Tag Archives: Reuters

Egypt’s democratic up hill battle

Top contenders fight to stay in Egypt election

Yasmine Saleh and Dina Zayed | Reuters

CAIRO (Reuters) – Three top contenders for Egypt’s presidency were scrambling to stay in the election race on Sunday after the authorities disqualified them on technical grounds, prompting one to say that a “major crisis” threatened the landmark vote.

The election is seen as the last step to democracy after more than a year of unstable army rule since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown by a street revolt. The generals are due to hand power to the new president by July 1 but the latest drama saw new accusations they were trying to prolong their influence.

Mubarak’s former spy chief Omar Suleiman drew an outcry from opponents of the old regime when he entered the race last week, only to be told late on Saturday that he had failed to secure enough signatures in one province to run.

Two leading Islamist candidates were also disqualified, one because he has a criminal record – dating from what was widely seen as a political trial under Mubarak – and the other because his mother had taken U.S. citizenship, state media said.

All three have 48 hours to appeal to the state election committeeagainst their exclusion. If their elimination is confirmed, it would redraw the electoral map just weeks before the vote gets under way in May.

“We will not give up our right to enter the presidential race,” said Murad Muhammed Ali, campaign manager for the Muslim Brotherhood‘s Khairat al-Shater, one of the three.

“There is an attempt by the old Mubarak regime to hijack the last stage of this transitional period and reproduce the old system of governance.”

The disqualifications add to the drama of a transition marked by spasms of violence and bitter political rivalries between Islamists, secular-minded reformists and remnants of the Mubarak order.

Shater, who became an immediate frontrunner after joining the election race in late March, was disqualified due to past criminal convictions. Brotherhood members were often jailed for their political activities under Mubarak, who excluded the movement from formal politics.

Anticipating Shater’s disqualification, the Brotherhood, which now dominates parliament following free elections held in the wake of Mubarak’s removal, had nominated Mohamed Mursi, head of its political party, as a reserve candidate.

VIOLATION

A lawyer for Salafi preacher Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, the most hardline of the various Islamists running for the post, said there would be a “a major crisis” now that his client was barred from the race.

On Friday, his supporters besieged the headquarters of the election commission, forcing it to evacuate the premises and suspend its work. Abu Ismail said the accusation that his mother held U.S. citizenship was fabricated by his political opponents.

“The presidential committee has violated all the rules of law,” Abu Ismail said in remarks published on his Facebook page. “If the official decision is to violate the constitution, they should be able to deal with the consequences.”

Military police and state security were guarding the headquarters of the election committee in Cairo on Sunday, state media reported.

Farouk Sultan, head of the presidential election commission, told Reuters a total of 10 of the 23 candidates had been disqualified.

Frontrunners still in the race include Amr Moussa, a former Arab League Secretary General and Egyptian foreign minister, and Abdul Moneim Abol Fotouh, who was expelled from the Brotherhood last year when he mounted his own presidential campaign.

In an interview with Reuters on Saturday, before his exclusion was announced, Suleiman said the domination of politics by the Brotherhood would hold the country back. But he said if he became president, the party could serve in his government and would be a vital part of Egyptian political life.

Suleiman, 74, said he was running for office in response to public demands for a counterweight to Islamist influence.

“This is why they sought me, as a balance between Islamists and civilian forces,” said Suleiman.

He describes himself as a devout Muslim but said that Egyptians fear their country is being turned into a theocracy.

The Brotherhood, in addition to dominating parliament, chairs an assembly that was formed to write a new constitution before a court suspended its activities last week. Liberal groups had walked out of the assembly, saying it failed to reflect Egypt’s diversity.

“Many people felt that the state is going to the Muslim Brotherhood – in parliament, in government and now the presidency,” Suleiman said, while conceding that the Brotherhood was “a very important segment of Egyptian society.”

 http://news.yahoo.com/top-contenders-fight-stay-egypt-election-162709675.html
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Reform could harm developing economies: World Bank

By Karolina Tagaris | Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) – Plans by leading economies to reform the global financial system could disadvantage the developing world and risk looking outdated by the time they are enforced, a topWorld Bank official said on Sunday.

Vincenzo La Via, the institution’s chief financial officer, said solutions for advanced economies are not necessarily a good fit for developing countries.

“Failing to take the developing world seriously enough, ignoring unintended consequences and imposing one-size-fits-all solutions could undermine efforts to establish a more stable global financial system,” La Via wrote in a guest column for the Financial Times.

“The alternative is standards that ignore shifting realities, threatening the world with more uncertainty.”

Basel III, the new capital standards agreed by regulators last year to reduce bank sector shocks, require banks to hold top-quality capital totaling 7 percent of their risk-bearing assets.

But La Via said emerging market economies may not be able to meet the capital-raising rules or to borrow internationally, forcing local banks to compete against heavy borrowing by advanced economies.

Regulators’ approach to safeguarding the world’s top banks has overlooked the effect on developing countries and the global economy, said La Via, who also represents the World Bank of the Financial Stability Board.

“The big subsidiary in a developing country may not seem that important within its global group. But its failure could be devastating for the local economy and could spark global contagion.”

La Via also said developing countries should also be given a bigger say in efforts by European and U.S. regulators to improve accounting standards to make sure they are global.

“If developing countries’ concerns are not taken into account, they will have little incentive to adopt them. This could provide opportunities for regulatory arbitrage, with riskier financial transactions moving to the least-regulated markets,” he said.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/reform-could-harm-developing-economies-world-bank-20110306-160701-643.html

 


Gaddafi launches counter-offensive on Libyan rebels

By Maria Golovnina and Michael Georgy | Reuters

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Muammar Gaddafi vowed to die in Libya as a martyr in an angry television address on Tuesday, as rebel troops said eastern regions had broken free from his rule in a burgeoning revolt.

“I am not going to leave this land, I will die here as a martyr,” Gaddafi said on state television, refusing to bow to calls from his own diplomats, soldiers and protesters clamoring in the streets for an end to his four decades at the helm.

“I shall remain here defiant,” said Gaddafi.

Earlier, witnesses streaming across the Libyan border into Egypt said Gaddafi was using tanks, warplanes and mercenaries in an effort to stamp out the growing rebellion.

In the eastern city of Tobruk, a Reuters correspondent there said sporadic blasts could be heard, the latest sign that Gaddafi’s grip on the oil and gas exporting nation was weakening.

“All the eastern regions are out of Gaddafi’s control now … The people and the army are hand-in-hand here,” said the now former army major Hany Saad Marjaa.

The White House offered its condolences for the “appalling violence” in Libya and said the international community had to speak with one voice on the crisis.

The U.N. refugee agency meanwhile urged Libya’s neighbors to grant refuge to those fleeing the unrest, which was triggered by decades of repression and popular revolts that toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.

On the Libyan side of the border with Egypt, anti-Gaddafi rebels armed with clubs and Kalashnikov rifles welcomed visitors. One man held an upside-down picture of Gaddafi defaced with the words “the butcher tyrant, murderer of Libyans,” a Reuters correspondent who crossed into Libya reported.

Hundreds of Egyptians flowed in the opposite direction on tractors and trucks, taking with them harrowing tales of state violence and banditry.

In the eastern town of Al Bayda, resident Marai Al Mahry told Reuters by telephone that 26 people including his brother Ahmed had been shot dead overnight by Gaddafi loyalists.

“They shoot you just for walking on the street,” he said, sobbing uncontrollably as he appealed for help.

Protesters were attacked with tanks and warplanes, he said.

“The only thing we can do now is not give up, no surrender, no going back. We will die anyways, whether we like it or not. It is clear that they don’t care whether we live or not. This is genocide,” said Mahry, 42.

Human Rights Watch said 62 people had died in clashes in Tripoli in the past two days, on top of its previous toll of 233 dead. Opposition groups put the figure far much higher. U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay said the killing could amount to crimes against humanity and demanded an international probe.

The revolt in Libya, the third largest oil producer in Africa, has driven oil prices to a 2 1/2 year high above $108 a barrel, and OPEC said it would produce more crude if supplies from member Libya were disrupted.

With no end in sight to the crisis, refugees fled to Egypt.

“Five people died on the street where I live,” Mohamed Jalaly, 40, told Reuters at Salum on his way to Cairo from Benghazi. “You leave Benghazi and then you have … nothing but gangs and youths with weapons,” he added. “The way from Benghazi is extremely dangerous,” he said.

Libyan guards have withdrawn from their side of the border and Egypt’s new military rulers — who took power following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak on February11 — said the main crossing would be kept open round-the-clock to allow the sick and wounded to enter.

Groups of rebels with assault rifles and shotguns, waved cheerily at the passing cars on a stretch of desert road, flicking the V-for-victory sign and posing with their guns, a Reuters correspondent reported.

Libyan security forces have cracked down fiercely on demonstrators across the country, with fighting spreading to Tripoli after erupting in Libya’s oil-producing east last week, in a reaction to decades of

As the fighting has intensified some supporters have abandoned Gaddafi. Tripoli’s envoy to India, Ali al-Essawi, resigned and told Reuters that African mercenaries had been recruited to help put down protests.

“The fall of Gaddafi is the imperative of the people in streets,” he said. The justice minister also quit and a group of army officers urged soldiers to “join the people.” Two pilots flew their warplanes to nearby Malta.

DEFIANCE AND CONDEMNATION

Gaddafi’s son Saif on Sunday vowed his father would keep fighting “until the last man standing” and the Libyan leader appeared on television after days of seclusion to dismiss reports he had fled to the Venezuela of his ally Hugo Chavez.

“I want to show that I’m in Tripoli and not in Venezuela. Do not believe the channels belonging to stray dogs,” said Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya with a mixture of populism and tight control since taking power in a military coup in 1969.

World powers have condemned the use of force against protesters, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accusing Libya of firing on civilians from warplanes and helicopters. The Security Council met in closed session to discuss Libya.

Washington and Europe have demanded an end to the violence and Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: “A ruling family, threatening its people with civil war, has reached the end of the line.”

Demonstrations spread to Tripoli from the second city Benghazi, cradle of the revolt that has engulfed a number of towns and which residents say is now in the hands of protestors.

Residents said anxious shoppers were queuing outside stores to try to stock up on food and drink. Some shops were closed.

Spain’s Repsol suspended all operations in Libya and sources said operations at cargo ports at Benghazi, Tripoli and Misurata had shut due to the violence.

Trade sources said Libyan oil port operations had also been disrupted and others said gas supplies from Libya to Italy had slowed since Late Monday, though Italy said they had not yet been interrupted..

Shell said it was pulling out its expatriate staff from Libya temporarily and a number of states were seeking to evacuate their nationals.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/libyan-online-protesters-prepare-day-rage-20110216-164747-420.html


West flexes military muscle, Gaddafi defiant

By Maria Golovnina | Reuters

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Muammar Gaddafi vowed to die in Libya as a martyr in an angry television address on Tuesday, as rebel troops said eastern regions had broken free from his rule in a burgeoning revolt.

“I am not going to leave this land, I will die here as a martyr,” Gaddafi said on state television, refusing to bow to calls from his own diplomats, soldiers and protesters clamoring in the streets for an end to his four decades at the helm.

“I shall remain here defiant,” said Gaddafi.

Earlier, witnesses streaming across the Libyan border into Egypt said Gaddafi was using tanks, warplanes and mercenaries in an effort to stamp out the growing rebellion.

In the eastern city of Tobruk, a Reuters correspondent there said sporadic blasts could be heard, the latest sign that Gaddafi’s grip on the oil and gas exporting nation was weakening.

“All the eastern regions are out of Gaddafi’s control now … The people and the army are hand-in-hand here,” said the now former army major Hany Saad Marjaa.

The White House offered its condolences for the “appalling violence” in Libya and said the international community had to speak with one voice on the crisis.

The U.N. refugee agency meanwhile urged Libya’s neighbors to grant refuge to those fleeing the unrest, which was triggered by decades of repression and popular revolts that toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.

On the Libyan side of the border with Egypt, anti-Gaddafi rebels armed with clubs and Kalashnikov rifles welcomed visitors. One man held an upside-down picture of Gaddafi defaced with the words “the butcher tyrant, murderer of Libyans,” a Reuters correspondent who crossed into Libya reported.

Hundreds of Egyptians flowed in the opposite direction on tractors and trucks, taking with them harrowing tales of state violence and banditry.

In the eastern town of Al Bayda, resident Marai Al Mahry told Reuters by telephone that 26 people including his brother Ahmed had been shot dead overnight by Gaddafi loyalists.

“They shoot you just for walking on the street,” he said, sobbing uncontrollably as he appealed for help.

Protesters were attacked with tanks and warplanes, he said.

“The only thing we can do now is not give up, no surrender, no going back. We will die anyways, whether we like it or not. It is clear that they don’t care whether we live or not. This is genocide,” said Mahry, 42.

Human Rights Watch said 62 people had died in clashes in Tripoli in the past two days, on top of its previous toll of 233 dead. Opposition groups put the figure far much higher. U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay said the killing could amount to crimes against humanity and demanded an international probe.

The revolt in Libya, the third largest oil producer in Africa, has driven oil prices to a 2 1/2 year high above $108 a barrel, and OPEC said it would produce more crude if supplies from member Libya were disrupted.

With no end in sight to the crisis, refugees fled to Egypt.

“Five people died on the street where I live,” Mohamed Jalaly, 40, told Reuters at Salum on his way to Cairo from Benghazi. “You leave Benghazi and then you have … nothing but gangs and youths with weapons,” he added. “The way from Benghazi is extremely dangerous,” he said.

Libyan guards have withdrawn from their side of the border and Egypt’s new military rulers — who took power following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak on February11 — said the main crossing would be kept open round-the-clock to allow the sick and wounded to enter.

Groups of rebels with assault rifles and shotguns, waved cheerily at the passing cars on a stretch of desert road, flicking the V-for-victory sign and posing with their guns, a Reuters correspondent reported.

Libyan security forces have cracked down fiercely on demonstrators across the country, with fighting spreading to Tripoli after erupting in Libya’s oil-producing east last week, in a reaction to decades of

As the fighting has intensified some supporters have abandoned Gaddafi. Tripoli’s envoy to India, Ali al-Essawi, resigned and told Reuters that African mercenaries had been recruited to help put down protests.

“The fall of Gaddafi is the imperative of the people in streets,” he said. The justice minister also quit and a group of army officers urged soldiers to “join the people.” Two pilots flew their warplanes to nearby Malta.

DEFIANCE AND CONDEMNATION

Gaddafi’s son Saif on Sunday vowed his father would keep fighting “until the last man standing” and the Libyan leader appeared on television after days of seclusion to dismiss reports he had fled to the Venezuela of his ally Hugo Chavez.

“I want to show that I’m in Tripoli and not in Venezuela. Do not believe the channels belonging to stray dogs,” said Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya with a mixture of populism and tight control since taking power in a military coup in 1969.

World powers have condemned the use of force against protesters, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accusing Libya of firing on civilians from warplanes and helicopters. The Security Council met in closed session to discuss Libya.

Washington and Europe have demanded an end to the violence and Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: “A ruling family, threatening its people with civil war, has reached the end of the line.”

Demonstrations spread to Tripoli from the second city Benghazi, cradle of the revolt that has engulfed a number of towns and which residents say is now in the hands of protestors.

Residents said anxious shoppers were queuing outside stores to try to stock up on food and drink. Some shops were closed.

Spain’s Repsol suspended all operations in Libya and sources said operations at cargo ports at Benghazi, Tripoli and Misurata had shut due to the violence.

Trade sources said Libyan oil port operations had also been disrupted and others said gas supplies from Libya to Italy had slowed since Late Monday, though Italy said they had not yet been interrupted..

Shell said it was pulling out its expatriate staff from Libya temporarily and a number of states were seeking to evacuate their nationals.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/libyan-online-protesters-prepare-day-rage-20110216-164747-420.html

 

 


Clashes break out on Libya’s day of protest


By Andrew Dobbie

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Clashes broke out in several towns in Libya on Thursday after the opposition called for a day of protests, reports and a witness said, while supporters of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi rallied in the capital.

Gaddafi opponents, communicating anonymously online or working in exile, had urged people to protest on Thursday to try to emulate popular uprisings which unseated long-serving rulers in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt.

In the capital of the oil exporting country there was no sign of any demonstrations, a Reuters reporter said, apart from the pro-Gaddafi demonstrators in the city’s Green Square chanting “We are defending Gaddafi!” and waving his portrait.

A resident of the eastern town of Al Bayda told Reuters 15 people were hurt in a confrontation between government supporters and relatives of two men killed during a protest a day earlier. Fighting broke out soon after the two were buried.

“The situation is still complicated,” said the resident, who was contacted by telephone and did not want to be identified. “The young people do not want to listen to what the elders say.”

Local newspapers earlier reported the regional security chief was removed from his post over the deaths of the two young men. There were reports of higher death tolls but they could not be confirmed.

Al Bayda is near Benghazi, Libya‘s second city, where protesters clashed with police and Gaddafi supporters late on Tuesday. A resident in the city told Reuters: “Benghazi is quiet.”

The New York-based rights watchdog Human Rights Watch said Libyan authorities had detained 14 activists and writers who had been preparing the anti-government protests, and telephone lines to parts of the country were out of order.

In a possible move to calm the unrest, the newspaper Quryna, which has ties to Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, reported Libya’s parliament was preparing next week to adopt “major shifts,” including government personnel changes.

BUILDING ON FIRE

Snatches of information about protests were trickling out from parts of the country on an Arabic-language Facebook page used by opposition activists, but the sources were not clear and it was not possible to verify the details.

One post said protesters in Ar Rajban near the border with Algeria set fire to a local government headquarters. In Zenten, south-west of Tripoli, protesters shouted “we will win or die,” said another post, which had a photograph of a building on fire.

In the capital, traffic was moving as normal, banks and shops were open and there was no increased security presence.

Tripoli resident Ahmed Rehibi said anti-government protests were an unnecessary distraction. “We should be concentrating on working, on our schools, because now we are trying to build up our infrastructure,” he said.

Political analysts say an Egyptian-style revolt is unlikely because the government can use oil revenues to smooth over most social problems.

Libya has been tightly controlled for more than 40 years by Gaddafi, born in 1942 and now Africa’s longest-serving leader, and has immense oil wealth. The country has nevertheless felt the ripples from the uprisings in neighboring states.

“We have problems,” Mustafa Fetouri, a Tripoli-based political analyst and university professor, told Reuters. “This is a society that is still behind in many ways, there are certain legitimate problems that have to be sorted out.”

However, he said: “I do not really see it (unrest) spreading … Gaddafi remains well respected.”

Libya bans all political parties, public dissent is rarely tolerated and during Gaddafi’s time in office, rights groups say, thousands of his opponents have been put in prison.

Gaddafi and his supporters say Libya is a democracy because of his system of direct rule through grass-roots institutions called popular committees.

Opposition activists designated Thursday as a day of protests because it is the anniversary of clashes on February 17, 2006, in Benghazi when security forces killed several protesters who were attacking the city’s Italian consulate.

On the eve of the planned protests, SMS messages were sent to mobile phone subscribers saying: “From the youth of Libya to all those who are tempted to touch the four red lines: come and face us in any square or street in Libya.”

The four red lines, defined in a 2007 speech by one of Gaddafi’s sons, are Islam, security, territorial integrity, and Muammar Gaddafi.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/libyan-online-protesters-prepare-day-rage-20110216-164747-420.html

 

 


The fear of Hunger….

Egyptians face food hardship after protests

By Sherine El Madany

CAIRO (Reuters) – Electrician Hassan Ibrahim, a father of three, hopes Egypt‘s revolution will speed the day he no longer lives in fear that his family will go hungry.

On January 28, he joined millions of protesters on streets acrossEgypt, home to one of the world’s fastest food inflation rates, in an uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

For now, Ibrahim finds life even harder than before.

Days of rejoicing followed Mubarak’s resignation last week but now Egyptians replenishing their food supplies are finding empty shelves or hugely inflated prices.

Prices of food and drink already soared 18 percent year-on-year last month while Ibrahim’s salary stagnated.

As protestors chanted for Mubarak’s removal, other Egyptians could be seen piling up shopping carts with emergency provisions and heaving bags full of the country’s staple brown beans home from markets before a nighttime curfew.

“Prices rose even higher through the days of protests as everyone has been stocking up during the curfew,” said Ibrahim.

This is an extra headache for authorities eager to restore confidence in an economy hit by strikes and bank closures.

The pressure to guarantee food supplies is great given Egypt’s history of sporadic bread riots which led the army to intervene on occasions to ensure calm or distribute supplies.

Egypt relies on imports for at least half of domestic consumption and the revolution came as global food prices, as tracked by a U.N. agency, hit their highest on record in January.

Shoppers said the latest price surge came amid panic buying of essential goods on fears of future shortages. Merchants also blame a rise in the cost of transport.

“Prices have gone up for both merchants and buyers,” said Omm Mahmoud, who sells fruit and vegetables in a Cairo suburb. “It now costs me more to have my goods transported from the farms to the city, and I have to pass on those costs.”

If prices aren’t a problem, then supplies are.

“In state-run shops grocery prices are reasonable but supply is not enough,” said 53-year old housewife Magda Hussein. “They run out of items quickly, so I have to purchase the rest of my groceries from stores that charge about double the price.”

Like other protesters, Ibrahim blames higher living costs on Mubarak, who ruled a country where a fifth of the population lives on less than $2 a day, according to the United Nations.

Ibrahim brought his children to Tahrir (Liberation) Square, the heart of the revolution in Cairo, several times to learn about the value of democracy.

“I know that living costs and unemployment could rise, but that is a price I am willing to pay for the success of the revolution. I want my children to live in a free country,” he said.

PAIN TO LAST

John Sfakianakis, chief economist at Banque Saudi Fransi, said Mubarak fell due to rising inequality, high unemployment and very high inflation. “Food inflation will continue to be the biggest concern,” he said. “People … will not maybe buy a car but they will still have to eat.”

Global prices are set to stay high after a massive snowstorm in the United States and floods in Australia.

Beltone investment bank indicated the suffering in Egypt was likely to continue. “This spike in prices is set to continue into February and perhaps subsequent months, although this will largely depend on the unfolding political situation,” it said in a research note.

Sfakianakis expects Egypt’s food inflation to continue rising in 2011 to reach about 20 percent year-on-year, and said it would be difficult for Egypt to curb prices because globally they are likely to remain high this year.

The situation won’t be helped by a drop in the Egyptian pound that makes imported goods even dearer and adds further strain to the government’s import subsidy bill.

“We … believe that global food prices will add to upward inflationary pressures, although the government will continue to increase subsidies when required on basic goods to keep prices stable,” said investment bank EFG-Hermes.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/egyptians-face-food-hardship-protests-20110217-104733-908.html