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12 November 2011
Italy – The BBC reported: Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano has been holding a series of meetings with senior politicians to try to agree on a new caretaker government after PM Silvio Berlusconi resigned on Saturday. It is hoped the new government will be named before the world’s financial markets re-open on Monday. Ex-EU commissioner Mario Monti, favourite for the top job, has been summoned to see the president. He will be tasked with implementing tough austerity measures. Mr Napolitano held 17 meetings with leading politicians on Sunday. Angelino Alfano, a senior figure in Mr Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party, said after meeting the president that the party was ready to back Mr Monti, but it would depend on the new government’s make-up and policies.
Lebanon – Haaretz reported: Witnesses say protesters forced their way to the top of the building that houses the Syrian embassy in Beirut, to exchange the Qatari flag for a Syrian one, after Arab League announces decision to suspend Damascus from meetings. The Arab League’s decision on Saturday to ban Syria from attending its meetings until it complies with a plan to end the bloodbath provoked angry protests and attacks on Arab embassies by loyalists of Syrian president Bashar Assad. Assad supporters took to the streets of Beirut and Damascus late Saturday to denounce the Arab League decision, which the Syrian regime described as “illegal.” The protesters in Damascus attacked the Saudi embassy complex with stones, where they broke glass and “destroyed furniture inside the embassy complex,” the Saudi Press Agency reported without elaborating.
Yemen – Reuters reported: Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh is refusing to hand over power and resisting a U.N.-backed plan to end months of political paralysis that has brought the impoverished state to its knees, opposition sources said on Sunday. Saleh has withstood nine months of protests against his rule and international pressure on him to quit, three times agreeing to a Gulf-brokered power transition plan only to back out of signing it at the very last minute. Mediators, diplomats and Saleh’s deputy had said in recent weeks they were close to clinching a deal, but a senior member of the opposition told Reuters the veteran leader was stalling once again. “Saleh wants to preserve all his powers until the election of a new president and that is rejected by the opposition and because of this the U.N. envoy’s mission is going to fail,” said a senior figure in the opposition who declined to be identified.
Libya – The Washington Post reported: Escalating clashes between militia groups near Tripoli have killed several fighters over three days, amid growing concerns about rivalries between the heavily armed rebels who control overlapping areas in and around the Libyan capital. “There is a big fight now, a new front,” said a fighter from the western city of Zawiyah, who was positioning a rocket on a flatbed truck at the side of the main road 16 miles west of Tripoli. “We are fighting the Wershifanna tribe. There are remnants of Gaddafi people among them.” More than 100 other fighters from Zawiyah were manning checkpoints and loading up trucks with heavy weaponry before heading to the Hashan area, about a mile away, where the Wershifanna tribal fighters are the dominant force. Some said they believed ousted leader Moammar Gaddafi’s favored son Saif al-Islam was hiding in the area. Khalid Qessab, a Zawiyah militia commander, said that three fighters under his command had died in battles that began Saturday morning and two the previous day. Local leaders said that at least three fighters died Thursday.
Brazil – The BBC News Latin America & Caribbean Corps reported: Hundreds of police and troops backed up by helicopters swiftly took control of the favela, police say. Brazil’s police say they have completed an operation to clear Rio de Janeiro’s biggest slum, Rocinha, of drug gangs. Hundreds of special forces police and navy commandos backed by armoured military vehicles and helicopters moved into the slum before dawn. The chief of military police said “there were no incidents and no shots were fired” during the operation. Police are trying to clear Rio’s shantytowns of drug gangs ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Since 2008, they have occupied some 20 slums, or favelas, to drive out the dealers who controlled the areas.
Niger – CNN reported: Niger’s president is standing by his country’s decision to offer amnesty to one of the late Moammar Gadhafi’s sons, saying he is entitled to stay in his nation like other “Libyan refugees.” President Mahamadou Issoufou addressed reporters Friday, reaffirming his stance on Saadi Gadhafi, whom Libya wants returned home to stand trial. “The attitude of the Niger government regarding this has already been noted: We have already welcomed Libyan refugees for humanitarian reasons,” Issoufou said. “Of these, one is a son of (Moammar) Gadhafi — Saadi Gadhafi.” Interpol has issued arrest warrant — known as a “red notice” — for Saadi Gadhafi, requesting his provisional arrest ahead of his extradition or surrender to an international court.
Bahrain – The BBC Middle East Corps reported: Bahrain says it has broken up a group which was planning to carry out attacks in the Gulf kingdom. Four members of the group were held in neighbouring Qatar and one in Bahrain, the state-run BNA news agency said. The group had reportedly planned to target the interior ministry building in the capital Manama, the Saudi embassy and also the causeway linking the island with Saudi Arabia. The names and nationalities of the suspects have not been released.
13 November 2011
Italy – The New York Times reported: Mario Monti, a former member of the European Commission, conditionally accepted a mandate on Sunday to form a new government in Italy whose main task will be to keep the country from being dragged under by Europe’s debt crisis. Mr. Monti, 68, a respected economist who has promised to be a steady hand in a time of market turbulence, said he expected to move ahead as soon as he secured a parliamentary majority for the new government. Assembling a majority usually requires days or weeks of talks, but Italy does not have the luxury of time. Skeptical investors have pushed the country’s borrowing costs to dangerous heights, putting at risk the euro currency that 17 nations share. The crisis forced the resignation of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Saturday, turning Italy’s most complex political shift in nearly two decades into one of its most urgent transitions.
Syria – The LA Times reported: Syria’s embattled government must face the changing dynamics of the region as old alliances fade and new brokers emerge, most notably Qatar. Syrian President Bashar Assad finds himself in an unenviable position reminiscent of the late Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi’s: an autocrat who may fall victim to the shifting geopolitical landscape in an “Arab Spring” that is reshaping the balance of power in the Middle East. Once a wellspring of Arab pride and nationalism, Syria is confronting the changing dynamics of the region as old alliances fade and new brokers emerge, most notably the tiny emirate of Qatar, which in recent years has boldly challenged traditional powers with a clever mix of wealth and populism through its Al Jazeera network. Frustrated by Syria’s failure to implement an Arab League peace plan aimed at ending a bloody eight-month crackdown on protests, the Qatar-led alliance on Saturday gave the Assad regime until midweek to come around or face new economic sanctions and a suspension of its membership.
Syria – In a related story Xinhua reported: The Arab League says it will meet with the Syrian opposition on Tuesday. The statement came after Syria was suspended from the League this weekend, over its violent crackdown on protesters. But Secretary General of the League, Nabil Elaraby, also said the Lague won’t be recognizing the opposition as Syria’s legitimate authority, at least not for now. Nabil El-Araby, Arab League Secretary-General said “Recognition of them (a Syrian Transitional Council), as a government? Maybe it is a bit premature to discuss that. We made the following demands which we are still demanding today; an end to the violence, an end to fighting, the release of prisoners and real political reforms.”
Libya – The New York Times reported: Two rival militias fought a sporadic but deadly gun battle just west of Tripoli over the weekend, blocking traffic on the vital coastal road between the Libyan capital and the Tunisian border. The outburst of violence was among the worst to come to light since the killing of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi last month. Participants said that as many as 15 people were killed in the shooting along a short stretch of the highway between Tripoli and Zawiyah, a key coastal town to the west. Health officials put the death toll lower, saying perhaps as few as six were killed. Lethal rivalries have emerged within the huge population of Libyan fighters who rose up against Colonel Qaddafi’s rule. The poorly trained and only moderately organized militias are often suspicious of one another and are sometimes openly hostile, posing difficult problems for the transitional council now trying to govern the country.
Iran – Xinhua reported: Iran’s Parliament Speaker has warned the IAEA that the country will review its cooperation with the nuclear watchdog agency. The country’s National Security Commission will be examining the issue. Speaker Ali Larijani says the review is necessary because the UN agency has proven it is intent on coming up with unbalanced decisions. His comments come amid escalating rhetoric surrounding the IAEA’s newly-released report, which for the first time said Iran is suspected of conducting secret experiments for the development of nuclear arms.
Afghanistan – The WSJ reported: The Taliban on Sunday released what they claimed were security plans for a major conference that is to bring together top Afghan and Western officials and some 2,000 popular Afghan representatives, stoking fears that the gathering would be attacked when it convenes in Kabul on Wednesday. The Afghan government denied the authenticity of the document, which contained detailed security procedures, a map of checkpoints and purported cellphone numbers of scores of security officials responsible for safeguarding Kabul during the conference, known as the Loya Jirga. The move was the latest strike in a Taliban campaign of intimidation aimed at discouraging attendance at the meeting. The Taliban have also sent threatening letters to tribal elders across the country, warning them not to attend the Loya Jirga and have pledged to kill its participants. “This is another attempt in the psychological war of the Taliban to disrupt the jirga. But the Taliban won’t be able to disrupt the jirga,” said Sediq Seddiqi, the spokesman for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior.
Afghanistan – The BBC reported: Police in Germany have made a second arrest after the dramatic discovery of evidence linking a self-styled Nazi group to the murder of nine foreigners. A man suspected of being a member of the hitherto unknown “National Socialist Underground” was arrested near the northern city of Hannover. Eight ethnic Turks, an ethnic Greek and a policewoman were murdered.
Israel – Reuters reported: An Israeli air strike on a Hamas compound in the Gaza Strip killed one policeman and wounded four others Monday after Palestinian militants from the coastal territory fired a rocket into southern Israel. The Israeli military said the air strike “hit a terror activity center in the northern Gaza Strip” after a rocket was fired into Israel hours earlier, causing no injuries. Palestinian medical officials said the strike targeted a naval base used by Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip. Israel has said it holds Hamas responsible for any cross-border rockets fired.
Yemen – The (AP) reported: Yemeni government forces and allied tribesmen killed 10 militants in attacks around the country Sunday, security officials said, as a visiting United Nations envoy met with embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh to push for a solution to the country’s political crisis. Security has collapsed across the Arab world’s poorest nation during the nine-month popular uprising seeking to oust Saleh, who has been in power for 30 years. Pro-Saleh forces regularly engage in deadly clashes with armed tribesmen and military defectors who support the protesters in Yemen’s largest cities, and al-Qaida-linked militants have taken control of entire towns in the country’s restive south. Two of Sunday’s clashes took place near Zinjibar, the largest town overrun by al-Qaida-linked militants in Yemen’s southern Abyan province, now partially recaptured by the army. In one clash, tribesmen allied with government forces exchanged fire with militants at a checkpoint, killing three, including two Somali citizens, an official said. In the other, the army shelled a militant position, killing five, including two Saudi citizens.
Egypt – Bloomberg NEWS reported: A pipeline transporting Egyptian natural gas to Israel and Jordan was damaged by two explosions, forcing a halt in exports of the fuel in the seventh such attack since February, Egypt’s Oil Ministry said. The flow of gas to Israel stopped at about 5 a.m. Jerusalem time, Maya Etzioni, a spokeswoman for Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructures, said today by mobile phone. Shares in Ampal-American Israel Corp., which owns 12.5 percent of East Mediterranean Gas Co., the Israeli company importing Egyptian gas, dropped 6.6 percent to 1.507 shekels at the 4:30 p.m. close in Tel Aviv. “A group of terrorists” set off the overnight blasts in the northern Sinai desert, causing a suspension of exports and interrupting some domestic supplies, the Egyptian ministry said in an e-mailed statement. The explosions underscore Egypt’s challenge in securing the pipeline and threaten to worsen its already soured ties with its eastern neighbor. The North African country, holder of the continent’s third-largest gas reserves, supplied Israel with about 40 percent of its gas needs before an attack in July on the same network.