Tag Archive: Yemen


Palestine wins UNESCO seat

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/envoy/palestine-wins-unesco-seat-143002573.html

 

Palestine won full admission into UNESCO, the United Nations science, education and cultural heritage organization, in a closely watched vote in Paris Monday. Global diplomacy hands view the 107-14 vote as a benchmark carrying larger implications for the Palestinians’ bid for state recognition before the UN Security Council. Both the United States and Israel have strongly opposed both initiatives.

 

The United States, Israel, Canada, Germany, Sweden and Australia were among the 14 nations voting against the Palestinians’ UNESCO bid, while 107 countries–including France, Spain, Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, India, Russia, China, South Africa and Indonesia–voted in favor. Fourteen nations–including the United Kingdom and Italy–abstained.

Washington, which called the UNESCO vote “premature” Monday, has threatened to cut off funding to UNESCO if Palestine is granted membership. The United States currently accounts for about one-fifth of the organization’s budget.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also rejected the UNESCO vote, and warned it would set back peace process.

“This is a unilateral Palestinian maneuver which will bring no change on the ground but further removes the possibility for a peace agreement,” the Israeli ministry said in a statement.  “This decision will not turn the Palestinian Authority into an actual state yet places unnecessary burdens on the route to renewing negotiations.”

Palestine’s successful UNESCO bid comes as Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair is due to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House Monday.

Blair has been trying to advance the Quartet’s efforts to get the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, asking each side to lay out their specific terms for resolving the issues of borders and security for a two-state solution. Meanwhile, Israeli officials have been depicting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as an unworthy peace partner.

Abbas, in turn, has recently reiterated his periodic threat to dissolve the Palestinian Authority–a move that if carried out would presumably give Israel the burden of administering, funding, and coordinating security for the West Bank’s Palestinian population.

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)

 

 

White House defends legality of Libya mission

Jay Carneyhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110615/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_us_libya

By JULIE PACE, Associated Press        Julie Pace, Associated Press–    10 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The White House says the cost of U.S. military involvement and humanitarian assistance in Libya is about $800 million as of early June.

Officials estimate the U.S. will spend about $1.1 billion in Libya through the beginning of September.

The administration included those cost estimates in a report on the Libya mission sent to Congress on Wednesday. The report is in response to a House resolution that chastised Obama for failing to provide Congress enough information on the scope and cost of U.S. military campaign in Libya.

The White House also says in the report that President Barack Obama has the authority to continue U.S. military involvement in Libya even without authorization from Congress.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Pushing back against congressional criticism, the White House said Wednesday that President Barack Obama has the authority to continue U.S. military action in Libya even without authorization from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

In a detailed, 30-page report being sent to Congress, the administration argues that the U.S. has a limited, supporting role in the NATO-led bombing campaign in Libya. Because U.S. forces are not engaged in sustained fighting and there are no troops on the ground there, the White House says the president is within his constitutional rights to direct the mission on his own.

The administration’s defense of the Libya mission comes in response to a non-binding House resolution passed earlier this month that chastised Obama for failing to provide a “compelling rationale” for U.S. involvement in Libya.

The resolution gave the administration until Friday to respond to a series of questions on the mission, including the scope of U.S. military activity, the cost of the mission, and its impact on other U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It remained to be seen whether the administration’s reasoning would be enough to quell congressional criticism. House and Senate leaders grew frustrated Wednesday when the White House briefed reporters on the report well before sending it to Congress.

Obama did not seek congressional consent before ordering U.S. airstrikes against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces nearly three months ago. Despite that, the White House has maintained that the president is not in violation of the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which prohibits the military from being involved in actions for more than 60 days without congressional authorization, plus a 30-day extension.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent Obama a letter this week stating that the 90-day window runs out on Sunday.

However, senior administration officials previewing the report Wednesday said U.S. forces are not involved in the kind of “hostilities” for which the War Powers Resolution says the commander in chief must get congressional approval.

While the U.S. led the initial airstrikes on Libya, NATO forces have since taken over the mission, which is in its third month. The U.S still plays a significant support role that includes aerial refueling of warplanes and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance work.

The White House and Capitol Hill have been at odds throughout much of the three-month campaign over whether the administration has fully consulted Congress on the mission. Congressional leaders and key committee members were only summoned to the White House the day before Obama ordered air strikes against Gadhafi’s forces. Several lawmakers attended in person, others by phone as Congress had just begun a weeklong break.

Obama aides insist they have briefed Congress extensively throughout, citing more than 30 briefings with lawmakers and their staff, and 10 hearings where administration officials have testified on Libya.

The White House has called the House resolution chiding Obama, as well as a similar resolution in the Senate, unhelpful and unnecessary. The administration much prefers a resolution sponsored by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., that would signal support for the Libya operation.

However, the fate of that measure is in limbo as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee delayed plans to discuss so lawmakers could review the House report.

A bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers also sued Obama on Wednesday for taking military action against Libya without war authorization from Congress. The lawmakers said Obama violated the Constitution in bypassing Congress and using international organizations like the United Nations and NATO to authorize military force.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that the president expects congressional support for the Libya campaign will continue. With Gadhafi under pressure to leave power, he said now is not the time to send “mixed messages” about U.S. commitment to the campaign.

___

Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.

 

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110506/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

By KARIN LAUB, Associated Press Karin Laub, Associated Press 21 mins ago

TRIPOLI, Libya – Moammar Gadhafi’s forces may have committed war crimes in the rebel-held city of Misrata and the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating because of regime attempts to tighten its siege and block access by sea, Amnesty International said Friday.

Libyan troops have indiscriminately fired heavy artillery, rockets and cluster bombs at residential areas of Libya’s third-largest city during a two-month siege, in a clear breach of international humanitarian law, the group said in a report.

“Weapons designed for the battle field and not for residential areas are being launched into residential neighborhoods, killing civilians and really just creating a situation of terror,” said Amnesty’s Donatella Rovera.

Earlier this week, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court told the U.N. Security Council he would seek arrest warrants against three Libyans for crimes against humanity committed in Libya. He did not name the suspects.

Misrata is the main rebel stronghold in western Libya, a region still largely under Gadhafi’s control, while the rebels hold positions in the east of the country.

Libyan troops besieging the city of 300,000 by land recently stepped up shelling of Misrata’s port to close the remaining lifeline. Hundreds of people have been killed in Misrata since February, medics say.

On Wednesday, government forces shelled Misrata’s port area as an aid vessel docked to evacuate hundreds of stranded migrant workers. The shells killed two toddlers and their aunt and uncle, all from Niger, as they waited for evacuation in a nearby tent camp.

The humanitarian situation has deteriorated sharply in recent days because the attempted port blockade has made it even more difficult to bring in supplies, said Rovera. She said there is no electricity or running water in large parts of the city, and food supplies are dwindling.

Government officials deny wrongdoing by Libyan troops, including shelling of civilian areas. Libya’s deputy foreign minister, Khaled Kaim, said Thursday that the military has decided to block ships from reaching Misrata, but would not discuss the tactics by regime loyalists, such as last week’s mining of Misrata harbor or Wednesday’s shelling.

“We will not allow those ships to bring arms to the city and then evacuate some criminals,” Kaim said. The government claimed that aid ships would be allowed to pass if they coordinate with the regime.

The fate of Misrata is of strategic importance in the battle for Libya. Unless his forces retake the city, Gadhafi cannot attempt to partition the country, perhaps his only option for remaining in power in some areas of Libya.

For much of the past two months, Gadhafi’s troops in tanks were deployed along parts of a downtown thoroughfare, Tripoli Street, while snipers took over high buildings. Late last month, rebel fighters drove regime loyalists to the outskirts of Misrata from where they’ve continued daily shelling attacks.

Amnesty said scores of Misrata residents not involved in fighting have been killed and hundreds injured by indiscriminate attacks, including with 122mm Grad rockets and 155mm artillery shells.

The report cited an April 14 attack in which rockets hit the Qasr Ahmed neighborhood, killing 12 residents, among them several who were waiting in line outside a bakery.

A day later, the research team found evidence of the use of cluster bombs which pose particular risk to civilians because they scatter small bomblets over a wide area. The group also said snipers targeted residents in areas under control of opposition fighters. Many residents were trapped near the front lines for weeks, the group said.

In another development Friday, France ordered 14 Libyan embassy employees to leave within 48 hours. They had worked for Libya’s embassy in Paris before it was shut about a month ago. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero would not say what the diplomats had done to merit expulsion.

France has recognized Libya’s opposition movement, and has been a major backer of a NATO-led military mission intended to protect civilians from an onslaught by Gadhafi’s forces.

On Thursday, members from the 22-nation Contact Group on Libya agreed to set up an internationally monitored fund that the rebels can access to provide basic services to the Libyan people. Countries have already pledged $250 million.

The United States said it would move to free up at least some of the more than $30 billion it has frozen in Libyan assets. Kaim, the Libyan government official, said the international community has no right to divert frozen Libyan assets, which total about $120 billion. “Any use of the frozen assets is like piracy on the high seas,” he said.

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Associated Press reporter Martin DiCaro contributed reporting.

White House: bin Laden unarmed during assault

Local people and media gather outside the perimeter wall and sealed gate into the compound and a house where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was caughhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110503/ap_on_re_us/us_bin_laden

By Nancy Benac, Associated Press Nancy Benac, Associated Press 46 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Osama bin Laden was unarmed when he was confronted by U.S. commandos at his Pakistani hideout but tried to resist the assault, the White House said Tuesday as new details emerged about the audacious raid that killed the world’s most wanted terrorist.

The White House said it was considering whether to release photos that were taken of bin Laden after he was killed but was concerned that the photos were “gruesome” and could be inflammatory.

Other details that emerged on Tuesday, according to U.S. officials: One of bin Laden’s wives tried to rush the commandos and was shot in the leg. High temperatures caused a lumbering helicopter carrying the raiders to make a hard landing. And as Navy SEALs swept through the compound, they handcuffed those they encountered with plastic zip ties and pressed on in pursuit of their target, code-named Geronimo.

Once bin Laden had been shot, they doubled back to move the prisoners away from the compound before blowing up the downed helicopter.

The fuller picture of the high-stakes assault emerged as U.S. officials weighed whether to release video and photos of bin Laden, who was killed with a shot above his left eye.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee and revealed some of the new details about the raid, said she’d known about the suspected bin Laden compound since last December — offering rare evidence that Washington can indeed keep a blockbuster secret.

President Barack Obama made plans to go to ground zero in New York on Thursday to mark the milestone of bin Laden’s demise and to remember the dead of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said the U.S. was scouring items seized in the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan — said to include hard drives, DVDs, a pile of documents and more — that might tip U.S. intelligence to al-Qaida’s operational details and perhaps lead to the presumed next-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri.

As for publicly releasing photos and video, Brennan said in a series of appearances on morning television. “This needs to be done thoughtfully,” with careful consideration given to what kind of reaction the images might provoke.

At issue were photos of bin Laden’s corpse and video of his swift burial at sea. Officials were reluctant to inflame Islamic sentiment by showing graphic images of the body. But they were also anxious to address the stories already building in Pakistan and beyond that bin Laden was somehow still alive.

In a move that could increase pressure for the release of photos, Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah said talk of bin Laden’s death was “premature,” adding that the U.S. had not presented “convincing evidence,” the SITE Intelligence Group reported.

Obama, who approved the extraordinarily risky operation and witnessed its progression from the White House Situation Room, his face heavy with tension, reaped accolades from world leaders he’d kept in the dark as well as from political opponents at home. Pakistan, however, called the raid “unauthorized” Tuesday and it shouldn’t serve as a precedent for future actions.

CIA Director Leon Panetta, in interviews with Time and PBS’ “Newshour,” sketched the scene in the Situation Room as the tense final minutes of the raid played out.

“Once those teams went into the compound,” he told PBS, “I can tell you there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes that we really didn’t know just exactly what was going on.”

Then, Panetta told Time, when Adm. William McRaven, head of the Joint Special Forces Command, reported that the commandos had identified “Geronimo” — the code name for bin Laden — “all the air we were holding came out.”

And when the helicopters left the compound 15 minutes later, Panetta said, the room broke into applause.

Carney filled in details about the assault, saying that bin Laden did resist the commandos, although he was not armed. One of bin Laden’s wives, Carney said, was in the room and tried to charge at the U.S. assaulters.”

Monday night, Republican and Democratic leaders gave Obama a standing ovation at an evening White House meeting that was planned before the assault but became a celebration of it, and an occasion to step away from the fractious political climate.

The episode was an embarrassment, at best, for Pakistani authorities as bin Laden’s presence was revealed in their midst. The stealth U.S. operation played out in a city with a strong Pakistani military presence and without notice from Washington. Questions persisted in the administration and grew in Congress about whether some elements of Pakistan’s security apparatus might have been in collusion with al-Qaida in letting bin Laden hide in Abbottabad.

Brennan asked the question that was reverberating around the world: “How did Osama bin Laden stay at that compound for six years or so and be undetected?”

“We have many, many questions about this,” he said. “And I know Pakistani officials do as well.” Brennan said Pakistani officials were trying to determine “whether there were individuals within the Pakistani government or military intelligence services who were knowledgeable.” He questioned in particular why bin Laden’s compound hadn’t come to the attention of local authorities.

Feinstein, for her part, said Congress may consider docking the almost $1.3 billion dollars in annual aid to Pakistan if it turns out the Islamabad government knew bin Laden’s whereabouts.

In an article published Tuesday by The Washington Post, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari denied suggestions his country’s security forces may have sheltered bin Laden, and said their cooperation with the United States helped pinpoint his whereabouts.

As Americans rejoiced, they worried, too, that terrorists would be newly motivated to lash out. In their wounded rage, al-Qaida ideologues fed that concern. “By God, we will avenge the killing of the Sheik of Islam,” one prominent al-Qaida commentator vowed. “Those who wish that jihad has ended or weakened, I tell them: Let us wait a little bit.”

In that vein, U.S. officials warned that bin Laden’s death was likely to encourage attacks from “homegrown violent extremists” even if al-Qaida is not prepared to respond in a coordinated fashion now.

U.S. officials say the photographic evidence shows bin Laden was shot above his left eye, blowing away part of his skull.

He was also shot in the chest, they said. This, near the end of a frenzied firefight in a high-walled Pakistani compound where helicopter-borne U.S. forces found 23 children, nine women, a bin Laden courier who had unwittingly led the U.S. to its target, a son of bin Laden who was also slain, and more.

Bin Laden could have lived at the fortified compound for up to six years, putting him far from the lawless and harsh Pakistani frontier where he had been assumed to be hiding out.

They said SEALs dropped down ropes from helicopters, killed bin Laden aides and made their way to the main building.

U.S. officials said the information that ultimately led to bin Laden’s death originally came from detainees held in secret CIA prison sites in Eastern Europe. There, agency interrogators were told of an alias used by a courier whom bin Laden particularly trusted.

It took four long years to learn the man’s real name, then years more before investigators got a big break in the case, these officials said.

Sometime in mid-2010, the courier was overheard using a phone by intelligence officials, who then were able to locate his residence — the specially constructed $1 million compound with walls as high as 18 feet topped with barbed wire.

U.S. counterterrorism officials considered bombing the place, an option that was discarded by the White House as too risky, particularly if it turned out bin Laden was not there.

Panetta told Time that a “direct shot” with cruise missiles was still under consideration as late as Thursday but was ruled out because of the possibility of “too much collateral” damage. Waiting for more information also was a possibility.

Ultimately, Obama signed an order on Friday for the team of SEALs to chopper onto the compound under the cover of darkness.

In addition to bin Laden, one of his sons was killed in the raid, Brennan said. Bin Laden’s wife was shot in the calf but survived, a U.S. official said. Also killed were the courier, and the courier’s wife and brother, U.S. intelligence officials believe.

Feinstein, asked if the information gleaned from high-value detainees in the CIA’s former secret prisons had proved the worth of such tactics, said “nothing justifies the kind of procedures used.”

Some people found at the compound were left behind when the SEALs withdrew and were turned over to Pakistani authorities who quickly took over control of the site, officials said. They identified the trusted courier as Kuwaiti-born Sheikh Abu Ahmed, who had been known under the name Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.

Within 40 minutes, the operation was over, and the SEALs flew out — minus the helicopter that had to be destroyed. Bin Laden’s remains were flown to the USS Carl Vinson, then lowered into the North Arabian Sea.

Bin Laden’s death came 15 years after he declared war on the United States. Al-Qaida was also blamed for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 224 people and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors in Yemen, as well as countless other plots, some successful and some foiled.

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