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Cairo protesters defy ‘putsch’ warning

Protesters in Cairo

A day after one of the biggest anti-Mubarak rallies so far, a few thousand protesters remain in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. At the same time, the US and EU are pushing for an orderly transition of power.

 

The opposition in Egypt reacted angrily on Wednesday to Vice President Omar Suleiman’s warning that the country could be at risk of a military putsch. The coalition of five main youth groups behind the protests, now into day 16, called for the next mass demonstration to take place on Friday.

“He is threatening to impose martial law, which means everybody in the square will be smashed,” Abdul-Rahman Samir, a spokesperson for the coalition, said. “But what would he do with the rest of the 70 million Egyptians who will follow us afterwards?”

In an interview published in several Egyptian dailies earlier, Suleiman warned of the possible consequences if talks with the opposition were to fail.

“We want to avoid a hasty and irrational putsch,” he said. “Dialogue is the right way to achieve stability and resolve the current crisis peacefully.”

Foreign Minister Guido WesterwelleWesterwelle called for an end to the state of emergency

Camped out

Thousands of demonstrators remained in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Wednesday, a day after one of the biggest rallies so far to demand the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Several hundred thousand protesters attended Tuesday’s rally, and opposition groups hope to attract a similar number for the next major demonstration, planned for Friday.

In the meantime, a smaller number of protesters have been camped out, spending the night in makeshift shelters in the square.

Concessions fail to impress

The protests continue despite pledges of reform from Mubarak’s government. The president has appointed a committee to draft amendments to the country’s constitution, which, among other things, would set term limits on the presidency.

Another committee has been set up to investigate last week’s attacks on anti-Mubarak demonstrators, which left at least 11 people dead and hundreds of others injured.

These concessions clearly don’t go far enough for the protesters, who are pledging to keep up the pressure until Mubarak agrees to step down immediately.

“There can be no negotiation until he leaves. After he leaves we can talk about all sorts of things,” Essam Magdi, a 35-year-old lawyer told the AFP news agency.

The president continues to reject this demand, insisting he will remain in office until his term ends in September.

A shared goal

But the president is also coming under increasing international pressure.

Omar SuleimanSuleiman warned of a possible putschGerman Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Wednesday urged the Egyptian government to repeal a state of emergency, which allows the authorities to detain people without bringing charges against them.

“The announcements count for little, it’s only actions that really count,” Westerwelle told the Bundestag during a debate on the situation in Egypt. He also called for an end to all forms of intimidation of anti-government demonstrators and journalists. The foreign minister reiterated Germany’s offer of help in establishing democratic structures in Egypt.

Westerwelle’s was speaking just hours after US Vice President Joe Biden spoke to Suleiman, to urge him to work with opposition groups to forge a “road map” for a swift and orderly transition of power. He also called on the Egyptian government to revoke the state of emergency.

The European Union has also stressed the need for reform and an orderly transition of power in Egypt. In a speech to the United Nations Security Council, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton, called for genuine dialogue and free and fair elections.

She also pledged what she described as “practical support” for this process in both Egypt and Tunisia, where a wave of protests forced President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country last month.

However both Biden and Ashton stopped short of calling on the Egyptian president to step down immediately.

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No to German hospital stay

The German government on Wednesday also put an end to speculation that President Mubarak could leave Egypt for treatment at a German hospital.

“Not only has there been no official or unofficial request made to the German government in this regard. There has not been any official or unofficial offer,” said a spokesman in Berlin.

Vice President Suleiman also rejected the idea, saying that “the president doesn’t require any medical treatment. He was responding to speculation that a hospital stay in Germany could be used as a way of ending Mubarak’s term in office early.

The Egyptian president has received medical care in Germany on more than one occasion, most recently in March of last year.

 

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February 9, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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