Friday, February 18, 2011

Egypt's military says no more strikes, protests

Last Updated: Friday, February 18, 2011 | 4:17 PM ET
CBC News

Egypt's military, running the country's government since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak a week ago, said Friday it won't allow continued "illegal" strikes and protests that have disrupted the economy.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the warning also applied to the massive political protests centred on Cairo's Tahrir Square.

A statement issued through the state news agency MENA said the military will "confront" unrest with "legal steps." Labour strikes have spread across Egypt since Mubarak's final days.

The military, which mostly refrained from confronting protesters as Mubarak's 30-year reign came to an end, appeared to be taking a harder stand aimed at getting the country's economy back in business, but the statement raises the possibility of confrontations.

Protesters held a massive new rally in Cairo earlier Friday, demanding the military listen to its calls for reform, and organizers said they will hold similar rallies weekly.

Pro-democracy leaders held a victory march to celebrate the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak's nearly 30-year rule one week ago.
Pro-democracy supporters pray next to a tank during Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo.Pro-democracy supporters pray next to a tank during Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)

Thousands of people gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square for a day of prayer and celebration, even though a main access road was blocked by an army jeep and a barricade. Those entering on foot had to present identification to soldiers.

The atmosphere was festive, as organizers hoped it would be, maintaining the upbeat spirit of the earlier protests. Some vendors in the square were selling vuvuzelas, the buzzing horns that became popular at last summer's World Cup in South Africa.

Organizers said they wanted to keep people focused on the new regime amid concerns that the military rulers won't follow through on promised democratic reforms. Demonstrators said the revolution is still a work in progress.
Mideast aftershocks

Mubarak's departure last week set off a chain reaction around the Middle East, with anti-government demonstrations reported in Libya,Bahrain,Yemen,Jordan and Iran.

"Several people told me that Mubarak leaving was only just the beginning, that they would keep up the pressure to ensure that the more than 300 people who lost their lives in the revolution did not die in vain," CBC's Nahlah Ayed reported from Cairo.

In one area of the square, a monument was erected to those killed in the 18-day uprising. The country's Health Ministry has said at least 365 civilians died.

Influential Egyptian cleric Sheik Youssef el-Qaradawi led the crowd in prayers, hailing the uprising and saying "the illegitimate can never defeat the truth."

"I congratulate the youth," he said. "They knew that the revolution will win in the end."
SOCIAL MEDIA:

Egyptians celebrate in Tahrir Square

"The revolution is not over, until we have a new Egypt," he added.

A small number of loyalists of Mubarak held their own march in a Cairo suburb. Supporters of the ousted president set up a Facebook page calling for a competing "rally in gratitude for President Hosni Mubarak."

Egypt's pro-democracy movement has spread to Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan and Iran, all of which have seen security forces or government supporters use force to try to disperse protesters.

Four pro-reform protesters were killed and more than 200 were injured by Bahrain's riot police on Thursday. Three of them were buried on Friday and several thousand people came to honour them in Sitra, south of the capital, Manama.

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