Friday, November 9, 2007

US embassy at Corinthia ‘open for business’ despite terror threats

by Matthew Vella from Malta Today (Malta)

Deputy chief of mission Jason Davis said the US embassy would continue to work with the Libyan government on countering any security threats, after Zawahiri announced a new Libyan arm of Al Qaeda and called for the overthrow of the leaders of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco over their support for Washington’s so-called war on terror ... Zawahiri also called for attacks on French and Spanish interests across North Africa, singling out the leaders Mohammed Ghaddafi, Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI. Zawahiri said that a Libyan Islamist group had joined the network, the second in north Africa after Algeria’s Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat. “The esteemed leaders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group have announced their allegiance to the Al-Qaeda network,” he said.

Africa's unfolding desert war

by Dulue Mbachu from ISN Security Watch (Switzerland)

The US initiated military programs with several countries bordering this region - the flagship of which is the Operation Flintlock exercises - to improve the ability to deter the threat. An important test for this military policy occurred on 13 September, when a US Hercules transport plane was hit by small arms fire while re-supplying Malian troops encircled by Tuareg rebels in the northern town of Tin-Zaouatene. No lives were lost and the plane returned safely to base, but the incident was a pointer to the unfolding violence in the Sahara Desert and its potential to become, like Iraq and Afghanistan, another theater of war between the US and Islamic forces ... According to a 2006 report by the US State Department, while the extent of activities of terrorist groups in West and Central Africa was unknown, it was certain that groups supporting or affiliated to al-Qaida were engaging in fund-raising and recruitment activities in places like Nigeria and countries of the trans-Sahara belt. Though the Nigerian Taliban were routed by the country's security forces, there are fears that similarly inspired radical elements may regroup and make their presence felt at any time. Under the US military program, started in 2005, US$500 million will be spent over seven years to train thousands of African troops drawn from the trans-Saharan area including Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Morocco and Tunisia. US military strategy for West Africa, within the framework of the global war on terror, appears to be to work with the regional militaries to keep out suspected terrorist groups while securing oil interests in the Gulf of Guinea.

UN Members Urged to Pull Human Rights Council Into Line

by Patrick Goodenough from

Twenty-seven non-governmental organizations led by U.N. Watch and Freedom House have written to all U.N. member states, asking them to amend the package. The proposed changes to council procedures would make it harder than ever to introduce resolutions against "serial abusers" like North Korea and Sudan, said Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based NGO affiliated with the American Jewish Committee. "U.N. officials and member states have one last chance to save the Human Rights Council from itself," he said. In a separate appeal to the General Assembly, the press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders focused on the decision not to renew the mandates of the investigators -- known in U.N. jargon as "special rapporteurs" -- for Cuba and Belarus ... The council's members include countries that rights campaigners name among the world's worst abusers, including China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Russia. "Some appear more determined to use the council to defend abusive governments than to protect the victims of human rights violations," U.S. diplomat Robert Hagen told the General Assembly on Tuesday.

Pinoy workers in Saudi ask labor chief to resign

from MSN/Sunnex

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia are calling for the resignation of Labor Secretary Arturo Brion following the “mysterious death” of a Filipino domestic helper. Richard Bautista, spokesman for the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS), said the death of Anita Carvajal Morales is the latest incident committed against the Filipino workers abroad. Bautista said Morales who was found dead inside the toilet of a police station in Riyadh was really disturbing since she is allowed to go home that time after the charges of stealing filed against her was withdrawn. “Labor Secretary Arturo Brion should resign from his Manila office after his statement of respect for OFWs fell into deaf ears while murder, rape, unpaid wages of Filipino workers and physical abuse by Saudi employers continue unabated here in Riyadh,” he said.

Muslim rivalry hits New York prisons

by Joseph Goldstein from The New York Sun (US)

Shiite inmates have long demanded their own chaplains and a separate place to pray on Fridays, apart from other Muslim inmates. A little-noticed federal court ruling improves the prospects that Shiite inmates will see their demands met ... Imam Sabree, who is a Muslim chaplain in Georgia's state prisons, questioned why a prison system should distinguish between the two Muslim denominations when inmates from a variety of Protestant groups routinely pray together. "That would be similar to Baptists saying they didn't want to worship with United Methodists," he said ... The plaintiffs say the more than 40 Muslim chaplains employed by the state are predominately Sunni and influenced by the Saudi Arabian movement of Wahhabism. "In the places where it's been most tense, a lot of times the chaplains have been at fault," a Muslim chaplain who retired in 2006 from the prison system after 18 years, Dawoud Adeyola, said. He is not connected to the lawsuit. The Muslim prison chaplaincy has been under scrutiny since a 2003 Wall Street Journal article disclosed that after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, two New York chaplains spoke in support of the attacks.

The Council of Ministers Approves Saudi Reinsurance Company

by Saudi Reinsurance Company from PRNewswire

The Council of Ministers of Saudi Arabia has approved the establishment of the professional reinsurance company operating in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to be incorporated as Saudi Re, "E'ada". This comes subsequent to the approval of 20 insurance companies as at October 31 to operate under the new Saudi Insurance Law and the Implementing Regulations as issued by Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA). With Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) reinsurance market of over US$3.3 billion and a Saudi reinsurance market of US$0. 7 billion, Saudi Arabia stands as one of the most important and major reinsurance market in the area with an outstanding growth potential. Saudi Re will have a capital of a billion Saudi Riyals (US$267 million). According to the decision of SAMA it will offer 40% of its shares to the public after getting the regulatory approval from the Capital Market Authority (CMA). The Saudi Hollandi Bank was appointed by the company as financial advisor. Saudi Re's head quarter will be in Riyadh and it will operate, at the beginning, in the Saudi, GCC and other neighboring countries. The establishment of the company was promoted by Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Brothers who are known to have established the first insurance company in Saudi Arabia in the early 1960's.

Reforms Will Make Saudi Arabia A True Ally

by Shadi Hamid and Stephen McInerney from The New Republic

Policymakers should not mistake the difficulty of reform for the intractability of autocracy; America can leverage its support to shape Arab regimes' decisions on democratization. This is particularly true for the ruling al-Saud family, which is intimately tied to the U.S. and dependent on its military backing. The arms deal presents an opportunity for Washington to exert influence in Riyadh. This opening should be seized to push the Saudis along the path of reform, the only path that will lead to long-term security. We have leverage, and we should use it. First, all arms sales should be contingent on the implementation of the promised educational and judicial reforms. Second, the United States should require progress on political reform, beginning with greater freedoms of press and assembly, and allowing public dissent on policy matters. Beyond this, deadlines should be set for long-awaited Shura (Consultative) Council elections, followed by benchmarks for the steady evolution of the council from an advisory role to a genuine legislative body. Third, transparency and fairness in the justice system, even when dealing with terror suspects, should be required. Such measures can be enforced much as Saudi cooperation on counterterrorism efforts is maintained today - through a certification process mandated by law. Making assistance, and particularly large weapons deals, conditional upon clear, political reform benchmarks will not only offer hope for the beleaguered Saudi population, but also chip away at the repression that breeds the very terrorists whom we need the Saudis' help in fighting. Only then can Saudi Arabia be rightly considered a true ally in the fight against terror.

Islamic banking in Pakistan set to get major boost

from The Economic Times (India)

Khalid Rafi, Chairman Islamic Capital Partners, said the Islamic banking in Pakistan would achieve 12% share of the overall financial sector in the country by 2012. He said it roughly translates into an additional growth of USD 15 billion in deposits over the next five years. "Today, we have six full Islamic banks operational in the country that have been established with support from leading financial institutions from the GCC (Gulf coordination committee) ... Islamic banks have launched an aggressive outreach campaign and have added 140 branches in just 18 months. The total branch network stands close to 218, and is set to quadruple over next four years, he was quoted as saying by the Daily Times newspaper today. Foreign investors are showing increasing interest in Pakistans Islamic banking, with direct investments exceeding Rs 2,000 crore, a report had said last month.