Headlines from the region
Al-Qaeda in North Africa frees hostage
A French hostage abducted in Mali and held for three months by al-Qaeda’s north African wing arrived on Wednesday in the capital Bamako, hours after his release. It follows concessions by the Malian government to his captors,?which?have?angered neighboring states.
Both Algeria and Mauritania have withdrawn their ambassadors from Mali in protest at a court ruling earlier this week that resulted in the release of four Islamist militants, including two Algerians and a Mauritanian.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM, had threatened to kill the Frenchman unless Mali released the four militants who had been in possession of automatic weapons and a rocket launcher when they were arrested last year.
Algeria targeting inflation via subsidies
Algeria will subsidize 15 basic food products and limit their price in an effort to cope with runaway inflation, Commerce Minister el-Hachemi Djaâboub announced last week.
“We’ve found that some traders are abusing the system and taking advantage of their dominance,” Djaâboub said on national radio on February 13th. “Enforcement officers are aware of these practices and can do nothing. We’ve decided to intervene to bring order to the market.” Price ceilings will be placed on dried legumes, sugar, tea and coffee, as well as other groceries, whose prices soared in recent months, Djaâboub said.
Tunisia gives support to Libya over Swiss row
The Tunisian government said Wednesday it was in “total solidarity” with Libya in its diplomatic dispute with Switzerland. “While reaffirming its total solidarity with its sister Arab people’s republic of Libya, Tunisia expresses the hope to see the two countries resolve their differences and resume normal relations,” the Tunisian foreign ministry said in a press statement.
Relations between Switzerland and Libya have degenerated since July 2008, when police in Geneva questioned Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Hannibal, and his wife over a complaint they had abused domestic staff at their hotel.
Lawyer says Swiss man treated well in prison
Swiss businessman Max Goeldi has said he is being treated well in the Libyan jail he was taken to after a standoff between Libya and Switzerland escalated into a Europe-wide row, his lawyer said on Wednesday.
Goeldi had been sheltering in the Swiss embassy in Tripoli but on Monday, a few hours after Libya surrounded the building with police and demanded his surrender, he emerged and was driven away to prison.
Darfur conflict over, says Sudan president
Sudanese Pres. Omar Hassan al-Bashir told supporters Wed. that the Darfur conflict was over and announced the release of 57 Darfur rebels a day after inking a cease-fire and initial peace deal with some insurgents. “We must (now) start fighting the war for development,” he said at a rally in Khartoum. The agreement commits Sudan to reaching a final peace deal with the rebels by March 15. Other Darfur rebel groups have rejected the deal.
Lebanon seeks death penalty over alleged Israeli spies
A Lebanese military prosecutor called on Wednesday for two men to be sentenced to death for allegedly spying for Israel, a judicial source said.
A sentence of 15 years hard labor is being sought for a third person, who is accused of having been in contact with Israel following the 2006 summer war between the Jewish state and the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.