| 3.5°C Dublin

Egyptian man sets himself alight in protest against rule by dictatorship

An Egyptian restaurant owner set himself alight in front of the parliament building in Cairo on Monday as protests against rule by dictatorship spread across the Arab world.

The man, identified locally as Abdo Abdelmoneim, who owned a restaurant in the town of Qantara, poured fuel over himself before striking a light. He shouted protests against the state security apparatus as he did so.

The incident was followed by a Mauritanian setting himself alight in Nouakchott. Yavoub Ould Dahoud, 42, stopped his car in front of the Senate, which is several feet from the presidency in the capital Nouakchott, before setting himself on fire.

Four Algerian men have also set themselves alight in the last week, all apparently inspired by the incident which set off the protests that culminated in the overthrow of Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali, Tunisia's President, on Friday.

Those protests began after Mohamed Bouazizi, a young unemployed graduate, immolated himself in a town in central Tunisia on December 17. His fruit and vegetable stall, his only means of earning a living, had been confiscated for not having a licence. Mr Bouazizi died on January 5.

Police standing near Mr Abdelmoneim put out the flames with fire extinguishers and he was taken to hospital, where his condition was not immediately made public.

He was said to have been complaining that he was unable to get bread coupons for his restaurant – Egypt has a system of flour subsidies in place in an attempt to combat widespread poverty.

The Egyptian government showed on Sunday how concerned it was at the potential for unrest to spread from Tunisia across North Africa by attacking outside interference in the Arab world's politics.

Ahmed Abul Gheit, the foreign minister, urged an forthcoming Arab League summit to condemn "attempts by some Western and European nations to interfere in Egyptian and Arab affairs."

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, had warned Arab leaders last week to reform or be overthrown in the wake of protests in Tunisia. But Mr Gheit's words reflect a dilemma common to both the United States and the regimes it supports across the region.

Reforms such as those demanded by Mrs Clinton risk allowing regimes to be swept aside by more radical, Islamist and potentially anti-western forces.

The Muslim Brotherhood is the most popular opposition party in Egypt and in a number of other western-backed countries.

Rising food prices have been the main spark for protests in Algeria, but many Arab countries suffer from similar problems of high youth unemployment and political repression.