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Tunisia's ousted president jailed in absentia

The trio were also ordered to pay $100 million in damages

U.K.: Gaddafi may be allowed to stay in Libya

British aircraft are stepping up the bombing campaign against Gaddafi's security and intelligence apparatus before Ramadan begins on 1 August

Saleh’s promised return sparks demos, by both sides

President Saleh is expected to return to Yemen Sunday, bringing jubilant supporters to the streets of Sanaa while his opponents fume.
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Anti-government protestors in Sanaa demand the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, (AHMAD GHARABLI/Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

For some President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s expected return to Sanaa is seen as a long awaited homecoming of Yemen’s rightful ruler. For many, many others his expected return on Sunday is derided as the re-establishing of an unwanted dictator, propped up by foreign meddling, in particular by the US.

Hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets of Sanaa on Friday calling for civil rule and putting an end of foreign interference in Yemen’s
political affairs.

Abdullah Murad, an anti government protester who participated in today’s protest told Global Post: “It’s a disgrace that the ruling family killed hundreds of unarmed peaceful protesters and the so-called US democracy is supporting the killers and ignoring the will of the people. We will not stop protesting until the oppressive military regime falls and civil law prevails after decades of oppression in Yemen.”

Yemen’s most powerful tribal leader, Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, head of Hashed tribe, accused the US ambassador in Sanaa of being “the real ruler in Yemen today” in a sign of discomfort at US intervention in Yemeni affairs, despite the demand of White House counter terrorism chief that Saleh step down.

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Letting an old friend go

After a five-month uprising and an assassination attempt against him, the US is telling Yemen’s President Saleh to step down.
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In better days. President Saleh giving a speech during an electoral campaign in 2006. Now he is being asked to step down. (CRIS BOURONCLE/Staff/AFP/Getty Images)

White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan is on a mission to do what civil war, secession, rebellion, attempted assassination, an economy in meltdown and week after week of mass protests have so far failed to achieve: Persuade Yemen’s canny, tribesman president of 33 years to step down.

Brennan flew into Saudi Arabia this week to meet long time US ally President Ali Abdullah Saleh who has been receiving medical treatment in the kingdom since a bomb explosion in his palace left him with severe burns.

Brennan asked President Saleh to “expeditiously” agree to a transition deal where he would transfer power to the vice president and step down, in exchange for immunity from prosecution for corruption.

Saleh said he viewed the proposal as a “basis” for a national dialogue, comments sure to be taken by his opponents as proof he will never willingly step down.

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“Recommendations of the rebels in the event of an invasion.”

Opposition in protest town under siege prepare people for invasion
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Syrian army troops hold up portraits of President Bashar al-Assad (L) and his late father, former president Hafez al-Assad, as they pull out of the southern protest hub of Daraa after a military lockdown during which dozens of people were killed in what activists termed as "indiscriminate" shelling of the town. (LOUAI BESHARA/Getty Images)

It feels, and sounds, like something from a World War II thriller.

As Syria’s slow motion revolution grinds on and the military lays siege to key protest areas, the self-declared rebels of Zabadani, a picturesque mountain town, 40 km north-west of Damascus, have begun handing out leaflets instructing residents what to do in the event of their army invading.

“Recommendations of the rebels to the people in the event of an invasion of the Zabadani region,” starts the leaflet, written by members of the Local Coordination Committees (LCC), a grassroots opposition movement.

Residents must stock up on food, hide valuables and destroy any incriminating evidence of activities related to the uprising, says the leaflet, urging people to collect family members together while youth activists escape with enough supplies to survive for a few days in hiding.

“Any attempt to confront the army and prevent it from entering is useless,” read the leaflet. “Avoid provoking elements of the army and their thugs […] We must show solidarity and cohesion among us, and hide our fear. We do not accept humiliation. Our dignity and pride are the most precious thing we have. However, we recommend not to resist arrest and avoid direct confrontation and antagonism if possible.”

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President’s TV appearance shocks viewers in Yemen

The president of Yemen may have a new scorched image, but his supporters hope, while the opposition fears, he is far from burned out.
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President Ali Abdullah Saleh after undergoing eight operations (left) and the president before the assassination attempt left him with severe burns. (Screengrab)

When the charred face of President Ali Abdullah Saleh appeared on TV, Thursday, it sent shock waves through the country.

Not only did he not indicate any willingness to relinquish power after six months of protests against his 33-year rule, the president’s appearance had changed dramatically after an assassination attempt on him June 3.

Speaking from his exile in Saudi Arabia, to where he had been airlifted for medical treatment, the singed president told viewers that he had undergone eight operations after at least one bomb planted in his palace mosque exploded leaving him with severe burns to his face and body.

Through his long rule, the president has placed great importance on his image and Yemenis are accustomed to their charismatic president beaming down at them from posters on the streets or looking wistfully off into the middle distance from framed photos in public offices.

While his trademark moustache had been replaced with greying stubble and his heavily bandaged hands were carefully kept out of view, Saleh remained defiant amid growing calls both internally and internationally for his resignation saying he would "confront a challenge with a challenge."

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US ambassador's ringside seat for Hama uprising

Ambassador Robert Ford delights Hama protesters, infuriates regime, with off protocol visit to heart of Syrian uprising.
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(Screengrab)

The US ambassador to Syria had a ringside view on Syria’s popular uprising today, watching from a hotel balcony as an estimated half a million residents of Hama flooded into a central square to chant for the downfall of the Assad regime.

Three separate sources in the city, all experienced activists, estimated the size of the crowd between 500,000 and 600,000 which, if confirmed, would make it the largest ever protest against the Assad family’s 41-year dictatorship.

Early videos out of Hama show two central squares thronged with people, the first around the clock tower and the second outside a municipal building.

In the absence of security forces, the massive gathering appeared to have an almost carnival-like atmosphere, with protestors carrying a giant Syrian flag extended for hundreds of meters through the centre of the city while the main clock tower has been draped in a purple banner reading, ““Long live free Syria. Down with Bashar al-Assad.”

SANA, the state-run news agency, criticized Ford for visiting Hama without authorization from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, saying the visit gave “clear evidence of the US involvement in the events taking place in Syria and its attempt to escalate the situation, which disturbs the security and stability of the country.”

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Syria’s Hama in open revolt

With northern city now the center of Syria's rebellion, the army weighs an assault to wrest back control, stirring dark memories of 1982 massacre.
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A make-shift roadblock set up by residents of Hama in an effort to prevent the return of the army and security forces. The sign reads: “Hama is safe without the presence of Bashar’s army or security forces.” (Screengrab)

A week on from gathering together for the largest ever protest against the Assad family’s 41-year dictatorship, residents of Hama in northern Syria describe a city in open revolt as the military weighs an assault to retake control of what has become the center of the rebellion.

An activist in Hama said residents are burning their water and electricity bills, saying "We will not pay for the bullets you shoot us with." All shops and public institutions are closed and, for a third week in a row, there are no police or traffic cops on the streets. Residents have set up check points in main streets using garbage bins, tires, concrete breeze blocks, wooden crates, or just about anything they can lay their hands on, as videos from the city appear to show:

Yesterday the activist said electricity and water was cut in Hama but in response residents started a rumor that they would blow up the high voltage electricity lines that run from Turkey down to Damascus and on to Jordan, Syria's main connection to the European grid. Half an hour later, he said, the power and water were back on again.

Hama is now the regime’s biggest problem. Last Friday there was an almost a carnival-like atmosphere in the city, with a video now buzzing around the Syrian blogosphere showing a traditional Arabic call and response song between thousands of protestors in Hama’s main square, singing lyrics that ridiculed President Assad in a way never seen, or heard, before in Syria. 

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Libya's top oil chief defects in Rome

"I left the country and decided also to leave my job and to join the choice of Libyan youth to create a modern constitutional state respecting human rights and building a better future for all Libyans," Shokri Ghanem said.

Vatican slams "Mussolini lookalike" statue of John Paul II

Mayor Gianni Alemanno, asked by APTN if the city might take down the statue — erected in time to mark what would have been John Paul's 91st birthday on 18 May — said public opinion would be considered.
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