Headlines from the region

Headlines from the region

 Morocco gets African Development Bank loan

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved a $162 million loan to bolster a Moroccan program aimed at widening access to financial services, the bank said on Friday.

Beside helping more of the north African country’s 34 million people to open a bank account, the program will help Morocco deepen its capital market by setting up a regulatory framework for futures trading, the AfDB said in a statement.

It is also designed to promote better governance in the financial sector by strengthening control of the capital market and insurance sector, it added.

Algeria acquits two Guantanamo prisoners

Two former Guantanamo prisoners on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist group were acquitted on Sunday in an Algerian criminal court, state APS news agency said.

The two men alleged that they were “brutally tortured” during their imprisonment in Guantanamo Bay, the report said.

According to the APS, the two accused went to Germany in the early 1990s when they were engaged in drug trafficking and theft before traveling to Afghanistan.

They were arrested in Pakistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and transferred to Guantanamo Bay where they were held without trial before being sent home to Algeria last year.

Tunisia wants greater Arab coordination in education

Tunisia has recently called for greater coordination among Arab universities, in the sectors of scientific research, networking of data bases, and electronic communication.

The call was issued by Lazhar Bououni, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research at the 12 th Higher Education and Scientific Research Ministers Conference, held in Beirut, Lebanon on December 7 to 10, 2009.

The Minister also highlighted Tunisia’s initiatives to boost the partnership between the universities and their socio-economic partnership as well as the development of practical skills and competencies in a rapidly changing job market.

US eyes Libya, Vietnam arms sales

The Obama administration is prepared to consider selling at least non-lethal arms to Vietnam and Libya, both one-time U.S. foes, as security ties with each of them grow, a top Pentagon official said on Monday.

With Vietnam, whose defense minister is to meet U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the Pentagon on Tuesday, “we’re in the infancy of the process now,” Vice Admiral Jeffrey Wieringa, head of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, told the annual Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington.

Wieringa said a country like Vietnam with its long coastline might be interested in maritime patrol aircraft or a coastal radar system.

Violence on rise in south Sudan

Violence in southern Sudan has escalated to its highest levels since a 2005 treaty ended a 21-year-long north-south civil war, a leading aid agency has warned.

In the first 10 months of 2009, Reporters Without Borders said, it witnessed a worrying deterioration in the region’s security situation, resulting to severe medical humanitarian implications for the local population.

The organization says the intensity of the violence in southern Sudan’s Jonglei and Upper Nile states suggests a more disturbing trend than “inter-tribal cattle rustling.”

6 sailors saved after boat incident off Lebanon

Five crew members of a Togolese-flagged ship that sank off Lebanon have been rescued by Israel, taking the total number of those saved to six, an Israeli military spokeswoman said on Saturday.

“Helicopters sent to the scene first found one survivor and then four more,” the spokeswoman said, adding that the sailors from the Sala-2 were taken to hospital in Israel’s northern port city of Haifa.

Earlier on Saturday, the defense ministry said 11 Ukrainian sailors were missing after the ship went down, and that the military had begun a rescue operation in conjunction with UN forces.

US military deaths in Iraq at 4,370

As of Monday, Dec. 14, 2009, at least 4,370 members of the U.S. military had died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The figure includes nine military civilians killed in action. At least 3,477 military personnel died as a result of hostile action, according to the military’s numbers.

The AP count is one fewer than the Defense Department’s tally, last updated Monday at 10 a.m. EST.