Tag Archive: Turkey


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)

Advertisements

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)

 

Rebels advance on eve of Libya crisis talks

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/ts_nm/us_libya

By Angus MacSwan Angus Macswan 1 hr 18 mins ago

BIN JAWAD, Libya (Reuters) – Rebels advanced toward the birthplace of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Monday, streaming west along the main coastal road in pick-up trucks mounted with machineguns.

Russia criticized the Western-led air strikes that have turned the tide of Libya’s conflict, saying these amounted to taking sides in a civil war and breached the terms of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

On the eve of 35-nation talks in London, Italy proposed a political deal to end the Libya crisis, including a quick ceasefire, exile for Gaddafi and dialogue between rebels and tribal leaders.

Emboldened by the Western-led air strikes against Gaddafi’s forces, the rebels have quickly reversed earlier losses and regained control of all the main oil terminals in the east of the OPEC member country.

“We want to go to Sirte today. I don’t know if it will happen,” said 25-year-old rebel fighter Marjai Agouri as he waited with 100 others outside Bin Jawad with three multiple rocket launchers, six anti-aircraft guns and around a dozen pick-up trucks with machineguns mounted on them.

But the rapid advance is stretching rebel supply lines.

“We have a serious problem with petrol,” said a volunteer fighter waiting to fill his vehicle in the oil town of Ras Lanuf.

Al Jazeera said the rebels had seized the town of Nawfaliyah from forces loyal to Gaddafi, extending their advance westwards toward his hometown of Sirte, about 120 km (75 miles) away.

However a Reuters correspondent who was about 15 km (10 miles) west of Bin Jawad on the road to Nawfaliyah heard a sustained bombardment on the road ahead.

“This is the frontline. The army has stopped over there, we are stopping here,” Mohammed al-Turki, 21, a fighter at a rebel checkpoint, told Reuters, pointing to the road ahead where the sounds of blasts were coming from.

Western-led air strikes began on March 19, two days after the U.N. Security Council authorized “all necessary measures” to protect civilians from Gaddafi’s forces. But since the outset, the mission has faced questions about its scope and aims, including the extent to which it will actively back the rebel side and whether it might target Gaddafi himself.

Russia, which abstained in the U.N. vote, said Western attacks on Gaddafi’s forces amounted to taking sides with the rebels.

“We consider that intervention by the coalition in what is essentially an internal civil war is not sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council resolution,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference.

Russian oil company Tatneft is expected to book $100 million of losses on capital expenditure in Libya as a result of the conflict, a company source told Reuters.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the BBC: “We are there to protect civilians — no more, no less.” France, which dropped the first bombs of the campaign nine days ago, said the coalition was strictly complying with U.N. terms.

Qatar became the first Arab country to recognize the rebels — now in the sixth week of their uprising against Gaddafi’s 41-year rule — as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people. [nLDE72R0XH]

Contradicting a rebel claim to have captured Sirte, Reuters correspondent Michael Georgy reported from the city that the situation was normal. He had seen some police and military, but no signs of any fighting.

Soldiers were manning checkpoints and green Libyan flags flapped in the wind. Militiamen fired AK-47 rifles defiantly into the air. “If they come to Sirte, we will defend our city,” said Osama bin Nafaa, 32, a policeman.

As Gaddafi’s hometown and an important military base, Sirte — about half-way along the coast from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to Tripoli — has great symbolic and strategic value. If it fell, the rebels would gain a psychological boost and the road toward the capital would lie open.

As the rebels pressed forward in the east, they reported attacks by Gaddafi’s forces in the west.

Gaddafi loyalists now control part of Misrata, the country’s third largest city, a rebel spokesman said. The government in Tripoli said it had “liberated” Misrata from rebels.

A rebel spokesman in another western town, Zintan, said forces loyal to Gaddafi bombarded the town with rockets early on Monday, Al Jazeera reported.

The Defense Ministry in London said British Tornado aircraft attacked and destroyed Libyan government ammunition bunkers in the Sabha area of Libya’s southern desert in the early hours of Monday.

Libya’s state news agency Jana said the raids caused several casualties.

CHANGE OF COMMAND

On Sunday, NATO agreed to take full command of military operations in Libya after a week of heated negotiations. The United States, which led the initial phase, had sought to scale back its role in another Muslim country after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An alliance spokeswoman said on Monday the transition would take a couple of days.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Western air strikes had “eliminated” Gaddafi’s ability to move his heavy weapons. He also raised the possibility that Gaddafi’s government could splinter and said an international conference in London on Tuesday would discuss political strategies to help bring an end to his rule.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters he had discussed Rome’s proposals for a political deal on Libya with Germany, France and Sweden and expected to do so with Turkey later on Monday, ahead of Tuesday’s 35-nation talks.

He said an African country could offer Gaddafi asylum, and ruled out that the Libyan leader would remain in power.

“Gaddafi must understand that it would be an act of courage to say: ‘I understand that I have to go’,” Frattini added. “We hope that the African Union can find a valid proposal.”

Libya accused NATO of “terrorizing” and killing its people as part of a global plot to humiliate and weaken it.

The government says Western-led air attacks have killed more than 100 civilians, a charge denied by the coalition which says it is protecting civilians from Gaddafi’s forces and targeting only military sites to enforce a no-fly zone.

(Additional reporting by Alexander Dziadosz, Edmund Blair, Maria Golovnina, Michael Georgy, Ibon Villelabeitia, Tom Pfeiffer, Lamine Chikhi, Mariam Karouny, Joseph Nasr, Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Steve Gutterman; Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Giles Elgood)

%d bloggers like this: