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Egypt's Military Outlines Timetable to Hand Over Power

CAIRO, Feb. 16, 2011 (Xinhua) --

Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said Tuesday it hopes to end its mission and transfer power in the next six months to a civilian authority and a president elected in free and fair elections that truly reflect the will of the people, the state news agency MENA reported.

"The council affirmed that it is not seeking power, the current situation was imposed on the armed forces and that they will not betray people's trust," it said in a statement.

The Supreme Council on Tuesday also set a period of 10 days for the constitutional amendment committee to finish its task.

The military council formed the committee Tuesday in the presence of Minister of Defense and Head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and Sami Anan, chief-of-staff of the armed forces.

The committee will be chaired by Tareq el-Beshry, a respected former head of the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court.

Members of the committee include three constitutional experts and three judges, as well as a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's prominent opposition group which is officially banned.

El-Beshry said the committee, which doesn't have a working mechanism yet, was appointed to amend the constitution in a way that will help maintain the nation's sovereignty and prompt democracy.

Tantawi urged the committee to finish its task on time to alleviate the anger of the protesters and make them feel secure regarding the army's credibility.

The Supreme Council announced Sunday in communique No. 5 that they will suspend the constitution, dissolve the parliament, and form a panel to draft a new constitution for the country before submitting it to a popular referendum.

Egypt's army has also pledged to lift a state of emergency in place throughout Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule. But it has yet to say when this will happen.


Marches subsided on Tuesday, a public holiday for the Prophet Mohammad's birthday, and on Tahrir Square, the epicenter of anti-government protests that finally led to Mubarak's ouster, traffic flowed freely.

However, the military rulers are now facing the challenge of accommodating demands unleashed by the revolution, as various labor strikes, mostly demanding pay increases, occurred across the country after the 18-day upheaval.

Thousands of workers in banks, textile and food factories, oil facilities and government offices went on strike this week. The central bank said banks would remain closed on Wednesday and Thursday after being closed on Monday because of strikes.

Board members of Egypt's Suez Canal Trade Union and a group of workers staged a sit-in at the canal's authority headquarters in Ismailia on Tuesday, demanding an increase of their wages, the MENA news agency said.

Pro-democracy leaders also plan a big "Victory March" on Friday to celebrate the revolution and perhaps press for more and immediate reform plans.

Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces warned Tuesday that a further spread of strikes across the country would be disastrous, and urged an end to all strikes.

In communique No. 5 read out on state television Monday, a military spokesman said: "Noble Egyptians see that these strikes, at this delicate time, lead to negative results. First, they harm the nation's security. Second, they disrupt the government from providing the basic requirements for citizens. Third, they hamper production and work in state sectors."


The Muslim Brotherhood, the most organized opposition group in the country, confirmed that it planned to form an official political party to contest promised parliamentary elections.

"When the popular demand for the freedom to form parties is realized, the group will found a political party," the Brotherhood said in a new statement.

Yet the capacity and popularity of the party, backed by about 15 to 20 percent of the population, is yet to be seen.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said Monday he intends to nominate himself in Egypt's coming presidential elections, Al Arabiya TV reported.

Moussa said he will devote the coming months to his presidential campaign after leaving his post in the Arab League in March. According to Al Arabiya TV, he has prepared a campaign plan focusing on the principles of law, democracy and human rights.

Editor: Yang Lina

Army sets 10-day deadline to reform constitution

By News Wires (text)  
France 24, February 16, 2011, AFP -

Against a backdrop of massive strikes, the Egyptian military has instructed a panel of jurists and scholars to revise the constitution within 10 days in order to prepare a transition towards democratic rule following the end of the Mubarak regime.

Egypt's military regime warned Tuesday that a wave of strikes sweeping the country was "disastrous", as it gave a panel of civilian experts 10 days to revise the constitution.
Against a backdrop on ongoing nationwide walk-outs and street protests, the junta promised to rapidly restore constitutional rule following the overthrow of ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak's regime.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces instructed an eight-strong panel of jurists and scholars to "amend all articles as it sees fit to guarantee democracy and the integrity of presidential and parliamentary elections."

"What we have seen so far is positive" - US President Barak Obama on Egypt
The panel "must finish its work in a period of no longer than 10 days after the date of this decision" and must strike down the articles giving presidents unlimited terms in office and the right to refer cases to military courts.
The military took power on Friday when Mubarak's 30-year-reign was brought to an end by an 18-day street revolt. Since then, Egyptian workers have begun testing the bounds of their new freedom with strike action.
On Sunday, the military suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament, but it has promised to oversee a six-month transition to democratic rule. It urged strikers to return to work but stopped short of ordering them to do so.
"The Supreme Council is aware of the economic and social circumstances society is undergoing, but these issues cannot be resolved before the strikes and sit-ins end," the state news agency MENA quoted the military as saying.
"The result of that will be disastrous," it added.
The constitutional panel got straight down to work.
"The armed forces want to hand over power as soon as possible. They want amendments to the constitution," said panel member Sobhi Saleh, a lawyer and former lawmaker from the Islamist opposition group the Muslim Brotherhood.
"We met with the field marshal and the chief of staff," Saleh told AFP, referring to the chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and Egypt's de facto head of state, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.
"We are revising the constitution to remove all restrictions and obstacles and to meet the aspirations of the revolution's and the people's demands."
The committee is headed by Tareq al-Bishari, a respected former head of Egypt's administrative court.
The strikes and protests abated on Tuesday as Egyptians marked the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed, but threaten to flare again as Egyptians use their newly-won freedom to press for higher wages.
The uprising against Mubarak has splintered into protests by workers in the transport, health care, oil, tourism and textile sectors and state-owned media and government bodies. Banks and the stock exchange are closed.
Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood -- which was banned but broadly tolerated under Mubarak's rule -- confirmed that it plans to form an official political party to take part in upcoming legislative polls.
"The Muslim Brotherhood believes in the freedom to form parties and is therefore determined to have its own," said Mohammed Mursi of the group's political bureau, in a statement.
Egypt's best organised opposition group ran candidates as independents under the slogan "Islam is the solution" in 2005 parliamentary elections, winning around 20 percent of seats.
But it boycotted the second round of legislative elections last year after failing to win a single seat in the first amid widespread reports of violence and vote-rigging on behalf of the ruling party.
The Brotherhood belatedly joined the massive nationwide protests that led to the fall of Mubarak, but has said it will not compete in presidential elections to replace him and has called for democratic reforms.
The group has raised concerns in the West and among some of its secular rivals, who fear it may come to power through free elections only to then implement Islamic law in the most populous Arab country.
Brotherhood leaders adamantly reject such a scenario, insisting it supports the broader demands of the pro-democracy protesters who brought Mubarak down and are seeking a more open multi-party system.
Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said the economy was "severely affected by the political crisis that has shaken the country" and called for international aid after calling his US, British and Saudi counterparts.
At the height of the revolt Egypt was haemorrhaging more than $300 million a day, according to the Egyptian unit of French bank Credit Agricole, which lowered a growth forecast for 2011 from 5.3 percent to 3.7 percent.
Gheit's remarks came as EU finance ministers met to discuss requests from Cairo to freeze the assets of members of Mubarak's toppled regime following widespread allegations of corruption during his rule.
Egypt has launched graft investigations and slapped travel bans on several former ministers, including sacked prime minister Ahmed Nazif and the hated former head of the feared police, interior minister Habib al-Adly.
Egypt's protest movement, inspired by the Tunisian uprising, has in turn triggered anti-government demonstrations around the Middle East, from Algeria to Iran, Bahrein and Yemen.

WEBNEWS Egyptian cyber activists involved in transition
EGYPT Army promise of reform fails to appease protesters


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