Egypt Independent: World-Main news en French police kill 'Allahu Akbar' attacker <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" /><p>French police on Saturday shot dead a knife-wielding man who attacked three officers in a police station while shouting &quot;Allahu Akbar&quot; (&quot;God is great&quot;).</p><p>The man wounded one officer&#39;s face at the entrance to the police station in Joue-les-Tours near the central city of Tours and injured two others before he was killed.</p><p>Anti-terror investigators of the Paris prosecutor&#39;s office have opened an inquiry into the incident for attempted murder and other offences related to terrorism.</p><p>The perpetrator was a French national born in Burundi in 1994 who was known to police for common crimes, a source close to the investigation told AFP.</p><p>The attacker &quot;shouted &#39;Allahu Akbar&#39; from the moment he entered until his last breath,&quot; the source said.</p><p>&quot;It looked like the sort of act called for by Islamic State,&quot; the source said.</p><p>&quot;The investigation is leading towards an attack... motivated by radical Islamist motives.&quot;</p><p>The Islamic State group, which has seized control of swathes of Iraq and Syria using brutal violence, has exhorted its followers to mount attacks in the West.</p><p>According to a statement by the interior ministry, the assailant was around 20 years of age, and was &quot;killed (by) police officers present using their issued firearms.&quot;</p><p>Prime Minister Manuel Valls pledged his support for the &quot;seriously injured&quot; officers who were &quot;in a state of shock&quot;.</p><p>He said the state would deal &quot;severely&quot; with anyone who attacked the police.</p><p>Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who visited the scene, said the police had been subjected to a &quot;brutal attack&quot;.</p><p>He paid tribute to the &quot;cool-headedness and professionalism shown by the police officers&quot;.</p><p>He said two of the officers were badly hurt, while the third was lightly injured.</p><p>All three were out of danger, Tours&#39; public prosecutor Jean-Luc Beck told AFP.</p><p>&quot;According to the early indications of the probe, all elements point to legitimate self-defence,&quot; he said.</p><p>The attacker was not on any watch-lists maintained by France&#39;s main domestic intelligence service, the General Directorate for Internal Security, the source involved in the inquiry said.</p><p>But the source noted the assailant&#39;s brother was known to security agencies for his radical convictions and had at one point planned to travel to Syria.</p><p>Cazeneuve said he had ordered &quot;security measures to be stepped up&quot; for police personnel and firefighters across the country.</p><p><strong>- Returning jihadists -</strong></p><p>Authorities believe around 1,200 French nationals or residents are involved in jihadist networks in Iraq and Syria.</p><p>Like other European countries, France is concerned about the risk of attacks mounted by nationals who return home after fighting alongside extremists in Syria.</p><p>The main suspect in the murders of four people at Brussels&#39; Jewish Museum in May, Mehdi Nemmouche, is a Frenchman of Algerian origin who spent more than a year fighting with extremists in Syria.</p><p>In 2012, French Islamist Mohammed Merah killed seven people in the southwest city of Toulouse.</p><p>He was killed by police after a 32-hour siege in his flat.</p><p>A year later, a 22-year-old French Muslim convert stabbed a soldier in the La Defense business district of Paris.</p> Sun, 21 Dec 2014 13:46:00 +0000 AFP 2441658 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/12/21/499612/french_police.jpg Analysis: New leadership seeks to rebuild EU self-confidence <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>Short, snappy and focussed on two priorities - reviving sagging investment in Europe and standing firm towards<a href="" title="Full coverage of Russia">Russia</a>, the first European Union summit under new leadership was a demonstrative break with the past.</p><p>Donald Tusk, the former Polish prime minister who took over the chairmanship of the 28-nation European Council this month, put his briskly opinionated stamp on the meeting of EU leaders, sending them home a day early after a show of unity and purpose.</p><p>In his first month, he has shown he intends to be a major player in EU foreign policy, driving an Atlanticist agenda of free trade with the United States, partnership with NATO, toughness with Russia and cautious cooperation with&nbsp;<a href="" title="Full coverage of China">China</a>.</p><p>German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the most powerful EU leader, was delighted with the first steps of her protege, a fellow conservative from a country which like her native East<a href="" title="Full coverage of Germany">Germany</a>&nbsp;cast off Soviet Communist domination in 1989.</p><p>She praised &quot;a shorter, more succinct, well organised Council meeting under our new president Donald Tusk&quot;. Indeed Tusk opened the summit without Merkel and French President Francois Hollande after they kept other leaders waiting while they met in private, participants said.</p><p>Departing from the self-effacing, consensual style of his Belgian predecessor Herman Van Rompuy, Tusk made clear publicly in advance he wanted a firm line on maintaining economic sanctions on Russia, which he called &quot;our strategic problem&quot;.</p><p>The former Solidarity student union activist and anti-communist political organizer said Europeans should regain their self-confidence and realise their own strengths.</p><p>&quot;The biggest challenge today is the Russian approach, not only to Ukraine but also to the EU,&quot; he said.</p><p>One EU official described the contrast between Van Rompuy and Tusk as &quot;old school versus business school&quot;, although the Pole is a political bruiser rather than an economist.</p><p>When ambassadors met the next morning to review the new summit format, there was unanimous praise for Tusk&#39;s strict chairmanship, which returned the European Council to its intended role of giving strategic guidance to the EU on a handful of key issues instead of a laundry list of problems.</p><p>He prevented leaders making long speeches or getting involved in rewriting the final statement, as often happens.</p><p>&quot;They were happy the drafting was left to civil servants and they weren&#39;t asked to get involved,&quot; an EU diplomat said.</p><p>Whether that discipline will hold when serious issues of money and power are at stake remains to be seen.</p><p>Tusk&#39;s clear line on Russia masked differences between hawks who want to maintain or step up sanctions, and doves such as&nbsp;<a href="" title="Full coverage of France">France</a>&nbsp;and Italy, keen to ease them at the first sign of Russian cooperation to stabilise eastern Ukraine.</p><p>Those divergences may widen in mid-2015 when the EU has to review the curbs on finance, arms sales and technology transfer imposed initially for 12 months.</p><p>Tusk was careful not to oversell the initiative to stimulate private investment in Europe&#39;s stalled economy proposed by new European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, saying it was &quot;no silver bullet&quot; but a first step to restore confidence.</p><p>EU leaders endorsed the plan intended to plough 315 billion euros into transport, energy, research and small business, but some demanded a say on which projects are funded. Brussels, in agreement with investors, wants to keep decisions in the hands of European Investment Bank experts to avoid financing national politicians&#39; pet schemes.</p><p>This may be a first test of whether Europe&#39;s new leadership can resist pressure to renationalise decision making.</p><p>The&nbsp;<a href="" title="Full coverage of Euro Zone">euro zone</a>&nbsp;crisis of 2010-2013 changed the balance of power in the EU, giving more say to national governments that hold the purse strings and less to the Commission, which has seen its sole right to initiate EU legislation gradually eroded.</p><p>Juncker has bent to the prevailing Eurosceptic winds, announcing a work programme last week that will withdraw 80 pieces of planned regulation, including clean air and waste management rules, and propose only 25 new initiatives next year.</p><p>He and Tusk have opted to take issues off the table where they perceive there is little chance of agreement.</p><p>But centrifugal forces are still hard at work, now tugging at the Commission&#39;s core competences of policing competition, upholding single market rules and negotiating trade deals.</p><p>To be sure, it&#39;s not all one-way traffic. The Commission has gained more oversight over national budget deficits, although its powers are being tested by defiance from Paris and Rome.</p><p>The European Central Bank, the federal institution in charge of the 18-nation euro single currency, has acquired more power during the crisis, not just as the de facto backstop for the euro zone but also by gaining control of banking supervision.</p><p>Yet the ECB too faces a backlash from some governments and national central banks, notably in Germany and the Netherlands, which are trying to clip its wings and inhibit it printing money to buy government bonds in its effort to revive inflation.</p><p>Europe&#39;s new start will be put to the test in 2015 by monetary controversy, potential political upheaval and economic stagnation. Tusk and Juncker have won plaudits in their first weeks in office, but the real ordeal is still to come.</p> Sun, 21 Dec 2014 12:01:00 +0000 Reuters 2441642 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/12/21/499612/european_council.jpg Tunisians vote in historic presidential run-off <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>Tunisians vote on Sunday in a presidential run-off election that completes the country&#39;s last steps to full democracy nearly fours years after the uprising that toppled autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.</p><p>With a new progressive constitution and a full parliament elected in October, Tunisia is hailed as an example of democratic change for a region still struggling with the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring revolts.</p><p>The nation has mostly avoided the post-revolt divisions troubling&nbsp;<a href="" title="Full coverage of Libya">Libya</a>&nbsp;and Egypt, but Sunday&#39;s election has emerged as a race between a former Ben Ali official and the incumbent who claims to defend the legacy of the 2011 revolution. Frontrunner Beji Caid Essebsi, a former parliament speaker under Ben Ali, won 39 percent of votes in the first round in November with current president Moncef Marzouki taking 33 percent of the ballots.</p><p>Essebsi, 88, dismisses critics who say he would mark a return of the old regime stalwarts. He says he is the technocrat Tunisia needs after three messy years of the Islamist-led coalition government that followed the revolt.</p><p>Marzouki, a former activist during the Ben Ali era, has painted an Essebsi presidency as a setback for the &quot;Jasmine Revolution&quot; that forced the former leader to flee the country into exile. But many critics tie Marzouki&rsquo;s own presidency to the Islamist party&#39;s government and its mistakes.</p><p>&quot;We are going to get back to life now with Essebsi, and forget the disaster of the last three years of Marzouki and the Islamists,&quot; said Fathia Ben Saleh, at an Essebsi rally in Tunis.</p><p>&quot;We don&#39;t have any worries about democracy with Essebsi.&quot; Compromise has been key in Tunisian politics. Essebsi&#39;s Nidaa Tounes party managed to reach a deal with Islamist Ennahda to overcome a crisis triggered by the murder of two secular leaders last year.</p><p>Ennahda eventually stepped down at the start of this year to make way for a technocrat transitional cabinet until elections. But the Islamists remain a powerful force after winning the second largest number of seats in the new parliament. The presidency post holds only limited powers over national defense and foreign policy. In Tunisia, the parliament, led by Essebsi&#39;s Nidaa Tounes party who won the most seats, will be key to selecting a new prime minister to lead the government.</p><p>Ennahda and the leftwing Popular Front movement - both well-organized and supported -- would be powerful opponents. Tunisia&#39;s new government must still tackle the threat of Islamist militants, and also potentially politically sensitive economic reforms in a country where many are still more concerned over jobs and the high cost of living.</p><p>&quot;I won&#39;t vote for Essebsi or Marzouki. The first was never a democrat and we know his past,&quot; said Imed Jouini, a unemployed man at a Tunis cafe watching campaigning. &quot;The second doesn&#39;t know how to do anything except bury police who were killed by terrorists.&quot;</p> Sun, 21 Dec 2014 09:18:00 +0000 Reuters 2441620 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/12/21/499612/tunisians_vote.jpg Gulf stock Markets' rebound likely to slow as oil outlook still cloudy <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1419144542424_1001">A strong rebound by Gulf stock markets looks set to slow on Sunday as the outlook for oil prices remains cloudy, but the panic which engulfed stocks earlier this month is unlikely to return.</p><p>Gulf bourses surged on Thursday, with Saudi Arabia up 8.9 percent and Dubai up 13.0 percent, after Brent crude oil rebounded above $60 a barrel. It ended on Friday up $2.11, or 3.4 percent, at $61.38.</p><p>Although some oil traders are betting that $60 a barrel will be a floor, others are not convinced and think a renewed slide towards $50 remains a possibility. Uncertainty is so high that the CBOE crude oil volatility index last week hit its highest level since 2011.</p><p>Any renewed drop of oil this week could hit Gulf stock markets again, particularly Saudi petrochemical stocks.</p><p>However, the bourses appear to have found at least short-term bottoms, and Gulf investors are no longer so worried that lower oil prices will mean sharp cut-backs in government spending in the region. Governments of the big Gulf economies will be able to use their huge fiscal reserves to cover any budget deficits for years.</p><p>Saudi Arabian Finance Minister Ibrahim Alassaf said on Wednesday that his government would continue spending strongly on development projects and social benefits in its 2015 budget, which is expected to be announced on Monday. United Arab Emirates, Kuwaiti and Qatari ministers have made similar comments.</p><p>Fitch Ratings affirmed its AA debt rating for Kuwait at the weekend, citing &quot;an exceptionally strong sovereign balance sheet&quot;.</p><p>Qatar&#39;s bourse may rise strongly on Sunday because the market was closed for a national holiday on Thursday, missing out on the Gulf&#39;s rally.</p><p>FIFA&#39;s executive committee unanimously agreed on Friday to publish an &quot;appropriate&quot; version of the investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups but said Russia and Qatar would still stage the tournaments, which was good news for the Qatari market.</p><p>The two most vulnerable Gulf economies are Bahrain and Oman; Fitch cut Bahrain&#39;s outlook to negative at the weekend, following a similar move by Standard and Poor&#39;s. However, liquidity appears so low and stocks are so tightly held in Bahrain that the Bahraini stock market has actually outperformed the region in recent weeks.</p><p>The executive president of Oman&#39;s State General Reserve Fund, its largest sovereign wealth fund, told Reuters at the end of last week that the SGRF had boosted its buying of shares in the local market as prices had slid to attractive levels.</p><p>Egypt&#39;s stock market, which also began rebounding on Thursday, may get a further boost from news that Fitch upgraded Egypt&#39;s debt to B, citing encouraging government policies.</p><p>&quot;The government has embarked on a policy course designed to tackle some of the serious structural weaknesses that have emerged or intensified in recent years,&quot; it said.</p><p id="yui_3_9_1_1_1419144542424_1012">&quot;Fuel subsidy cuts and tax hikes have been implemented as part of a clear five-year fiscal consolidation strategy. Power shortages are being tackled, overdue payments to oil companies reduced, investment laws revised and disputes with foreign investors settled. The measures appear to have strong political backing.&quot;</p> Sun, 21 Dec 2014 06:49:00 +0000 Reuters 2441622 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/12/17/499612/oil_prices.jpg