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Egypt Protest Leaders Meet With Prime Minister

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EGYPT PROTESTS
AP

CAIRO - Leaders of Egypt's unprecedented wave of anti-government protests have held talks with the prime minister over ways to ease President Hosni Mubarak out of office. Under one proposal, the 82-year-old leader would hand his powers to his vice president, though not his title immediately, to give him a graceful exit.

Mubarak has staunchly refused to leave, insisting on serving out the rest of his term until September, and his aides have repeatedly said in recent days that the country's leader of nearly 30 years must not be dumped in a humiliating way.

The protesters, in turn, say they will not stop their giant rallies or enter substantive negotiations on democratic reform until Mubarak quits. Thousands continued to gather Saturday in Cairo's central Tahrir Square, a day after some 100,000 protesters massed there demanding Mubarak leave power immediately.

A self-declared group of Egypt's elite -- called the "group of wise men" -- has circulated ideas to try to break that deadlock. Among them is a proposal that Mubarak "deputize" his Vice President Omar Suleiman with his powers and, for the time being at least, step down in everything but name.

The "wise men," who are separate from the protesters on the ground, have met twice in recent days with Suleiman and the prime minister, said Amr el-Shobaki, a member of the group.

Their proposals also call for the dissolving of the parliament monopolized by the ruling party and the end of emergency laws that give security forces near-unlimited powers.

Late Friday, a delegation from the protesters themselves meet with Shafiq to discuss ways out of the impasse, said Abdel-Rahman Youssef, a youth activist who participated in the meeting.

Youssef told The Associated Press on Saturday that the meeting was not a start of negotiations. "It was a message to see how to resolve the crisis. The message is that they must recognize the legitimacy of the revolution and that president must leave one way or the other, either real or political departure," he said.

The protesters are looking into the proposal floated by the "wise men," said Youssef, who is part of the youth movement connected to Nobel Peace laureate and prominent reform advocate Mohamed ElBaradei.

"It could be a way out of the crisis," Youssef said. "But the problem is in the president...he is not getting it that he has become a burden on everybody, psychologically, civicly and militarily."

Israa Abdel-Fattah, a member of the April 6 group, another of the youth movements driving the demonstrations, said there is support for the wise men's proposal among protesters.
Youssef underlined that the 12-day-old protests will continue in Tahrir Square until Mubarak goes in an acceptable way.

"There is no force that can get the youth out of the square. Every means was used. Flexibility, violence, live ammunition, and even thugs, and the protesters are still steadfast," he said, referring to an assault by regime supporters on Wednesday that sparked 48 hours of heavy street fighting until protesters succeeded in driving off the attackers.

On Saturday, soldiersutted vehicles that protesters used as barricades during the fighting, but protesters argued with them for the vehicles to remain. Rumors also circulated in the square that the military -- which has surrounded Tahrir for days -- was preparing to withdraw, so some protesters lay on the ground in front of tanks to prevent them. The protesters see the military as a degree of protection from police or regime supporters they fear will attack again, though the government promised Friday not to try to eject the protesters by force.

The emergence of various talks and players marked a new stage in the evolution in the crisis as all sides try to shape the post-Mubarak transition.

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Ahram Online reports:

A spiritual leader of Somalia's Islamist Shebab rebels called for popular Egypt- and Tunisia-style revolts to topple the government.

Sheikh Jama Abdusalam said such uprisings would rid the war-wracked country of a government that he accused of serving Western interests.

"I am urging the people to carry out Egyptian- and Tunisian-style uprisings in Somalia," Abdusalam told Alfurqaan Radio, a Shebab mouthpiece.

Read more here.

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@ AlArabiya_Eng : Clinton to Alarabiya: I say to egyptians: don't let anyone hijack the process #alarabiya #Iran #Egypt #clinton

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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.

Read more here.

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Al Jazerra's Evan Hill filed a new set of photos from Cairo, documenting the return to some semblance of normality, following the political unrest of recent weeks.

More from Al Jazerra here.

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The Guardian reports:

There are rumours – and let us stress, just rumours at this point – of more deaths in Bahrain following today's protests.

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@ felix85 : France says Egypt asks it to freeze possible assets of ex-officials, adding to UK and Germany already today

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Wael Ghonim, a regional marketing manager for Google in the Middle East tells 60 Minutes about the support that the company provided when he was detained for his role in the protests.

There is more video from Ghonim's interview with 60 Minutes here.

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Hundreds of Egyptian police have been protesting outside the country's Interior Ministry. They are demanding better wages and seeking to disassociate themselves from the deaths of protesters in the run up to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak from the Presidency.

Watch Al Jazerra's coverage of the protests:

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Ahram Online reports:

A crowd of about 3,000 protesters, mainly lawyers and students, tried to march from Sanaa University to Al-Tahrir square in the city centre, where [Yemen President] Saleh's supporters have been camped since last week, but were prevented by security forces who erected barbed wire, witnesses reported.

In a move to manage the situation President Saleh halted constitutional procedures which may have allowed him to assume the presidency for life, and possibly pave the way for his son, the chief of the Republican Guard, to succeed him.

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The Guardian reports:

A major development in Bahrain where there are reports that one person has been killed by security forces during a protest:

According to sources in the hospital, and confirmed by Nabeel Rajab from a Bahraini human rights organisation, Ali Abdulhadi al-Mushaima, 27, was shot in the back with live ammunition. Protesters are incensed.

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@ thelede : Live Update: Dozens of Iran Protest Clips on YouTube http://nyti.ms/dG1C5M #Egypt #Bahrain #Iran

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The New York Times reports:

Two generals sat down Sunday night to talk about their country’s future with seven of the revolution’s young organizers — including the Google marketing executive Wael Ghonim — and the young activists posted their notes on the meeting directly to the Internet for the Egyptian public to see.

“We all sensed a sincere desire to preserve the gains of the revolution and unprecedented respect for the right of young people to express their views,” two of the young organizers, Mr. Ghonim and Amr Salama, wrote in their Facebook posting, with the disclaimer that they were speaking only for themselves. They noted that the generals spoke without any of the usual “parental tone (you do not know what is good for you, son),” and called the encounter “the first time an Egyptian official sat down to listen more than speak.”

Read more here.

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@ AJEnglish : Clashes reported in Iran protests: Pro-reformist marches under way in Tehran despite a heavy security presence a... http://aje.me/fqbkTi

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Ahram Online reports:

According to activist Ahmed Nassar, Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League, stated that he will be devoting his time in the coming months to his presidential campaign as soon as he hands over his Arab League post in March.

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@ richardengelnbc : #egypt.. some APCs moved out of downtown.. feeling cairo is slowly being 'demilitarized,' although military in control

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@ BBCWorld : US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hails 'courage' and 'aspirations' of anti-government protesters in #Iran, from AFP

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Videos have been surfacing today showing protesters burning images of government leaders in Iran. This video shows a man, alleged to be a plain-clothes policeman, attempting to stop protesters from burning such an image, resulting in a violent skirmish.

Warning - contains violent images.

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BBC News reports:

Unrest in Yemen turned ugly as protesters clashed with police and government loyalists in Sanaa on the fourth consecutive day of rallies.

Thousands of protesters demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh came up against a smaller crowd backing the veteran leader.

The protesters could be heard chanting "After Mubarak, Ali", in reference to the recent dramatic events in Egypt.

Police fired tear gas and stones were thrown, with reports of injuries.

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Reuters reports:

Dozens of Iranian opposition supporters were arrested on Monday while taking part in a banned rally in Tehran to support popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, an Iranian opposition website said.

"Witnesses say in some parts of Tehran security forces arrested dozens of protesters," opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi's Kaleme website reported.

Read more here.

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