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Saturday, 17th November 2018
6:59:33pm

North Africa

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Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has pledged military support for Gulf Arab states if their security comes under threat, the state daily Al-Ahram reported on Wednesday.

"If the security of the Gulf is directly threatened, Egypt will mobilise its forces to support its brothers," Sisi was quoted as saying in a meeting with the press in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

"Egypt stands body and soul by the side of our Gulf brothers," he said, without specifying the source of any outside threat.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pumped billions of dollars into Egypt's economy since its military - then headed by Sisi - toppled Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. 

Sisi successfully ran for Egypt's presidency in 2014 and has cracked down on opposition, including Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood. He was re-elected with 97% of the vote in elections in March this year.

Along with the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, Egypt severed diplomatic and economic relations with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of links to extremist groups and being too close to Iran - charges Doha denies.

Shiite powerhouse Iran is Saudi Arabia's main regional rival.

Egypt is also a member of the Saudi-led coalition which has since 2015 been fighting the Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen.

-AFP

Russia and China on Monday refused to back a UN resolution that will allow the Security Council to slap sanctions on perpetrators of rape and sexual violence in Libya.

The British-drafted resolution renewing sanctions on Libya was adopted by a vote of 13 in favour in the 15-member council.

Russia and China abstained but did not use their veto power to block the measure that expanded the criteria for applying sanctions to include gender-based violence.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the Netherlands and Sweden, which pushed for the new sanctions criteria, of trying to score political points at home. 

"This is populism distilled in its purest form," Nebenzia told the council, who noted that preventing sex crimes in Sweden and the Netherlands "is the remit of the national governments."

"Sexual and gender-based violence are part of crime in any specific country," said the ambassador, adding that the council should focus on threats to international security.

The council has added sexual violence as a criteria for sanctions in recent resolutions on the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

Swedish Deputy Ambassador Carl Skau said he hoped that adding the new sanctions criteria will have a "deterrent effect and that there will be accountability for such crimes."

Dutch Ambassador Karel van Oosterom said it was "an important step forward" for the UN council to slap sanctions on perpetrators of sexual violence "for instance in the refugee camps that rape women refugees."

The UN officials have warned that militia members, migrant smugglers and criminal gangs often resort to rape in Libya, which has descended into chaos since the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The council in June for the first time imposed sanctions on six individuals linked to Libyan migrant trafficking networks.

-AFP

Egyptian Christians buried six members of the same family on Saturday who were shot dead while returning from a baptism at a Coptic monastery in Egypt’s Minya province.

Two buses were attacked on Friday near the Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor in Minya, 260 km (160 miles) up the Nile from Cairo. Seven people were killed and 18 wounded, including children.

The attack was claimed by Islamic State which, along with affiliated groups, has said it was responsible for several attacks on Egypt’s Christian minority, including one that killed 28 people in almost the same spot in May 2017.

There had, however, been a lull in attacks on Christians since December, when a gunman killed 11 people at a church and Christian-owned shop near Cairo.

Although Egypt’s army and police launched a crackdown on the militant groups in February, some of the Christian mourners said security should be tighter. 

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he mourned the victims as martyrs and vowed to push ahead with the campaign.

“There is a mix of sadness and pain,” Bishop Macarius, head of the Coptic diocese in Minya, told mourners at Prince Tadros Church, tears streaming down his face. “Sadness as these painful events are being repeated, and pain because Copts are part of this homeland and part of its fabric.”

Mourners spilled out of the pews screaming, sobbing and praying over six white coffins, and rejecting the condolences of members of the security services.

The Copts, an Orthodox denomination who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s more than 90 million inhabitants, are the Middle East’s largest Christian community. They have long complained of persecution and insufficient protection.

At Saturday’s funeral, the congregation shouted out when Macarius thanked police and soldiers for their support, chanting: “No, no ... with blood and soul, we will defend you, oh cross!” 

The government pledged 100,000 Egyptian pounds ($5,600) in compensation to the families of the dead, and 50,000 to those who needed extended medical treatment, the state news agency MENA said.

($1 = 17.8600 Egyptian pounds)

-Reuters

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed named 10 new ministers on Monday in a cabinet reshuffle he hopes will inject fresh blood into his government which has been widely criticised for failing to fix an economic crisis.

Key portfolios such as finance, foreign and the interior ministries were kept unchanged.

Since the toppling of autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, Tunisia’s economy has been in crisis and nine cabinets have failed to resolve economic problems, including high inflation and unemployment.

Chahed named Jewish businessman Rene Trabelsi as minister of tourism in the Muslim Arab country, only the third member of the small minority of 2,000 Jews to enter a cabinet since Tunisia’s independence in 1956.

A former foreign minister under Ben Ali, Kamel Morjan, became minister in charge of the public service, the country’s main employer.

“This reshuffle is to make the work of government more effective and to put an end to the political and economic crisis,” Chahed said in a statement.

Impatience has been rising among lenders such as the International Monetary Fund, which have kept the country afloat with billions of dollars in loans.

The reshuffle came amid a political crisis as the president’s son, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, who is leader of the ruling party Nidaa Tounes, called for the dismissal of Chahed because of his government’s failure to revive the economy.

In a sign of the distrust inside the ruling party, President Beji Caid Essebsi rejected the reshuffle as he had been informed too late about it without prior consultation, his spokeswoman Saida Garrach said.

Essebsi cannot stop the reshuffle. It needs to be approved by parliament where Chahed has assembled a majority of lawmakers backing him.

Nidaa Tounes rules with moderate Islamists who have backed Chahed.

Its demand has been supported by the powerful UGTT union which has also opposed Chahed’s plans to overhaul loss-making public companies.

Tunisia has been hailed for its democratic transition since 2011 but the North African country has been hit by economic crisis and militant attacks since then.

-Reuters

Egypt says archaeologists have uncovered parts of a booth with a seat that belonged to famous pharaoh Ramses II, or "Ramses the Great," one of the longest ruling pharaohs in antiquity.

Thursday's statement from the Antiquities Ministry says the artifacts were found during an excavation in eastern Cairo's Matariya neighbourhood.

Egyptologist Mamdouh el-Damaty says the structure was probably used in celebrations and for public gatherings, and dates back to the 19th Dynasty.

Ramses II ruled Egypt more than 3 000 years ago. He is credited with expanding ancient Egypt's reach to present-day Syria and Sudan, earning him the title "Ramses the Great." 

Egypt frequently announces archaeological discoveries, hoping this will spur interest in its ancient treasures and revive tourism, which was hit hard by political turmoil following the 2011 uprising.

-AP

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