Egypt's Presidential Elections Commission has rejected appeals from ten candidates who were barred from running in the upcoming presidential elections. A statement released by the commission said, "All appeals have been rejected because nothing new was offered in the appeal requests." Those banned include the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Khairat el-Shater, Salifist backed Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, and Hosni Mubarak's former vice president and intelligence chief, Omar Sulieman. Hundreds of supporters of Abu Ismail have staged protests outside the commission's headquarters in Cairo, where the candidate said, "We are exposed to a conspiracy by parties that you cannot imagine." However, Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate who was to serve as el-Shater's backup upon his disqualification, is still in the race. The Election Commission, which makes the final decision regarding candidates' eligibility, will post the final candidate list on April 26, but the roster has already dropped from 23 to 13.
The ceasefire appears to have broken down, as levels of violence remain high in several regions in Syria. Up to 70 people have been killed by heavy shelling in the Jourat al-Shayah, Qarabis, Bayada, and Khaldiya districts of Homs, areas that have remained out of government control. According to the Local Coordination Committees, clashes continued in Deraa and Aleppo, as well as in the Idlib province where government troops were accompanied by tanks and helicopters. The Syrian government has said it is willing to comply with Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan. However, the regime has only agreed to a small United Nations' observer mission of 250 monitors, and it refuses independent air support despite recommendations of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said, "I think this is not enough, considering the current situation and considering the vastness of the country." Meanwhile, the advance team of monitors has not yet been permitted to operate throughout the country as negotiations on a memorandum of understanding between the Syrian government and the U.N. team have stalled.
- Former Libyan dissident, Abdel Hakim Belhaj, is taking legal action against former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw for complicity in torture in an alleged rendition operation.
- Activists call for "Days of Rage" to attract attention to repression in Bahrain during the Formula 1 Grand Prix, The opposition Wefaq party meanwhile said it will focus on its own demands for political reform.
- Palestinian officials delivered a letter from President Mahmoud Abbas to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlining terms for returning to peace talks.
- Libya's justice ministry said it is close to negotiating a deal with the International Criminal Court that would allow the trial of Saif al Islam be held in Libya.
Arguments & Analysis
Morocco's second spring (Issandr El Amrani, The Guardian)
"Some recent events suggest that Moroccans will not be infinite in their patience as they await concrete signs that the reformist path has paid off. The protests led by the 20 February movement in 2011 may have tapered off, but they are being replaced by a growing number of strikes and demonstrations over quality-of-life questions. The political crisis may for now have been averted, but this has not stopped growing indignation fuelled by socio-economic grievances. Such protests predate the Arab uprisings and have most often taken place in the country's backwaters, away from tourist hotspots and the hubs of economic activity on the Atlantic coast. In recent months, for example, protests have broken out repeatedly in Taza, a northeastern town typical of this chronically poor, backwater Morocco. They have often been met with violent repression."
The stage is set for a deal with Iran (David Ignatius, The Washington Post)
"The nuclear talks with Iran have just begun, but already the smart money in Tehran is betting on a deal. That piece of intelligence comes from the Tehran stock index; the day after the talks opened, it posted its largest daily rise in months and closed at a record high. Tehran investors may be guilty of wishful thinking in their eagerness for an agreement that would ease the economic sanctions squeezing their country. My guess is that they probably have it right. So far, Iran is following the script for a gradual, face-saving exit from a nuclear program that even Russia and China have signaled is too dangerous. The Iranians will bargain up to the edge of the cliff, but they don't seem eager to jump."
Euro-American misperceptions of the Tunisian Revolution (Benjamin Claude Brower, Al Jazeera English)
"A social crisis threatens Tunisia, as the gap grows between those who have benefited from the revolution and those who have not. The winners are concentrated in the upper and middle urban classes -- lawyers, professors, entrepreneurs -- who now enjoy economic and political liberty, while the working classes have seen little improvement in their daily lives. A reliable barometer of this social crisis are the "Harragas" who debark in small fishing boats for Europe. Their name comes from the Arabic word for "burners", and they "burn" everything -- papers, frontiers and their bridges back home. Having little hope that meaningful change will come from the ballot box, they take to the sea. "Tunisia has no future in Tunisia," President Moncef Marzouki recently said, in a poorly worded call for regional co-operation which resonated unfavourably with the Harragas. More than 30,000 have fled the country since January 14, 2011, and clandestine Tunisian emigrants are appearing now in Algeria, a country that faces its own acute problems of unemployment and poverty."
--Mary Casey & Jennifer Parker