Archive for July 2, 2013


July 1, 2013

SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates, July 1 (UPI) — A natural gas discovery in the Egyptian Nile Delta adds to a growing footprint in the country, Emirati energy company Dana Gas said.

Dana Gas said it encountered a 50-foot natural gas column while drilling in its Begonia-1 well in the West el-Manzala concession in the Nile Delta.

The company said its initial testing of the well yielded 9.4 million cubic feet of natural gas and the low estimate of the reserve potential was 7 billion cubic feet.

Dana said it notified the Egyptian government of the commercial development and is preparing to follow up later with development plans for the discovery.

Patrick Allman-Ward, regional general manager for Dana, said Sunday the company plans to drill two more appraisal wells in the discovery area before the end of the year.

Dana Gas and Italian energy company Eni won an Egyptian auction in April for the North el-Arish reserve area in about 3,200 feet of water offshore from the Nile Delta.

Egypt has struggled to revitalize its energy sector following the 2011 revolution. Energy woes have contributed to growing frustration with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2013/07/01/Emirati-company-finds-more-gas-in-Egypt/UPI-50731372677022/.

July 1st, 2013

Fakhri Al-Arashi

By NY Staff

A group of aides of former President Ali Saleh traveled to Egypt to participate in protests against Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi. The Yemeni group included Saleh’s nephew Yahiya Saleh, Yasser Al-Yemani and Salah Assaiadi. Photos released on the internet show the aides taking part in the Cairo Square protests. Other photos have been published of Yahiya Saleh in Turkey holding a Syrian flag and condemning the use of violence against youth demanding change from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan.

Analysts have stated that these actions are part of an effort to involve President Hadi in regional conflicts. Former President Saleh also may have sent aides to learn how these protests are organized, in order to establish similar movements against President Hadi in Yemen. It is worth mentioning that Saleh’s aides are aspiring to regain power in Yemen following the current transitional period. They are now forming a cell that will organize similar protests in Yemen during the coming days to repeat the Egyptian experience.

Source: National Yemen.

Link: http://nationalyemen.com/2013/07/01/salehs-aides-shares-protests-to-ouster-mursi-in-egypt/.

1 July 2013

Dozens raided the main headquarters of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood in Mokattam on Monday, following a night of clashes between the opponents and supporters of the Islamist group, an eyewitness said.

The raid came after a number of Brotherhood members escaped from inside the headquarters, reported the state-owned news agency.

During their escape, Brotherhood supporters opened fire on the attackers, which increased the number of victims to seven dead and 47 wounded, according to the Middle East News Agency.

The protesters have captured a member of Egypt’s ruling Islamist group and handed him over to the police station.

On Sunday, some of the protesters threw stones and firebombs at the building until a fire erupted.

Source: allAfrica.

Link: http://allafrica.com/stories/201307011746.html.

July 02, 2013

CAIRO (AP) — With a military deadline for intervention ticking down, protesters seeking the ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president sought Tuesday to push the embattled leader further toward the edge with another massive display of people power.

Meanwhile, Mohammed Morsi faced fissures from within after a stunning surge of street rage reminiscent of Egypt’s Arab Spring revolution in 2011 that cleared the way for Morsi’s long-suppressed Muslim Brotherhood to win the first open elections in decades.

Three government spokesmen were the latest to quit as part of high-level defections that underscored his increasing isolation and fallout from the ultimatum from Egypt’s powerful armed forces to either find a political solution by Wednesday or the generals would seek their own way to end the political chaos.

The Cabinet, led by the Morsi-backed Prime Minister Hesham Qandil, was scheduled to meet later Tuesday. But the defense and interior ministers were expected to boycott in a sign of support for the military’s warnings.

The police, which are under control of the Interior Ministry, have stood on the sidelines of the protests, refusing even to protect the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood that have been attacked and ransacked.

Before the Cabinet session, Morsi met with Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Qandil in the second such meeting in as many days. No details were given about the meeting, reported by an official at the president’s office, Ayman Ali.

At least 16 have been killed in clashes since Sunday between Morsi’s opponents and his many backers, who have equated the demonstrations and military arm-twisting to a coup against a democratically elected president.

The Tamarod, or Rebel, movement which organized the protests has given the president until 5 p.m. Tuesday (1500 GMT) to step down or face even larger demonstrations and possible “complete civil disobedience.”

In a highly symbolic move, the crowds have camped out at Cairo’s Tahrir quare, the birthplace of the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak. They also have massed outside the president’s Ittahdiya palace in the leafy suburb of Heliopolis.

Across town, however, Morsi’s backers have hunkered down at their own rally site, vowing to resist any attempts to nullifying his election last year and the rise of Islamist voices in Egypt’s political affairs after bring muzzled under Mubarak.

On Monday, a line of around 1,500 men with shields, helmets and sticks — assigned with protecting the rally — stamped their feet in military-like lines, singing, “Stomp our feet, raise a fire. Islam’s march is coming.”

The volatile atmosphere has been made even more unsettled by the prospect the military could soon step in. The military’s declaration, read Monday on state TV, put enormous pressure on Morsi to step down and sent giant crowds opposing the president in Cairo and other cities into delirious celebrations of singing, dancing and fireworks.

But it also raised worries on both sides that the army could take over outright as it did after the 2011 ouster of Mubarak and raised the risk of a backlash from Morsi’s Islamist backers, some of whom once belonged to armed militant groups.

Morsi’s office issued a statement saying a “modern democratic state” was one of the main achievements of the anti-Mubarak uprising, adding, “With all its force, Egypt will not allow itself to be taken backward.”

While not bluntly rejecting the ultimatum, it said Morsi was still reviewing the military statement and that some parts of it “could cause disturbances in the complicated national scene.” At the same time, he is grappling with growing dissent within his inner circle.

A foreign ministry official said career diplomats Omar Amer and Ihab Fahmy have stepped down after nearly five months speaking on behalf of Morsi. On Monday, six Cabinet ministers quit. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

State TV later reported the resignation of Cabinet spokesmman Alaa el-Hadidy. Also Tuesday, an Egyptian court dealt another blow to Morsi’s authority, ruling that the president’s widely disputed appointment of an attorney general last November was illegal.

Morsi’s dismissal of Mahmoud Abdel-Meguid, who was appointed by Mubarak, was seen by the judiciary as an encroachment on its independence. The opposition has long demanded the removal of Abdel-Meguid’s successor, Talaat Abdullah.

President Barack Obama said the U.S. is committed to democracy in Egypt, not any particular leader. Traveling in Tanzania, Obama said that although Morsi was democratically elected, the government must respect its opposition and minority groups.

Egypt’s presidency said Morsi received a phone call from Obama, who said the U.S. administration “supports peaceful democratic transition in Egypt.” Many of those now in the anti-Morsi campaign then led demonstrations against military rule, angered by its management of the transition and heavy hand in the killing of protesters.

Hours after its announcement, the military issued a second statement on its Facebook page denying it intended a coup. “The ideology and culture of the Egyptian armed forces does not allow for the policy of a military coup,” it said.

In its initial statement, the military said it would “announce a road map for the future and measures to implement it” if Morsi and its opponents cannot reach a consensus within 48 hours — a virtual impossibility. It promised to include all “patriotic and sincere” factions in the process.

The military underlined it will “not be a party in politics or rule.” But it said it has a responsibility to find a solution because Egypt’s national security is facing a “grave danger,” according to the statement.

It did not detail the road map, but it heavily praised the massive protests that began Sunday demanding that Morsi step down and that early elections be called — suggesting that call had to be satisfied. It said the protests were “glorious,” adding that the participants expressed their opinion “in peaceful and civilized manner.” It urged “the people’s demands to be met.”

Sunday’s protests on the first anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration were the largest seen in the country in the 2½ years of turmoil since Egyptians first rose up against Mubarak in January 2011. Violence broke out in several parts of the country, often when marchers came under gunfire, apparently from Islamists. In Cairo, anti-Morsi youth attacked the main headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood with stones and fire bombs, while Brotherhood supporters barricaded inside opened fired on them. The clash ended early Monday when the protesters broke into the luxury villa and ransacked it, setting fires.

Nationwide, at least 16 people were killed Sunday and more than 780 injured, Health Ministry spokesman Yehya Moussa told state television. Under a framework drawn up by Tamarod, after Morsi steps down, the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court would become an interim president and a technocrat government would be formed. An expert panel would write a new constitution to replace the one largely drafted by Islamists, and a new presidential election would be held in six months.

For Islamists, however, the idea of Morsi stepping down is an inconceivable infringement on the repeated elections they won since Mubarak’s fall, giving them not only a longtime Brotherhood leader as president but majorities in parliament.

“The military has sacrificed legitimacy. There will be a civil war,” said Manal Shouib, a 47-year-old physiotherapist at the pro-Morsi rally outside the Rabia al-Adawiya Mosque not far from Ittihadiya.

Outside the palace, protesters contended that Morsi could not survive with only the Islamist bloc on his side. “It is now the whole people versus one group. What can he do?” said Mina Adel, a Christian accountant. “The army is the savior and the guarantor for the revolution to succeed.”

July 02, 2013

Cairo (AP) — A new wave of sexual assaults by groups of men targeting women during anti-government protests in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square has been reported as millions of Egyptians take to the streets to demand President Mohammed Morsi’s ouster.

A vigilante group formed to protect women in the square, which has become the epicenter of anti-government rallies, said it recorded the highest number of attempts — 46 — on Sunday as the majority of protesters were festive as families with small children and others spilled into side streets and across boulevards, waving flags, blowing whistles and chanting.

The atmosphere became less friendly in Tahrir as night fell on the badly lit plaza, which has seen a rise in attacks against women since shortly after the 18-day revolution that forced the resignation of Morsi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, in 2011. Sexual harassment has long been common in Egypt, but its increasing frequency and violence has shaken the protest movement.

A Dutch woman was assaulted by multiple men as a crowd surrounded her in Tahrir Square on Friday as weekend protests by Morsi’s supporters and opponents got underway, officials said. The Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday that the 22-year-old woman was repatriated, referring to a statement issued by the Dutch embassy in Cairo.

A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk to the media, said the Egyptian prosecutor’s office had launched an investigation into the attack. Dutch media reported that the Foreign Ministry had confirmed a 22-year-old Dutch woman was assaulted on Friday night on Tahrir but given no more details. The media reports said she was apparently interning with an Egyptian organization and had gone to the square to take photos of the demonstrations.

Top presidential aide Essam el-Haddad, meanwhile, said the attack was among seven cases reported by human rights groups in or around Tahrir on Friday. “Those criminal acts do not appear to be politically motivated or controlled,” he said in a statement posted on his office’s Facebook page. The president’s office also said the attacks “appear to be a sign the crowds in Tahrir are out of control.”

Some protesters have alleged that the government has exaggerated claims of sexual assault to try to drive away female protesters and mar the movement’s reputation. Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault, which patrols the square, said 46 group assaults were recorded Sunday in Tahrir, calling that the highest number it has encountered since the group was formed in November 2012. “Many cases were severe cases that required either psychological or medical treatment,” one member of the group, Engy Ghozlan, told The Associated Press.

The group said on its Twitter account that at least 17 attempted assaults were reported on Tahrir on Monday, and volunteers had intervened in eight of them. An AP reporter witnessed a group of men waving wooden sticks surrounding an Egyptian woman on Sunday. She shouted at them before falling on the ground. Many of the men claimed they were trying to help the woman but they wouldn’t allow anybody to approach her and it was unclear what happened next. The reporter was not able to reach the woman and help her.

Nabil Mitry, a 35-year-old protester who also saw the attack, said the assailants were yelling insults at a man trying to help the woman. He blamed the lack of police at the square. Security forces largely stay away to avoid provoking confrontations with the protesters.

“The problem is that there is no police, so there is no security. If the police was securing the square we wouldn’t have this kind of problem”, he said. A spokesman for Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, Gehad al-Haddad, urged protesters and others to support initiatives like Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault “to prevent anything from happening to citizens joining their demonstrations” in a statement posted on his Twitter account.

The group dismissed the statements Monday, saying “we don’t believe in the presidency and the Muslim Brotherhood’s sudden concern about the women’s physical integrity or their full right to protest safely, when we all know their position regarding women’s equality and rights.”

Initiatives to counter the problem have mushroomed in recent months, with groups protecting women at large protests or during national holidays when groping and harassment in crowds is at an all-time high. Activists have offered self-defense classes for women. Social network sites have been started where women can “name and shame” their harassers.

But there also are conservative religious clerics and some government officials who blame women, saying they invite harassment and sexual abuse by mixing with men. In one of the most high-profile cases, Lara Logan, a correspondent for U.S. network CBS, was sexually assaulted and beaten in Tahrir Square at the height of the anti-Mubarak uprising. She said later that she believed she was going to die. After being rescued, Logan returned to the United States and was treated in a hospital for four days.

July 02, 2013

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s military issued a “last-chance” ultimatum Monday to President Mohammed Morsi, giving him 48 hours to meet the demands of millions of protesters in the streets seeking the ouster of the Islamist leader or the generals will intervene and impose their own plan for the country.

The military’s statement, read on state TV, put enormous pressure on Morsi to step down and sent giant crowds opposing the president in Cairo and other cities into delirious celebrations of singing, dancing and fireworks. But the ultimatum raised worries on both sides the military could outright take over, as it did after the 2011 ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

It also raised the risk of a backlash from Morsi’s Islamist backers, including his powerful Muslim Brotherhood and hard-liners, some of whom once belonged to armed militant groups. Already they vowed to resist what they depicted as a threat of a coup against a legitimately elected president.

Pro-Morsi marches numbering in the several thousands began after nightfall in a string of cities around the country, sparking clashes in some places. An alliance of the Brotherhood and Islamists read a statement at a televised conference calling on people to rally to prevent “any attempt to overturn” Morsi’s election.

“Any coup of any kind against legitimacy will only pass over our dead bodies,” one leading Brotherhood figure, Mohammed el-Beltagi, told a rally by thousands of Islamists outside a mosque near the Ittihadiya presidential palace.

A line of around 1,500 men with shields, helmets and sticks — assigned with protecting the rally — stamped their feet in military-like lines, singing, “Stomp our feet, raise a fire. Islam’s march is coming.”

After midnight, Morsi’s office issued a statement saying a “modern democratic state” was one of the main achievements of the anti-Mubarak revolution, adding, “With all its force, Egypt will not allow itself to be taken backward.” It said Morsi was still reviewing the military’s statement, but added some parts of it “could cause disturbances in the complicated national scene.”

U.S. President Barack Obama said the U.S. is committed to democracy in Egypt, not any particular leader. Traveling in Tanzania, Obama said that although Morsi was democratically elected, the government must respect its opposition and minority groups.

Egypt’s Presidency said in a statement that Morsi received a phone call from Obama. According to the statement, Obama said the US administration “supports peaceful democratic transition in Egypt.” Army troops at checkpoints on roads leading to the pro-Morsi rally searched cars for weapons after reports that some Islamists were arming themselves.

In the second day straight day of anti-Morsi protests nationwide, men and women danced outside the Ittihadiya palace, some cried with joy and bands on a stage played revolutionary songs after the military’s statement.

But the army’s stance also raises an unsettling prospect for many of them as well. Many expressed worries of an army takeover. During the time the generals were in power, many of those now in the anti-Morsi campaign led demonstrations against military rule, angered by its management of the transition and heavy hand in the killing of protesters.

“Morsi will leave, but I’m concerned with the plan afterward. The military should be a tool to pressure, but we had a bitter experience with military ruling the country, and we don’t want to repeat it,” said Roshdy Khairy, a 24-year-old doctor among the throngs in Tahrir Square.

Hours after its announcement, the military issued a second statement on its Facebook page denying it intended a coup. “The ideology and culture of the Egyptian armed forces does not allow for the policy of a military coup,” it said.

In its initial statement, the military said it would “announce a road map for the future and measures to implement it” if Morsi and its opponents cannot reach a consensus within 48 hours — a virtual impossibility. It promised to include all “patriotic and sincere” factions in the process.

The military underlined it will “not be a party in politics or rule.” But it said it has a responsibility to find a solution because Egypt’s national security is facing a “grave danger,” according to the statement.

It did not detail the road map, but it heavily praised the massive protests that began Sunday demanding that Morsi step down and that early elections be called — suggesting that call had to be satisfied. It said the protests were “glorious,” adding that the participants expressed their opinion “in peaceful and civilized manner.” It urged “the people’s demands to be met.”

Morsi met with military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Prime Minister Hesham Kandil, according to the president’s Facebook page, without giving details. Associated Press calls to presidential spokesmen were not answered.

In a sign of Morsi’s growing isolation, five Cabinet ministers said they have resigned, the state news agency said. The five are the ministers of communications, legal affairs, environment, tourism and water utilities, MENA reported. The foreign minister also submitted his resignation, government officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

The governor of the strategic province of Ismailia on the Suez Canal, Hassan el-Rifaai, also quit. The swiftness of the military’s new statement suggested it was prompted by the stunning turnout by the opposition on Sunday — and the eruptions of violence that point to how the confrontation could spiral into chaos if it continues.

Sunday’s protests on the first anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration were the largest seen in the country in the 2½ years of turmoil since Egyptians first rose up against Mubarak in January 2011. Millions packed Tahrir Square, the streets outside the Ittihadiya presidential palace and main squares in cities around the country.

Violence broke out in several parts of the country, often when marchers came under gunfire, apparently from Islamists. In Cairo, anti-Morsi youth attacked the main headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood with stones and fire bombs, while Brotherhood supporters barricaded inside opened fired on them. The clash ended early Monday when the protesters broke into the luxury villa and ransacked it, setting fires.

Nationwide, at least 16 people were killed Sunday and more than 780 injured, Health Ministry spokesman Yehya Moussa told state television. The crowds returned Monday across the country — in slightly smaller numbers, but in a more joyous mood after the military’s announcement gave them hope of a quick victory. The group organizing the protests, Tamarod, Arabic for “Rebel,” issued an ultimatum of its own, giving Morsi until Tuesday afternoon to step down or it would escalate the rallies.

“Come out, el-Sissi. The people want to topple the regime,” protesters in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla el-Kubra chanted, drumming out a rhythm with a stick on the carcass of a sheep. “Sheep” is the slur many in the opposition use against Brotherhood members, depicting them as mindless followers — to the fury of the Brothers, many of whom are professionals from doctors to university professors.

The broad boulevards packed with anti-Morsi protesters outside the presidential palace transformed into a party. “In every street in my country the sound of freedom is calling,” blared a song that originally emerged during the Arab Spring. Bands on a stage played other revolutionary songs.

“God willing we will be victorious over the president and his failing regime,” said Mohammed el-Tawansi, sitting on the pavement with his wife singing along. “He divided us, now the people and the army are together. They will not be able to do anything. They can’t fight the people and the army,” he said, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Down the street, protester Amr el-Ayat raised a banner reading “cautious optimism.” “The military statement was good, because we have no other way now,” he said. “But I worry people will deify el-Sissi. The military is to protect, not to rule.”

Some were perfectly happy to have the military take over. In Tahrir, Omar Moawad el-Sayed, a math teacher with the beard of a Muslim conservative, said he wished el-Sissi had outright announced military rule.

“The military is the most impartial institution now,” he said. Some hoped that the military’s road map would be a framework drawn up by Tamarod. Under it, after Morsi steps down, the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court would become an interim president and a technocrat government would be formed. An expert panel would write a new constitution to replace the one largely drafted by Islamists, and a new presidential election would be held in six months.

For Islamists, however, the idea of Morsi stepping down was an inconceivable infringement on the repeated elections they won since Mubarak’s fall, giving them not only a longtime Muslim Brotherhood leader as president but majorities in parliament.

Morsi and Brotherhood officials say they are defending democratic legitimacy and some have depicted the protests as led by Mubarak loyalists trying to return to power. But many of his Islamist allies have also depicted it as a fight against Islam.

“The military has sacrificed legitimacy. There will be a civil war,” said Manal Shouib, a 47-year-old physiotherapist at the pro-Morsi rally outside the Rabia al-Adawiya Mosque not far from Ittihadiya.

Ahmed Abdel-Aziz, who was the “trainer” of the line of men doing military-style drills, shouted and roared in a tirade against Mubarak loyalists, Christians, judges, police, opposition politicians, columnists and writers he said were conspiring against Morsi. He said they attacked “anywhere that has Islam in it.”

“El-Sissi’s statement doesn’t concern us. We will sacrifice ourselves to defend legitimacy and we will die if this is our destiny,” he told the AP. “If the whole of Egypt is wiped out so that God’s word can remain, so be it.”

At sunset, the cleric at Rabia al-Adawiya led prayers, asking God to “accept us as martyrs for your cause and make your slave Mohammed Morsi victorious.” Nearly 1,500 supporters of the president marched in the Canal city of Suez after night prayers, chanting for Morsi and damaging cars. Some carried sticks and rifles that fire birdshot, witnesses said. Residents confronted them, taking their weapons and firing in the air to disperse them, while the army deployed and fired tear gas.

Outside the palace, protesters contended that Morsi could not survive with only the Islamist bloc on his side. “It is now the whole people versus one group. What can he do?” said Mina Adel, a Christian accountant. “The army is the savior and the guarantor for the revolution to succeed.”

Associated Press writers Tony G. Gabriel and Mariam Rizk contributed to this report.

July 01, 2013

CAIRO (AP) — Hundreds of thousands thronged the streets of Cairo and cities around the country Sunday and marched on the presidential palace, filling a broad avenue for blocks, in an attempt to force out the Islamist president with the most massive protests Egypt has seen in 2½ years of turmoil.

In a sign of the explosive volatility of the country’s divisions, young protesters mainly from the surrounding neighborhood pelted the main headquarters of President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood with stones and firebombs, and at one point a fire erupted at the gates of the walled villa. During clashes, Brotherhood supporters barricaded inside opened fire on the attackers, and activists said at least five protesters were killed.

At least five more anti-Morsi protesters were killed Sunday in clashes and shootings in southern Egypt. Fears were widespread that the collisions between the two sides could grow more violent in coming days. Morsi made clear through a spokesman that he would not step down and his Islamist supporters vowed not to allow protesters to remove one of their own, brought to office in a legitimate vote. During the day Sunday, thousands of Islamists massed not far from the presidential palace in support of Morsi, some of them prepared for a fight with makeshift armor and sticks.

The protesters aimed to show by sheer numbers that the country has irrevocably turned against Morsi, a year to the day after he was inaugurated as Egypt’s first freely elected president. But throughout the day and even up to midnight at the main rallying sites, fears of rampant violence did not materialize.

Instead the mood was largely festive as protesters at giant anti-Morsi rallies in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square and outside the Ittihadiya palace spilled into side streets and across boulevards, waving flags, blowing whistles and chanting.

Fireworks went off overhead. Men and women, some with small children on their shoulders, beat drums, danced and sang, “By hook or by crook, we will bring Morsi down.” Residents in nearby homes showered water on marchers below — some carrying tents in preparation to camp outside the palace — to cool them in the summer heat, and blew whistles and waved flags in support.

“Mubarak took only 18 days although he had behind him the security, intelligence and a large sector of Egyptians,” said Amr Tawfeeq, an oil company employee marching toward Ittihadiya with a Christian friend. Morsi “won’t take long. We want him out and we are ready to pay the price.”

The massive outpouring against Morsi raises the question of what is next. Protesters have vowed to stay on the streets until he steps down, and organizers called for widespread labor strikes starting Monday. The president, in turn, appears to be hoping protests wane.

For weeks, Morsi’s supporters have depicted the planned protest as a plot by Mubarak loyalists. But their claims were undermined by the extent of Sunday’s rallies. In Cairo and a string of cities in the Nile Delta and on the Mediterranean coast, the protests topped even the biggest protests of the 2011’s 18-day uprising, including the day Mubarak quit, Feb. 11, when giant crowds marched on Ittihadiya.

It is unclear now whether the opposition, which for months has demanded Morsi form a national unity government, would now accept any concessions short of his removal. The anticipated deadlock raises the question of whether the army, already deployed on the outskirts of cities, will intervene. Protesters believe the military would throw its weight behind them, tipping the balance against Morsi.

The country’s police, meanwhile, were hardly to be seen Sunday. In the lead-up to Sunday, some officers angrily told their commanders they would not protect the Brotherhood from protesters, complaining that police are always caught in the middle, according to video of the meeting released online.

“If the Brothers think that we will give up and leave, they are mistaken,” said lawyer Hossam Muhareb as he sat with a friend on a sidewalk near the presidential palace. “They will give up and leave after seeing our numbers.”

Violence could send the situation spinning into explosive directions. The fire at the Brotherhood headquarters, located on a plateau overlooking Cairo, sent smoke pouring in the air. Witnesses said it was caused when the youths hurled a gas canister at the heavily barricaded gate and it exploded. For several hours after, Brotherhood supporters inside fired on stone-throwing youths outside. At least five on the anti-Morsi side were shot to death, and 60 were wounded, an activist who monitored casualties at the hospital, Nazli Hussein, said.

Southern Egypt saw deadly attacks on anti-Morsi protests, and five people were killed. Two protesters were shot to death during clashes outside offices of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, one in Beni Suef, the other in Fayoum.

In the city of Assiut, a stronghold of Islamists, gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on a protest in which tens of thousands were participating,, killing one person, wounding four others and sending the crowd running.

The enraged protesters then marched on the nearby Freedom and Justice offices, where gunmen inside opened fire, killing two more, security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk to the press. Clashes erupted, with protesters and security forces fighting side by side against Morsi’s supporters.

At least 400 people were injured nationwide, the Health Ministry said. Morsi, who has three years left in his term, said street protests cannot be used to overturn the results of a free election. “There is no room for any talk against this constitutional legitimacy,” he told Britain’s The Guardian newspaper in an interview published Sunday, rejecting early elections.

If an elected president is forced out, “there will (be) people or opponents opposing the new president too, and a week or a month later, they will ask him to step down,” he said. Morsi was not at Ittihadiya as Sunday’s rally took place — he had moved to another nearby palace.

As the crowds massed, Morsi’s spokesman Ihab Fahmi repeated the president’s longstanding offer of dialogue with the opposition to resolve the nation’s political crisis, calling it “the only framework through which we can reach understandings.”

The opposition has repeatedly turned down his offers for dialogue, arguing that they were for show. The demonstrations are the culmination of polarization and instability that have been building since Morsi’s June 30, 2012, inauguration. The past year has seen multiple political crises, bouts of bloody clashes and a steadily worsening economy, with power outages, fuel shortages, rising prices and persistent lawlessness and crime.

In one camp are the president and his Islamist allies, including the Muslim Brotherhood and more hard-line groups. Morsi supporters accuse Mubarak loyalists of being behind the protests, aiming to overturn last year’s election results, just as they argue that remnants of the old regime have sabotaged Morsi’s attempts to deal with the nation’s woes and bring reforms.

Hard-liners among them have also given the confrontation a sharply religious tone, denouncing Morsi’s opponents as “enemies of God” and infidels. On the other side is an array of secular and liberal Egyptians, moderate Muslims, Christians — and what the opposition says is a broad sector of the general public that has turned against the Islamists. They say the Islamists have negated their election mandate by trying to monopolize power, infusing government with their supporters, forcing through a constitution they largely wrote and giving religious extremists a free hand, all while failing to manage the country.

“The country is only going backward. He’s embarrassing us and making people hate Islam,” said Donia Rashad, a 24-year-old unemployed woman who wears the conservative Islamic headscarf. “We need someone who can feel the people and is agreeable to the majority.”

As they marched toward the presidential palace, some chanted, “You lied to us in the name of religion.” The crowds, including women, children and elderly people, hoisted long banners in the colors of the Egyptian flag and raised red cards — a sign of expulsion in soccer.

In Tahrir, chants of “erhal!”, or “leave!” thundered around the square. The crowd, which appeared to number some 300,000, waved Egyptian flags and posters of Morsi with a red X over his face. They whistled and waved when military helicopters swooped close overhead, reflecting their belief that the army favors them over Morsi.

Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi warned a week ago that the military would intervene to prevent the nation from entering a “dark tunnel.” Army troops backed by armored vehicles were deployed Sunday in some of Cairo’s suburbs, with soldiers at traffic lights and major intersections. In the evening, they deployed near the international airport, state TV said.

Similarly sized crowds turned out in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and the Nile Delta cities of Mansoura, Tanta and Damanhour, with sizable rallies in cities nationwide. “Today is the Brotherhood’s last day in power,” Suliman Mohammed, a manager of a seafood company, said in Tahrir.

The protests emerge from a petition campaign by a youth activist group known as Tamarod, Arabic for “Rebel.” For several months, the group has been collecting signatures on a call for Morsi to step down.

On Saturday, the group announced it had more than 22 million signatures — proof, it claims, that a broad sector of the public no longer wants Morsi in office. It was not possible to verify the claim. If true, it would be nearly twice the some 13 million people who voted for Morsi in last year’s presidential run-off election, which he won with around 52 percent of the vote. Tamarod organizers said they discarded about 100,000 signed forms because they were duplicates.

Morsi’s supporters have questioned the authenticity of the signatures, but have produced no evidence of fraud. Near Ittihadiya palace, thousands of Islamists gathered in a show of support for Morsi outside the Rabia al-Adawiya mosque. Some Morsi backers wore homemade body armor and construction helmets and carried shields and clubs — precautions, they said, against possible violence.

At the pro-Morsi rally at the Rabia al-Adawiya mosque, the crowd chanted, “God is great,” and some held up copies of Islam’s holy book, the Quran. “The people hold the legitimacy and we support Dr. Mohamed Morsi,” said Ahmed Ramadan, one of the rally participants. “We would like to tell him not to be affected by the opponents’ protests and not to give up his rights. We are here to support and protect him.”

AP reporters Tony G. Gabriel and Mariam Rizk contributed to this report.

June 26, 2013

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — The conservative prime minister who has dominated post-communist politics in Albania conceded election defeat late Wednesday, taking personal responsibility for the heavy loss to the rival Socialists after losing the support of fed-up voters.

Sali Berisha, who had been seeking a third straight term as prime minister in Sunday’s general election, also announced to party supporters he would step down as leader of his center-right Democratic Party.

The 68-year-old’s party was beaten handily. With all of the votes counted, Socialist Edi Rama was ahead with 53 percent, compared to just 36 percent for the Democrats. “We have lost these elections. Believe me, the responsibility for this falls on one person — on me, Sali Berisha,” he said, wiping sweat from his brow.

“I stand in front of you to say that the election result is clear. Of course I accept it and the Democratic Party accepts it.” Albania, once one of the world’s most reclusive countries during its communist years, became a NATO member in 2009 and has applied for European Union candidate status. But so far that has been denied over criticism it has not done enough to fight corruption and push through democratic reforms.

Berisha is a divisive figure, praised by supporters as the politician who stabilized post-Communist Albania, but branded by opponents as a populist who tolerated corruption. Many voters are also frustrated as they try to weather the effects of recessions in nearby Greece and Italy, where many Albanian migrants work to provide remittances back to their impoverished country.

Berisha, a cardiologist, was Albania’s first post-communist president from 1992 until 1997, but his reputation was tarnished by the collapse of a pyramid banking schemes that saw many Albanians lose their savings and triggered violence that required an international peacekeeping force to quell.

He came back in 2005, insisting he could run the government with clean hands. Rama, the winner, gained popularity as mayor of the capital Tirana for more than a decade. He campaigned on an ambitious pledge to earn Albania candidate status within a year to eventually join the EU.

“This victory is … only the start. That change will not come overnight and easily. All together we should work and sacrifice to make it happen,” the 48-year-old Rama said, also addressing his party supporters late Tuesday.

International election monitors said the Balkan country had made significant improvements in the June 23 vote, despite a fatal shooting that occurred on voting day outside a polling station in northern Albania.

Improving the election process was a central condition set by the EU to advance negotiations aimed at the country’s eventual membership. Berisha’s remarks eased tension over the country’s Central Election Commission which has yet to officially certify the results.

The parties were at odds over the commission’s membership ahead of the vote. Three opposition members had pulled out of the body in April in a dispute over Berisha’s replacement of a commission member.

But with Berisha conceding, officials among the Socialist Party have said they will almost certainly return to the commission to certify the vote.

By Khalid Abdelaziz

KHARTOUM | Sat Jun 29, 2013

(Reuters) – Thousands of Sudanese called for the overthrow of veteran President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Saturday, spurred on by an opposition trying to stoke an Arab Spring style uprising.

The opposition, capitalizing on anger over soaring food prices and corruption, has threatened to stage mass protests to topple Bashir within 100 days.

The uprisings that shook the Arab world have passed Sudan by as the security forces usually break up the frequent small street protests by students before they have a chance to spread.

But on Saturday, several thousand people – possibly as many as 10,000, according to witnesses – rallied in a square in Khartoum’s twin city Omdurman, the biggest rally in years.

Echoing the language heard across Tunisia, Egypt and Libya during mass demonstrations that overthrew leaders there, protesters held up signs saying: “The people demand the fall of the regime” and “Go Bashir”.

“We tell this regime – you have to go,” Sadiq al-Mahdi, head of the opposition Umma Party, told the crowd, shouting back “Go, go” as he was speaking.

“This regime has failed on all levels during a quarter of a century in power,” he said. Sudan’s last democratically elected prime minister was toppled by Bashir in a coup in 1989.

A Reuters reporter saw hundreds of police officers at the scene but they did not stop the rally.

Bashir still enjoys the support of the army and influential Islamist groups. He dismisses the opposition parties as insignificant.

Critics of the opposition say its leadership fails to pose a challenge because it is more absorbed by its own rivalries than organizing sufficiently to form a potent challenge to the elite.

Several leaders such as Mahdi have past government ties, sapping the opposition’s credibility among young people.

Sudan’s economy has been in turmoil since the former civil war foe South Sudan seceded in 2011, taking away most oil production, which used to be the main source for the budget and dollars needed to fund food imports.

(Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Alison Williams)

Source: Reuters.

Link: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/06/29/uk-sudan-protest-idUKBRE95S0FL20130629.

July 02, 2013

The Daily Star

BEIRUT: President Bashar Assad’s troops pressed a fierce three-day assault against rebels in the central city of Homs Monday but failed to make any new advances, opposition activists said.

Fighting between rebels and regime loyalists raged on the edges of some 14 rebel-held districts, the British based opposition-aligned Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Hezbollah fighters from neighboring Lebanon were fighting alongside government forces on one of the city’s main fronts, it added.

“The shelling of Homs rebel areas continues, and it is fierce,” Observatory director Rami Abdel-Rahman said.

“But the army has made no advances. They haven’t been able to take any new areas back.”

His group reported that the army was shelling the Khaldiyeh and Old City districts which have been under tight army siege for more than a year.

“Clashes raged on the edges of the districts. The army and [pro-regime militia] National Defense Force lost 32 men in two days,” Abdel-Rahman said.

“We can confirm now that Hezbollah is taking part in the fighting on the Khaldiyeh front, and that they are using the [majority Alawite neighborhood of] Zahra as a base,” he added.

Opposition activist with the Syrian Revolution General Command, Abu Rami told The Daily Star it was the most ferocious assault the city had seen.

“They are trying to kick the rebels out of about 14 districts,” he said, adding that so far the rebels had managed to hold ground.

“About 20 Assad soldiers and militia have been killed, but on our side there have also been about 30 casualties,” he said via Skype.

“It seems this is the worst campaign on the besieged districts of Homs.”

The opposition Syrian National Council urged the international community to intervene, also calling on other rebel fighters to join the defense.

“The Coalition calls on all battalions of the Free Syrian Army to come to the aid of Homs in all means possible,” it said in a statement.

“We also emphasize the need for immediate, effective and decisive action by the Friends of Syria group, through the establishment of a no-fly zone.”

Meanwhile Arab states in the Gulf urged the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting to prevent a “massacre” in Homs.

In a statement, the six Gulf Cooperation Council members announced they are “following with deep concern … the unjust siege Syrian regime forces are imposing on Homs … with military support from the militias of the [Shiite] Lebanese Hezbollah movement and under the umbrella of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.”

The six Gulf monarchies – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – urged the “Security Council to urgently meet to break the siege on Homs and prevent the Syrian regime and its allies from committing horrific massacres.”

Dubbed the “capital of the revolution” by activists, Homs is important because it is on the road linking Damascus to the coast and its central location is also key as a supply route.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, reiterated its call for a U.N. resolution “banning the supply of arms to the Syrian regime which has lost all it legitimacy.”It urged the international community to “protect the Syrian people and help them defend themselves against the heinous crimes carried out” by Assad’s regime “with help of foreign forces.”

In a statement after the weekly Cabinet meeting chaired by Crown Prince Salman bin Abdel-Aziz, the government urged the European Union to “immediately implement” its decision to lift an embargo on weapons destined for Syrian rebels.

In Hama province, north of Homs, the Observatory said four members of the government’s civilian militias, the National Defense Forces were killed in an suicide bombing in Saboura. SANA news agency said the blast killed three civilians and wounded 18, including women and children.

Elsewhere, the army kept up its shelling of rebel areas in and near Damascus as it tried to secure the capital, the Observatory said.

On Sunday alone, at least 84 people were killed nationwide, 22 of them civilians.

Source: The Daily Star.

Link: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Jul-02/222250-homs-rebels-resist-syria-army-fierce-onslaught.ashx.