Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cairo Braces for Mammoth March As Israel Defends Mubarak

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Agencies

CAIRO, Feb 1: Tens of thousands of protesters are currently gathered in central Cairo for the seventh day, calling for a general strike and demanding President Hosni Mubarak to step down. They are expected to march to the presidential palace later today.

The crowd gathered in Tahrir Square and several other key locations despite heavy military presence in Cairo. Protesters have also called for a general strike on Monday.

While President Mubarak has promised economic and political reforms, protesters remain defiant and say they will not give up until Mubarak steps down.

At least 150 people have lost their lives and thousands more have sustained injuries over the past week.

A protester was killed in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Monday after a bullet fired by security forces hit his head, a Press TV correspondent reported.

Million-Man March

Several Egyptian political groups and peace activists have called for a million-man march in Cairo as President Mubarak refuses to step down from power.

The rally planned for Tuesday will mark a week since the start of the biggest anti-government protests in Egypt.

Western countries urged to stop supporting Mubarak

The Muslim Brotherhood has condemned the United Nations and Western countries for failing to take action against the government crackdown on protesters and the killing of civilians.

The United States has called for political reform in Egypt. US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both demanded an orderly transition to a more politically open Egypt.

They have, however, stopped short of urging their long-time ally, Mubarak, to heed calls by protesters to resign.

The United States has also rejected reports of cutting aid to Mubarak's regime over its crackdown on protesters. The US gives about one and a half billion dollars a year to Egypt, most of which is in military aid.

According to reports, thousands of protesters have chanted anti-US slogans and burnt effigies of President Obama in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez over the past days.

Mubarak appoints pro-Israeli VP

The Egyptian president has appointed military intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who has good relations with Israel, as his new vice president.

This is while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to discuss the uprising in Egypt with his security cabinet.

Mubarak has sworn in a new Egyptian cabinet led by Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq. The cabinet comprises a largely unchanged lineup.

However, the widely disdained interior minister Habib al-Adly is absent. Adly's dismissal was one of the protesters' demands who have also demanded the ouster of Mubarak.

The finance and culture ministers of the previous cabinet as well as the Egyptian business tycoons are not among the new ministers either.

Egyptians view the close proximity of business tycoons to the government as a sign of corruption.

Israel fears another Islamic revolution like Iran

Reports suggest Israel is trying to convince its allies to support the embattled Egyptian ruler.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has issued a directive to its ambassadors to the US, China, Russia, Canada and several European countries rally support for Mubarak.

The diplomats have been told to emphasize the importance of Egypt's stability to their host countries and ask them to curb criticism of President Mubarak.

At a news conference alongside Angela Merkel, the German chancellor (left), on Monday in Jerusalem, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Egypt could wind up with a radical Islamic regime as in Iran.

He hoped Israel's three-decade-old peace treaty with Egypt would survive any changes that were taking place.

Israel allows Egyptian troops

Israeli officials said Monday that they have agreed to let Egypt move several hundred troops into the Sinai Peninsula for the first time since the countries reached peace three decades ago.

With street protests threatening the Egyptian regime, the officials say that Israel allowed the Egyptian army to move two battalions - about 800 soldiers - into Sinai on Sunday. The officials said the troops were based in the Sharm el-Sheikh area on Sinai's southern tip, far from Israel.

Now, as the unrest in Egypt has spread, Israeli officials have grown increasingly concerned about the stability of their southern neighbor. They are especially worried that Palestinian militants could take advantage of the unrest to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip through tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border.

Egypt has been engulfed in one of its worst political crises in decades. Many people around the world have shown solidarity with Egyptians in their uprising against the Mubarak government.

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