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Egypt Labor Strikes Break Out Across The Country; Protesters Defiant

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EGYPT LABOR STRIKES
AP

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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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.

Read more here.

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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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