SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – France’s defense minister has reaffirmed that the country will keep 1,000 troops in Mali to fight armed groups even after the arrival of more than 12,000 UN peacekeepers later this year.
A day after the UN Security Council authorized the deployment of the peacekeeping force, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visited the city of Gao in northeastern Mali.
“From now on we are in the post-war phase. The UN resolution adopted yesterday will allow for the arrival of a force to stabilize the country,” Le Drian told reporters on Friday. “But France will keep about 1,000 soldiers to carry on with military operations.”
During his visit to Mali, Le Drian met Acting President Dioncounda Traoré and General Ibrahim Dahrou Dembele to discuss efforts underway to train the Malian military.
The new UN force will also incorporate 6,000 African Union troops already deployed in Mali -- a force recently called "completely incapable" by a US Defense Department official.
The UN force is tasked with helping to restore peace in the aftermath of a French-led military operation launched in January to dislodge local fighters who had seized control of the country’s vast north.
However, the UN peacekeepers will not be authorized to launch offensive military operations or chase fighters in the desert. Therefore, the French forces will continue to do that job, although France is planning to downscale its presence in its former colony by the end of the year.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad quit on Saturday after months of tension with President Mahmoud Abbas, leaving the administration in disarray just as the United States tries to revive peace talks with Israel.
Abbas, who has been unhappy with Fayyad's handling of the cash-strapped government, accepted the resignation and asked Fayyad to stay on as caretaker until a new government is formed, according to official Palestinian news agency WAFA.
Palestinian law requires the president to appoint a new prime minister within two weeks.
Fayyad, a Texas-educated former World Bank official, is credited with helping create institutions in the occupied West Bank which would be needed if the Palestinians are to gain independence from Israeli occupation.
Sources told Reuters on Wednesday that Fayyad offered to resign. Fayyad, appointed prime minister in 2007, had offered to stand down before, only for Abbas to reject his requests after pressure from Western donors..
Western diplomats expressed dismay at the latest turmoil within the Palestinian Authority at a time when the United States is making a concerted effort to revive peace negotiations with Israel and boost the local economy.
During a visit to the region last month, U.S. President Barack Obama praised Fayyad, and Secretary of State John Kerry held private talks with the beleaguered prime minister earlier this week, in a gesture of support.
Admired abroad, including in Israel, Fayyad has failed to build a strong political base within the Palestinian territories, leaving him vulnerable to attacks from Abbas's Fatah party and the Islamist group Hamas, which governs in Gaza.
Fayyad's reputation among Palestinians suffered as policy missteps and economic hardships abounded � While Fayyad was one of the few senior politicians to frequently visit marginalized communities and ask after their concerns, tax and commodity price hikes repeatedly stoked angry street protests against him.
Palestinian unemployment has risen to almost 25 percent and real GDP growth is set to fall from an average of 11 percent in 2010-11 to just 5 percent in 2013, according to the World Bank.
Kerry said on Tuesday he was preparing measures to boost growth in the West Bank, which is partially controlled by the Palestinian Authority. The plans were due to be unveiled in Washington next week.
A senior Fatah official said he had doubts about Fayyad's resignation. "We can't judge the seriousness of this move until the president appoints a new prime minister. I feel as if this is an artifice to keep things as they are," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
Fayyad's problems grew last year when foreign aid started to slow. The situation worsened at the end of the year when Washington froze funding to punish the Palestinians for gaining de-facto statehood recognition at the United Nations.
Israel also withheld tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinians in November and December in response to the unilateral U.N. move, making it impossible for Fayyad to keep up with already delayed public sector salary payments.
Sources close to Fayyad accuse Fatah of stirring discontent, in a bid for more control over Palestinian coffers. The sources complain Abbas did not give his prime minister enough support.
Relations between the two men soured further last month when Finance Minister Nabil Qassis quit, saying the government had failed to address a gaping budget deficit. Fayyad accepted the resignation, against the wishes of Abbas.
Hamas welcomed Fayyad's departure. It has accused him of helping Israel maintain its partial blockade on the Gaza Strip.
"Fayyad leaves the government after he drowned our people in debts," Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, said.
Hamas won national elections across the Palestinian territories in 2006 and seized control of Gaza the following year after falling out with Fatah. In response to the brief civil war, Abbas named Fayyad as his prime minister.
Abbas and Hamas are engaged in on-off talks aimed at reconciliation, and Fayyad offered to stand aside in 2011 if this would help unity efforts.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Former culture minister Tammam Salam has been designated as prime minister of Lebanon, Al Jazeera has learned.
Salam received 124 votes out of the 128 members of Lebanon's parliament.
In his first speech following his designation, Salam promised to safeguard the country's security from the effects of the raging war in neighbouring Syria.
"There is a need to bring Lebanon out of its state of division and political fragmentation, as reflected on the security situation, and to ward off the risks brought by the tragic situation in the neighbouring (country) and by regional tensions," Salam said.
"I have accepted this nomination... out of conviction that it is my duty to work for my country's interest, in cooperation with all political parties," he said.
President Michel Suleiman has now tasked Salam to form a new unified government.
Until then, the caretaker Najib Mikati's government will continue to run the administrative government.
Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut said, Salam's support to become the next prime minister is "overwhelming".
Amin, however, said the "seemingly very strong consensus" hides the many difficulties ahead.
"All those people who support him and endorse him, expect different things from him," our correspondent said. "He has to steer a very difficult Lebanon".
Salam was appointed two weeks after the resignation of Mikati, whose two years in office were dominated by efforts to contain sectarian tensions, violence and economic fallout from the conflict in neighbouring Syria.
Salam's next task, if he is able to form a cabinet accepted by Lebanon's rival political forces, will be to prepare for a parliamentary election which is due in June but faces likely delay.
No agreement has been reached yet on an electoral system under which the vote will take place.
Salam, born in 1945 into a prominent Sunni political dynasty, served as culture minister between 2008 and 2009. He is the son of former prime minister Saeb Salam, who served six times as Lebanese premier.
He is close to the Saudi- and Western-backed March 14 coalition but was seen as a consensus candidate and also won the backing of the March 8 bloc, which includes the Iranian-backed Shia-backed Hezbollah group.
But a source in the March 8 group said that despite the broad support for Salam's nomination, he might face a lengthy struggle to form a government.
His predecessor, Mikati, took five months assemble his ministerial team.
Our correspondent, Rula Amin, also said Lebanon's internal politics is also being divided by the war in neighbouring Syria.
"The differences here in Lebanon over what's happening in Syria have brought a lot of sectarian and political tensions to Lebanon," Amin said.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Cypriot Finance Minister Michalis Sarris has resigned citing his role as chairman of Laiki Bank, whose failure was a major contributor to the island's near financial meltdown, as one of the reasons behind his decision.
His resignation on Tuesday was accepted by President Nicos Anastasiades, presidential spokesman Christos Stylianides said.
Earlier on Tuesday, the government launched a judicial probe into how the island was pushed to the verge of bankruptcy before having to agree a crippling eurozone bailout.
The Phileleftheros newspaper reported that he had quit and was to be replaced by Labour Minister Haris Georgiades.
Georgiades's former job is to be taken by commerce ministry civil servant Zeta Emilianidou, the report added.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Cometh the hour, cometh the woman. Or rather, the women: for it seems you wait three decades for another plausible female prime minister, only for two to arrive at once.
When Theresa May and Yvette Cooper locked horns last week overimmigration, it felt oddly like a portent of what may be to come. They are radically different characters: Cooper warm and self-deprecating, May more reserved and a little chilly. But both have matured into formidable enough politicians that it no longer seems far-fetched to envisage them clashing over a prime-ministerial despatch box. And after so many years of being treated as outsiders at Westminster, suddenly the time feels right for female politicians.
There's much to be said for not being just another man in a pinstriped suit, in an age of contempt for conventional politicians. May and Cooper, the vicar's daughter and the former special adviser, are hardly anti-establishment rebels, but somehow their sex means they are not quite classed as part of a discredited elite either.
"People do seem to think that women must get it, they must be a bit more normal. Women get a pass on some of the 'politicians are all evil' stuff," says a former Labour minister, who argues that female candidates now hold a tangible advantage in byelections. They are, she thinks, seen as more trustworthy, less tarnished: hard to imagine May or Cooper groping candidates or palming off their speeding points.
"I think there's something interesting about women in this atmosphere, with men blamed for ruining their own lives, making inappropriate passes, all that," confirms a Tory backbencher who knows May well. "Women make different mistakes but they don't often make the mistakes of predatory sexual behaviour. And Theresa's not going to be starstruck by people with a lot of money."
The intriguing question is whether British politics has hit a "glass cliff" moment – the phenomenon whereby companies pick female chief executives only when they are in deep trouble, and subconsciously open to trying something different. Female leaders often emerge in countries in crisis, from Iceland after the banking crash, to Argentina. Is Britain now experiencing something similar? And if so, can these two seize the moment?
Theresa May is perhaps the most maddeningly inscrutable Conservative in politics today. Her speech last weekend to ConservativeHome's Victory 2015 conference, outlining bold thinking on everything from the economy (complete with a growth strategy she prepared earlier) to privatisation, offered the first real hint of where she might take the country if she ever had the chance. But while few Tory MPs now doubt she covets the leadership, most have no idea what she would actually do with it.
What, exactly, does May stand for? She was a moderniser before David Cameron was even an MP, yet morphed into a traditionally rightwing home secretary. Once dismissed as over-promoted, she has sturdily weathered scandals from border control chaos to her much-ridiculed claim that an illegal immigrant avoided deportation because of his cat. And intriguingly, she has succeeded on her own terms: she defies both conventional wisdom that home secretaries must be media-friendly "big beasts", and the unspoken rule that Tory women avoid the "F-word". Theresa May is an unabashed feminist.
The influential ConservativeHome website calls her "Britain's Merkel", after the German chancellor, a serious-minded woman for serious times. "I like her quiet competence, her lack of froth," says Tim Montgomerie, the site's founder. He sees a "good person" at heart, capable of rare thoughtfulness and loyalty.
Not everyone, however, buys it. "I've known Theresa for 15 years and my impressions of her are … nothing," says one MP close to a leadership rival. "There's no emotion there. Nobody really knows her. And if you want to be leader you've got to have a personality."
The old jibe that her shoes are the most interesting thing about her is horribly unfair, but people fixate on them still because they symbolise a promise that's never quite delivered. Leopard-print kitten heels beneath a sober suit suggest a defiant, unconventional streak somewhere: but boy, does she keep it hidden.
Yet May can be fearlessly stubborn over things that matter to her, as the chancellor is discovering in trying to cut her budget. And for one accused of lacking a grand vision, she has a surprisingly strong claim to have helped make her party what it is today.
The "A list" scheme for selecting more female and non-traditional candidates, which she battled ferociously to introduce, has transformed the Tories' 2010 intake and changed the dynamics of this parliament. Ten years on, the speech in which she bluntly told her tribe they couldn't win as the "nasty party" remains the iconic moment of Tory modernisation, braver than hugging huskies: she defied her then leader Iain Duncan Smith and her own aides' advice to do it.
"She was right then, and she's right now," recalls a former party staffer. "But the media saw it as a complete stab in the heart for everything the Conservative party stands for." A brutal year ensued, as rightwing newspapers eviscerated her and pensioners tore up party membership cards in front of her. But, says a longstanding friend: "It definitely toughened her up."
Certainly, the old joke about her indecisiveness – "Theresa May, or she may not" – no longer fits. She wields clout in cabinet, manages the Commons with steely relish. She doesn't do small talk – not for her the cosy personal anecdotes politicians tell to soften their images – and has few close friends in politics. "She's cool, and that counters people's expectations of what they think a leading politician should be," observes a Tory backbencher. "But I have confidence in her. I trust that if she's given something to do, she won't cock it up."
So far her embryonic campaign consists mainly of old friends – said to include ex-cabinet ministers Cheryl Gillan and Caroline Spelman – gently reminding people of her existence. Rival camps suspect she was spooked into making a speech after realising events may be moving faster than expected. But she has yet to find an answer to her biggest problem: Boris Johnson.
His flaws are only too well known to Tory MPs, but the mayor remains the only candidate likely on current polling to boost Conservative vote share – and thus save their skins – if he were leader. In any contest held before 2015, that will overwhelmingly be what counts.
May's best hope is probably delaying the contest for long enough that she can put in some intensive spadework with MPs, something Boris notoriously doesn't bother doing. "He spends his free time doing what he wants," observes one staffer who knows both well. "Politicians like Theresa spend their time doing what everyone else wants them to do."
She is, says one grateful A-lister, "the patron saint" of female backbenchers, always ready with advice: she holds weekly surgeries for MPs, tirelessly attends constituency dinners. Her husband Philip, a senior City figure, also networks hard for her. "People like spending time with him, which does nothing but good for her," says a friend. Having never had children, she's free to work punishingly long hours.
Her current pitch on curbing immigration and withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights seems odd for an arch-moderniser, but friends insist it's less cynical than it looks.
"The thing about Theresa is she's not as posh as the rest of them," says a former aide. "She's more in touch with the people she's meeting in surgeries: my bet is she's thinking, 'What fool wouldn't address this?'" Her speech was carefully pitched at blue-collar Tories on tight incomes, feeling neglected by a cabinet of millionaires and tempted by Ukip. Andy Coulson, the ex-tabloid editor turned Downing St Spinner, always rated her ability to reach his old readers.
But the next election won't be won by merely wooing back Ukip defectors, which means the real battle looming is with May's Labour opposite number.
It is a backhanded compliment to Yvette Cooper, in a way, that the Treasury will host a pre-Budget party this week to mend fences with women. More than anyone else, she has articulated a female anger over the recession, which ministers are now scrabbling to defuse.
As shadow women's minister she has embarrassed the coalition by painstakingly analysing how women suffer disproportionately more from spending cuts because they are disproportionately poor. By chipping away on female unemployment rates and maternity pay cuts, she gave austerity a recognisably female face.
"If you look at the difference between what women and men think about this government, women started off thinking about the same as men and they are now incredibly hostile towards government," says a senior Labour backbencher. "That is basically to Yvette's credit." Without an economic brief, she has somehow become central to the economic argument that dominates contemporary politics. Now in her other role as shadow home secretary, she's tackling Westminster's second hottest topic: immigration.
Last week's threat to restrict access to benefits for newcomers was the sort of populist rightwing idea for which Blairite colleagues get pilloried, but somehow Cooper pitched it just this side of shrill. Even colleagues who loathe what they see as pandering to the right aren't yet criticising her out loud. The Tory benches are rattled, wondering aloud what it all means.
"I always thought Yvette was the brightest talent on the Labour frontbench," says Louise Mensch, the ex-Tory MP turned columnist, who has long had Cooper on her list of women to watch. "I was personally glad she didn't stand for the leadership, because I think she'd have been unbeatable."
Yet when Cooper refused to run in 2010 because her children were still small, conventional wisdom suggested she had made herself look fatally weak. Privately, some Labour women expressed irritation that she had somehow let the side down.
Her position has, however, if anything strengthened since. She topped the shadow cabinet elections ballot, and MPs note that by 2015, two of her three children with shadow chancellor Ed Balls will be teenagers. Might that be her moment?
One friend says she's "still not completely sure Yvette really wants to be leader": she remains determined not to compromise family life. But suspicion certainly lingers in the leader's circle, with occasional petty skirmishes over limiting her influence. She keeps up useful friendships, has worked hard on developing a more relaxed public manner, and is one of few in the old Brownite camp to make friends on the Labour right. She would be the one to beat, were Ed Miliband to fall under a bus tomorrow.
But with Labour now riding high in the polls, the chances of that happening are shrinking. With every passing year, it becomes more likely that Cooper's generation will be leapfrogged, leaving someone else – Rachel Reeves? Stella Creasy? – to step into the breach.
But whatever happens to their own careers, both May and Cooper have arguably changed the terms of trade for younger women by showing that female politicians don't always have to compete on male terms. Margaret Thatcher, who once crowed that "I owe nothing to women's lib", famously triumphed despite her gender. The next woman leader may well do so because of hers.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The Egyptian interior minister has said daily protests, clashes and harsh media criticism have strained the nation's police forces.
Mohammed Ibrahim also dismissed a strike by policemen as minor and warned against what he called plots to cause the disintegration of the force, saying he will not allow vigilante groups to replace the police.
"From the minister to the youngest recruit in the force, we will not accept to have militias in Egypt,'' Ibrahim said on Sunday. "That will be only when we are totally dead, finished.''
His declaration followed a statement by a group that its members would take up policing duties in the southern province of Assiut because of strikes by local security forces.
Legislators have raised the possibility of legalising private security companies, granting them the right to arrest and detain.
Near daily clashes between police battling protesters denouncing Mohammed Morsi, the president, killed at least 10 people last week in different parts of Egypt.
Hundreds of police officers went on strike over complaints about working conditions and allegations that the country's government is trying to infuse the force with supporters, dragging it into the country's highly polarised politics.
"There are groups of policemen on strike. I understand them. They are protesting the pressure they are under, the attacks from the media,'' the minister said. "They work in hard conditions and exert everything they can and are not met with appreciation or thanks.''
Ibrahim said the strike is minor and is not affecting the capabilities of the force.
"I only ask all [political] forces to leave the police out of the political equation and the conflict that is taking place,'' he said.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Al JAzeera
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali has announced his resignation at a news conference in Tunis.
"I promised if my initiative did not succeed I would resign as head of the government and this is what I am doing following my meeting with the president," Jebali said at the presidential palace.
"Today there is a great disappointment among the people and we must regain their trust and this resignation is a first step."
An aide had hinted that Jebali might resign earlier on Tuesday, after the ruling Ennahda party rebuffed his plan to form a non-partisan cabinet to steer Tunisia through a crisis sparked by the killing of leftwing politician Shokri Belaid.
Jebali, who had warned of chaos if his plan fell through, made a last ditch effort to push for "another solution" and was due to meet President Moncef Marzouki later in the afternoon.
Jebali met the cabinet in the morning to say goodbye and to ask them to "continue to expedite current matters," one government member said.
Ennahda's leader Rachid Ghannouchi had put forward his own proposal on Monday for a mixed government of politicians and technocrats and had said there was a consensus among political parties for Jebali to remain prime minister.
Jebali did not rule out accepting if he was charged by the president once more to form a new government, but he said any new cabinet he would lead must be free from partisan haggling, inclusive and charged primarily with holding new elections.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Al jazeera
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – King Abdullah II on Sunday told newly elected MPs that he seeks to reach “consensus” with them before naming a prime minister, and hailed the “historic transformation” towards parliamentary government in Jordan.
“We will start... this new approach by consulting over the government’s formation with the lower house and parliamentary blocs as they take shape, in order to reach consensus that leads to the designation of a prime minister” he told the opening of parliament.
He said the premier should in turn consult parliamentary blocs and other forces as he selects his Cabinet, seeking confidence “based on a policy statement resulting from the consultation process, and on four-year programs.”
“You are also expected to shoulder your responsibility towards the success of this historic transformation towards parliamentary government and its development,” the king said.
Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur submitted his cabinet’s resignation to the king on January 29, six days after tribal leaders, pro-regime loyalists and independent businessmen swept a general election boycotted by the opposition Muslim Brotherhood and others.
“If a coalition of blocs that enjoys the support of the house’s majority emerges, the consultation and government formation processes will be quick and smooth,” the king said.
“In the absence of a majority coalition, on the other hand, this process will take more time and effort. This is a fundamental fact of parliamentary democracy.”
The king, who has vowed to pursue democratic reforms and reach out to groups such as the Brotherhood, urged parliament to “serve as an incubator of national dialogue” and begin extensive talks with local communities and political forces.
Analysts have said loyalist MPs would resist pressure for much-needed real political reform.
The Islamists have said the king’s plans for a parliamentary government fall far short of true democratic change and insist he should have no say in naming a premier. They also insist that they will not join the government.
King Abdullah admitted that the election was held under “a law that was not ideal, although it earned as much consensus as was possible.
“Therefore, I call for revisiting this law based on an assessment of your experience and for reviewing the electoral system in a way that wins consensus.”-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Al Arabiya
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond and Quebec’s Prime Minister Pauline Marious have met and conferred in Edinburgh at the Scottish Parliament over their independence efforts.
Both Salmond and Marious stressed that their people will decide their own destiny, whether they want to keep the status quo or they prefer to attain their independence.
Marois and Salmond issued a joint statement that said the people of Quebec and Scotland have the exclusive right to determine their own future.
The statement also referred to the leaders’ determination to work on climate-change and renewable energy projects, and increase commercial ties.
Salmond is campaigning for Scotland to leave the United Kingdom in a referendum in 2014. And Marois' Parti Quebec-cwa is the standard-bearer of the Canadian province's independence movement.
The meeting was a chance to discuss economic ties and investment projects.
"Quebec and Scotland both have modern and dynamic economies which rely on key sectors such as financial services, energy, life sciences and tourism," the statement said.
The Parti Quebecois won control of Quebec's National Assembly in September, defeating the federalist Liberals who had ruled since 2003, but failing to win a majority.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- The convoy of a Lebanese government minister has come under fire in the northern city of Tripoli, leaving four people wounded and a security patrol car riddled with bullets, medics and witnesses have said.
Faisal Karami, the minister of sports and youth, appeared to be unhurt, the medics said.
The four people injured were his boydguards, according to local media reports.
A Reuters reporter said one of the convoy's patrol cars was set ablaze.
In an interview with OTV, a local TV channel, in the aftermath of the attack, Karami said he felt he was not the target of the attack, but rather that "the unrest aims at targeting the country's security situation".
The port city of Tripoli has become increasingly volatile in recent months, due to the civil war in neighbouring Syria.
Residents of Sunni-dominated Bab al Tabbaneh and Alawite-majority Jabal Mohsen have clashed frequently, heightening fears that the war is spilling over into Lebanon
Following the attack, the Lebanese army deployed around Karami's residence in an effort to enhance security.
The attack coincided with a weekly protest demanding the release of several Islamists detained in Lebanese prisons,
Tripoli has long been a stronghold of Sunni conservatives in northern Lebanon.
In 2007, Nahr el Bared, a Palestinian refugee camp located on the outskirts of the city, bore witness to a deadly conflict between the Lebanese army and Fatah al-Islam, an armed religious group.