The London-based daily Asharq al Awsat reported having received a list of sixty Mauritanians to be sanctioned by the African Union in the aftermath of the coup d'état that took place in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott, on August 6, 2008. The paper said that among those blacklisted, whose names were kept confidential, are "five members of the ruling council, seven ministers, 19 businessmen, 10 parliamentarians and five party leaders, in addition to several political activists who were deemed supportive of the coup".
According to Asharq al Awsat, informed sources said the procedure for the execution of the sanctions will be determined at a meeting that will be attended by representatives of the European Union, the UN and the African Union, in addition to the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, on February 20 in Paris.
A Mauritanian official source reportedly said that the sanctions decision will not affect the reform movement in the country. The sanctions, issued by the Peace and Security Council affiliated with the African Union, include a travel ban, visa denial and bank account monitoring, in addition to the possibility of judicial prosecution.
The Iraqi government is capitalising on the change that the results of the provincial councils' elections brought about in Sunni areas to invigorate reconciliation initiatives with armed groups and persuade former officers, currently seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, to rejoin the military or receive their end-of-service emoluments, reported the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat on its front page.
"There was an ongoing dialogue with several armed groups, even before the beginning of the local elections," said Abdulkarim al Samarrai, deputy head of the security and defence committee in parliament. In a phone call with Al Hayat, Mr al Samarrai said: "The election results are expected to speed up the progression of national reconciliation in the western and northern regions, now that the locals have voted for who will represent them in the provincial councils and are accordingly involved in the political process."
While a number of complaints were filed about irregularities in the election procedure, the independent elections commission in Iraq asserted that none of the complaints it has received so far are breaches serious enough to affect the final results.
The Egyptian daily Al Wafd, the newspaper of the opposition party of the same name, ran a piece by its regular columnist Suleiman Gawda about the new Iranian scientific advances which, he maintains, are fundamentally aimed at "intimidating and deterring concerned parties". For Gawda, the launch of the Iranian satellite last week, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Khomeini revolution, is an act of defiance against the West, mainly the US, as well as a muscle-flexing manoeuvre for its neighbours to see. "This is not the first time that Iran has performed before the eyes of the world spectacular, propaganda actions that carry, first and foremost, a political message," wrote Gawda. "The main goal, to me, was spectacle. The main purpose, propaganda. Iran is thus aspiring to confirm its power and might."
Gawda recalled, however, that the scientific effort behind the launch of the Iranian homemade satellite, propelled by a homemade rocket, asks pressing questions about the condition and achievements of the scientific research departments in Egypt.
The Lebanese daily Annahar carried an opinion article by Jihad al Zein on the new influence of Turkey in the Middle East. By adopting political modernity and blocking the race for sectarian polarisation in the region, Turkey is striking a religious-political balance unparalleled in most of its eastern neighbours, even though its ruling party is itself predicated on the Islamic religion. "There is Iran, the Shiite state; Saudi Arabia, the Wahhabi state, which is allied with Egypt, the Sunni state; among them all, Turkey, the largest Sunni state in the region, is the only nation that bases its positions on strictly political, economic and security considerations that have nothing to do with sectarian partisanship," al Zein wrote. Turkey has proved to be an independent decision maker when, despite being a solid Nato member, "it refused to provide facilities for US troops coming into Iraq in 2003, without that disrupting its government-military co-operation".
The Turkish strategic balance can also be seen in the government's explicit support for Hamas that is accompanied by firm reservations as to the presence of Turkish military observers in the Strip, "for the Turkish military's main focus is on northern Iraq". * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi firstname.lastname@example.org