British Foreign Secretary William Hague : "We are on the side of a stable democratic future for Egypt"

British Foreign Secretary William Hague

In an interview on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 on Sunday 6 February, Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke about the current situation in Egypt.

Feb 7 (KATAKAMI.COM / FCO.GOV.UK) —- Full transcript :


Andrew Marr: Well I am joined now by the Foreign Secretary William Hague. Welcome Mr Hague.
William Hague (Foreign Secretary): Thank you.

AM: Do you think that President Mubarak should go now?

WH: I don’t think that is for us in another country to say, we have the right to say a couple of things very clearly but I don’t think we have the right to choose Egypt’s President. I think where there is actual repression and where there has been abuse of the internet, trying to take over mobile phone networks, trying to drop concrete blocks on to protestors, there we are allowed to protest. Egypt is an independent country as the Minister there was just saying, but those things we are allowed to protest about anywhere in the world and it is a huge mistake by the authorities in Egypt to indulge in any of that sort of behaviour.

We’re also allowed to say that it’s in our interest to have a stable and democratic future for Egypt and we want Egyptians with different views to be able to sort out their views in a stable democratic way. It’s not our role to say the President must go on a particular day or this individual must be included in the Egyptian Cabinet, so I think we have to keep up the pressure for that orderly transition we’ve called for to visibly take place for people, the real visible and comprehensive change that will bring people together in Egypt.

AM: So what do you mean by transition?

WH: Well clearly there’s going to be a change in Egypt. The President has said he is, there is this huge pent up demand that we’ve seen that released on to the streets for political change and I think for economic change and improvement for the mass of the people in Egypt as well. Now that means getting to that point successfully, peacefully without violence or more disorder or more authoritarian Government, it means some mixture of a Government now in Egypt that is more broadly based, a review of the …

AM: …the Americans for instance are talking about a three headed provisional Government to take over …

WH: Again I don’t think it is for us in other countries the United States or Britain, to lay down the detail …we can’t lay down or enforce the details. Egypt is a sovereign nation. But what does an orderly transition look like, it looks like some mixture of a more broadly based Government that includes people from outside the ruling elite of recent years, an ability to change their constitution so that people can have confidence in a free and fair electoral process that doesn’t necessarily rely on the Parliament of today changing the constitution. It is eighty four per cent dominated by the ruling party.

AM: So …

WH: A clear timetable for elections and change which …

AM: Which could, which could leave Mubarak there until September, that would be all right.

WH: Again, you’re inviting me to arbitrate on when the President should be there…

AM: You see I mean people will say basically are you on the side of the people who are protesting or are you on the side of the Government.  That’s what people are asking.

WH: And we are on the side of a stable democratic future for Egypt. We’re not an Egyptian political party.  We are a country and so the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, we’re all in the same position on this, we want to see those sorts of changes so that Egypt doesn’t fall in to extremism or greater violence or more authoritarian Government.  But we cannot arbitrate on the daily events of that.

AM: So it’s, it’s not like, people have compared it to Eastern Europe when, when the wall was coming down and Governments in the West were able to jump up and down say this is great, we approve of this.  But you are not going to do that in the case of Egypt.

WH: Well it is a form of that because I think what we can say and should say is this is a time of opportunity in the Middle East. There are some important dangers as well and one of those of course is that the Middle East Peace Process becomes now a, a more uncertain matter. But it is, but it is a time of opportunity.

AM: Let me just ask you specifically about that, let me ask you about the peace process because that’s sort of to one side of all of this but it’s hugely connected to what happens to Egypt.

WH: It is huge and, and that is one of our central concerns in foreign policy that the Middle East Peace Process has in any case lost a lot of momentum in recent months …

AM: It’s stuck at the moment isn’t it?

WH: … we’ve been hugely disappointed by the failure of Israel to extend its settlement freeze.  It’s necessary for Israelis and Palestinians to make the compromises that, that are required to get the direct talks back on track.  It’s really necessary for the United States to continue to give strong leadership to the Middle East Peace Process supported by European countries at the same time.  That is an alarm, this comes together as a very alarming development if over the next few months the Middle East Peace Process runs in to the sand.  So I would urge Israelis, Palestinians and the US administration to redouble their efforts to get this back on track.  That, that what’s happening in Egypt shouldn’t be a distraction from the Middle East Peace Process, it underlines the urgency of carrying that forward.

AM: And is this therefore a very dangerous moment for the region?

WH: Well yes for that reason above all it is a dangerous moment, but here we’re coming back to your earlier question about we celebrated the fall of communism…

AM: Well I was going to ask you about the Muslim…

WH: … there is nevertheless of course in, in societies becoming freer and in political space opening up there is the prospect actually of a more stable future for many countries of the Middle East, but they need to be able to develop civil society, political parties, greater freedom of expression. The problem in Egypt is that those things haven’t been developed in recent years and so now they haven’t got an opposition, they haven’t got a strong democratic secular opposition to talk to, to come to an agreement about the future.

AM: To put it, to put it very bluntly, people have said in the past Mubarak may be a bastard, but he’s our bastard and there is a danger when he goes that the Muslim Brotherhood, this very, very long established radical Islamist movement in Egypt will take over. Is that really what underpins your caution?

WH: Well there is a danger of that and that is why it’s not so important when elections happen in Egypt as those elections happening at a time when the great variety of views that you can, that we’ve seen on the streets of Egypt can be properly expressed through political parties. Because if an election was held in Egypt today because they haven’t got the strong opposition democratic parties developed in order to play a real part in that.  So it, it’s the process of change over the coming months that matters more than the precise date of change and elections and that is also part of my answer to your question about, you know, should Mubarak go today, tomorrow or whenever, but it’s the process now that really matters.

AM: What about the Americans though because we’ve had rather astonishing newspaper front pages this morning.  We’ve got an American envoy saying definitely Mubarak is going to stay and should stay until September to manage the transition. And then we’ve had another message through the State Department saying no, no, no that’s not our position, we are talking to Mubarak’s number two and we’re talking about a transition before that.  Have you spoken to Hillary Clinton…

WH: Yes.

AM:  … do you understand, well can you explain to us what they’re up to?

WH:  Yes, yes I was talking to Hillary Clinton and the Prime Minister spoke to President Obama last night. They are in the same position as us, respecting the fact that Egypt is a sovereign country, but saying both in our public comments and in all our private discussions with Egyptian leaders that you are going to have to do more than you’ve done so far realistically looking at it from the outside in order to draw people in Egypt together. And, and we cannot …

AM:  … it’s not the case from your point of view, or from the Americans’ point of view that Mubarak should stay until September to oversee an orderly transition. That’s not the case.

WH: Well we’re not saying he should stay until September, nor are we saying he should resign today.  We’re saying we don’t decide who the President of Egypt is on any given day, but we can make the case for people to show, for the leaders in Egypt now to show that there’s an irrevocable change taking place. You know the reason why the demonstrators in the square in Cairo say Mubarak must go today is they want a sign of irrevocable change…

AM: Yes.

WH: …they want to know it’s not a con.

AM: Not unreasonably.

WH: That there is really something going to happen.

AM: Yeah, exactly.

WH: And, and it is vitally important for those, for the authorities in Egypt to show something is really going to happen through …

AM: But you’re not encouraging him to go.

WH: …so, well we’re saying through some combination of all the possible things that you could do to invite opposition figures in to Government, to review the constitution in a new way. Yes possibly to set up a new co presidency. There are all these options, you in Egypt decide which of those you are going to (indistinct) but you are going to have to do several of those things if you are going to show Egyptians and the world that their legitimate grievances will be responded to and, by the way, while you’re doing that avoid repression, harassment of journalists, abuse of the internet because these things are hugely damaging to Egypt and the wider world and they are wrong in principle. So that is the message of, of Western nations to Egypt and I think to go further than that is to interfere in the sovereign matters of Egypt, to not say as much as that would be not doing our duty to the people there and to our own national interests.

AM: There have been criticisms that the Foreign Office hasn’t been fast enough on its feet when it comes to British tourists in Egypt trying to get home.

WH: Well we’ve been very fast on our feet. We’ve had much greater presence at Cairo Airport than other countries.  As far as I’m aware everybody who has wanted to leave has been able to leave, we’ve chartered two special flights for that. So I’m not getting much criticism from the ground in Egypt. We haven’t changed the travel advice for the Red Sea resorts like Sharm el Sheikh because the situation on the ground there hasn’t changed.  So actually I would like to congratulate our Ambassador and the staff in Cairo who’ve dealt with a very difficult situation extremely well and assisted thousands of people successfully to leave the country.  (*)

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Hosni Mubarak Meets Economic Team as Protests Enter Day 12

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)

 

Feb 5 (KATAKAMI.COM / VOA) — Thousands of demonstrators are in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for a 12th day of protests against Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

Early Saturday, gunfire rang out in the packed square, but there were no reports of casualties.

Egyptian state media report Mr. Mubarak met Saturday with his economic team, including several members of his new Cabinet, to discuss the crisis, which is costing the country an estimated $310 million a day.

On Friday, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters crammed into Tahrir Square for what they called the “day of departure” for Mr. Mubarak, who has vowed to finish his term in office.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa joined the demonstrators in the square Friday.  The long-time Egyptian political figure has said he may consider running for president.  Egyptian Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi also visited the square Friday.  

Also Friday, there were reports of clashes and shots fired into the air as military forces prevented a group of Mubarak supporters from entering Tahrir Square.  Those demonstrators rallied elsewhere in Cairo for what they called a “Day of Loyalty.”

Thousands of anti-government protesters also massed in Alexandria Friday for peaceful rallies.  A VOA correspondent says one group of anti-Mubarak demonstrators gathered in the central part of town Friday while a second group rallied at a mosque.  Thousands of people also rallied in Suez, Ismailia and other cities.

On Wednesday, a violent clash erupted in Tahrir Square between government opponents and supporters.

President Mubarak said earlier this week that he will not seek reelection when his term ends.  In a Thursday interview with the U.S. broadcaster ABC,  he said he would like to leave office now, but fears Egypt would sink deeper into chaos if he did.   

Mr. Mubarak blamed the Muslim Brotherhood – Egypt’s largest and best organized opposition group – for the violence in the capital over the past few days.  Protesters say Mr. Mubarak’s supporters sparked the violence by attacking anti-government demonstrators on Wednesday.

An Egyptian journalist died Friday from gunshot wounds suffered a week ago.  Ahmed Mohammed Mahmoud was taking photographs of fighting between protesters and security forces from the balcony of his home when he was shot.  He is the first journalist to die in the crisis.

At least eight people have died and nearly 900 have been injured in the most recent two days of fighting around Tahrir Square.  (*)

 

 

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

Dmitry Medvedev had a telephone conversation with Hosni Mubarak

FILE : Dmitry Medvedev and Hosni Mubarak at a joint news conference on the results of bilateral talks ( June 25, 2009 )

Feb 3 (KATAKAMI.COM) — The Russian President expressed his wish and hope that the current difficult period in the life of the friendly Egypt will soon be resolved through a peaceful and legal settlement of existing problems.

The Russian leader noted the importance of guaranteeing the security of the Russian Embassy in Cairo and the Russian citizens who are currently in Egypt, and expressed his gratitude for the measures that have already been taken by the Egyptian leadership in this regard.  (*)

Source : KREMLIN.RU

Hosni Mubarak says he won't quit early

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 4 (KATAKAMI.COM / Reuters) – President Hosni Mubarak ruled out resigning immediately to end a violent confrontation over his 30-year-rule, arguing this would bring chaos to Egypt, but the New York Times said the Obama administration was in talks with Egyptian officials for him to quit now.

Speaking in an interview with ABC Thursday, after bloodshed in Cairo that killed 10 people, the 82-year-old leader said he believed his country still needed him.

“If I resign today, there will be chaos,” he said. Asked to comment on calls for him to resign, he said: “I don’t care what people say about me. Right now I care about my country.”

The New York Times said Friday the administration of President Barack Obama was discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for Mubarak to resign immediately.

Under the proposal, Mubarak would turn power over to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military, the newspaper said, citing administration officials and Arab diplomats.

Facing an unprecedented challenge to his rule from Egyptians angered by political repression, Mubarak has promised to stand down in September, appointed his intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as vice-president, and offered talks on reforms.

But that has failed to satisfy protesters who are hoping to rally thousands of Egyptians Friday for a fresh demonstration to try to force Mubarak to quit now.

With the confrontation turning increasingly violent — protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square were attacked by Mubarak supporters Wednesday — the United States has increased pressure on Mubarak to begin the transition of power now.

Protesters in Tahrir (Liberation) Square — which has become the hub of pro-democracy demonstrations — were hoping to be joined by thousands more for a big demonstration they are calling the “Friday of Departure.”

Organizers called on people to march from wherever they were toward the square, the state television building and the parliament building — all within around a mile of one another in the heart of the city.

The U.S. State Department said it expected confrontation in what would be the 11th day of protests.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Washington believed elements close to the government or Mubarak’s ruling party were responsible for the violence which erupted on Wednesday. The Interior Ministry has denied it ordered its agents or officers to attack anti-Mubarak protesters.

GOVERNMENT OFFERS TALKS

In a move to try to calm the disorder, Vice President Omar Suleiman said Thursday the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most organized opposition movement, had been invited to meet with the new government as part of a national dialogue with all parties.

An offer to talk to the banned group would have been unthinkable before protests erupted on January 25, indicating progress made by the reformist movement since then. However, the opposition has refused talks until Mubarak goes.

The United States, which supplies the Egyptian army — Mubarak’s power base — with about $1.3 billion in aid annually — is struggling to find a solution to the crisis which does not exacerbate instability in the Arab world’s most populous nation.

The White House said Thursday Washington was discussing with Egyptians a “variety of different ways” of moving toward a peaceful transition in Egypt.

Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said President Barack Obama has said now is the time to begin “a peaceful, orderly and meaningful transition, with credible, inclusive negotiations.”

The New York Times said the U.S. proposal called for a transitional government to invite members from a broad range of opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, to begin work to open up the country’s electoral system in an effort to bring about free and fair elections in September.

Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, has been a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. Mubarak had also justified his use of emergency rule as needed to curb Islamist militancy in a country where al Qaeda had its ideological roots.

Mubarak described Obama as a very good man, but when asked by ABC if he felt that the United States had betrayed him, he said he told the U.S. president: “You don’t understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now.”

An estimated 150 people have died in the protests, which were inspired by events in Tunisia, where its leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was forced to flee last month.

Oil prices have climbed on fears the unrest could spread to affect oil giant Saudi Arabia or interfere with oil supplies from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal.  (*)

Quartet to meet in shadow of Cairo crisis

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Benny Begin, a member of Netanyahu's cabinet, attend a session of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem February 2, 2011. Netanyahu voiced support for pro-democracy protesters in Egypt for the first time on Tuesday but urged the international community to ensure any new regime sticks by Israel's peace treaty. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Feb 4 (KATAKAMI / JPOST) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Tony Blair ahead of upcoming meeting in Munich; tells Knesset of efforts to boost Palestinian economy.

Netanyahu met late Thursday evening with Quartet envoy Tony Blair in advance of the Quartet’s high-level meeting in Munich Saturday, to discuss a package of Israeli steps aimed at encouraging the Palestinian economy.

This was Netanyahu’s third meeting with Blair in as many weeks, and was expected to deal with various economic projects.

Netanyahu, during a speech in the Knesset on Wednesday, said that “in the next few days, I plan to take additional steps to further encourage development and prosperity among the Palestinians.”

He did not elaborate.
Government officials have said in recent days that the package being developed is not an effort to deflect expected criticism from the Quartet over the stymied diplomatic process, but an extension of Netanyahu’s policy of enhancing Israeli-Palestinian economic cooperation.

In his Knesset speech, Netanyahu said, “We have gone to great lengths to help the Palestinian economy, not as an alternative to the political peace that we want to negotiate with them, but as a contribution to stability and to help the Palestinian population understand that there is a lot to be gained from peace.”

In that speech, Netanyahu also had another message that was clearly intended for the Quartet and the international community, this one regarding the turmoil in Egypt.

“We expect any government of Egypt to honor the peace,” he said.

“Moreover, we expect the international community to expect any government of Egypt to honor the peace. This must be clear, along with the discussions about reform and democracy.”

The Quartet meeting will be held Saturday on the sidelines of the threeday Munich Conference on Security Policy, a high-level conference that brings together senior officials from around the world to discuss security challenges. The current volatility in Egypt and the Middle East will certainly be a main topic of discussion.

This will be the highestlevel Quartet meeting since September, on the eve of the expiration of the 10-month settlement freeze. In the statement issued after that meeting, the Quartet called on Israel to renew the freeze.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon are expected to attend Saturday’s meeting, along with Blair.

In a related matter, Reuters reported Thursday that the EU had agreed to waive a visa ban on new Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to attend the Munich security parley.

Salehi, an MIT-trained nuclear physicist who has been intimately involved with Iran’s nuclear program for years and is a close confidant of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is considered a hawk on the nuclear issue. It is not clear, however, if he will actually attend the meeting.

Salehi is on a list of Iranians barred from entering the EU.
Sources in Jerusalem expressed regret at the move, saying this was an opportunity for the EU to send a strong message that it stood by the integrity of its own sanctions regime.

 

(*)

Excerpt of PM Netanyahu's Speech in Knesset

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a session of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem February 2, 2011. Netanyahu voiced support for pro-democracy protesters in Egypt for the first time on Tuesday but urged the international community to ensure any new regime sticks by Israel's peace treaty. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

 

Feb 2 (KATAKAMI) — TRANSLATION :

Yesterday was a dramatic day in our region.  Millions of people poured into the streets of Egypt.  President Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for 30 years, announced that he will not run in the next Presidential elections, and will work to introduce governmental reforms in Egypt.In Washington, London, Paris, and throughout the democratic world, leaders, analysts and researchers spoke about the opportunities that change in Egypt could bring.  They spoke about the promise of a new day.

These hopes are understandable.  All those who cherish human liberty, including the people of Israel, are inspired by genuine calls for reform and by the possibility that it will take place.

It is obvious that an Egypt that fully embraces the 21st century and that adopts these reforms would be a source of great hope for the entire world, the region and for us.

In Israel, we know the value of democratic institutions and the significance of liberty.  We know the value of independent courts that protect the rights of individuals and the rule of law; we appreciate of the value of a free press, and of a parliamentary system with a coalition and an opposition.

It is clear that an Egypt that rests on these institutions, an Egypt that is anchored in democratic values, would never be a threat to peace.  On the contrary, if we have learned anything from modern history, it is that the stronger the foundations of democracy, the stronger the foundations of peace.  Peace among democracies is strong, and democracy strengthens the peace.

One possible scenario, which undoubtedly unites us all, is that these hopes for democracy and a gradual, stable reform process are realized in Egypt.

However, this is not the only possible scenario.  Because far away from Washington, Paris, London – and not so far from Jerusalem – is another capital in which there are hopes.

In this capital, there are leaders who can also see the opportunities that change in Egypt could bring.  They also support the millions who took to the streets.  They too speak about the promise of a new day.  But for the people in this capital, the promise of a new day is not in its dawn but in the darkness it can bring.

That capital is Tehran, and I assure you, that the leaders in Iran are not interested in the genuine desires of Egyptians for freedom, liberalization or reform, any more than they were interested in answering similar calls for freedom by the Iranian people, their own people, only 18 months ago.

I’ll jog your memory.  They too had demonstrations; multitudes filled the town squares.  But, of course it progressed in a different way.  I was going to say that it finished differently but I’m not sure it’s over.

The Iranian regime is not interested in seeing an Egypt that protects the rights of individuals, women, and minorities.  They are not interested in an enlightened Egypt that embraces the 21st century.  They want an Egypt that returns to the Middle Ages.

They want Egypt to become another Gaza, run by radical forces that oppose everything that the democratic world stands for.

We have two separate worlds here, two opposites, two world views: that of the free, democratic world and that of the radical world. Which one of them will prevail in Egypt?

The answer to this question is crucial to the future of Egypt, of the region and to our own future here in Israel.

Our stand is clear.  We support the forces that promote freedom, progress and peace. We oppose the forces that seek to enforce a dark despotism, terrorism and war.

Should the forces that wish to carefully reform and democratize Egypt prevail, I am convinced that such positive change would also buttress a wider Arab-Israeli peace.  But we are not there yet.

First of all, this battle has yet to be decided.  Second, it is possible that it will be a long while before one of the forces achieves victory, and we may have many years of instability.  Third, recent history shows us many cases in the Middle-East when extreme Islamist elements abused the rules of the democratic game to gain power and impose anti-democratic regimes.

It happened in Iran; it happened in Lebanon; and it happened when the Hamas took over the Gaza Strip.  Does Iran enjoy freedom?  Is there a real democracy in Gaza?  Does Hezbollah promote human rights?

We must ensure that this does not happen again.  We must do everything in our power to ensure that peace triumphs.

I want to pass on something to you, Members of Knesset, something I spoke about yesterday.  I want to clarify a point that maybe young Israelis don’t understand, but most of us, probably all of us, understand very well.

For over 30 years we have enjoyed peace on two fronts.  One is a peaceful border with Egypt, and the second – the peaceful border with Jordan.

In effect, our peaceful border with Jordan ceased to be a border of war about 40 years ago.  First we had calm, and then we had peace.  With Egypt it happened the other way around.  But on both fronts we have enjoyed peace along the borders and not merely lack of war.  We have not had to defend these borders.  And there are people here who remember what that means for us.

I see Avi Dichter here, and Shaul Mofaz, Matan Vilnai and many others.  We remember what it was like when there was no peace.  How we fought in the Suez Canal, on the banks of the Canal, inside it, and in Jordan.  We fought, all of us.  That’s over now.  It has changed the world and it has changed the State of Israel.  It changed our strategic situation.  That is why preserving the existing peace is vital for us.

We expect any government of Egypt to honor the peace.  Moreover, we expect the international community to expect any government of Egypt to honor the peace.  This must be clear, along with the discussions about reform and democracy.

We must also humbly recognize the truth – that these immense revolutions, these dramatic changes, this earthquake – none of this is about us.  It is about central questions which we will discuss some other time.

I don’t think we need to discuss all the details of this turmoil now.  But I will say one thing: we are in a turbulent situation.  In such situations we must look around with our eyes wide open.  We must identify things as they are, not as we’d like them to be.  We must not try to force reality into a preconceived pattern.  We must accept that a huge change is taking place, and while it is happening – keep a watchful eye.

The basis for our stability and our future, for preserving or extending the peace, especially during unsteady times, is by reinforcing the might of the State of Israel.  That requires security and also for us to be honest with ourselves.

To be honest with ourselves and refrain from self-flagellation on account of the problems we are surrounded with and the changes that are taking place.  It is easy to blame ourselves for these and also for the Palestinian issue, which I will discuss shortly.

Because when we blame ourselves, we feel that we are in control, that developments depend on us.  Otherwise, there are those who feel helpless when faced with these changes.

If there is no peace, or peace shatters, because of us, we can do something about it to change the way things are. If it is up to the other party or parties we have less influence over the situation.

I don’t mean that we blame ourselves.  It’s more about blaming our leadership.  As it happens, I am the leader now, but we’ve had seven prime ministers.  We have replaced seven Prime Ministers since Oslo, Camp David and Annapolis, and we continue to blame ourselves.  So is there any wonder that the world blames us too?

I said that we are willing and we want to promote the peace process with the Palestinians.  I have said that the first two components of this peace process are mutual recognition and security.  If I may quote myself from upon this platform, I have said numerous times that we need real security arrangements.  Not only because they sustain peace, but also because they ensure our security in the event that peace unravels — and in the Middle-East no one can guarantee the survival of any regime.

If I’m not mistaken, I said that only last week or two weeks ago.  I said it because a peace agreement, a piece of paper, does not guarantee that the peace will be upheld, not does it guarantee that a partner for peace will survive.  Therefore, to protect the agreement and to protect ourselves if the peace were to disappear or be breached, or if one of the sides has a change in government, we need strong, solid security arrangements.

That was and is the central issue that I discussed with President Abbas in our short conversation. Short, not because we didn’t want to talk – everybody knows that we did, the world knows that we wanted to – but because he did not want to.

We have taken great lengths to help the Palestinian economy, not as an alternative to the political peace that we want to negotiate with them, but as a contribution to stability and to help the Palestinian population understand that there is a lot to be gained from peace.

In the next few days, I plan to take additional steps to further encourage development and prosperity among the Palestinians.

I hope that President Abbas will regard the changes taking place in the region as an opportunity to sit down with us and discuss peace without preconditions, negotiations that take into account changes that will affect Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  We want to have genuine, comprehensive discussions about the right way to establish a stable and durable peace in an unstable region, peace that can weather the storms of this turbulent region.

Israelis and Palestinians have many differences between them.  But there is only one way to resolve those differences – a negotiated settlement, not through unilateral steps.

There are many skeptics out there. They say Israeli governments and their maximalist positions on concessions do not coincide with the minimalist positions of the Palestinians.  It is possible, they say, that the gap between Israel and the Palestinians may be too wide to bridge.  They might be right.

But if we do not try, we will surely not succeed.  And we cannot try until we sit down, and we cannot sit down if they do not want to.

I hope President Abbas will join me in a sincere effort to explore the possibility of a practical peace with practical security arrangements in the reality in which we find ourselves — for the sake of Israelis and Palestinians and our common future.

In this reality, Israel must fortify its might. We must maintain our security.  We must strive for a stable peace with determination, caution, responsibility, and above all, with watchful eyes that recognize reality.

(*)

Source : PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE

Egypt's prime minister apologizes and vows probe into violence

Military leaves, clashes heat up again

Cairo, Egypt, Feb 3 (KATAKAMI.COM / CNN) — Egypt’s new prime minister apologized repeatedly Thursday for the previous day’s “catastrophe” in Cairo, blaming infiltrators and a “complete disappearance” of police for the human toll.

Interior Minister Habib Adli, whose office oversees Egypt’s police forces, was among several former officials of President Hosni Mubarak’s government whose assets were frozen, state-run television said. The officials have been banned from traveling outside the country.

The travel ban will remain in effect “until national security is restored and the authorities and monitoring bodies have undergone their investigations,” Nile TV said.

Ahmed Shafiq, appointed prime minister last Saturday, pledged a thorough investigation into Wednesday’s violence in Tahrir Square, the downtown Cairo plaza where the uprising has unfolded with force.

“This group got in and some clashes happened,” he said, adding that he would look into whether the violence was part of an organized attempt to disband the opposition.

Even as he spoke, foes and supporters of Mubarak’s government continued clashing in Tahrir Square. Pro-Mubarak crowds were smaller Thursday but tension still ran high as people hurled rocks and flashbangs at each other.

The two sides faced off all through the night and earlier Thursday, heavy gunfire reverberated in central Cairo. The military maneuvered to separate the two sides but in the afternoon, in parts of the square, the soldiers were nowhere to be seen.

Scores of bandaged demonstrators remained in the square. At least five people were killed and 836 injured, including 200 within one hour Thursday morning, Egypt’s health minister said on Nile TV.

In Washington, President Barack Obama addressed the Egyptian crisis, now in its 10th day, at the National Prayer Breakfast.

“We pray that the violence in Egypt will end, and that the rights and aspirations of the Egyptian people will be realized, and that a better day will dawn over Egypt and throughout the world,” he said.

Obama’s comments came after the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain issued a statement urging a “rapid and peaceful transition” and European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton called on Mubarak to act “as quickly as possible” on that transition.

Mubarak announced last week that he would not run again in September elections. His newly appointed Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman said Mubarak’s son, Gamal — who was being groomed as his successor — will also not seek the post.

But many of the protesters are demanding an immediate end to Mubarak’s rule.

Shafiq appealed to his compatriots, especially Egypt’s youth, to show patience as the government’s leadership goes through the transitional period.

“It has great meaning not to hurt each other, hurt our reputation,” he said. “Do they want what happened in Tunisia to happen here?” Shafiq said, referring to the revolt in Tunisia that ousted the nation’s longtime strongman and served as inspiration for other nations in the region that have seen similar demonstrations.

Shafiq said he and newly-appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman were to meet with the opposition — including protesters in Tahrir Square. He said no one would be excluded from the national dialog, including the Muslim Brotherhood, an outlawed Islamist umbrella group.

But spokesman Essam El-Erian, said the Muslim Brotherhood will not participate in talks with the regime.

“We refuse to sit with him,” El-Erian said Thursday, referring to Suleiman.

Other key opposition groups have also rejected meeting invitations, including the secular liberal Wafd Party and the Al-Ghad party, led by former presidential candidate Ayman Nour.

Journalists covering the crisis have also become targets — beaten, bloodied, harassed and detained by men, most all in some way aligned with Mubarak. Numerous news outlets — including the BBC, ABC News and CNN — reported members of their staffs had been attacked, most on the streets of Cairo.

In several cases, news personnel were accused of being “foreign spies,” seized, whisked away, and often assaulted. A spokesman for the United States blasted forces in Egypt who have harassed, detained and beaten journalists.

“There is a concerted campaign to intimidate international journalists in Cairo and interfere with their reporting,” U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday on Twitter. “We condemn such actions.”
Early Thursday, sustained fire from automatic weapons, including from what sounded like a heavy machine gun, echoed around the square.

Anti-government demonstrators hunkered down behind makeshift barricades and small fires burned in the square, with some spreading to trees and walls. Chunks of concrete and Molotov cocktails flew as the crisis escalated.

In the nation’s second-largest city of Alexandria, however, some signs of normalcy could be seen Thursday as trams returned to the streets for the first time in days.

A group of fishermen said they wanted life to get back to normal and one Mubarak supporter said the protests in Cairo were humiliating.

Mubarak loyalists, who had been largely silent since the unrest began, came out in full force Wednesday — in one case wielding whips and thundering through the crowd on horses and camels.

“What you are seeing is the demonstration of the real Egyptian people who are trying to take back their country, trying to take back their street,” said businessman Khaled Ahmed, who described himself as “pro-Egyptian.”

But some observers said the pro-Mubarak push Wednesday was likely orchestrated by a regime bent on breaking up peaceful demonstrations.

“These are tactics that are well-known in Egypt,” Michele Dunne, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told CNN’s John King.

It was unclear whether confrontations were being repeated elsewhere. Other Cairo neighborhoods were calm, and rallies in Egypt’s second-largest city, Alexandria, were largely peaceful.

Cairo resident Waleed Tawfik noted that Tahrir Square is the size of a football stadium, and the events there are not representative of peaceful protests elsewhere.

“There are 29 governors in Egypt,” Tawfik said. “I don’t understand why the whole international media is focused on a geographic area around about a half-kilometer by a half-kilometer.”

He professed neutrality on Mubarak, but said the man who has ruled Egypt for three decades should be allowed to finish his term.

“I’d be worried if the president packed up and left at the request of 60,000 people,” Tawfik said. “Eighty-four million is a larger voice … (to) reconstruct the government and reshuffle ministers won’t happen over day and night.”

(*)

British PM David Cameron and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemn Egypt violence

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) greets U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he arrives at number 10 Downing Street, in London February 2, 2011.

London, Feb 2 (KATAKAMI / NUMBER 10 GOV.UK) — Prime Minister David Cameron has welcomed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to Downing Street for bilateral talks.

Speaking to journalists outside Number 10, the Prime Minister and the Secretary General condemned the violence taking place in Egypt today and urged restraint.

The PM said it would be “completely and utterly unacceptable” if the Egyptian authorities were found to be behind the violence. He called for the transition to a broader and more democratic government “to be accelerated and happen quickly”.

He said:

“These are despicable scenes that we’re seeing and they should not be repeated.  They underline the need for political reform and, frankly, for that political reform to be accelerated and to happen quickly.

“We need to see a clear road map for that political reform so that people in Egypt can have confidence that their aspirations for a more democratic future with greater rights is met, and that change needs to start happening now and the violence needs to stop.”

Mr Ban said he was “deeply concerned” about the violence and that the danger of instability across the Middle East should not be understimated. He called for all sides in the dispute to engage in an “orderly and peaceful transition”.

Clashes have taken place thoughout the day in Cairo’s Tahrir Square between anti-government protesters and apparent supporters of the incumbent President Mubarak.

Last night President Mubarak vowed to oversee a transition to a broader-based government and not to stand in September’s elections following several days of demonstrations. (*)

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.

(*)

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)

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.  (*)

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