Archive | June, 2013

Tension rises ahead of Egypt protest

30 Jun

CAIRO (AP) ? Organizers of a mass protest against Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi claimed Saturday that more than 22 million people have signed their petition demanding the Islamist leader step down, asserting that the tally was a reflection of how much the public has turned against his rule.

The announcement adds to a sense of foreboding on the eve of opposition-led mass demonstrations that many fear could turn deadly and quickly spin out of control, dragging the country into a dangerous round of political violence.

The demonstrations planned for Sunday reflect the growing polarization of the nation since Morsi took power, with the president and his Islamist allies in one camp and seculars, liberals, moderate Muslims and Christians on the other.

There is a sense among opponents and supporters of Morsi that Sunday’s rally is a make or break day. The opposition feels empowered by the petition, known as Tamarod, or Rebel, but it offered no proof regarding the figures. If verified, it would mean that nearly double the number of people who voted for Morsi a year ago are now calling for him to step down.

“Honestly, if (Sunday) is not a game changer, we might all just pack up our bags and leave,” said Mahmoud Salem, a prominent blogger known by his blog’s name Sandmonkey and a vocal critic of the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails.

While violence is likely in such a tense atmosphere, Salem said it would not play out in favor of Morsi supporters because they will be outnumbered.

“They have alienated everybody,” he said. Even if no violence breaks out, Salem said civil disobedience is expected in a movement designed now to “save the country.”

Morsi’s supporters, on the other hand, question the petitions, saying his opponents are led by members of the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak who are trying to orchestrate a comeback and are instigating violence.

“Today and tomorrow will be the real birth of this nation,” said Hani Salaheddin, a presenter on the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated TV station Misr 25, predicting that Sunday will bring an end to the questioning of Morsi’s mandate.

“Tomorrow is the end of every corrupt person,” he said, as the slogan “legitimacy (of the ballot box) is a red line,” appeared on the screen.

Already, clashes across a string of cities north of Cairo over the past week have left eight people dead, including an American and a 14-year old, and hundreds injured. Clashes broke out outside offices of the Muslim Brotherhood and its party in at least five different governorates, and rival protests turned into violent confrontations.

Thousands are still taking part in rival sit-ins, in place since Friday in Tahrir Square for opponents and in an east Cairo suburb, Nasr City, for supporters of Morsi.

An Associated Press reporter saw Morsi supporters at a Cairo sit-in doing military-style fitness drills, with some wearing homemade body armor and construction helmets and carrying sticks. They said they had no intention of attacking opposition protesters, and would only act in self-defense or to protect the nearby presidential palace.

Highlighting the nervousness over Sunday’s protests, President Barack Obama said the U.S. is working to ensure its embassy and diplomats in Egypt are safe after the 21-year old American was killed in Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city. He urged all parties to refrain from violence and the police and military to show appropriate restraint.

Adding to the tension, eight lawmakers from the country’s interim legislature announced their resignation Saturday to protest Morsi’s policies. The 270-seat chamber was elected early last year by less than 10 percent of Egypt’s eligible voters, and is dominated by Islamists who support Morsi.

A legal adviser to Morsi also announced his resignation late Saturday in protest of what he said was Morsi’s insult of judges in his latest speech.

With a sense of doom hanging over the country, Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi last Sunday gave the president and his opponents a week to reach a compromise and warned that the military would intervene to prevent the nation from entering a “dark tunnel.”

Morsi had called for national reconciliation talks but offered no specifics. Opposition leaders dismissed the call as cosmetics.

Exchange of accusations was running high Saturday, in a rivalry that has increasingly been portrayed by Morsi supporters as an attack on Islamists in power.

The Tamarod youth movement claimed its petition is evidence of what it says is widespread dissatisfaction with Morsi’s administration, and has used the signature drive as the focal point of its call for millions of people to take to the streets to demand the president’s ouster.

Mahmoud Badr, a Tamarod leader, told reporters Saturday a total of 22,134,460 Egyptians have signed the petition. He did not say whether there had been an independent audit of the signatures.

Badr blamed Morsi supporters of dragging the peaceful movement toward violence to “terrorize” the public and avert a mass turnout in the streets.

On Tamarod’s Twitter account, the movement appealed to supporters to gather in every street in their hometowns instead of converging to the main rallies planned in Tahrir square and outside Morsi’s palace.

At a press conference organized by Morsi supporters late Saturday for their members killed in recent violence, organizers showed multiple videos of previous protests where violence raged, showing images of attacks on the Brotherhood offices and blaming “paid thugs” for it.

“Tamarod are thugs,” the crowd chanted at the conference held at the pro-Morsi sit-in.

Assem Abdel-Maged, leader of the formerly militant Gamaa Islamiya group, told the crowd that the Tamarod campaign was a “crusader war” against Islamists, led by extremist Christians to liberate Egypt from Islam. He added that his supporters collected 26 million signatures in support of Morsi.

“The issue now is war,” he said. “Sunday’s march is decisive.”

Morsi’s supporters have long doubted the validity and authenticity of the collected signatures.

“How do we trust the petitions?” asked Brotherhood member Ahmed Seif Islam Hassan al-Banna. “Who guarantees that those who signed were not paid to sign?”

But opponents of Morsi say the petition has already served its purpose, dealing a symbolic blow to Morsi’s mandate and putting in stark terms the popular frustrations with an administration that critics say has failed to effectively deal with the country’s pressing problems, including tenuous security, inflation, power cuts and high unemployment.

In a statement ahead of the protests, opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei said massive turnout is expected Sunday, calling for it to be peaceful and civilized. He called on Morsi to listen to the masses, and accept early elections.

“All of Egypt should go down tomorrow to say that we want to go back again to the ballot box,” ElBaradei said in his recorded message sent to reporters. “We gave (Morsi) a driving license but he couldn’t drive the car.”

He added: “We all feel the country is collapsing, not because the president is from the Brotherhood … But because the ruling system has failed completely.”

On Saturday, Morsi met with the defense and interior ministers to review preparations to protect the protesters and vital state facilities during Sunday’s demonstrations.

The focus of Sunday’s protests is Morsi’s Ittihadiya palace in Cairo. As a precaution, the president and his family are reported to have moved into the Cairo headquarters of the Republican Guard, the branch of the army tasked with protecting the president and presidential palaces.

With expectations of violence running high, the military has dispatched troops backed by armored personnel carriers to reinforce military bases on the outskirts of cities expected to be flashpoints.

In Cairo, additional forces were deployed to military facilities in the suburbs and outlying districts. Army troops are also moving to reinforce police guarding the city’s prisons to prevent a repeat of the nearly half dozen jail breaks during the chaos of the 2011 uprising.

Many Egyptians fear the new round of unrest could trigger a collapse in law and order similar to the one that occurred during the 2011 revolt. Already, some residents have increased security around their homes, erecting metal fences and installing barbed wire. Residents in some of the residential compounds and neighborhoods to the west of the city are reporting gunmen showing up to demand protection money or risk being robbed.

The police have stepped up patrols on the outskirts of the city, ostensibly to prevent weapons and ammunition from coming into the city to be used in case of an outbreak of violence. The army is advertising hotlines for civilians to call if they run into trouble.

___

Associated Press writer Maggie Michael and Hamza Hendawi contributed to this report.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/tension-rises-ahead-egypt-protest-211224677.html

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Malaysia Airlines resumes daily Dubai service – Breaking Travel News

30 Jun

Malaysia Airlines will be adding Dubai back to its network effective 5 August 2013. The Kuala Lumpur-Dubai return service will be mounted daily via MH162 and MH163 using the Boeing 777-200 aircraft that offers a total capacity of 282 seats in each flight, equivalent to 3,948 seats weekly.

In conjunction with the re-introduction of service, the national carrier is offering super attractive promotional fares that start from only RM1,999 for an all-inclusive Economy class return travel. Business class starts from as low as RM5,999 for an all-inclusive return journey. Bookings start from 26 June 2013 till 15 July 2013 for the travel period of 5 August 2013 till 31 March 2014.

Beginning 5 August 2013, flight MH162 will depart Kuala Lumpur daily at 11.30pm to arrive at Dubai at 2.20am the next day. The return flight MH163 departs Dubai at 4.10am to arrive at Kuala Lumpur at 3.25pm.

Malaysia Airlines Group Chief Executive Officer, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said, ?Dubai was one of the routes that were suspended in our route rationalisation exercise in January 2012. We continuously monitor market demand, and are happy to be able to add back Dubai into Malaysia Airlines network to extend our reach and strengthen our offering to customers?, he said.

Dubai is a tourism, trade and logistics hub which has earned itself the reputation as being the gateway between the east and the west. Home to just over 2 million people of more than 200 nationalities, Dubai is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. With world-class shopping and leisure facilities, Dubai is a popular destination for business and leisure.?

Malaysia Airlines has been steadily growing its reach and capacity in the past year. The introduction of the A380 fleet in July 2012 now sees the new aircraft put on thick routes to London, Paris and Hong Kong.

Kathmandu was the airline?s new destination introduced in September 2012, first 3 times weekly, then increased to 5 times weekly, and now daily following strong market demand.

Malaysia Airlines regional footprint has also been deepened with increased frequencies, daily and weekly, to key business and leisure cities around Asia.?

In addition, Malaysia Airlines network is expanded through its various code share agreements and its membership in the oneworld airline alliance since February 2013.?

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Source: http://www.breakingtravelnews.com/news/article/malaysia-airlines-resumes-daily-dubai-service/

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Russian tycoon bids for control of Swiss steelmaker

30 Jun

LUCERNE, Switzerland (Reuters) – Russian tycoon Viktor Vekselberg has launched a bid to control Swiss steelmaker Schmolz+Bickenbach after he failed to win support from shareholders to raise more capital and install his preferred candidate on the company’s board.

On Friday, Vekselberg’s investment vehicle, Renova, agreed to pay a group of long-time shareholders about 58 million Swiss francs for a 20.46 percent stake in the Swiss firm. The group, Schmolz+Bickenbach GmbH & Co KG (S+B KG), descendents of the company’s founders, retains a similar stake.

The two parties, which have been allies in fighting for a restructuring at Schmolz+Bickenbach, then agreed to pool their shares, giving them a combined stake of 40.46 percent. This forces new stakeholder Vekselberg, under Swiss law, to make an offer to buy the remaining shares in Schmolz+Bickenbach.

In a statement, Renova’s subsidiary, Venetos Holding AG, said it planned to make an offer around July 12 of 2.85 Swiss francs for each Schmolz+Bickenbach share. This offer is below the closing price of 2.90 francs on Friday.

The tender offer is worth 397 million Swiss francs for the remaining 60 percent of Schmolz+Bickenbach that Renova and S+B KG do not already own, Renova spokesman Rolf Schatzmann told Reuters.

However, Schatzmann said the offer is just a way of gaining control of the company to force a restructuring. He said Renova hopes existing shareholders will retain their shares rather than sell them.

Schmolz+Bickenbach’s board and its founding family have been at odds over the future direction of the company, with the founders believing that the firm needs to raise more capital to secure its financial strength.

Vekselberg typically seeks to gain influence over the companies he invests in by building up a substantial minority stake, as he has done previously at Swiss machinery and equipment makers Sulzer and Oerlikon .

Earlier on Friday, Schmolz+Bickenbach shareholders backed a rights issue to raise $350 million, rebuffing calls from S+B KG which had allied with Vekselberg to seek a bigger capital increase of 430 million francs ($453 million).

Schmolz+Bickenbach will now offer shareholders seven new shares for two existing shares at a subscription price of 0.80 Swiss francs, a discount of 74 percent to Thursday’s closing price. The new shares will begin trading on July 10.

The company said it would use the money to cut interest payments by repaying around $200 million in loans.

Like other European steelmakers, Schmolz+Bickenbach is struggling to find buyers for its steel because the euro zone’s problems have flattened demand in the region, while slowing growth elsewhere has limited exports of goods such as cars.

The company, which has around 10,000 employees, had opposed the larger capital increase as an excessive burden for existing shareholders. ($1 = 0.9486 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by Albert Schmieder and Caroline Copley; Writing by Alice Baghdjian and Caroline Copley; Editing by Ruth Pitchford and Richard Chang)

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/russian-tycoon-bids-control-swiss-steelmaker-213233737.html

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