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Sunday, December 9, 2012
Excerpts: Support for Syria rebels expanding. Egypts NSF rejects dialogue with Mursi. Morsi annuls controversial decree. Hamas chief: no recognition of Israel. Jordan protects its border with Syria December 09, 2012

Excerpts: Support for Syria rebels expanding. Egypt's NSF rejects dialogue
with Mursi. Morsi annuls controversial decree. Hamas chief: no recognition
of Israel. Jordan protects its border with Syria December 09, 2012

+++SOURCE: The Guardian via Egypt Daily News 9 Dec.’12:”France funding
Syrian rebels in new push to oust Assad”, Martin Chulov in Ankara
SUBJECT: Support for Syria rebels expanding
QUOTE: “French moves have stopped short of direct supply of weapons”
FULL TEXT:Money delivered by French government proxies across Turkish border
has been used to buy weapons and ammunition

France has emerged as the most prominent backer of Syria's armed opposition
and is now directly funding rebel groups around Aleppo as part of a new push
to oust the embattled Assad regime.

Large sums of cash have been delivered by French government proxies across
the Turkish border to rebel commanders in the past month, diplomatic sources
have confirmed. The money has been used to buy weapons inside Syria and to
fund armed operations against loyalist forces.

The French moves have stopped short of direct supply of weapons – a bridge
that no western state has yet been willing to cross in Syria. But, according
to western and Turkish officials as well as rebel leaders, the influx of
money has made a difference in recent weeks as momentum on the battlefields
of the north steadily shifts towards the opposition.

Some of the French cash has reached Islamist groups who were desperately
short of ammunition and who had increasingly turned for help towards
al-Qaida aligned jihadist groups in and around Aleppo.

One such group, Liwa al-Tawhid, an 8,000-strong militia that fights under
the Free Syria Army banner, said it had been able to buy ammunition for the
first time since late in the summer, a development that would help it resume
military operations without the support of implacable jihadi organisations,
such as Jabhat al-Nusra, which is now playing a lead role in northern Syria.

The French newspaper le Figaro reported this week that French military
advisers had recently met with rebel groups inside Syria, in an area between
Lebanon and Damascus, in further evidence of efforts by Paris to step up
pressure on president Assad.

France has suggested that rebels should be given "defensive weapons" to use
against the regime and was the first country to recognise a recalibrated
political body as the legitimate voice of he Syrian people.

France has given a steady flow of humanitarian aid in recent months,
including funds to rebel-held parts of Syria so that these "liberated zones"
could begin to restore infrastructure and services for civilians. In
September, the French defence minister stressed France was not providing
weapons.

Foreign Secretary William Hague has added impetus to the new push to arm the
opposition, again suggesting Britain would support moves to lift an arms
embargo on the rebels.

A flurry of diplomatic moves this week, after months of political torpor,
appear to have revitalised opposition efforts throughout Syria. The frantic
diplomacy has been driven by fears that Syrian officials might use their
stocks of chemical weapons as a last resort on battlefields that are no
longer under their control.

A rebel siege of Damascus has now entered its second week. And although
loyalist army divisions appear at no immediate risk of losing the capital,
military units elsewhere in the country have lost influence over large
swathes of land and are under increasing pressure over supply lines.

Rebels have been under pressure from the US, Britain, France and Turkey to
fight under a joint command and control structure rather than as an
assortment of militias, which often work at cross purposes.

At a meeting in Istanbul on Friday[7 Dec.], commanders of the Free Syria
Army – more of a brand than a fighting force throughout the civil war –
agreed to establish a 30-member unified leadership.

After 21 months of crumbling state control in Syria, western diplomats in
Ankara and elsewhere in the Arab world appear to be shifting their thinking
from trying to manage the consequences to planning the future course.

"Assad won't be here next December," a senior Turkish official predicted.
"Even the Russians have moderated on this. When we used to talk to them
about Assad going, it was point-blank refusal. Now they are looking for
common ground and wanting to exchange ideas."

The official said the US has also recently stepped up its efforts to oust
Assad, but was not yet talking about arming the opposition and was refusing
to deal with Islamist groups, such as Liwa al-Tawhid.

"What has happened with Jabhat al-Nusra (gaining influence), I would say is
a product of (US) attitudes," he said. "They have a template by which they
operate. And if a group fits perfectly into that, well that's fine. And if
they don't it's a problem for them.

"Some of these groups have been forced to pretend that they are jihadists in
order to get what they want."

US officials this week said that Turkey, for its part, was not prepared to
directly lead the international response to Syria and was expecting
Washington to fill that void.

President Barack Obama's warning during the week to Assad not to use
chemical weapons was seen as his most strident stance yet, but it signalled
no shift from an official wariness of the opposition, which had become more
pronounced as jihadist groups gained prominence around Aleppo from late in
the summer.

Turkey also remains wary of a potential threat from chemical weapons.
However, officials said they were not convinced that even cornered regime
leaders would use them.

Ankara will soon to take delivery of several patriot missile batteries,
along with 400 German troops who will operate them along the southern border
with Syria.

Officials say the increased Nato presence in Turkey makes it likely that
Turkish air space and military bases would be used in the event of a
decision being made by the US to seize Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles.

"That would have to be dealt with through existing mechanisms of Nato," the
official said. "There is now a framework in place."

· More on this story
· Syria conflict: William Hague renews warning over chemical weapons
Foreign secretary says he has seen evidence that Assad's forces are
preparing to launch chemical attack against rebels

· US uses rumours of chemical weapons to underpin threat of action in Syria

+++SOURCE: Al Arabiya News via Egypt Daily News 9 Dec.’12:”Egypt’s National
Salvation Front rejects dialogue with Mursi”,
SUBJECT: Egypt’s National Salvation Front(NSF) rejects diaslogue with Mursi

QUOTE::” NSF:call for dialogue. . .was but a maneuver to ‘gain time and
impose a de facto situation”

Egypt’s National Salvation Front said a call for dialogue by the president
was but a maneuver to “gain time and impose a de facto situation.” (Al
Arabiya)

FULL TEXT:Egypt’s National Salvation Front (NSF) rejected dialogue with
President Mohammed Mursi and called on people to continue protests in Cairo’s
Tahrir Square until a controversial constitutional declaration is withdrawn.

The opposition movement, of major liberal democratic parties and movements,
also called on President Mursi to disband what it said were “armed militias”
of the Muslim Brotherhood.

It said a call for dialogue by the President late on Friday[7 Dec.] was but
a maneuver to “gain time and impose a de facto situation.”

Randa Abul Azm, Al Arabiya correspondent in Cairo, reported, quoting
sources, that President Mursi after talks with a number of political leaders
on Saturday[8 Dec.] was considering an amendment to his constitutional
declaration.

Mursi had called for a dialogue Saturday[8 Dec.] to discuss how to resolve
the disagreement as his vice president suggested that a Dec. 15
constitutional referendum could be delayed.

But the main opposition leaders declined to attend, saying talks can only
take place if Mursi rescinds his decrees and cancels the referendum.

Most of the public figures at the meeting were Islamists, with the exception
of liberal opposition politician Ayman Nour.

And at least three members left the talks soon after they started. Ahmed
Mahran, a lawyer who was among them, said: “It was a one-way conversation,”
accusing presidential advisers of refusing to listen.

Egypt’s once all-powerful military, which temporarily took over governing
the country after the revolution that ousted autocratic leader Hosni
Mubarak, was largely sidelined weeks after Mursi was elected.

Weeks after he was sworn in, Mursi ordered the two top generals to retire
and gave himself legislative powers that the military had assumed in the
absence of a parliament, which had been dissolved by the courts.

The current crisis was sparked Nov. 22 when Mursi granted himself authority
free of judicial oversight, alleging that judges loyal to the former regime
were threatening the constitutional drafting process and the transition to
democracy.

But the move touched off a new wave of opposition and unprecedented clashes
between the president’s Islamist supporters led by the Muslim Brotherhood
and protesters accusing him of becoming a new strongman.

At least six civilians have been killed and several offices of the president’s
Muslim Brotherhood torched in the unrest. The two sides also have staged a
number of sit-ins around state institutions, including the presidential
palace where some of the most violent clashes occurred.

With the increasing polarization and the specter of internal fighting
looming, the military began reasserting itself, with soldiers sealing off
the presidential palace with tanks and barbed wire. Its warning on Saturday
marked the first time the military returned to the political fray.

Failing to reach a consensus, “is in the interest of neither side. The
nation as a whole will pay the price,” the military said, adding it
“realizes its national responsibility in protecting the nation’s higher
interests” and state institutions.

Images of the military’s elite Republican Guards unit surrounding the area
around the palace also showed one of the most high-profile troop deployment
since the army handed over power to Mursi on June 30.

A sit-in by Mursi’s opponents around the palace continued Saturday, with
protesters setting up roadblocks with tanks behind them amid reports that
the president’s supporters planned rival protests. By midday Saturday, TV
footage showed the military setting up a new wall of cement blocks around
the palace.

The president has insisted his decrees were meant to protect the country’s
transition to democracy from former regime figures trying to derail it.

Muslim Brotherhood leaders, meanwhile, made their highest profile
appearances since the dispute began. The group’s top leader Mohammed Badie
and his powerful deputy Khairat el-Shater held press conferences Saturday
alleging there was a conspiracy to topple Mursi but presenting little proof.

Badie said the opposition has accused his group of violence but is instead
responsible for the attacks on Muslim Brotherhood offices. He also claimed
that most of those killed in last week’s violence at the Palace and other
governorates were members of the Brotherhood.

“These are crimes, not opposition or disagreement in opinion,” he said.

Meanwhile, with a dialogue largely boycotted by the main opposition players,
members of a so-called Alliance of Islamists forces warned it will take all
measures to protect “legitimacy” and the president, in comments signaling
continued tension.

“We will not allow the revolution to be stolen again,” el-Shater said. “Our
main job is to support legitimacy and stop the plot to bring down the
president.”

Mostafa el-Naggar, a former lawmaker and protest leader during the uprising
that led to Mubarak’s ouster in February 2011, said the conspiracy alleged
by the Brotherhood “doesn’t exist.” El-Naggar added that the Brotherhood and
military statements suggested the crisis was far from over.

“The military is saying it is still here and will interfere when necessary.
This is believed to be when there is widespread infighting,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said Mursi and his group are threatening to widen the conflict
by portraying the opposition as conspirators against Islam.

“As it stands, Egypt is captive to internal decisions of the Brotherhood,”
he said

+++SOURCE: Naharnet (Lebanon) 0 Dec.’12:”Morsi Annuls Controversial Decree,
Will Hold Referendum on Time”, Agence France Presse
SUBJECT: Morsi annuls controversial decree

QUOTE:” ‘The constitutional decree is annulled from this moment’ “; “A
referendum on a draft constitution would however still go ahead”

FULL TEXT:Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Saturday]8 Dec.] annulled a
decree he issued last month expanding his powers, an official told a Cairo
news conference.

"The constitutional decree is annulled from this moment," said Selim al-Awa,
an Islamist politician acting as spokesman of a meeting Morsi held earlier
with other political leaders.

A referendum on a draft constitution would however still go ahead as planned
on December 15, Awa said, explaining that constitutionally Morsi was unable
to change the date.

The two issues -- the decree and the referendum -- were at the heart of
anti-Morsi protests that have rocked Egypt in the past two weeks.

The controversial decree issued November 22 had put Morsi's decisions beyond
judicial review -- a high-handed measure fiercely denounced as dictatorial
by the opposition.

Opposition leaders demanded it be rescinded and the referendum be scrapped
before they entered into any dialogue with Morsi to calm a crisis which
exploded into street clashes this week that left seven people dead and
hundreds injured.

Egypt's powerful military on Saturday[8 Dec.] warned Morsi and the
opposition to sit down for talks, otherwise it would take steps to prevent a
"disastrous" degradation of the situation.

Meanwhile, the opposition called for daily street protests to continue
against Morsi until he accedes to their demands to give up expanded powers
and drop the referendum on the new draft constitution.

"We call on Egyptian youth to hold peaceful demonstrations and sit-ins in
all of Egypt's squares until our demands are met," the National Rescue Front
said, in a statement read to media by one of its leaders, Mohamed Abu
al-Ghar.

He added: "The will of the people is turning toward a general strike."

The Front's statement called on Morsi to disband organized militias, to
investigate clashes between rival camps that left seven dead and hundreds
injured in Cairo on Wednesday[5 Dec.] and to denounce violence between
protester camps.

On Saturday[8 Dec.] afternoon, hundreds of anti-Morsi protesters gathered in
front of the presidential palace for what have become nightly
demonstrations.

Friday gathered more than 10,000 people, who pulled aside army barbed-wire
barricades and clambered atop tanks to call loudly for Morsi to step down
before they peacefully dispersed hours later.

+++SOURCE: Jordan Times 9 Dec.’12:”Hamas leader calls for ‘all Palestine’
national unity”, Agence France Presse
SUBJECT: Hamas chief: no recognition of Israel

QUOTE: Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mishaal… rejected on Saturday(8 Dec.]
ceding ‘an inch’ of Palestinian territory to Israel or recognising it”

FULL TEXT:GAZA CITY — Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mishaal rejected on
Saturday ceding “an inch” of Palestinian territory to Israel or recognising
it, in a speech in Gaza marking the 25th anniversary of the Islamist group’s
founding.

“Palestine is our land and nation from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the
[Jordan] River, from north to south, and we cannot cede an inch or any part
of it,” he said of the borders currently held by Israel and the Palestinian
Authority, at a rally marking the 25th foundation of Hamas.

“Resistance is the right way to recover our rights, as well as all forms of
struggle — political, diplomatic, legal and popular, but all are senseless
without resistance,” he said on a historic first visit to Gaza.

Turning to the question of Palestinian unity, he said: “We are a single
authority, a single reference, and our reference is the PLO, which we want
united.”

That was a reference to the Palestine Liberation Organisation which, in the
eyes of the international community, is the sole body that purports to speak
for all the Palestinian people.

Hamas does not belong to the PLO, whose chairman is Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas, but Mishaal said a year ago that it and other factions were
“on the path to joining” it.

His remarks could be seen as the latest bid by Hamas to integrate with the
PLO and consolidate Palestinian ranks.

In 2006, Hamas won a landslide general election victory, routing Abbas’
long-dominant Fateh Party.

Some 18 months later, Hamas ousted Fateh forces from Gaza after several
weeks of running street battles, and the Islamist group now rules it. As a
result, Abbas now holds sway only over the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Mishaal crossed into Gaza from Egypt on Friday[7 Dec.] on his first ever
visit and his first to the Palestinian territories since 1975, accompanied
by his deputy Moussa Abu Marzuk.

He spoke at a rally organisers said was attended by more than 100,000
supporters in Al Qitaba complex west of Gaza City, which was transformed
into a sea of green Hamas flags.

The celebrations come just over two weeks after an Egyptian-brokered truce
ended eight days of bloodshed with Israel which left 174 Palestinians dead.

“We used only 10 per cent of our capacity in the fighting,” a masked
spokesman for Hamas military wing the Izzeddine Al Qassam Brigades told the
crowd.

“If you had escalated [your attacks], so would we have,” he told Israel. “We
will cut the hand that extends in aggression against our people and
leaders.”

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ofir Gendelman,
retorted on Twitter that Hamas was celebrating “25 years of murdering
Israelis by rockets and suicide bombings, as well as executing Fateh members
and violating Pal human rights.”

A huge portrait of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, assassinated by Israel
in 2004, dominated the main stage, as did one of Hamas military commander
Ahmed Jaabari, whose killing by Israel set off last month’s deadly
bloodshed.

Between them was a model of an M75 rocket of the sort fired at Israeli
cities during the conflict.

On the backdrop was a model of Jerusalem’s golden Dome of the Rock, which
appears on the Hamas emblem.

Founded in 1987 shortly after the start of the first Palestinian Intifada,
or uprising, Hamas was inspired by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Its charter calls for the eventual destruction of Israel and the
establishment of an Islamic state on the pre-1948 borders of the British
Palestine Mandate.

Hamas and Fateh signed a reconciliation deal early last year that was
supposed to have paved the way for the long-delayed elections to be held in
both the West Bank and Gaza, but bickering has hampered its implementation.

Speaking on Friday[7 Dec.], Mishaal promised to “walk down the route of
reconciliation, bury the division [with Fateh] and empower unity in order to
be aligned as one in the face of the Zionist entity”, Israel

+++SOURCE: Jordan Times 9 Dec.’12:”Jordan will respond to gunfire on Syria
border” by Hani Hazaimeh
SUBJECT: Jordan protects its border with Syria
QUOTE:” ‘We will act immediately and adequately if the gunfire exchange
between the Syrian rivals reaches our border’ “
EXCERPTS:AMMAN — The government on Saturday[8 Dec.] reiterated that the
Jordan Armed Forces (JAF) will respond to any gunfire on the Kingdom’s
border after a soldier was injured on Friday[7 Dec.] by gunshots from the
Syrian side.

“We will act immediately and adequately if the gunfire exchange between the
Syrian rivals reaches our border,” Government Spokesperson Samih Maaytah
told The Jordan Times on Saturday[8 Dec.].

“The JAF’s first priority is to defend and protect our national soil and our
people. We are not part of the conflict in neighbouring Syria and we have
constantly said that we do not interfere in the internal affairs of other
countries,” Maaytah said.

He added that the military has been playing a humanitarian role, receiving
Syrian refugees who cross the borders to escape the violence and the
fighting in their homeland.

. . .

“Since the military operations started in Syria, the JAF have practised
maximum levels of self-restraint despite several incidents where our border
guard units had been shot at,” the statement said.

“However, and based on its national mandate to defend the country, the army
personnel responded to the source of the gunfire and will not hesitate in
the future to do whatever is needed to protect our territory,” the army
added.. . .

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

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