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Judges in Egypt’s NGO trial pull out

English: View from Cairo Tower

Lead judge says court felt “uneasiness” as Washington exerts pressure on Cairo over case involving 16 US citizens.

All three judges in Egypt’s trial of 43 NGO workers have pulled out of the case, according to a court official.

The defendants, including 16 US citizens, are charged with using illegal foreign funds to foment unrest that has roiled Egypt over the past year.

The non-governmental organisations flatly deny the charges, and US officials have hinted foreign aid to Egypt could be in jeopardy because of the case.

Mohammed Shoukry, the lead judge in the case, said on Tuesday that “the court felt uneasiness” in handling the case, according to a court official. He did not elaborate.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said new judges would be assigned to the case.

The trial has so far only made it as far as its opening session, and would need to be restarted with a new panel of judges.
Combined with indications that the two countries are trying to find an acceptable resolution to the crisis, there is speculation that the case could be dropped.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, told two senate panels on Tuesday that the US and Egypt, which has long been

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West dismisses Syria constitution vote as ‘farce’

English: Brasilia - The president of the Syria...

By ZEINA KARAM and BEN HUBBARD

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The U.S. and its allies dismissed the Syrian regime’s referendum on a new constitution Sunday as a “farce” meant to justify the bloody crackdown on dissent.

But voters in government strongholds suggested why some Syrians have not joined the uprising against President Bashar Assad: Loyalty, distrust of the opposition and fear his fall will ignite a civil war.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the poll “a cynical ploy” and urged Syrians who still support Assad to turn against him. A “farce” and a “sham vote” was how German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle described it.

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Clinton threatens sanctions on Somali peace spoilers

Hillary Clinton 1

By Arshad Mohammed and William Maclean

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday threatened sanctions on anyone blocking reforms intended to end Somalia’s “hopeless, bloody conflict” and counter militant and pirate groups seen as a growing menace to world security.

Addressing a conference aimed at energizing attempts to end more than 20 years of anarchy, Clinton also demanded greater efforts to cut funding for al Shabaab militants fighting Somalia’s weak Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

But in response to a reporter’s question she cautioned against Western air strikes on al Shabaab-held zones, adding she had no reason to believe anyone was contemplating them, and Britain’s International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell told the BBC the UK had no plans “for anything like that.”

Al Shabaab is the most powerful of an array of militias spawned by the conflict in Somalia, where armed groups have a history of wrecking attempted political settlements and perpetuating war, instability and famine.

“The position of the United States is straightforward: attempts to obstruct progress and maintain the broken status quo will not be tolerated,” Clinton told the one-day gathering in London of about 40 African, Arab and Western leaders and government ministers.

“We will encourage the international community to impose further sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on people inside and outside the TFG who seek to undermine Somalia’s peace and security or to delay or even prevent the political transition.”

A conference communiqué said participants agreed to “act against spoilers to the peace process, and we would consider proposals” before a followup conference in Istanbul in June.

read more at                   www.reuters.com

‘Friends of Syria’ consider ultimatum to Assad

English: President Bashar al-Assad of Syria . ...

The United States, Europe and Arab nations are preparing to demand that Syrian President Bashar Assad agree within days to a ceasefire and allow humanitarian aid into areas hardest hit by his regime’s brutal crackdown on opponents.

U.S., European and Arab officials were meeting in London on Thursday to craft details of an ultimatum to Assad that diplomats said could demand compliance within 72 hours or result in additional as-yet-unspecified punitive measures, likely to include toughened sanctions. The ultimatum is to be presented at a major international conference on Syria set for Friday in Tunisia.

American officials accompanying U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Tunis meeting of the “Friends of Syria” said the goal is to make it clear to Assad that his regime has a moral obligation to end the shelling of civilian areas and allow assistance into the country. The message will be that the burden is on Assad to respond to the demands of the international community, they said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the ongoing discussions over how the ultimatum will be presented at the Tunis conference. Several nations have proposed creating protected corridors through which humanitarian relief can flow but it was not clear if a consensus could be reached on the matter, as such a step would almost certainly require a military component.

read more at                www.lasvegassun.com