Posted at 11:11 AM ET, 03/23/2011

Middle East updates: Libya interim council names leader; cities under bombardment


People look at weapons belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, destroyed by a coalition airstrike. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)
Here’s a roundup of the current state of affairs in the Middle East:

Libya

The United States might hand over command of military operation in Libya to the NATO alliance, despite initial opposition from some of the key countries in the organization.

Libya’s protesters have formed an interim government and elected Mahmoud Jibril to be the prime minister.

Four days of airstrikes have done little to sway Moammar Gaddafi to stop attacks on civilians or to step down. Gaddafi gave a speech Tuesday saying he would be victorious.

An interim council has nominated a new prime minister

Three more journalists have been released by the Libyan government. Ten more remain missing or detained. For the harrowing account of the arrest of the New York Times journalists freed Monday, read their story here:

At that moment, though, none of us thought we were going to live. Steve tried to keep eye contact until they pulled the trigger. The rest of us felt the powerlessness of resignation. You feel empty when you know that it’s almost over. “Shoot them,” a tall soldier said calmly in Arabic.

Syria

Six people have been killed in the deadliest day of anti-government protests.

Though protests have remained confined to the southern city of Daraa, massive demonstrations have been called throughout the country for “Dignity Friday.”

Yemen

President Ali Abdullah Saleh threatened a civil war over the continuing protests in his country, while also asking to open dialogue with his opposition.

The instability in Yemen has U.S. officials worried about a top operative of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula possibly exploiting the current unrest. American-born Anwar al-Aulaqi, linked to the Fort Hood shootings and the Christmas Day shoe bomber, lives freely in the south of Yemen. Saleh had been pursuing his arrest until the protests began.

Tunisia

Tunisia has been taking the first steps toward creating a democratic government, and the U.S. pledged $20 million to Tunisia to aid in the process.

Egypt

Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Cairo on Wednesday to urge a calm transition to democracy.

The Egyptian stock market plunged 9 percent after opening for the first time in nearly two months.

On Tuesday, police officers set ablaze the Interior Ministry during a protest for more pay and better working conditions.

By  |  11:11 AM ET, 03/23/2011

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