SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is facing Western pressure not to allow his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, to resign at a time when the United States is trying to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Reuters news agency reported on Thursday that Fayyad submitted his resignation, after weeks of conflict over his handling of the government and an economic crisis in the occupied West Bank. His letter of resignation was reportedly drafted last month.
Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior member of the ruling Fatah movement, said that Abbas and Fayyad would meet on Thursday, after the president returned from Qatar, to discuss Fayyad's possible resignation. But their discussion never happened, and it remains unclear when the two might meet.
"The meeting planned for Thursday evening has been postponed until further notice," a Palestinian source told the AFP news agency, without giving a reason.
'He's not doing it'
Fayyad, a former World Bank official, is popular in the West for his efforts to build government institutions in the West Bank.
Talk of his resignation was quickly dismissed by US and European diplomats. A senior official at the US State Department told reporters that he did not believe Fayyad was on the verge of resigning.
"He's not tendering his resignation to the best of my knowledge. He's not doing it," the official said on the sidelines of G8 talks in London, according to AFP. "As far as I know he's sticking around."
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, is trying to broker a new round of talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and diplomats said Fayyad's resignation would complicate that effort.
"Pressure is being put on Abbas to sit on this resignation offer for at least two months to see what comes of the US initiative," said a senior European diplomat, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, according to Reuters.
Fayyad's reputation among Palestinians is more mixed; a growing number of people are angry about his stewardship of the stagnant economy.
The Palestinian Authority is in a serious financial crisis, partly because hundreds of millions of dollars in promised foreign aid have not materialised.
'Fayyad will have to decide'
Longstanding tensions between Fayyad and Abbas peaked on March 2 when the Palestinian finance minister, Nabil Qassis, announced that he was standing down. Abbas, who was abroad at the time, rejected the resignation but Fayyad agreed to it.
The crisis over the finance minister "was the reason for Fayyad's resignation," Ahmed said.
"Fayyad will have to decide today whether to keep Qassis in his post, or to resign as head of the government," he added.
Last week, the Fatah Revolutionary Council for the first time openly criticised Fayyad's government over its economic policy.
"The policies of the current Palestinian government are improvised and confused in many issues of finance and the economy," it said.
The criticism came as several high-ranking officials suggested Abbas might be about to dismiss Fayyad, who has also threatened to resign several times in the past.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Portugal's prime minister has announced severe cuts in public spending following a decision by the constitutional court rejecting a number of austerity provisions in this year's budget.
Pedro Passos Coelho said that he respected but disagreed with a decision by Portugal's highest court to reject its proposed austerity measure - saying it would have consequences for the entire country and threaten the nation's position in the eurozone.
The constitutional court's decision deprives the government of about $1.7bn of expected revenue.
In an address to the nation, Coelho said there would be no new tax hikes in 2013 but that measures would be taken to "contain public spending in the areas of social security, health and education".
On Friday, the court ruled that several measures in the budget were unlawful, including the scrapping of a 14th month of salary for civil servants and retirees, as well as cuts to unemployment and sickness benefits.
Portuguese economist, Camilo Lourenco, told Al Jazeera that now the president's two remaining options are to "raise taxes, and I think that would deepen the recession, or borrow more money from the international markets".
"This would be an awful solution. The correct solution is further measures to cut public spending, and it is the option favoured by the government but it is also risky because it might not make up the necessary revenue."
Portugal's position is now "more fragile" than before, Coelho said on Sunday and could harm its intention to negotiate with the EU an extension on deadlines to reimburse its loans.
For its part the European Commission late on Sunday warned Portugal that it must respect all of the objectives of the aid programme.
"Any departure from the programme's objectives, or their re-negotiation would in fact neutralise the efforts already made and achieved by the Portuguese citizens," the Commission said in a statement.
The 2013 austerity budget, approved by parliament last year, was expected to bring Portugal 5.3bn euros in savings in a bid to haul the embattled eurozone country out of the crisis.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al Jazeera
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –His statement followed the release of a survey for the Coalition for Marriage in which the feelings of Christians are highlighted – Christians have feelings of resentment about the support rendered to gay marriage by the prime minister.
535 Christians who are church goers were questioned during the survey carried out by ComRes and it was revealed that about 67% of them felt they were a persecuted minority.
Lord Carey accused the prime minister of double standards. “It was a bit rich to hear the Prime Minister has told religious leaders they should stand up and oppose aggressive secularism when it seems that his government is aiding and abetting this aggression every step of the way,” he said.
Although a government spokesman said, “This Government strongly backs faith and Christianity in particular”, the former archbishop said that, “many Christians doubt his (David Cameron’s) sincerity.”
Lord Carey is 77 years old and led the Anglican Church from 1991 to 2002.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called for a leadership ballot as her party faces the growing prospect of a sound election defeat later this year.
She said the ballot of a leader and deputy leader of the Labor Party would be held in the afternoon, hours after a senior minister called on her to hold a vote.
Minister Simon Crean said he would nominate as the deputy and wanted former prime minister Kevin Rudd to stand as the candidate for the top post.
Pressure on Gillard came as after rivals called for a ballot to resolve months of slipping polls and internal tensions that put her minority Labor government on course to be swept away at September elections.
"This is not personal. It's about the party, the future of the country," said senior Labor minister Crean, calling the challenge to break a deadlock between Gillard and chief rival Rudd, who she deposed in 2010.
If the ruling Labor Party replaces Gillard, that could prompt an early election as a new leader would not have guaranteed support of key independents in Australia's hung parliament.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Syria's opposition National Coalition is meeting in Istanbul to discuss the appointment of a rival prime minister for rebel-held parts of the country.
An alternative government could then be formed to oversee the provision of services in opposition held-areas.
The commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), which is part of the coalition, said he supported the move.
Meanwhile, the US and France condemned a Syrian airstrike on the Lebanese border as a "violation of sovereignty".
Reports from Lebanon say Syrian aircraft fired four rockets at the border between the two countries, near the Lebanese town of Arsal.
There were no casualties from the raid. Lebanese officials had earlier said it was not clear whether the rockets had landed inside Lebanese territory.
The US described the attack as a "significant escalation" of the conflict.
"These kinds of violations of sovereignty are absolutely unacceptable," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
France said the raid constituted "a new and serious violation of Lebanon's sovereignty".
- Russia provided some 78% of Syria's arms in 2007-11; continues to supply weaponry and ammunition
- Iran provides strategic consultation, intelligence and weapons, according to Israel
- Iran and Hezbollah reportedly supplied paramilitary force made up of Shia and Alawite Syrians, known as Jaysh al-Shaab
- Belarus firm accused by US of supplying Syrian military
- Saudi Arabia and Qatar reported to supply money and small arms via third parties from mid-2012
- US says it provides "non-lethal" support but not weapons
At Monday's meeting in Turkey, FSA chief of staff Gen Selim Idriss said his group would work "under the umbrella" of any new government.
Large swathes of northern Syria have been seized by rebels from government control in recent months.
However, reports from those areas say that basic supplies such as electricity and water are limited.
Rebel-held areas are currently administered by a patchwork of local councils and armed groups who have been running some institutions, such as courts and prisons.
"We demand an interim government for all Syrian territory, one that would be the only legitimate government in the country," Gen Idriss told AFP news agency.
"Any institutions not following this government would be considered to be acting illegitimately and would be prosecuted."
Also on Monday, the US said it would not stand in the way of other countries arming Syrian rebels.
Last week France and the UK said they supported lifting the EU arms embargo on Syria to allow weapons to reach anti-government forces, citing guarantees from rebels that arms would not fall into the wrong hands.
However, other EU countries have expressed scepticism over any such move. The embargo is expected to be discussed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers later this week and a vote is due in May.
US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters on Monday: "The United States does not stand in the way of other countries that made a decision to provide arms, whether it's France, or Britain or others."
But top US military commander Gen Martin Dempsey warned against acting too quickly.
"I don't think at this point I can see a military option that would create an understandable outcome. And until I do, it would be my advice to proceed cautiously," he told the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank.
Last week saw the second anniversary of the Syrian uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, which initially began as a wave of peaceful protests but which is now often described as a civil war.
An estimated 70,000 people have been killed and more than one million people have fled Syria since the uprising began.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -Ibrahim appointed a new commander for the Central Security Forces after “widespread protests in several CSF departments over the past 48 hours demanding that policemen be removed from political conflicts,” the official MENA news agency reported.
Violence has flared in Port Said since January, with protests over death sentences given to 21 local people in connection with a stadium riot in which more than 70 died.
The football stadium deaths occurred in February last year at the end of a match between Cairo’s al-Ahly and al-Masry, the local side, and have been a flashpoint for protests across Egypt.
Spectators were crushed when panicked crowds tried to escape from the stadium after a pitch invasion by supporters of al-Masry. Others fell or were thrown from terraces.
The confirmation of the sentences of those accused of involvement in the disaster is expected on Saturday in Cairo, and could provoke more unrest in Port Said and the capital.
A protester in Port Said died of a bullet wound to the head on Friday which he sustained in clashes with police earlier in the week, a medical source said. Another protester died during the night after violence on Thursday.
Protesters holding flags chanted “With our blood we will redeem you, Port Said!” and “The people want to bring down the regime”, the signature chant of the demonstrators who ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule in 2011.
Egypt’s revolution eventually installed an elected Islamist-led government which is still struggling to assert its authority, restore order and revive the economy.
The protesters also called for the departure of police forces and shouted slogans against President Mohamed Mursi.
At least eight people have been killed in this week’s protests in the city, including three policemen.
The army formed a security cordon around the central security directorate building in Port Said and local government offices. The officers are there to protect the area and stop bloodshed but not to police the people, Major General Ahmed Wasfi said.
Egypt’s security situation has deteriorated and police officers have been striking across the country, saying they do not have enough weapons and officers to deal with the unrest.
On Friday the Interior Minister replaced Maged Nouh, the powerful head of country’s central security forces, with Ashraf Abdullah, the state news agency MENA said without giving a reason.
Authorities tightened security in Port Said and in Cairo before the final court ruling and will deploy 2,000 police around the police academy in Cairo, where the football stadium hearing will be held, MENA reported, citing a source in the Interior Ministry. Defendants will be transported in armored vehicles.
In Cairo, there were skirmishes between dozens of protesters and police on a Nile bridge near Tahrir Square, the heart of the 2011 uprising, while in the second city of Alexandria hundreds of people protested outside local government headquarters.
Hundreds of police refused to work for a third day at a base outside Ismailia, at the half-way point of the canal and where the Suez Canal Authority has its headquarters, demanding more arms after several of their colleagues were killed in recent clashes.
Thousands of Egyptian riot police and conscripts also went on strike on Wednesday to demand the resignation of the Interior Minister, saying he is too close to the country’s Islamist leadership, security sources said.
The Interior Ministry has been at the forefront of clashes involving the mainly young protesters, who complain that Mursi has done little to reform the police since the revolution. -www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali says his plan to resolve the political crisis gripping the country through the formation of a new government of technocrats has failed.
On Monday, Jebali said Tunisia's main political parties had been unable to form a cabinet of technocrats to address the national crisis that began after the assassination of a prominent opposition politician, Reuters reported.
"The initiative of a cabinet of technocrats did not receive full political consensus and failed… but work is continuing with all parties in order to form a government which has the agreement of most of the political parties," Jebali told reporters at a press conference following the meeting in Carthage, outside Tunis.
He did not say whether he would resign but said that he would meet with President Moncef Marzouki on Tuesday to discuss the next steps.
The crisis began after leftist opposition leader Shokri Belaid was fatally shot outside his home in the capital on February 6.
Belaid's assassination triggered violent demonstrations across the country, with the headquarters of the ruling Ennahda party being attacked in more than a dozen cities.
Opposition groups have accused Ennahda of being behind the assassination. However, the party’s leader, Rashid al-Ghannouchi, condemned the deadly assault and rejected the allegation.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Tunisia's prime minister has announced he will continue to oppose his own political party and seek to form a government of technocrats by Saturday to solve the country's crisis or resign.
Hamadi Jebali said on Thursday he will hold talks with representatives of all political parties on Friday to see if there is sufficient support for his solution to end the crisis exacerbated by a political assassination last week.
He will announce the results of the meeting on Saturday.
Jebali's initiative, while supported by the opposition, puts him on a collision course with the Ennahda Party, which dominates the government and insists on sticking with a cabinet of political figures.
The two competing visions for how to resolve the country's political deadlock are even more striking because Jebali is the secretary general of the Ennahda, revealing differences within the party itself.
In the midst of an ongoing tussle between the governing coalition and the opposition, leftist politician Chokri Belaid was shot four times through the window of his car outside his home on February 6, setting off anti-government riots around the country.
Hundreds of thousands showed up at his funeral and the Ennahda-led administration was widely blamed for creating the violent environment that resulted in his death - as well as not solving persistent economic problems.
In response, Jebali called for a government of technocrats to end the transitional period by speeding up the writing of the new constitution and holding long-awaited new elections. His initiative has been warmly welcomed by civil society and the opposition.
Ennahda, meanwhile, has seen its support shrink with one coalition partner, the left-wing Ettakatol Party, supporting Jebali, leaving it just with the Congress party and a few other small groups.
On Wednesday, Ennahda issued a statement maintaining that the crisis could only be solved with a “national political coalition that is open to both partisan and independent figures.”
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Hamdi Jebali, the Tunisian prime minister, has threatened to resign unless his Ennahda party and other parties accept his proposals for an interim government of technocrats.
Jebali, who is in dispute with his party over his proposal for a new government, said on Saturday he would present his new cabinet "by the middle of next week by the latest," the official TAP news agency reported.
If the team was accepted by parties represented in the country's constituent assembly without being put to a vote he would remain on as prime minister, Jebali said. Otherwise, he said, he would resign.
Jebali first made the announcement on Wednesday, hours after the assassination of opposition leader Shokri Belaid outside his home by an unknown assailant.
Ennahda rejected that idea soon afterward. Jebali said on Friday that he was confident he could gain his party's support. It remains unclear how he plans to pull enough support to his side.
"I am convinced this is the best solution for the current situation in Tunisia," Jebali said late on Friday.
Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Tunis, said: "Since its emergence as the biggest political party after the elections of 2011, Ennahda has said they would like to pick up on that legitimate backing they have of the people."
"They think that a transitional period is very crucial, when they have to draft a new constitution, agree on the political establishment and set a final date for the elections. To do that, you have to have a very strong government," Ahelbarra said.
"So will the prime minister convince Ennahda to back his proposal? It’s going to be extremely difficult for him to do that. If Ennahda refuses his offer, Tunisia will just plunge into further uncertainty."
Pro-ruling party rallies
Thousands of supporters of Ennahda party demonstrated in the capital on Saturday, a day after the funeral of the assassinated opposition leader.
The demonstrators chanted "The people still want Ennahda" and "The revolution continues" as they marched along the central Avenue Bourguiba on Saturday.
Some of the protesters shouted anti-French slogans. The government has accused France of meddling over critical comments by French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who denounced the killing as an attack on "the values of Tunisia's Jasmine revolution".
"France get out!" and "The people want to protect the legitimacy" of the government were among slogans chanted by Ennahda party supporters who numbered more than 3,000, AFP journalists estimated.
"Enough, France! Tunisia will never again be a French colony," proclaimed some of banners waved by protesters.
The pro-Ennahda demonstration took place on Habib Bourguiba Avenue, epicentre of the 2011 revolution that toppled ex-dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, close to the French embassy.
The ruling party had called supporters to gather in central Tunis to show support for the constitutional assembly, whose work on a new constitution suffered a severe setback when leftist parties withdrew their participation following the killing of Belaid earlier this week.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Al Jazeera
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Tunisia's prime minister has said that he will dissolve the Islamist-led government and form a national unity administration, following the killing of prominent secular opposition leader Shokri Belaid in front of his home.
Hamadi Jebali announced during a speech to the nation on Wednesday that he will form a cabinet of technocrats to run the country until elections are held.
"After the failure of negotiations between parties on a cabinet reshuffle, I decided to form a small technocrat government," Jebali said.
He said the ministers would not run for office but elections would subsequently be held as soon as possible.
An official source told Reuters news agency earlier on that Jebali's decision was a personal one taken in the interests of the country.
Belaid, leader of the left-leaning Democratic Patriots party, was killed on Wednesday as he was leaving his home.
He was transported to a hospital in the suburbs of Tunis where he died of his wounds, his brother confirmed.
Following news of Belaid's death, violence and protests broke out on the streets of Tunis.
Al Jazeera's Ahmed Janabi in Tunis reported violent clashes between Belaid's supporters and police along the main Habib Borguiba Avenue, with the police using tear gas and batons to disperse the protesters and making numerous arrests.
Earlier, crowds of mourners, chanting "the people want the fall of the regime", crowded around an ambulance carrying Belaid's body.
As the protests intensified, four Tunisian opposition groups, including the Popular Front, of which the Democratic Patriots is a component, announced they were pulling out of the national assembly and called for a general strike.
Critical of Islamists
Belaid had been critical of Tunisia's leadership, especially the Islamist party Ennahda that dominates the government.
He had accused authorities of not doing enough to stop violence by ultraconservatives who have targeted mausoleums, art exhibits and other things seen as out of keeping with their strict interpretation of Islam.
Samir Dilou, a government spokesperson, called Belaid's killing an "odious crime".
Moncef Marzouki, the Tunisian president, said he would fight those who opposed the political transition in his country after the death of Belaid.
Marzouki, who cut short a visit to France on Wednesday, told legislators at the European Parliament in Strasbourg to applause: "We will continue to fight the enemies of the revolution."
Marzouki also cancelled a visit to Egypt scheduled for Thursday after the killing, which brought thousands of protesters onto the streets outside the Interior Ministry.
Chanting for the fall of the Ennahda-led government, demonstrators shouted "Shame, shame Shokri died", "Where is the government?", and "The government should fall".
Omar bin Ali, a member of the Tunisian Trade Unions, was present at the demonstration site and said “the Islamists were responsible for Belaid's death".
"This is what they have been calling for in mosques," bin Ali told Al Jazeera.
Ruling out the possibility of external factors, he said "Tunisia is a friend of all nations. It is hard to think of anyone from abroad to do this to us," adding that "the people want the whole government out as they proved to be useless".
The assassination comes as Tunisia is struggling to maintain stability and revive its economy after its longtime dictator was overthrown in an uprising two years ago.
Mohammed Jmour, another opposition leader, criticised the government in a press conference on Wednesday for failing to protect Belaid against stated threats.
“Threats of plunging into a whirlpool of violence that can be caused by a number of bodies, the state, the revolution guarding committees and armed groups," Jmour said.
"Only yesterday, a number of questions were raised ... and Shokri repeatedly emphasised this particular issue. He personally had felt threats to his personal safety. Yesterday I listened on the radio ... a friend of Shokri, in broad daylight, said, "Warn that armed people are going after him."
That revolution set off revolts across the Arab world and unleashed new social and religious tensions.
Ennahda won 42 percent of seats in the first post-Arab uprising elections in October 2011 and formed a government in coalition with two secular parties, Marzouki's Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol.
However, the government has faced many protests over economic hardship.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Al Jazeera