[An Nahar] U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ...current SecDef, previously Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Panetta served as President Bill Clinton's White House Chief of Staff from 1994 to 1997 and was a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1977 to 1993.... on Monday said Washington was ready to help Tunisia develop its capacities to combat al-Qaeda, and urged closer regional cooperation in fighting the terror network.
"The U.S. Department of Defense stands ready to help Tunisia to ensuring regional stability, to strengthen the capabilities of its defense institutions," Panetta told news hounds after meeting President Moncef Marzouki.
It was the first visit to the North African country by a U.S. defense secretary since the popular uprising that toppled Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January last year and touched off the Arab Spring.
"I was pleased to begin a dialogue about how we can deepen that cooperation in the range of common concerns, counter violent extremism and terrorism," Panetta said, adding the U.S. and Tunisian militaries "have long been partners."
"There are a number of efforts that we can assist them with to develop the kind of operations, the kind of intelligence that will help effectively deal with that threat," the U.S. official explained.
Panetta urged the Arab Maghreb Union, the dormant five-country bloc that groups Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, to develop counter-terrorism efforts to confront Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and protect their borders.
Foreign ministers from the group, meeting in Algiers earlier this month, agreed on the need to forge a common security pact in response to the upheavals in the region.
AQIM, which stems from a group started in the late 1990s by radical Algerian Islamists and formally subscribed to al-Qaeda's ideology in 2007, has been boosted by the political turmoil in Mali.
Security experts say the armed Islamist groups that have occupied the vast desert terrain in northern Mali are acting under the aegis of the North African al-Qaeda franchise.
BAMAKO: Mali's interim president put the final touches on a unity government yesterday, the eve of a deadline set by foreign partners, taking the lead in negotiations after sidelining his unpopular premier.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has given Mali's interim authorities until July 31 to form the unity government, expected to be better able to deal with the occupation of the north by rebels.
Interim President Dioncounda Traore got straight to work upon his return to Bamako following two months in Paris recovering from an attack by opponents, announcing on Sunday the creation of new bodies tasked with ending the crisis. In a televised address to the nation, he announced he would be in charge of a High Council of State, lead talks for a unity government himself and create a committee to negotiate with the militants controlling Mali's north.
Some observers saw the announcements as a sign Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra was being pushed aside, after key political parties called for his resignation, accusing him of "incompetence and amateurishness".
The High Council of State will be made up of the interim president and two vice-presidents, one of whom will be in charge of defense and security and handling the four-month-old crisis in the north. The other will represent the various non-political forces in Mali.
Traore also announced that "neither the president, nor the prime minister, nor the ministers, can run in the next presidential election."
Story emerges amid reports that the deposed President smuggled billions out of the country
Sources in Egypt's prison authority denied reports Sunday that deposed President Hosni Mubarak ...The former President-for-Life of Egypt, dumped by popular demand in early 2011... and members of his regime would be released from prison as part of a general pardon for ailing prisoners over the age of sixty.
Establishment daily Al-Gomhuria reported on its website that Mubarak, who was returned to Tora prison from a military hospital earlier this month following an improvement in his medical condition could be included in the pardon pending a decision by a medical committee.
According to the daily, all Egyptian prisons have received a communique requesting them to separate prisoners over the age of 60 who suffer from chronic or age-related diseases.
The general pardon, reported the daily, was expected to include all members of Mubarak's government as well as Mubarak himself, but will not include his sons Alaa and Gamal who are under 60 and in good health.
But on Sunday afternoon sources in Egypt's prison authority told the independent Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm that the pardon will only apply to prisoners who have already served 20 years in prison, and were sentenced to life. Mubarak and his notorious interior minister Habib Adli would not benefit from the decision as they have not served that long, the daily reported.
Interior Minister Muhammad Ibrahim also told Egyptian media Sunday that the pardon would not include members of the former regime.
News of the prisoner release comes amid reports that 84-year-old Mubarak -- sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in the killing of protesters during the popular uprising that began in January of 2011 -- deposited billions of dollars in offshore bank accounts as the revolution broke out.
Egyptian media reported Saturday, based on sources in the country's General Intelligence, that Mubarak's personal wealth is estimated at $70 billion and was deposited in bank accounts in Switzerland ...home of the Helvetians, famous for cheese, watches, yodeling, and William Tell... , the UK and and the US. Mubarak had also allegedly established an arms trading company with fleeing Egyptian businessman Hussein Salem in Gay Paree.
[An Nahar] Saudi Interior Minister Prince Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz on Monday described prominent Shiite holy man Nimr Nimr, tossed in the calaboose ... anything you say can and will be used against you, whether you say it or not... in the kingdom's Eastern Province, as mentally ill.
"Nimr Nimr is someone who stirs sedition... The way he speaks reflects a mental deficiency and imbalance," Prince Ahmed said at a presser, according to a report by state news agency SPA.
Prince Ahmed claimed that authorities do not discriminate against the family of Nimr, but warned that those affected by his "deviation" should be stopped.
"His wife works in immigration, and his sons and daughters have scholarships to study abroad. The government sent his wife to the United States for treatment when she suffered a malignant illness," he said.
"Everything is available for him, just like others," Prince Ahmed added.
Nimr remains in hospital as he was maimed during his arrest earlier this month in the Shiite district of Qatif in the Eastern Province.
Saudi police on Friday confronted Shiite demonstrators who marched in Qatif demanding the release of Nimr and other detainees, witnesses said, while the interior ministry announced arresting several people among "rioters."
[Yemen Post] The Saudi diplomat Abdullah Al-Khalidi and the Swiss Teacher Sylvia Abrahat kidnapped by Al-Qaeda are existed in Shabwah, local sources affirmed.
The sources said they were transferred from Abyan ...a governorate of Yemen. The region was a base to the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army terrorist group until it dropped the name and joined al-Qaeda. Its capital is Zinjibar. In March 2011, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula declared the governate an Islamic Emirate after seizing control of the region. The New York Times fastidiously reported that those in control, while Islamic hard boyz, are not in fact al-Qaeda, but something else that looks, tastes, smells, and acts the same. Yemeni government forces launched an effort to re-establish control of the region when President-for-Life Saleh was tossed and the carnage continues... to the Kood mountains of Shabwah after Ansar Al-Shariah gunnies were dislodged of Abyan by the Yemeni army last month.
They spelt out that a mediation led by tribal leaders are ongoing, pointing out that the abductors still insist to have $10 million as ransoms and that challenges the mediation efforts.
Well-informed sources expected that al-Khalide will be released on Sunday, but they gave no further information about his release. News reports said last week that a tribal mediation reached an agreement to unleash al-Khalidi.
For his part, the Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Ali Al-Hamdat told Okaz Newspaper that there were no contacts to free Al-Khaldi by captors.
A tribal source had revealed that a prominent tribal leader Saleh Al-Awlaki and other tribal leaders have conducted negotiations with al-Qaeda for weeks to release the Saudi diplomat, pointing out that the mediation faced many difficulties and obstructions.The source added that Ansar Al-Shariah accepted a ransom of $10 million that will be paid for the group by Yemen.The Saudi authorities released last week al-Qaeda-linked female prisoners of Al-Qaeda, and reopened its embassy in Sana'a after four months of closure.
Al-Khalidi was kidnapped in the port city of Aden on March 28 and two video messages of al-Khalidi were posted by Al-Qaeda in which he appealed to the Saudi authorities to meet the demands of captors through releasing al-Qaeada prisoners and pay a ransom.
[Yemen Post] Human rights organizations have urged to form an independent committee to investigate torture and extrajudicial executions carried out by the Shiite Houthi ...a Zaidi Shia insurgent group operating in Yemen. They have also been referred to as the Believing Youth. Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi is said to be the spiritual leader of the group and most of the military leaders are his relatives. The Yemeni government has accused the Houthis of having ties to the Iranian government, which wouldn't suprise most of us. The group has managed to gain control over all of Saada Governorate and parts of Amran, Al Jawf and Hajjah Governorates. Its slogan is "God is Great, Death to America™", Death to Israel, a curse on the Jews" ... Group in northern Yemen.
The organizations described the acts of Houtis in Saada province including torture, arbitrary arrests and executions as barbaric, heinous crimes that must not be silent toward.
The National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms (HOOD) said it will publish a comprehensive report on all human rights ...which often intentionally defined so widely as to be meaningless... violations by the Houthi Group in Saada, after visiting some tortured victims inside a hospital in the capital Sanaa.
The Houthis released four victims, now receiving treatment in Sanaa, after torturing them severely, it said, adding clear traces of torture were on their bodies and their conditions have deteriorated. Raqeeb Organization said the illegal acts and human violations by the Houthi Group in Saada are common, systemic and with sectarian ends.
Some people don't report the attacks on them and other illegal exercises by the Houthis because they are afraid Dire Revenge™ will be sought against them and their families, it said.
Human rights organizations also called on the local and international forces to pressure the Houthi Group to stop human rights violations and outlawed acts.
The army fought the Shiite Houthi Group six times before it joined the popular uprising in early 2011. This group is well organized and have fighters armed with different weapons and it rules Saada and large parts of the nearby provinces of Hajjah, Jawf and Amran, according to locals.
The former regime accused the group of taking arms against the authorities and receiving support from Iranian Hawzats to destabilize the country.
But the group joined the popular uprising against the regime and the countries including the US have recently urged it to stay as a political force contribute to all national issues effectively.
It has accepted to take part in a comprehensive national dialogue expected in the coming months under a power-transfer deal backed by the UN.
[Dawn] Interior Minister Rehman Malik Pak politician, Interior Minister under the Gilani government. Malik is a former Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) intelligence officer who rose to head the FIA during Benazir Bhutto's second tenure. Malik was tossed from his FIA job in 1998 after documenting the breath-taking corruption of the Sharif family. By unhappy coincidence Nawaz Sharif became PM at just that moment and Malik moved to London one step ahead of the button men. He had to give up the interior ministry job because he held dual Brit citizenship. said on Monday that Pakistain's spy chief will call for an end to US drone strikes in its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and push for a sharing of technology and intelligence during a visit to Washington this week.
"We will push for no drones. If we (Pakistain and the US) are partners, we should sit together and have a common strategy." However, the man who has no enemies isn't anybody and has never done anything... in this regional war there has been no common strategy against a common enemy," Interior Minister Rehman Malik told a news conference in Dubai.
"I hope the visit of the director of the ISI will have good results. There is some dialogue going on as we speak," he said.
The United States has given no sign it is willing to halt the drone strikes.
"Both countries have to find a mid-way," Malik told news hounds. "This of course means intelligence-sharing. Also, give us the technology and we will use it. The US has given us F16s. Are we misusing it?
Lieutenant-General Zaheer ul-Islam's visit to meet CIA director General David Petraeus will be his first since he became head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in March and follows a thaw in relations between Pakistain and the United States.
Pakistain, however, continues to insist US drone strikes -- which it says are a breach of its illusory sovereignty -- must end.
The country has been increasingly vocal in its public opposition to the drones. Pakistain's leaders had quietly approved initially but now say they are a violation of illusory sovereignty and insist they fan anti-US sentiment.
US officials are understood to believe the attacks too important to give up, although the number declined as relations between the nominal allies plunged to their lowest in a decade.
But on July 3 Islamabad agreed to end a seven-month blockade on NATO ...the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It's headquartered in Belgium. That sez it all.... supplies travelling overland to Afghanistan after the United States apologised for the deaths of 24 Pak soldiers in botched air strikes last November.
Earlier today, Pak officials said that a ban on NATO trucks at the main border crossing into Afghanistan will last until the government promises to safeguard security.
[An Nahar] The United States has slashed a signature Iraqi police training program as it downsizes its massive diplomatic mission amid high costs and negative Iraqi sentiment, a U.S. watchdog said on Monday.
The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction said in a report on an audit it conducted that the United States had wasted some $206 million on building facilities for the Police Development Program (PDP), which a top Iraqi interior ministry official has termed "useless."
The U.S. State Department "is wisely reducing the PDP's scope and size in the face of weak... support" from Iraq's interior ministry, SIGIR said, noting that it was originally conceived as a five-year, multi-billion dollar program, the State Department's largest worldwide.
As of this month, the number of in-country advisers was reduced to 36 -- 18 in Storied Baghdad ...located along the Tigris River, founded in the 8th century, home of the Abbasid Caliphate... and 18 in Kurdish regional capital Arbil, down from 85 advisers in January, SIGIR said, and compared to an initial plan for 350 advisers.
But the reduction in the PDP's scope means that millions of dollars have been wasted.
The State Department constructed training and housing facilities at the Storied Baghdad Police College Annex for an estimated $108 million, while another $98 million was used to construct the Basra consulate so it could be used for training, according to SIGIR.
But the State Department "decided to close the (Storied Baghdad Police College Annex) facility, just months after the PDP (Police Development Program) started, due to security costs and program revisions," SIGIR said.
[An Nahar] The Trial Chamber confirmed the Special Tribunal for Leb's jurisdiction to try those accused of committing the February 14, 2005 attack and connected cases, in a decision published on Monday, it announced in a statement.
It said: "The Trial Chamber dismissed all the motions of the defense counsel, who argued that the tribunal was set up illegally, violates Lebanese illusory sovereignty, has selective jurisdiction and does not guarantee the accused a right to fair trial."
The Trial Chamber's decision may be appealed, it added.
The challenge to the tribunal's jurisdiction is a preliminary motion that must be dealt with before trial begins, explained the statement.
"The Trial Chamber found that the Defense motions are not challenges to jurisdiction but rather challenges to legality, or the validity, of the tribunal. The challenges therefore do not fall within the definition of a preliminary motion," it said.
The Trial Chamber found that the United Nations ...boodling on the grand scale... Security Council established the STL when it passed Resolution 1757 in May 2007.
"Resolution 1757 is the sole basis of establishing the tribunal," the judges wrote in their decision, and Leb, as a member state of the United Nations has complied with its obligations under the resolution.
Because of this, the Trial Chamber found that it was not necessary to examine any issues in the Defense motions alleging violation of Lebanese domestic law.
Furthermore, the Trial Chamber found that the state of Leb has never claimed a violation of its illusory sovereignty.
"To the contrary, as a member state of the United Nations, Leb has honored its obligations specified in the annex to the resolution by taking all required steps, including; presenting a list of 12 persons to be appointed as judges by the secretary general, appointing a deputy prosecutor, recognizing the juridical capacity of the tribunal to enter into agreements with states by concluding the Memoranda of Understanding with the tribunal, contributing significantly to financing the tribunal, facilitating establishing the tribunal's Beirut field office, complying with requests for assistance from the tribunal, and deferring to the tribunal's jurisdiction the cases related to the February 14, 2005 attack," the judges said.
"The Trial Chamber thus cannot make a finding of any violation of Lebanese illusory sovereignty."
The Trial Chamber found that had it no power to review the actions of the U.N. Security Council in establishing the tribunal and that "No other judicial body possesses such a power of potential judicial review of the Security Council".