Monday, February 14, 2011

Egyptian labor unrest grows after uprising

The New Egypt Play Video ABC News – The New Egypt

CAIRO – Egypt's military rulers called for an end to strikes and protests Monday as thousands of state employees, from ambulance drivers to police and transport workers, demonstrated to demand better pay in a growing wave of labor unrest unleashed by the democracy uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak's regime.

The statement by the ruling military council that took power from Mubarak appeared to be a final warning to protest organizers in labor and professional unions before the army intervenes and imposes an outright ban on gatherings, strikes and sit-ins.

Soldiers cleared out almost all the remaining demonstrators from Cairo's Tahrir Square, the giant traffic circle that was turned into a protest camp headquarters for the 18-day revolt. During more than two weeks of round-the-clock demonstrations at the square, protesters set up tents, brought in blankets, operated medical clinics and festooned the entire plaza with giant banners demanding removal of the regime.

At the height of the uprising, hundreds of thousands packed the downtown crossroads.

Several huge trucks piled high with protesters' blankets left the square Tuesday. All the tents were gone, as were other signs of permanent camps. By early afternoon, a few dozen stalwarts remained, standing in one corner of the square and yelling for the release of political prisoners.

The remaining protesters say they won't leave until all those detained during the revolt are released.

Egypt's ambassador to the United States, Sameh Shoukry, said Mubarak, 82, was "possibly in somewhat of bad health," providing the first word about him since being ousted Friday.

Speaking Monday on NBC's "Today" show, the envoy said he had received the information about Mubarak but could not be more specific. Two Cairo newspapers said Mubarak was refusing to take medication, depressed and repeatedly passing out at his residence in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. There was no immediate confirmation of the reports.

Mubarak had surgery in Germany last year to remove his gallbladder.

The latest communique by the ruling military council was read on state television by a military spokesman. It said Egypt needed a quieter climate so the military can run the nation's affairs at this "critical stage" and eventually hand over the reins of power to an elected and civilian administration.

The statement also warned that strikes and protests hurt the country's security and economy and gave a chance to what it called "irresponsible parties" to commit "illegal acts." It did not elaborate.

Amid the efforts to build a new system, Egypt's upheaval has splintered into a host of smaller grievances, the inevitable outcome of emboldened citizens feeling free to speak up, most of them for the first time.

Outside the Nile-side TV and state radio building, hundreds of public transportation workers demonstrated to demand better pay. Several hundred protesters from the state Youth and Sports Organization also protested Monday with similar demands in Tahrir after the military had moved the long-term protesters out.

Across the Nile River in the Giza district, hundreds of ambulance drivers demonstrated, also to demand better pay and permanent jobs. They parked at least 70 ambulances on a roadside along the river, but did not block the main road.

In downtown Cairo, hundreds of police demonstrated for a second day for better pay. They also want to clear their reputation, further tarnished by the deadly clashes between protesters and security forces. Some carried portraits of policemen killed in the clashes.

"These are victims of the regime too," declared one placard.

"It's hard for us to go back to work because people hate us," said one protester, a captain who was among the demonstrators. "An official funeral must be held for our martyrs."

Several hundred unemployed archaeology graduates demonstrated outside the Supreme Council for Antiquities in the upscale district of Zamalek, demanding jobs.

Alaa Ashour, head of the country's national carrier, EgyptAir, was removed by the civil aviation minister after workers went on strike at Cairo International Airport. Ashour, also described by airport officials as Mubarak's pilot on international trips, was removed late Sunday after workers called for more perks and pay.

Even so, the protests continued Monday in other subsidiaries of EgyptAir's parent company, as well as workers at companies that provide support services to the airline.

Reflecting the continuing downturn in travel from Egypt, EgyptAir said it had organized only 31 international flights and 12 domestic flights for Monday. The carrier generally has about 145 scheduled flights per day.

The Central Bank of Egypt ordered banks across the country closed following a strike by employees of the National Bank, the largest state bank, and several other financial institutions. Tuesday is a national holiday in Egypt to mark the birth of Islam's 7th century Prophet Muhammad. The banks are scheduled to reopen Wednesday.

The stock market, however, will stay closed Wednesday and Thursday, the final weekday in Egypt. A previous announcement had said it would reopen Wednesday, ending a three-week closure that began after the market lost almost 17 percent of its value in two days of trading in late January.

The ruling military council that took over power from Mubarak on Friday has said that security and a return to normal are among its top priorities. It has urged Egyptians to return to work to save the economy after the 18 days of protests sent hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists fleeing in hurried evacuation flights — a major blow to the country's biggest economic sector.

Monday's protests came a day after the ruling military rulers took sweeping action to dismantle Mubarak's autocratic legacy, dissolving parliament, suspending the constitution and promising elections.

The generals also met Sunday with representatives of the broad-based youth movement that brought down the government. Prominent activist Wael Ghonim posted on a Facebook page he manages notes from the meeting between members of the military council and youth representatives, which he described as encouraging.

The military defended the caretaker government led by Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and stocked with Mubarak loyalists as necessary for now in the interests of stability but pledged to change it soon, according to Ghonim and another protester, Amr Salama.

"They said they will go after corrupt people no matter what their position current or previous," the posted statement added. Amendments to the much-reviled constitution will be prepared by an independent committee in the next 10 days and then presented for approval in a popular referendum in two months, they said.

The military also encouraged the youth to consider forming political parties — something very difficult to do under the old system — and pledged to meet with them regularly.

"We felt a sincere desire to protect the gains of the revolution and an unprecedented respect for the right of young Egyptians to express their opinions," Ghonim said.

On Monday, representatives of the youth groups that organized the protests said they wanted Shafiq's government replaced by a cabinet of technocrats and that Mubarak's National Democratic Party be dissolved.

The party has dominated political life in Egypt for three decades and is widely thought to have been behind much of the corruption that protesters have complained about. The party won all but a small fraction of parliament's 518-seat chamber in elections held in November and December that were marred by widespread fraud blamed on the party and its allies in the police and civil service.

The wave of post-Mubarak strikes and protests spread to the community of refugees too.

Several thousand refugees from East African countries, including Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia, gathered outside the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, on the outskirts of Cairo, demanding to be allowed to leave Egypt to resettle elsewhere. Several helmeted riot police officers blocked the entrance, as many in the crowd tried to get into the building. They banged on the gates and threatened to storm the building before they calmed down and representatives went inside to meet with UNHCR officials, who gave them assistance with their daily hardships. There were no clashes and the numbers dwindled to a few hundred by evening.

The refugees complained they have been stuck in Egypt for several years, some as long as a decade. They said the U.N. has made no effort to move them elsewhere, and that they live in difficult conditions in Egypt. The refugees said that with the country in turmoil, there is even greater urgency to move them.


Associated Press correspondents Karin Laub and Sarah El Deeb contributed to this report.

Iraqis in Baghdad protest bad services, corruption

Protesters chant anti-government slogans during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Feb. 14, 2011. Hundreds of Iraqis rallied in central Baghdad AP – Protesters chant anti-government slogans during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Feb. 14, 2011. …

BAGHDAD – Hundreds of Iraqis rallied Monday in central Baghdad, protesting the rampant corruption and the lack of government services that have plagued the country for years.

Iraqis have been venting their anger at the lack of jobs and government services such as electricity in small-scale protests across the country. The protests are not nearly as large as those that toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, but are nonetheless embarrassing for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and highlight the many challenges facing his fragile government.

"We want reforms to take place," said Hanaa Adwar, an activist from the nonprofit watchdog group, al Amal. "We have witnessed the popular revolution carried by Tunisian and Egyptian people that led to the toppling of their regime."

She vowed that there would be more protests if the government did not bow to people's demands.

Despite sitting on some of the world's largest oil reserves, Iraqis endure electricity shortages that make summer almost unbearable and leave them shivering in winter. There are also water shortages, and garbage is often left on the streets. At the same time, Iraqis are infuriated by the high salaries earned by their elected officials, compared with ordinary Iraqis.

Many of the demonstrators carried banners that bore the image of a broken red heart, alluding to the fact that the protest took place on Valentine's Day. They shouted slogans saying Iraq's oil wealth should go to the people but goes to thieves instead.

"Government, you should take lessons from Egypt and Tunisia," demonstrators shouted as they walked through downtown.

Across the Middle East, people emboldened by the protests in Tunisia and Egypt have staged demonstrations calling for change.

The gatherings in Iraq have been small in scale, although organizers are promising a much larger event on Feb. 25.

One of the organizers, 31-year-old Bassam Abdul Razzaq, said word of the march had gone out through Facebook, the same way that Tunisian and Egyptian youth rallied support.

The protests have rattled al-Maliki, who met Sunday with government officials to discuss problems facing Iraqis. In a statement from his office, al-Maliki said the government is working to solve the electricity shortages as well as to address the food ration problem.

All Iraqis are entitled to a food ration, a legacy of the days when Iraq was under sanctions. But Iraqis complain that the rations, now given out by the government, are getting smaller, and they blame government corruption.

"Efforts are being exerted to solve these two problems, but we need time and the electricity problem will be completely solved within two years," al-Maliki said.


Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed to this report.

Belasah anak hingga cacat

Belasah anak hingga cacat

Oleh Mohd Firdaus Ibrahim dan Yusmizal Dolah Aling

KESAL...Ayu menunjukkan laporan polis dibuatnya dan gambar anggota badan anak yang cedera.
KESAL...Ayu menunjukkan laporan polis dibuatnya dan gambar anggota badan anak yang cedera.

KUALA KUBU BARU: Berang perancangannya untuk menambah isteri keempat gagal, seorang lelaki melepaskan kemarahannya dengan membelasah isteri pertama dan empat anaknya sehingga seorang daripada mereka mengalami kecacatan kekal.

Lelaki terbabit yang berusia lewat 30-an menjadikan lima tanggungannya itu sebagai mangsa selepas tahu isteri pertamanya membocorkan rahsia kepada calon isteri keempat mengenai statusnya yang memiliki tiga isteri.

Isteri pertama lelaki itu yang hanya mahu dikenal sebagai Ayu, 34, berkata kejadian itu berlaku berulang kali sejak 2006 sehingga mereka tidak sanggup menanggung penderitaan.

“Saya berkahwin dengannya pada 1996 dan pada 2000 saya dimadukan sebelum madu saya bertambah seorang lagi pada 2004. Dua tahun kemudian, saya dapat tahu suami saya nak tambah seorang lagi isteri.

“Saya dapat berhubungan dengan calon madu keempat saya itu. Jadi, saya maklumkan kepadanya suami sudah ada tiga isteri. Gadis itu terkejut dan batalkan hasrat untuk berkahwin dengan suami saya,” katanya.

Ayu berkata, kejadian itu menyebabkan suaminya marah dan mula bertindak ganas terhadapnya serta empat anak mereka, hanya anak bongsunya yang terselamat daripada menjadi mangsa.

“Saya sering ditumbuk, ditendang dan dipijak. Lebih teruk, pada hujung tahun lalu saya terpaksa dikejarkan ke hospital selepas pengsan akibat dipukul suami.

“Di kalangan anak-anak pula, anak sulung saya (lelaki) paling teruk kena belasah. Pada 2006, ketika usianya lapan tahun kepalanya mengalami gegaran selepas dihentak dengan topi keledar. Akibatnya, dia menjadi kanak-kanak lembam dan keadaan itu kekal sampai sekarang,” katanya.

Menurut Ayu, anak perempuan kedua dan anak perempuan keempat pula yang masing-masing kini berusia 10 dan tujuh tahun selalu berbirat seluruh badan akibat disebat dengan tali pinggang dengan kejadian terbaru berlaku di rumah mereka di Subang Jaya, kira-hujung tahun lalu.

“Hanya anak perempuan bongsu berusia tiga tahun saja terselamat daripada kekejaman suami walaupun ada cubaan untuk menderanya,” katanya.

Ayu berkata, dia beberapa kali lari daripada suaminya dengan kali pertama pada 2006 dan berikutnya pada 2008, namun kembali semula akibat terpedaya pujukan serta helah licik suaminya.

“Ketika kali pertama saya meninggalkan dia bersama anak-anak pada 2006, suami menipu saya dengan mengatakan anak sulung kami sudah meninggal dunia kerana terlalu rindukan saya.

“Malah, dia juga membawa saya ke kubur kononnya anak kami dikebumikan. Selepas saya kembali ke pangkuannya, baru saya tahu dia hantar anak saya ke rumah anak yatim selepas membelasahnya dengan teruk,” kata Ayu.

Ayu berkata, suaminya yang tidak bekerja berkahwin tiga dan sebelum ini dia merelakan perbuatan lelaki terbabit kerana yakin suaminya berlaku adil.

“Bukan saya dan anak-anak saja selalu dibelasah, tapi isteri kedua dan ketiga berusia 20-an turut menjadi mangsa. Setahu saya isteri keduanya juga sudah meninggalkannya,” katanya yang kini membawa kelima-lima anaknya tinggal berasingan kerana sudah tidak tahan dengan kekejaman suaminya.

Selain itu, Ayu membuat laporan polis untuk memastikan suaminya tidak mengganggu dia anak-anaknya.

“Biarpun saya dan anak-anak kini berlindung dengan ahli keluarga, suami masih datang memaksa kami pulang ke rumah. Kami sudah memaafkannya, namun cukup penderitaan yang kami tanggung selama ini.

“Saya berharap dia bagi peluang saya dan anak-anak memulakan hidup baru,” katanya.

Ketua Polis Daerah Subang Jaya, Asisten Komisioner Zainal Rashid Abu Bakar ketika dihubungi, mengesahkan menerima laporan Ayu.

Sementara itu, aktivis Persatuan Pelindung Pengguna Islam Selangor, Abdul Aziz Ismail, berkata pihaknya bersedia memberi khidmat nasihat kepada Ayu berhubung krisis dihadapinya dan berharap ia diselesaikan secepat mungkin.

“Lebih penting ialah mereka sekeluarga terutama anak-anaknya dapat menikmati hidup seperti orang lain. Mungkin juga anaknya yang pernah melihat ibu mereka dipukul perlu menjalani sesi kaunseling bagi menghilangkan trauma yang dihadapi sejak beberapa tahun lalu,” katanya.

Perang samseng

Perang samseng

Oleh Rosyahaida Abdullah

RENTUNG...kereta dipercayai dipandu ahli kumpulan yang ditemui hangus.
RENTUNG...kereta dipercayai dipandu ahli kumpulan yang ditemui hangus.

KLANG: Lima daripada kira-kira 20 lelaki cedera parah di seluruh badan dan kepala selepas terbabit dalam satu pergaduhan berhampiran deretan kedai di Jalan Datok Manan, Kapar di sini, awal pagi semalam.

Pergaduhan pada kira-kira jam 6 pagi itu dipercayai membabitkan dua kumpulan bersenjatakan parang, batang besi dan senjata api.

Ketua Polis Daerah Klang Utara, Superintendan Mohd Shukor Sulong berkata, polis menerima panggilan telefon daripada orang ramai pada awal pagi memaklumkan kejadian sebelum bergegas ke tempat kejadian.

Katanya, hasil pemeriksaan mendapati beberapa senjata di tempat kejadian seperti batang besi dan parang, selain dua kereta yang dipercayai dipandu ahli kumpulan hangus terbakar.

Bagaimanapun, tiada senjata api seperti pistol ditemui.

“Daripada lima yang cedera, seorang daripadanya dipercayai terkena sedas tembakan dan kami percaya ada penggunaan senjata api dalam pergaduhan ini.

“Seramai tujuh lelaki berusia antara 20 hingga 35 tahun termasuk lima yang dirawat sudah diberkas,” katanya ketika dihubungi, semalam.

Difahamkan, berikutan kejadian itu, polis terpaksa menutup laluan sejauh 150 meter bagi forensik menjalankan pemeriksaan lanjut.

Mohd Shukor berkata, polis sudah menubuhkan pasukan khas bagi memburu saki-baki anggota kumpulan itu.

Israeli PM: Arab world undergoing 'earthquake'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Gali Tibbon, Pool) AP – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, Feb. …

JERUSALEM – Israel's prime minister says an "earthquake" is under way in the Arab world but that he "hopes for the best."

In a reference to unrest throughout the region, including the toppling of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak by popular protests, Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Israel hopes to strengthen its existing peace agreements and sign new ones, but remains "prepared for any possibility."

Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement in 1979. The accord has been a lynchpin of regional stability for three decades. After forcing Mubarak to step down, Egypt's ruling military council said over the weekend that it would honor the accord — easing jitters in Israel.

Anak muda Mesir enggan undur

SOKONG REVOLUSI...seorang wanita membawa anaknya menyertai rapat umum bagi meraikan kejatuhan Hosni di New York, Amerika Syarikat, semalam.
SOKONG REVOLUSI...seorang wanita membawa anaknya menyertai rapat umum bagi meraikan kejatuhan Hosni di New York, Amerika Syarikat, semalam.

KAHERAH: Kumpulan utama menggerakkan protes warga Mesir yang berjaya menggulingkan Hosni Mubarak sebagai presiden berikrar terus bertahan di Dataran Tahrir bagi mendesak perubahan dilakukan di negara itu.

Berjanji unntuk tidak menghalang aliran trafik, kumpulan anak muda Mesir itu menganggap revolusi mereka belum berakhir.

Aktivis Pemuda Revolusi 25 Januari, Mahmoud Nassar, berkata tuntutan mereka belum dipenuhi sehingga kini.

“Revolusi ini masih diteruskan.

“Kami akan terus berada di Dataran Tahrir sehingga tuntutan dipenuhi. Semua orang dijemput menyertai kami,” katanya.

Mahmoud membuat kenyataan itu selepas tentera bersenjata cota mengasak penunjuk perasaan bagi membolehkan aliran trafik kembali pulih selepas hampir tiga minggu tergendala akibat tunjuk perasaan.

Sesetengah penunjuk perasaan mendirikan khemah di dataran yang menjadi pusat gerakan menumbangkan Hosni selepas diktator itu berkuasa di Mesir selama 30 tahun.

Semalam, sebahagian daripada mereka menurunkan sendiri khemah berkenaan, manakala selebihnya dilakukan tentera.

Mahmoud berkata, kumpulannya menuntut semua tahanan politik dibebaskan serta-merta dan undang-undang darurat dimansuhkan.

Turut dituntut, Parlimen dibubarkan serta kerajaan baru menggantikan rejim Hosni dibentuk.

Mendakwa tidak mempunyai sebarang kaitan dengan mana-mana parti politik, kumpulan itu mendakwa, tentera menahan 42 penunjuk perasaan sejak kelmarin, selain lima lagi semalam.

Aktivis lain, Yahya Saqr, berkata mereka mahu tahu nasib tahanan berkenaan.

Ketika sebahagian penunjuk perasaan mahu protes diteruskan, satu pihak lain pula menganggap Mesir perlu kembali ke keadaan normal bagi memberi peluang tentera memenuhi janji mengembalikan pemerintahan Mesir kepada pihak awam. - Reuters

Egypt army delivers ultimatum to Tahrir protest

Sameh Shoukry, John McCain AP – In this photo provided by CBS News Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Egyptian Ambassador to the U.S., Sameh …

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt's military delivered an ultimatum on Monday to dozens of committed protesters in Tahrir Square, nerve-center of a movement that toppled Hosni Mubarak, to leave and let life get back to normal or face arrest.

Soldiers scuffled with protesters on Sunday as the army ensured traffic flowed through the central Cairo square. Some protesters insisted on staying, determined to see through their demands for civilian rule and a free, democratic system.

"We have half an hour left, we are cordoned by military police," protester Yahya Saqr told Reuters. "We are discussing what to do now," he said, adding that a senior officer "told us we have one hour to empty the square or we will be arrested."

Protest leaders say Egyptians will demonstrate again if their demands for radical change are not met. They plan a huge "Victory March" on Friday to celebrate the revolution, and perhaps remind the military of the power of the street.

Egypt's generals are asserting their command over the country following the overthrow of Mubarak.

Having suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament on Sunday, moves welcomed by those who saw both institutions as perverted to Mubarak's personal ends, the military council was planning to issue orders intended to stifle further disruption and get the country back to work, a military source said.

Disgruntled employees are already pressing for better deals. The interim military rulers called a Bank Holiday on Monday after disruption in the banking sector and there is a national holiday on Tuesday to mark the Prophet Mohammad's birthday.

Free and fair elections will be held under a revised constitution, the military said, but it gave no timetable beyond saying that it would be in charge "for a temporary period of six months or until the end of elections to the upper and lower houses of parliament, and presidential elections".

Nor did it detail what civilian or other participation there would be in amending basic laws during the transition. The cabinet appointed by Mubarak last month will go on governing, reporting to the army chiefs.


The 18-day revolt against Mubarak's 30-year rule has spawned a rash of protests by workers and even police.

Hundreds of employees demonstrated outside a branch of Bank of Alexandria in downtown Cairo on Monday, urging their bosses to "Leave, leave", echoing an anti-Mubarak slogan.

Protests, sit-ins and strikes have occurred at state-owned institutions across Egypt, including the stock exchange, textile and steel firms, media organizations, the postal service, railways, the Culture Ministry and the Health Ministry.

Workers cite an array of grievances. What unites them is a new sense of being able to speak out in the post-Mubarak era.

"Finally we have been encouraged to come out and speak," said Hala Fawzi, a 34-year-old mother of two protesting on Sunday outside the offices of the state-owned insurance company where she works for a pittance. "We want equality," she said.

The army, however, is keen to get Egypt working again to restart an economy which was damaged by the momentous events and to bring back tourists and attract foreign investment.

It will be aware of the turmoil still roiling Tunisia, where an uprising that unseated another aging Arab autocrat last month inspired Egyptians to take to the streets.

The army source said military authorities were expected to issue an order soon that would ban meetings by labor unions or professional syndicates, effectively forbidding strikes, and would tell all Egyptians to get back to work.

There will also be a warning from the military against those who create "chaos and disorder", the source said, adding the army would, however, acknowledge the right to protest.

After three weeks of economic dislocation, millions of Egyptians are keen to start earning again to survive.

In Tahrir Square, Jihad Laban, an accountant, said much work remained to make sure the revolution did not squander its gains.

"The goal was never just to get rid of Mubarak. The system is totally corrupt and we won't go until we see some real reforms," said Jihad Laban, an accountant. "I am going to be buried in Tahrir. I am here for my children."


After six decades underpinning presidents who have all been drawn from its ranks, the army can still draw on public respect. Troops and tanks have been on the streets since January 28, but took no action to crush protests after police failed to do so.

"The two big questions now are who is going to be on the constitutional committee to redraft (the constitution), and are there any guarantees that what they come up with is then going to be deemed the way ahead," said Rosemary Hollis, professor of Middle East Policy Studies at City University London.

Many opposition figures were pleased with the army's first steps. "It is a victory for the revolution," said Ayman Nour, who challenged Mubarak for the presidency in 2005 and was later jailed. "I think this will satisfy the protesters."

They have demanded the release of political prisoners, the lifting of a state of emergency, the abolition of military courts, fair elections and a swift handover to civilian rule.

The army has said it will lift emergency law, used to stifle dissent under Mubarak, but it has not specified a timetable.

"There are still a lot of grey areas, but it is clear that these decisions are opening the door for an entirely new system to come to order," said Hassan Abu Taleb of Cairo's Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

Any transition to democracy will be fraught with difficulty, and old ways of doing things may die hard in a country where the ruling party routinely rigged elections and candidates used bribery, hired thugs and dirty tricks to ensure victory.

Existing registered parties are mostly small, weak and fragmented. The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which under the now suspended constitution could not form a party, may be the best organized group, but its true popularity has yet to be tested.

Its strength worries some in the United States, a key backer of Mubarak, as well as in Israel, for which Mubarak's Egypt was an important ally in an predominantly hostile Arab region.

On Saturday, the army said it would uphold Egypt's international obligations. These include a peace treaty with Israel, whose defense minister has been in touch with his Egyptian counterpart, who heads the military council.

Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said at the weekend that Mubarak was in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and that the cabinet had made no request to freeze his assets abroad. (Reporting by Marwa Awad, Edmund Blair, Alexander Dziadosz, Shaimaa Fayed, Andrew Hammond, Alistair Lyon, Sherine El Madany, Tom Perry, Yasmine Saleh, Patrick Werr, Jonathan Wright, Peter Millership and Dina Zayed; Writing by Alastair Macdonald and Peter Millership; Editing by Alistair Lyon);_ylt=Au9A0ZvkManyN9KlxFNgaaNvaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTI5OTltbmVxBGFzc2V0A25tLzIwMTEwMjE0L3VzX2VneXB0BGNwb3MDMQRwb3MDMgRzZWMDeW5fdG9wX3N0b3J5BHNsawNlZ3lwdGFybXlkZWw-

Palestinian cabinet resigns: officials

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee meeting in Ramallah Reuters – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (C) attends a Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) executive …

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – The Palestinian cabinet resigned on Monday and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will select new ministers at the request of President Mahmoud Abbas, officials said.

The shakeup was long demanded by Fayyad and some in Abbas's Fatah faction. It followed the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to a popular revolt that has set off reform calls throughout the Arab world.

"The cabinet resigned today and the formation of a new cabinet will take place as soon as possible," Ali Jarbawi, minister of planning, told Reuters.

A senior Palestinian official said Abbas plans to ask Fayyad, who has spearheaded efforts to build up Palestinian government institutions ahead of statehood, to form a new cabinet.

Bankrolled by international donors and engaged in security coordination with Israel, the Palestinian Authority has a limited mandate in the occupied West Bank. It lost control of the Gaza Strip to Hamas Islamists in a 2007 civil war.

Abbas's credibility has been further sapped by long-stalled negotiations with Israel on an accord founding a Palestinian state. Hamas spurns permanent co-existence with the Jewish state.

Of the 24 posts in Fayyad's outgoing cabinet, only 16 were staffed. Two ministers resigned and six are marooned in Gaza. Of those present in the cabinet, some face allegations of incompetence.

The Palestinian Authority announced on Saturday it would seek new legislative and presidential elections by September but Hamas rejected that call and said it would not take part in the poll, nor recognize the results.

(Editing by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem);_ylt=AphCcKmKz5EKgxWB6r3iaBpvaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTJxMzc0N2NrBGFzc2V0A25tLzIwMTEwMjE0L3VzX3BhbGVzdGluaWFuc19yZXNodWZmbGUEY3BvcwMyBHBvcwM2BHNlYwN5bl90b3Bfc3RvcnkEc2xrA3BhbGVzdGluaWFuYw--

Algeria sees state of emergency over in days

Algerian policemen try to take away a banner from anti-government protesters during a demonstration in Algiers Reuters – Algerian policemen try to take away a banner from anti-government protesters during a demonstration in …

PARIS (Reuters) – The 19-year-old state of emergency in Algeria will end within days, Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said on Monday, brushing off concerns that recent protests in the country could escalate as in Tunisia and Egypt.

A state of emergency has been in force in Algeria since 1992 and the government has come under pressure from opponents, inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, to ditch emergency laws.

Several hundred protesters took to the streets in the capital Algiers on Saturday and opposition groups said they would demonstrate every weekend until the government is changed.

"In the coming days, we will talk about (the state of emergency) as if it was a thing of the past," Medelci told the French radio station Europe 1 in an interview.

"That means that in Algeria we will have a return to a state of law that allows complete freedom of expression, within the limits of the law," he said.

Recent protests had been organized by minority groups with limited support, the minister said, adding that there was no risk of a government overthrow as in neighboring Tunisia.

However, he suggested the government may be willing to make concessions, saying: "The decision to change the government lies with the president who will assess the possibility, as he has done in the past, to make adjustments, as he has done in the past."

"Algeria is not Tunisia or Egypt," he added.

The resignation on Friday of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and last month's overthrow of Tunisia's leader, have led many to ask which country could be next in the Arab world.

Widespread unrest in Algeria could have implications for the world economy since it is a major oil and gas exporter, but many analysts have said an Egyptian-style revolt is unlikely because the government can use its energy wealth to placate protesters.

Discontent with joblessness, poor housing conditions and high food prices sparked rioting in early January across the country, but there is so far no sign that this is coalescing into a political movement.

(Reporting by Vicky Buffery; Editing by Jon Hemming);_ylt=AqrVQTmUIEdn0lyBxAowZUxvaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTJqcGgzMjFjBGFzc2V0A25tLzIwMTEwMjE0L3VzX2FsZ2VyaWFfcHJvdGVzdARjcG9zAzMEcG9zAzgEc2VjA3luX3RvcF9zdG9yeQRzbGsDYWxnZXJpYXNlZXNz

Will Egypt's Military Fulfill Its Promises of Democracy?

Egypt adjusted to a new normality on Sunday as the first day of the country's working week saw schools and businesses open for the first time in three weeks, and Cairo's streets were gridlocked not by protests but by the familiar crush of bleating traffic. Back to normal then, except that the constitution is suspended, parliament is dissolved and the military is running the country - for just six months, its commanders promise.

A brief scuffle broke out Sunday at Tahrir Square, epicenter of the protests that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, when soldiers tried to herd a small core of determined protesters out of the area to clear space for traffic.

The protesters resisted, saying they wouldn't leave until their demands for real democracy had been met. Uncertain about what to do in the face of unexpected resistance, the soldiers paused, as did onlookers, fearful that the famous unity between the Egyptian military and democracy protesters might fracture over something as trivial as traffic. Both sides stepped back from the brink, and within minutes a compromise had been reached: traffic was routed around half the square, and protesters returned to their chants. Onlookers clambered back on tanks to have their photos taken, and there were handshakes and hugs all around. (See TIME's exclusive photos of the dramatic action in Tahrir Square.)

"We trust the army," said Shady Gamal, a 22-year-old student who was trying in vain to stop waves of protesters from stepping on a freshly painted median on one of the main thoroughfares. Behind him, volunteers were applying fresh coats of paint to the square's curbs, part of a campaign to clean Cairo after the protests. They wore handmade signs that read, "Sorry for disturbance. We build Egypt." Gamal unfurled the rolled-up newspaper in his back pocket to read aloud a headline, "The Army Gives Assurances That It Will Protect Democracy and Give Power to the People." It was proof, he said, that the revolutionary movement had nothing to fear.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has been running the country since Mubarak's ouster, pledged Saturday to oversee a peaceful transfer to civilian authority, and it announced Sunday that the constitution had been suspended and both houses of parliament had been dissolved. The military would stay in charge for six months, or until free and fair democratic elections could be held, said a military spokesman on state TV. (See how Egypt's future could change as the military takes over.)

While the troops, who are largely conscripts, may be at one with Egyptians who have taken to the streets in recent weeks, it is unclear if their commanders have the vision or even the desire to see democracy through. "There have been a lot of promises," says one protester who gives his name as Ahmed. "But no details, no facts. The military was the power behind Mubarak, so why would it want to give up that power?" (Comment on this story.)

Egypt's military has been the power behind the throne since it overthrew the British-backed monarchy in 1952. It is a respected institution with strong patriotic credentials, but it has done little to encourage real democratic progress. Presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Mubarak all came from within its ranks. And it will be a long time before a civilian can be elected without military support, and even longer before the state can say it has true command of the military, says Sheila Carapico, chair of the political-science department at the American University in Cairo. "Some changes will have to be made, if only to get people out of Tahrir Square, but it's difficult to imagine what would induce the army to relinquish its ultimate role." (See the power players who may vie for the Egyptian presidency.)

Stability isn't the army's only concern: money matters too. Egypt's half-million-strong armed forces receive $1.3 billion a year from the U.S., and they maintain significant investments in the national economy. Soldiers staff military-owned companies that produce everything from olive oil to washing machines, televisions, cement and even the ubiquitous Safi brand of bottled water. The military owns land, operates hotels and runs construction companies. Retired generals are often offered lucrative positions on the boards of private companies. "It's not exactly the military-industrial complex in the American sense," says Carapico, "but it's close."

See how Egyptians' pets have been left to fend for themselves in the wake of the protests.

See TIME's Pictures of the Week.

Mubarak, mindful of the fact that the institution that had bequeathed him power could just as easily take it away, sought in the 1980s to maintain its loyalty by making the military a major stakeholder in the country's economy. That strategy was evident to U.S. diplomats in the last years of Mubarak's rule, when he was thought to be grooming his son Gamal as a possible successor. A 2008 diplomatic cable from U.S. Ambassador Margaret Scobey, released by WikiLeaks, noted, "The regime, aware of the critical role the MOD [Ministry of Defense] can play in presidential succession, may well be trying to co-opt the military through patronage into accepting Gamal's path to the presidency." Scobey added, "The military helps to ensure regime stability and operates a large network of businesses, as it becomes a 'quasi-commercial' enterprise itself." In neutralizing the Egyptian military's kingmaker abilities though economic incentives, Mubarak was also ensuring that the military would do everything it could to protect those interests.

In fact, the military is so well protected that Egypt's citizens have no access to such basic information as force levels and budgets. Estimates on the percentage of the Egyptian economy controlled by the military range from 30% to 45%, but even those figures are up for debate. "That it is an economic force is certain," says Fawaz Gerges, professor of international relations of the Middle East at the London School of Economics. "But how big, nobody knows. Not the U.S., and not even the World Bank," which once tried, and failed, to get the army to privatize some of its assets. "The Egyptian army is more involved in the economy than the Chinese army is involved in its own economy," says Gerges. "The army's intentions are good, but when the chips are down, good intentions will bow before the vested interests." (See TIME's special report "The Middle East in Revolt.")

A transition to a full-blown democracy may seem too risky for a military leadership that doesn't want to see precipitous change. Both Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Egypt's Defense Minister and the man at the head of the ruling Supreme Council, and Lieut. General Sami Hafez Enan, military chief of staff, are vestiges of the old regime. "Tantawi is as conservative as Mubarak, and he doesn't believe in economic or structural change," says Gerges. "He doesn't believe that Egyptians are ready for democracy."

It remains to be seen whether the Egyptians who overthrew Mubarak will accept the terms for a political transition outlined by the military. Newspaper publisher Hisham Kassem believes that the army will be true to its word, if not exactly true to the spirit of the democratic rebellion. "We will see a transition to democracy this year. But it will take five to 10 years before we see a democratically elected civilian government command the military." (Comment on this story.)

For the moment, that is enough for some protesters. "I know the army respects Egyptians because they did not fire on us in the square," says 18-year-old student Rania Magdy. "They want what is good for the Egyptian people." But who decides what is good for the Egyptian people remains to be determined in the coming months.

See the Cartoons of the Week.

Palestinian Authority Cabinet resigns

Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad heads a cabinet meeting in Ramallah Reuters – Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (C) heads a cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah …

RAMALLAH, West Bank – The Palestinian prime minister has dissolved his Cabinet — in a new gesture that appears to be inspired by unrest rocking the Arab world.

President Mahmoud Abbas announced Monday he had accepted the decision by his prime minister, Salam Fayyad.

An aide to Fayyad says his boss hopes to form a new Cabinet dominated by technocrats who can build up Palestinian institutions. He has up to six weeks to name the Cabinet.

The decision is the latest in a series of dramatic moves by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority following the unrest in Egypt and Tunisia. Mass protests have spurred calls for democracy throughout the Middle East.

The Palestinian government said over the weekend it would hold long-overdue general elections later this year.

Polis bergelut mahu pulih reputasi

KAHERAH: Tentera Mesir melepaskan tembakan amaran dan pergelutan berlaku ketika anggota polis cuba memulihkan reputasi mereka yang selama ini dianggap menyebelahi Hosni Mubarak.

Gigi seorang anggota polis turut patah ketika dia dan rakannya bergasak dengan tentera di luar Kementerian Luar.

Kira-kira 400 anggota polis menuntut kenaikan gaji dan menggesa Menteri Dalam Negeri, Habib al-Adly, diheret ke mahkamah.

Tentera pula terpaksa melepaskan tembakan ke udara apabila polis terbabit mula menjerit-jerit menuntut Habib dikenakan tindakan.

“Habib, anda tahu akan dihukum di depan orang ramai!” kata mereka.

Polis Mesir memang sentiasa dibenci dan dianggap pasukan kejam dan korup, manakala tentera disukai orang ramai selepas membantu menyingkirkan Hosni daripada jawatannya Jumaat lalu.

Seorang daripada mereka berkata, anggota polis bukanlah pengkhianat kepada negara.

“Saudara kami ada bersama penunjuk perasaan,” katanya. - AFP

Egypt activists and army discuss reforms

Egypt activists and army discuss reforms AFP – An Egyptian soldiers yawns while lining up in central Tahrir Square in Cairo. Egypt's new military …

CAIRO (AFP) – The online activists who organised Egypt's popular uprising said Monday they had discussed reforms with the country's new military rulers a day after the generals dissolved Hosni Mubarak's regime.

They said the military junta, which suspended the constitution on Sunday, vowed to rewrite it within 10 days and put it to a referendum within two months, in line with the protesters' demands for democratic change.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has set a six-month timetable for holding national elections but said the cabinet Mubarak hastily appointed on January 31 -- headed by a former airforce commander -- would stay on.

"We met the army ... to understand their point of view and lay out our views," said Google executive Wael Ghonim and blogger Amr Salama, in a note on a pro-democracy website that helped launch the revolt.

Ghonim, 30, became an unlikely hero of the uprising that he helped organise after he tearfully described his 12 days in detention in a televised interview, though he has denied having any political ambitions.

The sweeping changes announced by the council on Sunday dismantled the political system that underpinned Mubarak's 30-year rule, which ended on Friday when he was driven from power after the 18-day pro-democracy uprising.

The dissolved legislative body was seen as illegitimate following elections last year that were marred by widespread allegations of fraud and gave Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) an overwhelming majority.

The protesters had also demanded the overhaul of the constitution, which limited who could stand as a candidate in elections made it virtually impossible for the opposition to seriously challenge the NDP.

On Sunday, the cabinet met for the first time since Mubarak's departure, his portrait having been removed from the wall outside their chamber.

Mubarak had appointed the cabinet in the opening days of the revolt in a failed bid to appease the protesters.

Several members of the previous government, including sacked prime minister Ahmed Nazif and widely hated interior minister Habib al-Adly, have been banned from leaving the country by authorities investigation graft allegations.

A judicial source told AFP on Sunday the prosecutor general would begin questioning Adly "within hours."

Hundreds of members of Mubarak's police force -- which was widely viewed as corrupt and brutal -- marched on Sunday to demand that Adly, their former boss, be publicly executed in a bid to show their solidarity with the uprising.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Museum announced that several priceless artefacts had been looted during the initial unrest sparked by the revolt.

Zahi Hawass, minister of state for antiquities, said a gilded wooden statue of the famed boy king Tutankhamun and several other ancient treasures had been stolen from the museum.

Looters had broken into the museum off Cairo's Tahrir Square on January 28, during clashes between protesters and riot police who used tear gas and water cannon to try to crush the revolt before being driven from the streets.

By Monday, Tahrir, where hundreds of thousands of people had held mass protests against the regime, was once again bustling with traffic, with a small group of activists continuing their sit-in surrounded by military police.

Dozens of sightseers milled through the square beneath huge portraits of "martyrs" killed in the uprising and among the tanks that still guard the main roads.

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