Archive for September, 2011

Jordan opposition calls for government’s resignation

May 31, 2011

AMMAN: Jordan’s main opposition party, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), and the country’s strongest pro-democracy coalition on Monday urged the resignation of Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit’s government for its failure to adopt the needed reforms.

“The way out of the deep crisis we experience lies in the formation of a national reform government, to be led by a national personality which believes in reforms and adopts a program with clear objectives, including the adoption of real, political and constitutional reforms,” the IAF said in a statement.

The IAF, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, considered last week’s resignation of two Cabinet ministers indicative of Bakhit’s failure to fight corruption and “the unprecedented political, economic and social crisis Jordan is grappling with.”

Bakhit said that the Justice Minister Hussein Megalli and Health Minister Yassin Hosban resigned on Thursday to concede responsibility for the ”mistakes” committed in their ministries that enabled the convicted businessman Khalid Shahin to flee from the country on Feb. 25.

In his resignation letter to the prime minister, Megalli said that he had decided to resign because he found the “path of reforms deadlocked.”

Local media on Monday expected more cabinet ministers to quit in connection with Shahin’s affair that dominated the thinking of the Jordanian public opinion over the past three months.

Shahin was serving a three-year jail term after the State Security Court found him guilty of bribery in his bid to obtain a 1.2-billion-dollar contract for the expansion of the country’s sole refinery.

The call for Bakhit’s resignation also came on Monday from the March 24 Youth group, which has set July 14 a date for a marathon rally to protest the failure to adopt the required political and constitutional reforms in the country, including an independent judiciary.

“We hereby promise our people that we will not back down in our struggle to accomplish radical reforms and disclose all corruption files and ensure punishment of those involved,” the gathering said in a strongly-worded statement.

Source: Arab News.

Armed residents put up resistance to Syrian army

By BASSEM MROUE – Associated Press, ZEINA KARAM – Associated Press
Mon, May 30, 2011

BEIRUT (AP) — Residents used automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades to repel advancing government troops in central Syria on Monday, putting up a fierce fight for the first time in their two-month-old revolt against President Bashar Assad’s autocratic regime.

The escalation raised fears the popular uprising may be moving toward a Libya-style armed conflict.

Until now, the opposition against Assad has taken the form of peaceful protests by unarmed demonstrators, though authorities have claimed, without offering solid proof, that it was being led by armed gangs and propelled by foreign conspiracies.

Activists said residents of the towns of Talbiseh and Rastan, which have been under attack since Sunday in central Homs province, decided to fight back with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, and at least four civilians were killed.

“They felt that they cannot sit back any more and pray for God to help them,” said one Homs resident who has wide connections in the province. He, like all residents contacted by The Associated Press, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Another two bodies were found early Monday in the area of Bab Amro cemetery, raising the death toll from the two-day crackdown in the country’s turbulent heartland to 15, said the Local Coordination Committees in Syria, which helps organize and document the protests. State media said four soldiers were killed.

“The army is facing armed resistance and is not able to enter the two towns,” the Homs resident said. “The army is still outside the towns and I was told that army vehicles, including armored personnel carriers, were set on fire.”

A second activist confirmed residents had fought back, but said it involved individual residents protecting themselves, as opposed to an organized armed resistance with an overall command structure.

“The protests began peacefully but the practices of security forces that humiliated the people eventually led to the use of arms,” he said. He said it was common for Syrians to have light weapons such as rifles in their homes, adding that in recent years weapons have been smuggled in from neighboring countries such as Lebanon and Iraq.

Homs has seen some of the biggest demonstrations against Assad since protests broke out in southern Syria in March and spread across the country — posing the most serious challenge to the Assad regime’s 40-year rule.

What began as a disparate movement demanding reforms has erupted into a resilient uprising seeking Assad’s ouster. Human rights groups say more than 1,000 people have been killed in the crackdown, which has drawn condemnation and sanctions from the United States and European Union.

Monday’s accounts were the first credible reports of serious resistance by residents taking up arms. It is not clear how widespread such resistance might be elsewhere, though there have been some reports of civilians fighting back in the town of Talkalakh near the border with Lebanon and the government and several rights group say more than 150 soldiers and policemen have been killed since the unrest began.

Details coming out of Syria are sketchy because the government has placed severe restrictions on the media and expelled foreign reporters, making it nearly impossible to independently verify accounts coming out of the country.

The Local Coordination Committees in Syria said Assad’s fighters hit Tabliseh with artillery early Monday and that snipers were deployed on the roofs of mosques. Syrian troops, backed by tanks, have been conducting operations in Tabliseh, Rastan and the nearby town of Teir Maaleh since Sunday.

“The situation is completely hopeless,” said a resident of Rastan reached by telephone who said he was barricaded in his home.

“There are dead bodies in the streets and nobody can get to them … The town is completely surrounded by tanks,” he shouted before the line was cut.

Rights activist Mustafa Osso said troops have detained hundreds of people since Sunday in Homs province.

Syria’s state-run news agency said four soldiers were killed and 14 wounded in Tabliseh.

Assad’s use of the military signals he is determined to crush the revolt, despite U.S. and European sanctions, including an EU assets freeze and a visa ban on Assad and nine members of his regime.

In Geneva, the U.N.’s top human rights official said Monday the brutality and magnitude of repression in Syria and Libya against anti-government protests is “shocking.”

Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the crackdown in the two countries was marked by an “outright disregard for basic human rights.”

He urged the Syrian government Monday to allow a U.N. fact-finding mission to visit the country. The team has been awaiting Syria’s reply since requesting a visit on May 6.

Rights activist Mustafa Osso said troops have detained hundreds of people since Sunday in Homs province.

Palestinian government deal by June 6: Shaath

May 29, 2011

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories — Rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas expect to agree the make-up of a transitional government of independents by June 6, senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath said on Sunday.

Speaking at a news conference after meeting Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya, Shaath declined to discuss potential ministers in the new government, which is mandated by a surprise unity deal signed by the two groups last month.

“It’s not my role to talk about the candidates,” he said, pointing out that a joint committee was studying potential ministers.

“There will be agreement between the parties on all the names by June 6,” he said.

Bitter rivals for decades, Hamas and Fatah are working to overcome their differences under the terms of a surprise reconciliation deal signed in Cairo last month.

The accord calls on the two sides to work towards integrating their rival security forces and reforming the Palestine Liberation Organization.

It also mandates legislative and presidential elections within a year, with a transitional government of independents being formed to lay the groundwork for the votes.

Shaath said on Sunday that the two sides were close to resolving another thorny issue — political prisoners.

Hamas and Fatah have routinely arrested each other’s members, with each side accusing the other of mistreatment and arbitrary detention.

The reconciliation deal calls for the release of all political prisoners from the two sides, and Shaath said political arrests had already been halted.

He said he expected that the two groups would close the political arrests “file” soon.

“There is full agreement on that,” he said. “The number of prisoners remaining in detention has shrunk and the file will be closed in upcoming days in accordance with the (unity) agreement,” Shaath said.

He gave no details about any planned prisoner releases.

The reconciliation deal signed by the two parties aims to end years of bitter rivalry that boiled over in 2007, a year after Hamas won a surprise victory in legislative elections, culminating in street battles between the two groups in Gaza.

Hamas routed Fatah, seizing control of the Gaza Strip and leaving Abbas’s party to run a parallel government unable to extend control beyond the West Bank.

Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.

GIZ organizes a roundtable discussion on sustainable use of treated wastewater in agriculture in Jordan


AMMONNEWS – On behalf the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the German-Jordanian Water Program ‘Management of Water Resources’ held, on Sunday 29 May, a roundtable discussion on establishing a risk monitoring and management system for the use of reclaimed water in agriculture in Jordan, in accordance with the latest version of WHO guidelines.

It is worth mentioning that the proposed risk monitoring and management system consists of two major parts: The first looks into assuring sound and effective monitoring system for water, soil, and crops, while the second revolves around implementing all possible measures to eliminate or mitigate risks.

The roundtable aimed at bringing all stakeholders together to discuss the proposed risks of monitoring and management system, which was developed by interdisciplinary working group from the involved stakeholders. In addition, the necessary proceedings for efficient institutionalization of the proposed system were discussed.

The state crop-monitoring program for crops produced with treated wastewater, currently being implemented by the Jordanian Food and Drug Administration (JFDA), is perceived as one of the main achievement of the GIZ Water Program and considered as a corner stone in the monitoring system. The results of this program confirmed the safety of the crops being irrigated with treated wastewater, which gives irrefutable evidence that the reuse of treated wastewater in irrigation is a safe practice.

Jordan comes as one of the pioneer countries in field of modern irrigation techniques and treated wastewater reuse. The support of Jordan Valley Authority, represented by mega infrastructures (like dams, irrigation networks) in the Jordan Valley, paves the way for wider reuse of treated wastewater. One of the many advantages of treated wastewater reuse is save the use of synthetic fertilizers because treated wastewater is rich in plants nutrients. Results of intensive demonstration trials conducted jointly by GIZ and the Jordan Valley Authority, in collaboration with the Jordan Valley farmers, showed that each farm unit (35 dunum) can yearly save around JD1000 – 3000 which is equivalent to no less than JD4 million countrywide.

The Federal Republic of Germany and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan share a longstanding partnership in Development Cooperation. German-Jordanian development cooperation is focused on the water sector. The German Government through its implementing agencies (GIZ. KfW, BGR, CIM) aims at supporting Jordan with the establishment of a comprehensive integrated water resources management. Other German-Jordanian activities include school construction, renewable energies and capacity building.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GMBH is owned by the Federal Republic of Germany. We work worldwide in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development and international education. Our mandate is to support the German government in achieving its objectives in these fields. We provide viable forward-looking solutions for political, economic, ecological and social development in a globalized world. Sometimes working under difficult conditions, we promote complex reforms and change processes. Our corporate objective is to improve people’s lives on a sustainable basis.

Source: Ammon News.

Iraq, Jordan Sign Deal for Railway Line Linking Port of Aqaba to Baghdad

By Nayla Razzouk
May 29, 2011

Jordan and Iraq signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a rail line linking the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba with the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, Petra said, citing Jordanian Transport Minister Muhannad Qudah.

The agreement for a line that would provide passenger and cargo services was signed by Qudah and visiting Iraqi Transport Minister Hadi al-Ameri in Amman today, the Jordanian official agency said. There were no further details on the project. Those will be decided later by a joint committee, Petra said.

Jordan has plans for a $3.1 billion rail network running 950 kilometers (590 miles) to connect the kingdom with Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is due to start the first bids for the project by the end of June, Qudah said April 11.

Jordan’s government will provide 370 million dinars ($522 million) for the project and potential lenders include the World Bank, European Investment Bank, France’s state-run Agence Francaise de Development, the Islamic Development Bank, the Saudi Fund for Development, the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development, the Kuwait-based Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Germany’s state-owned development bank KfW, he said.

Source: Bloomberg.

Iraqi Airways to Appeal Assets Freeze Court Order in Jordan

By Nayla Razzouk
May 29, 2011

Iraqi Airways will appeal a court order to freeze its bank accounts in Jordan following a lawsuit by Kuwait Airways Corp., Karim al-Nuri, a spokesman for the Iraqi Minister of Transport, said.

“We are preparing to appeal the Jordanian court order,” he said in a phone interview from Baghdad today. “Our appeal is based on the fact that Iraqi Airways is a state company and thus enjoys immunity and cannot have its offices seized.”

The Iraqi national carrier’s offices in Amman were seized three day ago and assets of $1.5 million were frozen after the May 10 order by a Jordanian court, he said.

State-run Kuwait Airways is seeking $1.2 billion in compensation for 10 aircraft taken when Iraq, under the rule of former President Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait in August 1990. Kuwait Airways won a U.K. court order to freeze the Baghdad- based airline’s global assets on April 25 last year, the same day as an Iraqi Airways flight landed in London for the first time in 20 years.

The Iraqi government decided in May 2010 to dissolve Iraqi Airways within three years because of the legal battle with Kuwait. The airline has cancelled flights to Europe since last year and continues to fly to destinations in the Middle East.

Iraqi Airways is planning to pursue negotiations with Kuwaiti officials in order to find a solution to the conflict that would benefit both parties, al-Nuri said.

New Company

The Iraqi airliner is also still considering government plans to operate under a new company to avoid the legal dispute and compensation claims raised by Kuwait, he said. “We are considering some contracts with local and foreign companies, although there is nothing final for now,” he said.

Kuwait Airways “seized multi-million dollar funds in various Iraqi Airways bank accounts in Amman,” following the May 10 Jordanian court order, Kuwait Airways lawyer Christopher Gooding of law firm Fasken Martineau said in an e-mailed statement on May 24.

The claim is in addition to $40 billion in debt amassed by Iraq under the regime of Saddam Hussein. The country, holder of the world’s fifth-largest crude reserves, is struggling to rebuild its damaged infrastructure and continues to allocate 5 percent of its annual oil revenue to repay the debt, roughly half of which it owes to Kuwait.

Source: Bloomberg.