey is filling that space,” said Badie, an international relations professor based in Paris.

Erdogan’s office announced on Wednesday that the prime minister would next week embark on a regional tour which will take in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia — the three countries to have overthrown their leaders in the Arab uprisings.

He has already indicated the trip to Egypt could include a visit to the Gaza Strip, the Hamas-run enclave wedged between Egypt and Israel, which would underline his commitment to the Palestinian cause.

Erdogan has defended Hamas as “resistance fighters who are struggling to defend their land.”

Regardless of whether Erdogan actually goes to Gaza or not, his willingness to make such a visit is seen as a veiled reproach to Arab leaders who have shunned the impoverished territory since Hamas seized power in 2007.

Last week’s decision to expel the Israeli ambassador and suspend all military and defense industry ties put an end, at least temporarily, to years of friendship and cooperation.

Israel lost an ally, while Turkey lost its role as an intermediary between Arabs and Israel. For example Ankara facilitated indirect discussions between Israel and Syria in the 1990s over the Golan Heights.

Analysts have warned that Erdogan’s fall-out with Israel could damage Turkey’s standing in Washington, particularly in the US Congress where support for the Jewish state has been particular strong.

However, Erdogan showed his willingness to upset Washington when Turkey publicly opposed new sanctions against Iran drawn up by the United States and the European Union over Tehran’s nuclear program.

And yet Erdogan has also been willing to alienate Arab leaders, carpeting neighboring Syria for its bloody crackdown on protests.

Writing in Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper, the columnist Mustafa Akyol said that Turkey was reacting to the reality of a world which “is really less black and white” and that it was no longer to stereotype its allegiances.

“We are an ally of neither Iran nor Syria, as we have been busy condemning the latter’s brutality on its own people,” he wrote. “On the other hand, we are an ally of the United States, but not its yes-man.”

Nor has the frenetic diplomatic activity been limited to the Arab world. Last month, Erdogan visited drought-hit Somalia, becoming the first non-African leader to visit Mogadishu since the beginning of the civil war in 1991.

“The tragedy going on here is a test for civilization and contemporary values… The civilized world must successfully pass this test in order to prove that Western values are not made up of empty rhetoric,” Erdogan said.

In an earlier show of solidarity with Muslim suffering, he paid a visit last year to areas of Pakistan ravaged by floods.

Badie said Turkey’s “hyperactive diplomacy” was in part possible due to its burgeoning economy. Gross domestic product grew 8.9 percent last year.

“The privilege of being a developing country is that you have your one foot in the rich countries, and the other in the poor,” he said.

And as it takes on a higher diplomatic profile among other Muslim countries, Bradie said there should be no surprise if feathers are ruffled.

“Turkey is becoming a world power, an actor you cannot do without. But to achieve this goal, Turkey must first be a regional power. That’s what they are doing,” he added.

“But, when you become bigger and more powerful, you can’t keep all your friends,” Badie warned. “That’s what is happening with Israel,” he added.

Source: Middle East Online.


RIYADH – The foreign ministers of Jordan and Morocco are to hold talks with their six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council counterparts on possible accession to the Gulf bloc, the GCC chief said on Thursday.

Abdulatif al-Zayani said in a statement the foreign ministers of Jordan and Morocco have been invited to discuss the “strengthening of relations and cooperation” on the sidelines of a GCC meeting on Sunday in Saudi Arabia.

The discussions in the port city of Jeddah would focus on implementing decisions taken at a May meeting of the GCC where the organization announced that both monarchies would be considered for membership of the bloc.

The oil-rich Arab states of the Gulf, which have seen entrenched regimes in Egypt and Tunisia fall, are seeking reliable allies in the region, singling out fellow monarchies.

Thousands of retired Jordanian army officers have obtained citizenship in the Gulf states and hold important positions in the region’s armed forces.

Source: Middle East Online.


ANKARA – Turkey said Friday NATO’s missile system targeted no specific country after Iran heightened criticism of Ankara’s plan to host an early-warning radar.

“This system is not against any country. It aims at the defense of NATO sphere,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal told a weekly news conference in Ankara.

On Thursday, Iran toughened its criticism of the Turkish plan to host the early warning radar system allocated by the United States to NATO, saying it would create tension and lead to “complicated consequences.”

Leaders of the 28-member NATO alliance gave their backing last year for the Europe-wide ballistic missile shield — which US officials say is aimed at thwarting missile threats from the Middle East, particularly Iran.

Source: Middle East Online.

Fri Sep 9, 2011

The National Transitional Council (NTC) forces have entered the strategically important Libyan town of Bani Walid, one of the last remaining strongholds of fugitive ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

“Sleeper cells of revolutionaries went into action and fighting has taken place between them and armed men loyal to Kadhafi,” AFP quoted NTC official Abdullah Kenshil as saying.

The developments come after negotiations aimed at ensuring a peaceful takeover of the strategic town were stalled.

The NTC had given pro-Gaddafi forces in the troubled region until Saturday to surrender or face military force.

Thousands of NTC fighters have been deployed outside Bani Walid and its surrounding region.

In the wake of inconclusive negotiations with tribal leaders in Bani Walid, the revolutionaries say they are ready to enter the town without violence, waiting for orders from their commanders.

Bani Walid is one of the four towns still controlled by Gaddafi supporters. The others towns are Jufrah, Sabha and the dictator’s birth place of Sirt.

Source: PressTV.