Latest developments in Arab world's unrest

AP News
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Posted: Aug 06, 2011 3:31 PM
Latest developments in Arab world's unrest

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SYRIA

The Syrian military tightens its suffocating siege on the city of Hama in its drive to crush the main center of the anti-regime uprising in the country, even as the foreign minister promises that free parliamentary elections will be held by the end of the year in a gesture of reform.

Like previous reform promises, the new announcement is unlikely to have much resonance with Syria's opposition, which says it has lost all confidence in President Bashar Assad's overtures.

Activists say security forces killed 24 people around the country on Friday.

Gulf Arab countries break their silence on the bloodshed, calling for an immediate end to the violence and for the implementation of "serious" reforms in Syria. In a statement on its website, the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council expresses deep concern and regret for "the escalating violence in Syria and use of excess force."

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LIBYA

Rebels launch a new offensive out of their stronghold in Libya's western mountains, battling regime forces in a drive toward the heartland of Moammar Gadhafi's rule on the Mediterranean coast. Opening a new front, the rebels are aiming to break a monthslong deadlock and eventually fight their way to the capital, Tripoli.

Rebels are hoping for a breakthrough in the far west of Libya, frustrated with the stalemate in the center of the country, where their under-equipped forces have been unable to budge the battlelines despite five months of NATO airstrikes on Gadhafi's military.

Rebel commander Col. Jumma Ibrahim says opposition forces in the western offensive capture their first target, the village of Bir Ghanam. His claims could not be independently confirmed.

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YEMEN

Government forces clash with supporters of Yemen's most powerful tribe for a second consecutive day in the capital, despite efforts to mediate an end to the fighting.

Witnesses say heavy gunfire erupted just before sundown in Sanaa's Hassaba district between forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the tribal confederation led by the al-Ahmar clan.

Saleh supporters and fighters loyal to the al-Ahmar clan have been locked in a tense standoff in Sanaa since late May when al-Ahmar's leader sided with protesters calling for Saleh's ouster. That set off a round of fighting in Sanaa's streets that threatened to escalate into all-out war.

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EGYPT

Egypt's largest political group, the Muslim Brotherhood, holds its first open internal election since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, in an attempt to burnish its democratic credentials ahead of parliamentary polls later this year.

After decades spent underground because of an official ban, the public vote is also part of a concerted push by the Islamist group to show off its organization and dispel its reputation as a secretive and closed group. It looks poised to win big at the November polls, largely because of its well-organized political machine and social outreach programs.