CAIRO - Thousands of state workers and impoverished Egyptians launched strikes and protests around the country on Wednesday over their economic woes as anti-government activists sought to expand their campaign to oust President Hosni Mubarak despite warnings from the vice president that protests won't be tolerated much longer.
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Some 8,000 protesters, mainly farmers, set barricades of flaming palm trees in the southern province of Assiut, blocking the main highway and railway to Cairo to complain of bread shortages. They then drove off the governor by pelting his van with stones. Hundreds of slum dwellers in the Suez Canal city of Port Said set fire to part of the governor's headquarters in anger over lack of housing.
Efforts by Vice President Omar Suleiman to open a dialogue with protesters over reforms have broken down since the weekend, with youth organizers of the movement deeply suspicious that he plans only superficial changes far short of real democracy. They refuse any talks unless Mubarak steps down first.
Showing growing impatience with the rejection, Suleiman issued a sharp warning that raised the prospect of a renewed crackdown. He told Egyptian newspaper editors late Tuesday that there could be a "coup" unless demonstrators agree to enter negotiations. Further deepening skepticism of his intentions, he suggested Egypt was not ready for democracy and said a government-formed panel of judges, dominated by Mubarak loyalists, would push ahead with recommending its own constitutional amendments to be put to a referendum.
"He is threatening to impose martial law, which means everybody in the square will be smashed," said Abdul-Rahman Samir, a spokesman for a coalition of the five main youth groups behind protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square. "But what would he do with the rest of the 70 million Egyptians who will follow us afterward."
Suleiman is creating "a disastrous scenario," Samir said. "We are striking and we will protest and we will not negotiate until Mubarak steps down. Whoever wants to threaten us, then let them do so," he added.
Nearly 10,000 massed in Tahrir on Wednesday in the 16th day of protests. Nearby, 2,000 more blocked off parliament, several blocks away, chanting slogans for it to be dissolved. Army troops deployed in the parliament grounds.
For the first time, protesters were calling forcefully Wednesday for labor strikes, despite a warning by Suleiman that calls for civil disobedience are "very dangerous for society and we can't put up with this at all."
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02/14/2011 4:24 PM EST
Somali Preacher Urges Egypt-Style RevoltAhram 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.
02/14/2011 4:21 PM EST
Clinton To Egyptians 'Don't Let Anyone Hijack The Process'
|@ AlArabiya_Eng : Clinton to Alarabiya: I say to egyptians: don't let anyone hijack the process #alarabiya #Iran #Egypt #clinton|
02/14/2011 4:20 PM EST
Egypt Summary: Today's Events
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.
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02/14/2011 3:51 PM EST
'Rumors' Of More Deaths In BahrainThe Guardian reports:
There are rumours – and let us stress, just rumours at this point – of more deaths in Bahrain following today's protests.
02/14/2011 3:48 PM EST
France Asked To Freeze Assets Of Egypt Officials
|@ felix85 : France says Egypt asks it to freeze possible assets of ex-officials, adding to UK and Germany already today|
02/14/2011 2:59 PM EST
Yemen Protests Continue After Concessions By Regime
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.
02/14/2011 2:50 PM EST
Protester In Bahrain Reported Killed By Security Forces
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.
02/14/2011 2:43 PM EST
Dozens Of Iran Protest Clips On YouTube
|@ thelede : Live Update: Dozens of Iran Protest Clips on YouTube http://nyti.ms/dG1C5M #Egypt #Bahrain #Iran|
02/14/2011 2:42 PM EST
Egypt’s Ruling Generals Meet With Opposition
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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