Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Saudis to grant Yemen two-month supply of fuel-agency

SANAA, March 27 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia, which is to host a summit of potential donors to Yemen in May, will give the country refined oil products to cover its needs for two months, the state news agency Saba said on Tuesday.
Saba announced the grant in its report of a meeting in Riyadh between Saudi King Abdullah and Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly given Yemen oil and refined products since the eruption of a political crisis over the rule of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who left Yemen earlier this year after a year of protests.
Attacks on pipelines have hit Yemen's modest oil exports and largely idled its main refinery.

UK security focus shifting to Yemen and Somalia

Tuesday, 27 March 2012
By Oliver Hotham
Britain's national security policy in the Middle East is moving away from Pakistan and Afghanistan, Britain's national security advisor has said.
Sir Kim Darroch told the joint committee on national security strategy that recent developments are shifting national security policy towards Yemen and Somalia.
Responding to a question about whether Afghanistan and Pakistan are still priorities given increased stability, Sir Kim told the committee: "The terrorist threat from Afghanistan is diminished. We don't want to tempt fate but it isn't what it once was".
He continued: "Al-Qaida's power in Pakistan has diminished, and the threats from instability in Yemen and Somalia are growing."
Sir Kim said that the weakness of governments in Yemen and Somalia and their inability to contain Islamist militants tied to al-Qaida means that they are considered more of a threat to British national security than Afghanistan.
The recent uprising in Yemen which deposed unpopular president Ali Abdullah Saleh has diminished the ability of the central government to fight a militant Islamic insurgency.
Similarly a large part of Somalia, considered one of the world's most failed states, is ruled by the Al-Shabaab militant group, which is believed to have links to al-Qaida.
Sir Kim cited military success by British forces as being responsible for the diminished threat from Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan.
He also said that Britain's attention on the drug war in Colombia had reduced, saying it was not something he was focused on.

Germany refuses Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar appointment

Fatik al-Rodaini | 27 March 2012
SANA’A: Sources close to western diplomats in Sana’a, the Yemeni capital, revealed this Tuesday to Bikyamasr.com that Germany was categorically refusing to have defected General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar as new Yemeni ambassador to Germany.
Moreover, the General would have been refused his request to move his family to Germany, as privy to the matter expressed Berlin’s reticence towards harboring a man who has been accused of war crimes and whose character had been seriously put in question after 3 decades in power beside former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
But even more preoccupying to Germany is the fact that Mohsen has been in more than one occasion somewhat tied up to al-Qaeda militants in Yemen.
According to US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2005, the Yemeni general who last year influenced the revolutionary ring, backing up revolutionaries in their bid to oust Saleh, amassed an absolute fortune by dealing weapons and fuel as well as running racketeering operations.
Major General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar “is generally perceived to be the second most powerful man in Yemen, but leans closer to radical political Islam than Saleh,” read a cable sent by Thomas Krajeski in 2005 when he was then US ambassador to Sana’a.
 “Ali Mohsen’s questionable dealings with terrorists and extremists, however, would make his accession unwelcome to the US and others in the international community,” Krajeski wrote.
 “He is known to have Salafi leanings and to support a more radical Islamic political agenda than Saleh. He has powerful Wahhabi supporters in Saudi Arabia and has reportedly aided the [Saudis] in establishing Wahhabi institutions in northern Yemen.
He is also believed to have been behind the formation of the Aden-Abyan army, and is a close associate of noted arms dealer Faris Manna.
For years, he acted as Saleh’s iron fist, building a reputation at home that lies somewhere between fear and revulsion,” reported Krajeski.
 “Ali Mohsen’s name is mentioned in hushed tones among most Yemenis, and he rarely appears in public. Those who know him say he is charming and gregarious.
The cable noted that the general had little support from the public as most viewed him as a cynical and self-interested person. The ambassador said that at the time the general was more likely to try to play kingmaker than take the top job for himself.
 “Ali Mohsen would likely face domestic as well as international opposition if he sought the presidency,” he said.
 “Mohsen’s reputation may have been damaged in some circles by his role in the al-Houthi rebellions,” he added, referring to the suppression of an uprising by Shia Zaidis in the north of the country. “Although ultimately successful in quashing the insurgency, the campaign resulted in hundreds of fatalities, months of clashes, and earned the enmity of the northern tribes and traditional Zaydis.”
Krajeski said the general had enriched himself through numerous smuggling rackets. “A major beneficiary of diesel smuggling in recent years, he also appears to have amassed a fortune in the smuggling of arms, food staples and consumer products.”
In another 2005 cable, a well-placed Yemeni insider told the ambassador that Ali Mohsen was involved in smuggling diesel, “using military vehicles and … staff to move fuel to markets in Yemen and Saudi Arabia”.

Executions jump in 2011, driven by Middle East: Amnesty

March 27, 2012
LONDON (Reuters) - The number of executions carried out around the world jumped last year, largely due to a surge in use of the death penalty in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
The rights group said at least 676 people were executed in 20 countries in 2011 compared with 527 executions in 23 countries in 2010, a 28 percent increase.
Confirmed executions in the Middle East rose by almost 50 percent last year to 558, it said in an annual report on the death penalty.
Methods of execution used around the world included beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.
However, Amnesty said China executed more people than the rest of the world put together. Data on the death penalty in China is a state secret and Amnesty International no longer publishes a figure for Chinese executions, but it said they were in the thousands.
Salil Shetty, Amnesty's secretary-general, said that when Amnesty was launched in 1961 only nine countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes, whereas last year only 20 countries carried out executions.
"It's a very important success story," he told Reuters, adding that the downside was that "a few countries continue to practice it in large numbers."
At least 1,923 people are known to have been sentenced to death in 63 countries in 2011, down from 2,024 in 2010, Amnesty's report said. At least 18,750 people were under sentence of death worldwide at the end of 2011, including 8,300 in Pakistan, it said.
After China, most executions last year were carried out in Iran, where at least 360 people were put to death compared with at least 252 in 2010, Saudi Arabia (at least 82 executions in 2011 compared with at least 27 in 2010), and Iraq (at least 68 executions compared with at least one), Amnesty said.
They were followed by the United States, with 43 executions in 2011 down from 46 a year earlier, and Yemen, at least 41 executions in 2011 down from 62 officially reported in 2010.
The United States was the only country in the Americas and the only member of the Group of Eight leading economies to execute prisoners in 2011, something Shetty described as "very shameful."
Belarus was the only country in Europe and the former Soviet Union countries to carry out executions in 2011 when it put two people to death. No executions were recorded in Japan last year for the first time in 19 years.
Shetty said the two biggest practitioners of the death penalty in the Middle East, Iran and Saudi Arabia, were "yet to be touched" by the Arab Spring that has swept the region.
Violence in countries such as Libya, Syria and Yemen made it particularly difficult to gather information on the use of the death penalty, the report said.
In one country in the vanguard of the Arab Spring, Tunisia, Amnesty said it had been assured by interim President Moncef Marzouki, a former Amnesty "prisoner of conscience", that he was committed to abolishing the death penalty. Nobody has been executed in Tunisia since 1991, and last year, for the first time since 2008, no new death sentences were handed down.
Amnesty said that in addition to the 360 executions officially acknowledged in Iran last year, information from credible sources suggested there were at least 274 other executions. More than three-quarters of executions there were for drug offences, it said.
"Iranian activists have expressed their fear that the government may use the cover of its 'war on drugs' to execute political opponents," it said.
The Iranian authorities continued to execute political prisoners, and to use the death penalty as a tool against minorities, it said.
The tripling of executions in Saudi Arabia last year reversed a downward trend of recent years, Amnesty said.
"Hundreds more people are believed to be under sentence of death, many of them foreign nationals convicted of drugs offences. Most of the prisoners did not receive a fair trial conforming to international standards," it said.
In 2011 Saudi Arabia applied the death penalty to offences ranging from murder, rape, robbery and kidnapping to sorcery and drugs-related crimes, the report said.
In Iraq, most death sentences were imposed on people convicted of belonging to or involvement in attacks by armed groups, including murder, kidnapping, rape or other violent crimes, Amnesty said.