Concessions made by Egypt’s vice president Sunday haven’t been enough to clear Cairo’s Tahrir Square of thousands of protesters.
Vice President Omar Suleiman has promised to allow freedom of the press, to release detained protesters and eventually lift the country’s emergency laws, but demonstrators have pledged not to leave until President Hosni Mubarak steps down.
While the crowds had thinned in Cairo Monday, thousands remained determined to keep up the pressure on the government. Banks had reopened, but schools and the stock exchange were still closed.
Protesters even gathered enough support to form a human chain around Mugamma — a huge government building where people go to get paperwork processed.
The stock exchange, which was scheduled to reopen Monday, was to remain closed until Sunday, February 13.
US President Barack Obama called Sunday for a “representative government” in Egypt and said that regardless of when President Hosni Mubarak steps down the country had changed forever.
“The Egyptian people want freedom, free and fair elections, they want a representative government, they want a responsive government. We’ve said, you have to start a transition now,” Obama told Fox television.
Pressed on whether President Hosni Mubarak was going to quit now, Obama replied: “Only he knows what he’s going to do. Here’s what we know is that Egypt is not going to go back to what it was.
“He’s not running for re-election. His term is up this year,” he added.
Opponents of Mubarak’s embattled regime on Sunday dismissed as insufficient an offer to include them in political reform plans and renewed their demand that the president step down now, rather than after elections in September.
In a landmark concession, Suleiman agreed to sit down with the groups, which included the banned Muslim Brotherhood, but the talks produced no immediate breakthrough in the two-week-old standoff.
Some Western observers have expressed concern that the Brotherhood could sweep to power and institute an Islamist regime that would be no more democratic and might break Egypt’s close alliance with Washington.
There are also worries, particularly in Israel, that under the Brotherhood Egypt could adopt a much more hostile stance towards the Jewish state, even tearing up their 1979 peace treaty, signed after four wars.
Obama was keen to stress that Egyptian society was wider than just the Muslim Brotherhood but admitted some of their positions were a concern.
This video is from the Associated Press, published Monday, Feb. 7, 2011.
This video is from Al Jazeera English, broadcast Feb. 7, 2011.
– with AFP