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Cairo protesters demand more reforms from army


People cheer as they head to Cairo's Tahrir Square to join other Egyptians in cleaning the square. Photo: Reuters

People cheer as they head to Cairo's Tahrir Square to join other Egyptians in cleaning the square. Photo: Reuters

People cheer as they head to Cairo's Tahrir Square to join other Egyptians in cleaning the square. Photo: Reuters

PRO-DEMOCRACY activists in Cairo's Tahrir Square vowed yesterday to stay there until a military council that is now running Egypt accepts their agenda for reform.

As the nation celebrated President Hosni Mubarak's departure, hundreds of workers from state companies have continued to protest in Cairo and Nile Delta towns, demanding better working conditions and higher pay.

In two communiques issued this weekend, a core group of protesters in Cairo demanded the lifting of a state of emergency that was used by Mubarak to crush dissent.

Another body, called the Revolution Youth Union, gathered 14,000 members in four hours and called for similar reforms.

The first group of reformists want a transitional five-member presidential council made up of four civilians and one military person.

Their communique calls for the formation of a transitional government to prepare for an election to take place within nine months and of a body to draft a new democratic constitution.

It demands freedom for the media and syndicates -- which represent groups such as lawyers, doctors and engineers -- and for the formation of political parties. Military and emergency courts must be scrapped, it says.

Journalists from the official news agency MENA have protested in Cairo and Alexandria against what they describe as the agency's "shameful" coverage of the protests.

In a statement signed by around 30 of an estimated 400 journalists at the agency, they accused MENA of "faking the revolution of the Egyptian people... (and) making it lose its professional credibility".

Some protest organisers said they were forming a council in order to defend the revolution and negotiate with the military.

Egypt's new military rulers said yesterday that the existing cabinet would stay until a new one was formed and the country would respect its international treaties. They did not comment on demands for the dissolution of parliament or constitutional reform.

"The absence of a clear comment on dissolving parliament and constitutional reform, which are two key demands of the revolution, is very worrying," said Abdullah Helmy of the Revolution Youth Union.

"They have said the protesters are a body without a head, but by forming this union and other similar initiatives, we are showing everyone that we can be organised."

The ruling military pledged yesterday that it would eventually hand power over to an elected civilian government and reassured the country's international allies that Egypt would abide by its peace treaty with Israel.

The statement followed the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak, as the army outlined the first cautious steps in a promised transition to greater democracy.

The army's spokesman, General Mohsen el-Fangari, appeared on state TV in front of a row of Egyptian military and national flags and read the council's statement, which proclaimed respect for the rule of law.

This may be a sign that the military aims to avoid the imposition of martial law.

The military, he said, was "looking forward to a peaceful transition, for a free democratic system, to permit an elected civil authority to be in charge of the country, to build a democratic free nation".

The military underlined Egypt's "commitment to all its international treaties."

Israel has been deeply concerned that Egypt's turmoil could threaten the 1979 peace accord between the two countries. The US is also eager to ensure that the accord remains in place.

The military strongly supports the accord, not least because it guarantees US aid for the armed forces, currently running at $1.3bn a year.

Sunday Independent