Last major challenger to Egypt’s Sisi calls off campaign after arrest

Egypt's former army chief of staff Sami Anan speaks during a news conference at his office in Cairo, March 13, 2014. (Reuters)
Updated 23 January 2018
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Last major challenger to Egypt’s Sisi calls off campaign after arrest

CAIRO: The last challenger seen as a potential threat to the re-election of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi abruptly ended his campaign on Tuesday after the army accused him of violating military law by running for office without permission.
A security source and members of the campaign staff of former military chief of staff Lieutenant General Sami Anan said he had been detained for questioning following the army's announcement rejecting his decision to run.
The army statement, which appeared in text on state TV and was read aloud by a spokesman, said Anan's presidential bid amounted to "blatant legal violations ... (and) a serious breach of the laws of military service".
He had announced his candidacy "without getting permission from the armed forces ... or taking the steps necessary to terminate his service".
Organisers of the campaign announced that he had called off his bid. They gave no details of his whereabouts following what they described as his detention. The military declined to comment on the report he had been detained. The interior ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.
A witness who knows Anan told Reuters the candidate was driving to his office when his car was stopped by what appeared to be armed military police on a main road in Cairo.
Anan was the final high profile challenger to Sisi left in the race after a number of others dropped out, some citing intimidation by the authorities.
Egypt's president's office and government press centre have not commented on the election race. The electoral commission has said it will ensure the vote is carried out fairly and transparently.
Sisi, a former military chief who led the overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in 2013 and was elected president the following year, announced last week he will seek a second term in the election set for late March.

Candidates withdraw

Ahmed Shafik, a former prime minister and air force chief, abandoned a bid this month, saying that after several years living abroad he was out of touch with Egyptian politics. The announcement came amid media criticism and speculation that he was being held by authorities in a Cairo hotel.
Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat, the nephew of assassinated President Anwar al-Sadat, said last week he would not run, citing an environment of fear surrounding the vote.
Rights lawyer Khaled Ali has said he will still run, but he might be disqualified over an ongoing legal case against him.
Anan announced his presidential bid in a video declaration posted on his official Facebook page last week, saying he was running to save Egypt from incorrect policies and calling on state institutions to maintain neutrality toward all candidates.
Egyptian law requires former army officials to end their service and receive permission from the military before they can run for political office. The army's statement said Anan had falsified documents that stated his military service had ended.
Sisi's critics say his popularity has eroded over tough economic reforms tied to a $12 billion International Monetary Fund loan, which have squeezed many Egyptians, and over a crackdown on dissidents.
His supporters say firm measures are necessary to bring security and stability to a country that has seen unrest since a 2011 uprising toppled long-serving autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt is fighting a stubborn Islamic State insurgency in its North Sinai region. Militants have expanded their attacks to target civilians, especially over the past year.


Russia ‘trying to help Syrian refugees to return home’

Russian soldiers distribute aid in the central Syrian province of Homs. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 August 2018
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Russia ‘trying to help Syrian refugees to return home’

  • A buffer zone separates Syria to the east, from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the west
  • The Russian military police have set up four observation points along the demarcation line on the Syrian side of the buffer zone

MOSCOW: The Russian Defense Ministry said it was coordinating efforts to help Syrian refugees return home and rebuild the country’s infrastructure destroyed by the civil war.
Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev said in a conference call that included Russian and Syrian officials that work is underway to rebuild dozens of Syria’s power stations, schools and other vital institutions.
In Damascus, Syrian Public Administration Minister Hussein Makhlouf pledged the regime would protect refugee property rights and grant returning refugees a year’s deferral from military conscription.
“The Syrian government is working to simplify procedures for refugees who return, repair housing and try to create new jobs,” Makhlouf said, adding that the authorities were also working to streamline legislation to facilitate refugee returns.
He dismissed as hostile “propaganda” claims that some refugees were facing arrests on their return.
Makhlouf called on Western nations to drop their sanctions against Damascus, introduced early in the seven-year conflict, in order to help post-war restoration and encourage the return of the refugees.
Mizintsev said that over 1.2 million of internally displaced Syrians and about 300,000 refugees have returned in the past two and a half years.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin might take part in a summit with the leaders of Turkey and Iran at the beginning of September.
The three leaders met in April at a summit in Ankara where they discussed developments in Syria.
With help from its Russian ally, President Bashar Assad’s regime has expelled fighters from large parts of Syria’s south since June.
Israel has repeatedly pledged to prevent Iran from establishing a military presence along its border. A series of airstrikes that killed Iranians inside Syria have been attributed to Israel.
A buffer zone separates Syria to the east, from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the west.
The Russian army’s Lt.-Gen. Sergei Kuralenko told reporters on an organized press tour this week how “stability” had returned to the buffer zone.
Apart from “a few problems with Daesh” in its southern tip, the demilitarized zone was “entirely under control of Syrian military police,” Kuralenko said.
“Everything is ready” for the return of UN troops, he said, after the peacekeepers were forced to withdraw in 2014.
After retaking most of the two southern provinces adjacent to the buffer zone, regime forces last month raised their flag inside, above the key border crossing of Quneitra.
The Russian military police have set up four observation points along the demarcation line on the Syrian side of the buffer zone, Kuralenko said, and plan to set up four more in the near future.
They are “willing to hand them over to the UN if it says it is ready to ensure the monitoring of the Golan alone,” he said.