Muslim Brotherhood organize mass protests in Alexandria on Monday

By Heba Fahmy

Daily News Egypt

CAIRO: The Muslim Brotherhood is organizing mass protests in Alexandria on Monday starting 1 pm marching from Al-Qaed Ibrahim Mosque in Al Raml station and another one marching from Ahmed Abou Soleiman Street in Al Raml district in Alexandria.

The protests are scheduled to march all around the streets of Alexandria calling for President Mubarak to step down.

On Sunday hundreds of thousand of demonstrators marched through the city commemorating the martyrs of Alexandria who died during Egypt’s uprising which started on Jan. 25.

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Clinton: Egypt must transition to democracy

By Lolita C. Baldor

Associated Press

WASHINGTON: The US appealed for an orderly transition to lasting democracy in Egypt even as escalating violence in the American ally threatened Mideast stability and put President Barack Obama in a diplomatic bind.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday refused to speculate on the future of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak or his teetering government. But US officials, she said, “obviously want to see people who are truly committed to democracy, not to imposing any ideology on Egyptians.”

She warned against a takeover resembling the one in Iran, with a “small group that doesn’t represent the full diversity of Egyptian society” seizing control and imposing its ideological beliefs.

Clinton’s comments came as the Obama administration tried to get a handle on the fast-moving situation in Egypt, a critical US friend in the long quest for peace in the Middle East. Left largely unsaid is the growing fear that a government hostile to the US could gain control of such a large and important Arab nation.

File photo of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The US wants to see “real democracy” emerge in Egypt, Clinton said, “not a democracy for six months or a year and then evolving into essentially a military dictatorship or a so-called democracy that then leads to what we saw in Iran.”

Clinton, in interviews on the five Sunday morning TV shows, repeatedly stressed that Egypt’s future lies in the hands of its people, hewing to the administration line of refusing to take sides publicly in the upheaval.

While there have been repeated calls for Egypt to move toward democracy, it was not clear what efforts the administration may be making behind the scenes to influence the situation.

Obama called foreign leaders this weekend to convey his administration’s desire for restraint and an orderly transition to a more responsive government in Egypt. The White House said he spoke with leaders from Britain, Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia, and sought their input. The president also got a briefing Sunday morning from his national security staff, and senior policy officials gathered for a deputies committee meeting to discuss the situation in Egypt.

Clinton made clear there are no discussions at this time about cutting off aid to Egypt, which receives about $1.5 billion in annual foreign assistance from the US to help modernize its armed forces and strengthen regional security and stability. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs had said Friday that military and civilian aid was under review.

Asked if aid should be withheld, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the US should wait and see what happens before making such decisions.

While Clinton did not voice support for a continued Mubarak reign or any other political party, she outlined US expectations from any future government.

“There has to be a commitment by whoever is in the government that they will engage in a national dialogue with the people of Egypt, with the aim at taking actions that will meet the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people for more participation, for respect for human rights, for the universal human rights they are entitled to, for economic reforms that will give more opportunity,” she told reporters traveling with her to Haiti on Sunday.

Asked if she thought Mubarak had taken the necessary steps so far to hold on, Clinton said: “It’s not a question of who retains power. It’s how are we going to respond to the legitimate needs and grievances expressed by the Egyptian people and chart a new path. Clearly, the path that has been followed has not been one that has created that democratic future, that economic opportunity that people in the peaceful protests are seeking.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., demurred when asked if the US should abandon support of Mubarak. He said the US needs to “be on the right side of history” and do a better job of arguing for human rights.

“It was clear for a long time that the kind of repressive regime that Mubarak controls, sooner or later there is going to be great difficulties,” said McCain.

House Speaker John Boehner praised the administration’s handling of the situation and said the US must continue to support Egypt’s move to democracy.

“What we don’t want are radical ideologies to take control of a very large and important country in the Middle East,” he said.

The State Department is recommending that Americans leave Egypt as soon as possible and said it is prepared to evacuate thousands of US citizens on chartered planes beginning Monday. Due to internet interruptions, however, officials said they must rely largely on friends and families in the US to relay that information to the stranded Americans.

Assistant Secretary of State Janice Jacobs told reporters Sunday that it will take several flights over the coming days to accommodate all American citizens who want to leave the country. On Sunday, Canada announced it would charter flights as early as Monday that will fly Canadians who wish to leave to London, Paris or Frankfurt.

 

Officials are considering three possible destinations, Athens, Greece; Istanbul, Turkey; and Nicosia, Cyprus. Jacobs, who’s in charge of consular affairs, said the US may also send planes to other cities in Egypt, such as Luxor, if there are a number of Americans stranded there. Americans taking the charter will be billed for the flight and must make their own travel arrangements home from Europe.

Anyone needing information on the flights should check the State Department and US embassy websites or send an e-mail to egyptemergencyusc(at)state.gov. They can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free from within the U.S. and Canada. From outside the US and Canada people can call 1-202-501-4444.

US military leaders reached out to their counterparts in Egypt and the Middle East. Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke to Egypt and Israel’s ministers of defense. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Egyptian Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, expressing his appreciation for the continued professionalism of Egypt’s military during the crisis, said Mullen spokesman Capt. John Kirby.

Mubarak appointed a vice president on Saturday for the first time in more than 30 years — the US long has pressed for that and Clinton called it the “bare beginning of what needs to happen” — and has pledged to make reforms.

“We want to see free and fair elections and we expect that this will be one of the outcomes of what is going on,” Clinton said, adding that the US is committed to working with the Egyptians who are interested in true democracy.

Clinton appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” NBC’s “Meet the Press,” CBS’ “Face the Nation,” CNN’s “State of the Union” and ABC’s “This Week.” McConnell was on NBC, Boehner on Fox and McCain on CNN. –Associated Press writers Bradley Klapper, Ben Feller and Matthew Lee contributed to this report.

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Jimmy Carter: Unrest in Egypt ‘earth-shaking’

PLAINS: Former President Jimmy Carter, who brokered a peace accord between Israel and Egypt in 1978, on Sunday called the political unrest and rioting in Egypt earth-shaking and said that President Hosni Mubarak probably will have to step down.

Carter told a Sunday school class that he teaches that the unrest is “the most profound situation in the Middle East” since he left office in 1981. He said he thinks the unrest will ease in the next week, but his “guess is Mubarak will have to leave.”

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported Carter’s remarks made at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains and his spokeswoman confirmed them.File photo of Jimmy Carter

“The United States wants Mubarak to stay in power, but the people have decided,” Carter said.

His spokeswoman, Deanna Congileo, said no further statement would be issued.

Carter brought Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin together for the peace accord signed in Washington, DC. Sadat and Begin shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the treaty.

Mubarak was vice president at the time and became president in 1981 when Sadat was assassinated by opponents of the agreement.

Carter said that as Mubarak’s 30-year rule has continued, the Egyptian leader has become more politically corrupt. “He has perpetuated himself in office,” Carter said.

Mubarak has appointed Omar Suleiman, the country’s intelligence chief, as vice president. “He’s an intelligent man whom I like very much,” Carter said of Suleiman, with whom he says he has maintained a relationship.

“In the last four or five years when I go to Egypt, I don’t go to talk to Mubarak, who talks like a politician,” Carter said. “If I want to know what is going on in the Middle East, I talk to Suleiman. And as far as I know, he has always told me the truth.” –AP

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12 referred to military prosecution, says law center

By Tamim Elyan

Daily News Egypt

CAIRO: Twelve people, including a member of the Kefaya Movement for Change, were referred to the military prosecution and are being interrogated there, according to the Hisham Mubarak Law Center.

“We still can’t confirm the charges but most likely they were arrested for breaking the curfew in Tahrir square Sunday,” Ahmed Seif Al-Islam, head of Hisham Mubarak law center, told Daily News Egypt.

Seif Al-Islam said that they are waiting to revise the investigations to identify the legal procedures they will take.

 

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Civilians watch over neighborhoods in Egypt chaos

By Marjorie Olster

Associated Press

CAIRO: When Egypt’s police melted from the streets of Cairo this weekend, the people stepped in.

Civilians armed with knives, axes, golf clubs, firebombs, metal bars and makeshift spears watched over many neighborhoods in the sprawling capital of 18 million this weekend, defending their families and homes against widespread looting and lawlessness.

The thugs had exploited the chaos created by the largest anti-government protests in decades and the military failed to fill the vacuum left by police.

On Saturday, the army sent out an appeal for citizens to help.

“The military encourages neighborhood youth to defend their property and their honor,” it said in a statement.

On Sunday, joint teams of civilians and military were patrolling, some with guard dogs.

Mohammed Gafaar, a 34-year old salesman in the Nasr City area, said his neighborhood watch organized soon after the night curfew went into force at 4 p.m. They did it at the behest of residents, who appealed for protection of their property, sending out the call from the local mosque.

“I feel betrayed by the police,” said Gaafar, who had carried rocks, a stick and a firebomb in a soda bottle. “They have to be tried for the protesters they killed and for their treason. They left the country to be looted. I am angry at the regime.”

Akram al-Sharif, a 33-year old Cairo resident who lives in one of the affluent compounds in the city’s west at the edge of the desert, said locals hired twenty bedouins with guns, and organized into groups to protect the five gates of the compound.

“I am happy this is happening. There was solidarity,” he said. But he criticized the military for failing to protect private property.

The troubles began after days of protests calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak reached a crescendo Friday, when tens of thousands poured into the streets after noon prayers in the city’s 3,000 mosques. The protests quickly spiraled into clashes with riot police, who fired countless canisters of tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons and beat the demonstrators with sticks.

 

By Friday night, protesters had set fire to the ruling party headquarters along the Nile in central Cairo and the first reports of looting emerged — people making off with electric fans and televisions from the burning complex. Mubarak ordered the military into the streets for the first time to try to control the escalating turmoil.

On Saturday, the tens of thousands of police who normally patrol the streets vanished. Security officials, asked why they disappeared, said that remained unclear. But the police, who are hated by many, may have been seen as just fanning the flames.

Throughout the day, shops and malls were ransacked and burned, and residents of affluent neighborhoods began reporting burglaries by gangs of thugs roaming the streets with knives and guns. By mid-afternoon, shopowners and residents were boarding up their stores and houses.

Gangs of armed men attacked jails, sending thousands of inmates into the unpoliced streets.

As night fell, the neighborhood watches took up where the police left off.

In the affluent neighborhood of Zamalek, where many foreigners live and embassies are located, groups of young men, some as large as 40 people, set up barricades on every street entrance to the island in the middle of the Nile.

In other neighborhoods, residents wore arm bands to identify each other and prevent infiltrators from coming into their midst. In Zamalek, a handwritten announcement hanging on a street window asked people to register their names for neighborhood defense committees.

Watch groups armed themselves with a makeshift arsenal of shovels, baseball bats, whips, and the occasional shotgun. Young men organized themselves into shifts, and locals brought tea and other snacks.

“We have these firebombs, just in case,” said Amm Saleh, the doorman of a building in Zamalek. “Some of these thugs are armed with knives and guns, so we have to be able to defend ourselves,” he added, showing off a line of kerosene-filled bottles with paper wicks ready for action.

Neighborhood guardians set up metal barricades and stopped cars, questioning them about their destinations and street addresses and sometimes searching them. With many roads blocked, drivers went the wrong way on largely empty one-way streets to get around.

 

Long after midnight, gunshots rang out on a scenic street along the Nile, near the Indian embassy and the Algerian ambassador’s residence. One youth said the neighborhood watch confronted the passengers of a car, one with a firearm, and persuaded them to leave.

Residents said they were filled with pride to see Egyptians looking out for each other in a society where many, if not most, struggle just to subsist.

Gaafar, the salesman, had returned from Dubai to take part in the protests. He said he feels sad at how things turned out, but believes it won’t deter people from continuing to protest.

“This has brought out the best in people,” he said. “There were people who were much younger than me who have never come across gunfire before… They looked scared. But they were still standing. Everyone was so brave.”

As the curfew began at 4 p.m. Sunday, police were seen returning to some neighborhoods and working in tandem with the army to try to restore a sense of security. –Associated Press reporter Sarah El Deeb contributed to this report from Cairo.

 

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Al-Jazeera appeals for social media help in Egypt

DUBAI: The pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera is calling out for help from Egyptian bloggers and others after authorities closed its Cairo office amid unprecedented anti-state protests.

A statement by the Qatar-based network urges Egyptians to send blog posts, eyewitness accounts and videos to expand coverage of the uprising against President Hosni Mubarak.

Monday’s appeal comes a day after Egyptian authorities shut Al-Jazeera’s office, complaining its round-the-clock coverage was slanted toward protesters and could encourage more unrest.

Al-Jazeera denounced the move as an attempt to muzzle open reporting. It has managed to continue coverage in Egypt with fixed-position cameras and reports by phone. –AP

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Israel watches Egypt uprising with fear; Netanyahu says ties with Egypt must be preserved

By Matti Friedman

Associated Press

JERUSALEM: Israel’s prime minister said Sunday that his government is “anxiously monitoring” the political unrest in Egypt, his first comment on the crisis threatening a regime that has been one of Israel’s key allies for more than 30 years.

Israeli officials have remained largely silent about the situation in Egypt, but have made clear that preserving the historic 1979 peace agreement is a paramount interest. The peace, cool but stable, turned Israel’s most potent regional enemy into a crucial partner, provided security on one of its borders and allowed it to significantly reduce the size of its army and defense budget.

“We are anxiously monitoring what is happening in Egypt and in our region,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before his Cabinet’s weekly meeting.

“Israel and Egypt have been at peace for more than three decades and our objective is to ensure that these ties be preserved. At this time, we must display responsibility, restraint and utmost prudence.”

It was the first high-level comment from Israel on the Egypt protests, which began last week with disorganized crowds demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and have grown into the most significant challenge to Egypt’s autocratic regime in recent memory.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak discussed the situation in Egypt with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday, according to a statement from Barak’s office. No details of the discussion were released.

Over the weekend, Israel evacuated the families of its diplomats from Cairo and security officials began holding urgent consultations.

Israeli officials, ordered to speak on condition of anonymity, expressed grave concerns about Mubarak’s tenuous grip on power. Some said they feared the violence could spread to neighboring Jordan, the only other Arab country with a peace deal with Israel, or to the Palestinian territories.

Israel’s primary concern is that the uprising could be commandeered by Egypt’s strongest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and its allies, who would presumably move Egypt away from its alignment with the West and possibly cancel the peace agreement with Israel.

“Israel has an interest in Egypt being democratic, but through a process that promises sustainability,” said Dan Shueftan, director of the National Security Studies Center at Haifa University. “If you have a process that starts with a desire for democracy but then sees radicals take over, then the result at the end of the process is worse than what you had at the beginning.”

The benefits to Israel of peace with Egypt have been significant.

In the three decades before the peace agreement, Israel and Egypt fought four major wars. Israel now spends 9 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, Shueftan said — compared with 23 percent in the 1970s, when a state of war with Egypt still existed.

Where Israel once deployed thousands of soldiers along the Egyptian frontier, today there are several hundred. This reduction allowed the Israeli economy to begin flowering in the years after the peace deal, he said.

Mubarak has also served as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians.

If Egypt resumes its conflict with Israel, Israelis fear, it will put a powerful Western-armed military on the side of Israel’s enemies while also weakening pro-Western states like Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Eli Shaked, a former Israeli ambassador to Cairo, offered an assessment Sunday in the daily Yediot Ahronot.

“The assumption at present is that Mubarak’s regime is living on borrowed time, and that a transition government will be formed for the next number of months until new general elections are held,” he wrote.

“If those elections are held in a way that the Americans want, the most likely result will be that the Muslim Brotherhood will win a majority and will be the dominant force in the next government. That is why it is only a question of a brief period of time before Israel’s peace with Egypt pays the price,” wrote Shaked.

Some in Israel have critically compared President Barack Obama’s response to the crisis to that of President Jimmy Carter to the Iranian revolution in 1979. Obama has called on Mubarak to show restraint and pass unspecified reforms in Egypt.

“Jimmy Carter will go down in American history as ‘the president who lost Iran,’ which during his term went from being a major strategic ally of the United States to being the revolutionary Islamic republic,” wrote the analyst Aluf Benn in the daily Haaretz.

“Barack Obama will be remembered as the president who ‘lost’ Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt, and during whose tenure America’s alliances in the Middle East crumbled.”

In the short term, Israel will face increased smuggling activities in the Sinai peninsula, where the authority of the Cairo government — never strong — has been further weakened by the unrest, said Yaakov Amidror, a former Israeli general.

Weapons, fuel and other goods enter the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, which is subject to a partial Israeli and Egyptian blockade, through tunnels from the Sinai desert.

“They will now try to get in everything they couldn’t get in before,” Amidror said.

Israel captured Sinai in 1967 and then ceded it to Egypt in the 1979 peace deal. The area was demilitarized as part of the agreement.

For now, the unrest seems to have had the opposite effect. Gaza smugglers said the supply routes have been disrupted and that they have not received any merchandise from Egypt since Friday, apparently because of difficulties in transporting the goods across Egypt to the Gaza border. –Additional reporting by Ibrahim Barzak in Rafah, Gaza Strip, and Amy Teibel in Jerusalem.

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