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Friday, September 14, 2012

Egypt’s Morsi Moves to Repair Relation with U.S.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi moved to repair his country’s relationship with the U.S. after President Barack Obama criticized Morsi’s tepid response to the anti-American riots in Cairo in a terse telephone call. Asked yesterday in an interview with Telemundo whether Egypt is an ally, Obama said “I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy.” While the White House quickly jumped in to explain that the term “allies” has legal connotations and can be defined as countries who have co-signed a defense treaty (which the U.S. and Egypt haven’t done), Obama’s words seem to have carried weight. Around 1,000 people, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood, headed to the U.S. embassy in Cairo today after prayers. They chanted slogans asking for an end to the violence. Cleric Mazhar Shahine said “we will get justice for the prophet, but without blood.” Morsi, who became president as the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, quickly distanced himself from the party, vowing to be a president to all Egyptians. As a democratically-elected leader of a religious movement, he must now learn to balance domestic pressure with the commitments the country made to other nations. It is in Cairo’s interest to honor its promises as the U.S. aids Egypt with $2 billion per year, and can also back the country for a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. Egypt’s friendship is considered by many experts to be the cornerstone of the U.S.’ Middle East policy, mainly because of the peace treaty it signed with Israel more than 30 years ago.

Violence Spreads and Escalates Across Arab World over Anti-Muslim Film

Violence continued to spread across the world in response to a U.S.-made film that ridiculed Prophet Muhammad, whose pictorial representation is considered blasphemous by many Muslims. In Tunisia, three people died as crowds breached the U.S. compound, and 28 people were wounded. In Khartoum, Sudan, rioters also turned against the British and German embassies, setting fire to the latter. The U.K. and Germany aren’t linked to the making of the offensive film, but Sudan criticized Germany last month for allowing far-right demonstrations where militants carried pictures of the Prophet, and Chancellor Angela Merkel for giving an award to the Danish cartoonist whose caricature of the Prophet sparked riots in 2005. In Jalalabad, Afghanistan, protesters burnt an effigy of U.S. President Barack Obama. A KFC branch was set ablaze in Tripoli, Lebanon. Bangladeshi demonstrators demanded harsh punishment for the filmmaker, and burnt an American flag. In Nigeria, the police fired at protesters in the city of Jos. In Northern Egypt, an international observer post near the border with Gaza and Israel was attacked by Islamic militants. Some 1,500 international troops live there, including Americans. There were demonstrations in East Jerusalem and Gaza, eastern Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. Protesters also gathered in front of the U.S. embassy in London, where they burned American and Israeli flags.

“Good Week” for Europe Concludes with Eurogroup Cyprus Meeting

This has been a “very good week for Europe,” the Finnish European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn said today, but “there is no more room for complacency today than there was six months ago.” Rehn spoke from Cyprus’ capital Nicosia, where European finance ministers—the so-called Eurogroup—met with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde and representatives from the European Central Bank. After the ECB launched its bond-purchasing program last week, borrowing costs for Spain dropped. On Wednesday, a German constitutional court approved a permanent bailout fund for Europe, the European Stability Mechanism, which leaders said today will come into effect on October 8. Spanish Finance Minister Luis de Guindos told his peers today that Spain will commit to deadlines on structural reforms to get its economy back on track, a statement many took as a sign that the nation is preparing to ask for help with its debt. The Spanish government is due to announce those measures on September 28, along with its 2013 budget. This is a change in stance as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been reluctant to ask for money tied to harsh conditions, even as he imposed heavy austerity measures on the country. Meanwhile, participants of the meeting suggested that Greece could get more time to sort out its finances, something it promised to do in exchange for bailout money. “It is clear that Greece has already produced a huge effort, but it must continue to do it,” Lagarde said. “More time is something we can examine.”

U.N. Envoy to Syria Brahimi Meets with Rebels

United Nations Peace Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi met today with rebels in Damascus as the Syrian government continued to bombard both the capital and Aleppo. National Co-ordination Committee for Democratic Change Spokesman Hassan Abdul-Azeem said his group, which is tolerated by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, “will co-operate with him because the violence has reached [unprecedented] levels and the Syrian people are suffering from the killings, destruction and displacement.” Brahimi also met with Foreign Minister Walid Muallem yesterday, who assured him of “Syria’s full cooperation,” as long as there is no foreign intervention during the proceedings. Pope Benedict XVI, during a visit to Lebanon, condemned the sale of arms to Syria, calling it “a grave sin.” Meanwhile, Turkey Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said “Assad’s regime is approaching its inevitable end,” calling for a stop to the violence and a peaceful political transition.
Syria

Weekend Read: Obama’s Way

What kind of man is Barack Obama? Writer and journalist Michael Lewis spent six months around the U.S. President and wrote about it. In Vanity Fair.

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