Yemen's Saleh offers (again) to transfer power: March 31 Mideast update

In addition, Libya's Qaddafi has been dealt severe blows. Assad tries to placate Syrians by offering a decision on the emergency law – in about a month.

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    A Yemeni soldier who defected to the opposition joins a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa on March 31 as Saleh and his opponents prepared for another tense Friday in a two-month-long showdown with calls for rival demonstrations.
    Ahmad Gharabli/AFP Photo/Newscom
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Check back weekday mornings for a quick tally of the latest developments in the Middle East and North Africa.


Muammar Qaddafi was dealt two severe blows in the past 24 hours. First, Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, a former intelligence chief and one of Qaddafi's closest confidantes, defected to Britain. Mr. Koussa, however, has reportedly not been promised immunity and Libya's rebels are calling for him to be returned to the country "when" Qaddafi's regime falls so that Mr. Koussa can face trial for murder and crimes against humanity.

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Meanwhile, the US disclosed that there are CIA officers on the ground in Libya, working to support the rebels, although there's been no decision yet about whether to provide arms to the rag-tag militias. Reuters reported that the US has been secretly providing aid to the rebels, but there's so far been no confirmation from the US government. US forces handed over full control of air operations in Libya to NATO Thursday morning.

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Syria's state news agency announced that a judicial committee will be set up to consider the abolition of the country's emergency law, in place since 1963. Ending the emergency law is one of the main demands of protesters who have been turning out in the streets for the past couple weeks. The committee said it will finish its deliberations by April 25, almost a whole month away.


President Saleh reportedly made a new offer last night, telling the Islah party's leader that he would be willing to transfer his powers to a transitional government headed by a member of the opposition and hold parliamentary elections by the end of the year, according to Al Jazeera. A leading Yemeni politician said Thursday, however, that Saleh should not just step down, but he should leave the country, the BBC reported.


Egypt's interim military government announced that presidential elections to officially replace former President Hosni Mubarak will be held in November, the Associated Press reported. Several candidates have already said they intend to run.

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