JFP 1/27: Egypt Opposition Prepares Major Friday Protest; US Pivots, Calls for Reform

Just Foreign Policy News
January 27, 2011

*Update on previous JFP Action Alert: US Treasury has instructed US banks to report on Tunisian transactions, and the US has has cancelled visas of the Ben Ali clan, the Guardian reports. #8 below.

IPA: Online Resources on Egypt and Tunisia
While the Egyptian government appears to be intermittently attempting to block phone lines, internet access and various social media networks, here is a partial list of resources.
http://www.accuracy.org/online-resources-on-egypt/

Urge Obama to Support UN resolution on Israeli settlement expansion
A resolution is before the UN Security Council that opposes Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, echoing longstanding U.S. positions. But President Obama is under pressure to veto the resolution from political forces that seek to maintain the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Urge President Obama to support the UN resolution. Jewish Voice for Peace and Americans for Peace Now are speaking out. Add your voice.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/noveto

Is this potentially a winnable fight? We argue it is:
Can US Support UN Resolution on Israeli Settlements? Yes We Can!
It's not an immutable law of the universe that the U.S. has to veto U.N. resolutions critical of Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This is a winnable fight if we move the debate beyond the usual suspects.
http://www.truth-out.org/can-us-support-un-resolution-israeli-settlements-yes-we-can67136

Hanan Ashrawi: What has the United States got against international law and the United Nations?
"The question is why the United States should oppose such a move, particularly given that its own attempts to revive Palestinian-Israeli negotiations have been thwarted time and again by Israel's refusal to stop building settlements."
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/21/opinion/21iht-edashrawi21.html

Al Jazeera video: Rattansi vs. Crowley on Egypt protests
Al Jazeera's Shihab Rattansi puts State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley on the hot seat over US failure to press Mubarak to stop the Egyptian government crackdown on protesters.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmEcQMwprIo

Joe Emersberger: NYT Promotes Destructive Myths About Aristide
Joe Emersberger of HaitiAnalysis.com challenges Ginger Thompson of the New York Times on her claim that President Aristide "rose to power as a champion of Haiti's poor but became notorious for his violent crackdowns of political dissent."
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/01/25-7

Satoko Norimatsu: V-22 Osprey "extremely noisy with a horrific racket"
Residents of Brewton, Alabama complained about noise caused by the V-22 Osprey used in the USAF training mission at their municipal airport; USAF apologized and said the squadron will not come back. The news from Alabama has been noted in Okinawa, where the USMC is planning to deploy Ospreys despite opposition from local residents.
http://peacephilosophy.blogspot.com/2011/01/v-22-osprey-extremely-noisy-with.html

David Coombs: Bradley Manning Is Not Being Treated Like Every Other Detainee
Manning's lawyer responds to Pentagon Press Secretary Morrell's assertion that Manning's confinement is "not in the least different from the manner in which anyone else at the brig is being held."
http://www.armycourtmartialdefense.info/2011/01/pfc-bradley-manning-is-not-being.html

Help Support Our Advocacy for Peace and Diplomacy
The opponents of peace and diplomacy work every day. Help us be an effective counterweight.
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Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Mohamed ElBaradei returned to Cairo Thursday in an attempt to galvanize youth-led street protests that extended into a third day across the country, the New York Times reports. A new wave of demonstrations was planned for Friday, coinciding with Friday prayers. The Muslim Brotherhood, long the country's largest organized opposition group, intends to end days of official inaction to enter fully into protests Friday. The government said about 800 people had been arrested since Tuesday morning, but human rights groups said there had been more than 2,000 arrests. The US ambassador called on the Egyptian government "to allow peaceful public demonstrations." [You can follow on twitter with #egypt and #jan25 - JFP.]

2) The US bluntly urged Egyptian President Mubarak Wednesday to make political reforms in the face of protesters demanding his ouster, in a shift in tone toward an important Arab ally, Reuters reports. Secretary of State Clinton urged Egypt not to crack down on peaceful protests or disrupt the social networking sites that help organize and accelerate them. "We believe strongly that the Egyptian government has an important opportunity at this moment in time to implement political, economic and social reforms to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people," Clinton said. On Tuesday, Clinton had adopted a softer stance, saying the US supported freedom of assembly and speech, urging all sides to refrain from violence and saying the Egyptian government was "looking for ways" to meet its people's needs.

Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations said Clinton's remarks appeared for the first time since the Tunisian unrest to make clear what the US wants to see in Egypt: genuine change originating from the government rather than a dramatic overthrow as occurred in Tunisia. Shadi Hamid of Brookings Institution argued that Ben Ali's downfall had "called into question a basic premise of U.S. policy in the Middle East - that repressive regimes, however distasteful, are at least stable." "The U.S. has a limited amount of time to, first, reassess its Middle East policy and, then, reorient it to ride with, rather than against, the tide of Arab popular rule," Hamid wrote. "It can begin distancing itself from Mubarak by stepping up public criticism of regime repression and deepening contacts with the ... opposition - liberals, leftists, and, yes, Islamists alike," he added. "It is better to have leverage with opposition groups before they come to power than afterward."

3) Critics of U.S. policy say "bottom-up efforts" have failed to open up political space in Arab countries, the New York Times reports. Despite a US push for monitors in Egypt, its recent parliamentary elections were judged less honest than elections in 2005. Steven Heydemann, of the US Institute of Peace, argues that the time has come for the US to confront Arab leaders more forcefully, demanding that they repeal emergency laws and scrap state security courts, which they use to exercise arbitrary power.

Administration officials said they pressed Mubarak repeatedly not to reinstate Egypt's emergency law. He did so anyway, but officials said he released virtually all the political prisoners that were on a list compiled by Human Rights Watch. critics say the pressure has been mostly in private, which does little to build support among impatient young Arabs. Some analysts say the big question is whether the administration should seize on Tunisia as a lever to push for change elsewhere."If Tunisia works out, that could be much more of an inspiration to Arab countries than Iraq ever was," said Steven \Cook, of the Council on Foreign Relations. "It is an unexpected windfall. That's why they should be making the most of it."

4) Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert says in new memoirs he and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas were very close to a peace deal two years ago, the New York Times reports. Abbas confirmed most of Olmert's account. The big sticking points were apparently two large settlements: Olmert wanted to hold onto Ariel, deep in the West Bank, and Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem.

5) Divisions have opened among Republicans about whether, and how much, to chop Pentagon spending, the New York Times reports. The traditional Republican who now leads the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Howard McKeon, fought back against proposed cuts in the Pentagon budget even as new committee members supported by the Tea Party said the nation's debts amounted to a national security risk. The discordant Republican voices on military spending have bred confusion on Capitol Hill, among military contractors and within the military itself, where no one is exactly sure what the members backed by the Tea Party will do.

Dick Armey, a former Republican House majority leader and now a leader of the Tea Party movement, said Tea Party-backed members of Congress would rigorously look for places to prune the Pentagon budget. "A lot of people say if you cut defense, you're demonstrating less than a full commitment to our nation's security, and that's baloney," he said.

Lebanon

6) The incoming Lebanese prime minister, Najib Mikati, is not a representative of Hezbollah and certainly not of Iran, writes Zvi Bar'el in Haaretz. He is a close personal friend of Syrian President Assad, and even Saudi Arabia hasn't spoken out against him. France also proposed Mikati for the premiership, after it became clear that the compromise prime minister suggested by Saudi Arabia and Syria had been rejected. If Mikati has the support of Saudi Arabia, Syria and France, the US will have a hard time opposing him, Bar'el writes. Mikati, who studied at the American University of Beirut and Harvard, is not a good friend of Hezbollah leader Nasrallah and is far removed from the Iranian government. "I am a moderate politician, I am always at an equal distance from everybody," Mikati told the BBC.

Lebanon will not suddenly become more Iranian or more "Hezbollian" than it was two days ago, Bar'el writes. It will primarily be more Syrian, and that is a major difference, as Syria, which seeks to move closer to the US, does not want Iran to seize control in its traditional sphere of influence.

Yemen
7) Yemen became the latest Arab state to witness mass protests on Thursday, as thousands of Yemenis took to the streets in the capital and other regions to demand a change in government, the New York Times reports. In Sana, at least 10,000 protesters led by opposition members and youth activists gathered at Sana University, and around 6,000 more gathered elsewhere. Secretary of State Clinton, in a visit to Sana earlier this month, urged President Saleh to open a dialogue with the opposition, saying it would help to stabilize the country. Saleh's current term expires in two years, but proposed constitutional changes could allow him to hold onto power for longer.

Tunisia
8) Tunisian authorities have asked for international arrest warrants to be issued for ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and members of his family, the Guardian reports. The US treasury has asked American banks to report on Tunisian transactions and Washington has revoked visas for Ben Ali and his family, the Guardian says.

Bolivia
9) Thousands have taken to the streets in Bolivia to chew coca leaf in support of the country's bid to remove an international prohibition on the age-old practice, AP reports. The chief target of Wednesday's peaceful protest was the U.S. Embassy. The US last week formally objected to Bolivia's proposal to remove a prohibition on coca chewing from the international Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Coca is a mild stimulant of high religious and social value in the Andes. It fights hunger and alleviates altitude sickness. Bolivia's U.N. Ambassador says Bolivia does not seek to remove coca from a list of controlled substances.

Contents:
U.S./Top News

1) Opposition in Egypt Gears Up for Major Friday Protest
Kareem Fahim and Liam Stack, New York Times, January 27, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/world/middleeast/28egypt.html

Cairo - Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate who has become a leading opponent of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, returned to Cairo on Thursday in an attempt to galvanize youth-led street protests that extended into a third day across the country.

Smoke rose over the city of Suez on Thursday as sometimes violent clashes continued there. In the capital, a relative calm settled over the streets in anticipation of a new wave of demonstrations anticipated for Friday.

Raising the stakes, the Muslim Brotherhood, long the country's largest organized opposition group, intends to end days of official inaction to enter fully into protests on Friday. On its Web site, the group said it would join "with all the national Egyptian forces, the Egyptian people, so that this coming Friday will be the general day of rage for the Egyptian nation."
[...]
At the stock exchange, meanwhile, the benchmark Egyptian index fell to its lowest level in over two years, shedding more than 10 percentage points and forcing a brief suspension of trading, news reports said. "It's clear today that the inability to control the situation in the streets yesterday is panicking investors," The Associated Press quoted Ahmed Hanafi, a broker with Guthour Trading, as saying. "The drop we saw yesterday is being repeated. At this rate, it's going to continue to fall hard."

Despite the ban issued Wednesday on public gatherings, organizers continued to use social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to prepare for Friday.
[...]
Egypt has an extensive and widely feared security apparatus, and it deployed its might in an effort to crush the protests. But it was not clear whether the security forces were succeeding in intimidating protesters or rather inciting them to further defiance.

The government said about 800 people had been arrested throughout the country since Tuesday morning, but human rights groups said there had been more than 2,000 arrests.

Abroad, there were growing expressions of concern from Egypt's allies. The United States ambassador in Cairo, Margaret Scobey, called on the government "to allow peaceful public demonstrations," and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reiterated that call in blunt remarks to reporters. The German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, speaking to reporters, said, "We are very worried about how the situation in Egypt is developing."
[...]

2) U.S. shifts tone, bluntly urges Mubarak to reform now
Arshad Mohammed, Reuters, Wed, Jan 26 2011
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE70P71O20110126

Washington - The United States bluntly urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday to make political reforms in the face of protesters demanding his ouster, in a shift in tone toward an important Arab ally.

In issuing a fresh call for reforms after a day of clashes between Egyptian police and protesters, Washington appeared to be juggling several interests: its desire for stability in a regional ally, its support for democratic principles and its fear of the possible rise of an anti-U.S. Islamist government.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered the message at a news conference with the foreign minister of Jordan, another Arab country that watched the ouster of Tunisia's president in a popular revolt two weeks ago.
[...]
The revolt in Tunisia has prompted questions about the stability of other authoritarian Arab governments and has depressed stock, bond and foreign exchange prices in parts of the region, notably in Egypt.

Clinton suggested Egypt's government had to act now if it wanted to avert a similar outcome and urged it not to crack down on peaceful protests or disrupt the social networking sites that help organize and accelerate them. "We believe strongly that the Egyptian government has an important opportunity at this moment in time to implement political, economic and social reforms to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people," Clinton said in a statement with Jordan's Nasser Judeh at her side.
[...]
On Tuesday, Clinton had adopted a softer stance, saying the United States supported freedom of assembly and speech, urging all sides to refrain from violence and saying the Egyptian government was "looking for ways" to meet its people's needs.
[...]
Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations think tank said Clinton's remarks appeared for the first time since the Tunisian unrest to make clear what the United States wants to see in Egypt: genuine change originating from the government rather than a dramatic overthrow as occurred in Tunisia.
[...]
In an article entitled "After Tunisia: Obama's Impossible Dilemma in Egypt," Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution argued that Ben Ali's downfall had "called into question a basic premise of U.S. policy in the Middle East - that repressive regimes, however distasteful, are at least stable."
[...]
"The U.S. has a limited amount of time to, first, reassess its Middle East policy and, then, reorient it to ride with, rather than against, the tide of Arab popular rule," he wrote in a piece published on theAtlantic.com.

"It can begin distancing itself from Mubarak by stepping up public criticism of regime repression and deepening contacts with the ... opposition - liberals, leftists, and, yes, Islamists alike," he added. "It is better to have leverage with opposition groups before they come to power than afterward."
[...]

3) A Region's Unrest Scrambles U.S. Foreign Policy
Mark Landler, New York Times, January 25, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/26/world/26diplo.html

Washington - As the Obama administration confronts the spectacle of angry protesters and baton-wielding riot police officers from Tunisia to Egypt to Lebanon, it is groping for a plan to deal with an always-vexing region that is now suddenly spinning in dangerous directions.
[...]
But critics say bottom-up efforts have failed to open up political space in Arab countries. Despite the push for monitors in Egypt, its recent parliamentary elections were judged less honest than elections in 2005. Steven Heydemann, a vice president at the United States Institute of Peace, argued in a blog post this week that the time had come for the United States to confront Arab leaders more forcefully, demanding that they repeal emergency laws and scrap state security courts, which they use to exercise arbitrary power.

Administration officials said they pressed Mr. Mubarak repeatedly not to reinstate Egypt's emergency law, which has been in place since 1981. He did so anyway, but officials said he released virtually all the political prisoners that were on a list compiled by Human Rights Watch. In his call with Mr. Mubarak, Mr. Obama also linked the bombing of a Coptic Christian church to the rights of religious minorities.

Still, critics say the pressure has been mostly in private, which does little to build support among impatient young Arabs. Some analysts say the big question is whether the administration should seize on Tunisia as a lever to push for change elsewhere.

"If Tunisia works out, that could be much more of an inspiration to Arab countries than Iraq ever was," said Steven A. Cook, a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. "It is an unexpected windfall. That's why they should be making the most of it."

4) In Memoir, Ex-Premier Says Israel and Palestine Were Close to Deal in '09
Ethan Bronner, New York Times, January 27, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/world/middleeast/28mideast.html

Jerusalem - Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister of Israel, says in new memoirs that he and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, were very close to a peace deal two years ago, but Mr. Abbas's hesitation, Mr. Olmert's own legal troubles and the Israeli war in Gaza caused their talks to end. Shortly afterward, a right-wing Israeli government came to office.

In excerpts from the memoirs published Thursday in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, and in an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Olmert provided details on negotiations that have been the focus of attention and Arab anger this week because of leaks to the Al Jazeera television network of Palestinian documents with minutes from related meetings. The leaks may well make it harder for concessions to be offered in the future.

Mr. Olmert said the two sides had agreed on key principles: Palestine would have no military; an American-led international security force, not Israeli soldiers, would be stationed on its border with Jordan; Jerusalem would be shared, with its holy sites overseen by a multinational committee; and a limited number of Palestinian refugees would be permitted back into what is today Israel, while the rest would be generously compensated.
[...]
Mr. Olmert said he had suggested to Mr. Abbas that Jerusalem's holy basin, meaning the walled Old City and nearby areas, would be held in trust by a consortium of five nations: Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Mr. Abbas said in his interview that while he considered the holy basin to be limited to the Old City, in principle he could agree with the international trust approach.

On security arrangements, where there is great disagreement today, the two sides had largely come to terms two years ago. Mr. Abbas said his state would have no military - "We don't want an air force or tanks or rockets" - and an American-led international force would be stationed on its border with Jordan.

Mr. Olmert said he had accepted that the force in question would not include Israelis. Palestine could not enter into military treaties with countries that did not have diplomatic relations with Israel and Israel needed commercial and military overflight rights over Palestine.

Mr. Abbas said he accepted those requests. "This file was closed," he said. "We do not claim it was an agreement, but the file was finalized."

On Palestinian refugees, Mr. Olmert offered to take 1,000 a year for five years into Israel. Mr. Abbas rejected that number as far too low.

Mr. Olmert said the five million people who count as refugees and their descendants could not all move to Israel because that would, in effect, destroy it. A creative solution was needed and he believed one could be found.

Two large settlements posed a problem. Mr. Olmert wanted to hold onto Ariel, deep in the West Bank, and Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem. Mr. Abbas said no, but welcomed American bridging proposals.

Mr. Abbas ended his interview saying that President Obama had promised the creation of a Palestinian state by this September yet negotiations had stopped because of disagreement over settlement building and he would not stay in his job beyond then without progress.

"I am committed to peace but not forever," Mr. Abbas said. "I don't mean I will turn to violence - never. In my life, I will never do it. But I cannot stay in my office forever doing nothing."

He said Washington needed to play an active role or "hopes for peace will collapse and the region will be controlled by extremists."

5) Republicans Split Over Plans To Cut Defense Budget
Elisabeth Bumiller and Thom Shanker, New York Times, January 26, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/27/us/politics/27pentagon.html

Washington - To hear the Republican leadership tell it, the once-sacred Pentagon budget, protected by the party for generations, is suddenly on the table. But a closer look shows that even as Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, insist on the need for military cuts, divisions have opened among Republicans about whether, and how much, to chop Pentagon spending that comes to more than a half trillion dollars a year.

Those differences were on display Wednesday on Capitol Hill, where the traditional Republican who now leads the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Howard P. McKeon, fought back against proposed cuts in the Pentagon budget even as fledgling committee members supported by the Tea Party said that the nation's debts amounted to a national security risk.

"I cannot say it strongly enough: I will not support any measures that stress our forces and jeopardize the lives of our men and women in uniform," Mr. McKeon said in an opening statement that followed up on a letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urging him not to stop work on the Marines' $14.4. billion Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, a combined landing craft and tank for amphibious assaults that Mr. Gates canceled this month.

But Representative Chris Gibson, a Tea Party-endorsed freshman Republican and a retired Army colonel from New York's Hudson River Valley, made it clear that no part of the Pentagon's $550 billion budget - some $700 billion including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - was immune.

"This deficit that we have threatens our very way of life, and everything needs to be on the table," Mr. Gibson told William J. Lynn III, the deputy defense secretary, who testified at the hearing along with Gen. Peter J. Chiarelli, the vice chief of staff of the Army, and other service vice chiefs.

The discordant Republican voices on military spending have bred confusion on Capitol Hill, among military contractors and within the military itself, where no one is exactly sure what the members backed by the Tea Party will do. It also shows why taking on the military budget will be so hard, even though a widening deficit has led the president and the leaders of both parties to say this time they are serious.
[...]
This month Mr. Gates announced plans to cut military spending by $78 billion over five years, the first serious proposed reductions in the budget since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and a response to White House pressure to squeeze spending during what Mr. Gates called a time of "extreme fiscal duress." But the Pentagon's operating budget for 2012 is expected to be about $553 billion, which would still reflect real growth. The growth would slow over the next several years and then stop by the 2015 fiscal year.

Dick Armey, a former Republican House majority leader and now a leader of the Tea Party movement, said in an interview that Tea Party-backed members of Congress would rigorously look for places to prune the Pentagon budget. "A lot of people say if you cut defense, you're demonstrating less than a full commitment to our nation's security, and that's baloney," he said.
[...]

Lebanon

6) Lebanon's new PM is not Hezbollah and not Iran
Incoming Lebanese Prime Minister Mikati has the support of Saudi Arabia, Syria and France, so the United States will have a hard time opposing him.
Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz, 26.01.11
http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/lebanon-s-new-pm-is-not-hezbollah-and-not-iran-1.339218

The incoming Lebanese prime minister, Najib Mikati, is not a representative of Hezbollah and certainly not of Iran. He is a close personal friend of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and even Saudi Arabia - the patron of the outgoing prime minister - hasn't spoken out against Mikati, a 55-year-old Sunni native of Tripoli.

France also proposed Mikati for the premiership, after it became clear that the compromise prime minister suggested by Saudi Arabia and Syria had been rejected. If Mikati has the support of Saudi Arabia, Syria and France, the United States will have a hard time opposing him.

Mikati served in the government of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, in which he was responsible for public service and transportation, and was asked to briefly serve as interim prime minister following Hariri's assassination in 2005. Associates of Saad Hariri, the outgoing prime minister and Rafik Hariri's son, can also be expected to make their own political calculations and decide - perhaps with some Syrian and Saudi pressure - to join Mikati's government so as not to lose all their centers of power in the country.
[...]
Mikati, who studied at the American University of Beirut, the international business school INSEAD and Harvard University, is not a good friend of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and is far removed from the Iranian government.

"I am a moderate politician, I am always at an equal distance from everybody," Mikati told the BBC yesterday after he was designated to form the next government. But he knows why he was tapped for the job: He must remove the threat of the international tribunal investigating Rafik Hariri's assassination, or at least sever any connection between the Lebanese government and the panel's expected indictment of Hezbollah activists. That means halting Lebanon's funding of the tribunal and returning the Lebanese judges to the panel.

If Mikati does that - though he has not yet publicly committed to doing so - he will be able to argue, and justifiably so, that even Saad Hariri was willing to ignore the international tribunal, under certain conditions.

Hezbollah doesn't need Mikati to demonstrate its control over Lebanese politics. Any prime minister that meets its demands - including Saad Hariri - is good from its perspective.

Lebanon will not suddenly become more Iranian or more "Hezbollian" than it was two days ago. It will primarily be more Syrian, and that is a major difference, as Syria - which seeks to move closer to the United States and, thanks to France, sees itself as close to Europe - does not want Iran to seize control in its traditional sphere of influence.

Yemen
7) Thousands in Yemen Protest Against the Government
Nada Bakri and J. David Goodman, New York Times, January 27, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/world/middleeast/28yemen.html

Beirut, Lebanon - Yemen, one of the Middle East's most impoverished countries and a haven for Al Qaeda militants, became the latest Arab state to witness mass protests on Thursday, as thousands of Yemenis took to the streets in the capital and other regions to demand a change in government.

The scenes broadcast across the Arab world were reminiscent of demonstrations in Egypt this week and the month of protests that brought down the government in Tunisia. But as they climaxed by midday, the marches appeared to be carefully organized and mostly peaceful, though there were reports of arrests by security forces. Predictably, the protests were most aggressive in the restive south.

In Sana, at least 10,000 protesters led by opposition members and youth activists gathered at Sana University, and around 6,000 more gathered elsewhere, participants, lawmakers and activists reached by telephone said. Many carried pink banners and wore pink headbands.

The color was both a unifying symbol and an indication of the level of planning underlying the protests. Weeks ago, as the Tunisian protests were still escalating, a committee from an umbrella group of six opposition parties settled on an escalating scale of color to accompany their own plan of action, starting with purple for lawmakers to show their opposition and moving to pink for the street protests. Red, said Shawki al-Qadi, a lawmaker and opposition figure, would be the final color, though he said the opposition had not yet decided what actions would correspond with the move.
[...]
The government responded to the protests by sending a large number of security forces into the streets, said Nasser Arabyee, a Yemeni journalist in Sana reached by phone. "Very strict measures, antiriot forces," he called them. But the government suggested it had not deployed large numbers of security forces.

"The Government of the Republic of Yemen strongly respects the democratic right for a peaceful assembly," said Mohammed al-Basha, a spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, in a statement. "We are pleased to announce that no major clashes or arrests occurred, and police presence was minimal."
[...]
The demonstrations on Thursday followed several days of smaller protests by students and opposition groups calling for the removal of President Ali Abdallah Saleh, a strongman who has ruled this fractured country for more than 30 years and is a key ally of the United States in the fight against the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda.
[...]
Yemen's fragile stability has been of increasing concern to the United States. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a visit to Sana earlier this month, urged Mr. Saleh to open a dialogue with the opposition, saying it would help to stabilize the country. His current term expires in two years, but proposed constitutional changes could allow him to hold onto power for longer.

During her visit, Ms. Clinton was asked by a Yemeni lawmaker how the United States could lend support to Mr. Saleh's authoritarian rule even as his country increasingly becomes a haven for militants.

"We support an inclusive government," Mrs. Clinton said in response. "We see that Yemen is going through a transition."

Tunisia
8) Tunisia calls on Interpol to arrest ousted president Ben Ali
As protests continue, leader who fled to Saudi Arabia wanted for possessing expropriated property and moving currency abroad
James Meikle, Guardian, Wednesday 26 January 2011 13.16 GMT http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/26/tunisia-interpol-arrest-warrant-ben-ali

Tunisian authorities have asked for international arrest warrants to be issued for ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and members of his family following his flight abroad this month.

The justice minister, Lazhar Karoui Chebbi, also revealed that 11,000 inmates, about a third of the country's prison population, had escaped in the recent unrest. He said Tunisia had asked Interpol to detain Ben Ali, who is now in Saudi Arabia, adding that the former president and others would face trial for possession of expropriated property and for transferring foreign currency abroad.
[...]
There were also protests in Sfaz, Tunisia's economic hub, as the US pledged support for Tunis in preparing for free elections and encouraged the interim government to make further changes in response to the protests.
[...]
Switzerland has already frozen assets linked to the family, who are thought to have siphoned off millions during their years in power. The EU is looking to follow suit when foreign ministers meet next week, with Paris prosecutors having already opened an investigation into the family's holdings. The US treasury has asked American banks to report on Tunisian transactions and Washington has revoked visas for Ben Ali and his family.
[...]

Bolivia
9) Thousands chew coca in Bolivia protest
Associated Press, Wednesday, January 26, 2011; 3:01 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/26/AR2011012605157.html

La Paz, Bolivia - Thousands have taken to the streets in Bolivia to chew coca leaf in support of the country's bid to remove an international prohibition on the age-old practice.

The chief target of Wednesday's peaceful protest was the U.S. Embassy.

Coca is a mild stimulant of high religious and social value in the Andes. It fights hunger and alleviates altitude sickness. But it is also the raw material of cocaine.

Washington last week formally objected to Bolivia's proposal to remove a prohibition on coca chewing from the international Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Bolivia's U.N. Ambassador Pablo Solon says that Bolivia does not seek to remove coca from a list of controlled substances.

-

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