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Egypt Reform Committees: Mubarak Forms Panels, But No Details Announced

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Egypt reform committees were reportedly ordered by President Mubarak, pictured here on February 8, 2011. | AP

CAIRO - In its latest effort to defuse public anger amid mass protests, embattled President Hosni Mubarak's regime set up a committee Tuesday to recommend constitutional changes that would relax presidential eligibility rules and impose term limits.


Mubarak's decrees were announced on state television by Vice President Omar Suleiman, who also said that Mubarak had decreed the creation of a separate committee to monitor the implementation of all proposed reforms. The two committees would start working immediately, but Suleiman did not give details about who would sit on the panels or how they would be chosen.

The government has promised several concessions since an uprising began two weeks ago but so far they have fallen short of protesters' demands that Mubarak step down immediately instead of staying on through September elections. Tuesday's decision was the first concrete step taken by the longtime authoritarian ruler to implement promised reforms.

Mubarak also ordered a probe into clashes last week between the protesters and supporters of the president. The committee would refer its findings to the attorney-general, Suleiman said.
"The youth of Egypt deserve national appreciation," he quoted the president as saying. "They should not be detained, harassed or denied their freedom of expression."

On Monday night the Los Angeles Times reported that the United States is backing off from calls for immediate reform in Egypt. "The Obama administration has reconciled itself to gradual political reform in Egypt," the paper wrote.

Thousands of protesters, meanwhile, remained camped out in the central Tahrir Square, many hoping for an appearance by Google Inc. executive Wael Ghonim, who has emerged as a rallying point after he was released Monday after 12 days in custody.

About 90,000 people have joined a Facebook group nominating Ghonim to be their spokesman. Many demonstrators reject a group of officially sanctioned and traditional Egyptian opposition groups that have been negotiating with the government on their behalf in recent days.

Some on the square chanted "Wael Ghonim is coming today," although his planned afternoon appearance couldn't immediately be confirmed.

Tuesday's announcement came two days after Suleiman met for the first time with representatives of opposition groups, including the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood -- the country's largest and best organized opposition group -- to debate a way out of the ongoing political crisis.

The fundamentalist Islamic group issued a statement before Suleiman's announcement Tuesday calling the reforms proposed so far as "partial" and insisting that Mubarak must go to ease what it called the anger felt by Egyptians who face widespread poverty and government repression.

The Brotherhood also accused pro-Mubarak thugs of detaining protesters, including Brotherhood supporters, and handing them over to the army's military police who torture them.

"We call on the military, which we love and respect, to refrain from these malicious acts," said the statement.

The protesters have said they would not enter negotiations with the regime before Mubarak's departure. Mubarak insists that he intends to serve the remainder of his current, six-year term, which expires in September, and that he would die in Egypt, thus rejecting any suggestion that he should leave the country.

The president went on with official business Tuesday, receiving the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates. The official Middle East News Agency said Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan delivered a message from the UAE's president but gave no further details.

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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 #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.”

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

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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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