CAIRO – Egypt’s new military rulers told the nation on Saturday they were committed to civilian rule and democracy after Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow and said they would respect all treaties, a move to reassure Israel and Washington.
Pro-democracy activists in Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square, the epicenter of an earthquake of popular protest that unseated Mubarak, have vowed to stay there until the Higher Military Council accepts their agenda for democratic reform.
Throughout the Middle East, autocratic rulers were calculating their chances of survival after Mubarak was forced from power in a dramatic 18-day uprising that changed the course of Egypt’s history, unsettling the United States and its allies.
“The Arab Republic of Egypt is committed to all regional and international obligations and treaties,” a senior army officer said in a statement on state television, outlining the armed forces’ broad strategies at home and abroad.
The message was clearly designed to try and soothe concerns in Israel which has a 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, the first Arab nation to make peace with the Jewish state. Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz welcomed the statement.
In another move to restore order, the army said it would “guarantee the peaceful transition of power in the framework of a free, democratic system which allows an elected, civilian power to govern the country to build a democratic, free state”.
Commenting after the army statement, Egypt’s Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, viewed with suspicion by the United States, said that it was not seeking power and praised the efforts of the new army rulers to transfer power to civilians.
Crowds celebrated in Tahrir Square while protest organizers urged the army to meet demands including the dissolution of parliament and the lifting of a 30-year-old state of emergency used by Mubarak to crush opposition and dissent.
APPETITE FOR TRANSITION
“The army is with us but it must realize our demands. Half-revolutions kill nations,” pharmacist Ghada Elmasalmy, 43, told Reuters.
It remains to be seen what appetite the military has for a quick transition to genuine parliamentary democracy. The military council gave few details of a “transitional phase” and gave no timetable for presidential or parliamentary elections.
The tumultuous events in Egypt sent shock waves abroad.
In Sanaa, a demonstration by some 2,000 people inspired by the Egyptian revolt broke up after clashes with pro-government demonstrators armed with knives and batons. In Algiers thousands of police stopped government opponents from staging a march.
Mubarak, 82, was believed to be at his residence in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, his future unclear.
Al Arabiya has said the army will soon dismiss the cabinet and suspend parliament. The head of the Constitutional Court would join the leadership with the military council, which was given the job of running the country of 80 million people.
The best deterrent to any military attempt to stay in control could be the street power and energy of protesters who swept out Mubarak because he governed without their consent.
This video is from Reuters published Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011.
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