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Saturday, January 19, 2013
Excerpts: Account of terror attack in Algeria. Reported Hizbullah link to Bulgaria anti-Israel bombing. Pres. Morsi amnesty decree for 379. Hamas retains military wing unconditionally. U.S. airports give trusted Saudis fast screening. IAEA/Iran: no deal.

Excerpts: Account of terror attack in Algeria. Reported Hizbullah link to
Bulgaria anti-Israel bombing. Pres. Morsi's amnesty decree for 379.Hamas
retains military wing unconditionally. U.S. airports give 'trusted Saudis'
fast screening. IAEA/Iran: no deal. Saudi Arabia to send Palestinians $100
million.Fateh/Hamas reconciliation accord. Syria-Jordan border threat
January 19, 2013

+++SOURCE: Saudi Gazette 19 Jan.’13:”Survivors recount terrifying ordeal of
desert bloodbath”, Agence France Presse
SUBJECT: Account of terror attack in Algeria
QUOTE:”(Saved hostage): ‘The last 48 hours have been hell”

FULL TEXT:PARIS – Many of them had explosives wrapped around their necks.
Others hid, petrified, under beds, in gaps above ceilings or wherever they
could for nearly two days.

The ordeals suffered by workers caught up in the hostage drama at an
Algerian gas field began to emerge Friday[18 Jan.] as the first survivors to
make contact with friends and family started to tell their horrifying
stories.

Alexandre Berceaux worked for CIS Catering, the French company responsible
for feeding more than 700 workers on the huge Tiguentourine site located in
the desert in Algeria’s deep south.

When dozens of gunmen launched their assault on the complex before dawn
Wednesday[16 Jan.], he was in his room, his rest interrupted by the sound of
an alarm going off.
From the security training all staff are given, he knew that the particular
alarm meant he should stay put but initially assumed it was just a routine
drill.

Repeated bursts of gunfire ensured he soon realized he couldn’t have been
more wrong and the Frenchman made a decision that may have saved his life.

Rather than trying to flee, Berceaux decided to stay in his room and hide
under his bed, where he remained for 40 hours, praying the gunmen would not
find him, before finally being liberated by the Algerian troops who stormed
the site Thursday[17 Jan.] evening.

“I was under the bed and I put boards everywhere just in case,” Berceaux
said Friday[18 Jan.]. “I had a bit of food, a bit to drink, I didn’t know
how long it would last.”

Even when the Algerian forces arrived, Berceaux was reluctant to come out of
his hiding place until he spotted fellow workers.

“I recognized some of my colleagues with them, otherwise I would never have
emerged,” he said. When he did appear, he discovered that three Englishmen
had survived in similar circumstances to himself having hidden in the space
above a dropped ceiling.

Built by Japanese and American companies and operated jointly by Algeria’s
state oil company, Britain’s BP and Norway’s Statoil, the Tiguentourine
complex had employees from all over the world.

Most of what happened when the militants stormed the complex and the
subsequent army assault remained unclear Friday[18 Jan] with efforts to
completely liberate the site still underway.

But based on information filtering out, the gunmen attached explosives to
many of the non-Algerian staff, apparently to ensure any army assault would
result in a maximum number of casualties among the foreigners.

One of them was Stephen McFaul, a 36-year-old electrical engineer from
Belfast who was part of a group which managed to escape when the Algerian
army attacked a convoy of vehicles the militants were using to try and move
some of the hostages to a different location.

According to Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore, McFaul said many of the
hostages had belts of explosives strapped to them.

That confirmed the testimony of a French hostage who spoke to the France 24
television station by phone Thursday[17 Jan.] evening and described how he
was being held in a booby-trapped building along with English, Japanese,
Filipino and Malaysian nationals, some of whom had been tied up and fitted
with explosives.

McFaul’s relieved relatives offered an insight into the agony suffered by
family and friends and how, for many of the survivors, this will have been a
life-changing experience.

“I can’t wait till he gets home. I’m just going to say that he’s never going
back there, I’m not letting him go back,” McFaul’s 13-year-old son, Dylan,
told Sky News.

His father, Christopher, added: “I feel sorry for the other hostages that
are still there. We don’t know what’s happened to them, and the ones who
have been killed – I feel sorry for their families. The last 48 hours have
been hell.” – AFP

+++SOURCE:Naharnet (Lebanon) 19 Jan.’13:”Bulgaria Tight-Lipped after Report
that Hizbullah is Linked to Anti-Israel Bombing”
SUBJECT: Reported Hizbullah link to Bulgaria anti-Israel bombing

QUOTE: Israel: “We will not make any comments before the Bulgarian
government divulges its conclusions and states its opinion”

FULL TEXT:The Bulgarian foreign ministry has declined to comment on a report
that an investigation will link Hizbullah to the July 2012 tourist bombing
that killed five Israelis.

On Thursday[17 Jan.], Israel's Channel 2 reported that the Bulgarian
investigation, which will be released soon, found Hizbullah was behind the
bombing in Burgas that killed the five tourists and their Bulgarian driver.

Bulgaria's Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, declined to comment on the report
in Israeli media.

But Yigal Palmor, spokesman for the ministry of foreign affairs, told The
Jerusalem Post on Friday[18 Jan.]: "We will not make any comments before the
Bulgarian government divulges its conclusions and states its position."

The head of the regional investigation unit in Burgas told the 24 Hours
daily newspaper in a January 3 interview that Sofia had identified and
issued an arrest warrant for one of the accomplices of the man who blew up
the Israeli-packed bus.

But Stanelia Karadzhova was taken off the case for releasing details of the
investigation without clearing it with the supervising prosecutor

Six months after the July 18 attack, Sofia is struggling to identify the
actual bomber, despite having his DNA, fingerprints and a computer-generated
portrait.

This has prevented Bulgaria from pointing the finger at anyone so far.

Immediately after the attack, Israel blamed Iran and Hizbullah for the
bombing

+++SOURCE: Naharnet (Lebanon) 19 Jan.’13:”Egypt Drops Charges against 379
Involved in Deadly Clashes, Agence France Presse
SUBJECT: Pres.Morsi’s amnesty decree for 379
QUOTE:”In October Morsi decided to grant an amnesty to those arrested ‘while
supporting the revolution and implementing its objectives’ ”

FULL TEXT:An Egyptian court on Saturday(19 Jan.] dropped charges against 379
people involved in clashes against the police in 2011, following a decree by
President Mohamed Morsi granting them amnesty, the official MENA news agency
said.

The 379 had been accused of injuring policemen during November 2011 clashes
on Mohammed Mahmoud street, near Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square, that left
dozens dead.

Several rounds of violent protests broke out in the months following the
uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak against the country's military rulers.

In October, Morsi decided to grant an amnesty to those arrested "while
supporting the revolution and implementing its objectives" from the onset of
the uprising on January 25, 2011 and until June 2012 when he was elected
president.

The amnesty also includes those already convicted by courts and those
currently facing trial, according to the decree.

an.’13:”Egypt Drops Charges against 379 Involved in Deadly Clashes, Agence
France Presse
SUBJECT: Pres.Morsi’s amnesty decree for 379
QUOTE:”In October Morsi decided to grant an amnesty to those arrested ‘while
supporting the revolution and implementing its objectives’ ”

FULL TEXT:An Egyptian court on Saturday(19 Jan.] dropped charges against 379
people involved in clashes against the police in 2011, following a decree by
President Mohamed Morsi granting them amnesty, the official MENA news agency
said.

The 379 had been accused of injuring policemen during November 2011 clashes
on Mohammed Mahmoud street, near Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square, that left
dozens dead.

Several rounds of violent protests broke out in the months following the
uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak against the country's military rulers.

In October, Morsi decided to grant an amnesty to those arrested "while
supporting the revolution and implementing its objectives" from the onset of
the uprising on January 25, 2011 and until June 2012 when he was elected
president.

The amnesty also includes those already convicted by courts and those
currently facing trial, according to the decree.

+++SOURCE: Saudi Gazette 18 Jan.’13:”Hamas’ military wing won’t disarm as
part of unity deal”, by Mohammed Mar’i
SUBJECT: Hamas retains military wing unconditionally

QUOTE:”The Hamas military wing announced that it will not disarm as part of
Egypt-mediated unity deal”

FULL TEXT:RAMALLAH – The Hamas military wing announced that it will not
disarm as part of Egypt-mediated unity deal.

Abu Obaida, the spokesman of Izz Ed-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, said that
“dismantling Al-Qassam brigades or integrating them into the security forces
is not up for discussion and a fantasy that will never materialize.”

He was quoted by the Hamas’ official website as saying that “we will not
allow talk of it now or in the future. Those who contemplate erasing it will
be erased from the pages of history.”

“We say that our weapons are legal and aimed only toward the (Israeli)
enemy. It is easier to dismantle the Palestinian Authority than it is to
dismantle us, and we will take them apart before anyone thinks of touching
us,” Abu Obaida added.

On Wednesday[16 Jan.], Moussa Abu Marzouk, the Hamas Deputy Politburo Chief,
said that Hamas will not agree to dismantle its military wing as part of a
reconciliation deal with rival movement Fatah.

Abu Marzouk told the movement’s newspaper Al-Resalah that reconciliation
with Fatah could realistically unravel over the “security” issue, adding
that Hamas will never agree to remove its armed wing from “the equation of
confrontation with the occupation.”

According to Palestinian sources, Fatah is demanding that Hamas dismantle
its armed wing as a condition for reconciliation.

Talks between Fatah and Hamas are set to resume in Cairo on Thursday[24
Jan.]. Fatah officials expressed hope that Hamas will now agree to allow the
Palestinian Central Election Committee to register some Palestinians who do
not appear in the voter registry.

Azzam Al-Ahmed, a member of Fatah Central Committee and head of its team to
Cairo reconciliation talks with Hamas, said that the delegations will settle
the obstacles that block the implementation of the Doha’s reconciliation
deal and particularly the national unity government.

According to the Doha deal, signed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
and Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Mish’al in the presence of Qatari Emir
Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, a unified transitional government will be
formed for the West Bank and Gaza Strip and be headed by Abbas.

The deal also calls for holding elections of Palestinian National Council
(the Palestinian parliament in exile), the reformation of Palestine
Liberation Organization and the reformation of Palestinian security services
in West Bank and Gaza Strip

+++SOURCE:Saudi Gazette 18 Jan.’13:”Fast-track screening for trusted Saudi
passengers at US airports”
SUBJECT: US airports give ‘trusted Saudis’ fast screening
QUOTE:” ‘I am proud of the bond between the United States and the Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia, and today’s meeting marks another major step forward in our
partnership’ said. Secretary Napolitano”

FULL TEXT:WASHINGTON – Saudi Arabia and the US have signed an agreement to
implement trusted traveler program, Global Entry, allowing trusted
passengers to use biometrics to fast track through airport security.

The announcement was jointly made by Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed
Bin Naif Bin Abdul Aziz and US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet
Napolitano during a meeting to discuss the on-going partnership and
cooperation between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to
promote mutual security and economic prosperity.

Global Entry streamlines the screening process at airports for trusted
travelers, allowing customs authorities to focus on those travelers they
know less about.

At the program’s core is a reliance on biometric technology. According to US
Customs and Border Protection, program participants proceed to Global Entry
kiosks, present their machine-readable passport or US permanent resident
card, place their fingertips on the scanner for fingerprint verification,
and make a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction
receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit. Travelers
must be pre-approved for the Global Entry program. All applicants undergo a
rigorous background check and interview before enrollment.

The reciprocal program, which will also facilitate fast-track screening for
pre-vetted Saudi residents, will be implemented over the next six months and
will be completed by 2014.

“I am proud of the bond between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi
Arabia, and today’s meeting marks another major step forward in our
partnership,” said Secretary Napolitano.

“By enhancing cooperation with the Government of Saudi Arabia, we reaffirm
our commitment to more effectively secure our two countries against evolving
threats while facilitating legitimate trade and travel.”

Interior Minister Prince Mohammed also held a meeting with US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton and her deputy William J. Burns separately,
Wednesday[16 Jan.”. They discussed issues relating to Saudi-US bilateral
relations

+++SOURCE: Naharnet (Lebanon) 18 Jan.’13:”IAEA Confirms No Deal With Iran,
New Meeting Feb.12”, Agence France Presse
SUBJECT:IAEA: No deal with Iran

QUOTES:”all. . .International Atomic Energy Agency returned to Vienna with
was an arrangement to meet in the Iranian capital again on Feb.12”; ”Uncompromising
hardliners remain in command (inIran)”

FULL TEXT:The chief U.N. nuclear inspector returned Friday[18 Jan.] from
Iran without a hoped-for deal on investigating its nuclear program,
dampening hopes of progress in renewed talks with world powers.

Instead all a team led by Herman Nackaerts of the International Atomic
Energy Agency returned to Vienna with was an arrangement to meet in the
Iranian capital again on February 12.

"Differences remain so we could not finalize the structured approach to
resolve the outstanding issues regarding possible military dimensions of
Iran's nuclear program," Nackaerts told reporters at Vienna airport.

"We have agreed with Iran that we will meet again on February 12 (in
Tehran)," he said.

The IAEA conducts regular inspections of Iran's declared nuclear facilities
but it also wants access to what it believes are sites where undeclared
activities aimed at developing nuclear weapons took place until 2003, and
possibly since.

Nackaerts had said in December after an earlier visit to Tehran that he had
expected, after a year of trying, to sign this week a "structured approach"
deal that would see Iran answer the allegations against it.

Nackaerts said that during the talks "also on this occasion no access was
granted to Parchin", one of the sites the agency would like to visit.

Iran denies ever having worked on nuclear weapons and says that the IAEA's
evidence is based on faulty intelligence that it has not even been allowed
to see.

It says that because no nuclear activities took place at Parchin, the IAEA
has no business conducting inspections there and that it already went there
twice in 2005.

It was unclear what went wrong this time but in the past Iran has insisted
that the agreement include clauses that could infringe on the IAEA's ability
to conduct proper inspections.

This included for example the IAEA agreeing to "close" an issue for good
once it had been covered, even if new information came to light, or the
agency being able to inspect a site or a document only once, diplomats said.

"It's disappointing, but not all that surprising, that Iran has yet again
failed to follow through on earlier indications of flexibility," said Mark
Fitzpatrick from the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The talks with the IAEA came ahead of a new meeting between Iran and the
P5+1 powers -- the U.S., China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany.

The meeting was expected to be held in January but is taking longer than
envisaged to arrange, either because Iran was waiting until after the IAEA
talks or because Tehran and the six powers are having problems agreeing an
agenda.

This parallel effort is focused more on Iran's current activities, in
particular uranium enrichment, a process that can be used for peaceful
purposes but also for creating the core of a nuclear bomb.

At their last meeting, held in Moscow in June, Tehran rejected P5+1 calls
for it to scale back its nuclear enrichment activities, while asking for
substantial sanctions relief.

Iran's economy is struggling to cope with punitive measures adopted by the
U.S. and the EU targeting its vital oil income and access to global
financial systems.

"I believe some of the actors in Tehran really do want to strike a deal with
the IAEA as a prelude to the more sensitive talks with the P5+1,"
Fitzpatrick told Agence France Presse.

"But getting the political forces in Tehran in alignment on what might look
like a compromise is proving to be too difficult. Uncompromising hardliners
remain in command."

+++SOURCE: Jordan Times 18 Jan.’113:”Saudi Arabia to send cash-strapped
Palestinians $100 million”, Agence France Presse
SUBJECT: Saudi Arabia to send Palestinians $100 million
QUOTE: ”Abbas thanked King Abdullah for the ‘generous gesture’ “
EXCERPTS:RAMALLAH — Saudi Arabia will send the cash-strapped Palestinian
Authority (PA) $100 million to help alleviate its financial crisis, the
official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

In a report late Wednesday[16 Jan.], the agency said that president Mahmoud
Abbas received a call from Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Al Assaf who
“informed him of a decision by King Abdullah... to transfer $100 million to
the budget of the state of Palestine”.

Abbas thanked King Abdullah for the “generous gesture”.

+++SOURCE: Jordan Times 18 Jan.’13:”Palestinian rivals set unity deal
timetable –Fateh”, Agence France Presse
SUBJECT: Fateh/Hamas reconciliation accord
FULL TEXT:RAMALLAH — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fateh and the
rival Hamas agreed on Thursday to revive their long-stalled reconciliation
accord by the end of this month(Jan.], the head of Fateh’s delegation to
talks in Cairo told AFP.

“Fateh and Hamas agreed at a meeting in Cairo on Thursday[17 Jan.] between
delegations of the two movements on a timetable for implementing Palestinian
reconciliation,” Azzam Al Ahmad said by telephone from the Egyptian capital.

“We are in agreement on the mechanisms and timetable to end the division,
the most important being the resumption of operations by the Central
Election Commission (CEC) in the Gaza Strip on the 30th of the month at the
latest and afterwards in the West Bank,” he said.

He added that there would also be a renewal of talks on forming a
non-partisan transitional government ahead of elections.

Ahmad said that the sides also agreed to a session on February 9 of the
provisional governing body of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO),
charged with bringing non-member Hamas and Islamic Jihad into the
organisation.

Thursday’s meeting followed talks in Cairo on January 9 between Abbas and
exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mishaal, their first meeting since February 2012,
when the two leaders pledged to resume the process of reconciliation.

Fateh and Hamas, which respectively govern the autonomous areas of the West
Bank and the Gaza Strip, signed an Egypt-mediated reconciliation agreement
on April 27, 2011 in Cairo.

But most of its clauses went unheeded and deadlines were constantly
postponed.

Hamas and Fateh had been at loggerheads since the Islamist movement seized
control of Gaza in June 2007, following its victory in Palestinian
parliamentary elections the previous year

+++SOURCE: Jordan Times 18 Jan.’13:”Jordan to close Syria border as “last
resort’ “,by Taylor Luck
SUBJECT: Syria-Jordan border threat
QUOTE: Jordan is prepared to close its borders with Syria as a ’last resort’

FULL TEXT:AMMAN — Jordan is prepared to close its borders with Syria as a
“last resort”, according to officials, who stressed that Jordan would
continue to receive the hundreds of refugees fleeing to the country each
day.

The Kingdom has reserved the closure of its northern border as a “drastic
measure” should the Syrian regime collapse or ongoing violence threaten to
spill over onto Jordanian soil, Minister of State for Media Affairs and
Communications and Government Spokesperson Samih Maaytah said on Thursday[17
Jan.].

“In the interest of our national security, we are prepared to close the
border if — God forbid — anarchy breaks out in Syria or we see an
unprecedented humanitarian crisis,” Maaytah told The Jordan Times.

“But if the situation continues as it is we will work on keeping our border
open.”

Maaytah’s comments came as Syrians continued to flee to Jordan in record
numbers with authorities reporting over 3,000 new arrivals in less than 48
hours.

According to security sources, more than 1,800 Syrians crossed into Jordan
early Thursday [17 Jan.], on the heels of some 1,500 on Wednesday[16 Jan.],
raising the total number of new arrivals over the past week to over 7,000.

“Every evening the numbers just seem to get bigger and bigger,” said the
source, who is stationed along the border region.

The flow of refugees continues to rise amid intensified clashes between
regime and rebel forces across Syria, with renewed aerial assaults of
several cities and villages in the south.

Rebels say the up-tick in violence — particularly an alleged government
massacre of 106 civilians in the central city of Homs on Wednesday[16
Jan.] — has sparked a “mass exodus” to southern Syria, claiming that some
15,000 displaced persons have amassed along the Jordanian-Syrian border.

“Many women and children have realised that their fate is either Jordan or
death,” said Abu Hani, a Free Syrian Army coordinator located outside Daraa.

“Unless the regime stops these war crimes immediately, we are about to
witness the largest waves of refugees to Jordan since the conflict began.”

The Kingdom has witnessed a fresh Syrian exodus since the start of the new
year, with an average of 1,100 Syrians fleeing to the country.

In order to accommodate the rising number of new arrivals, officials are
racing to open the country’s second Syrian refugee camp, a 30,000-person
capacity tented facility on the outskirts of the city of Zarqa, by the end
of the month.

Jordan has granted refuge to over 300,000 of the some 600,000 Syrians
displaced across the region since the onset of the conflict in March 2011

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

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