Muslim Brotherhood and army join forces in Egypt
A popular challenge against Egypt's generals faltered last night as the military leadership and the Muslim Brotherhood joined forces to dismiss pro-democracy protesters as the tools of a foreign conspiracy to weaken the country.
Emboldened by the failure of activists to stage a major show of force in Cairo's Tahrir Square yesterday, the army refused to yield to protester demands for a delay to parliamentary elections, insisting that they would go ahead as planned later today.
For nine days, the activists behind the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in February have tried to recreate the spirit of revolution that emanated from Cairo square so tumultuously at the start of the year.
After more than 40 deaths last week, the protesters forced the military council into promising to expedite the transition to civilian rule. But by yesterday, their ability to exert pressure on the generals appeared to have faded.
Activists put out a call for a third "million-man march" to demand the immediate departure of the military council and a postponement of an election they claimed was designed to entrench army rule.
But few responded and the number in the square was fewer than it had been since the early stages of the protests.
Sensing a shift in the public mood, the generals hardened their rhetoric.
"We will not allow troublemakers to meddle in the elections," said Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the leader of Egypt's military council.
"None of this would have happened if there were no foreign hands."
The Muslim Brotherhood now looks poised to emerge as the largest party in parliament when the election season ends in three months.
Christian Copts fear that recent attacks on their number by both the Islamists and the armed forces will become the norm.
Yesterday, Mohammed Badie, the Brotherhood's leader, joined the military in dismissing the protesters in Tahrir Square as agents of the West.
Meanwhile, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's president, has pardoned those who "committed errors during the crisis" that has rocked the country since January, despite having transferred his powers to his deputy.
Mohammed Basindawa, opposition leader, was asked to form a new government to rule until Mr Saleh's departure, set for February. (© Daily Telegraph, London)