Tag Archives: Arab World

Egypt’s Generals, Protesters Moving to Open Clash

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

CAIRO – Egypt‘s ruling military and protesters seeking greater and faster change are moving into an outright collision, as the generals try to strip away public support for the movement while cozying up to the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.

Youth activists are not backing down, betting that Egyptians‘ dissatisfaction with the military’s running of the country will grow.

The generals, in power since the February ouster of longtime leaderHosni Mubarak, have launched an intensified media campaign against the protest activists, depicting them as a troublemaking minority and agents paid by foreign governments to grab power in an apparent attempt to turn the public against them. The message could have some appeal among Egyptians growing tired of continued unrest and fragile security.

At the same time, the military is cultivating ties with the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, which joined liberal and leftist youth in the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak but has since split with them on multiple issues. By cultivating the Brotherhood, the generals can take advantage of their large popular support base to counter the young protesters’ influence.

Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Assar, a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the body of generals that have taken over from Mubarak, praised the Brotherhood on Monday, saying they were playing a constructive role in post-Mubarak Egypt.

“Day by day, the Brotherhood are changing and are getting on a more moderate track,” he said in a speech in Washington at the United States Institute of Peace. “They have the willingness to share in the political life … they are sharing in good ways.”

The generals have also encouraged street protests by pro-military groups. Dozens of army supporters have held daily rallies the past two weeks in a square in northeastern Cairo, getting heavy TV coverage, aimed at counterbalancing a tent camp by the youth activists at Tahrir Square, the center of the anti-Mubarak uprising.

If the tension between the two camps boils over, it could plunge Egypt deeper into chaos, even sparking clashes. That could derail the country’s transition to democratic rule, a failure that could have wider implications on a region that is looking to Egypt to provide a role model for pro-democracy uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world.

A sign of the dangers came Saturday, when thousands of protesters made a peaceful march on the Defense Ministry in Cairo to push demands that police officers responsible for the killing of some 850 protesters during anti-Mubarak uprising be brought to justice and that military trials of civilian protesters be stopped. They were attacked by bands of men armed with sticks, knives and firebombs.

Hundreds of military police backed by anti-riot policemen stood by without intervening as the two sides fought for several hours. At least 300 people were wounded in the clashes.

The protest movement began to hike up pressure on the military earlier this month, launching their sit-in protest in Tahrir. One of their top demands is that the killers of protesters be brought to justice, but they also complain that the generals have mismanaged the transition to democratic rule, operating without transparency and dragging their feet in weeding out Mubarak loyalists from the judiciary, the civil service and the police force. Their ultimate fear is that the military will allow much of Mubarak’s authoritarian regime to stay in place.

The generals have countered by doing some revision of history, aiming to restore their longtime status as the ultimate authority in Egypt. For example, they have sought to depict themselves as equal partners with the Tahrir protesters in the popular uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak’s 29-year regime.

Over the weekend, the military took its rhetoric against the protesters into a dramatically higher gear. A military statement over the weekend accused a key youth group, April 6, of driving a wedge between the armed forces and Egyptians and of receiving foreign funding and training.

It also criticized “Kifaya,” or “Enough!”, a movement that emerged in 2004 and was the first in Egypt to publicly call for Mubarak’s removal and to oppose plans for his son Gamal to succeed him. One general said Kifaya was an “imported” movement, suggesting that it was created, financed and controlled by foreign powers.

Columnist Wael Kandil criticized the military’s comments Monday in the independent daily Al-Shorouq, warning that “we are now in the phase of burning the revolution.”

“The only thing left is to bring a tailor to take Mubarak’s measurements to make him a new set of suits for his triumphant return,” he wrote.

Activists from April 6 and Kifaya denied the military charges, accusing the generals of using Mubarak-era tactics.

The military has also been making a major media push. Numerous retired army generals have appeared on TV political talk shows as commentators in recent days, promoting the military council’s line.

This week, the host of one popular show, Dina Abdel-Rahman, was fired after repeated criticism of the military, including a sharp debate with one of the retired generals who called in to her show defending the military council.

Gamal Eid, a human rights lawyer, said her firing was a warning to others.

“Fear of the military is still great,” he said.

“I expect a clash between the two sides,” said analyst Hala Mustafa. “There exists a huge gap in their vision and tempo. Unlike the revolutionaries, the generals want to reform the system from within while they want to bring it down and build a new one in its place.”

A senior Brotherhood figure, Essam el-Erian, said the youth activists protesting against the military were trying to dominate Egypt’s politics but have failed to convince the majority of Egyptians.

He denied any growing ties between the Brotherhood and the military, saying they agree only on one issue — that elections should be held to transfer power to the people. The military has called for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held later this year, and the Brotherhood is expected to do well in the voting.

El-Erian warned that the alternative is a military coup.

“The military would tell us, ‘You go back home’, and they will manage the country. That would be a coup,” he told The Associated Press.

In the other camp, Mustafa Shawki, a key youth activist, acknowledged that smaller numbers have been showing up for Tahrir Square rallies. But he said the military’s continued mismanaging of the transition will fuel public discontent.

“We are at the end of the second wave of the revolution,” he said. “What will bring about the third wave of the revolution is the failure of the military council to bring about social justice. That will win back support for the revolutionaries that has currently been lost.”

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2011/07/25/world/middleeast/AP-ML-Egypt.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&ref=world

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Libya protesters seize 2nd biggest city, clashes in capital as Gadhafi son warns of civil war

By Hamza Hendawi,Maggie Michael, The Associated PressThe Canadian Press

CAIRO – Libyan protesters celebrated in the streets of Benghazi on Monday, claiming control of the country’s second largest city after bloody fighting, and anti-government unrest spread to the capital with clashes in Tripoli’s main square for the first time. Moammar Gadhafi‘s son vowed that his father and security forces would fight “until the last bullet.”

Protesters demanding Gadhafi’s ouster planed new marches in the capital’s main Green Square and at the leader’s residence for Monday evening. That was likely to bring a new round of violence after a similar march the night before prompted clashes that lasted till dawn, with witnesses reporting snipers opening fire on protesters and Gadhafi supporters racing through crowds in trucks and cars, firing automatic weapons and running people over.

During the day Monday, a fire was raging at the People’s Hall, the main hall for government gatherings where the country’s equivalent of a parliament holds its sessions several times a year, the pro-government news website Qureyna said. It also reported the first major sign of discontent in Gadhafi’s government, saying justice minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil resigned from his post to protest the “excessive use of force against unarmed protesters.”

The capital was largely shut down, with schools, government offices and most stores closed, as armed members of pro-government organizations called “Revolutionary Committees” circulated in the streets hunting for protesters in Tripoli’s old city, said one protester, named Fathi.

The protests and violence were the heaviest yet in the capital of 2 million people, a sign of how unrest was spreading after six days of demonstrations in eastern cities demanding the end of the elder Gadhafi’s rule.

Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, went on state TV late Sunday night, warning civil war will break out if protests continue, a theme continued Monday on Libyan state TV, where a pro-regime commentator spoke of chaos and “rivers of blood” turning Libya into “another Somalia” if security is not restored.

Gadhafi’s regime has unleashed the bloodiest crackdown of any Arab country against the wave of protests sweeping the region, which toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia. More than 200 have been killed in Libya, according to medical officials, human rights groups and exiled dissidents.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, visiting neighbouring Egypt, called the Libyan government’s crackdown “appalling.”

“We can see what is happening in Libya which is completely appalling and unacceptable as the regime is using the most vicious forms of repression against people who want to see that country — which is one of the most closed and one of the most autocratic — make progress. The response they have shown has been quite appalling,” he told reporters in Cairo.

Fragmentation is a real danger in Libya, a country of deep tribal divisions and a historic rivalry between Tripoli and Benghazi. The Arab world’s longest ruling leader in power for nearly 42 years, Moammar Gadhafi has held an unquestioned grip over the highly decentralized system of government he created, called the “Jamahiriya,” or “rule by masses.”

Libya’s former ambassador to the Arab League in Cairo, Abdel-Moneim al-Houni, who a day earlier resigned from his post to side with protesters, issued a statement demanding Gadhafi “be put on trial along with his aides, security and military commanders over the mass killings in Libya.”

“Gadhafi’s regime is now in the trash of history because he betrayed his nation and his people,” al-Houni said.

The spiraling turmoil in Libya, an OPEC country that is a significant oil supplier to Europe, was raising international alarm. Oil prices jumped $1.67 to nearly $88 a barrel Monday amid investor concern.

Two leading oil companies, Statoil and BP, said they were pulling some employees out of Libya or preparing to do so. Portugal sent plane to pick up its citizens and other EU nationals and Turkey sent two ferries to pick up construction workers stranded in the unrest-hit country. EU foreign ministers were discussing on Monday the possible evacuation of European citizens. Mobs attacked South Korean, Turkish and Serbian construction workers at various sites around the country, officials from each country said.

The Internet has been largely shut down in Libya, residents can no longer make international calls from land lines and journalists cannot work freely, but eyewitness reports trickling out of the country suggested that protesters were fighting back more forcefully. Most witnesses and residents spoke on condition they be indentified by first name only or not at all, out of fear of retaliation.

In Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi, protesters were in control of the streets Monday and took over the main security headquarters, known as the Katiba, after bloody clashes Sunday that killed at least 60 people, according to a doctor at the main hospital.

Cars honked their horns in celebration and protesters in the streets chanted “Long live Libya.” Protesters took down the Libyan flag from above Benghazi’s main courthouse and raised the flag of the country’s old monarchy, which was toppled in 1969 by the military coup that brought Moammar Gadhafi to power, according to witnesses and video footage posted on the Internet.

Benghazi’s airport was closed, according to an airport official in Cairo. A Turkish Airlines flight trying to land in Benghazi to evacuate Turkish citizens Monday was turned away, told by ground control to circle over the airport then to return to Istanbul.

There were fears of chaos as young men — including regime supporters — seized weapons from the Katiba and other captured security buildings. “The youths now have arms and that’s worrying,” said Iman, a doctor at the main hospital. “We are appealing to the wise men of every neighbourhood to rein in the youths.”

Youth volunteers were directing traffic and guarding homes and public facilities, said Najla, a lawyer and university lecturer in Benghazi. She and other residents said police had disappeared from the streets.

Benghazi has seen a cycle of bloody clashes over the past week, as security forces kill protesters, followed by funerals that turn into new protests, sparking new bloody shootings. After funerals Sunday, protesters fanned out, burning government buildings and police stations and besieging the Katiba.

Security forces battled back, at times using heavy-calibremachine-guns and anti-aircraft guns, according to residents. One witness said she saw bodies torn apart and that makeshift clinics were set up in the streets to treat the wounded. Ahmed Hassan, a doctor at the main Al-Jalaa hospital, said funerals were expected Monday for 20 of those killed the day before, but that families of 40 others were still trying to identify their loved ones because their bodies were too damaged.

In some cases, army units reportedly sided with protesters against security forces and pro-Gadhafi militias. Mohamed Abdul-Rahman, a 42-year-old Benghazi merchant, said he saw an army battalion chasing militiamen from a security compound.

After seizing the Katiba, protesters found the bodies of 13 uniformed security officers inside who had been handcuffed and shot in the head, then set on fire, said Hassan, the doctor. He said protesters believed the 13 had been executed by fellow security forces for refusing to attack protesters.

Protest leaders and army units that sided with them were working to keep order in the streets Monday, directing traffic and guarding homes and official buildings, several residents said.

On Sunday night, Gadhafi’s son Seif el-Islam — long seen as his likely successor — took to state TV, trying to take a tough line in a rambling and sometimes confused speech of nearly 40 minutes.

“We are not Tunisia and Egypt,” he said. “Moammar Gadhafi, our leader, is leading the battle in Tripoli, and we are with him.”

“The armed forces are with him. Tens of thousands are heading here to be with him. We will fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet,” he said.

He warned the protesters that they risked igniting a civil war in which Libya’s oil wealth “will be burned.” He also promised “historic” reforms in Libya if protests stop.

Seif has often been put forward as the regime’s face of reform. Several of the elder Gadhafi’s sons have powerful positions in the regime and in past years have competed for influence. Seif’s younger brother Mutassim is the national security adviser, with a strong role in the military and security forces, and another brother Khamis heads the army’s 32nd Brigade, which according to U.S. diplomats is the best trained and best equipped force in the military.

Even as Seif spoke, major clashes had broken out for the first time in Tripoli.

Sunday afternoon, protesters from various parts of the city began to stream toward central Green Square, chanting “God is great,” said one 28-year-old man who was among the marchers.

In the square, they found groups of Gadhafi supporters, but the larger number of protesters appeared to be taking over the square and surrounding streets, he and two other witnesses said. That was when the backlash began, with snipers firing down from rooftops and militiamen attacking the crowds, shooting and chasing people down side streets. they said.

Gadhafi supporters in pickup trucks and cars raced through the suqare, shooting automatic weapons. “They were driving like mad men searching for someone to kill. … It was total chaos, shooting and shouting,” said the 28-year-old.

The witnesses reported seeing casualties, but the number could not be confirmed. One witness, named Fathi, said he saw at least two he believed were dead and many more wounded.

After midnight, protesters took over the main Tripoli offices of two state-run satellite stations, Al-Jamahiriya-1 and Al-Shebabiya, one witness said.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/libyans-benghazi-mass-another-day-protests-internet-cut-20110220-011501-490.html

 

 


“Revolution Of The Young”

Egyptians pray for Mubarak to go now

By Dina Zayed and Shaimaa Fayed | Reuters

CAIRO (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Egyptians prayed in Cairo’s Liberation Square on Friday for an immediate end to President Hosni Mubarak‘s 30-year rule, hoping a million more would join them in what they called the “Day of Departure”.

“Leave! Leave! Leave!” they chanted after bowing in prayer and listening to a cleric declare “We want the head of the regime removed”. He praised the “revolution of the young”.

The United States, long the ally and sponsor of the 82-year-old former general and his politically influential army, was also working behind the scenes to have him hand over power.

Mubarak says he is willing to retire but, having spent three decades portraying himself as a bulwark against radical Islam in the most populous Arab state, he has warned of chaos if he goes now.

Doubtless fuelling Western — and Israeli — concerns about the rise of the Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood in any free Egyptian election, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hailed what he called an “Islamic liberation movement” across the Arab world, and urged Egypt’s army to turn on Israel.

In Cairo, where protesters have come from a mix of secular and religious inspiration, many joined in repeating the Muslim rallying call on Friday of “Allahu akbar!”, or God is greatest.

Reuters TV live Tahrir Square, click http://link.reuters.com/kuf87r

Mubarak interview with ABC, click http://link.reuters.com/red87r

Protest timeline http://link.reuters.com/zyc77r

For graphics, click http://r.reuters.com/nym77r

Insider TV, click http://link.reuters.com/caw77r

In Tahrir, or Liberation, Square, the focus of protests and of violent clashes with Mubarak loyalists in the previous two days, there was a festive atmosphere, with soldiers keeping order and the veteran defence minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, paying a visit and talking to his soldiers.

“Today is the last day, today is the last day!” protesters shouted as Arabic pop songs blared from a bank of speakers and military helicopters clattered overhead. Ambulances stood by.

One banner, in English for the benefit of the international television channels beaming out live, read: “Game over.”

ARMY OUT IN FORCE

Troops, out in greater numbers than in the previous week, strung barbed wire across streets and erected checkpoints, slowing people’s ability to get to the square. Once weekly prayers end at mosques across the country, protest leaders were hoping they could declare they had put a million on the streets.

The long-banned Brotherhood has sought to allay Western and Israeli concerns about its potential to take power in a free vote. A day after Mubarak’s new vice president broke ground by saying the Brotherhood was welcome to join a national dialogue, it said it would not seek the presidency.

Iran’s anti-Western, Islamic revolution of 1979 against the repressive, U.S.-funded shah has been cited by some in Israel and the West as a possible precedent for Egypt.

Khamenei, whose non-Arab, Shi’ite clergy represent a different branch of Islam from the mainly Sunni Arabs, praised those in Tunisia and now Egypt who had wrought dramatic change in the past month on autocratic regimes typical of the Arab world.

“The awakening of the Islamic Egyptian people is an Islamic liberation movement and I, in the name of the Iranian government, salute the Egyptian people and the Tunisian people,” Khamenei told worshippers at Friday prayers in Tehran.

Calling himself a “brother in religion” to the Arab people, he called on the Egyptian army to back the protesters and “focus its eyes on the Zionist enemy”. Cairo’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel has been a key component of the Jewish state’s security strategy.

GENERALS’ ROLE

The demonstrators, from across Egypt’s diverse 80 million population, hope to match the unprecedented turnout on the streets of the nation’s cities that they mobilised on Tuesday.

On that evening, Mubarak announced he would step down, but only in September, when a presidential election is due.

Though many Egyptians felt that was good enough, and hoped for a return to normality after the disruption which began on Jan. 25, many want Mubarak to leave immediately. The United States and its Western allies, while refraining from saying he must quit now, have urged him to begin the transition of power and move towards elections.

The armed forces, who have a crucial role to play, appear to be weighing their options, content to let demonstrators have their say in a way never before seen in Egypt. But they have not moved directly against Mubarak, and have allowed plain clothes loyalists to range the streets and attack protesters this week.

A senior U.S. official, who declined to be named, said on Thursday Washington was discussing with Egyptians different scenarios, including one in which Mubarak resigned immediately.

“That’s one scenario,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There are a number of scenarios, but (it is) wrong to suggest we have discussed only one with the Egyptians.”

Mubarak, however, said he believed his country still needed him: “If I resign today, there will be chaos,” Mubarak, who has promised to step down in September, told U.S. television channel ABC. Commenting on the calls to resign, he said: “I don’t care what people say about me. Right now I care about my country.”

U.S. INTERVENTION

The New York Times cited U.S. officials and Arab diplomats as saying Washington was discussing a plan for Mubarak to hand over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military.

It also quoted a senior Egyptian saying the constitution did not allow this. “That’s my technical answer,” he added. “My political answer is they should mind their own business.”

Suleiman also hinted at irritation with U.S. interference in a television interview on Thursday: “There are some abnormal ways by which foreign countries have intervened through press declarations and statements. This was very strange, given the friendly relations between us and them,” he said.

Many of the protesters reject Suleiman as an alternative.

Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League and former Egyptian foreign minister, said he believed Mubarak would hold on until September’s election. Then he added cautiously: “But there are extraordinary things happening, there’s chaos and perhaps he will take another decision.”

Moussa, spoken of by some as a possible successor, told France’s Europe 1 radio that he would consider standing.

The U.N. estimates 300 people have died in the unrest which was inspired in part by protests in Tunisia which forced Tunisian strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee last month and which have since spread to other parts of the Middle East.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/egyptians-pray-mubarak-now-20110204-035048-128.html

 


International reaction to crisis in Egypt

By London World Desk

Protesters have intensified their campaign to force Egypt‘s President Hosni Mubarak to quit as world leaders struggled to find a solution to a crisis that has torn up the Middle East political map.

Following are official comments on the crisis from around the world:

Finland’s Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb told Reuters ahead of a European Union meeting to discuss policy on Egypt and Tunisia, among other issues:

“The big picture is that there is something big, something historic happening in the Arab world.

“The genie is out of the bottle and I don’t know whether anyone is able to or wants to put it back in. I know I don’t.

“It’s too early to say whether this is the Berlin Wall moment, or the 1989 moment, because there are of course huge differences between Europe and the Arab world and there are huge differences within the Arab world countries.

“There is, however, one general trend that I think we can all agree on: those countries which are not doing economically well, where people do not feel that their welfare is taken care of, that they don’t have an equal opportunity to prosper, those are the ones that have a tendency to start moving.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron told BBC TV:

“It’s very important that if it’s President Obama or whether it’s me, we’re not saying who should run this country or that country.

“It’s sensible to say that you do have a choice here, this repression, if you opt for that, that will end badly for Egypt, badly for the world. It’s the wrong choice to make.”

Germany’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said at a regular news conference:

“We are asking that the current president respect the freedom of opinion of the people and their other civil rights, not to resort to force under any circumstances — that would only help extremists. We are not going to say anyone should step down or someone else should take office.

“That’s something the Egyptians need to decide and where we clearly request from the Egyptian government that all those who want to stand for election can do so.

“Those conditions have to be created and we hold the Egyptian government accountable on that but we won’t ask anyone to step down.”

Middle East peace envoy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair told Sky News from Jerusalem:

“What is inevitable is there’s going to be change, the question is what change and how do you manage it.

“What is necessary, and this is where I think the western governments, America, the European Union, have got to get themselves into position where they can not merely commentate on this situation but help partner that process of change.”

“I’ve said for years, this is a region in transition. The question is where is it transiting to?

“It can transit to a concept of society and the economy and politics that is 21st century. Or it can be taken backwards into a very reactionary form of religious autocracy, we don’t want that.”

Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said on Austrian radio:

“There is nothing better we can do at the moment. At the end of the day this is a revolution … and (we know) from past examples we have to wait and see how it ends.

Asked if EU foreign ministers would adopt a united front at meeting today: “What I expect is that we agree on the steps, on the procedure that we will use together. With our national foreign policies we all have to pull in the same direction as the European Union.”

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/factbox-international-reaction-crisis-egypt-20110131-034028-523.html