Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110829

Financial Crisis
»Debt Crisis: Central Bankers Want Political Action
»Eurozone Seen Recovering Before US
»Germany: Powerful Business Leader Calls for Euro Rescue
»Israeli Demonstrators Protest Cost of Living
»Italy: Rome Tests Bond Market Without Ecb’s Help
»Italy: Alemanno: 270 Mln Euro Spending Cuts for Rome in Budget
»Italy: VAT Not Set to Rise and Provinces to be Abolished
»Italy: Lega Nord Still Backs Footballers’ Solidarity Tax
»No Support to Countries That Do Not Cut Debt, Merkel
»Spain: Indignados Protest Against Constitutional Reform
»Spain: Constitutional Reform, Unions Also on War Footing
»Spain: Moody’s Considers Constitutional Reform to be Positive
»Barack Obama’s Uncle Has Been Arrested and Held as Illegal Immigrant
»Obama’s Pretend Counterterrorism Policy
Europe and the EU
»Italy: Cardinal Bagnasco: We Are Threatened by Culture of Lies
»NATO After Libya: A Threat to European Stability
»Spain: Confidence in Politicians, Banks and Bishops Plunges
»Twinings Under Fire for Changing Earl Grey Recipe
»Welcome to Tower Hamlets
»Kosovo: Organ Trafficking: Eulex Appoints Prosecutor
North Africa
»Athletics: 20 Yr Ago World Gold to ‘Scandalous’ Boulmerka
»Gaddafi Son’s Girlfriend Escapes From Libya
»How Al-Qaeda Got to Rule in Tripoli
»Libya: Serb Held for Being Gaddafi Sharpshooters Plead for ‘Help’ To Russian Reporters
»Libya: UNICEF: Health Epidemic Risk in Tripoli
»Libya: Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi Amid Jacuzzis and Champagne
»Libya: ENI CEO Scaroni in Benghazi to Meet With NTC
»Libya: Italian-French Challenge Over Reconstruction and Oil
»Libya: ENI Visits Libya and Signs to Restore Role as Biggest Oil Producer
»Libya: Gaddafi Family in Algeria, Leader Near Tripoli
»Libya: Algeria Confirms: Gaddafi’s Family Members Here
»Libya: ‘Gaddafi’s Daughter-in-Law Threw Boiling Water Over My Head After I Refused to Beat Her Child’
»Misrata Opposes Libya’s NTC Over Appointments in Tripoli
»Senior Official in Egyptian Islamic Jihad: If We Come to Power, We Will Launch a Campaign of Islamic Conquests to Instate Shari’a Worldwide
»Tunisia: No Signs of Recovery, Negative Figures
»Wife and Three Children of Qaddafi Have Fled to Algeria, Government Says
Israel and the Palestinians
»NGO Monitor Slams Belgium Funds for ‘Anti-Israel’ Group
Middle East
»New Military: New Turkey
»Russia’s Position on Syria Sanctions Unchanged
»Syria: Famous Pro-Syrian MBC Presenter Dismissed
»Washington Post Reports Syria Has Large WMD Arsenal
South Asia
»Caritas Sri Lanka in Support of Rizana, On Death Row in Saudi Arabia
»Dutch-Trained Afghan Police Can Fight Taliban
»Indonesia: Islamic Group Seeks to Censure Film That Promotes Pluralism
»Pakistan: Dozens of Insurgents Ambush Train
Australia — Pacific
»Detainees to Appeal Directly to the UN

Financial Crisis

Debt Crisis: Central Bankers Want Political Action

La Tribune, 29 August 2011

“Act now!” Such is the gist of the message sent by central bankers and the managing-director of the International Monetary Fund from Jackson Hole, Wyoming (USA) to political leaders in order to counter the risk of a global recession, says the front page of the French financial daily, La Tribune. The 29th version of the annual ritual which gathers central bankers from the most powerful countries and the cream of international high-finance was “feverishly awaited by the markets,” the paper added. The chair of the US Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, the president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet and the managing-director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde all share the same mind-set. In their view, “The only solution, is convincing, ambitious stimulus packages, supported by a strong political consensus so that growth will return,” the paper said in an editorial, concluding that “Anything is better than inaction, talks, procrastination and the fear of rating agencies”.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Eurozone Seen Recovering Before US

The eurozone is in better shape than the United States and will overcome its current debt crisis by 2014, according to the German head of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF).

“In all eurozone countries the fundamentals are improving,” Klaus Regling told the latest edition of Der Spiegel magazine.

He said countries in the region have started putting their finances in order and already some of those worst affected by the crisis, such as Ireland, are back on their feet.

The EFSF was set up last year to help shore up debt-ridden countries. Its role is shortly to be expanded in line with measures agreed to by eurozone leaders in July.

Regling believes the eurozone’s financial situation is better than that of the United States.

“The US deficit, for example, is three times as high as that of the eurozone,” he pointed out.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Germany: Powerful Business Leader Calls for Euro Rescue

Berliner Zeitung, 29 August 2011

“Germans must make sacrifices for the euro,” sums up the German daily Berliner Zeitung. In an interview with the paper, Hans-Peter Keitel, president of the Federation of German Industries, calls on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to save the single currency “even if it hurts”. “We want to advance and invest in the euro. We need a stable union,” he explains. “If we want greater integration, all the member states must respect the rules or relinquish national purview,” he adds.

Four weeks ahead of parliamentary debate on the European bailout packages and the implementation of the beginnings of a European economic government, Angela Merkel is confronting a rise in increasingly free criticism. The CDU, the Bavarian branch of the Chancellor’s Christian Democrat Party, for example, recently declared that it is “decidedly against an economic government and a European Finance Minister.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Israeli Demonstrators Protest Cost of Living

More than 20,000 Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other places across the country late on Saturday in fresh protests against the spiraling cost of living, media reports said.

The numbers were well below the more than 300,000 who demonstrated earlier this month calling for “social justice” and a “welfare state,” organizers admitted, blaming renewed tension with the Palestinians.

Since mid-July, Israel has been gripped by a rapidly growing protest movement demanding cheaper housing, education and health care.

“Security problems have always existed in Israel. They will not stop our struggle,” student union leader Itzik Shmuli told the demonstration in Tel Aviv, calling for a “million-man march” in a week’s time.

Noam Shalit, the father of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit kidnapped in the Gaza Strip in 2006, was the guest of honor at the Tel Aviv rally on the occasion of his son’s 25th birthday. He called on the government to “pay the price needed to bring Gilad home or resign.”

Opinion polls show up to 88 percent of the population supports protests.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has set up a commission to look into the issues.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Rome Tests Bond Market Without Ecb’s Help

Rome (AKI/Bloomberg) — Italy will attempt to raise money in the bond market this week without the safety net of buying by the European Central Bank, which has restrained the nation’s borrowing costs for three weeks by buying its debt.

The euro’s founding treaty bars the central bank from buying bonds directly from governments, meaning it can only provide secondary market support. As well as 3.75 billion euros of 10-year securities to create a new benchmark, Italy is marketing 4.25 billion euros of bonds maturing in 2014 and 2018, with Spain and France also planning sales.

“This is where the litmus test comes, the test to see whether the ECB’s buying power can hold yields where they are,” said Shahid Ikram, head of sovereigns at London-based Aviva Investors, which has some of its $440 billion of assets invested in Italian bonds. “From a risk-return perspective, there’s a great deal of uncertainty. You are going to see more volatility in the Italian yield, some concession will be required and then it’s just a case of what real demand there is.”

The ECB began buying Spanish and Italian government bonds on 8 August to stop the debt crisis from spreading to the euro- region’s third- and fourth-biggest economies. The purchases brought the nations’ 10-year bond yields down to about 5 percent from euro-era records, even as Europe’s leaders disagreed over how to contain the turmoil.

Italian 10-year bonds yield 5.05 percent, after reaching a euro-era record 6.40 percent on Aug. 5 and sliding more than one percentage point to 5.02 percent in the five trading days after the ECB began buying. Both Aviva’s Ikram and Werner Fey, a fund manager at Frankfurt Trust Investment GmbH in Frankfurt, which oversees about 6.5 billion euros of fixed-income assets, said they won’t be buying at this Italian auction.

“The problem for fund managers is that there is huge volatility and big event risk,” Fey said. “The politicians are not coming up with a solution. There’s a risk the ECB may end its program and there will be a massive hit on Italian paper. You cannot exclude that the market will test the Italian bond yield highs again.”

At the most recent auction on July 28, the 10-year yield demanded by investors climbed to 5.77 percent from 4.94 percent a month earlier. That compares with 4.73 percent at a May 30 sale, while the average yield at three auctions prior to May was 4.83 percent, according to Bloomberg data.

Demand at tomorrow’s auctions should be good, said Luca Cazzulani, a senior fixed-income strategist at UniCredit Global Research in Milan, because the amount on offer is low compared with other initial sales and domestic buyers have continued to buy at previous auctions, even in times of market stress.

Italy had 1.6 trillion euros of debt at the end of last year, according to its debt management office, making it Europe’s biggest national bond market. The ECB may have to buy as much as 5 percent of outstanding debt over about 30 weeks to keep borrowing costs at 5 percent, according Kornelius Purps, a strategist at UniCredit SpA in Munich.

When the central bank began its bond program on May 10, 2010 — buying 16.5 billion euros of government securities in a bid to support the Greek market — Greece’s 10-year bond yields fell more than 4.5 percentage points to 7.77 percent. Ten weeks later, as the ECB’s spending dwindled to 176 million euros, Greek bond yields climbed to 10.43 percent. They’ve since reached almost 18 percent.

The bond-buying program didn’t provide enough support to prevent Ireland and Portugal following Greece in requesting financial aid. Ireland’s 10-year yields fell to 4.72 percent on May 10, 2010, the day the ECB began buying, from 5.86 percent the previous trading day. They had climbed to 8.9 percent by Nov. 11, the week before the nation requested aid.

Portugal requested a bailout on April 6 this year as its 10-year yields surpassed 8 percent even after the ECB had spent 77 billion euros on government debt. Its yields climbed to a record 13.44 percent on July 11 as the central bank took a five- month pause from bond buying.

“The risk is that the ECB stays out of the market, yield spreads widen significantly and then trading out of Italy is a challenge,” said David Schnautz, a fixed-income strategist at Commerzbank AG in London. “There’s a decent risk that investors will have to buckle up for a yield increase above 6 percent.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Alemanno: 270 Mln Euro Spending Cuts for Rome in Budget

(AGI) Milan — Mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, said that the government’s budget package includes 270 million euro in cuts to Rome. “If they don’t remove them we will protest with the disabled and Caritas outside the prime minister’s office.” declared the major. He was speaking in Milan during a protest against local authority spending cuts called by city mayors.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: VAT Not Set to Rise and Provinces to be Abolished

(AGI) Rome — It has allegedly been agreed at an extremely ively meeting held in Arcore between the PDL and Northern League leaders, that VAT will not increase nor will there be a ‘solidarity’ tax in the new budget. An agreement has allegedly also been reached for the suppression of all provinces and halving the number of members of parliament. There will be two billion euro less due to cuts applied to local institutions and a reduction of tax advantages for cooperatives.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Lega Nord Still Backs Footballers’ Solidarity Tax

(AGI) Rome — Footballers will have their solidarity tax doubled and off-the-book foreign workers pay higher taxes on remittances. The proposals are part of the 25 amendments to the government’s austerity package put forward by the Lega Nord.

However, most of the remaining amendments are just of a technical nature, a Lega Nord senator explained.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

No Support to Countries That Do Not Cut Debt, Merkel

(AGI) Schwerin — The countries that do not reduce their public debt will not be able to count on Eurozone to help them, according to German chancellor Angela Merkel. The countries that “do not do their duty — she explained — will not have our support”. Merkel reasserted her opposition to Eurobonds .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Spain: Indignados Protest Against Constitutional Reform

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 29 — To the cries of “Against constitutional reform, not a single step backwards”, thousands of indignados took to the streets in protest yesterday in a number of Spanish cities against the agreement between the PP and the PSOE to insert into the constitution a limit on the public deficit and demand that it be put to a referendum. Taking part in the protest marches — which went off without incident and had been called by the Democracia Real Ya platform, Juventud Sin Futuro (Youth Without a Future) and the 15-M movement — were 7,000 demonstrators, according to official sources. In Madrid and Barcelona the protests with the highest number of participants took part, but demonstrations were also held in Valencia, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Santiago and Tenerife, with marches to demand a referendum on the reform.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Constitutional Reform, Unions Also on War Footing

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 29 — In addition to the ‘indignados’, the two main Spanish unions, the UGT and CcOo, are also mobilising against the constitutional reform agreed upon by the PSOE and PP, which seeks to add a spending ceiling to limit the public deficit, which Congress will vote on tomorrow. And while the indignados have announced a protest tomorrow in front of Spanish Parliament, the unions have not yet decided whether they should call a protest march or sit-in, but hope that the protest takes place under a “united front” in order to “prevent the same people from paying for the crisis, meaning workers in general, as well as young people and women”. In statements cited by El Mundo’s website, union spokespeople underlined that the reform was agreed upon by “a government whose time is up”, and that this took place behind the backs of the people. They are also insisting that the reform be voted on in a referendum.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Moody’s Considers Constitutional Reform to be Positive

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 29 — The announced pact between the PSOE and PP to introduce a clause into the Constitution that limits the public deficit has been viewed positively by rating agency Moody’s, which will take the move into account in their analysis of Spain’s sovereign debt rating. This was reported by sources from Moody’s cited today by EFE, which warned: “establishing a fiscal law will not resolve the country’s fiscal challenges by itself”. According to Moody’s, “even though it would have been preferable to include the maximum figure allowed for the deficit in the Constitution and to introduce clear mechanisms for corrections and sanctions” — and not by a special law as specified under the agreement- “the announcement is positive for Spain’s sovereign debt”. In March the agency downgraded Spain’s rating to AA2 with a negative outlook, which was confirmed on July 29 in an announcement from a review, due to a possible further downgrade due to the government’s difficulties in achieving their fiscal objectives and due to persistent pressure on financing. To that end, Moody’s underlined that the proposal to introduce a balanced budget into the Constitution “is a factor which will be taken into account in the review of Spain’s” rating.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Barack Obama’s Uncle Has Been Arrested and Held as Illegal Immigrant

BARACK Obama’s long-lost “Uncle Omar” has been arrested for alleged drink-driving outside Boston and detained as an illegal immigrant, The Times can reveal.

The arrest ends a mystery over the fate of a relative that the US President wrote in his memoir had moved to America from Kenya in the 1960s, although the circumstances of his discovery may now prove to be an embarrassment for the White House.

Official records say Onyango Obama, 67, was picked up outside the Chicken Bone Saloon in Framingham, Massachusetts, at 7.10pm on August 24. Police say he nearly crashed his Mitsubishi 4x4 into a patrol car, and then insisted that the officer should have given way to him. A report filed with the Framingham District Court said that a breathalyser at the police station registered his blood alcohol at 0.14mg/100ml of blood, above the state limit of 0.08mg.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Pretend Counterterrorism Policy

With trumpets and drum rolls, the White House in early August released a policy paper on methods to prevent terrorism, said to have been two years in the making. Signed personally by Barack Obama and with rhetoric vaunting “the strength of communities” and the need to “enhance our understanding of the threat posed by violent extremism,” the document looks anodyne.

But beneath the calm lies a counter­productive—and dangerous—approach to counterterrorism. The import of this paper consists in its firm stand on the wrong side of three distinct counterterrorism debates, with the responsible Right (and a few sensible liberals) on one side, and Islamists, leftists, and multiculturalists on the other.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Italy: Cardinal Bagnasco: We Are Threatened by Culture of Lies

(AGI) Genoa — Cardinal Bagnasco said we are all threatened by a culture of lies which is based on the cult of power and money.

“We are all threatened by a culture of lies which tricks us into thinking that real men must be rich and powerful, that rules are enemies of freedom, that we must let ourselves be driven by physical sensations rather than reason, and that the moral good is nothing but self-interest without sacrifice”, the president of the Italian Episcopal Conference and Archbishop of Genoa, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, said in his homily earlier tonight.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

NATO After Libya: A Threat to European Stability

by Srdja Trifkovic

Address given on Monday, August 29, at the international conference Central Europe, the EU and the new Russia at the Czech Parliament in Prague.

More than two decades after the end of the Cold War, NATO is an obsolete and harmful anachronism. It has morphed into a vehicle for the attainment of misguided American strategic objectives on a global scale. Its mutation from a defensive alliance into a supranational force based on the nebulous doctrine of “humanitarian intervention” started with the air war against Serbia in 1999 and was completed with the Libyan intervention in the spring and summer of 2011. NATO in its mature form is beyond redemption or reform. It should be disbanded.

The Soviet Union came into being as a revolutionary state that challenged any given status quo in principle. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, however, Russia has been trying to articulate her goals and define her policies in terms of traditional national interests. By contrast, the early 1990’s witnessed the beginning of America’s attempt to assert her status as the only global hyperpower. Instead of declaring victory and disbanding NATO in the early 1990’s, the Clinton administration successfully redesigned it as a mechanism for open-ended out-of-area interventions at a time when every rationale for its existence had disappeared.

Following the air war against Serbia, NATO’s area of operations became unlimited and its “mandate” self-generated. Another round of NATO expansion came under George W. Bush. In April 2007, he signed the Orwellian-sounding NATO Freedom Consolidation Act, which extended U.S. military assistance to aspiring NATO members, specifically Georgia and Ukraine. Further expansion, according to former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, was “historically mandatory, geopolitically desirable.” A decade earlier, Brzezinski readily admitted that NATO’s enlargement was not about U.S. security in any conventional sense, but “about America’s role in Europe—whether America will remain a European power and whether a larger democratic Europe will remain organically linked to America.” Such attitude is the source of endless problems for America and Europe alike…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

Spain: Confidence in Politicians, Banks and Bishops Plunges

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 29 — People in Spain mistrust politicians, the government, banks, trade unions and bishops, they are convinced that the markets are the real leaders of the country, 92% consider the current economic situation to be bad and 85% believe that a recovery is still far away. This social climate emerged from the most recent sentiment indicator in Spain, published by Metroscopia for newspaper El Pais. The report shows that the disrepute of politicians and political parties has reached alarming levels. Only a quarter of Spaniards approve the way the government of José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is dealing with the crisis and more than 80% are convinced that the parties only think of their own interest, not the interest of the people. But the erosion of confidence goes deeper than that. A large majority of citizens are convinced that the crisis is undermining the quality of democracy (67%) and suspect that the markets, rather than the States, are really governing the world (79%).

Less than 2 months before the early general elections on November 20, people in Spain are asking for transparency, honesty and attention for common interest. More and more people are starting to see politicians as a problem, rather than a solution. When asked to give a vote between 0 and 10 to a range of groups, the interviewed gave the lowest note to politicians (2.6), followed by political parties (2.8), banks (2.9), the current government (3.0), bishops (3.1), trade unions (3.3) and the justice system (3.5). Institutions that saw confidence among people fall include the autonomous communities (4.0), municipalities (4.3) and Parliament (4.2). Confidence in Spain’s banks has fallen by 20 points since the start of this year, and public aid to the financial sector is out of the question for many citizens. In fact 70% are convinced that any type of assistance to banks and credit institutions should be banned, and that they should be nationalised in case of serious difficulties. A good 90% of citizens want the financial institutes to pay back the public money they have received. Confidence in the unions has also collapsed, though most Spaniards still consider them necessary to protect the rights of workers. In the survey, 65% considered the general strike that was called in September 2010 a failure, only 11% saw it as successful. Confidence in the unions is strongly related to political preference, with people voting for the right saying the unions slow down economic reforms, and those voting for the left doubting their effectiveness. Regarding the Catholic Church, people in Spain have most confidence in the lower end of the ecclesiastic hierarchy.

Charity organisations like Caritas are ranked at a respectable 14th place in the assessment of institutions, with a vote of 5.8, higher than the 5.6 obtained by King Juan Carlos. The Catholic Church as a whole has fallen to 32th place, with a 4.0, and the bishops are ranked as low as 37th, with a confidence level of 3.1. At present only one in five Spanish citizens say they are practicing Catholics, the lowest figure in the past 50 years.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Twinings Under Fire for Changing Earl Grey Recipe

(AGI) London — Twinings, famous British tea company, is under attack from customers for having altered its famous Earl Grey blend. Its increase of the citrus component in the traditional recipe of black tea mixed with bergamot has not gone down well.

Critics are complaining that it now tastes like dishwater.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Welcome to Tower Hamlets

by Esmerelda Weatherwax

Why I am going to Tower Hamlets on Saturday

I am of an old East End family. We define the East End as the three old boroughs of Bethnal Green, Stepney and Poplar which since 1965 make up the current London Borough of Tower Hamlets, plus that area of Shoreditch around Shoreditch Church which since 1965 is part of the London Borough of Hackney. Although my mother was born in Hoxton (which is adjacent to, but not part of, the East End) where my grandfather had a market stall, her parents were born in Bethnal Green as were all of my father’s family. My cousins and I have traced many lines of our families back to the 18thcentury. We span 4 centuries and 10 generations in the area, at least. Welcome to my ancestoral homeland.

The East End encompassed London docks which meant that people have always arrived from all over the world and many settled nearby. Just in the relatively small circle of my own family history, through blood, marriage, kinship or family friendship I know of Irish, Welsh, Italian, Scottish, Jewish, Polish and Russian, French Huguenot, Indian, West Indian and Yorkshire. Every group that came to the East End brought their own customs. The Huguenot influence can be seen in our love of bright colours of clothing and the flowers of our little gardens, even if the only garden available was a yard or a veranda. The Jewish influence is famous and goes far beyond the food and the delicatessens (and bread). Limehouse was Chinatown for many years although it is now in Gerrard Street W1. They integrated while giving us the best of their culture. Until recent years…

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


Kosovo: Organ Trafficking: Eulex Appoints Prosecutor

(ANSAmed) — PRISTINA/BELGRADE, AUGUST 29 — EULEX, the European civilian mission in Kosovo, today announced the appointment of U.S. prosecutor John Clint Williamson as head of the team that investigates reports of human organ trafficking in Kosovo by the end of the ‘90s. EULEX has announced in a statement issued in Pristina, also reported by the media in Serbia, that the investigation will focus on the claims made in the report of Swiss MP Dick Marty, that was approved in January by the parliamentary assembly of the European Council. In the report charges are made against the old Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) regarding traffic in human organs by the end of the ‘90s, particularly organs of Serbs who were captured in Kosovo and held in camps in Albania. The list of accused includes the current Premier of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, at the time leader of the UCK. The Premier has denied any involvement in the affair. The Serbian authorities have protested against the EULEX inquiry. They want an independent commission under the aegis of the United Nations to carry out the investigation, as happened in the case of other crimes committed in former Yugoslavia. Williamson has worked for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, particularly the trial against Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian leader who died in March 2006 in a ICTY prison.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Athletics: 20 Yr Ago World Gold to ‘Scandalous’ Boulmerka

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 29 — Having spent years running in the streets of Constantine, her hometown in the Atlas mountains, dodging the stones and spitting of men who died approve of the girl training in shorts and bare arms, she learnt that strength in one’s legs must be accompanied by that of one’s head, and so on September 1 1991, after hearing the bell of the last lap, Hassiba Boulmerka understood that the time had come to try to win the 1500 metre run in the Tokyo World Competition. She sped up, saw the Russian Tatyana Samolenko in front of her, who had previously won the gold in the 3000 hurdles race, caught up with her and managed to pull ahead. That day 20 years ago brought to the sports world’s attention the legs and voice of the Algerian girl who brought home the first World Cup for a female African athlete. Her legs were strong, her voice shrill. She later said that “as soon as I had got past the finish line, I began to yell in joy, out of a sense of disbelief, as well as for the pride and history of Algeria, as well as for all Algerian women, for all Arab women.” Hassiba’s yells rang out from Japan to Algeria, and at the airport she was met by hundreds of people awaiting her. The police were necessary to make it possible for her to leave, but afterwards Boulmerka went around the streets of Algiers in a top-down car alongside Nourredine Morceli, who had won the men’s 1500-metre on the same day. Boulmerka told Sports Illustrated in an interview that “from the balconies women threw sweets and flour seeds, as we do at weddings to symbolise the sweetness of a simple life.” Boulmerka was also received by President Chadli Benjedid, who bestowed on her the Medal of Merit. “Some politicians,” the athlete went on to say, “told me that I had brought the country together.” Algerian women saw in the girl running in shorts a chance for advance, the courage to affirm one’s own personality in an Algeria in which the spectre of fundamentalism was taking shape like never before. Political union lasted only a few months after her victory: at the end of 1991 the electoral success of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) led to civil war and the political security of the following years. For Boulmerka, the honours she had been granted became condemnation by imams due to her habit of “running with naked legs in front of thousands of men”. “When FIS won the elections,” Boulmerka said, “they told me that I shouldn’t be afraid of them since one mustn’t be afraid of Islam, which exists to help us in our lives. I was instead afraid of the fascists who hid behind the veil of Islam to impose their political will, like what happened in Iran.” However, the atmosphere in Algeria became unbearable for her.

Hassiba was threatened a number of times, was forced to train abroad and lived surrounded by guards. But the difficulties spurred her on to do better, and in the summer of 1992 she won an Olympic gold medal in the 1500 race, thereby entering history books once and for all, but without ever forgetting her place in the history of Algeria: that of stimulating women in the country to live up to their potential. Following another gold medal in 1995, Boulmerka withdrew from competition in 1997, becoming member of the International Olympic Committee Athletes Commission and working as an ambassador in the world of African athletics. Today she is a businesswoman, but has the same fighting spirit that she had at the Tokyo finish line. “Algerians,” she said recently in an interview with Al Watan, “loved me because I have always loved Algeria, trying to unite this nationalism with the growth of modern Muslim women, against prejudices and fanaticism. Have I engaged in politics too much? If this had been the case, I would have entered politics at the end of my career, instead of taking myself out of the limelight.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gaddafi Son’s Girlfriend Escapes From Libya

The former model who was visiting Colonel Gaddafi’s son Mutassim during the final days of the rebel takeover has left Libya, the foreign ministry said on Sunday, without revealing her current whereabouts.

Former model Talitha van Zon is Mutassim’s former girlfriend and had remained friends with him.

She was on a visit last week when the rebels reached Tripoli. Van Zon broke her arm and damaged her back jumping from her hotel room balcony to escape.

She told British paper The Sunday Telegraph it was the biggest mistake of her life to accept Mutassim’s invitation to go to Libya.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

How Al-Qaeda Got to Rule in Tripoli

By Pepe Escobar

His name is Abdelhakim Belhaj. Some in the Middle East might have, but few in the West and across the world would have heard of him.

Time to catch up. Because the story of how an al-Qaeda asset turned out to be the top Libyan military commander in still war-torn Tripoli is bound to shatter — once again — that wilderness of mirrors that is the “war on terror”, as well as deeply compromising the carefully constructed propaganda of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO’s) “humanitarian” intervention in Libya.

Muammar Gaddafi’s fortress of Bab-al-Aziziyah was essentially invaded and conquered last week by Belhaj’s men — who were at the forefront of a militia of Berbers from the mountains southwest of Tripoli. The militia is the so-called Tripoli Brigade, trained in secret for two months by US Special Forces. This turned out to be the rebels’ most effective militia in six months of tribal/civil war.

Already last Tuesday, Belhaj was gloating on how the battle was won, with Gaddafi forces escaping “like rats” (note that’s the same metaphor used by Gaddafi himself to designate the rebels).

Abdelhakim Belhaj, aka Abu Abdallah al-Sadek, is a Libyan jihadi. Born in May 1966, he honed his skills with the mujahideen in the 1980s anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan.

He’s the founder of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and its de facto emir — with Khaled Chrif and Sami Saadi as his deputies. After the Taliban took power in Kabul in 1996, the LIFG kept two training camps in Afghanistan; one of them, 30 kilometers north of Kabul — run by Abu Yahya — was strictly for al-Qaeda-linked jihadis.

After 9/11, Belhaj moved to Pakistan and also to Iraq, where he befriended none other than ultra-nasty Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — all this before al-Qaeda in Iraq pledged its allegiance to Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri and turbo-charged its gruesome practices.

In Iraq, Libyans happened to be the largest foreign Sunni jihadi contingent, only losing to the Saudis. Moreover, Libyan jihadis have always been superstars in the top echelons of “historic” al-Qaeda — from Abu Faraj al-Libi (military commander until his arrest in 2005, now lingering as one of 16 high-value detainees in the US detention center at Guantanamo) to Abu al-Laith al-Libi (another military commander, killed in Pakistan in early 2008).

Time for an extraordinary rendition

The LIFG had been on the US Central Intelligence Agency’s radars since 9/11. In 2003, Belhaj was finally arrested in Malaysia — and then transferred, extraordinary rendition-style, to a secret Bangkok prison, and duly tortured.

In 2004, the Americans decided to send him as a gift to Libyan intelligence — until he was freed by the Gaddafi regime in March 2010, along with other 211 “terrorists”, in a public relations coup advertised with great fanfare.

The orchestrator was no less than Saif Islam al-Gaddafi — the modernizing/London School of Economics face of the regime. LIFG’s leaders — Belhaj and his deputies Chrif and Saadi — issued a 417-page confession dubbed “corrective studies” in which they declared the jihad against Gaddafi over (and illegal), before they were finally set free.

A fascinating account of the whole process can be seen in a report called “Combating Terrorism in Libya through Dialogue and Reintegration”. [1] Note that the authors, Singapore-based terrorism “experts” who were wined and dined by the regime, express the “deepest appreciation to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation for making this visit possible”.

Crucially, still in 2007, then al-Qaeda’s number two, Zawahiri, officially announced the merger between the LIFG and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM). So, for all practical purposes, since then, LIFG/AQIM have been one and the same — and Belhaj was/is its emir.

In 2007, LIFG was calling for a jihad against Gaddafi but also against the US and assorted Western “infidels”.

Fast forward to last February when, a free man, Belhaj decided to go back into jihad mode and align his forces with the engineered uprising in Cyrenaica.

Every intelligence agency in the US, Europe and the Arab world knows where he’s coming from. He’s already made sure in Libya that himself and his militia will only settle for sharia law.

There’s nothing “pro-democracy” about it — by any stretch of the imagination. And yet such an asset could not be dropped from NATO’s war just because he was not very fond of “infidels”.

The late July killing of rebel military commander General Abdel Fattah Younis — by the rebels themselves — seems to point to Belhaj or at least people very close to him.

It’s essential to know that Younis — before he defected from the regime — had been in charge of Libya’s special forces fiercely fighting the LIFG in Cyrenaica from 1990 to 1995.

The Transitional National Council (TNC), according to one of its members, Ali Tarhouni, has been spinning Younis was killed by a shady brigade known as Obaida ibn Jarrah (one of the Prophet Mohammed’s companions). Yet the brigade now seems to have dissolved into thin air…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: Serb Held for Being Gaddafi Sharpshooters Plead for ‘Help’ To Russian Reporters

Tripoli, 29 August (AKI) — Russian journalists have located and interviewed with five Serbian citizens arrested by Libyan rebels nine days ago, suspected of being sharpshooters of deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi, Serbian television reported on Monday.

Serbian embassy to Tripoli has said it had no knowledge that Serbian citizens had been arrested, nor where they were being held. “Please, help us,” they pleaded with the Russians.

The correspondents of Moscow’s daily Komsomolskaya Pravda talked to the prisoners at Tripoli airport where they are being held, after an interview with the airport commander Abdulakim Abdulgadar.

The commander allowed the Russians to talk to the five Serbs arrested on 20 August who said they were treated well by the rebels. They were named as Zoran Nikolic, Nedeljko Milanovic, Milorad Junic, Milic Martinovic and Vojislav Niciforovic.

Correspondents Aleksandar Koc and Dmitry Steshin reported to their newspaper that the prisoners badly needed “legal and diplomatic help”, because no one knew where to look for them. “Looks like no one cares for these Serbs,” they said.

The five prisoners claimed they entered Tripoli on 12 August while the city was still under Gaddafi’s control and were supposed to work on road construction near western city of Zavia.

When the fighting in Tripoli broke out, they reportedly stayed for one week in a hotel, but were arrested by rebels at one checkpoint. The said they managed to escape, but were arrested again while trying to reach Serbian embassy.

The rebels said the prisoners would be released if it turned out that they were indeed construction workers. But the journalists noted it was unclear how the five Serbs entered Libya without visas.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: UNICEF: Health Epidemic Risk in Tripoli

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 29 — Tripoli risks “an unprecedented health epidemic”. UNICEF has sounded the alarm regarding the water problems the UN agency is faced with while distributing water in the city.

So far UNICEF has delivered 23 thousand bottles of water and another 90 thousand will be delivered today. A total of around 5 million litres of water will be procured by UNICEF to Tripoli in the coming days. “UNICEF is responding to the immediate needs in Tripoli,” said Christian Balslev-Olesen, UNICEF Libya Head of Office, “but we remain extremely concerned about the situation should there be a shortage of water in the coming days. This could turn into an unprecedented health epidemic.” A UNICEF technical team is now working with the Libyan authorities to facilitate an assessment of water wells and identify alternatives for water sources. UNICEF has asked to collect 20.5 million USD in the context of the United Nations Regional Flash Appeal. This sum is necessary to deal with the needs of women and children in Libya, and those who have fled to neighbouring countries.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi Amid Jacuzzis and Champagne

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, AUGUST 29 — In Libya alcohol consumption is illegal but not for Muammar Gaddafi’s children: in Saif Al-Islam’s summer villa on Tripoli’s western coast, brand name champagne and whisky bottles were to be found among pricey Jacuzzis and crystal, according to ANSA’s correspondent. The house, which overlooks the sea, is on the edge of the super-luxurious Regata resort: a blue Jacuzzi set into the rocks takes pride of place on the beach, while inside the building there is another breathtaking swimming pool. Crystal is everywhere, as are designer sofas and chandeliers, and the rays of the sunset filtering through the immense windows bring a rose-coloured hue to the walls. The bay below, as well as all the fenced-in area, was inaccessible even to the friends and guests of the Libyan leader’s children, who were housed in the eastern part of the resort. Two other villas were owned by Mohammed: one on the hill and another a few meters from the sea. The entire area is surrounded by a wall on which images of the leader are portrayed. Now all the villas are occupied by the rebels, and especially those in Misurata, the “martyr city” which for months suffered a siege by the loyalist forces resulting in dozens of victims including some foreign journalists.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: ENI CEO Scaroni in Benghazi to Meet With NTC

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 29 — Eni CEO Paolo Scaroni, at the head of a delegation of the group’s technical experts, will today be in Benghazi to meet with the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC). One of the issues to be discussed is the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding which would see Eni proving for Eni gasoline and gas to the “new” Libya” in exchange for oil in payment when the fields are up and running again. An intervention by Eni technical experts is also to be included to look into resuming production at a number of oil fields in Cyrenaica. Scaroni, who on Thursday took part in a Milan summit between Sivio Berlusconi and his Libyan counterpart and head of the NTC Mahmoud Jabril, will also assess the possibility of re-opening oil wells, while in exchange Eni would supply fuel and other primary goods, which at the moment are still under an embargo. The NTC needs money to bring back a minimum of normality in the country when battles continue to rage. For this reason Prime Minister Mahmoud Jabril has launched an “urgent appeal to all Western friends”, an appeal immediately responded to by Italy.

Now the NTC claims that “the most destabilising element would be the failure of the National Transitional Council” due to its inability to pay wages (which have not been received for months) and to ensure some services to citizens. In order to do so, money is needed. Five billion euros was requested by NTC representative Aref Ali Nayed, during the high-level contact group meeting held last week in Doha. “If we do not get hold of the necessary means,” said Jabril, “the destabilisation phase will be very serious.” Italy has supplied an initial response by announcing its willingness to “unfreeze Libyan state funds with the Italian banking system” with “a initial, immediately available instalment of 350 million euros”. Jibril said that the money would serve to provide “order and stability”, to set up a national army beginning with “taking weapons off the streets”, and to prepare for the opening of schools next month. The list of things to do is long and includes the reconstruction of power stations and “infrastructure destroyed by bombardment” by Gaddafi loyalists.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Italian-French Challenge Over Reconstruction and Oil

(ANSAmed) — PARIS — While Muammar Gaddafi set up his tents in Rome’s Villa Pamphili, his reception in Paris was somewhat grander, at the Hotel Marigny, in the Elysee Gardens. Now, with a Libya emerging without its Colonel, both France and Italy have oil in their sights and a new race has opened for the favour of the country that is Europe’s third largest supplier of oil.

The capture of the Colonel will be the starting gun but according to leaks it will be Rome and Paris who will emerge as Libya’s most favoured customers.

The official story is precisely the opposite: a great humanitarian effort: “we have averted the river of blood promised by Gaddafi,” Nicolas Sarkozy emphasised, “we want to be close to the Libyan people,” came the echo from Silvio Berlusconi. While Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini noted: “there is no race for who will get to Libya first,” between France and Italy.

But France above all, that has seen in Libya an opportunity to make up for ground lost to Italy, has from the outset appeared determined not to let its leading role in pro-TN activism slip for one moment. Hers were the first Mirages to appear in the sky to assist the insurgents at Misurata on March 19, hers the first official recognition of the TNC as legitimate and sole representative of Libya, as will hers will probably be the first embassy to reopen in Tripoli.

Sure, political commentators and analysts have noted, this hyper-activism on the part of Paris — which is practically the opposite of its behaviour at the start of the Arab Spring (in Tunisia and in Egypt), where France stood out by its absence or fondness for the disappearing regimes. This can only lead one to review the fact that Italy’s ENI is and always has been by far the leading oil company present in Libya, while French giant Total ranks at number three.

“If Libya changes its present partner for the extraction and distribution of hydrocarbons, it will be shooting itself in the foot,” was the open comment made by ENI’s MD, Paolo Scaroni.

Meanwhile in France, the newspaper La Tribune has been counting the money Total could be earning on what experts are saying could be 35% of future contracts signed by the new Libya in exchange for France’s military support for the TNC.

Nonetheless, the French have a lot of ground to recover, without taking the Spanish, German and Austrian oil concerns waiting in the wings. The war and the commitment made on the ground, the freeing up of frozen funds announced by Italy, the promise of being first in line in the reconstruction of the country which France has made itself (Sarkozy has even made himself guarantor that Libya’s schools will reopen as they should): these are the trump cards Rome and Paris will be keeping ready to play over the coming months, in the hope that the people with whom they are negotiating today will be the same that rule the Libya of tomorrow. They are hoping not to have miscalculated, as happened to those oil companies that took a gamble on dividing the Iraqi market without taking account of the post-war instability of the country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: ENI Visits Libya and Signs to Restore Role as Biggest Oil Producer

Benghazi, 29 August (AKI) — Paolo Scaroni, chief executive officer of Eni met with Libyan rebel leaders in Benghazi Monday where they signed a non-binding agreement to restore the Italian oil company’s pre-civil war role as the North African country’s biggest oil and natural producer.

“With the memorandum, Eni and the National Transition Council (NTC) are working to recreate the conditions for a swift return of Eni’s activities in the country,” the Rome-based company said in a statement.

The agreement would allow Eni to resume gas imports to Italy via the Greenstream pipeline, a move that Scaroni last week said was important ahead of winter when demand for the fuel increases.

Scaroni’s trip to Libya makes him the first head of a major oil company to visit Libya since rebels last week took over the capital Tripoli, putting an end to Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year-old authoritarian government.

News reports said Scaroni met with the head of Libya’s National Oil company, in addition to the NTC, the rebel’s political leadership.

Eni is expected to supply Libyan rebels with fuel as part of an international effort to create security and infrastructure in post-Gaddafi Libya.

Oil traders said Eni was trying to hire a tanker to travel to Libya this week, Retuers news agency reported.

Eni needs between 6 and 18 months to restart its oil and gas fields in Libya, Scaroni said Thursday in Milan following a meeting with NTC prime minister Mahmoud Jibril.

Eni has been in the country since 1959 and got 13 percent of its revenue from Libyan natural resources prior to the conflict that broke out in February.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: Gaddafi Family in Algeria, Leader Near Tripoli

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 29 — Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is reportedly with two of his sons, Saif al Islam and Saadi, in a village about one hundred kilometres away from Tripoli, while the rest of the family has reportedly fled to Algeria with the exception of Khamis, who was killed in Tripoli, report reliable sources in Libyan diplomacy. Reportedly, the colonel’s wife, his daughter Aisha, and sons Hannibal (with his wife) and Mohammad (also with his wife) have all fled the country. The same sources reported that Algeria allowed them to cross the border and accepted them into the country “for humanitarian purposes”, since Aisha is allegedly about to give birth or has already given birth. As for Gaddafi, he is reportedly in Bani Walid, about 100 km southeast of Tripoli, together with his sons Saadi and Saif. The day before yesterday a convoy of 60-80 loyalist vehicles was seen fleeing towards Bani Walid. It is nearly certain that Khamis Gaddafi, the other son of the former Libyan leader and commander of the feared 32nd Brigade which led Tripoli’s resistance, was killed during the retreat from the capital on the road to Bani Walid.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Algeria Confirms: Gaddafi’s Family Members Here

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, AUGUST 29 — Algeria’s Foreign Ministry has issued a communiqué in which it confirms that the wife and three children of Col. Muammar Gaddafi, including daughter Aisha, have entered Algerian territory today.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: ‘Gaddafi’s Daughter-in-Law Threw Boiling Water Over My Head After I Refused to Beat Her Child’

Horrific burns of nanny abandoned in dictator’s mansion

Shweyga Mullah’s entire body is covered in weeping scabs after she was allegedly burned by Hannibal Gaddafi’s wife, Aline Skaf.

She was found abandoned in a room at one of the family’s luxury seaside villas in western Tripoli.

Unable to go to the doctor, the Ethiopian sat weak on a mattress on the floor, as she calmly told her story to CNN.

Ms Mullah, 30, came from her home country to work as a nanny for the couple’s young daughter and son a year ago.

She explained how model Aline lost her temper when her daughter wouldn’t stop crying and Mullah refused to beat the child.

‘She took me to a bathroom. She tied my hands behind my back, and tied my feet. She taped my mouth, and she started pouring the boiling water on my head.

‘There were maggots coming out of my head, because she had hidden me, and no one had seen me.’

Reporter Dan Rivers said that when he walked in the room, he thought she was wearing a hat because her injuries were so bad.

‘Then the awful realisation dawned that her entire scalp and face were covered in red wounds and scabs, a mosaic of injuries that rendered her face into a grotesque patchwork.

‘Her chest, torso and legs are all mottled with scars — some old, some still red, raw and weeping. As she spoke, clear liquid oozed from one nasty open wound on her head’.

A guard eventually took to a hospital, where she received some treatment but when Aline found out, he was threatened with imprisonment if he dared to help her again.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Misrata Opposes Libya’s NTC Over Appointments in Tripoli

(AGI) London — The city of Misrata has opposed the National Transition Council over the appointment of an ex general as head of security with about 500 people taking to the streets to protests against the appointment of Albarrani Shkal. According to the inhabitants of Misrata, which suffered long harsh siege by Gaddafi’s militias, units commanded by Shkal killed many people and terrorized the city .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Senior Official in Egyptian Islamic Jihad: If We Come to Power, We Will Launch a Campaign of Islamic Conquests to Instate Shari’a Worldwide

‘The Christian is Free to Worship His God in His Church, but if the Christians Make Problems for the Muslims, I Will Exterminate Them’

On August 13, 2011, the Egyptian daily Roz Al-Yousef published an interview[1] with Sheikh ‘Adel Shehato, a senior official in Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), who, on March 23, 2011, was freed from prison in the wake of the Egyptian revolution. He was imprisoned in 1991 upon returning from a three-year sojourn in Afghanistan.

In the interview, Shehato expressed complete opposition to democracy “because it is not the faith of the Muslims, but the faith of the Jews and Christians.” He said that although the youth of the Arab revolutions have not declared the implementation of shari’a as one of their goals, the mujahideen nonetheless identify with their aspiration to overthrow the Arab rulers, whom they had always considered “infidels who must be killed because they do not rule according to the shari’a.” He added, however, that “once Allah’s law is applied, the role of the people will end and Allah will reign supreme.” He went on to say that although he supports Al-Qaeda’s ideology, shari’a law would not be enforced by violence but by da’wa (preaching), whereas violence would be used only against the infidel Arab rulers.

Shehato said that if the mujahideen came to power in Egypt, they would launch a campaign of Islamic conquests aimed at subjecting the entire world to Islamic rule. Muslim ambassadors would be appointed to each country, charged with calling upon them to join Islam willingly, but if the countries refused, war would be waged against them. He also described the nature of the Islamic state to be established in Egypt: there would be no trade or cultural ties with non-Muslims; tourist sites at the pyramids, the Sphinx, and Sharm Al-Sheikh would be shut down “because the tourists come [there] to drink alcohol and fornicate,” and all tourists wishing to visit Egypt would be required to comply with the conditions and laws of Islam; all art, painting, singing, dancing, and sculpture would be forbidden, and all culture would be purely Islamic.

Following are excerpts of the interview:

Sheikh ‘Adel Shehato

The Term “Democracy” is Not in the Arab or Islamic Lexicon; Once Allah’s Law Reigns Supreme, the People’s Role will End

Q: “Do you support the uprising?”

Shehato: “…The [Egyptian] youth rose up for a certain ideal… They did not rise up in order to put the shari’a into practice, nor did they [complain] that Mubarak’s regime did not rule in accordance with the shari’a… As Muslims, we must believe that the Koran is our constitution, and that it is [therefore] impossible for us to institute a Western democratic regime. I oppose democracy because it is not the faith of the Muslims, but the faith of the Jews and Christians. Simply put, democracy means the rule of the people itself over itself… According to Islam, it is forbidden for people to rule and to legislate laws, as Allah alone is ruler. Allah did not hand down the term [democracy] as a form of rule, and it is completely absent from the Arab and Islamic lexicon…”

Q: “If you do not believe in the rule of the people, why did you go out to Al-Tahrir Square with the slogan ‘he People Wants to Implement the Shari’a?’ Are you exploiting democracy in order to achieve what you want [only] to then abolish [democracy]?”

Shehato: “I am not exploiting democracy, since I have never joined and will never join politics or party activity… We believe that implementation of the shari’a [must be accomplished] far from the political game, though some [other] Islamic streams are willing to participate [in this game] in order to achieve the same goal [i.e., implementation of the shari’a]. We said that ‘the people wants to implement the shari’a’ because most of the people are Muslims, and also based on [our] reading of the situation on the ground. [At the same time,] we did not make demands for the people’s sake in the people’s name, but demanded the rule of Allah. And once Allah’s law is instated, the role of the people will end and Allah will reign supreme.”

Q: “How do you reconcile your opposition to the will of the people with the notion of shura [consultation] in Islam?”…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: No Signs of Recovery, Negative Figures

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, AUGUST 29 — The Tunisian tourism sector is not showing signs of recovery. In the period from January 1 to August 2, the sector recorded a 38.9% decline compared with the same period in 2010, with 2,771,000 tourists arriving against 4,539,000 in the previous year. The sharpest decrease, 47.6%, was seen the number of tourists from Europe, in particular from Italy (-69.1%), followed by Germany (-50.9%), France (-45.2%) and the UK (-38.6%). For the Maghreb a 36.1% drop was recorded with the number of visiting Algerians down 43.1% and Libyans -31.8%. The North American market also showed a decline, with -42.6%. Revenues over the period from January 1 to the end of August 11 totalled 1.2 billion dinars (around 600 million euros), against 2.1 billion dinars (around one billion euros) in the same period in the previous year. The figures were announced by the Tunisian Tourism and Trade Ministry.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Wife and Three Children of Qaddafi Have Fled to Algeria, Government Says

The wife and three children of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi fled to Algeria on Monday, the Algerian Foreign Ministry said. It was the first official news on the whereabouts of any members of the Qaddafi family since he was routed from his Tripoli fortress by rebel forces a week ago, a decisive turn in the Libyan conflict.

In a brief announcement carried by Algeria’s official news agency APS, the ministry said Colonel Qaddafi’s wife, Safiya, daughter Aisha, and sons Hannibal and Mohammed, accompanied by their children, “entered Algeria at 08:45 a.m. (0745 GMT) through the Algeria-Libyan border.”

The announcement gave no further details. The whereabouts of Colonel Qaddafi himself remain unknown, along with those of his other sons, most notably Seif al-Islam, his second-in-command; Khamis, head of an elite paramilitary brigade; or Muatassim, a militia commander and Colonel Qaddafi’s national security adviser.

[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

NGO Monitor Slams Belgium Funds for ‘Anti-Israel’ Group

The Jerusalem-based watchdog organization NGO Monitor has issued a report alleging that Belgium taxpayer funds are being used to finance ‘anti- Israel’ NGOs, including lawsuits against Israeli officials.

According to the newly released NGO Monitor report on Belgium, the Federal Public Service, an intermediary governmental agency in Belgium, provided payments in 2010 to “political advocacy NGOs that claim a human rights mandate, such as Yesh Din, Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI), and Combatants for Peace (CFP).”

“The transfer of over 800,000 euros in the past three years from Belgian taxpayers to opposition groups, under the façade of promoting peace and human rights, adds to the resentment of many Israelis, including Knesset members.

Many criticize this as manipulative and anti-democratic,” Prof. Gerald Steinberg, the president of NGO Monitor, told the Jerusalem Post.

NGO Monitor charged that Yesh Din — Volunteers for Human Rights used funds to initiate litigation against Israeli officials because of alleged human rights abuses.

The use of foreign money to influence Israel’s political and judicial systems has been the source of a heated debate in the Knesset, including bills designed to promote transparency among foreign funding of NGOs in Israel.

Asked about Belgium’s role in financing Israeli NGOs, Michel Malherbe, a spokesman for the Belgium Foreign Ministry, told the Post, “Belgium does not fund NGOs. We fund specific activities and examine the track record of the execution organization on a number of criteria. Respect for human rights is a major one.

“The project executed by Yesh Din does not include legal action against Israeli officials. It does include filing petitions based on the Israeli Freedom of Information Act.”

According to Yesh Din’s website, the NGO “is an Israeli human rights organization working to achieve long-term structural improvement in the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

We are an independent nongovernmental organization, supported by donations from individuals and institutional donors.”

In an e-mail to the Post on Saturday, Hila Aloni, a representative from Yesh Din, denied that the organization files law suits against Israeli officials.

“As a human rights organization, Yesh Din promotes accountability by the Israeli government, and demands it to do its job of proper law enforcement in the occupied territories, according to both Israeli and international law.

We do not file suits against Israeli officials, but assist Palestinians to petition the Israeli justice system to challenge allegedly illegal or unjust actions taken by Israeli authorities. All of our financial information is completely public and transparent, unlike pro-occupation organizations that do not reveal their funding sources,” Aloni wrote.

For Yesh Din, “A sum of 80,000 EUR has been approved by the Belgians this year, although the money hasn’t been received yet,” she added.

According to the Belgium Foreign Ministry spokesman, the Federal Public Service in 2009-2010 provided about 850,000 euros to Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, “of which 600,000 was in occupied Palestinian territory (450,000 medical work).”

He added that the following year, the FPS gave about 450,000 euros in public monies for activities in the Palestinian Territories and Israel.

Steinberg told the Post that “Foreign Minister [Steven] Vanackere’s support for the Israeli NGO transparency law is important, as is the publication of information on Belgium government funding for political advocacy NGOs in Israel.

This information is necessary for an informed debate on the morality and impact of this funding. In contrast, Belgian transparency is incomplete, with an absence of information on grants to Palestinian and European political groups.”

The Belgium Foreign Ministry spokesman responded: “We believe our transparency is complete and goes beyond the Belgian legal requirements. Israel legal requirements provide for transparency for funding from public sources. Transparency should apply to all types of funding, also private funding. We do not know what NGO Monitor means when it speaks about ‘Palestinian and European political groups.’ “Belgium also finances organizations including Peace Now, Palestinian Medical Relief Society and the Parents Circle.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Middle East

New Military: New Turkey

The resignation of Turkey’s top military brass July 29 was a momentous shift, aligning the military with the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government that came to power in 2002.

For the past decade, a military vs. AKP dichotomy has shaped most analysis on Turkey. A new framework seems necessary now.

Policy differences between the AKP and the military leadership will now melt away, with the two joining around a nationalist foreign-policy line. In this regard, the governing party and the military will coalesce around the AKP’s foreign-policy doctrine, containing a nativist streak that the AKP has implemented to make the country a regional power.

Accordingly, there will be close cooperation between the government and the military on key foreign-policy issues, ranging from Cyprus to ties with Israel, and to handling the crisis in Syria.

On Cyprus, abandoning its erstwhile attitude on the issue of the divided island, the AKP will increasingly confront the Greek Cypriots on oil and gas exploration and drilling projects in the Eastern Mediterranean. Whereas Greek Cypriots are proceeding with plans to issue licenses to international companies for oil or gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey objects to this, claiming that this violates international law.

In one of the latest statements along this line, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned the Greek Cypriots on Aug. 5 that if exploratory drilling goes ahead, Turkey would react with the “necessary response” against such an action.

A recalcitrant tone on the Cyprus issue chimes well with the military, but would be a further block to Turkey’s European Union accession process by providing fodder to those countries, such as France, that object to Ankara’s EU membership.

Given that the drive toward EU membership has almost entirely died in Turkey — more Romanians (61 percent) support Turkey’s EU entry than do Turks (42 percent), according to a 2011 Eurobarometer poll — rising tensions with the Greek Cypriots, who will take over the EU’s rotating presidency in July 2012, might serve as the effective death knell of Turkey’s EU negotiations process.

On a variety of other foreign-policy issues, the AKP is likely to take the lead, with the military following, along a nationalist stance.

Thus, Turkey’s policy on Syria will be determined by the AKP, hardening along the way, with the military helping in the execution of this policy. Along these lines, even though unrest in Syria should help align threat perceptions in Turkey and Israel, mutual ties, in a downward spiral since the Israel’s May 31, 2010, attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla killed nine Turks, will remain tense, with the government pursuing a policy of cold peace with Israel, and the military moving along these lines.

On the domestic front there will also be close alignment in the security realm. With terror attacks by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, on the rise, the AKP and the new military will pursue closer cooperation against the PKK, including likely potential attacks against the group’s bases in northern Iraq. Given the deteriorating relations between the AKP and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, a group that has open sympathies for the PKK, the AKP will push back against the PKK, providing the military with political support for kinetic action to this end.

As it leads on foreign-policy issues, the AKP might even leave domestic security to the military, with the fight against the PKK becoming the military’s chief mission.

Since 2002, Turkey has been at a turning point in terms of its politics. While the country has been experiencing bumper economic growth and a gradual, if zigzagging, ascent to regional power status, the AKP has emerged as the country’s dominant political force. With the unceremonious removal of what was considered a political check and balance, the military, from politics, the AKP’s preponderance in Turkish politics may have reached its zenith.

* A longer version of this column appeared in Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst on Aug. 18. Ata Akiner recently completed his master’s degree at the University of Cambridge and is a freelance researcher.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Russia’s Position on Syria Sanctions Unchanged

(AGI) Damascus — Russia’s position remains unchanged on sanctions for Syria as reiterated by its deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, according to reports by the news agency Sana. On a mission to Damascus, Russia’s envoy met with Syria’s president Bashar al Assad today, bearing a message from Dmitry Mededev. Bogdano also met with the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Syria: Famous Pro-Syrian MBC Presenter Dismissed

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, AUGUST 29 — A famous Lebanese television presenter of the Saudi tv network MBC, well-known for presenting popular television quizzes across the Arab world, has been dismissed because he has publicly supported the repression staged by the Syrian regime for almost six months now. The website of the pan-Arab network Arabiya, member of the MBC group, reads that the launch of the local version of a quiz-show based on the American format “You deserve it” has been cancelled. The show was scheduled to go on air on September 10, presented by Georges Qordahi. Saudi Arabia has been in conflict with Syria for years and in the past weeks recalled its ambassador to Syria, a protest against the violence used by Syrian government forces against anti-regime demonstrators. The al Arabiya website reads that “Qordahi has become the object of an accusation campaign on the social networks due to his statements in support of the Syrian regime.” Qordahi, famous for presenting the Arab version of “Who wants to be a millionaire” for several years, has said that the Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad is the victim of a “conspiracy”, and that “the goal of the Arab spring is to create chaos in the region.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Washington Post Reports Syria Has Large WMD Arsenal

(AGI) Washington — Syria has highly dangerous chemical weapons “distributed in thousands of warheads and artillery shells,” the Washington Post reports, citing arms experts and U.S. government officials. The Post goes on to say that should the Bashar al-Assad regime collapse, the greatest risk is that groups of terrorists take advantage of the chaos and steal these weapons, which are easy to transport.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Caritas Sri Lanka in Support of Rizana, On Death Row in Saudi Arabia

The young Muslim is held responsible for the death of a child in the family where she worked, at age 17. She had emigrated illegally with a false passport.

Colombo (AsiaNews) — Caritas Sri Lanka is calling for the country’s Catholics to continue to pray for Rizana Nafeek, the Sri Lankan girl in prison in Saudi Arabia while Muslims around the world celebrate the month of Ramadan. “I ask all Catholics to continue to pray and offer all their good wishes of solidarity for the liberation of Rafeek Nizan,” said Fr George Sigamoney. Caritas Sri Lanka will appeal to Saudi Arabia through its international network.

The director of Caritas Sri Lanka and Director of the Advisory Committee on Migrant Workers, Fr. George Sigamoney, was interviewed by AsiaNews on this issue. “We see that the government is taking the necessary steps for action in the case of Rizana”. Fr. Sigamoney appreciates the effort made by the Criminal Investigations Department in Colombo to arrest the mediator responsible for having sent Rizana Nafeek to Saudi Arabia on a false passport. Rizana is currently on death row in Saudi Arabia. But he has some hope for the girl’s fate. “She may yet return home, because Rizana’s fate is in the hands of the parents of the dead child. As a Church we must continue to pray for her, and to seek forgiveness from the parents. “

Fr. Sigamoney illustrates the effort of Caritas Sri Lanka: “Through our international network we have launched an appeal to the Saudi government, not only here but also from Europe. I think we should continue with this appeal, and I have written to many organizations to mobilise in support of Rizana “. In addition, the country’s Catholic Church, together with Caritas, have launched a petition for Rizana’s release: “We are making a maximum effort and we are looking for other ways to influence both the authorities of Sri Lanka that the government of Saudi Arabia to do the right thing”.

Fr. Sigamoney in his capacity as a member of the Advisory Committee on Migrants recalls that the next meeting of the organization will provide suggestions and recommendations for a new policy on emigration. According to the Minister for Promotion of working abroad, Dilan Perera, Saudi Arabia has reached an agreement with Sri Lanka for better treatment of migrant workers.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Dutch-Trained Afghan Police Can Fight Taliban

The Afghan police being trained by the Dutch contingent in the northern Afghan region of Kunduz will be used for offensive operations if the Taliban attack civilian buildings such as a hotel, reports the Volkskrant on Monday.

The change in policy comes from the Kunduz police chief Samiulla Qatra and mission commander Ron Smits.

The original agreement was that Dutch police trainers and the local police they are training would only fight in self-defence. Foreign affairs minister Uri Rosenthal said in July he had been given guarantees by the Afghan authorities they would not be used in offensive military operations.

In practice, Dutch-trained police agents will be used briefly in offensive operations to help civilians or colleagues, say Qatra and Smits. This happened at the beginning of August when the Taliban attacked a hotel in Kunduz.

Sending police to deal with a Taliban attack of this kind is restoring public order, Smits told the paper. It is a civil and not a military operation.

‘In the Netherlands you don’t immediately call out the army to deal with a robbery. You send in the police,’ he said.

The first police on the scene can call in special forces to finish the job, according to Qatra. These special forces are being trained by the Germans.

The advantage of these ‘civil’ operations is that the Afghan police chief does not have to consult a list to see which officers he can send to an incident, says the paper.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Islamic Group Seeks to Censure Film That Promotes Pluralism

Jakarta, 29 August (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesia’s Islam Defenders Front (FPI) is calling for a dialogue with filmmaker Hanung Bramantyo over the latter’s film, which promotes religious pluralism.

“We refuse [for the film to be screened], so let’s sit together in a discussion to decide which parts of the movie should be cut,” FPI chief Habib Salim Alatas said Monday.

Habib added that the discussion was necessary to prevent further demonstrations over the film.

The FPI is a hard-line Islamic group that claims to enforce moralism and defend Islamic principles.

“Hanung should talk about the film’s mission, and after that we shall decide whether the movie should be screened at theaters.”

On Saturday last week, hundreds of FPI members demonstrated in front of SCTV television station in Central Jakarta over its plan to broadcast the film on the night of Idul Fitri.

After meeting with the protesters, SCTV management later decided not to screen the film.

In April, FPI also demonstrated against the film being screened at theaters. At that time, Hanung met with the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and decided to cut some parts out of the movie.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Dozens of Insurgents Ambush Train

Quetta, 29 August (AKI) — Three people have been killed and 16 wounded when gunmen ambushed a train near Quetta, in southwest Pakistan.

Around two dozen insurgents opened fire on the train as it reached the mountain town of Mach on Sunday, according to reports, citing police.

One Intelligence official in Quetta blamed the attack on Baloch militants, the AFP news agency reported.

Southwestern Balochistan province has suffered from violence stemming from its long simmering low-level insurgency by ethnic Baloch separatists who seek more autonomy for the province and a greater share of the wealth from its natural resources. Al-Qaeda’s leadership is also said to reside in Quetta.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Detainees to Appeal Directly to the UN

A GROUP of refugees who have had their asylum claims knocked back on security grounds are taking their cases directly to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

Sydney University law professor Ben Saul is coordinating the petition on behalf of 38 asylum seekers who have been assessed as genuine refugees but refused release into the community.

Prof Saul will be arguing that their continued detention is unlawful given the federal government refuses to say why they failed their security assessments.

That information is shielded under the policy of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

But Prof Saul said the policy makes it impossible for asylum seekers to challenge the rejection of their claims.

“How do you challenge your exclusion from a country like Australia if you have no idea what the allegations are against you?” he argued.

Four men involved in the appeal told ABC Television from inside a detention facility about their fears.

“A murderer may be imprisoned for 10 years,” Tamil asylum seeker Nararatam Selvakumar said.

“But us, who have not done anything wrong, are here for an unknown period of time.

“No one is able to give us an answer.”

Australia is obliged to respond to the UN committee, but does not have to comply with its orders.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]