Twenty Six Dead Since the Unrest, Hosni Mubarak has Defended the Military’s Role !

January 29, 2011

President Hosni Mubarak has defended the role of Egypt’s security forces in suppressing anti-government protests which have rocked the country.

Mr Mubarak also dismissed his government and said a new cabinet would be announced on Saturday.

It was his first statement since the protests – in which at least 26 have died with hundreds injured – began.

Tens of thousands took part in protests in Cairo, Suez, Alexandria and other cities.

Protesters set fire to the headquarters of the governing NDP party and besieged state TV and the foreign ministry.

At least 13 people were killed in Suez on Friday, while in Cairo, five people died, according to medical sources.

That brings the death toll to at least 26 since the protests began on Tuesday.

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Mubarak dismisses government

January 29, 2011

Embattled Egyptian leader says he will name a new government on Saturday, after days of violent protests


The Egyptian president has dismissed his government, saying he will replace it with a new one on Saturday.

“I have asked the government to resign and tomorrow there will be a new government,” Hosni Mubarak said in an address to the nation in the early hours of Saturday after four days of deadly protests.

The president said that change can not be achieved through chaos but through dialogue.

Saying he understood that the people of Egypt wanted him to address poverty, employment and democratic reform, he promised to press ahead with social, economic and political reforms.

“We will not backtrack on reforms. We will continue with new steps which will ensure the independence of the judiciary and its rulings, and more freedom for citizens,” Mubarak said.

He said new steps will be taken “to contain unemployment, raise living standards, improve services and stand by the poor”.

Reacting to the protests that have erupted in the capital and other cities, Mubarak urged calm, adding that only because of his own reforms over the years were people able to protest.

Mona El Tahawy, an Egyptian columnist and author living in the US, dismissed these comments.

“There is no political freedom in Egypt, that’s exactly why the protests happened,” she said.

“If there were political freedoms, we wouldn’t see 12,000 to 14,000 political dissidents in Hosni Mubarak’s jails.

“He spoke tonight as a man absolutely out of touch with his people … He tells them ‘I’m going to implement reform and I care about the people.’ That’s meaningless. He’s been in power for 30 years, he knows how poor people are.”

‘Not enough’

Mubarak’s speech is likely to be seen as an attempt to cling to power rather than take concrete steps to solve some of the more pressing problems facing many Egyptians, primarily unemployment and rapidly rising food prices.

 

Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Cairo, said many Egyptians calling for change would say the sacking of the government is not enough.

“Ultimately in Egypt, the power lies with the president,” he said.

“On paper, you have an independent parliament and an independent judiciary but every Egyptian will tell you that at the end of the day, power is concentrated in the hands of the president.

“Very few institutions can challenge his authority, so the sacking of the cabinet is not going to end the grievances of the people.

“Over the past thirty years, the president has sacked many cabinets before, this time is no different. Some of these cabinet ministers that are serving, like the ministers of interior and defence, between the two of them have been serving for decades.

A sombre looking Mubarak called anti-government protests “part of a bigger plot to shake the stability and destroy legitimacy” of the political system.

He also defended the security forces’ crackdown on protesters, saying he had given them instructions that the protesters be allowed to express their views. But, he said, acts of violence and vandalism left the security forces with no choice but to react to restore order.

Even after Mubarak’s speech, protesters defied the night curfew and shouted slogans like “Down with Mubarak” in Cairo and other cities.

“We don’t care if the government resigns, we want him to resign,” Khaled, a 22-year-old demonstrator, said, in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria.

Source: Al Jazeera

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Mubarak still a vital ally: U.S. cables published by Wikileaks

January 28, 2011

A CNN analysis of secret and confidential cables published by WikiLeaks

The U.S. relationship with President Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt is full of contradictions and tensions, according to recently published U.S. diplomatic cables, but is also underpinned by similar basic interests in a rough and unpredictable part of the world.

U.S. frustration with Mubarak’s lack of succession planning, concerns over stuttering economic reform and private criticism of the Mubarak government’s hard line toward domestic opponents.

But the cables also show that Washington sees Egypt as an important and — until now — stable ally on issues, including Iran’s nuclear program, promoting negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and making life difficult for Hamas in Gaza.

And above all, Egypt is regarded as a moderate bulwark against Iranian-sponsored Islamist fundamentalism.

The cables show that Mubarak has taken a persistently hard line toward Iran, telling U.S. diplomats in 2008 that he had warned Tehran “not to provoke the Americans” on the nuclear issue and insisting Egypt could never accept a nuclear-armed Iran.

Mubarak has also repeatedly warned of Iran’s influence with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and in a cable from February last year, was quoted as describing “Tehran’s hand moving with ease throughout the region, from the Gulf to Morocco.”

A 2009 cable noted that with “the discovery of a Hezbollah cell in Egypt, the Egyptians appear more willing to confront the Iranian surrogates and to work closely with Israel.” To that end, the cables describe the Mubarak government as a helpful partner in stopping smuggling into Gaza from Egypt. A cable from 2008 quoted a senior Egyptian military figure as stating that Egypt had spent approximately $40 million to purchase the steel for an underground wall on the Gaza border, “and Egypt was paying the cost of this wall in terms of public opinion both within Egypt and the region.”

There is no guarantee that any “successor” to the Mubarak government would take such a hard line with Hamas.

For the U.S., the alliance between Egypt and Saudi Arabia has also been an important counterweight to growing Iranian influence on the “Arab street” and among states such as Syria and Qatar.

Egyptian officials, from Mubarak down, have also repeatedly impressed upon visiting Americans — military, diplomatic and Congressional — that it alone among Arab states can play a mediating role between Israel and the Palestinians. [Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, and Mubarak has resisted popular opposition to it.]

Ahead of Mubarak’s visit to Washington in May 2009, Ambassador Margaret Scobey wrote from Cairo that “the Egyptians want the visit to demonstrate that Egypt remains America’s indispensable “Arab ally.”

Scobey continued that Mubarak was “a tried and true realist, innately cautious and conservative, and has little time for idealistic goals.”

He viewed himself as “someone who is tough but fair, who ensures the basic needs of his people.”

At the same time, the Mubarak government has been very sensitive to any perceived slight from Washington. It has complained about cuts in U.S. economic aid and a stagnant level of military aid “because it shows our diminished view of the value of our relationship” according to one cable.

On pressure to improve human rights, according to one cable from Scobey in 2009, “Mubarak takes this issue personally, and it makes him seethe when we raise it, particularly in public.”

In a later cable, she said that Mubarak “harkens back to the Shah of Iran: the U.S. encouraged him to accept reforms, only to watch the country fall into the hands of revolutionary religious extremists.”

The Egyptian president relied on his interior minister and intelligence service to “keep the domestic beasts at bay, and Mubarak is not one to lose sleep over their tactics.”

The U.S. cables display frustration with Mubarak’s reluctance to address human rights issues, with one in 2008 saying: “While Egypt has made some limited gains over the last several years, such as on freedom of the press, progress overall has been slow.”

In a later cable, Scobey suggested the new U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton “may wish to lay down a marker for a future discussion on democratization and human rights concerns.” But given Mubarak’s sensitivities, the U.S. has trodden carefully in pressing the Egyptian government on human rights. A cable from 2009 said the United States now avoided “the public confrontations that had become routine over the past several years” over human rights.

Over the past five years, the cables reveal a growing unease with the lack of a succession plan, and apprehension about the prospect of Mubarak’s younger son, Gamal, taking over from his father. As far back as April 2006, one cable observed that Mubarak’s wife, Suzanne, was their son’s “most ardent booster” but added: “The possibility that Gamal might succeed his father remains deeply unpopular on the street.”

It adds that “unlike his father, (Gamal) cannot take the military’s support for granted,” having never served as an officer. But the same cable laments the lack of obvious contenders to succeed the aging Mubarak — a situation that appears to hold today.

Scobey wrote in apparent frustration two years ago that Mubarak “seems to be trusting to God and the ubiquitous military and civilian security services to ensure an orderly transition.”

Recent events may have eroded that confidence, but one cable in 2007 pointed out that Egypt’s internal security apparatus, “an estimated 1.4 million strong, is at least twice the size it was under Sadat … and makes any kind of violent change of leader unlikely.”

That perspective is now being challenged — and the role of the military may be critical in deciding the outcome. A cable from 2008 cites Egyptian experts as describing a “disgruntled mid-level officer corps” with military salaries falling far behind the civilian sector and the top brass averse to Gamal succeeding his father.

Egyptian commentators also noted that many officers were frustrated that loyalty to the regime trumped competence, and that the best military talent was sidelined in case it should pose a threat to the government. Even so, one cable concludes: “The military still remains a potent political and economic force.”

After discussing whether the military might step in to prevent Mubarak from passing the baton to his son, the cable concludes: “In a messier succession scenario, however, it becomes more difficult to predict the military’s actions.”

Source: CNN

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  • Egypt unrest rages; web shut ahead of big protest

    January 28, 2011

    Egyptian demonstrators fought security forces into the early hours of Friday in the city of Suez, and the Internet was blocked ahead of the biggest protests yet planned against President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

    Emboldened by this month’s revolt that toppled the authoritarian leader of Tunisia, Egyptians have staged mass protests since Tuesday. The biggest demonstrations yet are planned for Friday afternoon after weekly prayers.

    “This is a revolution,” one 16-year-old protester said in Suez late on Thursday. “Every day we’re coming back here.”

    Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, who returned to Egypt from Vienna on Thursday, has called for Mubarak to resign and said he would join the protests on Friday.

    Internet access was shut down across the country shortly after midnight. Mobile phone text messaging services also appeared to be partially disabled, working only sporadically.

    Activists have relied on the Internet, especially social media services like Twitter and Facebook, to organize.

    U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a “tweet” message on Twitter: “We are concerned that communications services, including the Internet, social media, and even this tweet are being blocked in Egypt.”

    A page on Facebook social networking site listed more than 30 mosques and churches where protesters were expected gather.

    “Egypt’s Muslims and Christians will go out to fight against corruption, unemployment and oppression and absence of freedom.”

    In Suez, which has been ground zero for some of the most violent demonstrations, police fired tear gas at protesters who hurled stones and petrol bombs into the early hours of Friday. Fires burned in the street, filling the air with smoke.

    The city fire station was ablaze. Waves of protesters charged toward a police station deep into the night. Demonstrators dragged away their wounded comrades into alleys.

    Security forces shot dead a protester in the north of the Sinai region on Thursday, bringing the death toll to five.

    Video images obtained by Reuters showed the man among a small group of protesters some distance from the security forces when he suddenly collapsed with a gunshot wound and was dragged away by other demonstrators. The video circulated widely on the Internet, galvanizing anger.

    Members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including at least eight senior officials of the opposition group and its main spokesmen, were rounded up overnight. A security source said authorities had ordered a crackdown on the group.

    Source: Reuters


    የሊባኖስ የፖለቲካ ቀውስ በመላምትነት ቀርቧል

    January 27, 2011

    የዛሬ ዓመት ጥር 25 ቀን 2002 ዓ.ም. ከሊባኖስ ርዕሰ መዲና ቤይሩት ራፊቅ ሐሪሪ ዓለም አቀፍ አውሮፕላን ማረፊያ ተነስቶ ወዲያውኑ ሜዲትራኒያን ባህር ላይ ድንገተኛ አደጋ የደረሰበት አውሮፕላን የአደጋ ሪፖርት ትናንት ይወጣል ተብሎ ቢጠበቅም ይፋ ሳይሆን ቀረ፡፡

    ከትናንት በስቲያ አዲስ አበባ የገባው የአውሮፕላኑ መርማሪ ቡድን ትናንት ከሲቪል አቪዬሽንና ከኢትዮጵያ አየር መንገድ ሹማምንት ጋር ስብሰባ ተቀምጦ የዋለ ሲሆን፣ ምክንያቱ ባልታወቀ ሁኔታ የአደጋው የመጀመሪያ ደረጃ ሪፖርት ሳይወጣ ቀርቷል፡፡ ሪፖርቱ ያልወጣበት ምክንያትም ለብዙዎች እንቆቅልሽ ሆኗል፡፡
    To read more click here
    Source:  The Reporter


    Price Controls Cause Chaos in Ethiopian Markets

    January 27, 2011

    Peter Heinlein, VOA | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
    Price controls on many staple food items ordered by Ethiopia’s government early this month have reduced grocery bills for many low-income families. But now shopkeepers are upset and some basic items are disappearing from store shelves. Economists are concerned about the long-term effect of the government’s price-fixing strategy.
    Confusion has been the order of the day at shops and markets across the Ethiopian capital this month. The government surprised businesses on January 6, the Ethiopian Christmas Eve, by announcing price caps on such items as meat, bread, rice, sugar, powdered milk and cooking oil.
    Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said the caps were a response to price gouging by merchants taking advantage of global price hikes. He vowed to put a stop to what he called “market disorder.”
    Ethiopian Consumers respond
    The news was seen as a Christmas gift by many cash-strapped consumers, who had seen food prices jump after the government devalued the local currency, the Birr, by 17 percent in September.
    In the first days after the price controls went into effect, Shenkut Teshome was among shoppers who rushed to markets to scoop up goods at newly lowered prices. He applauded government intervention as the only way to save impoverished Ethiopians from starvation.
    “People are hoping they can buy with their salary a fair material at a fair price,” said Shenkut. “[Prices] were exaggerated and people cannot afford to buy with their salary and live at the same time, paying rent, this and that. The main thing is that they have enough food for their children.”
    The price controls, however, have triggered chaos and tension in the local marketplace. Arguments, even occasional fistfights have been reported between irate shoppers and business operators as price controlled goods, such as cooking oil and oranges, have disappeared from shelves.
    One customer at a local shop, who spoke on condition of anonymity, quipped that the net effect of the price controls is that nothing has changed. He said that earlier, goods on the shelves were too expensive to buy. Now the prices are lower, but the goods have disappeared.
    Ethiopian Shopkeepers discouraged
    Business owners said the past few weeks have been unbearable. Customers are unhappy, some products they bought before the price caps must be sold below cost, and neighborhood government representatives drop by several times a day to check that they are in compliance.
    Shopkeepers contacted for this report all said they were afraid to give their names, but one who agreed to speak anonymously said she was ready to give up.
    She said, “This is way too much for us. We are small traders. We don’t make much money. We get everything on credit, so when this stock is gone, we are closing up shop.”
    Ethiopian Government defends
    Representatives of Ethiopia’s Trade Ministry did not respond to numerous interview requests for this report. But government officials have been quoted as saying price controls were needed because retailers had raised prices blaming global price increases and the devaluation, although such factors had had no influence on the availability of their products.
    In addition, four economists not affiliated with the government, all of whom have previously spoken to VOA on the record, declined to be quoted this time, saying the subject was too sensitive. But all four privately predicted that price fixing would not help in solving Ethiopia’s deep-rooted economic problems.
    Temesgen Zewdie, finance chairman of one of Ethiopia’s main opposition parties and a former Member of Parliament, called the price controls a step toward a Communist-style command economy.
    In a free market economy, the preferred way of doing this is to increase the supply and increase competition,” said Temesgen. “But the government did not do that. Instead they went directly to the producers and retailers, telling them to reduce prices and supply these products. These practices happen in Communist states, not in western democracies.”
    Critics warn
    Retired opposition leader Bulcha Dimeksa is a former deputy finance minister and also a former World Bank director. He said history has proven time and again the folly of price controls.
    “This government is doing exactly what all the classical dictators in the past have done and have failed,” said Bulcha. “I do not understand how people do not learn. It does not work. Price control never worked. It will not work. It does not work. It may work for one month, but what’s that? The farmer is discouraged, the producer is discouraged, the retailer is discouraged.”
    Despite the uproar, government officials are hoping their experiment in price-fixing will help to curb inflation. Recently released figures show the inflation rate jumped from 10.2 percent in November to 14.5 percent last month.
    Ethiopia is among the world’s poorest countries. The CIA World Factbook lists per capita purchasing power of $1,000 a year.


    Egypt on edge as demonstrations turn violent

    January 27, 2011

    Cyberleaks | January 27, 2011

    CAIRO (Reuters) – Police fought with thousands of Egyptians who defied a government ban on Wednesday to protest against President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-old rule, firing rubber bullets and tear gas and dragging away demonstrators.
    [Meanwhile, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s son who is considered as his successor has fled to Britain along with his family, US-based Arabic website Akhbar al-Arab reported. The plane with Gamal Mubarak, his wife and daughter on board left for London Tuesday from an airport in western Cairo, the website said.]

    In central Cairo, demonstrators burned tires and hurled stones at police. In Suez, protesters torched a government building as protests intensified in other parts of the country.

    Two people died in Cairo as protests unfolded but security officials contradicted each other on the circumstances. One told reporters a protester and a policeman were killed in clashes. But another official later said they died in a traffic accident.

    The scenes, rare in a tightly run nation with a fragmented opposition movement, follow the overthrow two weeks ago of another long-serving Arab strongman, Tunisian leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, in a popular revolt.

    Emboldened by the Tunisian uprising and frustrated by corruption, poverty and repression, protesters in Egypt have demanded that the 82-year-old Mubarak step down.

    “The people want the regime to fall,” they chanted. On Tuesday, the first day of rallies known as the “Day of Wrath” among activists, three protesters and a policeman were killed.

    Security forces have arrested about 500 demonstrators over the two days, an Interior Ministry source said. Witnesses said officers, some in civilian clothes, hauled away people and bundled them into unmarked vans. They beat some with batons.

    The coordinated protests were unlike anything witnessed in Egypt — one of the United States’ closest Middle East allies — since Mubarak, a former air force commander, came to power in 1981 after President Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Islamists.

    Trade Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid canceled a trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos. He gave no reason.

    Police fired shots into the air near the central Cairo court complex, witnesses said. In another area, they drove riot trucks into a crowd of about 3,000 people to force them to disperse.

    One anonymous protester in Cairo told Reuters: “The main tactic now is we turn up suddenly and quickly without a warning or an announcement. That way we gain ground.”

    Prominent reform campaigner Mohamed ElBaradei, who lives in Vienna, has decided to return to Egypt on Thursday, his brother said. Baradei, formerly head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog authority, is a vocal advocate of political change. But the exact purpose of his trip was not clear.

    TWITTER AND PROTESTS

    Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook have been a key means of communications for the protesters. Egyptians complained Facebook and Twitter were subsequently blocked, but many accessed them via proxies. The government denied any role.

    Showing their determination to continue, a new Facebook group was created calling for a weekend protest on Friday. It secured 18,000 supporters within hours. A Facebook spokesman in London said it had not seen any major changes in traffic from Egypt. Twitter confirmed its site was blocked on Tuesday.

    The United States said Egypt, the most populous Arab state, was still a “close and important ally.” But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also urged the government to allow peaceful protests and not to block the social networking sites.

    “We believe strongly that the Egyptian government has an important opportunity at this moment in time to implement political, economic and social reforms to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people,” she said.

    Analysts said the United States probably wants to avoid adding to political uncertainty by abandoning Mubarak. Egypt’s peaceful if chilly relationship with Israel is, for Washington, a bulwark of stability in the unsettled region.

    Elections are due to be held in September but few had doubted that Mubarak would remain in control or bring in a successor in the shape of his 47-year-old son Gamal.

    “Mubarak never experienced this level of public anger and such a rejection of his legitimacy in 30 years of power,” said analyst Issandr El Amrani. “This looks quite bad for him.”

    Father and son both deny that Gamal is being groomed for the job but the Egyptian street does not believe them.

    “Gamal, tell your father that Egyptians hate you,” protesters yelled in Cairo on Wednesday.

    POLITICAL DEMANDS

    Hundreds of demonstrators had gathered early on Wednesday outside the morgue in Suez, at the southeastern end of the canal which links the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. They demanded the release of the body of a protester killed there on Tuesday.

    “The government has killed my son,” the Suez protesters chanted outside the morgue. “Oh Habib, tell your master, your hands are soiled with our blood,” they said, referring to Interior Minister Habib al-Adli.

    Hundreds also gathered outside Cairo’s journalists’ union. Police beat some with batons when they tried to break a cordon and protesters on buildings threw stones at police below.

    Demands posted on Facebook included the resignation of Mubarak and Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, the dissolution of parliament and formation of a national unity government.

    The prime minister said the government was committed to allowing freedom of expression by legitimate means and said police in Tuesday’s demonstrations had acted with restraint.

    Egypt’s population of 80 million is growing by 2 percent a year. About 60 percent of the population — and 90 percent of the unemployed — are under 30 years old. About 40 percent live on less than $2 a day, and a third are illiterate.

    Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister, said reform was needed to address Arab citizens’ demands for better lives.

    “The Arab citizen is angry and we feel broken as citizens. Reform is the name of the game, and reform has to happen now all over the Arab world,” Moussa told Reuters in Davos.

    Investors fretted over the instability. Egypt’s stock market, shut on Tuesday for a holiday, fell 6 percent on Wednesday, the Egyptian pound hit a six-year low against the U.S. dollar and the cost of insuring Egyptian debt against default rose.


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