Mike Huckabee : Netanyahu 'one of the world's great leaders'

In this handout image provided by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets wih US unofficial Republican Party presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (C) and actor Jon Voight on January 31, 2011 in Jerusalem, Israel. During his 15th visit to Israel, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, is due to visit the Knesset and Jewish communities Judea and Samaria. (Photo by Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images)

Feb 2 (KATAKAMI.COM / THE HILL / BIBI REPORT) — Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) offered high praise this week for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has often been at odds with the Obama administration.

Huckabee, a potential 2012 GOP presidential candidate, after meeting privately with Netanyahu called him “one of the world’s great leaders.”

“I think in fact he is one of the world’s great leaders,” Huckabee said during an interview with Israeli television network Channel 10. “Not just an Israeli great leader. One of the world’s great leaders. One of the most articulate and clearest minds we have in the world today.”

Huckabee has demonstrated his close ties to the right-wing Likud Party leader during his 13th visit to the Jewish state this week as he considers another run for the White House.

Netanyahu affirmed his tight bond with Huckabee, telling Channel 10, “He’s a great friend, a great friend.”

When asked how great of a friend, Netanyahu replied, “None greater, none greater.”

But the relationship between President Obama and Netanyahu has not been as sunny since both became the heads of their governments. Netanyahu was reportedly snubbed for dinner at the White House in March and the U.S. has made little progress in resuming the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Obama, however, has played down any notion of a rift.

“If you look at every public statement that I’ve made over the last year and a half, it has been a constant reaffirmation of the special relationship between the United States and Israel, that our commitment to Israel’s security has been unwavering. And, in fact, there aren’t any concrete policies that you could point to that would contradict that,” he said in July during the duo’s last face-to-face meeting.

Huckabee said that he believes he would be an “honest broker” in the Middle East if he were president, and blamed the lack of progress in the region on the “duplicity” of the parties engaged in diplomacy.

“I would like to think so. I think that the key there is honesty. One reason that we don’t have a lot of the solutions we would like diplomatically is because of the duplicity of the people who are engaged,” he said. “I think that a lot of people, even who disagree with me, would rather deal with me knowing where I came from rather than that I am going to tell people what they want to hear just because I happen to be with them at the time.”  (*)

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Egyptian military calls for end to demonstrations

Egyptian anti-government protesters gathered in Tahrir (Liberation) square, watch a screen showing U.S. President Barack Obama live on a TV broadcast from Washington DC, speaking about the situation in Egypt, early Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

CAIRO, Feb 02 (KATAKAMI.COM / AP)  – The Egyptian military called Wednesday for an end to more than a week of demonstrations demanding President Hosni Mubarak step down immediately after nearly 30 years in power.

“Your message has arrived, your demands became known,” military spokesman Ismail Etman said on state television in an address directed to young protesters. “You are capable of bringing normal life to Egypt.”

Internet service also began returning to Egypt after days of an unprecedented cutoff by the government.

Mubarak’s embattled regime and the powerful military appear to be making a unified push to end a street movement to drive the 82-year-old leader out.

The movement built on the work of online activists is fueled by deep frustration with an autocratic regime blamed for ignoring the needs of the poor and allowing corruption and official abuse to run rampant.

After years of tight state control, protesters emboldened by the Tunisia unrest took to the streets on Jan. 25 and mounted a once-unimaginable series of protests across this nation of 80 million.

The army gave a tacit endorsement to the movement on Monday by saying it would not use force against protesters and that they had legitimate demands. On Tuesday, the protesters brought more than 250,000 people into Cairo’s main square to demand Mubarak leave within days.

Mubarak issued a defiant response in an address to the nation around 11 p.m., announcing he would serve out the last months of his term and “die on Egyptian soil.” He promised not to seek re-election, but that did not calm public fury as clashes erupted between his opponents and supporters.

(*)

Photostream : Russian First Lady Svetlana Medvedeva meets Naina Yeltsin

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's wife Svetlana, right, presents a bunch of flowers to Naina Yeltsin, Yeltsin's widow, before a concert marking the 80th birthday anniversary of Russia's first president Boris Yeltsin, in the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Tuesday, Feb. 1 , 2011. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's wife Svetlana, right, and Naina Yeltsin, Yeltsin's widow, talk before a concert marking the 80th birthday anniversary of Russia's first president Boris Yeltsin, in the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Tuesday, Feb. 1 , 2011. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)

Israel urges West: Make sure new Egypt regime honors peace deal

 

FILE : (L-R) President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, US President Barack Obama, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and King Abdullah II of Jordan walk to the East Room to make statements on the peace process on September 1, 2010 at the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants international community to make clear that new leadership must meet a series of conditions similar to those posed by Hamas in order to gain recognition of legitimacy.

Feb 02, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / HAARETZ) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked U.S. President Barack Obama and a number of other Western leaders in recent days to make it clear to any new Egyptian regime that it must abide fully by the peace agreement with Israel.

Senior Israeli officials said that Netanyahu would like the international community to make it clear to any new Egyptian leadership that will emerge that it must meet a series of conditions in return for receiving legitimacy in the eyes of the West – similar to those posed to Hamas following the Islamist movement’s victory in Palestinian elections. The Mideast Quartet had demanded, and still requires, that in return for recognition, Hamas relinquish terrorism, recognize Israel and accept as binding previous negotiated agreements between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel.

Although Netanyahu is not drawing a comparison between Hamas rule and a new Egyptian government, he would like to see, along with demands for democracy and respect for human rights, that the international community set as a condition that any new government in Cairo abide by the international agreements to which the Mubarak regime had signed, according to officials.

“The matter was made clear to the Americans and many other countries,” a senior official in Jerusalem said. “We are not opposed to democracy in Egypt but it is important for us to preserve the peace agreement.”

The Prime Minister’s Bureau issued a special statement yesterday to clarify the Israeli position on the situation in Egypt.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel’s interest is to preserve the peace with Egypt,” the message read. “Israel believes that the international community must require any Egyptian government to preserve the peace agreement with Israel.”

(*)

PM Netanyahu to World: Make Sure Egypt Doesn't Abandon Peace

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Feb 02, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM) — In talks with diplomatic officials Wednesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu noted that Israel’s interest is maintaining the peace with Egypt, a Government Press Office statement said. Israel believes that the international community must insist that any Egyptian government maintain the peace treaty with Israel, the government statement added.
“Israel is a democracy and supports the advance of liberal and democratic values in the Middle East. The advancement of those values is good for peace.

“But if extremist forces are allowed to exploit democratic processes to come to power to advance anti-democratic goals – as has happened in Iran and elsewhere – the outcome will be bad for peace and bad for democracy.”

Netanyahu has been careful not to make statements about the Egypt situation until now and sternly instructed his ministers to refrain from commenting when the demonstrations and rioting there broke out. The statement to diplomats reflects Israel’s concern that the apparent overthrow of the regime of Hosni Mubarak could lead to the installation of a more Islamist government. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has vowed to annul the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt if elected.

Egyptian President Mubarak announced on Tuesday that he will not be seeking another term as president. He said, however, that he does not intend on stepping down before the scheduled presidential elections in September.   (*)

(Source : IsraelNationalNews.com)

Lavrov, Clinton to bring New START into force on February 5

Sergei Lavrov and Hillary Clinton. Archive

Feb 02 (KATAKAMI.COM / RIA NOVOSTI) —Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will exchange the instruments of ratification for the New START arms reduction pact in Munich on February 5, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

The U.S. State Department confirmed February 5 as the date for the exchange, after which the pact will enter into force.

The new deal, replacing START 1, which expired in December 2009, was signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama in Prague in April 2010. The document cuts the Russian and U.S. strategic nuclear arsenals to a maximum of 1,550 warheads, down from the current ceiling of 2,200.

“The document lays the foundation for qualitatively new relations between Russia and the United States in the military-strategic sphere, and contributes to a transition to a higher level of bilateral interaction in the spheres of disarmament and nonproliferation, as well as in strengthening mutual and global security,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The U.S. Senate ratified the deal on December 22, 2010, but added several amendments to the resolution on ratification, including a demand to build up U.S. global missile defenses.

Medvedev signed the ratification documents on Friday after both houses of the Russian parliament ratified the new treaty adding some provisions to the ratification document and issuing two supplementary statements to the resolution on the treaty ratification.

Clinton and Lavrov will be in the German city for the 47th Munich Security Conference, to be held February 4-6. The annual gathering brings together senior figures from around the world to engage in intensive debate on current and future security challenges.  (*)

Full Text of President Hosni Mubarak's speech after mass protest

In this image from Egyptian state television aired Tuesday evening Feb 1 2011, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak makes what has been billed as an important speech. Mubarak has faced a week of public and international pressure to step down from the role he has held for 30 years, culminating in a day when a quarter-million people turned in the largest protest yet to demand his ouster. (AP Photo/Egyptian state television via APTN)

CAIRO Feb 1 (KATAKAMI.COM / Reuters) – Following is the text of a televised speech delivered by President Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday after a million Egyptians took to the streets demanding he leave office:

“I talk to you during critical times that are testing Egypt and its people which could sweep them into the unknown. The country is passing through difficult times and tough experiences which began with noble youths and citizens who practise their rights to peaceful demonstrations and protests, expressing their concerns and aspirations but they were quickly exploited by those who sought to spread chaos and violence, confrontation and to violate the constitutional legitimacy and to attack it.

“Those protests were transformed from a noble and civilised phenomenon of practising freedom of expression to unfortunate clashes, mobilised and controlled by political forces that wanted to escalate and worsen the situation. They targeted the nation’s security and stability through acts of provocation theft and looting and setting fires and blocking roads and attacking vital installations and public and private properties and storming some diplomatic missions.

“We are living together painful days and the most painful thing is the fear that affected the huge majority of Egyptians and caused concern and anxiety over what tomorrow could bring them and their families and the future of their country.

“The events of the last few days require us all as a people and as a leadership to chose between chaos and stability and to set in front of us new circumstances and a new Egyptian reality which our people and armed forces must work with wisely and in the interest of Egypt and its citizens.

“Dear bothers and citizens, I took the initiative of forming a new government with new priorities and duties that respond to the demand of our youth and their mission. I entrusted the vice president with the task of holding dialogue with all the political forces and factions about all the issues that have been raised concerning political and democratic reform and the constitutional and legislative amendments required to realise these legitimate demands and to restore law and order but there are some political forces who have refused this call to dialogue, sticking to their particular agendas without concern for the current delicate circumstances of Egypt and its people.

“In light of this refusal to the call for dialogue and this is a call which remains standing, I direct my speech today directly to the people, its Muslims and Christians, old and young, peasants and workers, and all Egyptian men and women in the countryside and city over the whole country.

“I have never, ever been seeking power and the people know the difficult circumstances that I shouldered my responsibility and what I offered this country in war and peace, just as I am a man from the armed forces and it is not in my nature to betray the trust or give up my responsibilities and duties.

“My primary responsibility now is security and independence of the nation to ensure a peaceful transfer of power in circumstances that protect Egypt and the Egyptians and allow handing over responsibility to whoever the people choose in the coming presidential election.

“I say in all honesty and regardless of the current situation that I did not intend to nominate myself for a new presidential term. I have spent enough years of my life in the service of Egypt and its people.

“I am now absolutely determined to finish my work for the nation in a way that ensures handing over its safe-keeping and banner … preserving its legitimacy and respecting the constitution.

“I will work in the remaining months of my term to take the steps to ensure a peaceful transfer of power.

“According to my constitutional powers, I call on parliament in both its houses to discuss amending article 76 and 77 of the constitution concerning the conditions on running for presidency of the republic and it sets specific a period for the presidential term. In order for the current parliament in both houses to be able to discuss these constitutional amendments and the legislative amendments linked to it for laws that complement the constitution and to ensure the participation of all the political forces in these discussions, I demand parliament to adhere to the word of the judiciary and its verdicts concerning the latest cases which have been legally challenged.

“I will entrust the new government to perform in ways that will achieve the legitimate rights of the people and that its performance should express the people and their aspirations of political, social and economic reform and to allow job opportunities and combating poverty, realising social justice.

“In this context, I charge the police apparatus to carry out its duty in serving the people, protecting the citizens with integrity and honour with complete respect for their rights, freedom and dignity.

“I also demand the judicial and supervisory authorities to take immediately the necessary measures to continue pursuing outlaws and to investigate those who caused the security disarray and those who undertook acts of theft, looting and setting fires and terrorising citizens.

“This is my pledge to the people during the last remaining months of my current term:

“I ask God to help me to honour this pledge to complete my vocation to Egypt and its people in what satisfies God, the nation and its people.

“Dear citizens, Egypt will emerge from these current circumstances stronger, more confident and unified and stable. And our people will emerge with more awareness of how to achieve reconciliation and be more determined not to undermine its future and destiny.

“Hosni Mubarak who speaks to you today is proud of the long years he spent in the service of Egypt and its people. This dear nation is my country, it is the country of all Egyptians, here I have lived and fought for its sake and I defended its land, its sovereignty and interests and on this land I will die and history will judge me and others for our merits and faults.

“The nation remains. Visitors come and go but ancient Egypt will remain eternal, its banner and safekeeping will pass from one generation to the next. It is up to us to ensure this in pride and dignity.”  (*)

Mubarak says will step down, won't leave Egypt

In this image from Egyptian state television aired Tuesday evening Feb 1 2011, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak makes what has been billed as an important speech. Mubarak has faced a week of public and international pressure to step down from the role he has held for 30 years, culminating in a day when a quarter-million people turned in the largest protest yet to demand his ouster. (AP Photo/Egyptian state television via APTN)

CAIRO, Feb 02 (KATAKAMI.COM / Reuters) – Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said on Tuesday he would not leave Egypt although he would step down from the presidency at the end of his term, due to end when the country holds a presidential election in September. “The Hosni Mubarak who speaks to you today is proud of his achievements over the years in serving Egypt and its people,” he said in an address broadcast on state television.

“This is my country. This is where I lived, I fought and defended its land, sovereignty and interests, and I will die on its soil,” he said.

He also said pledged to implement a series of reforms, including calling on the judiciary to combat corruption, one of the complaints of protesters who have pushed him to announce an end to his presidency later this year.  (*)

Hosni Mubarak Says He Will Not Resign Egyptian Presidency

In this image from Egyptian state television aired Tuesday evening Feb 1 2011, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak makes what has been billed as an important speech.

Feb 02 (KATAKAMI.COM / VOA) — Announcing an end to a near 30-year reign in power, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told the nation late Tuesday that he will not run for office in September.

The recorded statement on state television came after tens of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets nationwide in a peaceful demonstration demanding that Mr. Mubarak resign.

His decision, however, is not likely to quell demands from Egyptian protesters who want to see him leave office right away.

Before the speech, demonstrators chanted demands that Mr. Mubarak leave office by week’s end.

In Cairo, several hundred thousand people poured into Tahrir Square – a focal point of the peaceful protests.


Tens of thousands of people also joined rallies in Suez, Mansoura and the northern port city of Alexandria.

Protesters in the capital carried signs saying “Bye, bye Mubarak” and chanted “Take him with you” as helicopters flew overhead.  Effigies of Mr. Mubarak hung from traffic lights.

Foreign media reports quote protest leaders as calling for Mr. Mubarak to leave by Friday.

Military forces are stationed throughout Cairo, but did not interfere with the rally crowds.  The army announced earlier it recognizes the “legitimate demands” of the Egyptian people, and pledged not to fire on protesters.

Secular, liberal opposition activist Mohamed ElBaradei told Al Arabiya television Tuesday that Mr. Mubarak should leave by Friday in order for Egyptians to start a “new phase.”

Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood and the secular opposition agreed to have ElBaradei act as a lead spokesman for the country’s opposition groups.

An unprecedented Internet cutoff remains in place in Egypt Tuesday.  But Google announced it has created a way for Twitter  users to post to the micro-blogging site by dialing a phone number and leaving a voicemail.

At least 140 people died during protest violence last week.  Mr. Mubarak on Monday replaced the widely reviled interior minister Habib Adly, who oversees the police and plainclothes domestic security forces.  (*)

Egyptian President Mubarak to speak

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak

CAIRO, Feb 02 (KATAKAMI / AP)  – President Hosni Mubarak will make an “important speech” at the end of a day when a quarter-million people turned out Tuesday in the largest protest yet to demand his ouster. A visiting envoy of President Barack Obama told Mubarak that his ally the United States sees his presidency at an end, an administration official said.

Protesters in Cairo’s main Tahrir Square sat by the thousands on the ground in front of a giant TV hung up between lampposts, waiting for Mubarak’s late-night address. “Oh God, Oh God, let tonight be his night,” many chanted. The throngs who have been protesting day after day say they will accept nothing short of Mubarak’s immediate departure.

Obama’s message was delivered to Mubarak by Frank Wisner, a respected former U.S. ambassador to Egypt who is a friend of the Egyptian president, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the ongoing diplomacy. Wisner made clear that it was the U.S “view that his tenure as president is coming to close,” he said.

Tuesday’s address, which state TV announced was imminent Tuesday evening, will be Mubarak’s second since the biggest challenge to his nearly 30-year-rule began eight days ago. In the first, early Saturday, he named a vice-president for the first time, sacked his Cabinet and promised reforms.

The gesture landed with a thud, rejected by protesters and the United States as insufficient. It seemed to only fuel the determination of the protesters.

More than a quarter-million people flooded Cairo’s main square Tuesday in a jubilant array of young and old, urban poor and middle class professionals, mounting by far the largest protest yet in a week of unrelenting demands for Mubarak to leave.

The crowds — determined but peaceful — filled Tahrir, or Liberation, Square and spilled into nearby streets, among them people defying a government transportation shutdown to make their way from rural provinces. Protesters jammed in shoulder-to-shoulder, with schoolteachers, farmers, unemployed university graduates, women in conservative headscarves and women in high heels, men in suits and working-class men in scuffed shoes.

They sang nationalist songs, danced, beat drums and chanted the anti-Mubarak slogan “Leave! Leave! Leave!” as military helicopters buzzed overhead. Organizers said the aim was to intensify marches to get the president out of power by Friday, and similar demonstrations erupted in at least five other cities around Egypt.

Soldiers at checkpoints set up at the entrances of the square did nothing to stop the crowds from entering. The military promised on state TV Monday night that it would not fire on protesters answering a call for a million to demonstrate, a sign that army support for Mubarak may be unraveling.

“This is the end for him. It’s time,” said Musab Galal, a 23-year-old unemployed university graduate who came by minibus with his friends from the Nile Delta city of Menoufiya, 40 miles north of Cairo.

Mubarak, 82, would be the second Arab leader pushed from office by a popular uprising in the history of the modern Middle East, following the ouster last month of the president of Tunisia — another North African nation.

The U.S. ambassador in Cairo, Margaret Scobey, spoke by telephone Tuesday with Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, one of the most prominent leaders of the opposition, the embassy said. The pro-democracy advocate has taken a key role with other opposition groups in formulating the movement’s demands for Mubarak to step down and allow a transitional government paving the way for free elections. There was no immediate word on what they discussed.

The movement to drive Mubarak out has been built on the work of online activists and fueled by deep frustration with an autocratic regime blamed for ignoring the needs of the poor and allowing corruption and official abuse to run rampant. After years of tight state control, protesters emboldened by the Tunisia unrest took to the streets on Jan. 25 and mounted a once-unimaginable series of protests across this nation of 80 million.

The repercussions were being felt around the Mideast, as other authoritarian governments fearing popular discontent pre-emptively tried to burnish their democratic image.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II fired his government Tuesday in the face of smaller street protests, named an ex-prime minister to form a new Cabinet and ordered him to launch political reforms. The Palestinian Cabinet in the West Bank said it would hold long-promised municipal elections “as soon as possible.”

With Mubarak’s hold on power weakening, the world was forced to plan for the end of a regime that has maintained three decades of peace with Israel and a bulwark against Islamic militants. But under the stability was a barely hidden crumbling of society, mounting criticism of the regime’s human rights record and a widening gap between rich and poor, with 40 percent of the population living under or just above the poverty line set by the World Bank at $2 a day.

In an interview with Al-Arabiya television, ElBaradei rejected an offer late Monday by Vice President Omar Suleiman for a dialogue on enacting constitutional reforms. He said there could be no negotiations until Mubarak leaves.

Mostafa al-Naggar, a protest organizer and an ElBaradei supporter, said the newly installed government contacted him before dawn to ask him to bring other youth representatives for a dialogue with the government.

Al-Naggar said he declined the invitation, refusing any dialogue until Mubarak steps down. “This Cabinet is illegitimate. If there is any dialogue, it will be with the only institution we are proud of, which is the military,” he said.

State TV on Tuesday ran a statement by the new prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, pleading with the public to “give a chance” to his government. Small pro-Mubarak protests popped up in some parts of central Cairo on Tuesday, covered heavily on state TV. They gathered carrying Egyptian flags and Mubarak posters, calling for an end of the Tahrir Square gathering.

The United States ordered non-essential U.S. government personnel and their families to leave Egypt. They join a wave of people rushing to flee the country — over 18,000 overwhelmed Cairo’s international airport and threw it into chaos. EgyptAir staff scuffled with frantic passengers, food supplies were dwindling and some policemen even demanded substantial bribes before allowing foreigners to board their planes.

Normally bustling, Cairo’s streets outside Tahrir Square had a fraction of their normal weekday traffic. Banks, schools and the stock market in Cairo were closed for the third working day, making cash tight. Bread prices spiraled. An unprecedented shutdown of the Internet was in its fifth day.

The official death toll from the crisis stood at 97, with thousands injured, though reports from witnesses across the country indicated the actual toll was far higher.

But perhaps most startling was how peaceful the protests have been in recent days, after the military replaced the police around Tahrir Square and made no move to try to suppress the demonstrations. No clashes between the military and protesters have been reported since Friday night, after pitched street battles with the police throughout the day Friday.

Egypt’s military leadership has reassured the U.S. that they do not intend to crack down on demonstrators, but instead they are allowing the protesters to “wear themselves out,” according to a former U.S. official in contact with several top Egyptian army officers. The Egyptians use a colloquial saying to describe their strategy: A boiling pot with a tight lid will blow up the kitchen, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Troops alongside Soviet-era and newer U.S.-made Abrams tanks stood guard at roads leading into Tahrir Square, a plaza overlooked by the headquarters of the Arab League, the campus of the American University in Cairo, the famed Egyptian Museum and the Mugammma, an enormous building housing departments of the notoriously corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy.

Protester volunteers wearing tags reading “the People’s Security” circulated through the crowds in the square, saying they were watching for government infiltrators who might try to instigate violence. Organizers said the protest would remain in the square and not attempt to march to the presidential palace to avoid frictions with the military.

Two effigies of Mubarak dangled from traffic lights. On their chests was written: “We want to put the murderous president on trial.”

Their faces were scrawled with the Star of David, an allusion to many protesters’ feeling that Mubarak is a friend of Israel, still seen by most Egyptians as their country’s archenemy more than 30 years after the two nations signed a peace treaty.

Every protester had their own story of why they came — with a shared theme of frustration with a life pinned in by corruption, low wages, crushed opportunities and abuse by authorities.

Sahar Ahmad, a 41-year-old school teacher and mother of one, said she has taught for 22 years and still only makes about $70 a month.

“There are 120 students in my classroom. That’s more than any teacher can handle,” said Ahmad. “Change would mean a better education system I can teach in and one that guarantees my students a good life after school. If there is democracy in my country, then I can ask for democracy in my own home.”

Tamer Adly, a driver of one of the thousands of minibuses that ferry commuters around Cairo, said he was sick of the daily humiliation he felt from police who demand free rides and send him on petty errands, reflecting the widespread public anger at police high-handedness.

“They would force me to share my breakfast with them … force me to go fetch them a newspaper. This country should not just be about one person,” the 30-year-old lamented, referring to Mubarak.

Among the older protesters, there was also a sense of amazement after three decades of unquestioned control by Mubarak’s security forces over the streets.

“We could never say no to Mubarak when we were young, but our young people today proved that they can say no, and I’m here to support them,” said Yusra Mahmoud, a 46-year-old school principal who said she had been sleeping in the square alongside other protesters for the past two nights.

Tens of thousands rallied in the cities of Alexandria, Suez and Mansoura, north of Cairo, as well as in the southern province of Assiut and the southern city of Luxor.

Authorities shut down all roads and public transportation to Cairo and in and out of other main cities, security officials said. Train services nationwide were suspended for a second day and all bus services between cities were halted.

Still, many from the provinces managed to make it to the square. Hamada Massoud, a 32-year-old a lawyer, said he and 50 others came in cars and minibuses from the impoverished province of Beni Sweif south of Cairo.

“Cairo today is all of Egypt,” he said. “I want my son to have a better life and not suffer as much as I did … I want to feel like I chose my president.”

The various protesters have little in common beyond the demand that Mubarak go.

A range of groups are involved, with sometimes conflicting agendas — including students, online activists, grass-roots organizers, old-school opposition politicians and the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.

Perhaps the most significant tensions among them are between young secular activists and the Muslim Brotherhood, which wants to form a state governed by Islamic law. The more secular are deeply suspicious the Brotherhood aims to co-opt what they contend is a spontaneous, popular movement. American officials have suggested they have similar fears.  (*)

Israel signals new fears about Egypt's future

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

JERUSALEM, Feb 01 (KATAKAMI.COM / Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced understanding for pro-democracy protests in Egypt for the first time on Tuesday, but reiterated Israel’s fear they could put a radical Islamist regime in power.

Netanyahu “encourages the advancement of free and democratic values in the Middle East,” a statement said, adding that as in a 1979 Islamist revolt in Iran, toppling pro-Western President Hosni Mubarak may also prove “a blow to peace and democracy.”

The statement was issued as Israeli experts increasingly saw Mubarak’s regime, a longtime ally of Israel, as threatened by the weeklong wave of protests sweeping Egypt, and the anti-Israel Muslim Brotherhood as a possible ruling alternative.

Netanyahu said in consultations held on Monday it was “in Israel’s interests to preserve the peace with Egypt,” the statement issued later by his office said, referring to a treaty signed in 1979, Israel’s first with an Arab state.

“Israel believes that the global community must demand that any Egyptian government preserve the peace treaty with Israel,” the statement added.

Some Israeli analysts envisaged a possibility of Mubarak surviving in power at least through an election held later this year, unless the Egyptian military brass still seen as faithful changed its allegiance as a result of the continuing unrest.

“He is fighting for his political survival and the chances don’t look good,” said Moshe Maoz, a veteran expert on Middle Eastern affairs and of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Maoz saw top military officers possibly sticking by Mubarak or a handpicked successor, at least through an election later this year, to avoid a rise to power by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which many Israelis see as Egypt’s best organized opposition force.  (*)

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