Headlines from the region

Headlines from the region

Spain’s deputy prime minister, Mar?a Teresa Fern?ndez de la Vega, has said it is in negotiations with Morocco over the return of a prominent Western Sahara independence activist who has been on hunger strike for 20 days.

Aminatou Haidar has been camped at Lanzarote airport since 14 November, when Morocco stripped her of her passport and flew her out after she refused to acknowledge Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony. Late on Friday an agreement appeared to have been reached and the 43-year-old boarded a jet to return, but Morocco denied it landing rights minutes before take-off, her lawyer said.

Last night Morocco stated that Haidar will not be allowed back unless she makes a formal apology to the king.

Jobs for Tunisian university grads target of 2010 budget

As Tunisia rolls out its 2010 budget, young people like Munira Emara have a message for the government: “[P]ay attention to the conditions of unemployed university graduates,” or else they’ll get the idea that “it’s no use to do your best in education”.

Such concerns spring from Tunisia’s unemployment rate, which official data peg at 14%. Emara, who spoke with Magharebia on Thursday (December 3rd), said the potential was there for discouraged university grads to believe they will end up “hanging around cafés.”

It is precisely concerns of this sort that Tunisia’s 2010 budget aims to address, according to government officials. The new budget targets bringing more people into the workforce, while also cutting public spending and creating opportunities for investors.

Swiss President looks for new path in Libya ordeal

Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz hinted Wednesday that a Libyan court ruling on two Swiss businessmen kept in Libya for 16 months in a diplomatic spat might make it easier to resolve the standoff.

Swiss officials have always felt that the plight of the two, which stemmed from the arrest in Geneva last year of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s son, was largely determined by arbitrary measures.

But Merz, who unsuccessfully sought a political deal with the Libyan government in the summer, said in a radio interview that the sentencing by a court on Tuesday introduced a more tangible legal charge.

The rule of law “introduces an obligation and always opens ways of ending an arrest or a judicial procedure with judicial means, and that wasn’t the case until now,” Merz told Swiss radio RSR.

Libya sentenced the two Swiss businessmen to a 16-month prison sentence and a fine of 2,000 dinars (1,100 euros) each for overstaying their visas, a Libyan justice official said Tuesday.

Sudan makes arrests in peacekeepers deaths

Sudan on Sunday said it had arrested a number of men suspected of killing three Rwandan peacekeepers in an ambush in Darfur, the first of two deadly attacks on the mission.

The three members of Darfur’s joint U.N./African Union UNAMID mission were killed when gunmen opened fire on their convoy in the north Darfur settlement of Saraf Omra on Friday.

A day later, two Rwandan peacekeepers were killed by men dressed in traditional robes who shot them as they distributed water in a refugee camp in the north Darfur town of Shangil Tobay.

The governor of north Darfur Osman Kebir told Sudan’s state Suna news agency a number of men had been arrested and would be charged with the first attack.

Report: Attack against Lebanon’s UNIFIL thwarted

The Lebanese military thwarted an attack targeting UNIFIL forces operating in the south of the country, according to a report Sunday on Hezbollah’s television channel al-Manar.

According to the report, the Lebanese military arrested a four-person terror cell that was in possession of a large quantity of explosives near Majdal Anjar, in the Lebanon Valley.

Defense officials reported to the channel, “The chase after the four people took place yesterday as part of a complex security operation that lasted many hours. The investigation continues in a bid to reveal which organization is behind the attempted attack.”

Syria defends Iran nuclear ambitions

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad defended Iran’s controversial nuclear program on Thursday, during a visit to Damascus by Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, and promised that cooperation between the two countries would continue.

Assad asserted “the right of Iran and other countries that are signatories to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium for civilian purposes,” the official SANA news agency said.

Assad’s remarks followed comments by Iranian former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani urging his country’s feuding political factions to stand together in the face of foreign pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program.

After his meeting with Assad, Jalili told a joint news conference with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem that Iran required uranium enriched to 20 percent, which he described as “a legitimate right,” and added that the UN nuclear watchdog “should help all its members to acquire atomic energy.