Iran

March 19, 2011

Gaza militants fire dozens of mortars into Israel: BBC

Hamas security personnel were among those wounded by Israeli shelling

Hamas security personnel were among those wounded by Israeli shelling

Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired dozens of missiles into southern Israel in what appears to be their heaviest such barrage in two years.

About 50 mortars were fired – two Israelis were hurt, Israel says.

Israeli tanks later shelled targets in the coastal strip, wounding at least five people, Palestinian officials say.

The Islamist group Hamas, which runs Gaza, said it fired some of the mortars. Three days ago an Israeli air strike killed two of its members.

The BBC’s Jon Donnison in Gaza says this seems to be an escalation – both in terms of the number of rockets fired from Gaza and the fact that Hamas said it was responsible.

Hamas’s military wing said it launched dozens of rockets, our correspondent reports.

Hamas and Israel have largely halted hostilities since the end of the Gaza war in January 2009, but skirmishes often break out around the border area.

Although members of Hamas’s military wing rarely carry out attacks, the Israeli military says it holds the group responsible for all militant activity in the Gaza Strip.

Israel lodges formal complaint with UN over barrage of Gaza mortars: Haaretz

In message to UN, Lieberman warns against supporting a future Palestinian ‘terrorist state who’s first and foremost goal is the destruction of Israel.’

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman instructed Israel’s United Nations envoy to lodge a formal complaint with the organization after Israel was hit by over 50 mortars fired from Gaza on Saturday morning.

Two people were lightly wounded and a home was damaged by the mortars. Hamas has claimed responsibility for 10 of the mortars.

Lieberman, in a message to the UN, warned that a future Palestinian state would be a “terrorist state who’s first and foremost goal is the destruction of Israel.”

The offensive from Gaza took place while “Hamas and the Palestinian Authority were talking about reunification,” Lieberman’s message said.

In the past week, there have been rallies in Hamas-ruled Gaza and Fatah-ruled West Bank calling for Palestinian reunification. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced two days ago that he intends to go to Gaza to end the more than three years of internal division between his Fatah party and Hamas.

Liberman wrote that the talk of reunification during the barrage of rockets shows that “the international support that the Palestinians are trying to garner would be support for the creation of a terrorist state.”

The Palestinians have been pressing leaders worldwide to recognize an independent Palestinian state, an issue they plan on bringing to a vote at September’s United Nations General Assembly.

Other Israeli officials also responded harshly to Saturday’s bombardment, with Kadima head Tzipi Livni saying that “the right way to contend with Hamas is with force.”

Likud MK Danny Danon said it was up to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to respond harshly to the morning’s offensive.

IDF kills two Palestinian terrorists near Gaza border: Haaretz

IDF spokesman says soldiers identified terrorists and launched strike; Israel strikes Gaza after 50 mortars fired at Israel earlier Saturday.

IDF forces killed two Palestinian terrorists near the Gaza border on Saturday.

The IDF spokesperson said the terrorists were identified as nearing Israel’s border with Gaza so IDF armored forces launched a strike at the two Gazans, killing them both.

The attack comes after more than 50 mortars were fired from Gaza into southern Israel earlier Saturday, wounding two Israelis. Hamas claimed responsibility for 10 of the more than 50 mortars fired.

In response, IDF forces struck Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, wounding five Hamas security officers and a boy, Gaza medics reported.

Syria mourners call for revolt after deaths: The Independent

By Suleiman al-Khalidi, Reuters
Saturday, 19 March 2011
Thousands of mourners called on Saturday for “revolution” at the funeral of protesters killed by Syrian security forces, the boldest challenge to Syria’s rulers since uprisings began sweeping the Arab world.

Security forces responded by firing tear gas to disperse crowds in Deraa, a tribal region south of the capital where at least 10,000 people demonstrated on Saturday at the funeral of two protesters, among at least four who were killed on Friday.

“Revolution, revolution. Rise up Hauran,” chanted the mourners in Deraa, administrative capital of the strategic Hauran plateau, as they marched behind simple wood coffins of Wissam Ayyash and Mahmoud al-Jawabra.

“God, Syria, Freedom. Whoever kills his own people is a traitor,” they said. Some of the mourners exited a mosque and headed for the centre to protest.

The city was less tense by late afternoon after security forces dispersed most of the crowd and adopted less aggressive tactics than the previous day, residents said.

The two were killed when security forces opened fire on Friday on civilians taking part in a peaceful protest demanding political freedoms and an end to corruption in Syria, which has been ruled under emergency laws by President Bashar al-Assad’s Baath Party for nearly half a century.

A third man who was killed on Friday, Ayhem al-Hariri, was buried in a village near Deraa earlier on Saturday. A fourth protester, Adnan Akrad, died on Saturday from his wounds.

Secret police at the main funeral in Deraa arrested at least one mourner, activists said. Security was heavy in the city, especially around police stations.

The city of Deraa is home to thousands of displaced people from eastern Syria, where up to 1 million people have left their homes because of a water crisis over the past six years. Experts say state mismanagement of resources has worsened the crisis.

The Hauran region, once a Middle East bread basket, has also been affected by diminishing water levels, with yields per hectare falling by a quarter in Deraa last year.

Protests against Syria’s ruling elite, inspired by revolts in the Arab world, have gathered momentum this week after a silent protest in Damascus by 150 people demanding the release of thousands of political prisoners.

At least one activist from Deraa, Diana al-Jawabra, took part in the protest. She was arrested faces charges of weakening national morale, along with 32 jailed protesters, a lawyer said.

Jawabra, who is from a prominent tribe, was campaigning for the release of 15 schoolchildren arrested in Deraa this month after writing slogans on walls, inspired by revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia that swept their autocratic leaders from power.

Residents say the children’s arrests deepened feelings of repression and helped fuel the protests in Deraa, the biggest threat yet to the authority of Assad.

Assad said in a January interview Syria’s leadership was “very closely linked to the beliefs of the people” and there was no mass discontent.

“The leadership have given a clear signal that they are not in any hurry to embark on fundamental political reform,” said a diplomat in the Syrian capital.

In a move seen as an attempt to address the discontent, Assad issued a decree on Saturday lessening mandatory army conscription from 21 months to 18 months.

The long conscription period has generated discontent, especially among the youth who resent state tactics to bring them into service, such as random ID checking, and the withholding of food aid from families whose members escaped conscription.

Yemen opposition activists clash with police: Al Jazeera English

Security forces open fire in southern city of Aden, a day after emergency was declared following a bloody crackdown.
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2011

Yemen seethed with anger on Saturday as medics raised the death toll from a sniper attack on protesters to 52 [AFP]
Police have stormed a protest camp in southern Yemen where thousands are calling for the ouster of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country’s longtime president.

Saturday’s raid was the latest attempt by security forces to quell growing unrest.

Protesters say police fired tear gas and live rounds in the southern port city of Aden, wounding three anti-government protesters.

Meanwhile, two prominent members of Yemen’s ruling party resigned on Saturday in protest against the killing of the anti-government protesters a day before.

“I find myself compelled to submit my resignation … after the heinous massacre in Sanaa yesterday,” Nasr Taha Mustafa, head of the state news agency and a leading ruling party member, said.

While, Mohamed Saleh Qara’a, another party member, told Reuters he had quit because of the “completely unacceptable” violence.

Saleh declared on Friday a nationwide state of emergency after a violent crackdown on anti-government protests left at least 52 people dead and scores more wounded in the capital, Sanaa.

He said that the decision to impose the state of emergency was made by the country’s National Security Council, but there was no immediate indication of how long it would last.

“The National Security Council announces a state of emergency across Yemen, and a curfew is set upon
armed people in all Yemeni provinces. And the security forces with the army will take responsibility for
stability,” he said.

He also expressed “sorrow for what happened in the university square” on Friday.

Sources told Al Jazeera the security forces opened fire in attempts to prevent protesters from marching out of the square where they were gathered. Medical sources said the death toll was likely to rise.

The attack came as thousands gathered across the country, continuing to demand that Saleh – the country’s ruler of 32 years – step down.

Al Jazeera correspondents in Sanaa reported that many protesters were shot in the head and neck; most of the injured were shot with live ammunition.

Medics at a nearby medical centre told Al Jazeera almost 200 people were injured; many were in critical condition. One medic called the attack a “massacre”.

Anti-government demonstrations were also held in other cities including Taiz, Ibb, Hodeidah, Aden, and Amran following Muslim midday prayers on Friday.

Government forces have previously used live fire, rubber bullets, and tear gas on anti-regime rallies, in the government’s increasingly violent crackdown on protests.

Yemen, the Arabian peninsula state neighbouring Saudi Arabia, has been hit by weeks of protests set in motion by uprisings in North Africa that toppled long-serving leaders in Tunisia and Egypt and spread to the Gulf states of Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

Saleh has maintained a firm grip on power for over three decades and has scoffed at calls to step down, saying he will only do so when his current term of office expires in 2013.

Despite violence and threats, anti-government protesters refuse to cease demonstrating until Saleh’s removal.

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February 22, 2011

EDITOR: The Butcher of Tripoli goes on the rampage

It has become crystal clear that Gaddafi, apart from being the longest surviving tyrant in the world, is also criminally insane, and capable of the most terrible atrocities if left to his own devices. He now has nothing to lose, as no government is likely to give him refuge, not even Saudi Arabia. In that situation, he will fight the whole Libyan people to the bitter end.

It may be certain that he will lose this battle, but at what cost? Isn’t the responsibility of the UN to step in and stop the massacre? This inane organisation seems unable to act on every single issue it touches, and its arcane regulations, such as those governing the Security Council, are of another age, and represent a skewed value system of the old empires. Never has there been a more urgent case to intervene in recently, but this seems totally out of the question, sadly. While Gaddafi is murdering his people, the UN is talking about sanctions.

A delirious sideshow to the mass protest in the Arab world, has been the Arms Sales Circus, headed by the trapeze artist David Cameron, and appearing in various capitals offering more armaments to all and sundry, and especially to the tyrants still left. And they will need the arms, of course, if they are to resist the people’s struggle to topple their bizarre regime. Excellent performance by Cameron and Co., all devoted to the task of selling death and destruction. Not to be missed!

The Guardian Feb 22, 2011, by Steve Bell

Defiant Gaddafi vows to fight on: Al Jazeera online

In televised speech, Libyan leader blames youths inspired by regional events for uprising and vows to die a “martyr”.
22 Feb 2011
Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has vowed to fight on and die a “martyr”, calling on his supporters to take back the streets from protesters demanding his ouster, shouting and pounding his fist in a furious speech on state TV.

Gaddafi, clad in brown robes and turban, spoke on Tuesday from a podium set up in the entrance of a bombed-out building that appeared to be his Tripoli residence hit by US air raids in the 1980s and left unrepaired as a monument of defiance.

“I am a fighter, a revolutionary from tents … I will die as a martyr at the end,” he said.

“Muammar Gaddafi is the leader of the revolution, I am not a president to step down … This is my country. Muammar is not a president to leave his post.”

“I have not yet ordered the use of force, not yet ordered one bullet to be fired … when I do, everything will burn.”

He called on supporters to take to the streets to attack protesters. “You men and women who love Gaddafi …get out of your homes and fill the streets,” he said. “Leave your homes and attack them in their lairs … Starting tomorrow the cordons will be lifted, go out and fight them.”

Gaddafi said “peaceful protests is one thing, but armed rebellion is another”.

“From tonight to tomorrow, all the young men should form local committees for popular security,” he said, telling them to wear a green armband to identify themselves. “The Libyan people and the popular revolution will control Libya.”

The speech, which appeared to have been taped earlier, was aired on a screen to hundreds of supporters massed in Tripoli’s central Green Square.

At times the camera panned out to show a towering gold-coloured monument in front of the building, showing a fist crushing a fighter jet with an American flag on it – a view that also gave the strange image of Gaddafi speaking alone from behind a podium in the building’s dilapidated lobby, with no audience in front of him.

Speech highlights

Shouting in the rambling speech, Gaddafi declared himself “a warrior” and proclaimed: “Libya wants glory, Libya wants to be at the pinnacle, at the pinnacle of the world”.

Among the other points made by Gaddafi in his speech:

He called on the people to catch what he called drugged young people and bring them to justice.

He called on the people to “cleanse Libya house by house” unless protesters on the streets surrendered.

He warned that instability in Libya “will give al-Qaeda a base”.

He cited the examples of attack on Russian parliament and China’s crushing of the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising, saying that the international community did not interfere.

He said he could do the same in Derna and Bayda.

He offered a new constitution starting from Wednesday, but this would come with dialogue, not by collaboration with the enemy.

He blamed the uprising on Islamists who wanted to create another Afghanistan, and warned that those in Bayda and Derna had already set up an Islamic Emirate that would reach Benghazi.

He said that the country’s youth was drugged and did not know anything; they were following the Islamists’ leader and their leaders would be punished with death in accordance with the Libyan law.

Just hours after Gaddafi’s speech, Libya’s interior minister, General Abdul-Fatah Younis, announced his defection and support for what he called the “February 17 revolution”.

In a video obtained by Al Jazeera, he was seen sitting on a his desk and reading a statement that also urged the Libyan army to join the people and their “legitimate demands”.

Gaddafis’ hidden billions: Dubai banks, plush London pads and Italian water: The Guardian

Libya’s oil wealth has been siphoned out of the country by a powerful elite – including Gaddafi and his nine children

An oil well in Shahara, Libya, 2004. Libya is Africa's fourth-largest oil producer, but analysts say much of the wealth from its reserves has been stolen. Photograph: Benjamin Lowy/Corbis

The Gaddafi family could have billions of dollars of funds hidden away in secret bank accounts in Dubai, south-east Asia and the Persian Gulf, much of it likely to have come from Libya’s vast oil revenues, according to analysis by leading Middle East experts.

Professor Tim Niblock, a specialist in Middle Eastern politics at the University of Exeter, has identified a “gap” of several billion dollars a year between the amount Libya makes from its oil reserves and government spending – a shortfall he expects has contributed greatly to the wealth of Muammar Gaddafi and his nine children.

“It is very, very difficult to work out with any degree of certainty just how much they have because the ruling elite hides it in all sorts of places,” said Niblock, who is also vice president of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES). “But at the very least it would be several billion dollars, in whatever form and it could potentially be a lot higher although I wouldn’t want to predict just how much it might be.”

Alistair Newton, senior political analyst at Nomura, the Japanese bank and president of BRISMES, agreed that it was difficult to establish the extent of the Gaddafis’ wealth but said he “would be surprised if it didn’t run into billions”.

Where the Gaddafis have hidden their vast funds is anybody’s guess, although Niblock expects that most of it is “in bank accounts and liquid assets in Dubai, the Gulf and south east Asia” rather than in relatively transparent countries such as the UK, where the Libyan state has invested in London properties and in companies such as Pearson Group, owner of the Financial Times.

In addition to squirrelling away much of their income, the Gaddafis have spent fortunes over the years “propping up” various African regimes, with Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, widely acknowledged to be among the biggest recipients, Niblock said.

In the 1990s Gaddafi is thought to have given money to the Zaghawan tribe in Darfur, “and I suspect some of them are among the African mercenaries fighting the civilians in Libya,” Niblock added.

Libya’s breakneck growth has enabled the country to build up myriad investments overseas. In addition to the Gaddafis’ private holdings, the state is thought to have invested close to £61.8bn in assets across the globe.

Their investments in the UK include an eight-bedroom home in Hampstead, north London, with a swimming pool and suede-lined cinema room. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the Libyan leader’s second son, bought it in 2009 for £10m.

Most of the state’s investments are made by the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), a so-called sovereign wealth fund set up in 2006 to spend the country’s oil money, which has an estimated $70bn of assets. LIA bought 3% of Pearson last year for £224m, making it one of the group’s biggest shareholders, and had a 0.02% stake in RBS, although this has been sold in the past few months.

The fund’s UK property investments include Portman House, a 146,550 sq ft retail complex in Oxford Street, London, which houses retailers such as Boots and New Look, and an office at 14 Cornhill, opposite the Bank of England in the City.

Aside from the Hampstead home, which is not primarily an investment, the only two direct investment projects that the Gaddafi family are known to be involved with both involve water.

In 2009, when Silvio Berlusconi hosted the summit of G8 leading economies, he invited the Libyan leader as a special guest. Speeding towards the earthquake-stricken city of L’Aquila, which Berlusconi had chosen as the venue, Gaddafi’s motor cavalcade stopped in a remote town by a river at the bottom of a deep gorge.

Not many people find their way to Antrodoco, let alone a “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution”. Such was the welcome he received that shortly afterwards a Libyan delegation returned to the town to announce that the colonel wanted to plough money into it.

Agreement was reached on a complex involving a luxury spa hotel and water bottling plant. Last September, Antrodocoís mayor, Maurizio Faina, said the €15m (£12.7m) scheme was “firming up”.

Whether it survives the current turmoil in Libya, however, remains to be seen. A similar question mark hangs over the established, if struggling, spa town of Fiuggi, south of Rome where pope Boniface VIII, among others, took the waters. In January, the Corriere della Sera reported that Gaddafi’s family had formalised a proposal to sink €250m (£211m) into a conference centre with an airstrip and a complex that, once again, involved a spa and a water bottling plant.

The paper said the deal was being brokered, not through Libyan channels, but by the Italo-Iraqi chamber of commerce. Fiuggi’s mayor, along with his counterpart from Antrodoco, was a guest at a party thrown by Silvio Berlusconi in honour of the Libyan leader when he visited Rome last September.

Gaddafi and Berlusconi have a famously warm personal relationship. Less well-known, however, is the fact that Berlusconi is in business with one of the Libyan state’s investment vehicles.

In June 2009, a Dutch-registered firm controlled by the Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company, took a 10% stake in Quinta Communications, a Paris-based film production and distribution company. Quinta Communications was founded back in 1990 by Berlusconi in partnership with Tarak Ben Ammar, the nephew of the late Tunisian leader, Habib Bourguiba.

The Italian prime minister has a 22% interest in the company through a Luxembourg-registered subsidiary of Fininvest, the firm at the heart of his sprawling business empire. Last September, the Libyans put a director on the board of Quinta Communications to sit alongside Berlusconiís representatives.

Libyan investors already hold significant interests in several strategic Italian enterprises. They reportedly own around one per cent of Italy’s biggest oil company, Eni; the LIA has an acknowledged 2% interest in the aerospace and defence group, Finmeccanica; Lafico is thought to retain more than 2% of Fiat and almost 15% of a quoted telecommunications company, Retelit.

The Libyans also own 22% of the capital of a textile firm, Olcese. Perhaps their best-known investment is a 7.5% stake in the Serie A side Juventus. But undoubtedly the most controversial is another 7.5 per cent interest in Italyís largest bank, Unicredit.

Last September, the bank’s chief executive, Alessandro Profumo, walked out after a row over his willingness to let the Libyans build up that stake. The Northern League, Berlusconi’s key allies in Italy’s rightwing government, was known to be particularly queasy about the emergence of such a powerful Libyan presence.

Experts say if Gaddafi is overthrown, the investments made by Libya’s various state funds would probably be unaffected, since any new government would have far more pressing matters to attend to, and any sudden movements could damage their reputation for the future.

However, it is thought likely that a new regime in Libya could look to freeze the assets of the Gaddafi family, as the new government in Egypt did with the assets of Hosni Mubarak and his family. Since most of these are held in liquid form – and in country’s outside Europe and the US – this would have no significant ramifications for business, they argue.

UK interests

About 150 British companies have established a presence in Libya since the US and Europe lifted economic sanctions in 2004, after the country renounced terrorism, ceased its nuclear weapons programme and handed over two suspects in the Lockerbie bombing case.

The most high profile have been the oil companies, keen to tap Libya’s vast reserves of fossil fuels. In a deal brokered in 2007 by Tony Blair, BP signed a £560m exploration agreement allowing it to search for oil and gas, offshore and onshore, in a joint venture with the Libya Investment Corporation. Shell is also exploring for oil in Libya as western companies seek to capitalise on a country with the largest oil reserves in Africa and substantial supplies of gas.

High street retailers such as Marks & Spencer, Next, Monsoon and Accessorize have also set up in the country to serve the growing middle-class population, as oil revenues have “trickled down” into the broader Libyan population.

Companies such as AMEC, an engineering firm, and Biwater, a waste treatment company, have supplied services to Libya, which is using its oil revenues to reshape the country through an infrastructure spending spree that will cost about £310bn over the next decade.

British exports to Libya have soared to about £930m in recent years, while the business momentum in post-sanctions Libya is so great that the economy managed to grow by about 5% last year, while much of the rest of the world struggled.

Many British and foreign companies – including M&S, BP and Shell – are evacuating staff from Libya and it could be some time before they return.

by Carlos Latuff

Bahrain protesters back in action: Al Jazeera online

Tens of thousands march in the first organised demonstration since unrest broke out in the Gulf Arab nation.
22 Feb 2011

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Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Bahrain in the possibly biggest demonstration since unrest began last week.
Demonstrators circled the Bahrain Mall and the financial district of Manama, the capital, in a march to the heart of the protest at Pearl Square.

“We want the fall of the government” was the most common chant among the mainly Shia Muslim protesters who accuse the Sunni rulers of discriminating against the island’s Shia majority.

Led by opposition groups such as Wefaq and Waad, it was the first organised demonstration and followed spontaneous protests by a rising youth movement relying on social media.

Helicopters hovered overhead but security forces offered no resistance after opening fire on protesters last week.

“Some want the [ruling] family out but most [want] only the prime minister [to quit],” Abbas al-Fardan, a protester, said.

“We want a new government, the people need to rule the country.”

Opposition demands

The widow of one of the seven people killed in a crackdown on protesters read a statement outlining the opposition’s demands, which centre on the current government’s resignation and the replacement of the ruling Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty with a constitutional monarchy.

The statement also demanded an immediate, “impartial” probe to identify and try those behind the killings and reiterated opposition calls for the formation of a “national salvation” government.

“We don’t have a problem if elections bring a Sunni or a Shia ruler,” Saeed, a protester, said.

“The most important thing is to have egalitarian distribution of wealth among both communities.”

Shias account for about 70 per cent of the population but are a minority in Bahrain’s 40-seat parliament.

The al-Khalifa dynasty has ruled Bahrain for 200 years, and the family dominates a cabinet led by the king’s uncle, who has been prime minister since independence in 1971.

Hassan Mushaimaa, leader of the opposition Haq movement, had vowed to return to Bahrain on Tuesday from London where he is based.

He is one of 25 people on trial since last year over an alleged coup plot but a statement by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa on Monday hinted that the trial would be shelved, allowing Mushaimaa an unhindered return.

But a friend of Mushaimaa said the opposition leader had been unable to board his flight to Bahrain from Beirut where he had landed earlier for a planned stopover.

State media said the king had ordered the release of convicted prisoners whose names would be released on Wednesday and a stop to ongoing court cases.

The US praised Bahrain’s leadership on Tuesday for having announced steps towards opening a national dialogue, releasing political prisoners and permitting peaceful demonstrations.

“We commend the steps taken by King Hamad as well as Crown Prince Salman and others to restore calm to Bahrain, to allow peaceful demonstrations to take place,” PJ Crowley, the state department spokesman, said.

“We view recent announcements to launch a national dialogue and the release of political prisoners as positive steps towards addressing the concerns of Bahraini citizens.”

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February 20, 2011

EDITOR: The great orator proves he is rotten to the core

After weeks of supporting the dictator of Egypt against his people, and chopping and changing daily, the equivocation goes on at the UN, with the US voting against its own policy, supporting Israeli settlements under the most extreme Israeli government. In an act of hypocrisy fitting Ian McEwan, the State Department claimed it is strongly against the settlements, and the veto is vote for peace…

How much longer are the Palestinians going to hope for change from Washington, ot treat it like an honest broker? One hopes that the self-delusion of the PA will not be matched in the new, developing democracies which are now blooming in the Arab capitals, where servility to the US was the standard approach. If there was a need for proof that the American leopard will not change its sickly spots, this immoral, irrational veto has provided it. If after this amazing month of change in the Middle East, Washington sticks to its long-held support of Israeli illegal aggression, then only the deluded will expect for anything positive to come from that corner.

Obama has stamped his presidency with the Dubya firebrand. This will not leave him until he bows out.

PA to call urgent UN session over settlement resolution veto: Haaretz

The U.S. veto, which contradicted America’s expressed policy on the settlements, and the Arab world’s response to it are expected to further deepen the crisis in the peace talks.
The United States used its UN Security Council veto on Friday, for the first time since President Barack Obama took office, to stop passage of a resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction. The resolution was supported by the Security Council’s other 14 members.

The veto, which contradicted America’s expressed policy on the settlements, and the Arab world’s response to it are expected to further deepen the crisis in the peace talks.

Protesters in the West Bank town of Bil’in on Friday, opposing the U.S. veto of an anti-settlement resolution by the UN Security Council. Photo by: Reuters

Following the veto, the Palestinian Authority is to call this week for an emergency session of the UN General Assembly to condemn Israel. That resolution is expected to pass easily.

Meanwhile, at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres on Saturday called PA President Mahmoud Abbas to urge him to return to negotiations. But Abbas rejected the request and subsequently issued a statement saying that while the Palestinians were committed to a two-state solution, construction in the settlements and in East Jerusalem would have to stop before talks could resume.

Sources in the Foreign Ministry said the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, is looking into the possibility of invoking General Assembly resolution 377 from 1950. That resolution states that an emergency General Assembly session can be called within 24 hours to circumvent the veto of a Security Council resolution.

Obama spoke with Abbas for 50 minutes on Thursday to urge the Palestinian president not to bring the resolution to a vote. According to the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, Obama told Abbas that the resolution could damage U.S. interests in the Middle East and could induce the U.S. Congress to halt aid to the PA.

Obama reportedly suggested that in lieu of bringing the resolution to a vote, Abbas accept an alternative package of benefits, including a presidential statement on the settlements by the Security Council. Such a statement would be nonbinding, but could be couched in harsher terms. The package would also have included a Security Council visit to Ramallah to express support for the PA and denounce the settlements, and a statement by the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers that, for the first time, would call for the boundaries of the Palestinian state to be based on the 1967 lines.

On Friday afternoon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton phoned Abbas with an even more sharply worded message.

But Abbas told both Obama and Clinton that settlements were the reason for the breakdown in the peace talks, and the Palestinian people would not back down on this matter.

After the phone calls, Abbas called a joint meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee and the leadership of his Fatah party. Mansour told the participants by phone that Arab missions to the UN wanted the resolution to move forward no matter what. They then voted unanimously to bring the resolution to a vote.

Following the vote, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice gave a speech in which she attempted to explain the contradiction between the veto and the U.S. administration’s clear opposition to construction in the settlements.

“While we agree with our fellow Council members and indeed, with the wider world about the folly and illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, we think it unwise for this Council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians,” Rice said. “We therefore regrettably have opposed this draft resolution.”

The British ambassador read a joint statement by Britain, France and Germany that said that construction in the settlements, including in East Jerusalem, contravened international law.

Netanyahu released a statement immediately after the Security Council meeting expressing Israel’s appreciation for the American veto.

In contrast, anti-American rallies were held yesterday in Bethlehem, Tul Karm and Jenin. Fatah Central Committee member Tawfik Tirawi called for a “day of rage” against the U.S. veto, and Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said the veto encouraged Israeli construction in the settlements.

The veto garnered praise from pro-Israeli American lawmakers and numerous Jewish groups that had been working energetically over the past few weeks to secure it.

But the Obama administration is reportedly worried that the veto will degrade America’s status in the Arab world.

And an Israeli official in New York warned that “the Palestinian initiative was thwarted, but it increased Israel’s isolation.” Israel’s claim that the Palestinians are responsible for the stalled talks falls on deaf ears at the UN, he added.

Abbas’ rejection of Obama’s request will help him politically, as the Palestinian public will not be able to accuse him of buckling under U.S. pressure, as it did in 2009 when American reservations led the PA to postpone a UN Human Rights Council vote on the Goldstone report on Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza earlier that year. Moreover, given the anti-government protests now sweeping the Arab world, Abbas apparently wanted to demonstrate that it is not afraid of a showdown with the White House.

EDITOR: Yes We Can! (be for and against settlements)

In a about face worthy of the great Houdini, the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, ‘explains’ how the US opposition to settlements has driven Obama to support settlements! It is really sickening to watch

Women against dictatorships, By Carols Latuff

Two-state solution: A postmortem: Al Jazeera online

In the wake of the Palestine Papers and the Egyptian uprising the ‘peace process’ as we know it is dead.
Sandy Tolan, 18 Feb 2011

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Among the time-honoured myths in the long tragedy of Israel and Palestine is “the deal that almost was”. The latest entry, what we might call the “near deal of 2008,” comes from Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister, chronicled in excerpts from his forthcoming memoir and feverishly promoted in The New York Times as “the Israel peace plan that almost was and still could be”.

Clearly, the dwindling number of promoters of the two-state solution are in a post-Cairo, post-Palestine Papers attempt to keep afloat what is, in the end, a sinking ship: A bad deal that even the weak Palestinian negotiating team would not accept. “Israel has an overwhelming interest in going the extra mile,” a nervous Thomas Friedman wrote as protestors filled Tahrir Square, warning: “There is a huge storm coming, Israel. Get out of the way.”

At the heart of the effort to salvage the busted remnants of Oslo is the “near deal of 2008″.  “We were very close, more than ever before,” Olmert writes in his memoirs.

But as they say in a famous TV ad in the US: “Not exactly.”

Old myths die hard

Like other such fictions – chief among them “Israel’s generous offer” at Camp David in 2000 – this one is not entirely without substance. As the Palestine Papers show, the two sides did agree on various security arrangements, land swaps and some principles of the right of return, much to the alarm of many Palestinians. Just as significantly, Palestinian negotiators agreed to allow Israel to annex major settlement blocs in East Jerusalem – a fact that, in the wake of the document dump, is eroding what is left of Abbas’ credibility among his own people. (As if to underscore that point, chief negotiator Saeb Erekat resigned last week in disgrace, after revelations that the Palestine Papers were leaked from his very own office.)

Yet despite the 2008 concessions, the documents also show that the negotiations did not bring the sides close to a deal. Rather, they revealed red lines that signal the end of the peace process as we know it, and – especially after Cairo – the death of the two-state solution. Nowhere is this more clear than in the discussions over two huge settlement blocs, where Israel, backed by an arm-twisting US, undermined its last chance for a two-state deal.

In 1993, at the beginning of the Oslo “peace process,” 109,000 Israeli settlers lived on West Bank Palestinian land, not including East Jerusalem. That number has now nearly tripled. One of the settlements, Ariel, juts well into the West Bank, nearly half the way to Jordan from the Mediterranean coast, and is protected by Israel’s separation barrier. Ariel, with nearly 20,000 people, promotes itself as the aspiring “capital of Samaria” with its own industrial park and even a university.

“There is no Israeli leader who will sign an agreement that does not include Ariel,” Tzipi Livni, Olmert’s foreign minister, told Palestinian negotiators in April 2008.

“And there is no Palestinian leader who will sign an agreement that includes Ariel,” negotiator Ahmad Qurei replied. Qurei was not just posturing. Ariel bifurcates the Palestinian district of Salfit and helps make a mockery of US diplomats’ stated goal of a “viable and contiguous” Palestinian state.

Another red line is Ma’ale Adumim. Despite the significant concessions in East Jerusalem – which Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said amounted to “the biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history” – the Palestinians see Ma’ale Adumim as a wedge between East Jerusalem and the West Bank. For them, the settlement is another barrier to a contiguous land base on which to build their state. For Israelis, Ma’ale Adumim, founded with the support of then defence minister Shimon Peres in 1975 and now a “city” of more than 34,000 settlers, is untouchable.

In theory, the self-described “honest broker,” the US, could have tried to bridge the differences. But that is not what Condoleezza Rice, the then US secretary of state, had in mind when she leaned on the weak Palestinian delegation in a July 2008 meeting in Jerusalem:

“I don’t think that any Israeli leader is going to cede Ma’ale Adumim,” she told Qurei.

“Or any Palestinian leader,” Qurei replied.

“Then you won’t have a state!” Rice declared.

On the wrong side of history

The US has long been hypersensitive to Israeli domestic political considerations while ignoring those of the Palestinians and the broader Arab and Muslim worlds. In 2000, Yasser Arafat turned down Israel’s “generous offer,” refusing to agree to a “sovereign presidential compound” in the Old City – essentially, a golden cage near the Muslim holy sites. Arafat understood that neither Palestinians nor Muslims worldwide would agree to such limited Palestinian sovereignty over the Haram Al Sharif, considered the third holiest site in Islam. “If anyone imagines that I might sign away Jerusalem, he is mistaken,” Arafat told Bill Clinton, the then US president, at Camp David. “You have lost many chances,” Clinton responded. “You won’t have a Palestinian state …. You will be alone in the region.”

The US’ tone-deaf approach to Palestinian realities is a central reason for the failure of the “peace process”. Rice suggested in a June 2008 meeting that one way to help solve the entrenched and emotional issue of right of return would be to ship refugees to South America. Barack Obama’s team has not fared much better. In 2009, the US pressured the Palestinians to stall the release of the UN’s Goldstone Report calling for an investigation into Israeli war crimes in Gaza. This was precisely the opposite of what the Palestinian public fervently wanted. The US carrot: More favourable negotiating terms for the Palestinian Authority (PA).

But the US, so accustomed to dealing with Arab strongmen like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, seems to have forgotten that the weak Palestinian negotiators were in no position to ignore, much less dictate to, their people. Any peace deal would have been put to a referendum among politically-aware Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A deal as unfavourable as that the US and Israel promoted in 2008 would have been far from a sure thing. Olmert recalls telling Abbas: “Take the pen and sign now. You’ll never get an offer that is more fair or more just.” But it was the Israelis, and the US, who missed their chance.

In the days just before Egyptians liberated themselves, Obama tried to shore up some of the US credibility squandered since his 2009 Cairo speech by supporting the calls for democracy. But for many Palestinians, US or PA credibility is no longer relevant. In the West Bank, people regard US pronouncements with sharply declining interest. And it was the PA, in the midst of the euphoric struggle of its neighbours, that placed itself firmly on the wrong side of history by banning demonstrations in solidarity with the Egyptian and Tunisian people. “The policy,” said a PA security spokesman “is non-interference in the internal affairs of Arab or foreign countries.”

You could not find a more apt symbol of a corroded and irrelevant Palestinian regime, shockingly out of touch with its people and the jubilation in Tahrir Square, and structurally unable to seize the moment. Now, with the PA’s negotiations team in disarray, it is hard to imagine Palestinians in the West Bank again putting their trust in the “authority,” or in the wreckage of an Oslo process tied to a Middle Eastern order that no longer exists.

Even in their last-ditch attempts to forge a two-state deal, beleaguered Palestinian negotiators seemed aware that it was slipping away. “In light of these circumstances and these unrealistic propositions,” Qurei told Livni in frustration in April 2008, “I see that the only solution is a bi-national state where Muslims, Christians and Jews live together”.

Sandy Tolan is an associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC, and the author of The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East.

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February 19th, 2011

EDITOR: The Empire lives on!

In a cynical and bigoted reaction to criticism, Ian McEwan has tried to square the political circle – to take the 30 pieces of silver from the Murderous regime, as well as to criticise the same people whose money he takes, and whose policies he supports by agreeing to deal with them in defiance of the many calls for him to do the decent thing and give up the prize. Like Margaret Atwood before him, he proves that avarice and the need for more fame and praise, by whatever means, is winning over humanity and morality with world-famous writers. Novelists they may be, moral figures they are not!
McEwan proves that he is a worthwhile sone of the British Empire, the power which created and complicated the conflict in Palestine, and acts as one who inherited and perfected the typical hypocrisy of the empire.

Ian McEwan to accept Israel book award but criticise occupation: The Guardian

Novelist defends his acceptance of prize after calls to reject it in protest at occupation of Palestinian territories
Harriet Sherwood in Tel Aviv

Ian McEwan at a press conference in Tel Aviv. Photograph: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

The novelist Ian McEwan will criticise Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land in his speech accepting the Jerusalem Prize for literature on Sunday evening, saying that the open and democratic nature of novels is antithetical to the government’s settlement policies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

He will refer to “a strand of nihilism which is closing off the future here”, he told the Guardian shortly after his arrival in Israel for the ceremony. His attendance has drawn bitter criticism from supporters of the Palestinian cause.

The author took part in the weekly protest in Sheikh Jarrah, an area of East Jerusalem which has seen Jewish settlers evict Palestinian residents to take over their homes and establish hardline footholds in the Arab part of the city.

In the company of the celebrated Israeli author David Grossman, McEwan spoke to activists who told him they appreciated his presence. “The welcome I had from various strands of the Israeli peace movement completely vindicated my decision to come,” he said. “They feel the tide is running against them. I feel it’s very important to support that important hope and conscience. It was very stirring.”

McEwan attempted to get close to the homes from which long-term Palestinian residents have been expelled by settlers but was prevented by Israeli security forces. “But I got a good sense of how Palestinian families are waiting to be evicted,” he said, adding they faced a “relentless tide”.

He said he intended to “make my own thoughts clear” when accepting the prize from Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, an enthusiastic advocate of expanding the Jewish presence in the east of the city.

East Jerusalem was occupied and later annexed by Israel in 1967 in a move illegal under international law and not recognised by most of the international community. Settlement building and expansion there has been a key issue blocking peace negotiations.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

McEwan said he planned to make further visits to East Jerusalem and the West Bank during his stay.

Earlier, at a press conference in Tel Aviv, the author described Israel as a “country with true democracy of opinion” and defended his decision to receive the award, saying it was “much more useful to come and engage and keep speaking” than to freeze out or boycott Israel over its occupation of the Palestinian territories.

“I am very conscious of being in a country with a true democracy of opinion,” he said. “I am perfectly aware that you cannot isolate [literature] but I take it as a bad sign when politics permeates every corner of life. I don’t feel I endorse every corner of Israel’s domestic or foreign policy … but I feel it’s right to engage with it.”

He said it was a great honour to be awarded the prize, to be presented at the opening of Jerusalem’s International Book Fair, pointing to past recipients as “writers and philosophers of such distinction”.

“Like most people, I want Israel to flourish. I’m very concerned that things have reached such a stalemate politically. It seems to me to be a rather depressing time politically to come here – but that makes it all the more urgent to keep talking.”

McEwan faced calls in the UK to reject the prize in protest at Israel’s continued occupation of the Palestinian territories. In a letter to the Guardian last month, British Writers in Support of Palestine said the writer’s acceptance of an award in recognition of individual freedom in society was “a cruel joke and a propaganda tool for the Israeli state”.

The author responded at the time by saying that despite his opposition to illegal settlements, he was in favour of “dialogue, engagement, and looking for ways in which literature … can reach across political divides”. On Friday, he said it was a “fatal error to confuse people with their governments”.

He had spent the past few weeks “camped out in front of my television set” watching the pro-democracy protests in Egypt and other countries in the region.

He felt exhilarated by what he saw, and was struck by the swift collapse of the “social contract – how people feel bold enough to withdraw their consent. Crowds aren’t usually wise, but [the Egyptian protesters’] restraint under pressure was heroic.”

But he warned that “the story was still unfolding”. Referring to the bloody response of the Bahrain regime to protests, he said: “Egypt has raised the game for the tyrant – they know they’ve got to get in quick and hold everyone down.”

He added: “For every moment of exhilaration on the street, there is a Robespierre in waiting.”

He hoped the Israeli government would “welcome the spread of democracy rather than be too distrusting. Netanyahu said Israel must hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Hoping for the best is not enough, maybe [Israel] should be agitating for the best.”

Israel, he suggested, should harness its creativity in other spheres to the peace process. “Politics is too bunker. Israel needs to summon up the creative energy of its scientists, musicians, writers and artists and extend it into politics.”

He paid tribute to contemporary Israeli novelists such as Grossman, Amos Oz and AB Yehoshua, who “had made a huge impact around the world”.

McEwan declined to discuss his next novel, saying only it was “slightly more historical, meaning it’s set in 1972″ than his latest book, Solar, about climate change.

He hoped the award of the Jerusalem prize was not a valedictory on his career, “especially as I’m half way through my next novel. I feel like Mrs Thatcher: I will go on and on.”

Prize controversies

The literary prize suggests a rarefied world, but it can also be a contentious one. Launched in 1996 to counter a perceived overlooking of women authors by existing literary awards, it was the Orange prize’s very raison d’être that attracted ire.

Amid widespread chuntering about it being discriminatory, Germaine Greer, pictured, complained that someone would soon found a prize for writers with red hair, while Auberon Waugh nicknamed it the Lemon prize. Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins wasn’t happy either. “The Orange prize is a blot on Britain’s literary landscape,” he wrote after its launch. In 2005 he expanded: “I’m amazed, frankly, that it’s lasted so long. It validates all those men in the Garrick who refuse to admit women.”

The Booker prizeThe pre-eminent book award, the Booker prize, has also had brushes with notoriety. In 1972 John Berger used his acceptance speech to trot out the usual platitudes,however, Berger insteadhe launch a stinging attack on the prize itself, drawing attention to the fact the sponsors, Booker McGonnall, had acquired much of their wealth from 130 years of trading in the Caribbean. “The modern poverty of the Caribbean is the direct result of this and similar exploitation,” he said. Berger donated half his £5,000 prize money to the Black Panthers – “the black movement with the socialist and revolutionary perspective that I find myself most in agreement with in this country”. Adam Gabbatt

EDITOR: The Arab Intifada is spreading beyond national borders!

While Mr. McEwan is busy doing important things in Israel, the Arab world is busy getting rid of its dictatorial regimes. In a historical swathe of unprecedented political action across the Middle East, in Yemen, Algeria, Bahrrain, Egypt, Iraq, Tunisia, and now Libya. Despite the murderous treatment by the tyrant regimes, and the continued support by western government of these regimes, they are all tottering on the brink of collapse. Those who have written off the Arab masses as undemocratic fundamentalists, see their chicken coming home to roost. This new pan-Arabism is not one dictated and directed from above, but the genuine connection built between the oppressed across the region, all following in the wake and model of the first Palestinian Intifada – ‘peacefully, peacefully’!

It is always the regime which is not peaceful, which emlpoys thugs and criminals as part of its policing the rebelious population, which kills and tortures its own citizens. The west stands along and watches nervously as its favourite tyrants are swept away, not quite knowing how to react. Their continued support of the tyrants to their last gasp on the throne will not be easily forgotten, one assumes, once democratic governments are to be established in all countries.

No Bahrain dictatorship - no US 5th Fleet in the Gulf!, by Carlos Latuff

Scores killed in Libya protests: Al Jazeera Online

Human Rights Watch says 84 people killed in past three days during rallies calling for ousting of Muammar Gaddafi.
19 Feb 2011
Crowds have taken to the streets in Libya demanding more representation and the overthrow of Gaddafi
Security forces in Libya have killed scores of pro-democracy protesters in demonstrations demanding the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi, the country’s long time ruler.

Human Rights Watch said on Saturday that 84 people had died over the past three days.

A doctor in Benghazi told Al Jazeera that he had seen 70 bodies at the city’s hospital on Friday in one of the harshest crackdowns against peaceful protesters thus far.

“I have seen it on my own eyes: At least 70 bodies at the hospital,” said Wuwufaq al-Zuwail, a physician.

Al-Zuwail said that security forces had also prevented ambulances reaching the site of the protests.

The Libyan government has also blocked Al Jazeera TV signal in the country and people have also reported that the network’s website is inaccessible from there.

Protesters shot

Marchers mourning dead protesters in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, reportedly come under fire from security forces, as protests in the oil-exporting North African nation entered their fifth day on Friday.

Mohamed el-Berqawy, an engineer in Benghazi, told Al Jazeera that the city was the scene of a “massacre,” and that four demonstrators had been killed.

“Where is the United Nations … where is (US president Barack) Obama, where is the rest of the world, people are dying on the streets,” he said. “We are ready to die for our country.”

Verifying news from Libya has been difficult since protests began, thanks to restrictions on journalists entering the country, as well as internet and mobile phone black outs imposed by the government.

Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters seeking to oust Gaddafi took to the streets across Libya on Thursday in what organisers called a “day of rage” modelled after similar protests in Tunisia and Egypt that ousted longtime leaders there. Gaddafi has ruled Libya since 1969.

Pro-government supporters also were out on the streets on Friday, according to the Libyan state television, which broadcasted images labelled “live” that showed men chanting slogans in support of Gaddafi.

The pro-Gaddafi crowd was seen singing as it surrounded his limousine as it crept along a road in the capital, Tripoli, packed with people carrying his portrait.

Deadly clashes

Deadly clashes broke out in several towns on Thursday after the opposition called for protests in a rare show of defiance inspired by uprisings in other Arab states and the toppling of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The worst clashes appeared to have taken place in the eastern Cyrenaica region, centred on Benghazi, where support for Gaddafi has historically been weaker than in other parts of the country.

Libya’s Quryna newspaper reported on Thursday that the regional security chief had been removed from his post over the deaths of protesters in Bayda.

Libyan opposition groups in exile claimed that Bayda citizens had joined with local police forces to take over Bayda and fight against government-backed militias, whose ranks are allegedly filled by recruits from other African nations.

Political analysts say Libyan oil wealth may give the government the capacity to smooth over social problems and
reduce the risk of an Egypt-style revolt.

Gaddafi’s opponents say they want political freedoms, respect for human rights and an end to corruption.

The government has proposed the doubling of government employees’ salaries and released 110 suspected anti-government figures who oppose him – tactics similar to those adopted by other Arab governments facing recent mass protests.

Gaddafi also has been meeting with tribal leaders to solicit their support.

The Gurdian 18th Feb 2011, by Steve Bell

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February 11, 2011 Page 2

EDITOR: The unbelievable has now happened

After 18 days of amazing and bloody struggle by millions of Egyptians, the fall of the Pharaoh, dictator for over three decades, has made millions of Egyptian happy beyond words, as well as many millions elsewhere. This is the end of the bloody chapter in the history of Egypt, the heart and soul of the Arab world. This will not only affect Egypt, but the whole Arab world.

The dictators and undemocratic regimes in the whole Middle East can now work out what will happen to them, following Tunisia and Egypt. The North African remaining tyrants should prepare their nests in Saudi Arabia, though how safe is that? Maybe Tel Aviv might be safer for ex-tyrants?

The leaders elsewhere are well advised to start working out their exit plans. Those depending on their secret and brutal police forces have only themselves to blame if their people start taking to the streets, which they surely will. The PA should be especially worried, in the wake of the Palestine Papers and the Egyptian Intifada, as should the other leaders east of Cairo.

The Tunisia and Egypt days of struggle have now brought a new force to the Middle East – people’s power. Those who are frightened of Arab democracy, such as the UK, US and Israel, should now think thrice before they support the remaining tyrants. People have long memories, and while the Egyptian Revolution was enacted without violence on the part of the the protesters, the incoming democratic government of Egypt is totally unlikely to continue the Mubarak policies and support Israel by joining its cruel blockade on Gaza, or its brutalities elsewhere in Palestine. The Israelis may well start working out how to continue living in the Middle East without killing thousands every year. It will be necessary for them in the near future.

As far as the US is concerned, this period has shown more than clearly the shallowness, stupidity and criminality of its policies in the Middle East. Will they change? Quite unlikely, I think. All the mistakes they have made in all parts of the world have never taught them anything, it seems; they just love to repeat the same mistakes in new locations.

The next weeks and months are going to be anything but simple or srtaight forward, for sure; despite the great difficulties still facing the young revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, they are nonetheless likely to succeed in changing the narrative and socio-political discourse in the whole region. Those who lost their fear will find their power.

The 25th of January, 2011, will again be a historical date, a new beginning. Today we are all Egyptians!

Mubarak resigns – live updates: The Guardian

• Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has resigned
• Vice-president announces the army council holds power
• Cheers and fireworks as protests turn to celebrations

Egyptian anti-government protesters wave flags as they celebrate in Tahrir Square Photograph: Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images
6.50pm GMT: In this audio you can hear the emotion in the voice of veteran activist Ahmed Salah, as he shared what today means to him:

It brought tears to my eyes several times. I mean I have always had faith that we will win but this is remarkable. It’s like, how many days? We started on the 25th … and we won. That couldn’t have been imaginable just even a week ago, 10 days ago, that we will actually be free.

6.43pm GMT: More on vice president Joe Biden’s remarks on Egypt today:

This is a pivotal moment in history. This is a pivotal moment not just in Middle East history but in world history.

On Fox News though they have a different view. One presenter said it was the biggest event since “victory in Iraq”.

Carl Bernstein – the Watergate guy – says it’s on the scale of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

6.35pm GMT: The White House now says that Obama’s statement will take place at 3pm ET / 8pm GMT / 10pm EET.

6.29pm GMT: A spokesman for Egypt’s military has just appeared on television to read a new statement.

Read aloud in a flat monotone, the statement said that the supreme council of the armed forces was “currently studying the situation” and will issue further statements to clarify its position.

The military also had a farewell message for Mubarak:

“The supreme council of the armed forces is saluting President Hosni Mubarak for all he has given in sacrifice in times of war and peace.”

And it had kind words for the protesters:

“The supreme council of the armed forces is also saluting the spirits of those who were martyred.”

Note that the army’s statement made no mention of vice president Suleiman – interesting in the context of the Ahram Online report mentioned below. Further analysis of what this all means when we get the full text.

6.25pm GMT: The New York Times’s Lede blog alerts us to an intriguing report from Ahram Online, the English-language arm of the state newspaper Al Ahram, that “both of last night’s addresses by Mubarak and Suleiman were in defiance of the armed forces”:

Maj. Gen. Safwat El-Zayat, a former senior official of Egypt’s General Intelligence and member of the Egyptian Council of Foreign Affairs, asserted, in an interview with Ahram Online, that the address delivered by President Mubarak last night was formulated against the wishes of the armed forces, and away from their oversight. He claimed that Vice Preisdent Omar Suleiman’s address, which came on the heels of Mubarak’s address, was equally in defiance of the armed forces and away from its oversight.

El-Zayat said that represented a deep cleavage between the armed forces and the presidential authority of both Mubarak and Omar Suleiman.

6.18pm GMT: My colleague Hazem Balousha sends this from Gaza City:

Hamas is calling on people to rally tonight all over Gaza to celebrate the resignation of Hosni Mubarak and his regime. People are patrolling the streets and raising Egyptian flags. Some Hamas fighters have fired into the air since it was announced that Mubarak stepped down.

6.13pm GMT: The White House has announced that Barack Obama’s statement on Egypt, scheduled for 1.30pm ET (6.30pm GMT) has been delayed, and the venue has been switched from the press briefing room to the Grand Foyer as the administration prepares to ramp up Obama’s response.

This is Richard Adams in Washington DC taking over live blogging duties.

6.08pm: Here’s a video of the full statement from the vice president Omar Suleiman.

Turn off auto-refresh at the top of this page to watch the full video.
It’s fair to say he doesn’t look very happy.

6.00pm: It can’t be very often that Amnesty International is joining in the celebrations of an army taking power but this has not been an ordinary day. Secretary General Salil Shetty said:

I congratulate the protesters for their extraordinary courage and commitment to achieve fundamental change. Persistent attempts to put down peaceful protests have not only failed but redoubled the determination of those demanding change. The way Egyptians have taken to the streets in unprecedented numbers to demand dignity, human rights and social justice has been an inspiration to oppressed peoples everywhere.

The departure of one man is not the end. The repressive system that Egyptians have suffered under for three decades has not gone away and the State of Emergency remains in place. Those in power must grasp this opportunity to consign the systematic abuses of the past to history. Human rights reform must begin now.

5.58pm: Ian Black, the Guardian’s Middle East editor has been analysing what comes next.

On the army:

Rule by the military can only be temporary. Mubarak’s exit, the dissolution of what is seen as an illegitimate parliament, constitutional reforms and abolition of the emergency laws are all non-negotiable. If those reforms are achieved then Egypt will have witnessed a real revolution – beyond the removal of a stubborn 82-year-old president long past his sell-by date.

It seems clear from the events of recent days – especially the confusion and contradictory messages on Thursday — that the army is divided. If it moves solely to protect its own privileged position, and that of the big businessmen who have done so well out of their links with the regime – then the system will not open up, at least not without large-scale repression and bloodshed.

On the implications for the wider Middle East:

Egypt’s extraordinary change matters first for Egypt’s 82m people. But what happens in the Arab world’s most populous country matters for many millions of other Arabs, who also suffer from unemployment, inequality, corruption and unresponsive, unaccountable governments – and share the language in which it is being covered in media such as al-Jazeera and social networking sites that official censors cannot easily block.

Other authoritarian regimes, shocked first by the uprising in Tunisia and now in Egypt, have been trying to pre-empt trouble by promises of reform, sacking ministers, maintaining subsidies or raising wages to buy off critics and defuse tensions. The symptoms are visible from Yemen to Jordan, from Algeria to Syria.

On the implications for the US:

Egypt remains a vital asset in allowing US military overflights, as the guardian of the strategically vital Suez canal, and a loyal ally in the regional confrontation with Iran. Mubarak has played a key role in supporting the western-backed Palestinian Authority and containing the Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip, not least because of its affinity with the banned Muslim Brotherhood – whose likely future role in a freer Egyptian political system is a key and much-discussed issue both at home and abroad.

The events of the last 18 days have forced Obama to shift away from stability to embracing if not promoting democracy – to the evident discomfort of other conservative Arab friends, especially the Saudis. Jordan and Yemen share those concerns – fearing that unconditional US support for them may now also wane.

This is a picture from yesterday when anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square shouted in anger after the first by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Photograph: Chris Hondros/Getty Images
5.54pm: Joe Biden, the US vice president, who initially defended Mubarak, saying he was not a dictator and should not stand down, said: “This is a pivotal moment in history… the transition that’s taking place must be an irreversible change”

There has been reaction from other leaders.

The British prime minister David Cameron called for a move to “a move to civilian and democratic rule” . He said the departure of Mubarak offered Egypt a “really precious moment of opportunity”. Speaking on the steps of No 10, he said the new government should start to put in place “the building blocks of a truly open, free and democratic society”.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, said: “Today is a day of great joy. We are all witness to historic change. I share the joy of people on the streets of Egypt.”

5.49pm: The Nobel peace prize winner and Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed El Baradei has been talking to Al Jazeera in the last half and hour.

“This is the emancipation of Egypt. This is the liberation of the Egyptian people,” he said in a phone interview with the broadcaster’s English-language news channel. “It’s a dream come true,” said El Baradei, who added that it was the Egyptian people who had been able to restore their “humanity and independence.

Asked what happens next, he replied: “What I have been talking about and proposing is a transition period of one year. We would have a provisional council, a transition government, preferably a provisional council including a person from the army and civilians, but the main idea would be that the army and the people would work together for a year up to the point where we could have a free and fair election.”

He said his message to the Egyptian people was: “You have gained your liberty, you have gained the right to catch up with the rest of the world. Make the best use of it you can and God bless you.”

5.48pm: There has s been a jubilant response in Lebanon and Tunisia, the Associated Press reports:

Moments after Egypt’s vice president Omar Suleiman made the announcement of Mubarak’s resignation, fireworks lit up the sky over Beirut. Celebratory gunfire rang out in the Shiite-dominated areas in south Lebanon and in southern Beirut.

On Al-Manar TV, the station run by the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah faction, Egyptian anchor Amr Nassef, who was once imprisoned in Egypt for alleged ties to Islamists, cried emotionally on the air and said: “Allahu Akbar (God is great), the Pharaoh is dead. Am I dreaming? I’m afraid to be dreaming.”

In Tunisia, where a successful uprising expelled a longtime leader only weeks earlier, cries of joy and the thundering honking of horns greeted the announcement. “God delivered our Egyptian brothers from this dictator,” said Yacoub Youssef, one of those celebrating in the capital of Tunis.

5.47pm: Amr Mousa, an Egyptian, and the secretary general of the Arab League, who has previously hinted that might stand for presidency, has given his reaction:

I look forward to the future to build a ntional consensus in the coming period. There is a big chance now and a window has opened after this white revolution and after the president’s concession.

Asked if he was interested in being president, he said: “This is not the time to talk about that … As an Egyptian citizen, I am proud to serve my country with all the others at this stage, to build a consensus of opinion.”

5.46pm: Our political correspondent Allegra Stratton says the UK has already been considering the prospect of an asylum application from Mubarak:

The UK’s national security council (NSC) has considered what happens if Hosni, his wife Suzanne or or their son Gamal Mubarak, indeed any of the president’s family, would like asylum in the UK. Remember Gamal has a five-storey house in Knightsbridge.

A government source says that the Foreign Office is aware that the UK’s government’s new position on the middle east – hands off, welcoming of change – would be troubled if the UK were to also grant any asylum requests to Mubaraks or indeed other deposed Arab leaders.

The text from the NSC meeting, held last week, says: “The NSC is working on predicting where and when events might occur next. There is a low risk that former heads of state and members of regimes might seek refuge here. Many have the documentation and money to get here, and some will have links to the UK. Each request will be considered, in consultation between the Home Office and Foreign Office, on a case by case basis.”

So, cautious language, but the source says they are thinking about what their position will be as and when any request comes through. There will be a question mark over exactly what the FCO and Home office could do given Suzanne was born in Wales and is thought to have British citizenship.

5.42pm: In what has turned out to be a momentous day, here is a summary of events.

President Hosni Mubarak has resigned and handed over power to the army. His vice president, Omar Suleiman, said in a short TV address: “In these difficult circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave the position of the presidency. He has commissioned the armed forces council to direct the issues of the state.”

Protests turned to celebrations around Egypt. “Cairo erupts in celebration as 18 days of defiant protest finally delivers a revolution after 24 hours of euphoria, dashed hopes and victory,” our correspondent Chris McGreal wrote from outside the state TV centre. “There was a complete eruption of humanity, I have never seen anything like it. The world’s biggest street party has really kicked off here,” said Jack Shenker from outside the presidential palace.

But there are still questions over what happens next. The army is now in charge and it has yet to make its intentions clear.

Protesters celebrate President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. Photograph: Suhaib Salem/Reuters
5.28pm: Our correspondent Chris McGreal was outside the Egyptian state TV building when the historic announcement was made. In this audio report, he says:

They were completely stunned. When this very brief announcement came from the vice president Omar Suleiman, he simply said “Mubark’s gone”, there was a a pause. Then a ripple went through the crowd and they went wild. Some fell onto their knees praying, people were weeping instantly. They were hugging each other, chanting in unison, “Mubarak’s gone”, words to that effect. There was joy, euphoria, call it what you want. I think people couldn’t quite grasp that this revolution that they’d led fro 18 days had finally delivered.

But Chris warns there will now be close scrutiny of the army:

Of course there will be a sobering up. Not many people are thinking of what the military role means and of course once the military is in the saddle so to speak, people will be looking to it to actually deliver. They will be wanting to see, for instance, the dissolution of parliament, the lifting of the state of emergency, all the kind of things they have been demanding as well as Mubarak’s resignation. I think they’re feeling newly empowered, I think people realise the can hold parliament to account of bring it down and if it’s seen to be not delivering they may well be back out on the streets.

5.20pm: There are reports that the Egyptian army is to make another statement soon.

5.19pm: Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, has been quick to instill a note of caution:

But the game isn’t over, and now a word of caution. I worry that senior generals may want to keep (with some changes) a Mubarak-style government without Mubarak. In essence the regime may have decided that Mubarak had become a liability and thrown him overboard — without any intention of instituting the kind of broad, meaningful democracy that the public wants.

Senior generals have enriched themselves and have a stake in a political and economic structure that is profoundly unfair and oppressive. And remember that the military running things directly really isn’t that different from what has been happening: Mubarak’s government was a largely military regime (in civilian clothes) even before this. Mubarak, Vice President Suleiman and so many others — including nearly all the governors — are career military men. So if the military now takes over, how different is it?

Mubarak resigns as Egypt’s President, hands power to army: Haaretz

Massive crowd in Cairo square at center of protests explodes with joy following announcement by Vice President Omar Suleiman.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down Friday after 30 years as president and handed control to the military, bowing down to an historic 18-day wave of pro-democracy demonstrations by hundreds of thousands.

The massive crowd in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square exploded with joy, embracing, weeping and waving Egyptian flags, and car horns and celebratory shots in the air were heard around the city of 18 million in joy after Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman made the announcement on national TV just after nightfall.

The people have brought down the regime,” chanted the crowds in the square.

“In these grave circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave his position as president of the republic,” said a somber Suleiman. “He has mandated the Armed Forces Supreme Council to run the state. God is our protector and succor.”

Nobel Peace laureate Mohammed ElBaradei, whose young supporters were among the organizers of the protest movement, told The Associated Press: “This is the greatest day of my life.”

“The country has been liberated after decades of repression,” he said, adding that he expects a beautiful transition of power.

A senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s biggest opposition group, said Egyptians had achieved the main goal of their popular uprising after Mubarak’s resignation.

“I salute the Egyptian people and the martyrs. This is the day of victory for the Egyptian people. The main goal of the revolution has been achieved,” Mohamed el-Katatni, former leader of the Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc, told Reuters.

Katatni said the Brotherhood awaits the next steps to be taken by the Higher Military Council, which has taken charge of the country’s affairs after Mubarak’s decision.

Earlier in the day, a ruling partly official reported that Mubarak and his family left Cairo for the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, proving he is giving up his presidential powers.

Protesters seeking Mubarak’s overthrow moved overnight to the Ittihadiya presidential palace in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis for the first time since demonstrations began on Jan. 25.

EDITOR: The final stage of the revolution seems to be here! (those lines were written in the early morning…)

In another facile speech, Mubarak has clarified beyond any doubt, that he is not in touch with reality. Omar Suleiman, his sidekick and servile deputy, is not much more connected either. Both seem to think that they can spout more lies and get the demonstrators home, and continue with their corrupt regime, by promising democracy by September. The Egyptian people know – it is now or never!

Meanwhile, on the farm in Washington, the animals are in disarray… not quite decided if they prefer democracy to ‘stability’ they keep swivelling like a weather-vane gone out of control. It seems that Obama is listening to both sides, and keeps changing his mind on a daily basis. Two things are now clear:

1. The US administration is not well-informed (they don’t seem to have Al Jazeera on the White House channels…) and is not clear about what is happening in Egypt. This may sound incredible, but there is no other expalnation to their bizarre switching of policy.

2. The US administration is also not clear and have not decided what they want out of this situation – do they prefer to see the dictator continue and choke the Egyptian people, or do they risk allowing democracy in Egypt to develop? The choice is difficult for a governemnt which has supported dictators and and brutal occupations as far as memory goes, and not just in the Middle East. Do they want ‘stability’, or do they want to foment unrest and be the arbiter?

This situation is most dangerous for the whole Middle East, now moving at enormous speed to modernise and democratise, after decades of corrupt and brutal regimes. In the end, the US seems just as confused as Mubarak about the direction of events.

All over Egypt, the millions are now rising without fear, witha single voice. We have just heard that Mubarak and his family has run away, apparently to Sharm El Sheikh. Well, it is not far from there to Saudi Arabia. The revolution is on its to victory.

Report: Mubarak, family leave Cairo amid persisting unrest: Haaretz

Al Arabiya says beleaguered Egyptian president leaves for Sinai of Sharm el-Sheikh as protesters call on the military to take action to push Mubarak out.

The Al Arabiya report came as Egypt’s powerful military backed Mubarak’s plan to stay in office until September elections earlier Friday, enraging hundreds of thousands of protesters who deluged the squares of Cairo and Alexandria and marched on presidential palaces and state television – key symbols of the authoritarian regime.

The army’s show of solidarity with the president was a heavy blow to protesters who called on the military to take action to push Mubarak out after he announced Thursday night that he would hand most of his powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman but remain in office.

The Armed Forces Supreme Council, the military’s highest body, depicted itself as the champion of reform in its latest statement. Trying to win the trust of an angry and skeptical population, the army promised to make sure Mubarak lifts hated emergency laws immediately once protests end. Mubarak and Suleiman had only given a vague timetable for ending the law – when security permits.

Still, the profound disappointment that Mubarak did not step down on Thursday turned to rage on Friday and protests escalated.

“What are you waiting for?” one protester yelled in the face of an army officer outside Mubarak’s main palace, Oruba, in northern Cairo, where a crowd of demonstrators grew to more than 2,500. “Did you pledge your allegiance to the president or the people?” another shouted.

It was not known if Mubarak was in the palace, one of at least three in Cairo, or even in the capital. The palace was protected by four tanks and rolls of barbed wire, but soldiers did nothing to stop more people from joining the rally.

The march on the palace were the first by protesters who for nearly three weeks have centered their mass demonstrations in Cairo’s downtown Tahrir Square.

More than 10,000 tore apart military barricades in front of the towering State Television and Radio building, a pro-Mubarak bastion that has aired constant commentary supporting him and dismissing the protests. They swarmed on the Nile River corniche at the foot of the building, beating drums and chanting, Leave! Leave! Leave! They blocked employees from entering, vowing to silence the broadcast.

Soldiers in tanks in front of the building did nothing to stop them, though state TV continued to air.

Egyptians hold ‘farwewell Friday’: Al Jazeera online

Pro-democracy campaigners march on state television and presidential palaces, as army calls for normal life to resume

Massive crowds have gathered across Egypt, including hundreds of thousands of protesters in and around Cairo’s Tahrir [Liberation] Square, calling for Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, to stand down.

Pro-democracy activists in the Egyptian capital marched on the presidential palace and state television buildings, while many also gathered at Liberation Square, on Friday, the 18th consecutive day of protests.

At the state television building, thousands have blocked people from entering or leaving, accusing the broadcaster of supporting the current government and of not truthfully reporting on protests.

“The military has stood aside and people are flooding through [a gap where barbed wire has been moved aside],” Al Jazeera’s correspondent at the state television building reported.

He said it was not clear if they planned to storm the building, but said that “a lot of anger [was] generated” after Mubarak’s speech last night, where he repeated his vow to complete his term as president.

“The activity isn’t calm, but there are a lot of people here who are tired of not having their demands met,” he said.

Outside one presidential palace where protesters had gathered in Cairo, our correspondent reported that there was a strong military presence, but that there was “no indication that the military wants to crack down on protesters … in Cairo”.

She said that army officers had engaged in dialogue with protesters, and that remarks had been largely “friendly”.

Tanks and military personnel had been deployed to bolster barricades around the palace.

Reports indicate, however, that Mubarak and his family have left Cairo, bound for an as yet unconfirmed destination, though Mohammed Abdellah, a spokesman of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, told the AFP news agency that the president was bound for his residence at the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Shaikh.

In Tahrir Square, meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered, chanting slogans against Mubarak and calling for the military to join them in their demands.

Our correspondent at the square said the “masses” of pro-democracy campaigners there appeared to have “clear resolution” and “bigger resolve” to achieve their goals than ever before.

He also said, however, that protesters were “confused by mixed messages” coming from the army, which has at times told them that their demands will be met, yet in communiques and other statements supported Mubarak’s staying in power until at least September.

Army statement

In a statement read out on state television at midday, the military announced that it would lift a 30-year-old emergency law but only “as soon as the current circumstances end”.

The military said it would also guarantee changes to the constitution as well as a free and fair election, and it called for normal business activity to resume.

Many protesters, hoping for Mubarak’s resignation, had anticipated a much stronger statement.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Tahrir Square said people there were hugely disappointed and vowed to take the protests to “a last and final stage”.

“They’re frustrated, they’re angry, and they say protests need to go beyond Liberation [Tahrir] Square, to the doorstep of political institutions,” she said.

Protest organisers have called for 20 million people to come out on “Farewell Friday” in a final attempt to force Mubarak to step down.

‘Anything can happen’

Hossam El Hamalawy, a pro-democracy organiser and member of the Socialist Studies Centre, said protesters were heading towards the presidential palace from multiple directions, calling on the army to side with them and remove Mubarak.

“People are extremely angry after yesterday’s speech,” he told Al Jazeera. “Anything can happen at the moment. There is self-restraint all over but at the same time I honestly can’t tell you what the next step will be … At this time, we don’t trust them [the army commanders] at all.”

An Al Jazeera reporter overlooking Tahrir said the side streets leading into the square were filling up with crowds.

“It’s an incredible scene. From what I can judge, there are more people here today than yesterday night,” she said.

“The military has not gone into the square except some top commanders, one asking people to go home …I don’t see any kind of tensions between the people and the army but all of this might change very soon if the army is seen as not being on the side of the people.”

Hundreds of thousands were participating in Friday prayers outside a mosque in downtown Alexandria, Egypt’s second biggest city.

Thousands of pro-democracy campaigners also gathered outside a presidential palace in Alexandria.

Egyptian television reported that large angry crowds were heading from Giza, adjacent to Cairo, towards Tahrir Square and some would march on the presidential palace.

Protests are also being held in the cities of Mahala, Tanta, Ismailia, and Suez, with thousands in attendance.

In a televised address to the nation on Thursday, Mubarak said he was handing “the functions of the president” to Vice-President Omar Suleiman. But the move means he retains his title of president.

“I have decided to stick… by my responsibility in protecting the constitution and the people’s interests until the power and responsibility are handed over to whomever the voters chose next September, in free and fair elections,” the president said.

Halfway through his much-awaited speech late at night, anticipation turned into anger among protesters camped in Tahrir Square who began taking off their shoes and waving them in the air.

‘Go home’

Immediately after Mubarak’s speech, Suleiman called on the protesters to “go home” and asked Egyptians to “unite and look to the future.”

“Youth of Egypt, heroes of Egypt, go back to your homes and businesses. The country needs you so that we build, develop and create,” Suleiman said.

“Do not listen to tendentious radios and satellite televisions which have no aim but ignite disorder, weaken Egypt and distort its image.”

More than 1,000 protesters moved overnight towards the presidential palace in the upscale neighbourhood of Heliopolis in central Cairo.

Union workers have joined the protests over the past few days, effectively crippling transportation and several industries, and dealing a sharper blow to Mubarak’s embattled regime.

The US and EU said the announcement to transfer some powers to the vice-president was grossly insufficient and falls short of genuine reforms demanded by the people.

“The Egyptian people have been told that there was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient,” Barack Obama, the US president, said in a statement

Permalink Print

February 11, 2011

EDITOR: The final stage of the revolution seems to be here!

In another facile speech, Mubarak has clarified beyond any doubt, that he is not in touch with reality. Omar Suleiman, his sidekick and servile deputy, is not much more connected either. Both seem to think that they can spout more lies and get the demonstrators home, and continue with their corrupt regime, by promising democracy by September. The Egyptian people know – it is now or never!

Meanwhile, on the farm in Washington, the animals are in disarray… not quite decided if they prefer democracy to ‘stability’ they keep swivelling like a weather-vane gone out of control. It seems that Obama is listening to both sides, and keeps changing his mind on a daily basis. Two things are now clear:

1. The US administration is not well-informed (they don’t seem to have Al Jazeera on the White House channels…) and is not clear about what is happening in Egypt. This may sound incredible, but there is no other expalnation to their bizarre switching of policy.

2. The US administration is also not clear and have not decided what they want out of this situation – do they prefer to see the dictator continue and choke the Egyptian people, or do they risk allowing democracy in Egypt to develop? The choice is difficult for a governemnt which has supported dictators and and brutal occupations as far as memory goes, and not just in the Middle East. Do they want ‘stability’, or do they want to foment unrest and be the arbiter?

This situation is most dangerous for the whole Middle East, now moving at enormous speed to modernise and democratise, after decades of corrupt and brutal regimes. In the end, the US seems just as confused as Mubarak about the direction of events.

Mubarak got the chair, the Egyptain people got the power, by Carlos Latuff

BREAKING NEWS!

Protesters outraged over Mubarak address, vow to continue revolution: Ahram online

Ahram Online, Friday 11 Feb 2011

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir sq and downtown Cairo this evening to celebrate what they believed was the imminant stepping down by President Hosny Mubarak were dumbfounded, then outraged as Mubarak finally addressed the nation on TV. Though Mubarak concluded his address by announcing the transfer of his powers to the vice president, he repeatedly asserted in the course of the address that he will remain in power until the end of his term in September.
Chanting “down with Mubarak”, “down with the regime”, the protesters vowed to mainting their occupation of Tahrir sq and their demonstrations until they bring Mubarak and his regime down, once and for all. They expect to bring millions to the streets in Cairo and across the nation in tomorrow’s Friday of Decision protest.

Egypt: A new wave of workers strikes and sit-ins: Ahram Online

Mass protests demanding change have triggered a fresh wave of mass strikes and workers’ sit-ins across the country Wednesday, spotlighting long-ignored economic demands
Wednesday 9 Feb 2011

Workers in Cairo joined thousands of state employees on strike Thursday in spreading labor unrest that has pumped further strength and momentum into Egypt’s wave of anti-government protests. Writing in Arabic on placard center-left reads “Increase basic pay” and on placard center-right “End of work pension: 60 months. Infection risk pay: 100 percent. Rule No. 48 replacing rule No. 47.” (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Related
Five Suez Canal companies workers go on strike, no major disruptions witnessed yet

Demonstrations and strikes across Egypt

Steel and Canal shipyard workers strike in Suez continues
Following the “Million Man” demonstrations and mass strikes that escalated across Egypt on Tuesday, a new wave of mass strikes and workers’ sit-ins also spread on Wednesday.
Ahram Online has been receiving continuous reports of strikes breaking out in both public and private companies across the country, many of which are still being confirmed. At the time of publishing, the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS) had confirmed the following:

More than 2000 workers started a strike in Helwan’s silk factories and circulated the office of the company’s chairman demanding his exclusion.

Thousands of workers have started a strike in Helwan’s coke factories demanding higher wages and full-time contracts.

In Mahala’s Spinning and Weaving factory, hundreds started a sit-in in front of the administration building.

In Kafr El-Zaiat hospital, 1500 nurses started a sit-in demanding their late wages.

Four hundred workers in Suez’s Egypt National Steel Factory started an open strike demanding higher wages.

In Menoufeia, more than 750 of Schweppes factory workers started a sit-in demanding higher wages.

More than 800 of the spinning and weaving workers in Menoufeia started a sit-in demanding higher wages.

In Cairo, 200 workers from the General Committee for Drug Supervision started a sit-in demanding full time contracts and higher wages.

Apart from the demands calling for democratic reforms that have triggered Egypt’s mass protests, social and economic needs have been at the core of the country’s political unrest in recent years.

Although a 2010 court ruling demanded that a new minimum wage be set, the government promised to set a minimum of only LE400 per month (about $70), allowing tensions to soar.

Catapulting, by Carlos Latuff

Egypt’s Mubarak refuses to quit: BBC

President Mubarak addressed the nation in a television broadcastContinue reading the main story
Egypt Unrest

Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak has said he will stay in office and transfer all power only after September’s presidential election.

His comments in a national TV address confounded earlier reports that he was preparing to stand down immediately.

Mr Mubarak said he would delegate some powers to Vice-President Omar Suleiman, but the details of this remain unclear.

Thousands of anti-government protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square reacted angrily to his announcement.

There were chants of “Down with Mubarak”, and protesters waved their shoes in disgust. Thousands were reported to be heading towards the presidential palace some distance away.

The BBC’s Paul Adams, in Tahrir Square, said the mood contrasted dramatically with the celebratory, almost party atmosphere that existed in the hours running up to President Mubarak’s televised address.

Mr Mubarak had previously pledged not to stand in September’s poll, and said he would stay on to oversee a process of constitutional change.

Negotiations between the government and opposition groups have made little progress, with protesters disillusioned at plans for reform put forward by Mr Mubarak’s government.

Continue reading the main story
At the scene

Yolande Knell
BBC News, Tahrir Square, Cairo
This was the third time that President Mubarak has disappointed anti-government protesters since this uprising began by refusing to step down.

At the same time as he said on state television that he felt “pain in my heart for what I hear from some of my countrymen”, huge crowds of Egyptians were yelling “Be gone” and waving their shoes in dismay.

Mr Mubarak did try to reach out to young people, praising them and promising that the blood of their “martyrs” would “not go down the drain”. He restated his commitments to constitutional reforms and a peaceful transition of power in September’s election. He mentioned handing some powers to his vice-president, crucially without expanding on this point.

Some parts of this speech were condescending, with the president addressing Egyptians as “a father to his children”. He also answered rumours he had left the country by stating: “I will not separate from the soil until I am buried beneath it.”

Anger looks set to increase with more demonstrations already planned to follow Friday prayers. Many people chanted “tomorrow, tomorrow” as they left Tahrir Square.

The Egyptian ambassador to the US, Sameh Shoukry, suggested Vice President Suleiman was now the “de facto head of state” following Mr Mubarak’s speech, but this has not been confirmed.

In his address, Mr Mubarak said: “I express a commitment to carry on and protect the constitution and the people and transfer power to whomever is elected next September in free and transparent elections.”

Directly addressing protesters “in Tahrir Square and beyond” in what he said was “a speech from the heart”, Mr Mubarak, 82, said: “I am not embarrassed to listen to the youth of my country and to respond to them.”

He apologised to the families of protesters killed in clashes with the security forces in recent weeks, and said those responsible for their deaths would be punished.

Mr Mubarak added that the country’s emergency laws would only be lifted when conditions were right, and said he would ignore “diktats from abroad”.

He also appeared to call for the end of protests against his 30-year rule that began on 25 January.

“Egypt has gone through difficult times and we cannot allow these to carry on,” he said. “The damage to our economy will lead to a situation in which the youth calling for reform will be the first to be affected.”

‘Go home’
Mr Suleiman, speaking after Mr Mubarak’s address, said the protests had had an effect, and a process of constitutional change would now go ahead.

He added that President Mubarak had empowered him to preserve security and stability in Egypt, and restore normality – and he urged the protesters to return home.

“Youth of Egypt: go back home, back to work, the nation needs you to develop, to create. Don’t listen to radio and TV, whose aim is to tarnish Egypt,” he said.

Activist Mustafa Naggar, responding to the leadership’s statements, said: “The street is fed up with Mubarak. If Mubarak leaves the country, he will help to calm the crisis. If he continues, he will lead Egyptians into chaos.

“Plans for tomorrow stand. We will march in the millions to Tahrir Square and other locations.”

Leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei, a former head of the United Nations atomic watchdog, tweeted: “Egypt will explode. Army must save the country now.”

Among the first reaction from the US – a key ally of Egypt – was a statement from Senator John McCain, in which he described President Mubarak’s announcement that he will remain in power as “deeply unfortunate and troubling”.

He added: “The voices of the Egyptian people are growing louder and more unified, and they are not demanding partial transfers of power or minor adjustments to the current government.”

US President Barack Obama has convened a meeting with his national security team at the White House following President Mubarak’s speech. The US government had in recent days stepped up its call for the protesters’ concerns to be addressed.

The European Union’s chief diplomat, Baroness Ashton, said: “The time for change is now. President Mubarak has not yet opened the way to faster and deeper reforms.

“We will pay close attention to the response by the Egyptian people in the coming hours and days.”

Earlier, the secretary-general of the Mr Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party, Hossam Badrawi, had said the right thing for the president to do would be to step aside – and that he did not expect Mr Mubarak to be president on Friday.

At the same time, Egypt’s military announced it was standing ready to “protect the nation”. State news agency Mena reported that the high council of the armed forces was in continuous session “to protect the nation, its gains and the aspirations of the people”.

Defiant Mubarak refuses to resign: Al Jazeera online

Egyptian president vows to remain in office until his term ends in September, and not bow down to ‘foreign pressure’.

Hosni Mubarak, the embattled Egyptian president, has refused to step down from his post, saying that he will not bow to “foreign pressure” in a televised address to the nation on Thursday evening.

Putting to rest widespread speculations that he will quit, Mubarak announced that he was delegating some authorities to his new vice-president, Omar Suleiman, a close confidante.

In a much anticipated speech, Mubarak said he had put into place a framework that would lead to the amendment of six constitutional articles (including articles 77, 88, 93 and 189, and the annulment of article 179).

“I can not and will not accept to be dictated orders from outside, no matter what the source is,” Mubarak said.

He said he was addressing his people with a “speech from the heart”.

Mubarak said that he is “totally committed to fulfilling all the promises” that he has earlier made regarding constitutional and political reform.

“I have laid down a vision … to exit the current crisis, and to realise the demands voiced by the youth and citizens … without undermining the constitution in a manner that ensures the stability of our society,” he said.

Mubarak said he had “initiated a very constructive national dialogue … and this dialogue has yielded preliminary agreement in stances and views”.

A state of emergency, which has been in place since Mubarak took power 30 years ago, remains in place, though the president promised to lift it as some unspecified point in the future.

“I will remain adamant to shoulder my responsibility, protecting the constitution and safeguarding the interests of Egyptians [until the next elections].

“This is the oath I have taken before God and the nation, and I will continue to keep this oath,” he said.

Mubarak said the current “moment was not against my personality, against Hosni Mubarak”, and concluded by saying that he would not leave Egyptian soil until he was “buried under it”.

Mubarak’s comments were not well-received by hundreds of thousands gathered at Cairo’s Tahrir [Liberation] Square and in other cities, who erupted into angry chants against him. Pro-democracy protesters had been expecting Mubarak to resign, and their mood of celebration quickly turned to extreme anger as they heard the president’s speech.

Rawya Rageh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Liberation Square said the “mood completely altered as the president progressed with his speech”, with protesters expressing “frustration and anger” at him.

Hundreds took off their shoes and waved them angrily at a screen showing Mubarak’s speech, shouting “Leave, leave!”

Mohamed ElBaradei, an opposition figure and former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, responded to the speech by saying “Egypt will explode. Army must save the country now”, on the microblogging website Twitter.

‘Go back home’

Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, addressed the nation in a televised address shortly after Mubarak’s speech, and called on protesters to “go back home” and “go back to work”.

”]He said he had been delegated by the president “the responsibilities to safeguard the stability of Egypt, to safeguard its … assets … to restore peace and security to the Egyptian public, and to restore the normal way of life”.

He said that a process of dialogue with the opposition had yielded positive results, and that “a roadmap has been laid down to achieve the majority of demands”.

The vice-president said that steps had to be taken to “safeguard the revolution of the youth”, but also called for protesters to “join hands” with the government, rather than risk “chaos”.

He told Egyptians “not [to] listen to satellite television stations, whose main purpose is to fuel sedition and to drive a wedge among people”.

Army meeting

Earlier, the Supreme Council of Egyptian Armed Forces had met to discuss the ongoing protests against Mubarak’s government.

In a statement entitled ‘Communique Number One’, televised on state television, the army said it had convened the meeting response to the current political turmoil, and that it would continue to convene such meetings.

Thurday’s meeting was chaired by Mohamed Tantawi, the defence minister, rather than Mubarak, who, as president, would normally have headed the meeting.

“Based on the responsibility of the armed forces and its commitment to protect the people and its keenness to protect the nation… and in support of the legitimate demands of the people [the army] will continue meeting on a continuous basis to examine measures to be taken to protect the nation and its gains and the ambitions of the great Egyptian people,” the statement.

Tens of thousands poured into Tahrir Square after the army statement was televised. Thousands also gathered in Alexandria, Egypt’s second city, our correspondent there said.

Earlier, Hassan al-Roweni, an Egyptian army commander, told protesters in the square that “everything you want will be realised”.

Hassam Badrawi, the secretary general of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), told the BBC and Channel 4 News earlier on that he expected Mubarak to hand over his powers to Omar Suleiman, the vice-president during his address.

“I think the right thing to do now is to take the action that would satisfy … protesters,” Badrawi told BBC television in a live interview.

Ahmed Shafiq, the country’s prime minister, also told the BBC that the president may step down on Thursday evening, and that the situation would be “clarified soon”. He told the Reuters news agency, however, that Mubarak remained in control, and that “everything is still in the hands of the president”.

However, Anas el-Fekky, Egypt’s information minister, denied all reports of Mubarak resigning from early in the day.

“The president is still in power and he is not stepping down,” el-Fekky told Reuters. “The president is not stepping down and everything you heard in the media is a rumour.”

Mubarak met with Suleiman, the vice-president, at the presidential palace ahead of his address.

Protesters expected resignation

Mahmoud Zaher, a retired general in the Egyptian army, told Al Jazeera earlier in the day that Mubarak’s absence from the army meeting was a “clear and strong indication that [Mubarak] is no longer present”, implying that the Egyptian president was not playing a role in governance any longer.

”]Protesters had earlier responded to statements from political leaders as indicating that they had been successful in their key demand of wanting Mubarak to step down.

Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who has played a key role in helping protesters get organised, said on the microblogging site Twitter on Thursday evening: “Mission accomplished. Thanks to all the brave young Egyptians.”

Ahead of the speech, Jacky Rowland, our correspondent in Tahrir Square, described the atmosphere as “electric”, with “standing room only” in the central Cairo area. She said that thousands gathered there were “celebrating a victory which has been anticipated, rather than actually achieved”.

In Alexandria, Jamal ElShayyal, our correspondent, said the atmosphere turned “from joyous to now furious” as Mubarak completed his speech.

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February 9, 2011

EDITOR: The Egyptian Revolution stands firm!

Today unions across Egypt have joined the protest, making it crystal clear that it will not be over until Mubarak is out. In his bizarre speech he has claimed that he must stay to make sure there is ‘no chaos’! It is exactly his remaining as president which causes and deepens the chaos. While he does OK with Israel and the US, and few other lackeys including the UK, he is not chnging what all Egyptians are saying for over two weeks now.

In the article from Cairo by Hani Shukrallah, the shenanigans of the regime are laid out to dry, and the impressive steadfastness of the protest movement is clear. While the regime has all the time in the world, as well as all the money in Egypt (see yesterday’s entry about the bounty of £70 Billion stolen from the poor of Egypt by the dictator Mubarak) so this is still unequal battle, what with Obama switching sides again to back the dead horse, no doubt under Israeli pressure and Pentagon ‘analysis’. Still, the old regime is a spent force, and the fear which permeated Egyptian society is gone.

Egyptians have chosen, time for the state to accept their choice: Al Ahram

The choices facing Egypt are not between dialogue and coup d’état, as the vice president said yesterday, but between a rickety authoritarianism and full vibrant democracy
Hani Shukrallah , Wednesday 9 Feb 2011

It totally escapes me what the vice-president was talking about when he issued us with the dire warning that Egypt faced two choices, either “dialogue” or “coup d’état. Trying to make sense of this most ominous statement, one is first of all struck by what coup d’état is supposed to mean in the context of our current reality.

There are two senses in which Gen. Suleiman’s use of the term may be taken, a “nice”, one and a “grim” one, though neither appears to render the statement awfully comprehensible. In the nicer sense, the vice president is telling us that if the army, which is starkly the single power running the country these days, responds to the revolution’s demands and asks Mubarak to step down, this would be tantamount to a coup, which – reading between the lines – would lead to military rule.

The argument, if that’s what it is, fails to convince. A popular revolution has been sweeping the country for the past two weeks, and all indications are that it is gaining momentum, rather than losing steam. For the state to bow to the people’s will, as expressed on streets throughout the country is not a coup d’état, is simply to bow to the people’s will. This cannot, under any legal or moral standard be deemed a coup d’état.

We’re not reinventing the wheel here. It’s happened in Tunisia a few weeks ago, it swept through in all of Eastern Europe in the late 80s, indeed, it’s been happening across the globe from Latin and Central America to south and East Asia. In fact, it has been our long benighted Arab region that seemed to be the exception, standing immune to waves upon waves of democratization, which were making themselves felt everywhere else.

It so happens also that the army, here as in most of the above example, has been the state body able to step forward and play the role of power broker and guarantor of the transition to democracy.

Neither is the implied threat of military rule very credible. Popular revolutions, I wrote before, do not create military governments, military coups and counter-revolutions do.

Which brings us to the other, darker, possible interpretation of the vice president’s warning: a counter-revolution. Certainly that remains a possibility, but I’m sure the vice president is fully aware that it is becoming more remote with every passing day.

The thing is we’ve already had one counter-revolution and it has failed miserably, though at a horrible cost. We now have a pretty clear idea of how that counter-revolution was conducted, and the identity of some of those who directed it.

We now know, and I am sure the vice president and the prime minister are equally, if not more cognizant of the facts: an alliance of NDP officials and Oligarchs and the interior ministry and Egyptian state TV pursued a deliberate “scorched earth” strategy aimed at sowing fear and panic among the Egyptian people and the international community to show that without the Mubarak regime Egypt would fall into inescapable chaos and destruction.
So that we do not forget, the cynical criminality of this strategy involved the killing of some 300 peacefully protesting citizens and the wounding of thousands, the torching of public buildings, the attempted looting, torching and destruction of the Egyptian Museum, the overnight disappearance of the whole internal security apparatus and the synchronized opening of prison gates around the country, meanwhile letting loose criminal gangs of police agents alongside police and oligarch-run networks of thugs and diverse criminal elements to attack private citizens, public and private property, to murder, torch and loot. This, by the way, is the same “coalition” that was responsible for wholesale rigging of the 2010 and other elections.

The counter-revolution’s last card lay in the madness of the “foreign fingers” in the Egyptian uprising. The police agents and their thuggish friends were sent to infiltrate the “popular committees”, spread misinformation and hysteria about allege Israeli, American, Iranian, Hamas, Hizbullah and all sorts of other foreign conspiracies to foment revolution in the country. Foreigners, including a great many “foreign-looking” Egyptians were exposed to brutal attacks everywhere. The very people who were bemoaning the loss of foreign investment and tourism were willing to ensure that no one elsewhere in the world will even nod our way, possibly for a great many years.

By yesterday, and as Egypt witnessed its largest popular demonstrations ever, involving millions across the country, the counter-revolution looked dead and buried.

This is not to say that a revival of the counter-revolution is impossible. Neither can we as yet totally discount the possibility of a different kind of counter-revolution, as for instance, in having the army at last shoot at the people. Both scenarios are unlikely, however. For its part, the army’s commitment not to resort to violence against the people is now stronger than ever. We’ve even had the vice-president saying that President Mubarak, rather late in the day, has ordered all security forces to refrain from harming the protesters in any way.

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the axis of evil, mentioned above, will once again resume its activities. After all, we are yet to see any of those responsible for crimes ranging from murder to high treason arrested or prosecuted, despite the repeated promises to do so.

The network remains intact, but there is every indication that it’s done its worst, it has been defeated, physically, as well as exposed. With the police agents and their thugs out of the picture, the hundreds of thousands in Tahrir sq continue to amaze the nation and world by the peaceful, and outstandingly self-disciplined nature of their ongoing.

The vice president is right, however, in saying that Egypt today faced two choices. He still needs to become aware of what these really are, however; for these two choices are none other than to maintain the old authoritarian order, cosmetically pluralized. Or to effect a radical transition to a fully democratic system of government.

Cosmetically treated authoritarianism, we’ve had for the past 30 years. Indeed, that’s what we have had more or less of since the late President Sadat launched his experiment in controlled pluralism way back in 1976. And, if a full scale revolution is any indication, we’ve had enough.

Yes, Mr. Vice-President we are faced with two choices, the people have chosen, it’s time that you accepted their choice.

Labour unions boost Egypt protests: Al Jazeera online

Thousands of factory workers stay away from work as pro-democracy protesters continue to rally seeking Mubarak’s ouster.

Egyptian labour unions have gone on a nationwide strike, adding momentum to pro-democracy demonstrations in Cairo and other cities.

Al Jazeera correspondents, reporting from Egypt, said around 20,000 factory workers stayed away from work on Wednesday.

Al Jazeera’s Shirine Tadros, reporting from Cairo, said that some workers “didn’t have a political demand”.

“They were saying that they want better salaries, they want an end to the disparity in the pay, and they want the 15 per cent increase in pay that was promised to them by the state.”

However, Tadros also said that some workers were calling for Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, to step down.

The strike action came as public rallies calling for Mubarak to immediately hand over power entered their 16th day.

Determined protesters are continuing to rally in Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square, and other cities across the country. They say they will not end the protests until Mubarak, who has been at the country’s helm since 1981, steps down.

Protesters with blankets gathered outside the parliament building in Cairo on Wednesday, with no plan to move, our correspondent reported. The demonstrators have put up a sign that reads: “Closed until the fall of the regime”.

The government seems to be scrambling under pressure from major powers and pro-democracy supporters, Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker reported from the city.

She said people in Tahrir Square were angered by a visit from Tamer Hosni, a famous Arab pop star, on Wednesday morning.

Hosni previously made statements telling the demonstrators to leave the square, saying that Mubarak had offered them concessions. “His comments really did not go down very well,” our correspondent said. The crowd reacted angrily and the military had to intervene to keep them away from him.

“People feel very strongly here,” Al Jazeera’s Dekker said.

Another Al Jazeera correspondent, reporting from Cairo, said there was also a renewed international element to the demonstrations, with Egyptians from abroad returning to join the pro-democracy camp.

There is even an internet campaign aimed at mobilising thousands of expatriates to return and support the uprising, our correspondent said.

Protesters are “more emboldened by the day and more determined by the day”, Ahmad Salah, an Egyptian activist, told Al Jazeera from Cairo on Wednesday. “This is a growing movement, it’s not shrinking.”

Concessions fall short

Mubarak’s message has thus far been that he will not leave until his term expires in September.

As a gesture of goodwill, however, 34 political prisoners, including members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood opposition group, were reportedly released over the past two days.

Dekker, our correspondent, reported that there are still an unknown number of people missing, including activists thought to be detained during the recent unrest, while Human Rights Watch reported that the death toll has reached 302 since January 28.

Egypt’s health ministry denied the figures, however, saying that official statistics would be released shortly.

“He (Suleiman) is threatening to impose martial law, which means everybody in the square will be smashed. But what will he do with the rest of the 70 million Egyptians who will follow us afterward.”

Abdul-Rahman Samir, a spokesman for a coalition of the five main youth groups behind the Tahrir Square protests.

Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian vice president, warned on Tuesday that his government “can’t put up with continued protests” for a long time, saying the crisis must be ended as soon as possible.

Suleiman said there will be “no ending of the regime” and no immediate departure for Mubarak, the state news agency MENA reported from a meeting between the vice-president and independent newspapers.

At one point in the roundtable meeting, he warned that the alternative to dialogue “is that a coup happens, which would mean uncalculated and hasty steps, including lots of irrationalities”.

When pressed by news editors to explain the comment, he said he did not mean a military coup but that “a force that is unprepared for rule” could overturn state institutions, said Amr Khafagi, editor-in-chief of the privately owned Shorouk daily, who attended the briefing.

Response to Suleiman’s statements was grim.

“He is threatening to impose martial law, which means everybody in the square will be smashed,” said Abdul-Rahman Samir, a spokesman for a coalition of the five main youth groups behind protests in Tahrir Square.

“But what would he do with the rest of the 70 million Egyptians who will follow us afterward.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Suleiman said a plan was in place for the peaceful transfer of power, which included forming three committees  – one to propose constitutional amendments, another to oversee the implementation of the amendments and a third to investigate the violent clashes of February 2.

Egypt: A new wave of workers strikes and sit-ins: Al Ahram online

Mass protests demanding change have triggered a fresh wave of mass strikes and workers’ sit-ins across the country Wednesday, spotlighting long-ignored economic demands

Wednesday 9 Feb 2011
Demonstrations and strikes across Egypt

Steel and Canal shipyard workers strike in Suez continues
Following the “Million Man” demonstrations and mass strikes that escalated across Egypt on Tuesday, a new wave of mass strikes and workers’ sit-ins also spread on Wednesday.
Ahram Online has been receiving continuous reports of strikes breaking out in both public and private companies across the country, many of which are still being confirmed. At the time of publishing, the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS) had confirmed the following:

More than 2000 workers started a strike in Helwan’s silk factories and circulated the office of the company’s chairman demanding his exclusion.

Thousands of workers have started a strike in Helwan’s coke factories demanding higher wages and full-time contracts.

In Mahala’s Spinning and Weaving factory, hundreds started a sit-in in front of the administration building.

In Kafr El-Zaiat hospital, 1500 nurses started a sit-in demanding their late wages.

Four hundred workers in Suez’s Egypt National Steel Factory started an open strike demanding higher wages.

In Menoufeia, more than 750 of Schweppes factory workers started a sit-in demanding higher wages.

More than 800 of the spinning and weaving workers in Menoufeia started a sit-in demanding higher wages.

In Cairo, 200 workers from the General Committee for Drug Supervision started a sit-in demanding full time contracts and higher wages.

Apart from the demands calling for democratic reforms that have triggered Egypt’s mass protests, social and economic needs have been at the core of the country’s political unrest in recent years.

Although a 2010 court ruling demanded that a new minimum wage be set, the government promised to set a minimum of only LE400 per month (about $70), allowing tensions to soar.

Egypt police kill three anti-Mubarak protesters in desert clashes: Haaretz

Three killed, several wounded in clashes between police and 3,000 protesters in western province of Egypt, which marked first sizeable anti-Mubarak gathering in the area.

Three people were killed and several suffered gunshot wounds in clashes between security forces and about 3,000 protesters in a western province of Egypt, state TV and security sources said on Wednesday.

The clashes in New Valley, a province that includes an oasis in Egypt’s western desert, erupted on Tuesday and continued into Wednesday, according to security sources. State TV said three people died in the fighting but did not provide further details.

It appeared to be the first serious clash between police and protesters since officers all but disappeared from Egyptian streets after they had beaten, teargassed and fired rubber bullets at protesters on Jan. 28, dubbed the “Day of Wrath”.

President Hosni Mubarak sent the army onto the streets that night, but several days of looting and lawlessness followed the withdrawal of police and many prisoners escaped from prison.

On Monday, a security source said former Egyptian Interior Minister Habib el-Adli had appeared before military prosecutors and may face charges of causing a breakdown in order during protests.

The protest in New Valley, about 500 km south of Cairo, was the first sizeable anti-Mubarak gathering in that area reported by security sources. The countrywide protests to topple the president are now in their third week.

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February 2, 2011

BREAKING NEWS!!!

Clashes rage in Tahrir Square: Al Jazeera online

At least one dead and hundreds injured as pro-Mubarak supporters attack protesters seeking his ouster in central Cairo.

Clashes have broken out between pro- and anti-government demonstrators in the Egyptian capital Cairo.

Protesters from both sides threw stones at each other in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of ongoing opposition demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak for the past nine days

The health ministry said at least one person had been killed and another 400 injured in Wednesday’s violence.

Al Jazeera correspondents, reporting from the scene, said clashes were still raging and that petrol bombs were being hurled.

Earlier, witnesses said the military allowed thousands of pro-Mubarak supporters, armed with sticks and knives, to enter the square. Opposition groups said Mubarak had sent in thugs to suppress anti-government protests.

One of our correspondents said the army seemed to be standing by and facilitating the clashes. Latest reports suggest that the centre of the square is still in control of the protesters, despite the pro-Mubarak supporters gaining ground.

‘Absolute mayhem’

Witnesses also said that pro-Mubarak supporters were dragging away protesters they had managed to grab and handing them over to security forces.

Salma Eltarzi, an anti-government protester, told Al Jazeera there were hundreds of wounded people.

“There are no ambulances in sight, and all we are using is Dettol,” she said. “We are all so scared.”

Aisha Hussein, a nurse, said dozens of people were being treated at a makeshift clinic in a mosque near the square.

She described a scene of “absolute mayhem”, as protesters first began to flood into the clinic.

“People are coming in with multiple wounds. All kinds of contusions. We had one guy who needed stitches in two places on his face. Some have broken bones.”

Meanwhile, another Al Jazeera correspondent said men on horseback and camels had ploughed into the crowds, as army personnel stood by.

At least six riders were dragged from their beasts, beaten with sticks by the protesters and taken away with blood streaming down their faces.

One of them was dragged away unconscious, with large blood stains on the ground at the site of the clash.

The worst of the fighting was just outside the world famous Egyptian Museum, which was targeted by looters last week.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent added that several a group of pro-government protesters took over army vehicles. They also took control of a nearby building and used the rooftop to throw concrete blocks, stones, and other objects.

Soldiers surrounding the square took cover from flying stones, and the windows of at least one army truck were broken. Some troops stood on tanks and appealed for calm but did not otherwise intervene.

Many of the pro-Mubarak supporters raised slogans like “Thirty Years of Stability, Nine Days of Anarchy”.

Al Jazeera’s online producer in Cairo said rocks were continously being thrown from both sides. He said that though the army had put up barricades around the square, they let the pro-Mubarak supporters through.

“The people on horses are pro-Mubarak supporters, they are a very angry crowd looking for anyone working for Al Jazeera and for Americans. They are trying to get on the other side of the army tanks to get to the anti-Mubarak supporters. More and more pro-Mubarak supporters are coming in.”

Violence

Al Jazeera’s Jane Dutton, also in Cairo, said that security guards have also been seen amongst the pro-Mubarak supporters, and it may be a precursor to the feared riot police arriving on the scene.

Dutton added that a journalist with the Al-Arabiya channel was stabbed during the clashes.

Fighting took place around army tanks deployed around the square, with stones bouncing off the armoured vehicles.

Several groups were involved in fist fights, and some were using clubs.  The opposition also said many among the pro-Mubarak crowd were policemen in plain clothes.

“But we will not leave … Everybody stay put”

Khalil, anti-government protester

“Members of security forces dressed in plain clothes and a number of thugs have stormed Tahrir Square,” three opposition groups said in a statement.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a prominent opposition figure, accused Mubarak of resorting to scare tactics. Opposition groups have reportedly also seized police identification cards amongst the pro-Mubarak demonstrators.

“I’m extremely concerned, I mean this is yet another symptom, or another indication, of a criminal regime using criminal acts,” ElBaradei said.

“My fear is that it will turn into a bloodbath,” he added, calling the pro-Mubarak supporters a “bunch of thugs”.

But according to state television, the minister of interior denied that plain clothes police had joined pro-Mubarak demonstrations.

Elbaradei has also urged the army to intervene.

“I ask the army to intervene to protect Egyptian lives,” he told Al Jazeera, adding he said it should intervene “today” and not remain neutral.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director for Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, told Al Jazeera that the clashes look to be orchestrated.

“It is not the first time the Mubarak government has provoked clashes to quell protests, but if it truly is orchestrated, this is a cynical and bloody approach,” she said.

“The army look to be not intervening at all, and the question remains as to whether they have been ordered not to step in.”

The army has told state television that citizens should arrest those who have stolen military clothing, and to hand them over.

Determined protesters

Despite the clashes, anti-government protesters seeking Mubarak’s immediate resignation said they would not give up until Mubarak steps down.

Pro-Mubarak supporters came riding on camels and horses [Al Jazeera/online producer]
Khalil, in his 60s and holding a stick, blamed Mubarak supporters and undercover security for the clashes.

“But we will not leave,” he told Reuters. “Everybody stay put.”

Mohammed el-Belgaty, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, told Al Jazeera the “peaceful demonstrations in Tahrir Square have been turned into chaos”.

“The speech delivered by President Mubarak was very provocative as he used very sentimental words.

“Since morning, hundreds of these paid thugs started to demonstrate pretending to be supporting the President. Now they came to charge inside Tahrir Square armed with batons, sticks and some knives.

“Mubarak is asking the people to choose between him or chaos.”

Ahead of Wednesday’s clashes, supporters of the president staged a number of rallies around Cairo, saying Mubarak represented stability amid growing insecurity, and calling those who want his departure “traitors.”

“Yes to Mubarak, to protect stability,” read one banner in a crowd of 500 gathered near state television headquarters, about 1km from Tahrir Square.

A witness said organisers were paying people $17, to take part in the pro-Mubarak rally, a claim that could not be confirmed.

Other pro-Mubarak demonstrations occurred in the Mohandeseen district, as well as near Ramses Square.

EDITOR: The Dictator totters at last!

Now the that the US president has abandoned his pet, it seems the Egyptian tyrant is loosing some of his venom, but non of his self-deceit. While he now ‘agrees to to stand again’ in September, it is clear that this malignant politician will have to leave now, rather than to torment the Egyptians for another period of madness.

Last night, in a mad scramble to stick to his seat, he even sent a rent-a-crowd to chant “we want Mubarak” at Tahrir Square, as if this was going to fool anyone… He is definitely on his way out now.

Hosni Mubarak vows to stand down at next election – but not now: The Guardian

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s announcement that he will serve out remaining term immediately rejected by angry crowds

Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak said: ‘I will die on the soil of Egypt and be judged by history.’ Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
Egypt’s embattled president, Hosni Mubarak, last night bowed to the pressure of millions of people massing on the streets, pledging to step down at the next election and pave the way for a new leader of the Arab world’s largest country.

But Barack Obama, who effectively withdrew US support for the leader of its key Arab ally in a day of fast moving developments, gave an equivocal welcome to the speech by saying that “change must begin now” while praising the “passion and dignity” of the demonstrators in the streets as an inspiration.

Mubarak said he would not be a candidate for a seventh term but would remain in power to oversee reform and guarantee stability – a position that was immediately rejected by angry crowds and promised yet more drama in Egypt’s extraordinary crisis.

“In the few months remaining in my current term I will work towards ensuring a peaceful transition of power,” Mubarak said. “I have exhausted my life in serving Egypt and my people. I will die on the soil of Egypt and be judged by history” – a clear reference to the fate of Tunisia’s president who fled into exile last month.

Looking grave as he spoke on state TV in front of the presidential seal, Mubarak attacked those responsible for protests that had been “manipulated by political forces”, caused mayhem and chaos and endangered the “stability of the nation”.

In a defiant, finger-wagging performance the 82-year-old said he was always going to quit in September – ” a position he had never made public until now.

Opposition leaders had already warned throughout a dramatic eighth day of mass protests that only Mubarak’s immediate departure would satisfy them.

The Egyptian leader made his announcement after meeting a White House special envoy who conveyed the message that Washington had in effect withdrawn US support for the man who had been the linchpin of its Middle East strategy.

The White House declined to reveal details of the message conveyed by the envoy, Frank Wisner, a former US ambassador to Cairo who is close to Mubarak other than to say he urged him not to seek re-election. But after the Egyptian leader’s speech, Obama spoke to Mubarak for 30 minutes and then made a statement at the White House in which he praised the protesters and called for the transition of power to begin immediately.

But the US president did not explicitly call for Mubarak to resign immediately, leaving open the possibility of Washington accepting the Egyptian leader overseeing the transition in the face of unprecedented protests and an insistence by opposition leaders that they would not negotiate while Mubarak remains in power.

“What is clear, and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak, is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now,” said Obama.

“Furthermore the process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties. It should lead to elections that are free and fair.”

But in Washington and Cairo there were questions over the Obama administration’s position with some Americanpoliticians, such as John Kerry, chairman of the Senate’s foreign affairs committee, saying Mubarak must resign immediately.

Certainly many Egyptians want that. “May it be tonight, oh God,” chanted the crowds in Cairo’s Tahrir Square as they waited to hear the historic speech.

Mubarak’s statement came at the end of a day that saw epic protests. Millions of people rallied across the country.

“Illegitimate,” chanted the vast crowds choking Tahrir Square. “He [Mubarak] will leave, we will not leave,” went another slogan, in a festive atmosphere that belied the tense stalemate that has emerged between the people and the regime over an extraordinary 48 hours.

With the army standing by its landmark pledge not to use force against demonstrators, Mubarak faced an intense and co-ordinated US campaign to persuade him and the powerful Egyptian military to effect “an orderly transition”.

But as troops barricaded the presidential palace with barbed wire, Egypt’s fractured opposition rallied together to reject any talks with the ruling National Democratic party on political reform, insisting the president must stand down before any dialogue can get under way.

On Monday, Mubarak ordered his new vice-president and intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, to begin a dialogue with opposition groups, including the powerful Muslim Brotherhood. “Omar Suleiman approached us, and we have rejected his approaches,” Essam el-Arian, a Brotherhood spokesman, told the Guardian. “As long as Mubarak delays his departure, these protests will remain and they will only get bigger.”

Mohammed ElBaradei, 68, the former UN nuclear weapons inspector who has been nominated to lead any negotiations, met protesters and the US ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, insisting afterwards that no talks were possible while the president remained in power.

“I hope to see Egypt peaceful and that’s going to require as a first step the departure of President Mubarak,” he told al-Arabiya TV. “If President Mubarak leaves then everything else will progress correctly.”Mass protests were reported across Egypt, including in Alexandria, Suez and many other cities.

Underlining the regional impact of the crisis, the Jordanian prime minister was sacked after weeks of protests over price rises and unemployment and inspired by events in Tunisia and now Egypt.

The Foreign Office said in a statement last night: “We have been clear in public, and with President Mubarak and his government in private, about the need for a transition to a broader-based government that will produce real, visible and comprehensive change.”

William Hague, the foreign secretary, said a charter flight would be sent to Cairo to bring Britons back but they would have to pay £300 for the service.

Hiding behind the tanks, by Carlos Latuff

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