Tag Archives: Hosni Mubarak

Egypt has a new president…Mohammed Morsi

Islamist Morsi elected Egypt’s president

By MAGGIE MICHAEL and SARAH EL DEEB | Associated Press

CAIRO (AP) — Islamist Mohammed Morsi was declared the winner Sunday in Egypt’s first free presidential election in history, closing the tumultuous first phase of a democratic transition and opening a new struggle with the still-dominant military rulers who recently stripped the presidency of most of its powers.

In Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the uprising that ousted autocratic President Hosni Mubarak, joyous supporters of Morsi’sMuslim Brotherhood wept and kneeled on the ground in prayer when they heard the announcement on live television. They danced, set off fireworks and released doves in the air with Morsi’s picture attached in celebrations not seen in the square since Mubarak was forced out on Feb. 11, 2011.

Many are looking now to see whether Morsi will try to take on the military and wrestle back the powers they took from his office just one week ago. Thousands vowed to remain in Tahrir to demand that the ruling generals reverse their decision.

In his first televised speech, the 60-year old U.S.-trained engineer called on Egyptians to unite and tried to reassure minority Christians, who mostly backed Morsi’s rivalAhmed Shafiq because they feared Islamic rule.

He said he carries “a message of peace” to the world and pledged to preserve Egypt’s international accords, a reference to the peace deal with Israel.

He also paid tribute to nearly 900 protesters killed in last year’s uprising.

“I wouldn’t have been here between your hands as the first elected president without … the blood, the tears, and sacrifices of the martyrs,” he said.

In the lengthy and redundant speech, Morsi appeared to be struggling to compose his sentences. Wearing a blue suit and tie, he looked stiff and uncomfortable and did not smile throughout as he read from a paper. He was non-confrontational and did not mention the last-minute power grab by the ruling military, instead praising the armed forces.

The White House congratulated Morsi and urged him to advance national unity as he forms a new government. White House press secretary Jay Carney said Morsi’s victory is a milestone in Egypt’s transition to democracy after decades of authoritarian rule under Mubarak. The Obama administration had expressed no public preference in the presidential race.

Left on the sidelines of the political drama are the liberal and secular youth groups that drove the uprising against Mubarak, left to wonder whether Egypt has taken a step towards becoming an Islamist state. Some grudgingly supported Morsi in the face of Shafiq, who was Mubarak’s last prime minister, while others boycotted the vote.

Morsi will now have to reassure them that he represents the whole country, not just Islamists, and will face enormous challenges after security and the economy badly deteriorated in the transition period.

Pro-democracy leader Mohammed ElBaradei urged unity after the results were announced.

“It is time we work all as Egyptians as part of a national consensus to build Egypt that is based on freedom and social justice,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

The elections left the nation deeply polarized with one side backing Shafiq, who promised to provide stability and prevent Egypt from becoming a theocracy. Because of his military career, many saw him as the military’s preferred candidate.

In the other camp are those eager for democratic change and backers of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood who were persecuted, jailed and banned under Mubarak but now find themselves one of the two most powerful groups in Egypt.

The other power center is the ruling military council that took power after the uprising and is headed by Mubarak’s defense minister of 20 years.

Just one week ago, at the moment polls were closing in the presidential runoff, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) issued constitutional amendments that stripped the president’s office of most of its major powers. The ruling generals made themselves the final arbiters over the most pressing issues still complicating the transition— such as writing the constitution, legislating, passing the state budget— and granted military police broad powers to detain civilians.

“I am happy the Brotherhood won because now the revolution will continue on the street against both of them, the Brotherhood and the SCAF,” said Lobna Darwish, an activist who has boycotted the elections.

Also, a few days before that constitutional declaration, a court dissolved the freely elected parliament, which is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, leaving the military now in charge of legislating.

Brotherhood members and experts said the results were used a bargaining chip between the generals and the Brotherhood over the parameters of what appears to be a new power-sharing agreement. The country’s new constitution is not written and the authorities of the president are not clear.

This is the first time modern Egypt will be headed by an Islamist and by a freely elected civilian. The country’s last four presidents over the past six decades have all came from the ranks of the military.

“Congratulations because this means the end of the Mubarak state,” said Shady el-Ghazali Harb, a prominent activist who was among the leaders of the protests in January and February last year.

The results of the elections were delayed for four days amid accusations of manipulation and foul play by both sides, raising political tensions in Egypt to a fever pitch.

The delay plunged the country into nerve-wrecking anticipation and pushed tensions to a fever pitch. Parallel mass rallies by Shafiq and Morsi supporters were held in different parts of Cairo and cut-throat media attacks by supporters of both swarmed TV shows. In the hours before the announcement of the winner, the fear of new violence was palpable.

Heavy security was deployed around the country, especially outside state institutions, in anticipation of possible violence. Workers were sent home early from jobs, jewelry stores closed for fear of looting and many were stocking up on food and forming long lines at cash machines in case new troubles began.

Morsi narrowly defeated Shafiq with 51.7 percent of the vote versus 48.3, by a margin of only 800,000 votes, the election commission said. Turnout was 51 percent.

Farouk Sultan, the head of the commission, described the elections as “an important phase in the end of building our nascent democratic experience.”

Sultan went to pains to explain the more than 400 complaints presented by the two candidates challenging counting procedures and alleging attempts of rigging. It appeared to be an attempt to discredit claims that the election commission was biased in favor of Shafiq, the candidate perceived as backed by the military rulers.

The country is deeply divided between supporters of the Brotherhood, liberals and leftists who also decided to back them as a way to stand up to the military, and other secular forces that fear the domination of the Brotherhood, and grew critical of it in the past year. The small margin of victory for Morsi also sets him for a strong opposition from supporters of Shafiq, viewed as a representative of the old regime.

Naguib Sawiris, a Coptic Christian business tycoon who joined a liberal bloc in voicing opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood a day before the results were announced, said he expects the new president to send a reassuring message to Egypt’s Christian minority who represent around 10 percent of the population of 85 million.

“There are fears of imposing an Islamic state … where Christians don’t have same rights,” Sawiris told the private TV station CBC. Morsi “is required to prove the opposite. … We don’t want speeches or promises but in the coming period, it is about taking action. … He was not our choice but we are accepting it is a democratic choice.”

Hamdeen Sabahi, a leftist presidential candidate who came in a surprising third place in the first round of elections, asked Morsi to live up to his pledges to form a national coalition government and appoint presidential aides from different groups “that express the largest national consensus.”

Khaled Abdel-Hamid, a leading leftist politician, said Morsi must fight to get his powers back or he will lose any popular support he may have garnered.

“If he fights to get his power back, we will support him. But if he doesn’t fight back, then he is settling for siding with the military,” he said.

http://news.yahoo.com/islamist-morsi-elected-egypts-president-205842917.html

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Is Mubarak Dying?

Confusion Over Mubarak Adds to Tension in Egypt 

By  and 

CAIRO — Egyptian officials maintained a conspicuous silence about former President Hosni Mubarak’s health on Wednesday, a day after the state news agency reported that his condition was so grave that he had to be transferred from the prison where he is serving a life sentence to a military hospital.

Officials said that Mr. Mubarak’s health deteriorated rapidly on Tuesday, and that he went into cardiac arrest and suffered a stroke before his transfer.

After those reports, his lawyers andEgypt’s ruling military generals said Mr. Mubarak was in critical condition, but alive. On Wednesday, security officials said that Mr. Mubarak was alive and breathing on his own. They described his condition as nearly stable.

The former president’s health has been a source of constant speculation and suspicion since his imprisonment. Mr. Mubarak has had health problems for years, but the flood of reports and scares in recent weeks led many Egyptians to believe that the military rulers, determined to move Mr. Mubarak out of a notorious prison, were using those accounts to prepare the public for such a move.

Low ranking security officers, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, speculated that the previous night’s reports that Mr. Mubarak was on the edge of death were part of a scheme to transport him out of Egypt for care. Indeed, many Egyptians on Wednesday wondered if the state news agency reports of his near death were all a morbid hoax.

Security outside the hospital where Mr. Mubarak was said to be staying was light for a facility housing the former head of state. Civilians came and went freely through a side door of the hospital on Wednesday, and two people leaving the grounds said they noticed no change in the hospital’s operations or security.

Mr. Mubarak had been in a prison medical ward since the beginning of the month, when he was given a life sentence in connection with the killings of demonstrators during the 18 days of protests that ended his rule.

The news of his failing health spread quickly through Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the uprising, where tens of thousands of people were protesting the military council governing Egypt. In recent days, the generals had moved to seize the kind of uncontested authority that the former president wielded during his nearly three decades in power.

The confusion over Mr. Mubarak’s health injected new volatility into the country’s growing political and constitutional crisis, even as the two candidates to replace Mr. Mubarak as president both declared themselves the winners of the weekend’s election.

Analysts marveled that Mr. Mubarak had lost consciousness at the climactic moment of the struggle over the future of the system he had defined for so long, and just two days after the vote to choose his successor.

“It is very Shakespearean,” said Diaa Rashwan, an analyst at Al Ahram Center, a state-financed research institute. “To himself, he is eternal. There can be nobody after him. He does not want to hear the name of his successor.”

On Monday, Mohamed Morsi, a Brotherhood leader, said he had won Egypt’s first competitive presidential election, beating Ahmed Shafik, Mr. Mubarak’s last prime minister, with 52 percent of the vote.

The votes were counted publicly at the polling stations, and Egyptian state news media reported the same count as the Brotherhood. Official vote results are expected to be announced this week, but on Tuesday, Mr. Shafik disputed several of the tallies, including those reported in the state news media, that forecast Mr. Morsi as the winner.

A spokesman for Mr. Shafik, Ahmad Sarhan, said without explanation that he had won with 51.5 percent of the vote. But that announcement seemed another tactic in a battle that began before voters went to the polls.

Last week, the generals dissolved Parliament, which was dominated by the Brotherhood, saying the move was justified because of a decision by a court of judges appointed by Mr. Mubarak. The generals also proceeded to issue their own interim constitution, entrenching their power while all but eviscerating the authority of the new president.

The interim constitution also provided the generals and the Mubarak-appointed judiciary with broad sway over the drafting of Egypt’s next permanent constitution.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/world/middleeast/official-silence-surrounds-mubaraks-condition-in-egypt-hospital.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp


Egypt’s democratic up hill battle

Top contenders fight to stay in Egypt election

Yasmine Saleh and Dina Zayed | Reuters

CAIRO (Reuters) – Three top contenders for Egypt’s presidency were scrambling to stay in the election race on Sunday after the authorities disqualified them on technical grounds, prompting one to say that a “major crisis” threatened the landmark vote.

The election is seen as the last step to democracy after more than a year of unstable army rule since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown by a street revolt. The generals are due to hand power to the new president by July 1 but the latest drama saw new accusations they were trying to prolong their influence.

Mubarak’s former spy chief Omar Suleiman drew an outcry from opponents of the old regime when he entered the race last week, only to be told late on Saturday that he had failed to secure enough signatures in one province to run.

Two leading Islamist candidates were also disqualified, one because he has a criminal record – dating from what was widely seen as a political trial under Mubarak – and the other because his mother had taken U.S. citizenship, state media said.

All three have 48 hours to appeal to the state election committeeagainst their exclusion. If their elimination is confirmed, it would redraw the electoral map just weeks before the vote gets under way in May.

“We will not give up our right to enter the presidential race,” said Murad Muhammed Ali, campaign manager for the Muslim Brotherhood‘s Khairat al-Shater, one of the three.

“There is an attempt by the old Mubarak regime to hijack the last stage of this transitional period and reproduce the old system of governance.”

The disqualifications add to the drama of a transition marked by spasms of violence and bitter political rivalries between Islamists, secular-minded reformists and remnants of the Mubarak order.

Shater, who became an immediate frontrunner after joining the election race in late March, was disqualified due to past criminal convictions. Brotherhood members were often jailed for their political activities under Mubarak, who excluded the movement from formal politics.

Anticipating Shater’s disqualification, the Brotherhood, which now dominates parliament following free elections held in the wake of Mubarak’s removal, had nominated Mohamed Mursi, head of its political party, as a reserve candidate.

VIOLATION

A lawyer for Salafi preacher Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, the most hardline of the various Islamists running for the post, said there would be a “a major crisis” now that his client was barred from the race.

On Friday, his supporters besieged the headquarters of the election commission, forcing it to evacuate the premises and suspend its work. Abu Ismail said the accusation that his mother held U.S. citizenship was fabricated by his political opponents.

“The presidential committee has violated all the rules of law,” Abu Ismail said in remarks published on his Facebook page. “If the official decision is to violate the constitution, they should be able to deal with the consequences.”

Military police and state security were guarding the headquarters of the election committee in Cairo on Sunday, state media reported.

Farouk Sultan, head of the presidential election commission, told Reuters a total of 10 of the 23 candidates had been disqualified.

Frontrunners still in the race include Amr Moussa, a former Arab League Secretary General and Egyptian foreign minister, and Abdul Moneim Abol Fotouh, who was expelled from the Brotherhood last year when he mounted his own presidential campaign.

In an interview with Reuters on Saturday, before his exclusion was announced, Suleiman said the domination of politics by the Brotherhood would hold the country back. But he said if he became president, the party could serve in his government and would be a vital part of Egyptian political life.

Suleiman, 74, said he was running for office in response to public demands for a counterweight to Islamist influence.

“This is why they sought me, as a balance between Islamists and civilian forces,” said Suleiman.

He describes himself as a devout Muslim but said that Egyptians fear their country is being turned into a theocracy.

The Brotherhood, in addition to dominating parliament, chairs an assembly that was formed to write a new constitution before a court suspended its activities last week. Liberal groups had walked out of the assembly, saying it failed to reflect Egypt’s diversity.

“Many people felt that the state is going to the Muslim Brotherhood – in parliament, in government and now the presidency,” Suleiman said, while conceding that the Brotherhood was “a very important segment of Egyptian society.”

 http://news.yahoo.com/top-contenders-fight-stay-egypt-election-162709675.html

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


Unrest in Egypt

Clashes in Cairo Leave 12 Dead and 2 Churches in Flames

By 

CAIRO — A night of street fighting between hundreds of Muslims and Christians left at least 12 people dead and two churches in flames on Sunday in the latest outbreak of sectarian tensions in the three months since the revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

By lifting the heavy hand of the Mubarak police state, the revolution unleashed long-suppressed sectarian animosities that have burst out with increasing ferocity, threatening the recovery of Egypt’s tourist economy and the stability of its hoped-for transition to democracy.

Officials of the Interior Ministry said at least six Christians and at least six Muslims had died, and about 220 people were wounded, including at least 65 who were struck by bullets.

The Egyptian authorities vowed a swift response. The military council governing the country announced military trials for 190 people arrested in the violence. Civilian authorities promised increased security at houses of worship and a new ban on demonstrations outside such institutions. The interim prime ministerEssam Sharaf, canceled a trip abroad to preside over an emergency cabinet meeting, and Egypt’s most respected Muslim religious authority, the sheik of Al Azhar, denounced the violence.

“Egypt has already become a nation in danger,” Justice Minister Abdel Aziz al-Gindi said after the cabinet meeting, vowing to strike “with an iron hand” to preserve national security.

But by nightfall thousands of unsatisfied Christians — members of the indigenous Coptic Orthodox minority that makes up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population — gathered in protest outside the state television building, closing a main thoroughfare. Adapting the chants and tactics of the Tahrir Square sit-in and exercising their new freedom of assembly, the Copts accused the military government of indifference; called for the resignation of the military leader, Field MarshalMohamed Hussein Tantawi; and vowed not to leave.

To prevent renewed violence, an overwhelming force of hundreds of heavily armed soldiers and riot police officers occupied the Cairo neighborhood where the clashes took place, a tangle of filth-covered alleys known as Imbaba, where they blocked access to the area around the Church of St. Mina, the church at the center of the battle. Garbage fires set nearby during the clashes still smoldered Sunday morning, and burned-out car frames sat in the streets.

A police report and many Christians in the neighborhood sought to place the blame for the violence on Salafis — adherents to an ascetic and often apolitical variant of Muslim traditionalism that is becoming a catch-all term for Islamic militancy here as mainstream Islamists focus increasingly on the ballot box.

But many Christian as well as Muslim witnesses said there did not appear to be any organized group or guiding ideology behind the violence or church burnings. Instead, people on both sides said that the fighting pitted one group of frustrated and underemployed young men from the neighborhood against another, along battle lines that had more to do with tribal allegiances than any religious or political ideas.

Like many recent episodes of Muslim-Christian violence here, the strife started with rumors about an interfaith romance and a woman’s abduction. According to a police report, a Muslim named Yassim Thaabet Anwar from a city up the Nile had come to Imbaba looking for his wife. He said she was a former Christian from the neighborhood who had converted to Islam in 2010 but had recently disappeared. And he asserted she had been kidnapped and held in the Church of St. Mina against her will — a pattern of allegations that has recurred in several recent high-profile episodes of sectarian conflict.

Christians in the neighborhood said that there was no such woman in the church, and, by Sunday night, the local police and government officials agreed.

But early Saturday evening, Christian men in the neighborhood began receiving phone calls from friends warning that a group of Salafis was approaching the church. More than 500 raced to defend it, armed with sticks, knives and other makeshift weapons, according to Christian residents and the police report.

By about 6 p.m., according to Christians and the report, they far outnumbered the Muslims. About 20 had arrived to ask about the woman who was said to be missing. But soon similar calls for backup went out to Muslim men around the neighborhood, and within about an hour at least 500 Muslims had gathered as well. The police report described a crowd of a total of 1,500 Christians and Muslims, which later grew to 2,000.

“You get a phone call that says, ‘Come quick. A big sheik’s wife has been taken into the church, and he is calling on people help to get his wife out,’ ” said Hussein Qheder, an Imbaba resident who was recently released after 14 years in prison for his work with an Islamist political group. (He also recently demonstrated at the American Embassy here in Cairo for the release of Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheik who is serving a life sentence in the United States after being convicted in a conspiracy to bomb the World Trade Center in 1993.)

But though he said he “would be considered an extremist,” he declined to answer the request because the caller could not provide more details. “In this period we are in, we cannot bear this kind of talk,” he said. “This could kill the revolution.”

By 8 p.m. on Saturday, shots had been fired from a rooftop or balcony. The police report said that Christians had fired in the air, and Alaa Ayed, 25, a Christian in the crowd, acknowledged that his side might have been the first to open fire.

“How can they say we started it when we are defending our church?” he asked. “I am going to defend my church and my house, and if that injures someone, I can’t help it.”

The mobs began battling with clubs, knives, bricks and Molotov cocktails, and there were occasional gunshots from windows and roofs. Security forces arrived and fired tear gas at the crowd, but the battle continued, exacerbated by a blackout. Muslims set fire to the Church of St. Mina, and, after midnight, to the nearby Church of the Virgin Mary. Administrators at the neighborhood hospital said the battle continued until at least 4 a.m. on Sunday.

In March, clashes between Muslims and Christians in the town of Helwan killed 13 and left a church there in flames. In that instance, the spark was a rumored romance between a Muslim woman and a Christian man.

The strife broke out Saturday just hours after another sectarian saga had appeared to close. Muslims and Christians in Egypt have argued since last summer about Camilia Shehata, the wife of a Coptic Christian priest who disappeared for a time. Many Muslims believe she tried to convert to Islam, only to be kidnapped by her husband and members of the Coptic Church.

In retaliation for her purported abduction, Islamist militants carried out a church bombing as far away as Iraq and threatened churches in Egypt. Among the churches threatened was one in Alexandria wherean explosion on Jan. 1 killed more than 20 Copts. As recently as Friday, hundreds of Muslims and Copts held rival demonstrations about her case in Cairo.

Many Muslims have insisted that to lay the allegations to rest, Ms. Shehata should appear on television to declare her faith and marriage, and on Saturday she appeared with her husband on a satellite television network owned by a prominent Christian businessman here. Egyptians should move on, she said, just hours before the violence broke out in Imbaba.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/09/world/middleeast/09egypt.html?_r=1&ref=world


Hosni Mubarak’s last remnant

Egyptian PM Ahmed Shafiq quits

By Mona Salem | AFP News

Egypt‘s military rulers have accepted the surprise resignation of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, seen by protesters as a symbol of ousted president Hosni Mubarak‘s regime, the army said on Thursday.

He will be replaced by Essam Sharaf, a former transport minister who took part in the mass rallies in Cairo‘s Tahrir Square which led to strongman Mubarak’s resignation on February 11 after three decades in power.

Shafiq was appointed by Mubarak in the dying days of his rule, in a failed bid to quell the protests. The military council has been running Egypt since Mubarak stood down.

“The Supreme Council of Military Forces announces that it has accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq,” the statement said, without elaborating on the reasons for the move.

Since the fall of Mubarak, protesters have continued to call for a replacement of the current government, which includes several ministers from the toppled regime.

The council has previously ordered the government to run the country’s affairs for six months “or until the end of parliamentary and presidential elections” and is also examining constitutional reforms.

Shafiq had been expected to stay in office at least until the elections.

His successor, Sharaf, was transport minister from 2002 to 2005. He was sacked over differences with then-premier Ahmad Nazif. Nazif was himself sacked four days after the start of the anti-Mubarak protests.

Sharaf is popular with the youths who launched the revolt against Mubarak, having taken part in the huge demonstrations in Tahrir Square in central Cairo.

Key opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei, who headed the Vienna-based UN International Atomic Energy Agency from 1997 to 2009 and returned to Egypt join the protests, welcomed Shafiq’s resignation.

On Twitter, he said: “We are on the right track, I express my sincere appreciation to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces who have accepted the demand of the people.”

The nationwide protests that erupted on January 25 left at least 384 dead, more than 6,000 injured and scores detained.

Mubarak is currently receiving medical treatment for cancer in Saudi Arabia, a state-owned newspaper reported on Wednesday, despite the fact that the government imposed a travel ban on him and his family at the weekend.

The paper reported that Mubarak left for the Saudi city of Tabuk days after he resigned.

Egypt’s military council met a group including ElBaradei and Arab League chief Amr Mussa on Tuesday to discuss upcoming reforms, the state news agency MENA said.

The talks focused on constitutional reform, especially on the conditions for presidential candidates and the reduction of the number of terms to two of four years instead of an unlimited number of six-year terms, it said.

Mussa said last month he would be a candidate for Egyptian president.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/egypt-pm-ahmed-shafiq-resigns-20110303-023555-809.html


US says ready to help Libya’s insurgents

By Jean-Louis Santini | AFP News

The United States said it was prepared to offer “any kind of assistance” to Libyans seeking to overthrow the regime of strongman Moamer Kadhafi as they set up a transitional body.

As forces opposed to the longest-serving Arab leader took control of several western Libyan towns, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed the calls of world leaders, including President Barack Obama, for him to quit.

“We are just at the beginning of what will follow Kadhafi,” she said.

“First we have to see the end of his regime and with no further bloodshed,” she continued, noting Washington is eager for his ouster “as soon as possible.”

The top US diplomat spoke as she prepared to leave for a ministerial-level meeting of the UN High Commission on Human Rights on Monday, and for bilateral talks with many of her counterparts about the crisis in Libya.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported late Sunday that US and European officials discussed plans to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent further killings of civilians by troops loyal to Kadhafi.

The newspaper cited an unnamed senior administration official as saying that no decision had been made.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Sunday that a key friendship treaty signed between Italy and Libya in 2008 was “de facto suspended.”

According to The Times, the accord contains a non-aggression clause that some analysts said complicated Italy?s position in the event of international military intervention in Libya.

US administration officials said Sunday that they were also discussing whether the US military could disrupt communications to prevent Colonel Kadhafi from broadcasting in Libya, the paper said.

In addition, the administration was looking at whether the military could be used to set up a corridor in neighboring Tunisia or Egypt to assist refugees, the report noted.

“I think it is way too soon to tell how this is going to play out. We are going to be ready and prepared to offer any kind of assistance that anyone wishes to have from the US,” Clinton told reporters, noting Washington was in touch with the Libyan opposition.

Two senior US lawmakers urged Washington to recognize any transitional government and supply it with weapons and humanitarian assistance to oust Kadhafi, who has ruled Libya with an iron fist for four decades.

“We ought to recognize the provisional government as the legitimate government of Libya and we ought to give that government certainly humanitarian assistance and military arms… to give them the wherewithal to fight on behalf of the people of Libya against a cruel dictator,” Senator Joe Lieberman told CNN.

Lieberman was speaking alongside Republican Senator John McCain from Egypt, where a popular uprising swept president Hosni Mubarak from power earlier this month after nearly 30 years of autocratic rule.

McCain urged Obama, his former rival in the 2008 presidential campaign, to “get tough” and make it clear that Libyan officials involved in attacks on their own people would face prosecution for war crimes.

The UN Security Council has imposed a travel ban and assets freeze on Kadhafi’s regime and ordered an investigation into possible crimes against humanity by the Libyan leader, the first time such a decision has been made unanimously.

On Friday, Obama announced unilateral sanctions targeting Kadhafi and his inner circle in a move intended to encourage defections and peel away loyalists defending his rule.

Clinton has signed an order revoking the US visas of Libyan officials and others linked to the violence against civilians. New visas will now be denied as a matter of policy.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/us-says-ready-help-libyas-insurgents-20110228-051520-935.html