Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Desperation of Mubarak

Mubarak Dismisses Cabinet in Last Bid to Cling to Power

By Lewis Smith
The Independent
Saturday, 29 January 2011

Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak last night announced his intention to form a new government in response to protests across much of the country.

In a late-night television appearance he defended the crackdown on protesters by security forces but revealed he was asking his cabinet to resign.

Mr Mubarak promised to press ahead with social, economic and political reforms but after a day of protests and violence, in which at least 20 people died, his ability to extend his 30-year dictatorship appeared in the balance.

"We aspire for more democracy, more effort to combat unemployment and poverty and combat corruption," he said, but his words were immediately interpreted as a sign of desperation rather than strength, though the army appeared to remain loyal to him last night.

As he spoke, the army, which was called in after police were unable to quell the demonstrations, sent in troops and tanks to oust protesters who had earlier seized control of Cairo's central Tahrir Square, the focus for thousands of people who had been trying to march on the parliament. Tanks were also reported to have surrounded the British and American embassies.

Running battles between police and protesters had continued in many parts of Cairo during the evening and the ruling party's headquarters was burnt down as demonstrators, ignoring a curfew that had been declared, vented their fury at the regime.

The number of deaths and injuries suffered during yesterday's clashes around the country was unclear but medical sources said at least six people died in Alexandria, five in Cairo and one in Suez.

Mr Mubarak's televised statement came after the US warned that up to $1.5bn in aid could be withdrawn if peaceful protests were opposed by the security forces. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also demanded the Egyptian authorities restore internet and mobile phone links that had been cut off in an effort to disrupt the organisation of protests.

US President Barack Obama spoke to Mr Mu-barak last night and told him he must honour the pledge he made to reform. In his own televised address, the US leader urged both sides to act peacefully but warned his Egyptian counterpart that "suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away" and added: "all governments must maintain power by consent".

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