Tag Archive: Syria


Egypt closes Great Pyramid after rumors of rituals

http://news.yahoo.com/egypt-closes-great-pyramid-rumors-rituals-104026490.html

 

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s antiquities authority closed the largest of the Giza pyramids Friday following rumors that groups would try to hold spiritual ceremonies on the site at 11:11 A.M. on Nov. 11, 2011.

The authority’s head Mustafa Amin said in a statement Friday that the pyramid of Khufu, also known as Cheops, would be closed to visitors until Saturday morning for “necessary maintenance.”

The closure follows a string of unconfirmed reports in local media that unidentified groups would try to hold “Jewish” or “Masonic” rites on the site to take advantage of mysterious powers coming from the pyramid on the rare date.

Amin called all reports of planned ceremonies at the site “completely lacking in truth.”

The complex’s director, Ali al-Asfar, said Friday that an Egyptian company requested permission last month to hold an event called “hug the pyramid,” in which 120 people would join hands around the ancient burial structure.

The authority declined the request a week ago, al-Asfar said, but that did not stop concerned Egyptians from starting internet campaigns to prevent the event from taking place.

“It has been a big cause now on Facebook and Twitter for many people to write about,” al-Asfar said.

The closure was unrelated to the rumors, he said, adding that the pyramid needed maintenance after the large number of visitors during the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday last week.

The rest of the complex, which includes two other large pyramids, numerous tombs and the Sphinx, remained open Friday, though security appeared to be heavier than usual.

Dozens of police officers and soldiers were posted throughout the complex. Some patrolled on camel-back. One soldier stood next to his machine gun near a souvenir shop selling miniature pyramids.

Speaking by phone from the pyramids after 11:11 had passed, al-Asfar said he’d seen nothing out of the ordinary.

“Everything is normal,” he said. “The only thing different is the closure of the Khufu pyramid.”

Khufu is credited with building the Giza complex’s largest pyramid, now one of Egypt’s main tourist attractions. Khufu founded the 4th Dynasty around 2680 B.C. and ruled Egypt for 23 years.

Advertisements

Islamists claim win in Tunisia’s Arab Spring vote

http://news.yahoo.com/tunisia-counts-votes-first-arab-spring-election-011055438.html

TUNIS (Reuters) – Moderate Islamists claimed victory on Monday in Tunisia’s first democratic election, sending a message to other states in the region that long-sidelined Islamists are challenging for power after the “Arab Spring.”

Official results have not been announced, but the Ennahda party said its workers had tallied the results posted at polling stations after Sunday’s vote, the first since the uprisings which began in Tunisia and spread through the region.

“The first confirmed results show that Ennahda has obtained first place,” campaign manager Abdelhamid Jlazzi said outside party headquarters in the center of the Tunisian capital.

As he spoke, a crowd of more than 300 in the street shouted “Allahu Akbar!” or “God is great!” Other people started singing the Tunisian national anthem.

Mindful that some people in Tunisia and elsewhere see the resurgence of Islamists as a threat to modern, liberal values, party officials said they were prepared to form an alliance with two secularist parties, Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol.

“We will spare no effort to create a stable political alliance … We reassure the investors and international economic partners,” Jlazzi said.

Sunday’s vote was for an assembly which will sit for one year to draft a new constitution. It will also appoint a new interim president and government to run the country until fresh elections late next year or early in 2013.

The voting system has built-in checks and balances which make it nearly impossible for any one party to have a majority, compelling Ennahda to seek alliances with secularist parties, which will dilute its influence.

“This is an historic moment,” said Zeinab Omri, a young woman in a hijab, or Islamic head scarf, who was outside the Ennahda headquarters when party officials claimed victory.

“No one can doubt this result. This result shows very clearly that the Tunisian people is a people attached to its Islamic identity,” she said.

REVOLUTION INSPIRED UPRISINGS

Tunisia became the birthplace of the “Arab Spring” when Mohamed Bouazizi, a vegetable seller in a provincial town, set fire to himself in protest at poverty and government repression.

His suicide provoked a wave of protests which, weeks later, forced autocratic president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia.

The revolution in Tunisia, a former French colony, in turn inspired uprisings which forced out entrenched leaders in Egypt and Libya, and convulsed Yemen and Syria — re-shaping the political landscape of the Middle East.

Ennahda is led by Rachid Ghannouchi, forced into exile in Britain for 22 years because of harassment by Ben Ali’s police.

A softly spoken scholar, he dresses in suits and open-necked shirts while his wife and daughter wear the hijab.

Ghannouchi is at pains to stress his party will not enforce any code of morality on Tunisian society, or the millions of Western tourists who holiday on its beaches.

He models his approach on the moderate Islamism of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

The party’s rise has been met with ambivalence by some people in Tunisia. The country’s strong secularist traditions go back to the first post-independence president, Habiba Bourguiba, who called the hijab an “odious rag.”

Outside the offices of the commission which organized the election, about 50 people staged a sit-in demanding an investigation into what they said were irregularities committed by Ennahda. Election officials said any problems were minor.

“I really feel a lot of fear and concern after this result,” said Meriam Othmani, a 28-year-old journalist. “Women’s rights will be eroded,” she said. “Also, you’ll see the return of dictatorship once Ennahda achieves a majority in the constituent assembly.”

Ennahda’s preferred coalition partners may reassure some opponents. Ali Larayd, a member of the party’s executive committee, said it was ready to form an alliance with the Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol, both secularist groups respected by Tunisia’s intelligentsia.

 

The Congress is led by Moncef Marzouki, a doctor and human rights activist who spent years in exile in France. Ettakatol is a socialist party led by Mustafa Ben Jaafar, another doctor and veteran Ben Ali opponent.

The only official results released were from polling stations abroad, because they voted early.

The election commission said that out of 18 seats in the 217-seat assembly allocated to the Tunisian diaspora, 9 went to Ennahda. Its closest rivals were Marzouki’s Congress on four seats and Ettakatol, which won three.

The highest-profile secularist challenger to Ennahda, the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) conceded defeat. It had warned voters that modern, liberal values would be threatened if the Islamists won.

“The PDP respects the democratic game. The people gave their trust to those it considers worthy of that trust. We congratulate the winner and we will be in the ranks of the opposition,” a party statement sent to Reuters said.

Ennahda’s win was a remarkable turnaround for a party which just 10 months ago had to operate underground because of a government ban and which had hundreds of followers in prison.

In a slick and well-funded campaign, the party tapped into a desire among ordinary Tunisians to be able to express their faith freely after years of aggressively enforced secularism.

It also sought to show it could represent all Tunisians, including the large number who take a laissez-faire view of Islam’s strictures, drink alcohol, wear revealing clothes and rarely visit the mosque.

Secularist opponents say they believe this is just a cleverly constructed front that conceals more radical views, especially among Ennahda’s rank and file in the provinces.

The party’s final election rally last week was addressed by one of Ennahda’s candidates, a glamorous woman who does not wear a hijab.

On the fringes of the same rally, stalls sold books by Salafist authors, followers of a strict interpretation of Islam who believe women should be covered up and that the sexes should be segregated in public.

(Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by  Tim Pearce)

Arab strongman: With Gadhafi death, an era passes

FILE - This undated photo shows Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. A U.S. official says Libya's new government has told the United States that Gadhafi, 69, is dead. The official said Libya's Transitional National Council informed U.S. officials in Libya of the development Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011. His death on Thursday, confirmed by Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, came as Libyan fighters defeated Gadhafi's last holdouts in his hometown of Sirte, the last major site of resistance in the country. (AP Photo/File)http://news.yahoo.com/arab-strongman-gadhafi-death-era-passes-151535237.html

CAIRO (AP) — He often looked like a comical buffoon, standing before audiences, bedecked in colorful robes, spouting words that most of the world considered nonsense.

Yet the death of Moammar Gadhafi was a milestone in modern Arab history, in some ways more significant than the overthrow of lesser autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt.

Gadhafi was the last of the old-style Arab strongmen — the charismatic, nationalist revolutionaries who rose to power in the 1950s and 1960s, promising to liberate the masses from the shackles of European colonialism and the stultifying rule of the Arab elite that the foreigners left behind after World War II.

He was swept aside by a new brand of revolutionary — the leaderless crowds organized by social media, fed up with the oppressive past, keenly aware that the rest of the world has left them behind and convinced that they can build a better society even if at the moment, they aren’t sure how.

Gadhafi was the last of a generation of Arab leaders such as Gamal Abdel-Nasser of Egypt, Hafez Assad of Syria and Saddam Hussein of Iraq who emerged from poverty, rising to the pinnacle of power either through the ranks of the military or the disciplined, conspiratorial world of underground political organizations.

None of the latter crop of Arab autocrats, including Assad’s son Bashar, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh and even Egypt’s colorless, ousted president Hosni Mubarak, could rival them in their heyday in terms of charisma, flair, stature and power.

Their model was Nasser, the towering champion of Arab unity who ousted Western-backed King Farouk in 1952 and inspired Arab peoples with fiery speeches broadcast by Egyptian radio from Iraq to Mauritania.

But Nasser’s dreams of Arab unity and social revival crumbled in defeat in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, when Israel seized East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights from Syria and the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt. Nasser died three years later, and the fellow strongmen left behind led their countries instead into a political swamp of corruption, cronyism and dictatorship now challenged by the Arab Spring.

The hallmark of the Arab strongman was unquestioned power, the use of state media to promote a larger than life image and a ruthless security network that stifled even a whiff of dissent. That worked in an age before the Internet and global satellite television which opened the eyes of the strongman’s followers to a world without secret police and economic systems run by the leader’s family and cronies.

The Arab political transformation is far from complete. Autocratic rulers are facing challenges from their own people in Yemen and Syria. Bahrain’s Shiite majority is pressing the Sunni monarchy for reform. Rulers in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are maneuvering to contain the Arab Spring.

Iraq is struggling to build a democracy eight years after American-led arms brought down Saddam’s rule.

With Gadhafi’s passing, however, a milestone has been passed. The future belongs to a different style of ruler, whoever it may be.

It may be difficult to imagine that the Gadhafi of his final years — with his flamboyant robes, dark and curly wigs and sagging, surgically altered face — was a trim, handsome, vigorous 27-year-old when he came to power as a strong and vigorous leader. Over the years he had become a caricature figure associated with grandiose dreams such as a “United States of Africa” or seizing all of Israel and sending Jews “back to Europe.”

Even when he was younger, eccentricity was the mark of Gadhafi’s public persona.

A generation ago, President Ronald Reagan described him as the “mad dog of the Middle East,” and his fellow Arab leaders such as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat considered him a dangerous megalomaniac.

Journalists covered his speeches and international visits primarily for amusement.

Images of Gadhafi’s final moments — toupee gone, terrified, confused, powerless in the grip of men who may be about to kill him — make the ousted tyrant appear more pitiable than powerful.

All that was far from his image when he and his comrades toppled a Western-backed monarchy in 1969 in a bloodless coup, promising to transform his poor, backwater country into a modern state.

Promising a new era for his people, Gadhafi closed a U.S. air base, forced international oil companies to hand over most of their profits from Libyan oil to the Libyan state and shook the world with his unabashed support for terrorist or insurgent movements in Northern Ireland, Palestine, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Oil gave him a reach beyond his sparsely populated desert land and enabled him to pursue his revolutionary dreams.

In the 1980s, the lobbies of Tripoli’s few hotels were populated by representatives of what the West considered the most dangerous groups on Earth — stiff North Koreans wearing lapel buttons of their leader Kim Il-Sung, Palestinian extremists huddled over cups of sweet tea, European anarchists and revolutionaries — all come to town to seek the oil-fueled largesse of the “Brother Leader.”

While insisting that Libya was the freest nation on Earth, Gadhafi ruthlessly suppressed dissent, dispatched agents to assassinate his opponents abroad and drove thousands of Libyans into exile.

It all came crashing down in the final battle in his hometown of Sirte. A man who came to power as an Arab revolutionary and self-styled leader of the oppressed and downtrodden died a brutal and inglorious death at the hands of the people he purported to lead.

___

Eds: Robert H. Reid is Middle East regional editor for The Associated Press and has reported from the Middle East since 1978.

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/0815/Case-against-Egypt-s-Mubarak-is-shoddy-say-some-lawyers

Cairo

Egypt’s former President Hosni Mubarakappeared in court Monday as advocates for a guilty verdict complained that the state’s case against him was shoddy.

Mr. Mubarak is charged with corruption and with ordering the killing of hundreds who died in the uprising that swept him from power on Feb. 11 this year. Without a thorough and fair investigation of those charges, some worry that a Mubarak conviction would be hollow – and undermine the people’s faith in the justice system at a delicate time of transition.

Lawyer Gamal Eid said that the state should conduct a new investigation and that the prosecutor general should resign.

“This is a very important step in the path of regaining or restoring the trust in the Egyptian judiciary,” says Mr. Eid, who is representing families of 16 of the more than 800 people killed in the uprising.

Trial resumes Sept. 5; no more TV coverage

Nearly 100 lawyers swarmed near the front of the courtroom hours before the hearing began Monday, their shouting matches at times turning to pushing and shoving as they argued over their demands. Judge Ahmed Refaat sharply rebuked them when he took the stand, refusing to continue until they were seated and quiet.

Lawyers representing the family members of some of those who died were pleased that Judge Refaat ruled that Mubarak’s case would be rejoined with that of Egypt’s former Interior Minister, Habib El Adly, who is also charged with killing protesters. The trial will resume Sept. 5.

But Mr. Eid says that the police and prosecution have done a poor job of investigating the crimes and putting together a case, thereby jeopardizing justice. He said that the state prosecutor, who was a part of Mubarak’s regime, must be removed, and the judge should appoint a committee to redo the whole investigation from scratch, he said.

Lawyers have also asked to separate the charges of corruption and the killing of protesters into two separate cases, though the judge has not done so. Mubarak, Mr. El Adly, and El Adly’s deputies are charged with ordering the killing of protesters, while the former president, his two sons, and fugitive businessman Hussein Salem are also charged with corruption.

Refaat also ruled that the live broadcast of the hearings would be banned until the verdict is issued, and his decision was met with applause in the courtroom. While protesters had demanded that the trial be broadcast as proof of transparency, some lawyers now hope that taking away the cameras will tame the chaotic behavior of scores of lawyers representing victims’ families, as some of them have seemed to relish seizing the limelight on national television.

Courtroom calls for Mubarak’s execution

As in his first appearance, Mubarak was wheeled into the cage used for defendants in Egyptian courts Monday on a hospital bed, this time for his second appearance, he arrived with an IV. His two sons, Gamal and Alaa, again stood in front of him, partially blocking him from the cameras.

The stands were mostly filled with journalists, lawyers, and state security conscripts, with many empty seats and few family members of victims allowed to attend. At one point, a woman wearing a brooch with a picture of Mubarak burst into a tirade directed at journalists who were commenting on the color of the former president’s shoes, accusing them of humiliating Mubarak. Those around her were drawn into a shouting match.

As the hearing ended, several family members of victims and lawyers jumped up onto the benches, gesturing toward the cage and shouting “execution!”

 

 

 

 

Turnout key as Moroccans vote on king’s reforms

Thousands of people gather as they take part in a rally to support the government's project for constitutional reform during a peaceful protest in Casablancahttp://news.yahoo.com/turnout-key-moroccans-vote-kings-reforms-091824853.html

RABAT (Reuters) – Moroccans voted on Friday in a referendum on a revised constitution offered by King Mohammed to placate “Arab Spring” street protesters and the “yes” camp was tipped to win despite boycott calls by opponents.

The new charter explicitly grants the government executive powers, but retains the king at the helm of the army, religious authorities and the judiciary and still allows him to dissolve parliament, though not unilaterally as is the case now.

That falls far short of the demands of the “February 20” protest movement, which wants a parliamentary monarchy where the king’s powers would be kept in check by elected lawmakers.

However the movement so far has not attracted the mass support of popular uprisings that toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt. It urged Moroccans to boycott the vote and said a low turnout would back their calls for more radical reforms.

Turnout stood at 26 percent by midday local time (1100 GMT), according to the interior ministry. Preliminary results were due to be announced late on Friday, a ministry spokesman said.

“I voted ‘yes’ because we have to obey the Commander of the Faithful,” retired agriculture ministry engineer Samira Denguir said in the middle-class Hassan suburb of the capital Rabat, referring to the king’s religious role.

“A large ‘yes’ vote with a high abstention rate or spoiled ballots is not a great result, and the monarchy, Makhzen and (political) parties know it,” said Lise Storm, senior lecturer in Middle East politics at the University of Exeter in England.

The Makhzen is the royal court seen by many Moroccans as a largely unaccountable and shadowy political and business elite.

The 47-year-old ruler has had some success in repairing the legacy of human right abuses, high illiteracy and poverty he inherited after his late father’s 38-year rule ended in 1999.

WESTERN ALLY

A staunch Western ally, Morocco under King Mohammed has stepped up cooperation against terrorism and illegal migration, notably with the European Union which is keen to avoid the spread of Islamic militancy along its southern shores.

But while his personal popularity is expected to swing many voters in favor of the reforms, the margin of victory could be eroded by resentment at wide disparities between rich and poor, and a sense of alienation from the political elite.

“I’m not voting because I couldn’t get my voter card and to be totally honest I couldn’t care less. If they really mean good they would have done it years ago,” said market trader Younes Driouki, 29, heading to the beach with his surfboard.

Results of an online poll conducted by independent portal Lakome.com showed 52 percent of 51,200 participants saying they would boycott the referendum. The vast bulk of the rest said they would vote in favor, but such a low turnout would raise questions about the credibility of the exercise.

Some 13 million people registered to vote — more than 6 million fewer than the 19.4 million Moroccans over 19 years old in a 2009 census. Moroccans above 18 are eligible to vote.

Hamid Benchrifa, an analyst from the Social Development Agency, said the disparity may be due either to voters not updating their identity cards after changing address, or a simple lack of interest in politics.

The February 20 movement has brought together Islamists bent on setting up an Islamic caliphate and secular left-wingers focusing on what they see as rising levels of corruption.

They say they will continue their common fight for a system of parliamentary monarchy and more curbs on the king’s powers.

(Editing by Mark John and Mark Heinrich)

Greek austerity protests turn violent

Demonstrators march in protest against austerity measures in front of the Greek parliament in Athens

http://beta.news.yahoo.com/greek-unions-aim-fill-athens-austerity-protests-075850045.html

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek police fired teargas at demonstrators in central Athens on Tuesday at the start of a 48-hour strike to protest austerity measures demanded by international lenders as the price for more financial aid.

As Greece teeters on the edge of bankruptcy, parliament is due to vote this week on a package of spending cuts, tax increases and privatizations agreed as part of a massive bailout aimed at averting the euro zone’s first default.

Following weeks of protests and rolling strikes, ADEDY, the public sector union representing half a million civil servants, and GSEE, which represents 2 million private sector workers, are stepping up pressure on deputies before the votes.

As thousands rallied in Syntagma square near the parliament, hundreds of hooded youths threw stones and bottles at police who responded with teargas as the initially peaceful mood turned violent. A street umbrella was set fire outside a record-and-book store sending black smoke spiraling into the air above Syntagma Square near the parliament.

The protesters had marched through the capital chanting slogans, banging drums and carrying banners attacking the bailout deal which many Greeks feel imposes harsh and unjust penalties on ordinary pensioners and workers while sparing the wealthy.

Transport and public services were hit, schools were shut and many shops and businesses were closed, while the streets of central Athens were virtually deserted.

“We expect a dynamic and massive participation in the strike and the march to the center of Athens. We will have 48 hours of working people, unemployed, young people in the streets,” ADEDY’s leader Spyros Papaspyros told Reuters.

Deep in deficit and unable to borrow on financial markets, Greece depends on international support to keep going. A default would spread contagion around the 17-nation single currency area and cause a deep shock to the global economy.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos called on lawmakers to back the measures in two votes on Wednesday and Thursday, saying it was vital to convince Greece’s creditors that it had a plan and that the austerity measures could be implemented.

“The government is running out of time and so is the opposition,” he told parliament. “We are handling our country’s history right now and nobody can play with that.”

Voting on the first bill is due to begin following a debate that is due to begin at 10 a.m. (0700 GMT). Parliamentary officials said the timing of the vote itself was still unclear but would probably come some time in the afternoon.

Although the socialists have a majority, with 155 deputies in the 300-seat house, the final outcome is unclear, with some rebels from the ruling PASOK party opposed to the deal but a handful of conservatives expected to back it.

More serious problems may lie ahead however when the government has to implement the program, which will slash public sector jobs, shut down state-owned companies and take on the endemic tax evasion.

Euro zone authorities are working flat out with banks and insurers to devise a scheme whereby private bondholders can share the burden of further funding for Greece without prompting credit ratings agencies to declare a selective default.

European policymakers are also quietly exploring contingency plans to keep Greece afloat with emergency liquidity if parliament were to reject all or part of the package, three euro zone sources told Reuters on Monday.

RECESSION

More than 5,000 police are expected to be deployed in central Athens, especially to protect parliament, the focus of weeks of protests by demonstrators who have camped out in Syntagma Square.

The austerity plan has caused deep anger among Greeks disillusioned with years of political corruption and inefficiency and now bitterly resentful of the tough conditions imposed by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

By the early afternoon, well over 20,000 people had assembled in hot sunshine in front of the parliament, but the mood appeared calm.

“They are asking the people to bow down for 50 years and pass even worse measures in the future,” Communist party leader Aleka Papariga said in a statement.

In a sign the discontent has spread well beyond the union movement and far left, the Greek Confederation of Commerce (ESEE), a trade association of retailers, also rejected measures its leader Vassilis Korkidis denounced as “predatory.”

It urged shopkeepers to raise Greek national flags at their stores and announced an internet campaign to convince cabinet members and MPs to renege on the austerity plan.

Greece is stuck in its worst recession since the 1970s, with a youth unemployment rate of more than 40 percent and public finances shattered by a debt equivalent to some 150 percent of gross domestic product.

In a speech to shareholders in Athens, the head of EFG Eurobank, Greece’s second-largest bank, said it was vital that the austerity measures were passed in parliament.

“Today, what is at stake for the country is its very future. Individually and collectively, we must all realize how crucial the situation is and join the collective effort for the big changes,” Nicholas Nanopoulos said.

However the conservative opposition has refused to back the package and the view that the bitter medicine demanded by the EU and IMF will kill off any hopes of growth is widespread.

“The medium-term austerity package is a recipe that deepens the recession and puts Greece in deep freeze,” ADEDY’s Papaspyros said.

“We must get out of this situation fast, we need policies that support social cohesion and growth so that the people’s lives will not go bankrupt,” he said.

(Additional reporting by George Georgiopoulos)

(Writing by James Mackenzie, editing by Paul Taylor and Sonya Hepinstall)

A demonstrator kicks a policeman during protests against austerity measures in Athens

Yemen says it foils planned Qaeda attack in Aden

A school door is painted with the colours of Yemen's national flag in Sanaa

Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a demonstration to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Saleh in Taizhttp://beta.news.yahoo.com/yemen-says-foils-planned-qaeda-attack-aden-151214704.html

ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) – Yemen said on Monday its security forces had foiled a planned al Qaeda attack in the southern province of Aden.

The announcement came three days after a suicide bomber killed four soldiers and a civilian and wounded 16 people in Aden. A local newspaper said on Monday that investigators had identified the suicide bomber as a Saudi national.

Yemen’s state news agency Saba quoted a security source as saying six people “among some of the most dangerous elements” of al Qaeda were captured while trying to infiltrate into the province, which includes a port and oil refinery.

The report described the intended target of the thwarted attack as “vital and economic installations,” giving no further details.

Months of popular protests demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh end his 33 years in power have brought near chaos to Yemen, which is home to al Qaeda’s potent regional wing and also faces a separatist revolt in its south and a tenuous peace with Shi’ite rebels in its north.

The Yemeni army has been battling hundreds of Islamist militants affiliated to al Qaeda who seized control of the southern city of Zinjibar and smaller towns in the province of Abyan. The United States and Saudi Arabia fear that al Qaeda will exploit the country’s chaos to launch attacks.

The security source said the arrested militants, all bomb experts, were carrying detonators and wireless communications equipment.

The state news agency, which frequently plays up the threat from al Qaeda, gave no further details and the report could not be independently verified.

Saba said five al Qaeda militants have been killed and seven Yemeni soldiers were injured in clashes in Abyan.

(Reporting by Mohammed Mokhashaf; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Peter Graff)

 

 

A demonstrator carries a banner during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad at the courtyard of Fatih mosque in IstanbulDemonstrators march through the streets after Friday prayers in the Hajar Al Asswad in Damascushttp://beta.news.yahoo.com/syria-activists-meet-call-change-avert-crisis-123229039.html

AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian activists called on Monday for sweeping political changes that could end 41 years of Assad family rule in a rare meeting in Damascus allowed by the authorities under pressure from a three-month popular uprising.

“The solution to this crisis has to address its root causes. This regime must be toppled and replaced with a democratic system,” said leading Syrian writer Michel Kilo, who spent three years as a political prisoner.

The meeting at a Damascus hotel includes noted critics of President Bashar al-Assad who are respected in opposition circles, as well as some supporters of Assad.

Organizers said the gathering had approval from a senior aide to Assad, who has sent troops to crush protests across the country while promising dialogue in an effort to contain an uprising for political freedoms that has posed the gravest threat to his rule since he succeeded his father 11 years ago.

Other speakers in the conference, attended by 150 people in a Damascus hotel, adopted a softer tone but said demands of street protesters after decades of autocratic rule must be met.

Syrian writer Louay Hussein, who was also a political prisoner, said repression in the last four decades have undermined Syria as a whole while emphasizing that peaceful means must be found to meet popular demands.

Hussein said the meeting would try to explore “ending the state of dictatorship, and a peaceful and safe transition into a desired country, one of freedom, justice and equality.”

Monther Khaddam, an academic from the coastal city of Latakia, said a wider national dialogue is needed but that intellectuals were “behind street demands until the end.”

Organizers of Monday’s conference described it as a platform for independent figures searching for a way out of the violence

Main opposition figures had said the meeting could give political cover to Assad, with human rights groups saying that security forces have killed over 1,300 civilians and imprisoned 12,000 since the uprising began in southern Syria.

Economist Aref Dalila, a major figure behind the gathering, pulled out at the last minute, saying that he did not want to participate in a conference that could be used by the authorities while mass killing and arrests continue.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis)

Syrian forces head for second northern protest town

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110613/wl_nm/us_syria

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis        Khaled Yacoub Oweis–    6 mins ago

AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian troops pushed toward the northern town of Maarat al-Numaan on the Damascus-Aleppo highway after rounding up hundreds of people in a sweep through villages near Jisr al-Shughour, fleeing residents said.

Late on Monday witnesses said troops and armored vehicles had reached the village of Ahtam, 14 km (nine miles) from Maarat al-Numaan where there have been large protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

Thousands of residents of Jisr al-Shughour fled to Turkey, some 20 km away, before the army retook the rebellious town on Sunday, the latest step in its drive to crush spreading demands for political reform that pose an unprecedented challenge to Assad’s 11-year rule.

The government says the three-month-old protests are part of a violent conspiracy backed by foreign powers to sow sectarian strife. Syria has banned most foreign correspondents, making it difficult to verify accounts of events.

In measures witnessed in other cities and towns besieged by troops and tanks after protests, fleeing refugees said members of the security forces and Alawite gunmen loyal to Assad, known as ‘shabbiha’ broke into houses and shops in Jisr al-Shughour.

The authorities said 120 security personnel were killed there last week by “armed groups.” Residents and deserting soldiers said those killed were civilians and security personnel who had been killed for refusing to shoot protesters.

Nearly 7,000 Syrians have sought sanctuary in neighbouring Turkey, which has set up four refugee camps for them. Thousands more are living rough in rural areas just inside Syria, where hours of thunderstorms and drenching rain produced miserable conditions.

Syrian rights groups say 1,300 civilians have been killed since the start of the uprising. One group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, says more than 300 soldiers and police have also been killed.

Assad, who inherited power when his father died in 2000, has offered some concessions aimed at appeasing protesters, lifting a 48-year state of emergency and promising a national dialogue, but many activists have dismissed those steps.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, speaking at Argentina’s Foreign Ministry on Monday, said the Syrian government had responded with “horrific attacks” to people’s desire for change and the situation was “very worrisome.”

“I again urge President Assad to allow humanitarian access to affected areas and to allow a Human Rights Council-mandated assessment mission, which on two occasions I have urged him to accept.”

In New York, France’s U.N. envoy appealed to skeptical Brazil on Monday to support a European draft resolution that would condemn Syria for its bloody crackdown on anti-government demonstrators.

Brazil, like India and South Africa, has expressed reservations about the draft resolution prepared by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal. Russia and China have suggested they might veto the text.

The result, U.N. diplomats said, is a deadlock on the 15-nation Security Council. It remains unclear when, and if, the Europeans will put the draft resolution to a vote.

(Additional reporting by Alexandra Hudson in Guvecci, Turkey; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Tim Pearce)

 

http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-20060875-71.html

People are really getting into the iPad 2. There are reports that in China there was a fight beteen a “foreign” Apple employee and a Chinese customer. Now this is taking everything alittle to far. It’s ok to be exicted about the iPad 2 release but when it’s not ok when your getting into fights about it. Now I want ya’ll to tell me what you think. So go to the link above and read more and comment on this post.

%d bloggers like this: