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Saturday, December 8, 2012
Excerpts: Egypts path to martial law? Russians are fleeing Syria. Calm restored in Egypt. Peres: Abbas serious partner for peace December 08, 2012

Excerpts: Egypt's path to martial law? Russians are fleeing Syria. Calm
restored in Egypt. Peres: Abbas "serious partner" for peace December 08,
2012

+++SOURCE: New York Times 8 Dec.’12:”Egypt’s Leader Seen on a Path to
Martial Law”By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
· SUBJECT: Egypt’s path to martial law ?

· QUOTE:”President Hohamed Morsi is moving to impose a version of martial
law “

· FULL TEXT:CAIRO — Struggling to quell street protests and political
violence, President Mohamed Morsi is moving to impose a version of martial
law by calling on the armed forces to keep order and authorizing soldiers to
arrest civilians, Egyptian state media announced Saturday[8 Dec.].

· Morsi Turns to His Islamist Backers as Egypt’s Crisis Grows(December 8,
2012)If Mr. Morsi goes through with the plan, it would represent a historic
role reversal. Before the ouster of Hosni Mubarak last year, Egypt’s
military-backed authoritarian presidents had spent six decades warning
against the threat of an Islamist takeover and using martial law to hold
onto their power. Mr. Morsi, a former leader of the once-banned Muslim
Brotherhood, and many of his fellow Islamists were jailed under those
decrees for their opposition to the government.

A turn back to the military would come just four months after Mr. Morsi
managed to pry political power out of the hands of the generals, who refused
for months after his election to allow him full presidential power.

The flagship state newspaper Al Ahram reported that Mr. Morsi “will soon
issue a decision for the participation of the armed forces in the duties of
maintaining security and protection of vital state institutions.” The
military would maintain its expanded role until the completion of a
referendum on a draft constitution next Saturday and the election of a new
Parliament expected two months after that.

The announcement of impending martial law marked the steepest escalation yet
in the political battle between Egypt’s new Islamist leaders and their
secular opponents over the Islamist-backed draft constitution — a standoff
that has already threatened to derail Egypt’s promised transition to a
constitutional democracy.

Calling in the army could overcome the danger of protests or violence that
might disrupt the planned referendum on the constitution and the election of
a new parliament to follow. But resorting to the military to secure the vote
could undermine Mr. Morsi’s efforts to end the political crisis threatening
his rule if it delegitimizes the new charter as an expression of national
consensus and a vote of confidence in him.

Although the plan would not fully suspend the civil law, it would
nonetheless have the effect of suspending legal rights by empowering
soldiers under the control of the defense minister to try civilians in
military courts.

There was no sign of military tanks in the streets Saturday[8 Dec.] evening,
but the military appeared for now to back Mr. Morsi. Soon after the news of
Mr. Morsi’s plans, a military spokesman read a statement over state
television that echoed the reports of Mr. Morsi’s planned decree.

The military “realizes its national responsibility for maintaining the
supreme interests of the nation and securing and protecting the vital
targets, public institutions, and the interests of the innocent citizens,”
the spokesman said, emphasizing the “sorrow and concern” over recent
developments and warning of “divisions that threaten the state of Egypt.”

“Dialogue is the best and sole way to reach consensus that achieves the
interests of the nation and the citizens,” the spokesman said. “Anything
other than that puts us in a dark tunnel with drastic consequences, which is
something that we will not allow.”

Mr. Morsi’s relationship with the military has been fraught since he was
elected president in June in Egypt’s first free vote for president. The
generals at first had sought a continuing role in Egyptian politics — in
part their supporters argued, as a safeguard against an Islamist takeover.

But after taking office Mr. Morsi spent months courting the generals,
sometimes earning the derision of liberal activists for his public flattery
of their role. In an August decree, he relied on the backing of some top
officers to remove the handful of generals who had insisted on maintaining a
political role. And then last month, despite the protests of the same
activists, the new Islamist-backed draft constitution turned out to include
protections of the military’s autonomy and privileges within the Egyptian
government, suggesting an understanding between the two sides that may now
come into effect.

Under the president’s planned martial law order, the defense minister would
determine the scope of the military’s role, Al Ahram reported. Military
officers acting as police officers would be authorized “to use force to the
extent necessary to perform their duty,” the newspaper said.

The move would cap an extraordinary breakdown in Egyptian civic life that in
the last two weeks has destroyed almost any remaining trust between the
rival Islamist and secular factions, beginning with Mr. Morsi’s decree on
Nov. 22 granting himself powers above any judicial review until the
ratification of a new constitution.

At the time, Mr. Morsi said he needed such unchecked power to protect
against the threat that Mubarak-appointed judges might dissolve the
constitutional assembly. He used his decree to try to give the assembly a
two-month extension on its year-end deadline to forge consensus between the
Islamist majority and the secular faction — something liberals have sought.

But his claim to such unlimited power for even a limited period struck those
suspicious of the Islamists as a return to autocracy. It recalled broken
promises from the Muslim Brotherhood that it would not dominate the
parliamentary election or seek the presidency. And his decree set off an
immediate backlash.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters accusing Mr. Morsi and his Islamist
allies of monopolizing power have poured into the streets. Demonstrators
attacked more than two dozen Brotherhood offices around the country,
including its headquarters. And judges declared a national strike.

In response, Mr. Morsi’s Islamist allies in the assembly stayed up all night
to rush out a draft constitution this month over the boycotts and objections
of the secular minority and the Coptic Christian church. Then, worried that
the Interior Ministry might fail to protect the presidential palace from
sometimes-violent demonstrations outside, Mr. Morsi turned to the Muslim
Brotherhood and other Islamist groups to defend it, resulting in a night of
street fighting that killed at least six and wounded hundreds.

International experts who monitored the constituent assembly’s work say that
before the crisis, the Islamists and their secular foes had appeared close
to resolving their differences and uniting around a document that both sides
could accept. Even the draft charter, ultimately rushed out almost
exclusively with Islamist support, stops short of the liberals’ worst fears
about the imposition of religious rule. But it leaves loopholes and
ambiguities that liberals fear Islamists could later use to empower
religious groups or restrict individual freedoms. The secular opposition has
likened it to the theocracy established by the Iranian revolution of 1979.

Mr. Morsi’s political allies, in turn, accuse their secular opponents of
seeking to scrap democracy because the Islamists won.

Mr. Morsi’s advisers say he has tried to offer a series of compromises to
calm the streets. He has declared an end to his expanded powers after next
weekend’s referendum even if the constitution is rejected. And on Friday
night, government officials opened the door to a delay in that vote so that
the constituent assembly can make further amendments, if secular opponents
would agree to the terms.

But Mr. Morsi’s Islamist allies also say they are convinced the secular
opposition is negotiating in bad faith and in fact seeking to topple the
president— the main chant of the protesters outside his palace. Equally
dubious of Mr. Morsi’s willingness to compromise, his secular opponents are
insisting that he revamp the constitutional drafting process before they sit
down for any talks.

+++Source: Middle East Watch via NAHARNET 8 Dec . ’12:”The Russians are
fleeing Syria”

SUBJECT: Russian support of Syria

QUOTE:” ‘Moscow will support the Assad regime primarily at the political
level, intelligence and humanitarian spheres. There are no large weapons
shipments planned’ reported the

FULL TEXT:“Russia has suspended use of its naval base in Tartus, Syria. But
it refuses to rule out using it in the future. In addition, the central
principles of cooperation with Damascus in the military sphere have been
set: Moscow will support the Assad regime primarily at the political level,
intelligence and humanitarian spheres. There are no large weapons shipments
planned” reported the Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

All 11 Russian ships from the Black Sea Fleet, Northern Fleet and the Baltic
Fleet (including Alexander Otrakovsky, Georgy Pobedonosets and Kondopoga
which are carrying marines) that were stationed near Tartus have left the
Mediterranean sea and returned to their bases during the last couple of
weeks.

It is estimated that the Russians drastically reduced their presence in
anticipation of an imminent massive western intervention in Syria

+++SOURCE: Naharnet (Lebanon) 8 Dec.’12:”Egypt Violence Subsides as Military
Warns of ‘Disastrous Result’s without dialogue”, Agence France PresseEgypt
Violence
SUBJECT: Calm restored in Egypt

QUOTES:”the powerful military threw its weight behind dialogue”;”the
underlying political crisis dividing the crisis continued”;”the military . .
.pointedly not taking sides”

FULL TEXT:Calm was restored to Egypt on Saturday[8 Dec.] as the powerful
military threw its weight behind dialogue to resolve the political crisis
dividing the nation, warning it would "not allow" events to take a
"disastrous" turn.

A mass overnight protest against President Mohammed Morsi ended peacefully,
but the underlying political crisis dividing the country persisted.

More than 100 protesters remained outside the presidential palace in Cairo,
watched over by soldiers who used tanks and barbed wire to block roads
leading to the compound.

Overnight, more than 10,000 people had massed in the palace square in a
noisy demonstration, tearing aside a barbed-wire barricade and yelling for
Morsi to step down.

The crowd gradually dwindled to a hard core of protesters, repeating a
pattern of nightly protests this week that peaked each evening.

But there was no sign of them faltering in their opposition to the Islamist
president and the sweeping new powers he decreed for himself last month, or
to a controversial draft constitution Morsi is putting to a referendum he
has called for December 15.

Although around 2,000 Morsi supporters from the president's Muslim
Brotherhood held a rival rally just a few kilometers (miles) away, there was
no repeat of the violent clashes between the two sides of Wednesday[5 Dec.]
night. Then, seven people died and more than 640 were hurt.

Since the clashes, Morsi has struck a defiant tone, defending his decree and
the referendum.

But his camp has also made some conciliatory gestures to the mainly secular
opposition, seen as attempts to de-escalate the confrontation.

Morsi offered to hold talks with the opposition on Saturday[8 Dec.], but
that was rebuffed by the National Salvation Front coalition ranged against
him.

One of the Front's leaders, Mohamed ElBaradei, a former U.N. atomic agency
chief and Nobel Peace laureate, stressed late Friday[7 Dec.] that dialogue
could only happen if Morsi agreed to "repeal the decree" and postpone the
referendum.

Vice President Mahmoud Mekki said Morsi "could accept to delay the
referendum," but only if the opposition guaranteed it would launch no legal
challenge to the decision.

Under Egyptian law, a president is compelled to hold a referendum two weeks
after formally being delivered its text.

Mekki said early voting for Egyptians overseas that had been scheduled for
Saturday[8 Dec.] had now been pushed back to Wednesday[[5 Dec.].

And on Saturday[8 Dec.], the Cairo prosecutors' office told AFP that all 133
people arrested during Wednesday's[5 Dec.] clashes had been released.

"The path of dialogue is the best and only way to reach agreement and
achieve the interests of the nation and its citizens," said a statement from
the armed forces -- the first since street protests against President Morsi
erupted more than two weeks ago.

"The opposite of that will take us into a dark tunnel with disastrous
results -- and that is something we will not allow."

The statement said the military would maintain its role safeguarding the
nation's security, pointedly not taking sides.

"The military establishment stands always with the great Egyptian people and
insists on its unity," it said.

"We confirm that we support national dialogue and the path of democracy...
to bring together all factions in the country."

The military's refusal to become embroiled in political differences in Egypt
recalled its hands-off position during the uprising that toppled President
Hosni Mubarak early last year

+++SOURCE: Saudi Gazette 7 Dec.’12:”Israel’s Peres: Abbas still partner for
peace after UN bid”, Agence France Presse
SUBJECT: Peres: Abbas “ serious partner” for peace

QUOTE:”Peres: ‘I think the Quartet should return as a negotiating body’ “

FULL TEXT: OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is still
a “serious partner” for peace despite his successful bid for UN non-state
membership, Israeli President Shimon Peres told AFP in an exclusive
interview on Thursday[6 Dec.].

“I tried to influence him not to do it right now. I told him: look it’s not
the proper time to do it,” Peres said. “But I still believe he’s a serious
partner and a serious man and I have respect for him.”

Abbas, he said, had shown “courage” by seeking the status upgrade at the
United Nations in the face of strong opposition from Israel and the United
States, who say a Palestinian state can only emerge out of bilateral talks.

“He has shown courage not only by going to the United Nations, which I
think —from a point of view of time — was the wrong time, but he stood up
and said ‘I am against terror, I am for peace’,” the Israeli president said.

“Wait, why hurry?” he told Abbas.

“But he felt he was abandoned by us, by America, by Europe by the rest of
the world and he wanted to do something.”

The November 30 vote at the UN drew a furious reaction from the Israeli
government which responded by pledging to build 3,000 new settler homes,
some of them in an extremely sensitive area of the West Bank near Jerusalem.

The move sparked a major diplomatic backlash against the Jewish state,
deepening its isolation on the world stage.

It prompted Peres to call for fresh intervention by the Middle East Quartet,
which comprises diplomats from the United States, the United Nations, Russia
and the European Union.

“We have to ask ourselves what to do now. I think the Quartet should return
as a negotiating body,” he said, indicating the grouping had the
“legitimacy” to mediate.

“They started to do a good job but they were interrupted for different
reasons... now I think they have to return,” he said.

“I think we finished one chapter and we have to return to the other chapter
which is negotiations.” — AFP

==========
Sue Lerner - Associate, IMRA

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