Egypt protests mount as US presses Mubarak

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, February 9, 2011 12:11 EDT
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CAIRO – Galvanised by the biggest day of protest since their campaign to oust Hosni Mubarak’s regime began, Egyptian pro-democracy campaigners attempted to blockade parliament Wednesday.

As speakers blared “Do not be tired. Do not be tired. Freedom isn’t free,” thousands of protesters remained camped under plastic sheets and the tracks of tanks, clinging to their “liberated” enclave on Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Around a thousand marched on parliament to demand its member’s resignation. The protest was peaceful, and government troops secured the building, but the marchers swore they would not leave until the body was dissolved.

The night before they had been joined by several hundred thousand supporters for the biggest night of rallies yet in the two-week-old drive to topple their autocratic president and replace his 30-year-old regime.

“There can be no negotiation until he leaves. After he leaves we can talk about all sorts of things,” said Essam Magdi, a 35-year-old lawyer, who has slept under an army tank since January 28 to prevent it from moving.

Egypt’s 82-year-old president has deputised his vice president and former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to draw selected opposition groups into negotiations on democratic reform before elections in September.

Some parties have joined the talks, but the crowds in Tahrir insist that Mubarak must go before they will halt the protest. Suleiman, however, warns that the transition must be slow and orderly if there is not to be chaos.

“A clear road map has been put in place with a set timetable to realise a peaceful and organised transfer of power,” he said Tuesday on state television.

Afterwards, however, he told Egyptian editors that he would not allow “uncalculated and hasty steps” and warned “there will be no ending of the regime, nor a coup, because that means chaos.”

The United States is watching events in the biggest country in the Arab world with great concern, hoping the transition to elected rule can take place without a descent into violence or an Islamist or military takeover.

On Tuesday, US Vice President Joe Biden renewed an appeal for “immediate” and “irreversible” political change in a phone call to Suleiman, including a wider national dialogue with the opposition, a White House statement said.

He also renewed US calls for Egypt to immediately rescind an emergency law, which was renewed for two years last May and which Washington says gives the government sweeping powers to restrict basic freedoms.

The vice president has begun meeting representatives of some opposition parties — including the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, but not some of the street protest groups — to draw up plans for a democratic transition.

But opposition groups say any vote to replace Mubarak would not be fair under Egypt’s current constitution.

The presence of the Brotherhood at the protests has caused some in Western capitals to fear the movement might be hijacked by Islamists, but the demonstrators insist their goal is free elections open to all.

“We didn’t want a military state or a religious state. We want a state of institutions and elections,” said 34-year-old Atif Awad, a carpenter and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The demonstrators plan to hold the square until Mubarak falls, and have been joined daily by supporters bringing food and staging street rallies. Tuesday’s were the biggest yet, packing the area in defiance of a nightly curfew.

An Iraqi Al-Qaeda front group, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq, urged the Egyptian protesters to turn their backs on the “ignorant deceiving ways” of secularism, democracy and “rotten pagan nationalism.”

Instead, it argued, they should launch a jihad for an Islamic state — an idea that has long been rejected out of hand by the opposition movement, a motley coalition of leftists, secularists, Islamists and liberals.

The groups in the square have been inspired and mobilised by young Egyptian cyberactivists like Google executive Wael Ghonim, who promoted protest on his Facebook page and was held for 12 days blindfolded by authorities.

Freed on Monday, he was given a hero’s welcome in the square at Tuesday night’s protest, and he and others insist the revolt is a popular uprising.

“We are all Egyptians, Christian and Muslim, anybody who says differently is trying to divide us, make us scared of one another. That’s the regime’s idea,” said Abdelrahman Sami, a 24-year-old doctor.

On Tuesday, Russia called for the UN Security Council to launch a mission to the Middle East to unblock the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians and to assess the turmoil in Egypt and other countries.

The Security Council has not visited the troubled region for more than three decades. Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said council envoys should go to Israel, the Palestinian territories, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon.

Mubarak met Wednesday in Cairo with Russia’s Middle East envoy Alexander Sultanov, but no details of the discussions emerged.

Agence France-Presse
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  • Anonymous

    Suleiman, stop wasting our time.

    editors: should be “demand its members’ resignations” not “demand its member’s resignation”, right?

  • Anonymous

    As VP biden might say these people are f***ing serious…
    Egyptian Protesters Unfazed by Tales of Torture
    Anti-government demonstrators are holding their ground on the streets of Cairo despite stories of protesters being tortured and killed by security forces. http://www.newslook.com/videos/289241-egyptian-protesters-unfazed-by-tales-of-torture?autoplay=true

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3NVQSZZC5IM66JEOCSFJUV7FCE Jacques G

    “the opposition movement, a motley coalition of leftists, secularists, Islamists and liberals.” Would we describe our American Revolutionaries (I.E. Founding Fathers) this way? The British Loyalists would have, for sure. C’m on America, wake up!!! Support this movement. In fact, WE need to so something like this here, now. We’re supposed to be the “Leaders” in this kinda stuff.

  • Anonymous

    It’s time for the protestors to consolidate their gains and to begin to organize in earnest in preparations for September’s elections. Only then will they receive universal validation. Until then – no matter the faults of Mubarek – it will remain suspect just what is the driving force beneath the protests.

  • http://gaia-health.com/ Heidi Stevenson

    Is this the best Raw can do? The single most important news out of Egypt isn’t even touched on by their reporting. The labor strikes – the thing that could put the Egyptian revolution over the top – isn’t even mentioned by any of their coverage.

    Come on, Raw! Surely you can do better than this. A summary of the day and the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood won’t seek the presidency (news that’s days old) just doesn’t cut it.

  • Anonymous

    Tyrants don’t surrender power until their hearts stop beating. That has always been the case, and will always be the case.

  • http://gaia-health.com/ Heidi Stevenson

    Not a chance! That would be the beginning of the end for them. If they give up now, they’re looking at being disappeared.

    There isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that Mubarak or Suleiman would keep their promises.

    The protesters may be on the verge of winning – and you’re calling for them to give up?

    But then, if you’ve been getting your news from Raw, you might be forgiven for being completely unaware of the real events of yesterday and today.

  • Anonymous

    This is by AFP?

  • Anonymous

    I am not calling for them to give up. I very clearly said, consolidate their gains.

    I’m suggesting they broaden their efforts to the whole of the country, and, in so doing, rather than remain a mere fraction of the population demonstrating in the square, gain an even greatr legitimacy. It takes time to do the legwork that this sort of nationalization of their movment entails.

    Without that, the only group that has something near the sort of organizatonal heft that is required is the Muslim Brotherhood – the progenitors of terrorists, e.g. Hamas and Al Qaeda. We’ve already seen how these sorts of religious fanatics have taken advantage of the energy of popular uprisings,only to thwart them and manipulate them for their own gains.

  • http://gaia-health.com/ Heidi Stevenson

    If they agree to wait until the elections, then they are giving up. Simple as that.

    Your view of the protesters is very poor, and to my thinking, quite narrow-minded. Aren’t you aware of how well-educated the protesters are?

    It takes time? You mean like it is in Tunisia? They’re doing it right now. Peacefully. Are you trying to say that the people of Tunisia are better able to run their country than the people of Egypt?

    Are you suggesting that this protest was the work of the Muslim Brotherhood? It most assuredly isn’t.

    Apparently, the lack of decent reporting here has affected your judgement. You aren’t aware that the real news of today is that labor IS behind the revolution. There are massive strikes all across the country. The country is behind the protest – and, from news elsewhere, apparently there will be ads placed in tomorrow’s newspapers by businesses attempting to distance themselves from the Mubarak regime.

    No, they shouldn’t give up – and “consolidating their gains” would lose everything.

  • http://gaia-health.com/ Heidi Stevenson

    Yes – but Raw has access (just as I do) to a lot of other really good reporting.

    In fact, their original page of Al Jazeera’s live reporting is still available (though there is a lot more being covered by them now): http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/01/al-jazeera/

  • Anonymous

    There are some very good news coming out of Egypt today but also, some very bad ones. The thugs are at it again and another 5 or so protesters are reported dead and hundreds injured. Something had to be done about this guy!

    This from Twitter:

    visionscarto RT @monachollet: #Egypt: Away from the Press, Netizens Report a Massacre in Kharga http://bit.ly/dZ5w1X

  • Anonymous

    From Twitter:

    ibrahba RT @marwame: AlJazeera: Thousands of railway workers in #Egypt go on strike. #jan25

    daithib8 RT @richardengelnbc: #egypt.. workers striking today.. very different mood from in tahrir.. angrier.. they feel like they’ve been ‘taking it’ for years.

    skyburst38 RT @gamaleid: Egypt lawyers holding a demonstration tomorrow, to Abdeen Palace SQ , in support of Egypt’s Revolution #Jan25

    Evenseams RT @nytimes: On our radar: #Egypt. Protests now spreading beyond #Tahrir & in other cities. Our newly updated leadall: http://nyti.ms/eQZbdK

    BlessBina RT @Dima_Khatib: Tahrir Square is PACKED again.. According to witnesses: 1 million or more.. more people flocking after work #jan25 #egypt

  • Hassan i Sabbah

    According to the Independent, there are AMERICAN OWNED tanks ON THE GROUND killing people in Cairo.