Monday, March 7, 2011

Gaddafi's attempts to regain lost terrain, and other stories from a turbulent Middle East

Forces loyal to the Libyan leader colonel Gaddafi have launched several air strikes on the oil port of Ras Lanuf which is in the hands of the rebels. Bin Jawad, 50km to the west, has fallen to Gadadfi's forces.
Throughout Monday, rebels fought off an intense counter-offensive by Gaddafi forces, which have been attacking towns both near Tripoli and in the east after recent rebel gains. In the west pro-Gaddafi forces launched a renewed tank and artillery attack on Zawiya, a rebel-held town 50km west of Tripoli.
In Misrata, 200km east of the capital, a local doctor told the BBC that 21 bodies and more than 100 wounded people had been brought to his hospital, which he said was also targeted by government troops. He said the fighting went on for at least six hours, with residents saying the city centre was "seriously destroyed". With a population of 300,000, Misrata is the largest town controlled by rebels outside their stronghold in the eastern part of the country.
Nato is considering military options in response to the situation in Libya, US President Barack Obama has said."We send a very clear message to the Libyan people that we will stand with them in the face of unwarranted violence and the continuing suppression of democratic ideals that we have seen there," he said.


Demonstrations in the Yemeni capital Sanaa have been taking place since January. They started with students, just a few days before 25 January, the day that turned out to be the beginning of the end of the Mubarak-regime in Egypt. After two week some 20.000 people demonstrated. Last Friday their number had grown to hundreds of thousands as the video shows. And this was only Sanaa. Other big protest rallies were held in Taiz, Ibb, Hodeida and other cities.
The opposition wants president Ali Abdallah Saleh to go and has handed him demands and a 'road map' for his departure. He, however, refuses to go. Saleh does  not want to go further than his earlier promises that he will step down at the end of his term in 2013 and that his son will not succeed him. However, it is difficult to imagine that he will be able to withstand the mounting pressure. The main tribal conferederations of the Hashed and the Baqil have take the side of the opposition. The leader of the Hashed and of the main opposition party, the Islah, Hussein Abdallah al-Ahmar has even left parliament as a sign of protest. His late father, Abdallah al-Ahmar, used to have a power sharing agreement with Saleh. The days of the president seem to be numbered. The south, that has been protesting for months since it feels neglected, wants him to go as well. And so do the northern provinces of Saadah en al-Jawf, where a prolonged war with Saleh ended only in February last year.

Tunisia's interim prime minister Beji Caid Sebsi has named a new government following a number of resignations. Sebsi has kept the heads of the crucial defence, interior, justice and foreign-affairs ministers in their posts, but he named new figures to six posts vacated last week by ministers who sought to distance themselves from the caretaker government which was seen as too close to the regime of former president Ben Ali. Sebsi also disbanded the country's feared state security apparatus, notorious for human rights abuses under the ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Monday's announcements were the latest steps by the interim authorities to restore stability after weeks of protest. Sebsi, 84, himself was named just a week ago. 

sultan Qaboos
Oman's Sultan Qaboos has ordered a major cabinet reshuffle after weeks of anti-government protests in the strategic Gulf state, state television said. Monday's directive follows a mini-cabinet reshuffle that resulted in three senior government officials being replaced while protesters pressed demands for more reforms and an end to corruption. A peaceful sit-in at a roundabout in Sohar entered its ninth day on Monday, with activists demanding the sacking of more ministers for alleged corruption. Another crowd has maintained an anti-corruption sit-in outside the consultative council in Muscat, the capital, which is the sultanate's equivalent of parliament but without legislative authority. Oman has been ruled by Sultan Qaboos bin Said since he overthrew his father, Sultan Said bin Taymur, in a bloodless coup in 1970. Who wants to know what kind of a despot sultan Qaboos is, click here for a portrait in The Guardian

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