Arab States Weekly Review 26th Mar – 1st April 2011

In Libya clashes between rebels and forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi escalated into a full-scale civil war. Gaddafi’s forces regained several coastal towns while Misrata, the nearest rebel-held town to Tripoli, was heavily fought over. A conference on Libya in London drew representatives of over 40 governments and international bodies to discuss the latest political, military and humanitarian plans.

Scores died in Syria as security forces suppressed anti-regime protests, particularly in Latakia and Deraa. President Bashar Assad said he would lift the 48-year-old state of emergency, but did not say when.

Following weeks of violent protests, Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh offered to transfer his powers to a caretaker government while retaining the presidency until elections are held. Protesters declined the offer.

Sectarian relations in the Middle East soured after Nuri Al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister and a Shia himself, praised the Shia protesters in Bahrain and criticised Sunni Saudi Arabia for helping to suppress them. Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hizbullah, Lebanon’s Shia party-cum-militia, also aroused anger among Sunni governments by praising the Bahraini protesters and likening the Bahraini ruling family to Libya’s Gaddafi.

At least 55 people were killed in Tikrit, Iraq, after suicide bombers thought to be linked to Al-Qaeda to a score of hostages, including several members of the local council, prompting government forces to storm the building.

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