Egypt turmoil continues as government patience wears thin

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

CAIRO/WASHINGTON/UNITED NATIONS - Protests at Cairo’s Tahrir Square entered the 16th day Wednesday, a day after many first timers took part in a massive demonstration to oust Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, with the government warning that it could not “put up with continued protests” for a long time.

Thousands of Egyptians camped through the night out at Tahrir Square, the focal point of their protests that have spread across the country.

Protesters are now hoping for another “one million-strong rally” Friday in Tahrir Square, and more demonstrations nationwide, as a way to show their rejection for the government’s overture and promises of reform, DPA reported.

The protesters were upbeat after Tuesday’s rally that saw hundreds of thousands of Egyptians, many of them first timers, participating in it to press for the ouster of Mubarak who has ruled the country for nearly 30 years.

Mubarak has said he is ready to step down at the end of his term in September, but not now. He has also warned of chaos if he leaves now.

Mubarak’s defiance has made the protesters more determined and the drop in numbers of demonstrators over the past couple of days was more than made up in Tuesday’s rally.

Newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman said Tuesday that his government “can’t put up with continued protests” for a long time.

In a sharply worded statement reflecting the regime’s impatience with the mass demonstrations, he said the crisis must end as soon as possible, reported Al Jazeera.

Suleiman said there will be “no ending of the regime” and no immediate departure for Mubarak.

Suleiman reportedly said that the regime wants dialogue and doesn’t “want to deal with Egyptian society with police tools”.

As Egypt continued to be roiled in turmoil, the US criticised the embattled Cairo regime, calling comments by Suleiman that Egypt is not ready for democracy “particularly unhelpful”.

“Suleiman made some particularly unhelpful comments about Egypt not being ready for democracy,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Tuesday, reflecting a growing US dissatisfaction over the slow pace of reforms demanded by protestors.

“I don’t think that in any way squares with what those seeking greater opportunity and freedom think is a timetable for progress,” he said.

Gibbs also took exception to another remark of Suleiman, the intelligence officer chosen by Mubarak as his deputy to bring about reforms, that foreign elements, including Islamists, are behind or motivating the protesters in Egypt.

“I think the rhetoric that we see coming out now that simply says that somehow what you see on TV has been drummed up by foreigners is at great odds with what we know is actually happening,” Gibbs said.

“The government has got to stop arresting protesters and journalists, harassment, beatings, detentions of reporters, of activists, of those involved in civil society,” he said.

International pressure was again built up with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calling for “an orderly and peaceful transition” in crisis-torn Egypt.

He has also expressed the hope that “genuine dialogue between the leaders and the people will lead to the beginning of such a process”.

“An orderly and peaceful transition is crucial,” he said.

“I hope that genuine dialogue between the leaders and the people will lead to the beginning of such a process.”

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