Egyptian army delivers ultimatum to protesters

Updated: 2011-02-15 07:56

By Andrew Hammond and Tom Perry (China Daily)

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Egyptian army delivers ultimatum to protesters

Military police surround remaining protesters as they try to clear Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, on Monday. Egypt's military rulers dissolved parliament on Sunday, suspending the constitution and promising elections in moves welcomed by protesters. Hussein Malla / Associated Press

CAIRO - Egypt's military delivered an ultimatum on Monday to dozens of committed protesters in Tahrir Square, nerve-center of a movement that toppled Hosni Mubarak, to leave and let life get back to normal or face arrest.

Soldiers scuffled with protesters on Sunday as the army ensured traffic flowed through the central Cairo square. Some protesters insisted on staying, determined to see through their demands for civilian rule and a free, democratic system.

Protest leaders say Egyptians will demonstrate again if their demands for radical change are not met. They plan a huge "Victory March" on Friday to celebrate the victory and perhaps remind the military of the power of the street.

Egypt's generals are asserting their command over the country following the overthrow of Mubarak.

Having suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament on Sunday, moves welcomed by those who saw both institutions as perverted to Mubarak's personal ends, the military council was planning to issue orders intended to stifle further disruption and get the country back to work, a military source said.

Disgruntled employees are already pressing for better deals. The interim military rulers called a Bank Holiday on Monday after disruption in the banking sector and there is a national holiday on Tuesday to mark the Prophet Mohammad's birthday.

Elections will be held under a revised constitution, the military said, but it gave no timetable beyond saying that it would be in charge "for a temporary period of six months or until the end of elections to the upper and lower houses of parliament, and presidential elections".

Nor did it detail what civilian or other participation there would be in amending basic laws during the transition. The cabinet appointed by Mubarak last month will go on governing, reporting to the army chiefs.

The 18-day revolt against Mubarak's 30-year rule has spawned a rash of protests by workers and even police.

Hundreds of employees demonstrated outside a branch of Bank of Alexandria in downtown Cairo on Monday, urging their bosses to "Leave, leave", echoing an anti-Mubarak slogan.

Protests, sit-ins and strikes have occurred at state-owned institutions across Egypt, including the stock exchange, textile and steel firms, media organizations, the postal service, railways, the Culture Ministry and the Health Ministry.

The army, however, is keen to get Egypt working again to restart an economy which was damaged by the momentous events and to bring back tourists and attract foreign investment.

The army source said military authorities were expected to issue an order soon that would ban meetings by labor unions or professional syndicates, effectively forbidding strikes, and would tell all Egyptians to get back to work.

There will also be a warning from the military against those who create "chaos and disorder", the source said, adding the army would, however, acknowledge the right to protest.

After three weeks of economic dislocation, millions of Egyptians are keen to start earning again to survive.



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